POLITICO Playbook: Inside Richard Spencer’s ouster


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WAPO’S DAVID IGNATIUS, whose father was secretary of the Navy from 1967-1969, weighs in on the firing/dismissal of Navy Secretary RICHARD SPENCER — and seems to have some good inside reporting.

— IGNATIUS: “In firing Richard Spencer, Trump recklessly crosses another line”: “Spencer had tried to find a compromise, sources tell me, after Trump tweeted Thursday, ‘The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin.’ Spencer feared that a direct order from Trump to protect Gallagher, who is represented by two former partners of Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, would be seen as subverting military justice.

“After that Trump tweet, Spencer cautioned acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney that he would not overturn the planned SEAL peer review of Gallagher without a direct presidential order; he privately told associates that if such an order came, he might resign rather than carry it out. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with the White House late Thursday to try to avert this collision.

“Milley’s de-escalation efforts initially appeared to be successful. A Pentagon official messaged me Friday morning: ‘Missiles back in their silos … for the time being.’ But the truce was short-lived. By Saturday, the White House was demanding to know whether Spencer had threatened to resign; the Navy secretary issued a statement denying that he had made any such public threat and continued to seek a deal that would protect the Navy from a direct showdown with Trump.

“‘It was a hold-your-nose solution,’ said a source close to Spencer about his effort to broker an arrangement that would allow Gallagher to retire at the end of November with his former rank, an honorable discharge and his Trident pin, as Trump wanted, but without direct presidential interference in the SEAL review process. As so often happens with attempts to work with Trump’s erratic demands, this one ended in disaster. ‘The president wants you to go,’ Esper told Spencer on Sunday, according to this source. Esper then toed the White House line and announced Spencer’s dismissal.” WaPo

— NYT’S HELENE COOPER, MAGGIE HABERMAN and DAVE PHILIPPS: “A Defense Department official said Chief Gallagher would now keep his Trident pin, the symbol of his membership in the SEALs, at Mr. Esper’s direction because of concerns that the events of the past few days would make it impossible for him to get an impartial hearing.” NYT

Good Monday morning.

OH MY … ABC: “House Intelligence Committee in possession of video, audio recordings from Giuliani associate Lev Parnas,” by Katherine Faulders, John Santucci and Allison Pecorin: “The House Intelligence Committee is in possession of audio and video recordings and photographs provided to the committee by Lev Parnas, an associate of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly played a key role in assisting him in his efforts to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News.

“The material submitted to the committee includes audio, video and photos that include Giuliani and Trump. It was unclear what the content depicts and the committees only began accessing the material last week.” ABC

IS THE PRESIDENT GONNA BE THANKING MULVANEY FOR HIS SERVICE SOON? … WAPO: “White House review turns up emails showing extensive effort to justify Trump’s decision to block Ukraine military aid,” by Josh Dawsey, Carol Leonnig and Tom Hamburger: “A confidential White House review of President Trump’s decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three people familiar with the records.

“The research by the White House Counsel’s Office, which was triggered by a congressional impeachment inquiry announced in September, includes early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after the president had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance, according to the three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

“One person briefed on the records examination said White House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. It’s unclear whether the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly.”

WSJ: “Ukraine Energy Official Says Giuliani Associates Tried to Recruit Him,” by Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Christopher Matthews: “Two associates of Rudy Giuliani tried to recruit a top Ukrainian energy official in March in a proposed takeover of the state oil-and-gas company, describing the company’s chief executive and the then-U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as part of ‘this Soros cartel’ working against President Trump.

“‘You’re a Republican, right?’ Andrew Favorov, the head of natural gas for state-run Naftogaz, recalled the men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, asking him, after their reference to investor and Democratic donor George Soros. ‘We want you to be our guy.’

“Mr. Favorov said he met voluntarily this week with New York federal prosecutors as part of an investigation into the activities of Messrs. Fruman, Parnas and Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney. Prosecutors last month arrested Messrs. Fruman and Parnas on campaign-finance charges stemming from alleged efforts to leverage political connections and campaign donations—some from foreign donors—to benefit their own business interests and to assist Mr. Giuliani in efforts to oust Ms. Yovanovitch.” WSJ

POLITICO Playbook: A monumental week for Trump



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WE ARE BEGINNING what is a pivotal week for DONALD TRUMP and his presidency. Most notably: the public impeachment proceedings, which begin Wednesday and continue Friday. On Tuesday, we expect the release of a second transcript of a phone call between the president and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Also: The president of Turkey — a country some in the Trump administration said was responsible for war crimes — will come to the White House and appear alongside the president for a news conference. Talks resume this week to avoid a government shutdown in 10 DAYS. And if the administration is to complete the USMCA, progress needs to be made in short order.

HOW REPUBLICANS ARE RESPONDING — “Republicans plot counterattack for impeachment hearings,” by Melanie Zanona: “The transcripts released last week from closed-door interviews with impeachment witnesses also provide a window into how the GOP plans to approach the high-stakes hearings. Republicans will try to paint the Democratically led process as politically motivated and minimize Trump’s role in the quest to persuade Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. And they will also try to keep the heat off Trump by attacking the Bidens and pushing other conspiracy theories about the elections.” POLITICO

THE FULL FLIP? … “Giuliani Associate Says He Gave Demand for Biden Inquiry to Ukrainians,” by NYT’s Ben Protess, Andrew Kramer, Michael Rothfeld and William Rashbaum: “Not long before the Ukrainian president was inaugurated in May, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s journeyed to Kiev to deliver a warning to the country’s new leadership, a lawyer for the associate said.

“The associate, Lev Parnas, told a representative of the incoming government that it had to announce an investigation into Mr. Trump’s political rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his son, or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing-in of the new president, and the United States would freeze aid, the lawyer said.

“The claim by Mr. Parnas, who is preparing to share his account with impeachment investigators, challenges the narrative of events from Mr. Trump and Ukrainian officials that is at the core of the congressional inquiry. It also directly links Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to threats of repercussions made to the Ukrainians, something he has strenuously denied.

“But Mr. Parnas’s account, while potentially significant, is being contradicted on several fronts. None of the people involved dispute that the meeting occurred, but Mr. Parnas stands alone in saying the intention was to present an ultimatum to the Ukrainian leadership.” NYT

Good Monday morning. Happy Veterans Day. Former Defense Secretary JIM MATTIS is featured in an online video out this week for the Call of Duty Endowment about hiring veterans. The video

NYT’S PETER BAKER: “Nikki Haley Describes Rebuffing Internal Scheme Against Trump”: “Nikki R. Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations, says in a new book that she resisted entreaties by other top aides to President Trump to undermine his policies, revealing more about the fractious world of loyalty and betrayal around the president.

“Ms. Haley writes in her new memoir that John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff, and Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, tried to recruit her to join them in circumventing policy decisions by the president that they viewed as dangerous and reckless, an outreach she said she rebuffed.” NYTCBS’ Norah O’Donnell’s interview with Haley


— WAPO: “Mulvaney’s move to join impeachment testimony lawsuit rankles Bolton allies,” by Tom Hamburger, Carol Leonnig and Josh Dawsey: “People close to [John] Bolton and [Charles] Kupperman said the two were flabbergasted by Mulvaney’s surprise request to join the lawsuit because they and others on the national security team considered Mulvaney a critical player in the effort to get the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into Trump’s political opponents.

“Their objection is twofold: Bolton views Mulvaney as a key participant in the pressure campaign, a situation that the then-national security adviser referred to derisively as ‘a drug deal,’ according to congressional testimony by his aides. The two men were barely on speaking terms when Bolton left his post in September, according to White House officials.

“And they believe Mulvaney’s goal is to avoid testifying by joining a suit involving officials whose attorney has argued they may be limited in what they can share with Congress because of their role advising the president on national security matters.” WaPo

— DEEP DIVE … NYT’S GLENN THRUSH and KEN VOGEL: “What Joe Biden Actually Did in Ukraine”: “A look at what the former vice president actually did in Ukraine (he visited six times and spent hours on the phone with the country’s leaders) tells a different story, according to interviews with more than two dozen people knowledgeable about the situation. It casts light on one of Mr. Biden’s central arguments for himself in the primary: his eight years of diplomacy as Mr. Obama’s No. 2.

“Mr. Biden dived into Ukraine in hopes of burnishing his statesman credentials at a time when he seemed to be winding down his political career, as his elder son, Beau, was dying and his younger one, Hunter, was struggling with addiction and financial problems. It turned out to be an unforgiving landscape — threatened by Russia, plundered by oligarchs, plagued by indecisive leaders and overrun by outsiders hoping to make a quick buck off the chaos.” NYT

ANITA KUMAR: “Republicans used to ignore Trump’s resorts. Now they’re spending millions”: “In total, nearly 200 campaigns and political groups — virtually all conservative — have spent more than $8 million at President Donald Trump’s resorts and other businesses since his election in 2016, according to a yet-to-be-released report from the liberal-leaning consumer rights group Public Citizen obtained by POLITICO. That wasn’t the case before the real estate mogul and reality TV star got into politics.

“Between 2012 and 2014, campaigns and political groups spent a combined $69,000 at Trump businesses, according to the report. But since June 2015, when Trump announced he was running for the White House, political spending at the president’s properties has topped $19 million. Some of the initial surge was related to the Trump campaign’s using a Trump company plane during the 2016 election, but much of the uptick comes from conservative candidates and groups.” POLITICO

2020 WATCH …

— BEN WHITE and DANIEL STRAUSS: “‘The new candidate of the young elite’: Buttigieg battles Biden and Bloomberg for the center lane”: “Pete Buttigieg was quickly locking down a solid lane in the Democratic primary: a young, vibrant, gay, midwestern, war veteran mayor with progressive ideas and plenty of money — but both feet planted in fiscal prudence.

“Young Wall Street and tech-entrepreneur types were starting to fall in love — with his poll numbers and fundraising totals underscoring the Buttigieg boomlet. He was the ‘Parks and Recreation’ candidate in the Democratic field and an alternative to seventy-somethings Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders who are both looking to lock down the hyper-online progressive, anti-Wall Street crowd as well as blue collar workers across the Midwest. …

“But then a funny thing happened last week: Another 70-something candidate beloved on Wall Street — billionaire mogul Michael Bloomberg — made an unexpected splash by suggesting he may still enter the race.

“Bloomberg will not steal Buttigieg’s momentum with younger, wealthier Democratic voters and donors, people close to the South Bend mayor say. But the former NYC mayor does give Big Finance, Big Tech and other more corporate-friendly Democrats another progressive prospect as an alternative to Biden, Sanders and Warren.” POLITICO

— NATASHA KORECKI and MARC CAPUTO: “Why Biden is crushing it nationally — but slipping in Iowa and N.H.”: “Joe Biden is the clear frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic race for president.

“Or he’s faltering, slipping into fourth place as he loses ground to Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and an ascendant Pete Buttigieg.

“Those alternate realities are playing out in real time — reflected in Biden’s solid standing atop national polls versus his middling performance in Iowa and New Hampshire surveys on the other. The disparity is at once a source of frustration to Biden’s team and one of hope to rivals holding out for an utter collapse by the former vice president in the two earliest nominating states.

“The explanations for the discrepancy run the gamut. The white Iowa and New Hampshire electorates play against Biden’s strength among ideological moderates and African Americans, some defenders argue. Skeptics say it shows that the voters watching him most closely are underwhelmed. There’s the fact that Biden pulled back on early state ad spending — both on TV and digitally — while competitors ramped up. Finally, the Trump factor: The president’s reelection campaign has been running anti-Biden ads on TV in Iowa and more broadly over social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube.”

“AOC brings star power to Iowa for Sanders,” by Holly Otterbein in Council Bluffs, Iowa

High Crimes and Misdemeanors Are Not Always Crimes

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Given the historic moment we find ourselves  in, considering if the President has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, I’d like to review what that means.

United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 4:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Treason and Bribery are specified, but what of ‘other high crimes and misdemeanors’? When the Constitution was written there was no written law on federal crimes yet, so other high crimes and misdemeanors can’t mean only existing criminal law.

We create criminal law for bad things the average American might do. We do not create it for bad things the average American is unlikely to do. For example, the average American isn’t going to litter on the moon, so we don’t have laws against littering on the moon. In the future, if we have a constant stream of traffic to the moon and littering became a problem, we might eventually create laws against it

Our Founders were in such a position. They knew we would write laws pertaining to crimes as they became needed, but they were not written yet. Additionally, Congress, our legislative body that enacts laws, is the very same body responsible for writing Articles of Impeachment and for conducting the Impeachment Trial. So Congress is the right body to determine if a President has committed an act that hasn’t been written into criminal law yet, but should be considered a high crime and misdemeanor. Our Founders added the phrase ‘other high crimes and misdemeanors’ to cover all possible bad things a President might do that deserve Impeachment.

Other high crimes and misdemeanors includes things like:

  • Abuse of Power

  • Violating Public Trust

  • Bribery

  • Treason

  • Violating the Oath of Office

For example, the Mueller Report showed that Paul Manafort, Trump’s Campaign Manager, met with Russian Agent Konstantin Kilimnik and gave him internal polling data, repeatedly.

Internal polling data is the contact list of potential voters for a campaign, plus information collected when people donate money, take their surveys, write the campaign, or interact with the Campaign in other ways. So it is all the data they collect on Americans, including names, addresses, phone numbers, social media account names, their policy preferences, their policy concerns, and other details.

This data on Americans was given to the Russians without the permission of the American People who provided that data.

The Mueller Report also found that Russia targeted the American People with a disinformation campaign, to benefit Trump. It is certainly possible that the data Manafort gave to Kilimnik was used to target specific Americans in the disinformation campaign, but we don’t know for sure.

Americans gave their data willingly to the Trump Campaign, so it was the Campaign’s data to use. But I doubt any American expected the Trump Campaign to give their data to a foreign power to use against those same Americans in a disinformation campaign.

There must be no law against giving American data to a foreign power without their permission, because Mueller knew that Manafort did this and wrote about it in his report, but he didn’t charge him with a crime for this. And frankly, why would there be? I don’t know any Russian Agents and I’ve never operated a campaign that a foreign power would be interested in. I’m willing to bet the same is true for you. This is not a crime the average American could pull off, so I wouldn’t expect there to be laws against this.

However, giving American data to a hostile foreign power to use against those same Americans is a violation of public trust. It is a betrayal. It is impeachable.

If we knew Trump had knowledge of and allowed Manafort to give that data to Kilimnik, we could impeach Trump for that. But Manafort didn’t cooperate with the investigation. In fact, he lied specifically about the transfer of this data, which is why his cooperation agreement was ended. As a result, we don’t know if Trump had knowledge of it, or if Manafort did it on his own. Trump obstructed the investigation by dangling a pardon to Manafort, so we may never learn.

Owning personal data on Americans and then giving it to a Foreign Power is not a crime. Obstruction of Justice is a crime. Both of these actions could also be a high crime and misdemeanor. We could Impeach for both of these actions, if Congress and The People supported it. Conversely, if a President jaywalks, that could be a misdemeanor, but it isn’t Impeachable. There is no way The People would get behind a trial for such a minor offense.

The difference isn’t if the crime is written into law or not written into law yet. The difference is if the The People and Congress see the act as highly unethical and wrong for a President to do, and if they will demand accountability for that action. Just as we vote a President in, if they do something we find to be very wrong while in office, or even if we find they did something very wrong to get into office, we can remove them by an Act of Congress supported by the Will of the People.

Presidents get their power from The People and The People can take that power away if we believe a President abused that power.

The remedy is Impeachment, which is really the American People saying, “You did wrong!”

The remedy can also be Removal from office, which is the American People saying, “You did wrong, and it was so bad, you don’t get to be our President anymore. We don’t trust you with that power!”

We, The People, decide if an action is a high crime and misdemeanor, and we do this by letting our Congressional Representatives know that our future votes for them depend on how they vote for the Impeachment. Congress can also Impeach and Remove a president against our Will, but it isn’t likely if they want to keep their position in Congress as they answer to the people at election time.

One caution though. If we do not Impeach the President for a certain action, we are setting a precedent that The People are okay with all future Presidents committing the same action. We may even expect the current President to be emboldened to repeat the action, or do worse next time, as wrongdoers often do. As the old saying goes, “Give them an inch and they take a mile.”

We should not Impeach frivolously, nor should we ignore real wrongdoing. We must evaluate the evidence soberly, with thought for how it will effect our government currently, and for centuries to come. Impeachment is a responsibility we must use wisely.

My advice for all Americans is to watch the Impeachment Hearings and the Trial, without prejudgment, and discuss it with your friends and family. Consider the consequences of allowing that behavior to continue, now and in the future, with our current President, or with future Presidents. If the behavior is unacceptable, then Impeachment and Removal is the remedy.

Call or write your Congressmembers to let them know your thoughts and that your vote for them is on the line.

Remember, our elected Representatives, including our President, get their power from us, The People. What we give them, we can take away. In fact, it is our duty to do so, if they abuse that power.

Lisanne Lombardo

Citizen of the United States
Advocate for Democracy and Self-Determination

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Open Letter to Ambassador John Bolton

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Dear Ambassador John Bolton,

In a letter to the House of Representatives, your attorney informs The People’s House that you were:

“personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far,”

As a fellow Citizen of the United States, I urge you to testify if you have knowledge that our President attempted to commit a crime, or otherwise abuse the power The People granted him, in such a way that our Nation’s security was at risk, or would have been had his attempts been successful.

Your attorney further writes:

“If the House chooses not to pursue through subpoena the testimony of Dr. Kupperman and Ambassador Bolton, let the record be clear: that is the House’s decision.”

Please remember that the House of Representatives represents us, We the People. When you refuse to testify before the House of Representatives you are refusing to provide testimony to us, The People.

Let me shine a light through a magnifying lens to illuminate the point so thoroughly a star-nosed mole could see it in a tunnel two feet underground. As a Citizen of the United States, your highest duty is to your fellow countrymen. Not to the President. Not the to Office of the Presidency. Not to a Party.

Your highest duty is to your fellow countrymen. We are the Nation.

Please take a moment to reflect on the words in the Preamble to our Constitution:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence . . . “

After reflection, I hope you will come to see that neither subpoena, nor Judge’s order, nor even this letter should be required for you to testify.

If you have testimony your fellow countrymen need to hear to establish justice and to ensure the common defense of our Nation, then doesn’t your duty and honor compel you to testify before the Nation?

Let us hear your testimony, sworn under solemn oath, with all due haste.

In expectation,

Lisanne Lombardo
Citizen of the United States of America

As the author of this open letter, I hereby give the public full rights to share this letter in its entirety, exactly as is, without limitations,so long as you do not abbreviate it, or clip it, or alter it in any way.

Behold the Light of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch

Saturday, November 16, 2019

It was the second day of impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives and the Nation watched, transfixed, despite the President’s supporters’ attempts to avert viewers with dire prophecies of dull nothings.

Marie Yovanovitch, straight of spine and soft of speech, shared her tale of being victimized by the President’s henchmen in an orchestrated smear campaign to have her removed from her Ukranian post. At times her voice was but a whisper, and the packed room seemed to collectively lean in as they strained to hear how Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman laid to waste her thirty years of dedicated service to our Nation.

In quiet dignity Ambassador Yovanovitch spoke to the hearts of Americans. She gave her life’s work to a Nation that sheltered her family and gave them refuge from Nazis and authoritarianism by gifting her with democracy, freedom, and the hope of equality. Through her, we see how Lady Liberty has blessed our Nation. By lifting her light in the darkness, America gains those who are grateful for that light and know the worth of that flame.

All this plays in the back of the minds of The People, as they watch Yovanovitch from the comfort of their homes, stream her on their mobiles in coffee shops, listen to her in their cars as they dash to soccer games or to the gym.

But it would be dishonest to pretend all admire her. There are those enthralled by Trump’s myth of returning America to a more homogeneous facade, where people who are different are segregated into different schools and neighborhoods, or tucked away in prisons. They see her as a foreigner who has somehow made their own lives less bountiful.

Yovanovitch cares neither for her detractors’ opinions, nor her supporters’. She is driven by her own moral guide and she answers to her own sense of integrity, her own honor, and her oath to the Constitution. There are few times in life where you encounter one so pure in motive and so strong in character that she easily concedes a point to either party when they speak the truth. For she doesn’t see either party; she sees only falsehood and truth.

The Republicans desperately attempt to distract the audience with claims her words mean nothing because she didn’t hear the President commit his crimes with her own ears. But, like her career, Trump lays their efforts to waste by tweeting out insults in the middle of her solemn testimony. He only proves the smear campaign was led from the top.

At the end of the day, when her part of this saga has been fully told, she stands to a courtroom exuberant with applause. As heartfelt as it is, it can mean nothing to one such as she, for she will measure her actions against her own value structure, not against the approval or disapproval of her audience.

And so she gathers her cape of dignity around her, as though to cocoon herself inside it, and immerse herself in the safety of obscurity again, now that her duty is done. Unbeknown to her, all eyes follow as she walks toward the exit. She doesn’t realize that the flame she borrowed from Lady Liberty so long ago, burns incandescent inside her, and leaves a trail of light bright enough for an entire Nation to follow, for those with eyes that wish to see.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats will decide the outcome of this story. The future of our country will be decided by those who hold no party allegiance and have been looking elsewhere. But they just caught a brief flare of Yovanovitch’s light out of the corner of their eyes, and now they squint behind their sunglasses and realize they need to focus on this story to decide the proper ending.

The truth is there for those bold enough to seek it. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch has courage enough, but what of the country?

Lisanne Lombardo
Citizen of the United States of America
Advocate for Democracy and Self-Determination

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