Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Another day closer to impeachment

Astead W Herndon/NY Times:

How ‘White Guilt’ in the Age of Trump Shapes the Democratic Primary

The changing racial attitudes of white liberals are changing how 2020 candidates try to win votes.

White liberals — voters like Mr. Olsen — are thinking more explicitly about race than they did even a decade ago, according to new research and polling. In one survey, an overwhelming majority said that racial discrimination affects the lives of black people. They embrace terms like “structural racism” and “white privilege.”

Good. 

Sheryl Gay Stolberg/NY Times:

Impeachment Support Grows, but So Does the Public Divide

Americans are as divided over impeachment as they are over President Trump. But support for the Democrats’ inquiry is building even in places Mr. Trump won, and among politically crucial independents.

An average of impeachment polls calculated by the website FiveThirtyEight found that, as of Oct. 11, 49.3 percent of respondents supported impeachment and 43.5 percent did not. A survey released this past week by The Washington Post found 58 percent said the House was correct to open an inquiry.

And polling by a group of Democratic strategists found a potential opportunity to sway the public still further: nearly a quarter of the respondents categorized by strategists as “impeachment skeptics” opposed the inquiry but were not ready to say that Mr. Trump did nothing wrong.

Also good.

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This is a hell of a tale by @Will_Bunch about Rudy Giuliani’s decades of sleaziness. A lot here I didn’t know about, written by someone who was right there as Rudy rose to prominence. https://t.co/SHYfYVWLnB

— Rex Huppke (@RexHuppke) October 13, 2019

Aaron Blake/WaPo

Gordon Sondland is about to blow a hole in Trump’s Ukraine defense

Ever since former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker handed over those text messages, President Trump’s defenders have pointed to one of them as supposedly exonerating Trump. “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told another diplomat. “The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s [sic] of any kind.”

This text has been a linchpin of the Trump Ukraine defense. But on Saturday night, the linchpin broke…

The implosion of this particular Trump defense epitomizes the broader problem his supporters have here. The vast majority of Republicans have been unwilling to go to bat for Trump, avoiding the questions or deflecting them and talking about something else (like about how there really is corruption in Ukraine). That’s largely because they have little faith that something more incriminating might eventually come out, making their defenses look silly. Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, simply don’t appear to have taken much care to avoid at least the appearance of soliciting foreign influence on an American election.

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Trump suffered 5 court losses on one day- court denied his appeal, must give tax returns to Dems- 3 diff courts ruled against his public rule change (1 was a nationwide injunction)- Trump diverting money from other sources to fund border wall ruled unlawfulall 5 in thread👇 https://t.co/lTCQtAbNl7

— Maggie Jordan (@MaggieJordanACN) October 12, 2019

WaPo:

Trump’s envoy to testify that ‘no quid pro quo’ came from Trump

The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, intends to tell Congress this week that the content of a text message he wrote denying a quid pro quo with Ukraine was relayed to him directly by President Trump in a phone call, according to a person familiar with his testimony.

Sondland plans to tell lawmakers he has no knowledge of whether the president was telling him the truth at that moment. “It’s only true that the president said it, not that it was the truth,” said the person familiar with Sondland’s planned testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

“The truth is, these aren’t very bright guys, and things got out of hand.” ~ “Deep Throat” from All the President’s Men.

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As recently as March, Americans opposed impeaching @realDonaldTrump, 55-37%, per the @FiveThirtyEight tracker.Today, Americans support impeachment, 50-44%. A net shift of 24 points in seven months. https://t.co/AvtbHhLbFI

— Brandon (@Brand_Allen) October 13, 2019

Tom Nichols/USA Today:

Ex-Republican: Do we still agree on beating Trump? After your LGBTQ forum, I’m not sure.

I’m not asking you to betray your principles, but Republican culture warriors are lying in wait. Why let them divide us where we already agree?

When we watched the LGBTQ town hall on CNN recently, we had very different reactions. This is the event, you remember, where Beto O’Rourke said he’dpunish religious institutions for refusing gay marriage, and where Kamala Harris started by informing us of her pronouns, and then Chris Cuomo, after a mild and dopey joke, had to go on Twitter the next day and apologize for making light of it. This is where Elizabeth Warren fielded a question about traditional marriage by with a sneering, smug insinuation that the only people who would ask her about that are men who can’t find a woman.

You thought it was great. You saw a ringing defense of LGBTQ rights and a reaffirmation of what Democrats stand for.

I saw it and thought: Are these people insane? Are they trying to lose the election?

While I don’t agree with Tom, I get his point, which is hardball politics, not what’s right (he is not defending discrimination). The culture war is what motivates Trump voters, so play up the common ground and downplay that you’re winning it.

However, this is a really smart piece from Julia Azari, lightly edited:

see (Warren’s same-sex marriage quip captures what some find exciting — and others distressing — about her) for background. I think there are 3 things going on here, all of which ultimately ask us to look at Warren’s remarks through a power lens, regardless of what conclusions we draw: 1. multiple types of claims about disempowerment. it’s probably not exactly a secret where my sympathies lie on this one, but i want to present it as analytically as I can. One the one hand the positive reaction to the statement comes from a v real sense of marginalization of the lgbt community. I still vividly remember Al Gore stating his views against gay marriage in a 2000 general election debate. violence against this community remains real and endemic despite growing social acceptance overall. However, as @DaveAHopkins has written about, the sense of losing the culture war among conservatives is also real and based in some empirical truths. so you have clashing – if not necessarily morally equivalent – claims about who lacks power.   2. Presidential candidates and especially presidents do face different communication standards. insert all important caveats about how the presidency isn’t exactly operating under normal rules right now. But. Here’s my piece in Politico from 9/16 (which obviously envisioned a different political future) that explains how the powerful can’t make the same kinds of quips. 3. I think this is especially true when you come from a group that hasn’t traditionally held power, and that’s in play here too. talk of Warren alienating men…. someone correct me if I’m wrong but my understanding was she was running pretty even among men and women but what it does is illustrate a divide among Dems that isn’t exactly about m4a or why 2016 was a loss or whatever, but among progressive vs. preservationist visions of the party’s goals. Status quo vs. challenges. Serious reconsideration over who holds power.

You know my position on this. This is politics and doing what’s right isn’t always best when it’s done in your face. Persuasion is better than FU, we will win and destroy you. YMMV, but in my mind I want every vote against Trump to register. The bigger the win, the more progress we make. Most people support same sex marriage, and white evangelicals don’t get to decide. But there are swing voters, pay attention to them and don’t poke their eye if you don’t have to.

Yes, it is asymmetric, we have to be nice and they don’t. We do it knowing we have the majority view. That’s what winners do.

The analogy that springs to mind was the Paul Wellstone event (see Six years later, Wellstone memorial host Latimer still agonizes over event’s political fallout).

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One operative worried about Warren’s answer to the WaPo: “I’m not sure how that resonates with older African American voters, especially African American women.” @Civiqs has data on this exact q! Black women 65+ support gay marriage by a 60-23 margin https://t.co/bGLQ3k1FZg pic.twitter.com/ucbvziXCBx

— David Nir (@DavidNir) October 13, 2019

Dan Balz/WaPo:

Impeachment has put Trump in a different place. He’s showing it every day.

Many Americans have become inured to the president’s volatile behavior. Yet even by the standards of this presidency, Trump has been operating beyond his often-untethered bounds. His Twitter feed has been more frantic, his public comments angrier and more abusive, his sense of victimhood more visible than ever. Including his attacks on the investigation by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, there may be no period in the entirety of Trump’s presidency comparable to the behavior now on display….

“I suspect part of what has happened,” Gingrich said in an interview, “is just kind of exhaustion. It’s a little bit like being in the batter’s box, and you endure the entire Mueller process. It disappears. You take a deep breath and think you can go out for a beer, and you’re still in the batter’s box. And there’s a cycle which I think drives him crazy.”

He added: “I think Trump’s a pretty good fighter who sort of thought in his mind we’d get to the end of this cycle. And what he’s discovered is, he can’t move on. . . . I think there will come a point where he will shift gears and go into more of an endurance mode.”

Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster, said he sees Trump as ill-suited by temperament for the impeachment test. Impeachment is a lengthy process, he said, but Trump “looks at every day as a fire sale. How many things can I do to control or dominate the day. . . . Every day is a new day and a new war.”

He’s ill-suited, indeed.

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quid pro someday we’ll find out https://t.co/frdT0J72hY

— George Conway (@gtconway3d) October 13, 2019

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your turnout strategy > @parscale‘s turnout strategy. That’s it, that’s the key. That’s the whole enchilada. Luckily for Ds, neg partisanship will naturally do this for them, bc not all of their potential nominees are going to get this (Biden). https://t.co/QWSMN5zAxB

— Rachel “The Doc” Bitecofer 📈🔭🗿💪 (@RachelBitecofer) October 13, 2019

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pic.twitter.com/mymdafvf4o

— Greg Dworkin (@DemFromCT) October 12, 2019

Open thread for night owls: Converting business to cooperatives can reduce economic inequality

In Converting Businesses to Cooperatives Just Got Easier, Isabella Garcia at Yes! magazine writes about the decision of retiring Tom Adams and George Chittenden to convert their glass-blowing business into an employee-owned cooperative:

In early 2017, the pair reached out to Project Equity, a nonprofit organization that helps businesses convert to employee-ownership. That model made sense for Adams & Chittenden, whose employees were career glass blowers, not laborers in unskilled jobs.

Project Equity was at the time finalizing its Accelerate Employee Ownership initiative, a collaboration launched in September with the Shared Capital Cooperative, a national loan fund that provides financing to cooperative businesses and housing in the United States.

Three_Owls_2.jpg

The initiative aims to lower barriers for businesses converting to employee-owned models by providing access to individuals and organizations who are experienced in co-op conversions, and to lenders familiar with cooperative business models. The initiative is seeded with $5 million from Quality Jobs Fund, an initiative by the New World Foundation and the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco that invests in projects committed to improving quality job opportunities for workers in historically underserved areas. It aims to perform 30 conversions and maintain quality employment for more than 1,000 individuals over the next 10 years in California, Nevada and Arizona. The initiative also focuses on the positive ripple effects employee ownership can have in a community.

“It’s harder and harder for working people to make ends meet,” said Alison Lingane, co-founder of Project Equity. “We see employee ownership as creating a stable financial situation for people and their communities. This is something that addresses a lot of issues all at once.”

According to the Harvard Business Review, employee ownership can reduce economic inequality because the primary beneficiaries of profitable businesses are working- and middle-class people. […]

TOP COMMENTS

HIGH IMPACT STORIESTHE WEEK’S HIGH IMPACT STORIES

QUOTATION

“In 1492, the natives discovered they were indians, discovered they lived in America, discovered they were naked, discovered that the Sin existed, discovered they owed allegiance to a King and Kingdom from another world and a God from another sky, and that this God had invented the guilty and the dress, and had sent to be burnt alive who worships the Sun the Moon the Earth and the Rain that wets it.” ~~Eduardo Galeano, Los hijo de los días (2011)

TWEET OF THE DAY

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Scientists endorse civil disobedience as last resort to prevent climate change.https://t.co/0qyniRxnjb

— Rebecca Nagle (@rebeccanagle) October 13, 2019

BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2010—ThinkProgress documents more foreign funding to Chamber:

ThinkProgress has a new investigation to supplement their story from last week that documented “the disclosure of fundraising documents U.S. Chamber staffers had been distributing to solicit foreign (even state-owned) companies to donate directly to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6).”

This new chapter of the investigation adds significantly to ThinkProgress’s case with very specific donations documented that are far beyond what the Chamber has publicly acknowledged in interviews.

ThinkProgress began by documenting the three ways in which the Chamber fundraises from foreign corporations, and how that money goes into its “501(c)(6) entity, the same account that finances its unprecedented $75 million dollar partisan attack ad campaign.” The Chamber has responded with a focus on just one of those avenues for fundraising—the red-herring AmChams, the network of Chamber affiliates internationally, composed of American and foreign companies. The Chamber acknowledges their existence, and that it receives money from them, but has stonewalled any attempt to determine whether or not that money is making its way into their attack ads for Republicans. To date, the traditional media has just bought that story, has accepted the Chamber’s “just trust us” line.

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International Elections Digest: New Israeli elections produce the same old problem: a standoff

The Daily Kos International Elections Digest is compiled by Stephen Wolf and David Beard, with additional contributions from James Lambert and Daniel Donner, and is edited by David Nir.

Leading Off

Israel – parliament (Sept. 17)

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unexpectedly failed to form a coalition despite placing first in April’s elections, Israel headed back to the polls in September, only to return a Knesset even less able to form a stable majority than the previous one.​

​Netanyahu’s radical-right Likud party and its allies (parties of the far-right and Orthodox Haredi religious parties) won 55 out of 120 seats, down five seats from April, while parties opposed to Netanyahu (centrists, the center-left, and Arab-supported parties) took 57 seats, an increase of two.

The four Arab parties, running collectively as the Joint List, won 13 seats, making them the third-largest bloc after centrist leader Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, which won 33 seats, and Likud, which took 32. In a historic move, the Arab parties, which have traditionally sat out the post-election coalition-building process, recommended Gantz for PM.

The remaining eight seats went to Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, a right-wing secular party that has sharp disagreements with the Haredi parties over the role of religion in the public sphere. While Lieberman has allied with Netanyahu in the past, he refused to enter into a coalition with the Haredim after the April elections.

However, Lieberman is also known for his racist rhetoric, and he emphatically ruled out any sort of alliance that involves the Arab parties, calling them and their leader, Ayman Odeh, “enemies.” Lieberman has instead called for a unity government between Netanyahu’s Likud, Blue and White, and his own party.

With neither the left nor the right able to command a majority, Lieberman’s unity government seems to be the only viable solution. Both sides have offered to set up a rotation, where each party’s leader serves as prime minister for two years, but the order of that rotation has prevented an agreement.

Blue and White has also refused to serve in a government with Netanyahu at its head since he is likely to be indicted on corruption charges soon. Gantz’s side would like Netanyahu to step down from both party and state leadership but would settle for him giving up the role of prime minister for two years while his legal issues progress.

Netanyahu, who is desperate to remain prime minister in order to pass a law giving him immunity from prosecution while in office, has proposed that he remain in charge for the next two years before turning the job over to Gantz. Given the stalemate, Blue and White has publicly pushed Likud to topple Netanyahu so that an agreement can be reached. Netanyahu went so far as to float the idea of holding a leadership election within Likud to prove his hold on the party, but changed his mind after popular Likud MP Gideon Sa’ar made it clear he would run, too.

Assuming Netanyahu remains Likud’s leader, it seems likely both he and Gantz will fail to form a government. After that, any MP can offer himself as a candidate for prime minister if they can garner 61 supporters. If no one can, an unprecedented third election would take place in early 2020.

Notable Developments

Austria – parliament (Sept. 29)

After getting exposed in a bombshell influence-peddling scandal earlier this year that brought an end to Austria’s right-wing governing coalition, the far-right Freedom Party suffered a heavy beating in early elections, dropping from 26% of the vote in 2017 to just 16% this year. However, the center-left and centrist opposition wasn’t able to capitalize enough to prevent the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP) and its 33-year-old leader, Sebastian Kurz, from winning a dominant plurality, with the OVP growing from 31.5% to 37.5% and achieving its best result since 2002.

By contrast, the center-left Social Democratic Party tumbled to just 21%—its worst result in over a century—as the Greens achieved their best-ever result, surging from just below the 4% minimum needed to win seats in 2017 to 14% this year. The centrist NEOS party also won its best result with 8%. Consequently, Kurz and the OVP hold all the cards when it comes to forming the next coalition, which could include yet another alliance with a less powerful far-right party or a grand coalition with either the Social Democrats or the Greens. However, another alliance with the FPO may be the most likely, which would mean a continuation of Kurz’s anti-immigrant policies.

Canada – parliament (Oct. 21)

Canadians head to the polls this month to decide the fate of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s centrist to center-left Liberals, who are struggling to secure a second term in power as Canada’s majority government.

For nearly two years after sweeping Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from power in 2015, Trudeau was buoyant in the polls, enjoying wide leads over both the Tories and the left-wing New Democratic Party. However, the edifice began to crumble in early 2018, with Trudeau earning rounds of embarrassing headlines over a pointlessly lavish (and controversial) trade mission to India, a major scandal involving alleged obstruction of justice to protect Quebec-based construction company SNC-Lavalin, and, most recently, a deeply cringeworthy blackface scandal.

And yet, despite enduring a political year from hell, Trudeau remains neck-and-neck with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer (whose own scandals are relatively mundane, if not stingingly hypocritical) in the polls. Some analysts still even give Trudeau the best odds of leading the next government, whether with a minority or perhaps a majority, based on an inefficiently dispersed Conservative vote.

Wildcards include an uptick in support for the Franco-nationalist Bloc Quebecois and the eco-centrist Greens, while the NDP is struggling to jockey for position. Another new factor this time around is the potential for right-wing vote splitting, with the far-right People’s Party of Canada, led by Maxime Bernier, a prominent former Conservative MP and one-time leadership rival for Scheer. However, Bernier’s upstart party, a strange cocktail of ethno-nationalism and economic libertarianism, has yet to make a measurable dent in the polls.

Canada: Manitoba – provincial parliament (Sept. 10)

Incumbent Premier Brian Pallister led his center-right Progressive Conservatives to win another term in power in this central Canadian province last month. In 2016, Pallister’s PCs ended a 17-year period of dominance by the center-left New Democratic Party, earning 53% of the vote and 40 of the legislature’s 57 seats. This time, Pallister’s party slipped to 47% of the vote but still held a majority of 36 seats. The NDP, led by Wab Kinew, the party’s first indigenous leader, won 18 seats (up four from 2016) and 31% of the popular vote.

This election marks yet another win for the right at the provincial level in Canada. Ever since Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals won a majority government in 2015, right-leaning parties have retained power or toppled incumbent centrist or left-leaning parties in the provinces of Alberta (2019), Saskatchewan (2016), New Brunswick (2018), Ontario (2018), Prince Edward Island (2019), and Quebec (2018).

Only three provinces have bucked this trend: British Columbia, where the left-leaning NDP toppled a right-wing government in 2017, and the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where incumbent Liberal governments absorbed losses but hung on to earn new terms in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

Germany: Brandenburg and Saxony – state parliaments (Sept. 1)

The two easternmost German states held elections in September, both of which saw losses for the two establishment parties, the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), and a significant rise for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

AfD has shown considerably more strength in former East German states, which remain economically behind the rest of the country even three decades after reunification and have historically been more open to voting for parties outside the mainstream. The left-wing party known as Die Linke (“The Left”), for example, has always had greater success in the east than in the west.

Brandenburg, which covers the region outside of the country’s capital, Berlin, saw the coalition of SPD and Die Linke lose its previous majority thanks to a surge for AfD. The SPD still came in first, but only 3% ahead of AfD, which took 23.5% of the vote. The CDU and Die Linke also lost votes, while the center-left Greens saw a small increase. The SPD will likely form a three-party coalition with the Greens and either the CDU or Die Linke.

In Saxony, AfD managed to win an even higher percentage of the vote, 27.5%, though it still finished second, in this case to the incumbent CDU. AfD had actually come in first in both the 2017 federal election and the 2019 European elections in Saxony, so its strength here was not surprising. CDU had previously governed in coalition with the SPD, but with both parties losing seats, the only feasible alliance going forward involves adding the Greens.

That’s because the AfD’s continuing success in the east, and the establishment parties’ refusal to govern with it, significantly limits coalition possibilities. As the CDU also refuses to work with Die Linke, coalitions in the east are limited to either CDU/SPD/Green or SPD/Green/Die Linke unless one of the main parties can regain enough votes to make two-party coalitions viable again.

Guatemala – president (Aug. 18)

Right-wing former prison chief Alejandro Giammattei won a runoff election to become Guatemala’s next president and is expected to continue outgoing President Jimmy Morales’ fracturing of democratic norms and the rule of law. Giammattei, who was once arrested for extrajudicial killings of prisoners (charges that were later dismissed), won on an anti-crime platform that promises hard-line strategies, including bringing back the death penalty. He is also rabidly anti-LGBTQ and opposes women’s reproductive rights.

Giammattei defeated Sandra Torres, a former first lady who suffered from similar corruption concerns as Giammattei, 58% to 42%, in a low-turnout election. There was a 33% drop in turnout from the first round as many Guatemalans were reluctant to choose between two bad options. While Torres has more progressive views on some issues, both candidates supported the shutdown of a United Nations-backed anti-corruption group.

Italy – government formation

In a dramatic turn of events, Italy’s far-right League party quit its governing coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement in a bid to force early elections. The far-right had appeared within striking distance of winning a majority had such elections taken place, but things didn’t go as planned for League leader Matteo Salvini.

Salvini’s party took just 17% in the 2018 elections, but his anti-immigrant policies helped the League soar to nearly 40% in the polls this year. However, instead of early elections, the Five Star Movement chose to form a new coalition with the center-left Democratic Party, putting aside their bitter rivalry in order to stop the League from prevailing.

Consequently, western Europe’s lone populist majority coalition is no more, and with the replacement of the League with the Democratic Party, the new alliance will chart a more pro-European Union course that could entail a reversal of the anti-immigrant policies championed by Salvini. It’s unclear just how stable the new coalition is, but the continued polling strength of the League and the Brothers of Italy, its far-right ally, could deter these new governing partners from ending their coalition before the next election, which is scheduled for 2023.

Kosovo – parliament (Oct. 6)

Kosovo held early elections after the country’s parliament could not agree on a replacement for Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who resigned after being summoned to The Hague for questioning in a war crimes inquiry. Haradinaj’s right-of-center Alliance for the Future of Kosovo party (AAK) and its allies suffered heavy losses after they had become unpopular over voter dissatisfaction with corruption, the economy, and a political elite dominated by former independence fighters. Observers hailed the election outcome as strengthening democratic institutions.

Coming in first place with one-fourth of the vote was Self Determination, a leftist nationalist party that has advocated for a stronger welfare state and a referendum on unification with neighboring Albania, with whom Kosovo shares significant ethnic ties. Just behind was the center-right Democratic League, and it’s possible that the two opposition parties could form a coalition.

Poland – parliament (Oct. 13)

Poland’s election this month presents a critical test for whether liberal democracy will survive or whether the radical-right nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS) will be able to further consolidate its grip on state institutions.

In 2015, with just 38% of the vote, PiS became the first party to win an outright majority since the end of Communist rule after multiple parties fell just shy of the thresholds needed to win any seats in parliament.

PiS has since abused its power to attack judicial independence in an attempt to rewrite the constitution without needing to amend it, and it’s launched a full-scale assault on freedom of the press, giving the party favorable media coverage compared to the opposition. PiS has also won significant public support by increasing social welfare spending and boosting the economy after taking over from the more socially liberal and economically free-market Civic Platform party. Unsurprisingly, PiS has also advanced anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, and anti-LGBTQ policies.

The leading liberal democratic opposition consists of the center-right Civic Coalition, “The Left” coalition of progressive parties, and the center-right and more rural Polish Coalition. Polls have typically shown PiS in the mid-40s, which would easily be its best-ever result. However, there’s a modest possibility that it could win fewer seats than the three pro-democracy opposition blocs. Much will depend on whether the Polish Coalition or the far-right Confederation party passes the 5% threshold for parties to win seats.

Portugal – parliament (Oct. 6)

The incumbent center-left Socialist Party won re-election with an increased percentage of the vote from 2015, cementing its status as one of the most successful center-left parties in Europe.

The Socialists had been governing as a minority after striking a deal with two smaller left-wing to far-left parties after the 2015 election returned a hung parliament. But after reversing the previous government’s austerity packages, increasing the minimum wage and overseeing an economic recovery, voters rewarded the Socialists with 37% of the vote, up 4.4% from 2015. Both of the left-wing parties dipped slightly, though the Socialists’ increase more than made up for those losses.

The Socialists will now be able to continue to govern and may have even more of a free hand, as they now need only one of the two left-wing parties to support them to have a majority. (Left-of-center parties won three-fifths of seats overall.)

The right in Portugal features two main parties, the center-right Social Democratic Party and the right-wing People’s Party, which ran as a coalition in 2015. They ran separately this year and lost approximately 5% of the overall vote from last year, taking just 28% and 4% respectively.

Spain – parliament (Nov. 10)

Despite their strong performance in April’s election, Spain’s center-left Socialist Party and the left-wing Unidas Podemos failed to reach an agreement to form a new government, leading to an early election being called for Nov. 10. This marks the fourth election in four years, and it will see Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez making a gamble that his party can improve its standing relative to Podemos to strengthen its bargaining position for forming the next government.

Even if the Socialists and Podemos had reached an agreement, they would have still needed to rely on Basque nationalist parties or Catalan separatist parties to secure a majority. In a new vote, though, it’s possible the left-of-center parties could secure an outright majority.

One complication, however, is that a more moderate faction of Podemos broke away to form a new party called More Country, risking a split on the left. Polls show the three parties together outpolling the center-right Citizens, right-wing People’s Party, and far-right Vox, but it’s unclear whether they can win a majority or will need to rely on nationalist parties again.

Tunisia – president and parliament (Sept. 15, Oct. 6, and Oct. 13)

Amid its regularly scheduled parliamentary elections, Tunisia is holding an early presidential election this year following the death of 92-year-old President Beji Caid Essebsi in July. Essebi had been Tunisia’s first democratically elected president following their Arab Spring revolution in 2011. The race to replace him saw independent Kaïs Saïed and media magnate Nabil Karoui advance to an Oct. 13 runoff with 18% and 16%, respectively in an election that has been anything but usual.

For starters, Karoui had been unable to campaign in person because he has been imprisoned since August following his arrest on charges of money laundering; a court only ordered his release on Oct. 9. Karoui’s media network and philanthropic efforts have enabled him and his Heart of Tunisia party to project a populist image as an advocate for the poor. By contrast, Saïed is an independent but has been endorsed by the main conservative Islamist party Ennahda, whose own candidate, Abdelfattah Mourou, was eliminated in the first round with 13%. However, Saïed is choosing to not personally campaign.

In parliamentary elections that took place a week before the runoff, Ennahda faced major losses, dropping from 28% to 18%, but that was still enough to make it the largest party (it was runner-up after the previous elections in 2014). Heart of Tunisia came in second with 16%, but it’s uncertain what kind of coalition can come together after five other parties each took between 5% and 6% of the vote. The secular establishment parties, including 2014 winner Nidaa Tounes, suffered huge losses following their initial alliance with Ennahda after 2014.

Editor’s note: We regret to inform you that, after nearly four years and 40 issues, the next edition of the Daily Kos International Elections Digest will be our last. However, you’ll still be able to find our coverage of major overseas elections on our website and in our Morning Digest newsletter. We thank you for your readership and support!

Why Mitt Romney must demand Trump’s impeachment

Mitt Romney has never missed an opportunity to be an opportunist. Romney the leveraged buyout pioneer took advantage of the U.S. tax code to pocket tens of millions of dollars from investments in companies that failed. Mitt the mythical Massachusetts moderate transformed himself into the “severely conservative” 2012 presidential nominee by turning his back on his own health care reforms and confirming that he was “a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly,” as his adviser Mike Murphy said in 2006. That last reinvention required then-Gov. Romney to betray a woman he had previously revealed to voters was a “dear family relative.”

Now, with growing public support for the impeachment and removal of President Donald Trump, Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney is seizing a new chance to place himself on the national stage. While Trump is being buffeted by the blowback from his illegal solicitation of 2020 election assistance from Ukraine and his grotesque scheme to extort the government in Kyiv, Romney is waging a public relations campaign to claim the mantle of the conscience of the GOP. With furrowed brow and pained expressions of concern, Mitt, to great media acclaim, declares himself “deeply troubled” by Trump’s “appalling” behavior. Yes, Mitt Romney is once again offering himself as the white knight Republicans can turn to to replace their vulgarian in the White House.

While Romney’s criticism of the lawless occupant of the Oval Office is certainly welcome, it does not go nearly far enough. Mitt Romney, of all Republicans—of all Americans—has a special responsibility to immediately demand and take a prominent role in leading the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. There should be no mystery as to why. After all, when he accused the president of believing “the best interests of America are to bow to the interests of Russia” and of sympathizing with those who waged terrorist attacks against Americans, Romney wasn’t talking about Trump, but about Barack Obama. In penance for his baseless slanders of the 44th president of the United States, Mitt Romney must publicly take the lead in removing the 45th from office.

From the beginning, it’s been clear that Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was far more than “crazy” and “frightening.” The president wasn’t merely committing a criminal act in asking for foreign intervention in an American election. In demanding an investigation of the Bidens in exchange for Kyiv receiving almost $400 million in U.S. military assistance, Trump was obviously blackmailing the Ukrainians. (And with President Zelensky’s capitulation on the “Steinmeier Formula” for elections in eastern Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s victory there is assured.)

Nevertheless, the usual suspects on the right rallied to Trump’s defense.

As this exchange from Sept. 21 shows, former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer predictably turned to whataboutism of the worst kind:

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Why would anyone think Obama didn’t solicit help for his 2012 campaign from Medvedev &Putin? O sought campaign help from a foreign gvt when he asked for “space” during the campaign regarding missile defense in exchange for “flexibility” after the election. Impeach Obama. https://t.co/SZPg69rbfT

— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) September 21, 2019

As I responded to Fleischer:

This is a new low for you, which is saying something.

Obama’s March 2012 open mic comment to Medvedev was merely stating the obvious: arms control talks would go nowhere during an election year due to GOP demagoguery. Romney’s opposition to the START treaty proved his point.

Facing criticism from others, Fleischer dug his hole deeper:

If the press accounts are accurate, it was inappropriate. Not impeachable. Let the voters decide.

But the hypocrisy is sickening. Obama does something similar, if not worse, and it’s a two day flap, w many reporters defending O. If Trump does it, it’s the end of the world.

As it turns out, Fleischer was wrong on every count. President Obama did nothing similar to Trump’s crimes. But thanks to Mitt Romney, a man for whom Iran, Islamic terror, and China had been America’s top national security concerns until that point, after March 2012 Russia became “our number one geopolitical foe” for the rest of the campaign.

March 26, 2012, was the day President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev made a joint appearance before reporters in Seoul, South Korea. After their statements reflecting the continued gap between the U.S. and Russia on the deployment of an American missile defense system, an open microphone caught this exchange between the two leaders. As the The Washington Post relayed:

In an unscripted moment picked up by camera crews, the American president was more blunt: Let me get reelected first, he said; then I’ll have a better chance of making something happen.

“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama can be heard telling Medvedev, apparently referring to incoming Russian president — and outgoing prime minister — Vladi­mir Putin.

“Yeah, I understand,” Medvedev replies, according to an account relayed by an ABC News producer, who said she viewed a recording of the discussion made by a Russian camera crew. “I understand your message about space. Space for you . . .”

“This is my last election,” Obama interjects. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Medvedev, who last week demanded written proof that Russia is not the intended target of U.S. missile defense efforts, responded agreeably.

“I understand,” he told the U.S. president. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”

Because 2012 was an election year in both countries, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes explained afterwards, “it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough.” The next day, Obama himself reiterated that point, stating the obvious point, “The only way I get this stuff done is if I’m consulting with the Pentagon, with Congress, if I’ve got bipartisan support and frankly, the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations.” As David Corn pointed out the next day, one need only look at the START ratification process to understand why: “But the Romneyites—and much of the reporters and commentators who have covered the so-called hot-mic gaffe—have missed the context: Obama’s 2010 fight to ratify the New START treaty … a tale of Republican recalcitrance that nearly upended decades of bipartisan arms control policy.”

For Mitt Romney and his allies, it was an opportunity to completely upend the election of 2012. So within hours of the words leaving Obama’s lips, for Romney Russia was suddenly now national security priority No. 1.

Romney accused President Obama of making common cause with America’s adversaries. Appearing on conservative host Hugh Hewitt’s radio show that same day, Romney branded Obama “a president who continues to try and appease and accommodate, and believes that the best interests of America are to bow to the interests of Russia.” Despite acknowledging that the Russians “don’t represent a military threat to us at the present,” he further told Hewitt’s audience, “I hope the American people understand that what we heard from the President is revealing about his character in terms of what he tells the American people and revealing about his direction and sentiment with regards to Russian, which is after all our number one geopolitical foe.”

And so a talking point was born. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that same night, Romney explained why he newly believed Russia to be the greater threat than Iran, China, or North Korea: “These are very unfortunate developments and if he’s planning on doing more and suggest to Russia that he has things he’s willing to do with them he’s not willing to tell the American people, this is to Russia this is without question our number one geopolitical foe, they fight every cause for the world’s worst actors, the idea that he has some more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed.”

Ultimately, of course, Barack Obama won the election of 2012, dispatching Romney’s sound bite during the final presidential debate by joking that the 1980s were calling “and want their foreign policy back.” But the rest is not, as they usually say, history.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats predicted that the pro-Western success in Kyiv after the miracle on the Maidan would trigger Russian intervention in Ukraine. And if Romney or other Republicans had any issue with Putin’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, neither he nor they were protesting it.

After all, in 2016 Romney suggested that Donald Trump—the same man whose endorsement he welcomed in 2012—was a bigot and a tax cheat. That March, Romney called him “a phony, a fraud” whose “promises are worthless.” Yet despite candidate Trump’s threats to lead the United States out of NATO and to refuse to live up to American mutual defense obligations to NATO allies in Eastern Europe, Romney tried—and failed—to become his secretary of state. After Americans learned in January 2017 of U.S. intelligence agencies’ unanimous conclusion that Putin’s Russia interfered in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf, Romney did not call for punishment and countermeasures. And the revelations that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposed any bipartisan statement on Russian meddling in fall 2016 did not result in any condemnation from Mitt.

To his credit, Senate candidate Romney blasted Trump’s performance at his June summit with Vladimir Putin, declaring, “President Trump’s decision to side with Putin over American intelligence agencies is disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles.” (Romney later said that Trump’s refusal to keep notes of or allow other American personnel into his meeting with Putin was “inappropriate.”) Nevertheless, in his first big Senate vote on Russian sanctions, Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake lamented on Jan. 17, Mitt Romney failed his first test on Russia by supporting Trump’s move to ease sanctions against Putin-allied oligarch Oleg Deripaska. As former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tweeted:

Im really surprised that @MittRomney voted against keeping sanctions on these Russian companies. I hope someone will ask him how his vote = being tough on Russia.

As Lake put it, “The senator declined to join the 11 other members of his party, a party whose 2012 presidential nominee memorably warned that Russia was America’s ‘No. 1 geopolitical foe,’” adding. “I wonder what happened to him.”

What happened to Mitt Romney is what always happens to Mitt Romney. Wherever opportunity may be found at any moment, Romney will take off in hot pursuit. In hot pursuit, that is, regardless of what barriers his principles, past positions, and common decency may pose. And on Sept. 11, 2012, opportunity could be found in Benghazi, Libya. Within hours of the brutal attacks on the U.S. compound there that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American security personnel dead, Gov. Romney didn’t express his sorrow or vow justice. Instead, he essentially called President Obama a traitor.

His response was shameful and simply beneath the dignity of anyone who would serve as commander in chief. Romney didn’t know the facts. He didn’t know the timeline of events. He didn’t know who was responsible for the embassy breaches in Cairo and Benghazi. Yet even before Americans had learned of and could mourn their deaths, Romney used their murdered countrymen to slander the president of the United States. When the proverbial 3 a.m. phone call came, Romney let it go to voice mail, where his recorded message called the president “disgraceful” and charged that Obama “sympathize[d] with those who waged the attacks.”

“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Following Romney’s lead, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus regurgitated a similar sound bite. “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt,” Priebus tweeted at 9 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2012. “Sad and pathetic.”

What was truly pathetic, of course, was Mitt Romney’s appalling response to an American national tragedy. As BuzzFeed summed it up, a large—and mostly bipartisan—consensus of foreign policy experts expressed shock at the Massachusetts governor’s disgusting and vicious charge: “’Bungle… utter disaster…not ready for prime time… not presidential… Lehman moment.’ And that’s just the Republicans.”

As the The Washington Post reported the next day, the response from most Republican leaders was appropriately muted. “I know all Americans today are shocked and saddened by the news in the Middle East,” Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, said, adding, “Our hearts are heavy. And our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” Matthew Dowd, a former strategist for President George W. Bush, was left shaking his head at Romney’s grotesque display: “It almost feels like Sarah Palin is his foreign policy adviser. It’s just a huge mistake on the Romney campaign’s part — huge mistake.”

John Kerry, the Democrats’ 2004 presidential nominee and future Obama secretary of state, hit the opportunist on the head: “I think Mitt Romney is very sad. There ought to be some limits to ambition and trying to exploit every opportunity.”

Seven years later, the opportunist is back to look for advantage in an unfolding tragedy in the Middle East. This time, Mitt Romney is grabbing the spotlight over Trump’s jaw-dropping and dangerous betrayal of America’s Kurdish allies in Syria and Iraq.

After Trump announced on Twitter that he would greenlight Turkey’s invasion of territories controlled by Kurdish forces, Romney joined his co-chair on the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, Democrat Chris Murphy, in declaring that the president’s decision “will have grave humanitarian and national security consequences. After enlisting support from the Kurds to help destroy ISIS and assuring Kurdish protection from Turkey, the U.S. has now opened the door to their destruction.”

On Wednesday, David Ignatius explained the easily foreseen consequences of Trump’s windfall for Turkey, Iran, Russia, and Syria’s Assad regime: “President Trump has opened the door to what could become a genuine nightmare for the United States and its allies: the revival of the deadly terrorist organization that called itself the Islamic State.” Trump was unmoved, offering a response that was, as cited in The Washington Post, incoherent at best and insane at worst: “President Trump said Wednesday that it would be ‘easy’ for the United States to form new alliances if Syrian Kurds leave the fight against the Islamic State to fend off a Turkish attack, noting that ‘they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us in Normandy’ and were only interested in fighting for ‘their land.’”

For his part, Sen. Romney struck a determined pose, prepared to do anything short of taking action to show his disapproval of the Trump’s rapidly unfolding disaster:

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The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal. It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster. https://t.co/Tu8ARa8Pmp

— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) October 7, 2019

But at the end of the day, Mitt Romney’s pose is just that. And as it turns out, it’s one he’s been perfecting for months. Back in May, Politico offered a fawning view “Inside Romney’s Trump Strategy.” Portraying himself, as his father did before him, as a lonely champion of principle, the Utah senator proclaimed, “The lane that I’ve chosen has almost no one in it.” “There’s a long history and a family trait of saying what you believe and not worrying about what other people think,” he claimed.

But far from leading the call for Trump’s impeachment, Romney’s advice to Democrats has been to “let the American people decide” in the 2020 election.

After the whistleblower revelations regarding Trump’s criminal enterprise in Ukraine, Romney secured another glowing profile, this time in the The New York Times. On Sept. 26, the Times reported, “He has pronounced himself ‘deeply troubled’ by Mr. Trump’s effort to enlist a foreign leader for political assistance, and has refused to rule out impeaching the president.” And even as he insisted he was not attempting to nudge other Republicans, it was impossible to miss his indignation: “’I can’t imagine being in the Senate or in any other position of responsibility and looking around to see who’s with you,’ Mr. Romney said. ‘You stand for what you believe in.’”

After Donald Trump committed another open mic crime, Romney responded by saying, “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.” That statement prompted CNN conventional wisdom regurgitator Chris Cillizza to ask, “What is Mitt Romney’s end game?” His answer, as is usually the case, is provided by someone else. This time, that someone is Gabriel Sherman, writing for Vanity Fair:

According to people close to Romney, he’s firmly decided against primarying Trump, an enterprise he believes to be a sure loser given Trump’s enduring GOP support. Romney has also told people that, as an unsuccessful two-time presidential candidate, he’s the wrong person to take on Trump. Instead, a Romney adviser told me, Romney believes he has more potential power as a senator who will decide Trump’s fate in an impeachment trial. “He could have tremendous influence in the impeachment process as the lone voice of conscience in the Republican caucus,” the adviser said. In recent days, Romney has been reaching out privately to key players in the Republican resistance, according to a person briefed on the conversations. “Romney is the one guy who could bring along Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, Ben Sasse. Romney is the pressure point in the impeachment process. That’s why the things he’s saying are freaking Republicans out.” (Romney, through a spokesperson, declined to comment.)

“Now,” Cillizza drools, “That is very interesting.” And just why is it so interesting? “[This] gets us back to Romney and the role he sees for himself as this impeachment investigation wends it way through Congress. Is he an emerging ringleader (as the Vanity Fair reporting suggests) or simply a man who believes he is following his conscience without any broader political considerations?”

Of course, Cillizza ignores the third and most likely possibility: Mitt Romney is ever the opportunist, hoping to rise from the ashes of the imploding Trump presidency as a man Republicans will gratefully anoint as the savior of their party and whom Americans will finally put in the White House, to complete what his wife Ann Romney described as his “destiny.”

But Romney doesn’t deserve to be the beneficiary of the impeachment and removal of Donald Trump from office. He must do what he’s never done, which is to stick his neck out and lead the resistance to Trump’s lawless subservience to Moscow and his disaster in Syria. Even more than those Republicans who engineered the Benghazi inquisition and the Clinton impeachment, Mitt has a special responsibility to hold Trump to account. After all, Romney baselessly accused President Barack Obama of bowing to Russian interests and of sympathizing with Islamic terrorists. Now that Americans actually have a president who is both a Russian tool and on the verge of resurrecting ISIS, Romney must be at the forefront of those working to secure Trump’s downfall.

Anything short of that, as Gabrielle Gurley wrote in The American Prospect, and “the man who wants to be so much more than a junior senator from Utah should consider sparing the country any more of his endless equivocations.” But that is not what the article headline called “Mitt Romney’s Impeachment Dilemma.” It is his moral duty.

Every time, it’s the same long con job

You know what it is when you recognize it: It’s a scam. It’s a con job. It’s the same con job that Donals Trump has been playing since the beginning.  

In 2016 he used rumors, innuendo, and blatant smears to sully Hillary Clinton’s reputation and defeat her in the Electoral College with ardent help from Russia—and reluctant, half-hearted help from then-FBI director James Comey.

Trump did this while he was caught up in a scandal of numerous sexual assault allegations, while he was attempting to forge a secret deal to build a billion-dollar Trump Tower in Moscow, and also was secretly paying off two former mistresses not to reveal his secret in the 11th hour of the election.

Each time, he’s corrupt as a crooked scarecrow. He’s violated security protocols, clearances, and rules of sketchy foreign entanglements while pointing the finger the other way.

He’s a hustler. He’s a grifter. And he been caught red-handed, again and again and again. 

Let me start this discussion off with my favorite YouTuber, Steve Shives, as he expertly explains exactly why Trump absolutely deserves to be impeached and removed.

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Shives points out exactly what it was that Rep. Adam Schiff said which Trump claimed was worthy of being charged with “treason” when he paraphrased the content of what Trump said in a phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the hearing with 

Schiff: Shorn of it’s rambling character and in not so many words this the essence of what the President communicates.

“We’ve been very good to your country, Very Good. No other country has done was much as we have.  But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you ,though. And I’m gonna say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it. On this and on that.  I’m gonna put you in touch with people, not just any people. I’m gonna put you in touch with the Attorney General of the United States, my attorney General Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him.  And I’m gonna put you in touch with Rudy, You’re gonna love him, trust me. You know what I’m asking, so I’m only going to say this a few more times, in a few more ways. By the way don’t call me again, I’ll call you when you’ve done what I’ve asked.”

This is, in sum and character, what the president was trying to communicate with the president to Ukraine.

For this, Trump has demanded that Schiff be kicked out of Congress. Schiff never claimed this was a word-for-word quote of what was said—not like Trump himself, who has claimed that the Ukraine call record was a “word for word” quotation of what was said when that’s not what it was.

That’s a point that is made in this next video by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, as he discusses how experienced diplomat Bill Taylor argued with a high-dollar Trump donor who had been installed as ambassador to the United Nations, Gordon Sondland, who took five hours to respond to Taylor’s text: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

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It’s not just that Trump is himself personally corrupt: It’s that this influence has spread corruption throughout our government processes. He’s like a virus: patient zero for the infection. 

Just as he did with Clinton, Trump is playing the same scam. He’s distorted our government processes, which are not supposed to be warped for personal gain, and twisted them specifically and directly for his own benefit.

He argues that he “had to do this” in order to protect taxpayer money from being spent on a “corrupt nation.” Oh really? And exactly where else has he had such overriding concern not to spend U.S. tax dollars on a corrupt country?  

The Pentagon had already specifically cleared Ukraine of corruption allegations in May, before the phone call with Zelensky even took place. But then Rudy Giuliani got into Trump’s ear after hanging around with his two Russian pals Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were just this week arrested for campaign finance violations. We got the crazy story that instead of Russia attacking our past election, as the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee just determined; and we have this crazy theory that the company that examined the DNC servers, Crowdstrike, was owned by a Ukrainian who somewhere had hidden the “real” copy of the server after framing Russia for the attack, and also Hunter Biden and something something.

And here’s he kickerL Trump got ultimately got just what he wanted. President Zelensky’s newly appointed prosecutor general has re-opened the investigation into natural gas firm Burisma.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka announced Friday that his office plans to reopen several cases tied to Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the country. He said and his team are set to audit all high profile cases closed or reviewed by his predecessors.

Recent reports said at least 15 of the cases are disputes involving the energy company where Joe Biden’s son previously served as a board member. The top prosecutor said his office is seeking “to make a decision on cases…where illegal procedural decisions were taken.”

“From the proceedings we have reviewed, there are over 15 proceedings where Burisma, (Hunter) Biden or other Burisma founders might be involved,” Ryaboshapka said. “We will let you know as soon as we have an understanding of the situation.”

And lo, we are back where we were before. Trump has achieved exactly what he wanted. A prosecutor is investigating Hunter Biden in Ukraine, just as the election begins to heat up. And of course he refuses to cooperate with the House’s impeachment Inquiry and will block all witnesses and subpoenas for documents, using this ridiculous “trash”letter from his attorneys. Awesome. 

A previous whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica reminds us that while Trump has been whining about Christopher Steele and his dossier being “foreign collusion,” the Trump organization was itself working with CA during the election.

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He was working with a largely foreign company while attacking Hillary Clinton and the DNC for working with Steele, who was a subcontractor to entirely U.S. company Fusion GPS. And again, this was a company that essentially stole personal private information from tens of millions of Americans, compared to Steele, who wrote about what may have happened in the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Moscow.

While all this is going on, Trump suddenly decided last week to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria after a heated phone call with Turkey’s President Erdogan. Immediately after that, Turkey began launching attacks on northern Syria, which threaten to turn the situation into a literal blood bath.

The question, of course, is why?

Well, if we are to believe the words of former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, it’s because Erdogan is essentially blackmailing Trump. 

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Ask yourself @LindseyGrahamSC what do they have on @realDonaldTrump? It isn’t just the tower in Turkey. He has no ideology or care for anyone. He is doing this for himself. Find out why. . . https://t.co/DsO0KC4Qxt

— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) October 9, 2019

Anthony might have a point, because it turns out that the 119 Trump businesses are deeply enmeshed with Turkey. 

“There are several ways in which this is true. The most visible one are those Trump Towers where he got $10 million payday for that, while the royalties for that have decreased over time, Ayman, because he’s now president, he receives less money for that, there are many other ways in which he’s invested in Turkey,” she explained.

“We found as part of a lawsuit, that is an active lawsuit right now, that Turkey has the highest number of foreign ventures in which the Trump family is at least a partial owner, at 119. NBC News has also found, exclusively, according to a report that was put together for us by an outside group, that the Turkish officials are the top patrons at Trump properties worldwide,” she continued.

“Now, let me stress that no one is saying that this is why the president made the decision that he made. But what we are saying is nobody understands why he made the decision, and he has these business interests. This is the first time we’re really in this position of having to ask some of these tough questions, because the fact is that there’s a pattern here, specifically with Erdoğan,” she noted.

That’s in addition to two Trump Towers in that nation. 

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Here’s video of Trump attending the grand opening of Trump Tower in Turkey. Ivanka even thanked Erdogan on Twitter for this deal.Gonna say it loud and clear:TRUMP IS SELLING OUT KURDISH LIVES FOR A FUCKING HOTEL!#TurkeyIsNotOurFriend #KurdsBetrayedpic.twitter.com/xkN0OcFLCi

— Anxious Matt (@Anxious_Matt) October 7, 2019

And that’s on top of the F-35 contracts we have with Turkey. 

“So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the United States, in fact they make the structural steel frame for our F-35 Fighter Jet,” the president wrote in defense of his actions.

So since the Kurds didn’t fight in World War II, that’s a perfect reason to leave them high and dry right now, right? So what if Erdogan is threatening Europe with 3 million refugees if they bother to squawk about the Syria attacks? 

Maybe, just maybe, this might be enough to get the GOP off the Trump Train. We’ll see.

We have to recall that while Trump is throwing shade at Hunter Biden for making $50,000 per month on the board of Burisma, his son Don Jr. has been making deals in Indonesia.

On August 13th, Don Jr. attended a pre-launch event to kick off the development of two Trump-brand properties in Lido and Bali, Indonesia. While Donald Trump Jr. denied claims that his trip to Indonesia this week posed any conflicts of interest between his business and the Trump Administration, social media posts from the event show two Indonesian government officials and several other people with close ties to the Indonesian government seized the opportunity to attend an event with the son of the United States president.

Those officials in attendance were the Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti and Governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan. Among the other high-profile guests was the projects’ developer Hary Tanoesoedibjo’s daughter, Angela Tanoesoedibjo, who has reportedly been considered for a position with President Joko Widodo’s cabinet. Also in attendance were former Ambassador to the United States Dino Patti Djalal, Golkar Party Chairman Aburizal Bakrie, and Dede Yusuf, who served as Vice Governor of West Java, home to the future Lido resort.

And his own daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared made $82 million last year while working in he White House, which is a bit more than $50K per month.

Financial disclosure forms released Monday show that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner made at least $82 million last year from multiple streams of outside income while they were senior White House advisers, according to the Washington Post.

Despite public scrutiny of their finances amid questions of conflicts of interest, a spokesman for the couple’s lawyer said Trump and Kushner have followed the rules.

The couple is making huge amounts of money while serving in government, though there have been some changes to their revenue streams. The money Trump receives from limited liability companies associated with the Trump Organization has been restructured into annual fixed payments of $1.5 million, “a change made in consultation with Office of Government Ethics officials to reduce her ‘interest in the performance of the business’” according to the Post.

She also made $3.9 million from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. and more than $2 million from severance from the Trump Corp. last year. Her book Women Who Work netted her a $289,300 advance from Penguin Random House. Kushner, however, failed to report multiple stakes in a handful of companies, with the documents showing he did not report those assets because of an “accounting oversight,” despite divesting his stakes before taking up his position in the White House, the Post said. He is not involved in managing Kushner Co., his family’s real estate company, but had $2 billion worth of transactions during 2016 and 2017, according to the Post. A different Post analysis also pointed out that around 90% of his real estate holdings were still under his control, though he sold his stake in 666 Fifth Avenue, the beleaguered midtown building for which he famously paid $1.8 billion at the height of the real estate bubble. He also took in $5 million from an apartment complex in New Jersey run by the family business. That’s right: Kushner sold his stake in 666 Park Avenue, which was bought by a subsidiary of the Qatari Investment Fund, after he and Trump supported a blockade against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. That blockade was based on false Russian-planted emails, which had been opposed by then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Kushner Cos. directly solicited investment from Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi for its 666 Fifth Avenue luxury tower in April 2017, two sources in the finance industry told The Intercept. No deal came of it.

Kushner Cos. spokeswoman Chris Taylor denied such brokering attempts occurred. “To be clear, we did not meet with anyone from the Qatari government to solicit sovereign funds for any of our projects,” Taylor told Newsweek in an email. “To suggest otherwise is inaccurate and false.”

The following month, Kushner and the White House supported a blockade of Qatar organized by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Due to the crisis, alliances in the region have shifted, with Qatar—which holds the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East—aligning more closely with Iran and Turkey.

In June, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought a “calm and thoughtful dialogue” to bring resolution to the clash between Qatar and its neighbors. But President Donald Trump echoed Saudi talking points and called Qatar a “funder of terror at a very high level,” The New York Times reported.

Additionally, recent reports are that Trump had also requested that Tillerson intervene with the Department of Justice investigation of Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who was a client of Giuliani and Mike Mukasey at the time. Zarrab was convicted in a billion-dollar bribery scheme with the Turkish finance minister, in attempt to evade sanctions on Iran in 2017. Also, Michael Flynn and his son had secretly met with Turkish government officials in December 2016 to talk about having Zarrab transferred to Turkey after Trump took power in January of that year. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

It’s not like Trump and his company had previously been involved in deals with funding linked to the Iranian Republican Guard and connected to a proposed Trump Tower that was built in Azerberjan. 

Newsweek‘s Kurt Eichenwald reported in September that Trump’s financial filings show he’s partners in the Baku deal with the son of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister.

U.S. officials believe that official, Ziya Mammadov, laundered money for the Iranian military, although no formal charges were brought against him or his son, Anar Mammadov — who is Trump’s partner in the Baku hotel venture.

The New Yorker examined Trump’s ties to Ziya Mammadov — one of the wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs in one of the world’s most corrupt nations — and his brother, Elton Mammadov, an influential member of the Azerbaijani parliament, who signed contracts for the project and founded Baku XXI Century, which owns the tower.

The Mammadov family, described by Foreign Policy magazine as “The Corleones of the Caspian,” has a reputation for using their government positions to enrich themselves and their partners — which includes construction firms tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Whether it’s gaining more than a dozen trademarks in China; dealing with Qatar; dealing with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Turkey, and the Kurds; or setting up deals with Ukraine, it’s the same story every time. The Trumps mix and match their personal interests and their personal business with their official positions—and then point fingers at their opposition.

It’s the same scam, and the same long con. This man needs to be impeached and removed immediately.

We’ll cut your taxes and guarantee your health care. How’s that for a Democratic campaign pitch?

Campaigns are about a lot of things. But a winning presidential campaign must make clear how it will improve the lives of large numbers of Americans. A campaign has to lay out lots of policies, yes, on lots of different topics. But a winning presidential campaign must center on a simple, digestible policy statement, a concrete proposal for change that also connects to a broader theme unifying everything the candidate plans to do. Hence the title of my post, a suggested campaign theme for a Democratic presidential campaign: We’ll cut your taxes and guarantee your health care.

These were the thoughts running through my mind after reading a couple of detailed data dives in recent days. Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman are economists at the University of California, Berkeley and advised both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on their respective plans to tax the wealth of people at the very top. (Warren’s plan taxes wealth held above $50 million at a 2% rate per year, and dollars above $1 billion at 3%. Sanders’ plan starts a bit lower, at $32 million, and has more brackets, with wealth above $10 billion taxed at 8% per year.)

The aforementioned economists analyzed the overall tax burden paid in 2018—i.e., after the Trump Millionaire’s Tax Break, which we are now borrowing hundreds of billions per year to pay for, took effect—by Americans at 15 different levels of income. They included everything: federal (income and payroll), state, and local taxes, etc.—in other words, all the things people like Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity forgot when they told lies about 47% of Americans being “takers” because they weren’t paying one particular kind of federal tax.

The shocking takeaway from Saez and Zucman was that the 400 wealthiest households in the U.S. pay a lower percentage of their annual income in taxes (23%) than those in the bottom 10% (who pay 25.6%)—or the rate paid by any other group, for that matter. Big-picture wise, explained the authors, we almost have a flat tax system. There is relatively little variation between the percentage paid by those who earn different levels of income. And at the very top end, where the truly obscene wealth accumulation is taking place, the authors wrote: “This is the tax system of a plutocracy.”

But it wasn’t always that way.

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The U.S. tax code was once, as Saez and Zucman noted: “a beacon of tax justice. It was the democracy with the most steeply progressive system of taxation on the planet.” Look at how it has changed over the past half-century plus (see the graphic to the right). Note that the tax rate paid by those in the bottom 90% has increased, while it has dropped for those in the top 10%—with the drop moving higher and higher as we go up the income ladder. Those in the tippity-top sliver are paying half the rate they used to pay—back when America was, you know, great.

There are a lot of plans out there to make our tax code more progressive. 67.913% of those plans come from Sen. Warren [wink]. But seriously, plans to tax very high-end incomes and huge amounts of wealth are quite popular. Warren’s plan earned 3 to 1 (74% to 26%) support in one poll, for example.

Saez and Zucman put together a comprehensive proposal aimed at bringing back the progressiveness of our tax code that existed in 1950. They ran the numbers—and, notably, included the cost of health insurance in the tax rate Americans pay—which they called a “mandatory expense that is, in effect, a tax on working Americans.”

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Their reworked tax code (see the graphic to the right), inclusive of health insurance costs, would reduce the tax rate paid by households in the bottom 95%. That’s a lot of voters. Those households with incomes that put them between 95%-99% would see a small (2.4%) increase. Only those making about $1 million per year or more would see bigger increases, with the biggest increases by far being paid by those in the top one-hundredth of the top 1% (i.e., those at 99.99% and above). And remember, we’re only talking about restoring rates that existed during the time of America’s strongest economy, the years right after the World War II.

In other words, Democrats can honestly tell most Americans that we will cut your taxes and guarantee your health care. This is how Sen. Warren explained it at the most recent Democratic debate:

Those at the very top, the richest individuals and the biggest corporations, are going to pay more. And middle-class families are going to pay less. That’s how this is going to work. What families have to deal with is cost, total cost. That’s what they have to deal with.

What we’re talking about here is what’s going to happen in families’ pockets, what’s going to happen in their budgets. And the answer is Medicare for All. Costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals, and costs are going to go up for giant corporations. But for hard-working families across this country, costs are going to go down, and that’s how it should work under Medicare for All in our health-care system.

I understand that for some of us progressives, talking about tax rates doesn’t feel as immediate, or perhaps as inspiring, as talking about some other issues. But making our tax code more progressive is one of the most direct ways elected officials can combat economic inequality. For most Americans, cutting their taxes and guaranteeing their health insurance coverage are real, tangible things that the federal government can do for them and their families simply by enacting new legislation. That’s why those issues need to be at the center of any campaign for national office. Furthermore, economic inequality is not just about dollars and cents, it’s about life and death.

That’s the other piece of data I want to highlight here (h/t Meteor Blades). There’s more detail in the article by Sam Pizzigati, including the fact that median household income, adjusted for inflation, was 2.3% lower in 2018 than it was in the last year of Bill Clinton’s presidency. By comparison, for the top 5% of households by income, it’s up 13%. And that disparity, as we know from other data, only increases the further up the income ladder we go. But here’s the information about how, as Pizzigati’s title states, “Inequality Is Literally Killing Us.”:

The disturbing new GAO research tracks how life has played out for Americans who happened to be between the ages of 51 and 61 in 1992. That cohort’s wealthiest 20 percent turned out to do fairly well. Over three-quarters of them — 75.5 percent — went on to find themselves still alive and kicking in 2014, the most recent year with full stats available.

At the other end of the economic spectrum, it’s a different story.

Among Americans in the poorest 20 percent of this age group, under half — 47.6 percent — were still waking up every morning in 2014. In other words, the poorest of the Americans the GAO studied had just a 50-50 chance of living into 2014. The most affluent had a three-in-four chance.

Warren has also, as I’ve written previously, shown how to integrate the fight for racial justice and the fight against economic inequality. The two are linked both in terms of the policy changes we need, and in the way conservatives use race-baiting rhetoric to prevent the formation of a majority coalition of middle- and working-class whites and voters of color, built around their real shared interests. A Democratic campaign that says it will cut your taxes and guarantee your health care also must talk about issues of racial justice, and other forms of injustice, without question.

In fact, all these themes do connect. Democrats are the party that fights for all Americans—white, black, brown, and everything else—to make this country fairer, more just, safer, and more prosperous for everyone. The Republicans, on the other hand, are the party that favors those at the very top—while driving a wedge between the rest of us. That’s a winning message that will not only defeat Donald Trump (or his replacement, if his congressional allies actually develop the courage to put country first), but defeat Republicans up and down the ballot.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Manufacturing slump undercuts Trump claims of economic strength

Of all the ridiculous arguments Donald Trump makes for his reelection, perhaps none is repeated more often than his claim that the U.S. economy is “the greatest economy in the history of our country.”

The claim is gibberish, of course, which is why the claim (or some variation thereof) continually rates three out of four Pinocchios from The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. And one of the reasons the claim is wrong is that the nation’s manufacturing sector is in a downward spiral.

The Institute of Supply Management’s manufacturing index dropped to 47.8 in September, down from 49.1 the previous month, the lowest number in more than a decade. Any number above 50 indicates manufacturing expansion. A number below 50 indicates that manufacturing is in recession territory.

Companies are blaming the slowdown on Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, which have escalated into a full-blown trade war with China as that country retaliates with tariffs of its own. According to The Washington Post, “Manufacturing fell into a technical recession in the first half of the year, and the latest ISM data indicates the situation appears to be getting worse. Concerns are rising that the contraction in manufacturing could spill over into the rest of the U.S. economy.”

Even worse than a technical number from the index, numbers for manufacturing employment, new orders, backlogs, and production all fell in the Institute of Supply Management report. Because of Trump’s tariffs, parts cost more, so companies are ordering fewer of them, which also affects suppliers. In some cases, manufacturers worried about the future are laying off employees. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that the manufacturing unemployment rate went up six-tenths of a percentage point just since June, and the manufacturing sector lost 2,000 jobs in September. The official September numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that U.S. employers added only 136,000 jobs.

And guess where manufacturing job numbers are bad? In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, three states Trump won narrowly in 2016. Republican losses in those three states could very well tip the election to a Democratic challenger in 2020.

A Bloomberg opinion piece points out that Trump’s trade policies are hurting both the farming and the manufacturing sectors. A 2016 manufacturing recession may have contributed to Trump’s slim win in those three states that Democrats were counting on as a “blue wall.”

Manufacturing is still a major source of employment in those states—think steel and automobiles—and there have been layoffs as manufacturing has weakened. Even though Trump ran in 2016 promising to revive the country’s manufacturing sector, that promise sounds more hollow as time goes on.

Manufacturing employment growth in Wisconsin and Michigan has already fallen below the 2015 rate. Pennsylvania is dangerously close. At best, this makes it difficult for Trump to claim that his policies have led to a revival. At worst, it suggests that his policies have backfired.

Trump could conceivably turn the situation around, but at this point it’s hard to see how. Even if he announced an official end to the trade war tomorrow, it would be months before farmers and businesses could be confident that he was serious. After that, there would be yet more delays before equipment orders rebounded, and still more before a rise in manufacturing employment.

The 2016 manufacturing recession likely convinced some Trump voters that he would be an economic savior and save their jobs. “Now Trump has to campaign against a similarly weak backdrop,” The Washington Post says.

Manufacturing accounts for about one-tenth of the U.S. economy, making it less of a barometer of what’s ahead of the U.S. economy than it once was. But most analysts agree that what’s happening to manufacturing is evidence Trump’s tariffs are doing real harm to the U.S. economy and is a warning sign for what could happen to other industries, especially as the tariffs expand by the end of the year onto nearly all Chinese products.

“We have now tariffed our way into a manufacturing recession in the U.S. and globally. What’s the strategy now? It better be more than the Chinese buying more soybeans,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, in an email.

Many factors affect a manufacturing recession, of course, including the global economy. In addition to concerns about trade wars with China, indicators in Europe also are pointing in the wrong direction. A joint forecast from several of Germany’s leading economic institutes sharply downgrades predictions for that country’s economy. Add to that the uncertainty about what will happen to the economies of European countries when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union—whether it’s a no-deal Brexit or not—and the economic future looks even bleaker.

But Trump’s tariffs have screwed U.S. manufacturers more than anything else. While the tariffs initially helped the steel industry, that bump was short-lived, and now some steel plants are closing.

A story from Markets Insider explains how this slowdown is Trump’s doing:

While US manufacturing has faced separate challenges, including a broader slowdown abroad, economists said a drop in demand for new orders showed how the sector has been directly affected by trade policy.

“The continued decline in new export orders suggests that the trade war is an important source of the ongoing slowdown in the manufacturing sector,” said Torsten Slok, the chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities.

By effectively taxing American importers, tariffs on Chinese products have disrupted global supply chains and threatened to upend trading relationships that have been built over a span of decades. Domestic jobs have been put increasingly at risk as heightened costs and uncertainty weigh on the outlook.

Trump continues to spout nonsense on how the manufacturing slump should somehow be blamed on the Federal Reserve, because … I don’t know, something to do with interest rates?

Three out of four economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics are predicting a recession by 2021, if not sooner, perhaps even before the 2020 election. When you add the record number of bankruptcies filed by Midwest farmers, the higher prices U.S. consumers will pay for goods because of Trump’s new round of tariffs, and a prediction from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that small dairy farms might not survive, remember to take Trump’s words on how great the economy is doing with mountains of salt.

It’s about time: Biden, Democratic candidates punch back against shoddy press coverage

Democrats running for president have a new message for the news media: We’re not going to take it anymore.

No longer willing to stoically suffer through bad, misleading press coverage, Democrats are borrowing a page from Republicans by going public with their complaints and demanding journalists do better. But unlike Republicans who often “work the refs” by griping about imaginary slights in hopes of better treatment in the future, Democrats are calling out the press with wholly accurate claims of media malpractice.

Last week, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign sent a blistering letter to New York Times editor Dean Baquet, reprimanding the paper for helping spread Donald Trump’s debunked conspiracy theory about Joe Biden and his son’s business dealings in Ukraine. It’s “part of a larger strategy not to let the same coverage that corrupted the 2016 election happen this time around,” a campaign source told CNN’s Brian Stelter.

The stinging critique from Biden came one day after the Times published an opinion column from discredited right-wing author Peter Schweizer, once again hyping the Biden/Ukraine story. Schweizer, who wrote a patently dishonest book about Hillary Clinton in 2015 alleging all sorts of made-up crimes—a book the Times helped market and promote during the campaign—has been peddling the Biden smear all year within the far-right media ecosystem.

It was the Times that trumpeted Schweizer’s book Clinton Cash as the “the most anticipated and feared book” of the 2016 campaign season. And it was the Times that forged an exclusive alliance with the Breitbart-backed book (published by a Rupert Murdoch-owned subsidiary), and used the factually erroneous tome as a guidepost for Hillary Clinton ‘gotcha’ articles.

As for this campaign cycle, even after mainstream news outlets had completely debunked the hollow claims about Biden that Schweizer was peddling, the Times invited the smear’s architect, who has a soft spot for plagiarism, to spread more partisan attacks via the newspaper. Also, note that it was the Times that got caught last May trying to peddle the GOP’s anti-Biden storyline about Ukraine in the first place.

And yes, the right-wing media feasted on the Times’ handiwork last spring, and presented it as confirmation that Biden is corrupt. More recently, the Times often tied Trump’s attempt to get a foreign player to interfere with an American election with the bogus allegations Biden has faced regarding Ukraine, suggesting that both Trump and Biden were being sullied in the process.

The Biden campaign’s aggressive response last week represents a new approach for prominent Democratic candidates. In the past, party stalwarts often ignored press slights, likely feeling that media critiques weren’t why they were running for president and that candidates didn’t want to get distracted from larger, more important issues. But after Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes yet still lost the election thanks to some of the most openly hostile, sexist, and unfair campaign coverage in modern American history, Democratic campaigns are moving faster and much more forcefully to call out bad behavior and pressure news organizations to do better.

My sense is also that for way too long, Beltway Democrats remained wedded to the idea that the press was actually their friend and ally, and that The New York Times for instance, was on the “side” of progressives. But the Times, of course, has been at the forefront of tearing down a long list of Democratic nominees in recent years.

Today, determined not to get ‘Hillary’d,’ or ‘Gore’d,’ or ‘swift boated‘ like previous Democratic nominees Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry, who all lost extremely closes races after being treated unfairly by the press (led by dubious Times coverage in all three instances), more Democrats are stating up front that they’re not going to politely stand back and ignore what they see as unfair and unprofessional media coverage. In 2016, the press obsessed so much over the phony Clinton email “scandal” that coverage of her policy initiatives got obliterated. In 2000, the press took the GOP bait and spent the entire campaign depicting Gore, previously known as a Boy Scout-like politician, as a craven liar. And Kerry was the subject of a vicious, extended smear campaign as partisan Vietnam War veterans, cheered on by Republicans, lied about his war record while the Beltway press amplified the bogus swift boat claims for weeks on end.

The Biden campaign last week also dispatched letters to both Facebook and Twitter, urging them not to run an ad that spread the debunked theory about Biden and Ukraine. “Whether it originates from the Kremlin or Trump Tower, these lies and conspiracy theories threaten to undermine the integrity of our elections in America,” the campaign stressed.

Biden hasn’t been alone among candidates voicing clear media critiques. In the wake of yet another rash of mass shootings, Beto O’Rourke was asked if he thought Trump’s racist, anti-immigration rhetoric had led to immigrants being targeted. “Like, members of the press, what the fuck?” the Democrat responded. “It’s these questions that you know the answers to.”

Bernie Sanders also recently offered up a blunt critique of the news media. “There are six major media conglomerates, including Time Warner which owns CNN, which control about 90% of the media in this country in terms of what we see, hear and read. Between you and me, that is a very dangerous situation,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “The CEOs make tens of millions of dollars a year in compensation. They have an agenda, and I worry about that, as I do worry about concentration of ownership in agribusiness, in Wall Street and in many other areas.” (Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard has aired critiques of the press this campaign season, but they strike me as being un-serious and often incoherent.)

There’s no question Democrats face in uphill battle on this front, not only because they’re getting a late start in the larger debate, but because the Beltway press responds differently to media critiques coming from the left and the right. Eternally spooked by the conservative claim of “liberal media bias,” journalists tend to be hypersensitive to GOP allegations of malpractice. At the same time, political journalists often ignore criticism, or become extremely defensive when their work is questioned by Democrats and liberals.

Nonetheless, the ongoing media debate is one that Democrats desperately need to part of. And for the 2020 campaign, they will be.

Eric Boehlert is a veteran progressive writer and media analyst, formerly with Media Matters and Salon. He is the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush and Bloggers on the Bus. You can follow him on Twitter @EricBoehlert.

This post was written and reported through our Daily Kos freelance program.

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: A boy named sue.

Things were not well in the Kingdom of Donnie this week. Despite a pair of extended length rallies—at one of which Donald Trump gave a genuinely disturbing imitation of Meg Ryan in that diner scene—all the sneers, snarling, and fake-O face in the world could not make up for what happened out in the real world. On Friday alone, Trump lost cases in five different courts. He lost on hiding his taxes. He lost on appropriating money for his border fence. He lost on setting arbitrary standards for immigrants. While he was losing in court, former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was talking to Congress to tell them about how Trump and Rudy Giuliani hounded her out of office using lies and conspiracy theories because she refused to cooperate in their extortion scheme.

And after ten hours of testimony, the best line of attack the Republicans came up with, the absolute best, was that it was “bullying” for the House to bring in Ambassador Yovanovitch and make her talk. About how she had been fired. For no good reason. By Trump.

Within two days of the announcement of the impeachment inquiry, after Trump released the not-a-transcript of his “perfect” call to the Ukrainian president, support for impeachment had jumped into positive territory. But since then it has kept going up. Independents voters are now net positive on impeaching Trump. Even Republican support for impeachment increased this week. Though really, you have to hand it to Democratic women—86% net support for impeachment is really hard to top.

With that kind of week, it’s no surprise that Trump has decided to strike back in the way he knows best. He’s going to sue. Hes going to sue everybody. Seriously, if you’re not yet being sued by Donald Trump, you will be. Speaking at the Values Voter Summit (an annual candidate for the the nation’s most mislabeled event), Trump said he had told his lawyers to look into suing Democrats. “We’re going to take a look at it,” said Trump. “We’re going after these people. These are bad, bad people.” And if his lawyers determined that they could not sue Rep. Adam Schiff? “Sue him anyway, even if we lose, the American public will understand.”

Yes. The America public will definitely understand. We will understand that Trump never read Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution. That’s the part that says of Congress “… for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.” In other words you cannot sue a member of the House or Senate for anything said on Capitol Hill. But there’s no point in asking if Trump ever read that section. Because in the same speech he screwed up on some much more fundamental issues. “Or we should just impeach them,” said Trump.

Oh, yeah. Please. Knock yourself out. 

Now, let’s go read pundits.

Charles Pierce sings the praises of Masha Yovanovitch, American hero.
Esquire

On Friday, the scandals undermining this administration* and this presidency* like one of those thousand-acre mushrooms in Michigan finally produced a hero whose name we now know. Up until this point, the heroes have been anonymous: “sources close” to whatever the atrocity of the day was, whistleblowers, leakers, and other figures in the shadows. Now, though, there is Marie Yovanovitch, and she was once the United States ambassador to Ukraine, until she wasn’t, and she didn’t come to Washington on Friday to fck around. …

She was a hero even before she hit the hearing room. She told them to stuff their directives, she would answer a congressional subpoena like a citizen is supposed to do. And she didn’t sneak in through the basement. She walked into the Capitol through the front doors, and she didn’t do so to fck around.

By just walking in that door, Yovanovitch showed everyone what happens when you defy the White House and testify before Congress — you get to tell your story, in your own words. And Donald Trump can do exactly nothing about it.

The crooks and the grifters with their hands on the country’s throat did not scare Marie Yovanovitch. She saw through the bluster and the fog and the empty threat gestures that are nothing more than another count on the eventual indictments and articles of impeachment. She shone a light through it all, and she showed the way as well. If anyone has the guts to follow, we’re going to have to see.

As I’ve been reading for APR this morning, two separate sources have indicated that when Ambassador Gordon Sondland sits down in the witness chair this week, he intends to testify that after Charges d’Affairs William Taylor texted to say that holding Ukraine hostage for a personal political favor was “crazy,” Sondland called up the White House. And it was Trump who actually provided the statement that Sondland tweeted five hours later claiming “no quid pro quo.” So … this should be another fun week.

Jonathan Chait takes pleasure in some of the best news of the week.
New York Magazine

The role of a defense lawyer is to help the client minimize or avoid legal jeopardy. Generally speaking, you do not want your lawyer himself to be the subject of a criminal investigation. Yet that is the position President Trump finds himself, as his lawyer Rudy Giuliani is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by federal authorities, according to ABC News.

Giuliani has been working closely since at least March with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Giuliani’s role has been to enlist the two former Soviet émigrés to pressure Ukraine to investigate various domestic opponents of President Trump — focusing first on law enforcement officials who conducted the Russia investigation, and later on Joe Biden.

Why did he get involved with Parnas and Fruman, and what did they have to offer? Parnas owns a club called Mafia Rave. He is, amazingly, the less shady of the two. Fruman has ties to Russia mafia figures and runs a company called Fraud Guarantee. If you were looking to undertake an aboveboard investigation into political corruption, those are not the two people you would pick to run it.

Yeah, but Giuliani wasn’t looking to run an investigation of any sort. Neither was Trump. All they wanted was someone who would claim to be opening an investigation into Biden, or claim to have some information on (big sigh) Hillary’s emails. They didn’t want an actual investigation. In fact, that was the last thing they were after.

What laws Giuliani may have allegedly broken in this process, we don’t know yet. Asked about his work for Parnas’s aptly named firm, Giuliani told the New York Times, “All I can tell you is that most of the Fraud Guarantee work, in fact the Fraud Guarantee work, which — or I should say — I can’t acknowledge it’s Fraud Guarantee, I don’t think.”

We got to see Paul Manfort locked up, and it was good. We got to see Roger Stone arrested, and that was even better. But Rudy Giuliani Arrest Day needs some confetti and balloons. It deserves a theme song.

Joan Walsh on Trump lining up the order in which people go under the bus.
The Nation

After weeks of ever-worsening news about how Donald Trump, according to multiple accounts, held up military aid to Ukraine until the country promised to investigate Joe Biden’s (fabricated) corruption and Trump’s nutty conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia probe, it remains remarkable how this godless New York grifter so thoroughly took over a political party that pretended to be about sober conservatism, Christian piety, and balanced budgets. Let’s look at four administration stalwarts up to their necks in this mess: Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Together they represent the four tent poles of the modern GOP circus: the extreme Christian right, the stolid GOP establishment, the corporate Koch brothers wing, and the allegedly anti-deficit, actually white nationalist Tea Party. When those tent poles go down, they could bring the whole sad party with them.

Honestly, I want them to fail so badly that future kids will be confused about whether the Republican Party came before or after the Whigs.

And now, a special note on William Barr.

Barr’s perfidy shouldn’t surprise us. Instead, it should remind us that the Ukraine scandal is less like Watergate—which, bad as it was, involved only domestic politics—and more like the Reagan-Bush Iran-contra scandal and its aftermath, in which Barr was also implicated as George H.W. Bush’s attorney general. While arms for hostages might sound marginally more honorable than arms for political dirt, the attempted trades are comparable: two efforts backed by a GOP White House to subvert the bipartisan foreign policy appropriations of Congress and advance Republican interests. (In case you missed the connection, Trump gave Reagan’s attorney general Ed Meese the Presidential Medal of Freedom on October 8.) Barr, who advised Bush to pardon the indicted conspirators of Iran-contra, is up to his neck in both betrayals of his country. He helps prove that even the pre-Trump Republican Party was more interested in power than rectitude. If Congress is not too busy, Barr should be impeached.

This is your “gotta read it all” of the morning.

Will Bunch on the ludicrous smears that are making Elizabeth Warren stronger.
Philadelphia Inquirer

Winning a U.S. presidential election takes a lot — stamina, gumption, charisma, and before 2016 that list also included brains and something called gravitas. But it really, really helps to have good timing — to capture the lightning bolt of political and cultural zeitgeist, whether it’s Ronald Reagan and a 1980s electorate wanting the triumphalism of “Morning in America” or Barack Obama tapping into “Hope” after the gloom of the Iraq War years.

It’s hard not to notice that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has surged in recent weeks to the very top of the Democratic 2020 polls — Real Clear Politics, which aggregates all the leading polls, just moved her ahead of the no-longer-inevitable Joe Biden …

This week, a conservative publication called the Washington Free Beacon was sure it found the magic bullet to prove that the 70-year-old Warren is just another hysterical woman making stuff up. Its editor sifted through records from 1971, when the future Harvard Law professor was briefly a schoolteacher in New Jersey, and insisted her campaign-trail story that she was fired for getting pregnant couldn’t be true because the board had rehired her (albeit a couple of months before she was abruptly gone).

But the article had more than enough holes to fill the Albert Hall — Warren wouldn’t have been visibly pregnant at the time of her rehiring, nor would there likely be a written record of the principal ordering her to skedaddle once it did become noticeable. A couple of Warren’s contemporaries from Riverdale, N.J., who’d somehow been invisible to the Washington Free Beacon emerged elsewhere to say, yup, forcing out pregnant women was exactly what their district did at the end of the Mad Men era — as did almost every other school back then.

Honestly, with all the practice they’ve had, how are Republicans in 2019 so bad at coming up with a scam? From debunked Biden dirt to Pelosi’s drug dealer, it’s hard to believe that anything they’re selling will stick to anyone not wearing a ‘Q‘ pin somewhere on their body.

Nancy LeTourneau dissects Trump’s Minnesota rally.
Washington Monthly

Having only lost Minnesota by 1.5 percentage points in 2016, the Trump campaign has made it clear that they think they can win the state in 2020. That’s what Thursday night’s rally in Minneapolis was all about. Peter Nichols wrote about the strategy.

One Republican operative close to the White House, speaking anonymously to discuss campaign strategy, told me that Trump is convinced of the old political adage “The race will hinge on turnout.” If he can mobilize and excite his base voters, they’ll show up in force, much as they did in 2016, impeachment be damned…

“His message is so edgy, and his core support is so intense and enthusiastic, and the rallies are so unlike anything we’ve seen in the modern era,” the strategist told me. “Arithmetically speaking, this election is about jacking up turnout of your own supporters on the theory that no one on their side of the ball excites them the way Trump excites us,” he said, referring to the Democrats.

If that’s the plan, then we can look at Thursday night’s speech to see how Trump plans to excite his supporters in order to get them to show up in force.

As Nichols pointed out, the first half of Trump’s speech was all about his personal grievances. He mocked FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, said that Joe Biden was “only considered a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass,” called Ilhan Omar an “American-hating socialist,” and referred to congressional Democrats as “sick” for pursuing an impeachment inquiry.

Then Trump engaged in his second strategy for exciting his voters: racism. Because Minnesota is home to the largest concentration of Somalis in the country, they became his target.

Racism. And hate. Hate and racism. Oh, and nationalism. So hate, and racism, and nationalism. There should be a name for that.

Michael Tomasky is, I hope, wrong about this one.
Daily Beast

This is a crucial week in this war. Romney must not back down. This is how Trump always wins. He bullies and cows people, and they tuck tail. Romney and other Republicans have histories of using pretty tough words and then retreating into laughter and forgetting.

Not this time. He has a chance here to show that Trump’s MO doesn’t always work. That you can punch a bully back, and he won’t know what to do.

Trump is surely right that there are a lot of Utah Republicans who are mad at Romney for daring to speak ill of the emperor. They’re a pretty extreme bunch—remember, they dumped a longtime incumbent senator, Robert Bennett, for an extremist Tea Partier, Mike Lee, in 2010. And they did it not by ballot but at a party nominating convention—the kind of event that longtime incumbents are supposed to have wired to the teeth. So I’m sure there are many thousands of jumpy Trumpies out there who are furious at Mitt.

These are desperate times. But no time is so desperate that I will pin my hopes on Mitt Romney doing the honorable thing.

On the other hand, Trump isn’t that popular in the state overall. He’s slightly underwater, in fact. Utah is very Republican, but it’s not Alabama. The LDSers are different. Bless their old-fashioned hearts, they—unlike, conspicuously, Christian evangelicals—actually expect integrity in their public servants. As far as Utah is concerned, I bet Romney can win a fight with Trump, in terms of public opinion, although he might well lose a renomination fight at a state party convention to a Trumpie, just as Bennett lost to a Tea Partier.

Good to know that Republicans are protecting their party from democracy at every level.

Leonard Pitts warns that this moment is one where things can go badly wrong for America.
Miami Herald

As a child, you see, I had a morbid fear of accidents. So somehow, I convinced myself we were immune to them. Oh, they might happen to people who were not us, but we were special somehow, protected somehow, exempt somehow.

America, I’d say, lives by a similar delusion where fascism is concerned. We can only hope last week’s extraordinary letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone will serve the same corrective function for the country as a car window once did for me.

In it, Cipollone declares the administration’s intent to stonewall the House of Representatives in its impeachment investigation. Subpoenas will be ignored, documents withheld. The White House, writes Cipollone, “cannot participate” in the probe. Given that he writes on behalf of a president who calls himself “the chosen one,” brags of his “great and unmatched wisdom” and muses about staying in office beyond two terms, this letter, essentially placing that president above the law and beyond the Constitution, is cause for grave concern.

One need not be a legal scholar to know Cipollone has written constitutional gobbledygook. For instance, he complains the House has denied the president “the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony.” Given that the impeachment is only at the investigatory phase, that’s like a murder suspect complaining that he doesn’t get to tag along with detectives building the case against him. And since when can a president just decline to “participate” in an investigation?

In the last couple of days, it’s become clear that the author of the gobbledygook letter was actually Donald Trump, who turned his attorney into a stenographer as he dictated a rally-worth of lies and hate in the form of a White House letter. Somehow … I don’t think that hurts Pitts’ argument.

Take it as a reminder of how fragile freedom is. The power of a democracy, you see, lies less in the force of its laws and customs than in mutual, unspoken agreement to be bound by those laws and customs. The First Amendment has power because we agree it does. The courts have the final say because we agree they do. And you obey subpoenas because you obey subpoenas.

But what if some of us refuse to be bound by that social covenant? And what if one of them is president?

And of course you should go read the rest.

Saturday open thread for night owls: Wealth tax would go far to spur economic equality

Mike Konczal at The Nation writes—This One Weird Trick Makes Economies More Fair!

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed wealth taxes, with Warren’s taxing 2 percent of wealth for those worth over $50 million and 3 percent after the first $1 billion. Sanders’s plan would levy a 1 percent tax on households worth more than $32 million, with higher tax rates for the wealthiest—up to 8 percent for those with fortunes in excess of $10 billion.

Researched and defended by economists Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez, a wealth tax is one of the most progressive government levies available to us, falling entirely on the extremely wealthy. It would help with some of the evasion problems: Efforts to hide income as wealth would be rendered futile, as that fortune would be taxed anyway.

owls

Experts are addressing objections to the wealth tax. There is a question of how to value wealth so it can be taxed and whether people would be liquid enough to pay these taxes. Fortunately, much wealth is in stocks and bonds, which are easily calculated. And the IRS can develop new evaluation techniques for other financial assets. Sanders and Warren want to increase the agency’s enforcement budget. Under Sanders’s plan, billionaires would be audited every year. And the liquidity issue of having the cash on hand to pay can be addressed by allowing limited deferrals with interest. Unlike many countries, the United States collects taxes from citizens overseas. It also has a wealth penalty it charges people who renounce their citizenship to avoid taxes, as some fear might happen if a wealth tax is implemented. Warren’s plan, for instance, would impose a 40 percent exit tax on Americans worth more than $50 million who give up their citizenship.

It is worth noting what kind of public program expansion could happen with this kind of revenue growth. Saez and Zucman said that a proposal like Warren’s would raise $2.75 trillion over 10 years and that Sanders’s could raise $4.35 trillion over the same period. 

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QUOTATION

 “All this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”
              ~~Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1925 

TWEET OF THE DAY

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Breaking via WaPo: Gordon Sondland intends to tell Congress that the text he wrote denying a quid pro quo with Ukraine was relayed to him directly by Trump in a call. Sondland plans to say he has no knowledge of whether Trump was telling him the truth. https://t.co/W2QsyEZBFU

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 13, 2019

BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2009—Chambliss wants economic stimulus for Afghanistan: 

Well this pretty much tells you everything you need to know about what Republicans think is really important: appearing on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Georgia Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss endorsed a new economic stimulus package…for Afghanistan. […]

Developing Afghanistan’s economy may be a laudable goal, but it’s too bad Chambliss doesn’t feel the same way about America, where he continues to oppose any sort of legislative initiative to create jobs and rebuild the strength of our economy.

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