css.php

New York Times Endorses Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic Nomination!

Image result for Klobuchar warren"

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times yesterday endorsed two candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar from the party’s moderate wing and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren from the progressive wing.

The paper praised Warren as “a gifted story teller” and Klobuchar as “the very definition” of Midwestern charisma and grit.

When mentioning another front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Times acknowledged his years of experience, but also noted his age, 77, desire, and occasional gaffes. “It is time for him to pass the torch to a new generation of political leaders,” the paper said, borrowing from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address.

The paper mentioned Sen. Bernie Sanders’ age, 78, “serious concerns” about his health and noted his unwillingness to compromise. The paper praised another of the front-runners, 38-year-old Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, as likely to have “a bright political future.”

Below is the entire text of the endorsement.

I believe that the editorial staff should have bit the bullet and made one endorsement not two.

Tony

———————————————————————————————————————–

Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren

The Democrats’ Best Choices for President

New York Times Editorial

January 19, 2020

 

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

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

On the Democratic side, an essential debate is underway between two visions that may define the future of the party and perhaps the nation. Some in the party view President Trump as an aberration and believe that a return to a more sensible America is possible. Then there are those who believe that President Trump was the product of political and economic systems so rotten that they must be replaced.

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

Nearly any of them would be the most progressive president in decades on issues like health care, the economy and government’s allocations of resources. Where they differ most significantly is not the what but the how, in whether they believe the country’s institutions and norms are up to the challenge of the moment.

Many Democratic voters are concerned first and foremost about who can beat Mr. Trump. But with a crowded field and with traditional polling in tatters, that calculation calls for a hefty dose of humility about anyone’s ability to foretell what voters want.

Choosing who should face off against Mr. Trump also means acknowledging that Americans are being confronted with three models for how to govern this country, not two. Democrats must decide which of their two models would be most compelling for the American people and best suited for repairing the Republic.

The party’s large and raucous field has made having that clean debate more difficult. With all the focus on personal characteristics — age and race and experience — and a handful of the most contentious issues, voters haven’t benefited from a clarifying choice about the party’s message in the election and the approach to governing beyond it.

It was a privilege for us on the editorial board to spend more than a dozen hours talking to candidates, asking them any question that came to mind. Yet that exercise is impossible for most Americans, and we were left wanting for a more focused conversation for the public. Now is the time to narrow the race.

The history of the editorial board would suggest that we would side squarely with the candidate with a more traditional approach to pushing the nation forward, within the realities of a constitutional framework and a multiparty country. But the events of the past few years have shaken the confidence of even the most committed institutionalists. We are not veering away from the values we espouse, but we are rattled by the weakness of the institutions that we trusted to undergird those values.

There are legitimate questions about whether our democratic system is fundamentally broken. Our elections are getting less free and fair, Congress and the courts are increasingly partisan, foreign nations are flooding society with misinformation, a deluge of money flows through our politics. And the economic mobility that made the American dream possible is vanishing.

Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration. If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it.

That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.

At the dawn of 2020, some of the most compelling ideas are not emerging from the center, but from the left wing of the Democratic Party. That’s a testament to the effectiveness of the case that Bernie Sanders and Senator Warren have made about what ails the country. We worry about ideological rigidity and overreach, and we’d certainly push back on specific policy proposals, like nationalizing health insurance or decriminalizing the border. But we are also struck by how much more effectively their messages have matched the moment.

Senator Sanders has spent nearly four decades advocating revolutionary change for a nation whose politics often move with glacial slowness. A career spent adjacent to the Democratic Party but not a part of it has allowed him to level trenchant criticism of a political party that often caters more to rich donors than to the middle class. Many of his ideas that were once labeled radical — like paid family leave, a higher minimum wage, universal health care and limits on military intervention — are now mainstream, and may attract voters who helped elect Mr. Trump in 2016.

Mr. Sanders would be 79 when he assumed office, and after an October heart attack, his health is a serious concern. Then, there’s how Mr. Sanders approaches politics. He boasts that compromise is anathema to him. Only his prescriptions can be the right ones, even though most are overly rigid, untested and divisive. He promises that once in office, a groundswell of support will emerge to push through his agenda. Three years into the Trump administration, we see little advantage to exchanging one over-promising, divisive figure in Washington for another.

Good news, then, that Elizabeth Warren has emerged as a standard-bearer for the Democratic left.

Senator Warren is a gifted storyteller. She speaks elegantly of how the economic system is rigged against all but the wealthiest Americans, and of “our chance to rewrite the rules of power in our country,” as she put it in a speech last month. In her hands, that story has the passion of a convert, a longtime Republican from Oklahoma and a middle-class family, whose work studying economic realities left her increasingly worried about the future of the country. The word “rigged” feels less bombastic than rooted in an informed assessment of what the nation needs to do to reassert its historic ideals like fairness, generosity and equality.

She is also committed to reforming the fundamental structures of government and the economy — her first commitment is to anti-corruption legislation, which is not only urgently needed but also has the potential to find bipartisan support. She speaks fluently about foreign policy, including how to improve NATO relations, something that will be badly needed after Mr. Trump leaves office.

Her campaign’s plans, in general, demonstrate a serious approach to policymaking that some of the other candidates lack. Ms. Warren accurately describes a lack of housing construction as the primary driver of the nation’s housing crisis, and she has proposed both increases in government funding for housing construction, and changes in regulatory policy to encourage local governments to allow more construction.

She has plans to sharply increase federal investment in clean energy research and to wean the American economy from fossil fuels. She has described how she would reduce the economic and political power of large corporations and give workers more ability to bargain collectively. And she has proposed a sweeping expansion of government support for Americans at every stage of life, from universal child care to free public college to expanded Social Security.

At the same time, a conservative federal judiciary will be almost as significant a roadblock for progressive change. For Ms. Warren, that leaves open questions — ones she was unwilling to wrestle with in our interview. Ms. Warren has proposed to pay for an expanded social safety net by imposing a new tax on wealth. But even if she could push such a bill through the Senate, the idea is constitutionally suspect and would inevitably be bogged down for years in the courts. A conservative judiciary also could constrain a President Warren’s regulatory powers, and roll back access to health care.

Carrying out a progressive agenda through new laws will also be very hard for any Democratic president. In that light, voters could consider what a Democratic president might accomplish without new legislation and, in particular, they could focus on the presidency’s wide-ranging powers to shape American society through the creation and enforcement of regulations.

As an adviser to President Barack Obama, Ms. Warren was the person most responsible for the creation of a new regulatory agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In her interview with the editorial board, she demonstrated her sophisticated understanding of the different levers of power in an administration, particularly in the use of regulation in areas such as trade, antitrust and environmental policy.

When she first arrived in Washington, amid the Great Recession, Senator Warren distinguished herself as a citizen-politician. She showed an admirable desire to shake off the entrapments of many Washington interests in favor of pragmatic problem-solving on behalf of regular people. In her primary campaign, however, she has shown some questionable political instincts. She sometimes sounds like a candidate who sees a universe of us-versus-thems, who, in the general election, would be going up against a president who has already divided America into his own version of them and us.

This has been most obvious in her case for “Medicare for all,” where she has already had to soften her message, as voters have expressed their lack of support for her plan. There are good, sound reasons for a public health care option — countries all over the world have demonstrated that. But Ms. Warren’s version would require winning over a skeptical public, legislative trench warfare to pass bills in Congress, the dismantling of a private health care system. That system, through existing public-private programs like Medicare Advantage, has shown it is not nearly as flawed as she insists, and it is even lauded by health economists who now advocate a single-payer system.

American capitalism is responsible for its share of sins. But Ms. Warren often casts the net far too wide, placing the blame for a host of maladies from climate change to gun violence at the feet of the business community when the onus is on society as a whole. The country needs a more unifying path. The senator talks more about bringing together Democrats, Republicans and independents behind her proposals, often leaning on anecdotes about her conservative brothers to do so. Ms. Warren has the power and conviction and credibility to make the case — especially given her past as a Republican — but she needs to draw on practicality and patience as much as her down-and-dirty critique of the system.

Ms. Warren’s path to the nomination is challenging, but not hard to envision. The four front-runners are bunched together both in national polls and surveys in states holding the first votes, so small shifts in voter sentiment can have an outsize influence this early in the campaign. There are plenty of progressives who are hungry for major change but may harbor lingering concerns about a messenger as divisive as Mr. Sanders. At the same time, some moderate Democratic primary voters see Ms. Warren as someone who speaks to their concerns about inequality and corruption. Her earlier leaps in the polls suggest she can attract more of both.

The lack of a single, powerful moderate voice in this Democratic race is the strongest evidence of a divided party. Never mind the talented, honorable politicians who chose to sit this fight out; just stop and consider the talents who did throw their hat into the ring and never got more than a passing glance from voters — Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Steve Bullock, Michael Bennet, Deval Patrick, Jay Inslee, among others.

Those candidates who remain all have a mix of strengths and weaknesses.

Pete Buttigieg, who is 38 and who was elected mayor of South Bend, Ind., in 2011, has an all-star résumé — Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar, Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan, the first serious openly gay presidential candidate. His showing in the lead-up to the primaries predicts a bright political future; we look forward to him working his way up.

Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, is an engaging and enthusiastic candidate whose diagnoses are often thought-provoking. He points to new solutions to 21st-century challenges rather than retrofitting old ideas. Yet he has virtually no experience in government. We hope he decides to get involved in New York politics.

Michael Bloomberg served three terms as New York’s mayor (and was endorsed twice by this page). A multibillionaire who built his namesake company from scratch, he is many of the things Mr. Trump pretends to be and would be an effective contrast to the president in a campaign. Mr. Bloomberg is the candidate in the race with the clearest track record of governing, even if that record has its blemishes, beginning with his belated and convenient apology for stop-and-frisk policing.

Still, Mr. Bloomberg’s current campaign approach reveals more about America’s broken system than his likelihood of fixing it. Rather than build support through his ideas and experience, Mr. Bloomberg has spent at least $217 million to date to circumvent the hard, uncomfortable work of actual campaigning. He’s also avoided difficult questions — going so far as to bar his own news organization from investigating him, and declining to meet with The Times’s editorial board under the pretext that he didn’t yet have positions on enough issues. What’s worse, Mr. Bloomberg refuses to allow several women with whom he has nondisclosure settlements to speak freely.

Few men have given more of their time and experience to the conduct of the public’s business than Joe Biden. The former vice president commands the greatest fluency on foreign policy and is a figure of great warmth and empathy. He’s prone to verbal stumbles, yes, but social media has also made every gaffe a crisis when it clearly is not.

Mr. Biden maintains a lead in national polls, but that may be a measure of familiarity as much as voter intention. His central pitch to voters is that he can beat Donald Trump. His agenda tinkers at the edges of issues like health care and climate, and he emphasizes returning the country to where things were before the Trump era. But merely restoring the status quo will not get America where it needs to go as a society. What’s more, Mr. Biden is 77. It is time for him to pass the torch to a new generation of political leaders.

Good news, then, that Amy Klobuchar has emerged as a standard-bearer for the Democratic center. Her vision goes beyond the incremental. Given the polarization in Washington and beyond, the best chance to enact many progressive plans could be under a Klobuchar administration.

The senator from Minnesota is the very definition of Midwestern charisma, grit and sticktoitiveness. Her lengthy tenure in the Senate and bipartisan credentials would make her a deal maker (a real one) and uniter for the wings of the party — and perhaps the nation.

Watch a special endorsement episode of “The Weekly” FX Hulu

1:17‘I Am Someone That Has a Record of Bringing People With Me’

This video excerpt has been edited by “The Weekly.”

She promises to put the country on the path — through huge investments in green infrastructure and legislation to lower emissions — to achieve 100 percent net-zero emissions no later than 2050. She pledges to cut childhood poverty in half in a decade by expanding the earned-income and child care tax credits. She also wants to expand food stamps and overhaul housing policy and has developed the field’s most detailed plan for treating addiction and mental illness. And this is all in addition to pushing for a robust public option in health care, free community college and a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Ms. Klobuchar speaks about issues like climate change, the narrowing middle class, gun safety and trade with an empathy that connects to voters’ lived experiences, especially in the middle of the country. The senator talks, often with self-deprecating humor, about growing up the daughter of two union workers, her Uncle Dick’s deer stand, her father’s struggles with alcoholism and her Christian faith.

Ms. Klobuchar promises a foreign policy based on leading by example, instead of by threat-via-tweet. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she serves on the subcommittees responsible for oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the nation’s borders and its immigration, citizenship and refugee laws. In 13 years as a senator, she has sponsored and voted on dozens of national defense measures, including military action in Libya and Syria. Her record shows that she is confident and thoughtful, and she reacts to data — what you’d want in a crisis.

All have helped Ms. Klobuchar to be the most productive senator among the Democratic field in terms of bills passed with bipartisan support, according to a recent study for the Center for Effective Lawmaking. When she arrived in the Senate in 2007, Ms. Klobuchar was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers that proposed comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for 12 million undocumented immigrants, before conservative pundits made it political poison. Her more recent legislative accomplishments are narrower but meaningful to those affected, especially the legislation aimed at helping crime victims. This is not surprising given her background as the chief prosecutor in Minnesota’s most populous county. For example, one measure she wrote helped provide funds to reduce a nationwide backlog of rape kits for investigating sexual assaults.

Reports of how Senator Klobuchar treats her staff give us pause. They raise serious questions about her ability to attract and hire talented people. Surrounding the president with a team of seasoned, reasoned leaders is critical to the success of an administration, not doing so is often the downfall of presidencies. Ms. Klobuchar has acknowledged she’s a tough boss and pledged to do better. (To be fair, Bill Clinton and Mr. Trump — not to mention former Vice President Biden — also have reputations for sometimes berating their staffs, and it is rarely mentioned as a political liability.)

Ms. Klobuchar doesn’t have the polished veneer and smooth delivery that comes from a lifetime spent in the national spotlight, and she has struggled to gain traction on the campaign trail. In Minnesota, however, she is enormously popular. She has won all three of her Senate elections by double digits. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried nine of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Ms. Klobuchar carried 51 in 2018. And it’s far too early to count Ms. Klobuchar out — Senator John Kerry, the eventual Democrat nominee in 2004, was also polling in the single digits at this point in the race.

There has been a wildfire burning in Australia larger than Switzerland. The Middle East is more unstable at this moment than at any other time in the past decade, with a nuclear arms race looking more when than if. Basket-case governments in several nations south of the Rio Grande have sent a historic flood of migrants to our southern border. Global technology companies exert more political influence than some national governments. White nationalists from Norway to New Zealand to El Paso use the internet to share ideas about racial superiority and which caliber of rifle works best for the next mass killing.

The next president will shape the direction of America’s prosperity and the future of the planet, perhaps irrevocably. The current president, meanwhile, is a threat to democracy. He was impeached for strong-arming Ukraine into tampering with the 2020 election. There is no reason patriotic Americans should not be open to every chance to replace him at the ballot box.

Yet, Mr. Trump maintains near-universal approval from his party and will nearly certainly coast to the nomination. Democrats would be smart to recognize that Mr. Trump’s vision for America’s future is shared by many millions of Americans.

Any hope of restoring unity in the country will require modesty, a willingness to compromise and the support of the many demographics that make up the Democratic coalition — young and old, in red states and blue, black and brown and white. For Senator Klobuchar, that’s acknowledging the depth of the nation’s dysfunction. For Senator Warren, it’s understanding that the country is more diverse than her base.

There will be those dissatisfied that this page is not throwing its weight behind a single candidate, favoring centrists or progressives. But it’s a fight the party itself has been itching to have since Mrs. Clinton’s defeat in 2016, and one that should be played out in the public arena and in the privacy of the voting booth. That’s the very purpose of primaries, to test-market strategies and ideas that can galvanize and inspire the country.

Ms. Klobuchar and Ms. Warren right now are the Democrats best equipped to lead that debate.

May the best woman win.

 

Capt. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger Op-Ed: “Like Joe Biden, I Once Stuttered, Too. I Dare You to Mock Me!”

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this week, Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, another member of his crass, boorish family, mocked former Vice President Joe Biden, for his stutter.  Chesley “Sully” Sullengerger, the retired pilot and himself once a stutterer, responded to her comments in an op-ed in today’s New York Times.    Here is an excerpt:

“As a small boy in Denison, Texas, I remember vividly the anguish of being called on in grade school, knowing that I was going to have a hard time getting the words out; that my words could not keep up with my mind, and they would often come out jumbled. My neck and face would quickly begin to flush a bright red, the searing heat rising all the way to the top of my head; every eye in the room on me; the intense and painful humiliation, and bullying that would follow, all because of my inability to get the words out.

Those feelings came rushing back, when I heard Lara Trump mocking former Vice President Joe Biden at a Trump campaign event, with the very words that caused my childhood agony. “Joe, can you get it out?” Ms. Trump was seen saying onstage, as a few giggles are heard from an otherwise silent audience. “Let’s get the words out, Joe.”

I too had an experience similar to Capt. Sullenberger. As a child growing up in the Bronx, I stuttered.  I couldn’t start a sentence with the letter “I” or say a word that began with a “W”.   “What” took at least nine or ten tries starting with “Wha..Wha..Wha..Wha..”   And those letters weren’t all the troublemakers. As a result, I was a very quiet little kid and never raised my hand in class. My first-grade teacher, Miss Cassidy, noticing my condition, decided to spend her lunch hours with me and would have me say tongue twisters, very slowly at first, and then faster and faster.  Within two months, my stutter was basically gone.  That was fifty-five years ago.  I have been grateful to her ever since.

It is a disgrace that we have members of our President’s family who feel the need to mock people.  Most likely, they do it to hide their own inadequacies.

Tony

 

 

Michelle Goldberg on Lev Parnas:  When Trump’s Thugs Turn on Him!

 

Image result for parnas trump giuliani"

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg has a piece today exposing the relationship between President Trump and Lev Parnas.  Entitled, When Trump’s Thugs Turn on Him, she lays out a pattern in Trump’s behavior with “grifters” like Lev Parnas and shows us Trumpism on the inside.  The entire column is below but here is an excerpt.

“Some of the most disturbing and clarifying information Parnas has provided since turning on Trump involves the administration’s fixation on Marie Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine. It’s true that people around Trump saw her as an obstacle to getting Ukraine’s government to open a politically motivated investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, but that doesn’t quite explain the scale of the animosity toward her.

Trump didn’t just fire her. He told Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, that she was going to “go through some things.” We learned this week that Robert Hyde, a deranged Trumpworld hanger-on and Republican congressional candidate, sent a series of messages to Parnas suggesting he was stalking Yovanovitch. (Ukraine has opened an investigation into Hyde’s activity, and on Thursday he was visited by the F.B.I.) A lawyer and Fox News regular named Victoria Toensing — who has represented a Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian oligarch who is, according to the Justice Department, an upper-echelon associate of Russian organized crime figures — texted Giuliani saying, “Is there absolute commitment for her to be gone this week?” Why the obsession with Yovanovitch?

Parnas added to the evidence that when it came to Yovanovitch, Trump and his crew willingly allowed themselves to be manipulated by Yuri Lutsenko, a disgraced former chief prosecutor of Ukraine who loathed her for her anti-corruption work. (As the State Department official George Kent said during the impeachment hearings, you can’t fight corruption “without pissing off corrupt people.”) In WhatsApp messages to Parnas, Lutsenko expressed fury that Yovanovitch hadn’t been fired yet. He spoke of all he’d done to push the spurious Biden scandal, adding, “And yet you can’t even get rid of one fool.”

“In that text message to you,” Rachel Maddow asked on Thursday, “is Mr. Lutsenko saying, in effect, listen, if you want me to make these Biden allegations, you’re going to have to get rid of this ambassador?” Parnas replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Goldberg has all the right insights.  Read her entire column.

Tony

—————————————————————————————————————-

 

When Trump’s Thugs Turn on Him

By Michelle Goldberg

Opinion Columnist

Jan. 17, 2020

One good thing about surrounding yourself with tawdry gangsters and grifters is that if they flip on you, you can claim they have no credibility because they’re criminals.

Now that Lev Parnas, a key conspirator in Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s plot to shake down Ukraine, is singing, Trump’s defenders are pointing out that he is a disreputable person who can’t be trusted. “This is a man who is under indictment and who’s actually out on bail. This is a man who owns a company called Fraud Inc.,” the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said on Fox News, the only network on which she regularly appears. (Parnas’s company was actually called Fraud Guarantee, though that’s not any better.)

Grisham is obviously correct that he’s a shady character. He’s certainly not someone you’d want, say, threatening foreign officials on behalf of the president of the United States, as Parnas claimed he did during an extraordinary interview with Rachel Maddow that aired on Wednesday and Thursday on MSNBC.

Trumpists similarly dismissed Michael Cohen, who served as Trump’s personal lawyer before Giuliani did. The day Cohen testified to Congress that Trump is a “racist,” a “con man” and a “cheat,” a Trump campaign spokeswoman blasted him as “a felon, a disbarred lawyer and a convicted perjurer.” (Some of his felonies, of course, were things he did for Trump.) When Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, testified against his former boss Paul Manafort, Manafort’s lawyer grilled him, asking, “After all the lies you’ve told and fraud you’ve committed, you expect this jury to believe you?”

Giuliani himself is under federal criminal investigation. In a 2018 text to Parnas recently released by the House Intelligence Committee, Giuliani seemed to joke, apropos of Robert Mueller, “I’m no rat,” but should the prospect of prison ever change his mind, expect Republicans to make a similar case against believing a crooked and paranoid barfly. A willingness to associate with Trump is a sign of moral turpitude, so most witnesses to his venal schemes will necessarily be compromised.

Thus nothing that Parnas said in the Maddow interview should be taken at face value. Important questions remain unanswered, including who was paying all of the bills. (Remember — he was paying Giuliani, not vice versa.) Parnas’s decision to go public in the first place is hard to fathom.

None of that, however, means that his dramatic interview on the eve of Trump’s impeachment trial shouldn’t be taken seriously. That’s because much of what he says has been corroborated, and because the very fact that a person like Parnas was carrying out high-level international missions for the president shows how mob-like this administration is.

You don’t have to take Parnas’s word that he was working at the president’s behest. Last fall, when House impeachment investigators asked for documents and testimony from Parnas and his associate, Igor Fruman, they were initially represented by John Dowd, formerly one of Trump’s defense lawyers in the Mueller inquiry. Dowd, in turn, wrote to Congress that Parnas and Fruman would not cooperate with the impeachment investigation because some of the information the House sought may have been privileged. “Be advised that Messers. Parnas and Fruman assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump,” the letter said. (Documents that Parnas later provided to the House Intelligence Committee show that Trump signed off on Dowd representing them.)

Some of the most disturbing and clarifying information Parnas has provided since turning on Trump involves the administration’s fixation on Marie Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine. It’s true that people around Trump saw her as an obstacle to getting Ukraine’s government to open a politically motivated investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, but that doesn’t quite explain the scale of the animosity toward her.

Trump didn’t just fire her. He told Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, that she was going to “go through some things.” We learned this week that Robert Hyde, a deranged Trumpworld hanger-on and Republican congressional candidate, sent a series of messages to Parnas suggesting he was stalking Yovanovitch. (Ukraine has opened an investigation into Hyde’s activity, and on Thursday he was visited by the F.B.I.) A lawyer and Fox News regular named Victoria Toensing — who has represented a Kremlin-aligned Ukrainian oligarch who is, according to the Justice Department, an upper-echelon associate of Russian organized crime figures — texted Giuliani saying, “Is there absolute commitment for her to be gone this week?” Why the obsession with Yovanovitch?

Parnas added to the evidence that when it came to Yovanovitch, Trump and his crew willingly allowed themselves to be manipulated by Yuri Lutsenko, a disgraced former chief prosecutor of Ukraine who loathed her for her anti-corruption work. (As the State Department official George Kent said during the impeachment hearings, you can’t fight corruption “without pissing off corrupt people.”) In WhatsApp messages to Parnas, Lutsenko expressed fury that Yovanovitch hadn’t been fired yet. He spoke of all he’d done to push the spurious Biden scandal, adding, “And yet you can’t even get rid of one fool.”

“In that text message to you,” Maddow asked on Thursday, “is Mr. Lutsenko saying, in effect, listen, if you want me to make these Biden allegations, you’re going to have to get rid of this ambassador?” Parnas replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

A few months ago, I wrote a column arguing that when it comes to Ukraine, Trump is at once a con man and a mark, and the information Parnas has provided backs this up. Having promised Lutsenko that he’d get Yovanovitch fired, Parnas told Trump, falsely, that Yovanovitch had bad-mouthed him. His text messages show that he pushed Donald Trump Jr. to tweet about her.

Parnas was the vehicle through which a dirty Ukrainian politician pulled Trump’s strings to take revenge on an American official who’d tried to uphold the rule of law. She was threatened, smeared and fired in part because Trump is easily influenced by the goons and bottom feeders in his orbit.

By going public, Parnas has probably done nothing to sway Republicans toward removing Trump from office, not because they don’t believe him, but because they know Trump did what he’s accused of and don’t care. Writing to Politico’s John F. Harris, a Trump supporter recently described the president as “our O.J.,” an apt analogy for Republicans’ vengeful determination to give a guilty man impunity. (As it happens, Trump will be represented by one of O.J. Simpson’s old lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, at his Senate trial.)

But Parnas is worth paying attention to because he’s shown us, once again, what Trumpism looks like from the inside. It’s part “The Sopranos” and part, as he put it to Maddow, a “cult.” The qualities that discredit Parnas are the same ones that let him fit right in.

 

Trump Taps Ken Starr for His Impeachment Defense – Once Called Him a ‘freak,’ a ‘lunatic,’ and a ‘disaster’!

Image result for starr dershowitz ray"

Robert Ray, Ken Starr, and Alan Dershowitz

Dear Commons Community,

President Donald Trump tapped Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater independent counsel, to represent him in his upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.

Starr led the impeachment proceedings against Clinton in the 1990s. At the time, Trump was quoted in interviews as saying.

“Starr’s a freak,” Trump told The New York Times in 1999. “I bet he’s got something in his closet.”

That same year, he told MSNBC: “I think Ken Starr is a lunatic, I really think that Ken Starr is a disaster. I really think that Ken Starr was terrible.”

At the time, Trump was a supporter of Clinton. Starr wrote the so-called Starr Report in 1998 that led to Clinton’s impeachment. The document listed 11 possible impeachable offenses, including abuse of power, perjury, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice.

Starr has been accused of going on a fishing expedition during the investigation, which began as a probe of the Clinton family’s real-estate dealings and expanded to include lurid details of the president’s sex life. 

He also drew some criticism for explicitly detailing the sexual encounters Clinton had with Monica Lewinsky, who at the time was a young White House intern. Lewinsky has said the negative publicity and bullying she endured during and after Clinton’s impeachment made her feel like a “poster child for public humiliation.”

Robert Ray, who worked with Starr during Clinton’s impeachment, will also be representing Trump in his impeachment trial.

On Friday, after it surfaced that Starr and Ray would be on Trump’s legal team and would likely be making the opposite case from what they argued in Clinton’s impeachment, Lewinsky seemed to weigh in.

“[T]his is definitely an ‘are you f—— kidding me?’ kinda day,” she tweeted.

Starr was fired from his presidency at Baylor University  after a scathing 13-page summary report found that Baylor, under his leadership, had done little to respond to accusations of sexual assault involving football players.

Trump’s legal team will also include Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard emeritus law professor and constitutional and criminal law scholar. He confirmed his involvement in the impeachment trial Friday, tweeting that he was “participating in this impeachment trial to defend the integrity of the Constitution and to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent.”

Dershowitz has represented controversial figures in the past. He defended OJ Simpson in the 1990s, and he also represented the billionaire and sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein. Last year, Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein’s accusers sued Dershowitz alleging that she was forced to have sex with him when she was underage and recruited to work in Epstein’s sex trafficking ring (Dershowitz has repeatedly denied the allegation).

The judge in the lawsuit he’s defending from Giuffre ordered him to submit an extensive response to the allegations by February 7.

Trump’s legal team will be spearheaded by the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone. In addition to him, Dershowitz, Starr, and Ray, it will also include Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal defense attorney, and Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida.

This has all the trappings of a legal three-ring circus.

Tony

Republican Group to Hit Trump Defenders With Scathing Ads on Fox News!

As impeachment heads to the U.S. Senate, Republicans for the Rule of Law plan to put GOP lawmakers who support President Donald Trump on notice with new ads (see sample above) that will air on Fox News in the Washington area. 

One ad calls out Trump for prohibiting key witnesses in the Ukraine scandal from testifying in the House impeachment inquiry against him..  Another ad shows GOP lawmakers standing up to President Richard M. Nixon when he refused to comply with subpoenas from Congress in 1974.

“Now President Trump refuses to comply with congressional subpoenas,” the voiceover said. “Will today’s Republican Party defend the president’s obstruction or defend the rule of law?” 

Sarah Longwell, the group’s executive director, noted that Republicans stood up to both Nixon and President Bill Clinton during past impeachments. 

“Republicans should remember their forebears as well as the precedent they are setting, and uphold their duty to the Constitution,” Longwell said in a statement that called impeachment a check against “a tyrannical, unaccountable executive.”

The organization is also planning a billboard (see below) in New York’s Times Square similar to the ones placed in the congressional districts of several House Republicans.

“What is Trump hiding?” the billboard asks. 

Trump and friends have a lot to hide.

Tony

Entire Pennsylvania Community College System Signs Articulation Agreement with Southern New Hampshire University!

14 signatures

Dear Commons Community,

On January 8, 2020,  14 Pennsylvania community college presidents signed (see image above) a new partnership and articulation agreement with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

Under the agreement, students from all 14 Pennsylvania community colleges will be able to transfer up to 90 credits to SNHU and complete their bachelor’s degree online with a 10 percent tuition reduction.

“Community colleges work hard to provide students with quality education at an affordable price, which is why we’re so pleased to announce our partnership with Southern New Hampshire University,” said John J. “Ski” Sygielski, MBA, Ed.D., President and CEO of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College. “This articulation agreement will allow community college students in Pennsylvania to seamlessly transfer up to 90 credits to SNHU and offer them a 10 percent tuition reduction, making postsecondary distance education more affordable for Pennsylvania community college students.”

Of the 90 credits that may be transferred toward an online bachelor’s degree with SNHU, applicable military training is considered. The agreement also applies to employees and immediate family members of employees from all Pennsylvania community colleges. The 14 community college presidents hope that the agreement will help Pennsylvania achieve its attainment goal of 60 percent of Pennsylvanians aged 25-64 with a postsecondary degree or industry-recognized credential by 2025.

“At SNHU, we seek to streamline the transfer process for community college graduates across the nation and we are excited to team up with all 14 community colleges in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Jennifer Batchelor, D.Mgt., Vice President of Academic Programs, Global Campus, Southern New Hampshire University. “Through this new partnership, students will be able to continue on a transformational journey, which will not only impact their lives but also those of their families and communities.”

The agreement will provide transfer students the opportunity to pursue an online bachelor’s degree at a rate which is more affordable than nearly every other public option in Pennsylvania, depending on the student’s program of study and credit load. At the time of today’s signing, the partnership between Pennsylvania’s community colleges and SNHU represents the only statewide articulation agreement of its kind in the Commonwealth.

SNHU is already a popular transfer destination for Pennsylvania’s community college students, with more than 1,500 community college students currently enrolled. Nearly 500 Pennsylvania community college students transferred to SNHU in the 2018 – 2019 academic year, and SNHU awarded 166 Pennsylvania community college graduates a bachelor’s degree last year. Currently enrolled transfer students from Pennsylvania community colleges are eligible for the 10 percent tuition reduction. Under the terms of the articulation agreement, new community college transfer applicants will receive a waiver of the standard application fee to SNHU.

This agreement is further evidence that the evolution of the online mega-universities continues to move forward.  It also puts pressure on Pennsylvania’s four-year colleges including the Penn State World Campus to compete for these community college students.

Tony

 

Hugh Grant Backs Prince Harry: “The Tabloid Press Murdered His Mother and Now They’re Tearing His Wife to Pieces”

Dear Commons Community,

Actor Hugh Grant fully supports Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to “step back” from their royal duties, live part-time in Canada and gain financial independence.

On Andy Cohen’s Sirius XM show (see clip above), Grant empathized with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — particularly the media attention they receive.

 “I’m rather on Harry’s side,” Grant said during the interview, which can be seen below. “The tabloid press effectively murdered his mother, now they’re tearing his wife to pieces.”

Grant was referring to the tragic death of Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, who was killed at age 36 after a car crash in Paris. A swarm of paparazzi was pursuing the car Diana was in, and her driver, Henri Paul (who was later found to be drunk) lost control of the vehicle and eventually collided with a pillar.

Diana was injured but still alive after the crash. Prince Harry has been vocal about his disgust with the photographers who contributed to the accident and their behavior after the collision.

“She’d had quite a severe head injury but she was very much still alive on the back seat,” Harry said in the 2017 BBC documentary “Diana, 7 days.”

He added: “And those people that caused the accident, instead of helping, were taking photographs of her dying on the back seat.”

Harry also said in an October statement the paparazzi now treat his wife the way they treated his mother, waging “a ruthless campaign” against individuals “with no thought to the consequences.”

Grant has also had many negative interactions with the media, telling Cohen during his interview that his current relationship with the British tabloid press is “very poor.”

In 2018, he settled a phone-hacking lawsuit against Mirror Group Newspapers, in which he claimed the company misused “information obtained by hacking his voicemails, masquerading as other people, and surveillance” between 1998 and 2009, per the BBC.

The newspaper group apologized to Grant, saying it “deeply regretted” the acts and described them as “morally wrong.” Grant received a six-figure sum in the settlement, which he donated to the anti-hacking group Hacked Off.

“I think, as a man, it’s his job to protect his family,” Grant told Cohen of Harry on Wednesday. “So, I’m with him.”

You tell it like it is, Mr. Grant!

Tony

Rachel Maddow Interviews Lev Parnas:  Claims Trump Knew Exactly What Was Going on in the Ukraine!

Image result for Lev Parnas"

Lev Parnas

Dear Commons Community,

Rachel Maddow scored an interview coup last night with Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s associate, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that is the focus of the President Trump’s impeachment.  Besides Giuliani and Trump, he also implicates Attorney General William Barr.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“A close associate of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer says he delivered an ultimatum in May to the incoming president of Ukraine that no senior U.S. officials would attend his inauguration and all American aid to the war-torn country would be withheld if an investigation into Joe Biden wasn’t announced.

Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, made several potentially explosive claims in a televised interview last night with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. The day after Parnas said he delivered the message, the U.S. State Department announced that Vice President Mike Pence would no longer be attending the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy.

Parnas alleged that Trump ordered Pence to stay away at the behest of Giuliani to send a clear message to the incoming Ukrainian administration that they needed to take seriously the demand for an investigation into Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate seen as a potential threat to Trump’s 2020 reelection.

Parnas said every communication he had with Zelenskiy’s team was at the direction of Giuliani, whom he regularly overheard briefing Trump about their progress by phone.

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” said Parnas, a Soviet-born Florida businessman facing a raft of criminal charges related to campaign finance violations. “He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.”

If true, Parnas’ account undercuts a key Republican defense of Trump deployed during the ongoing impeachment fight — that Trump’s withholding of vital military aid to Ukraine last summer wasn’t a quid pro quo for Biden investigations because Zelenskiy didn’t know the money was being held up.

Giuliani called Parnas’ statements “sad.”

“I feel sorry for him,” Giuliani said Wednesday in a text message to an AP reporter. “I thought he was an honorable man. I was wrong.”

Asked directly if Parnas was lying, Trump’s lawyer replied, “I’m not responding yet.”

Parnas said he also heard Giuliani and another Trump-aligned defense lawyer, Victoria Toensing, briefing Attorney General William Barr by phone about their efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce the investigation into Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings.

“Barr was basically on the team,” Parnas said.

The Justice Department said in September that Trump had not spoken to Barr about having Ukraine investigate the Bidens and that the attorney general had not discussed Ukraine with Giuliani. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Wednesday that Parnas’ claims were “100% false.”

The new accusations came as House Democrats made public a trove of documents, text messages and photos from Parnas’ smartphones that appear to verify parts of his account.

A federal judge earlier this month ruled that Parnas could provide the materials to Congress as part of the impeachment proceedings. Democrats voted in December to impeach Trump for abuse of power and for obstruction of Congress.

A House committee chairman said Wednesday his panel will investigate what he says are “profoundly alarming” text messages among the newly disclosed materials that have raised questions about the possible surveillance of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before she was ousted by the Trump administration last spring.

The messages show that a Robert F. Hyde, a GOP candidate for Congress from Connecticut, disparaged Yovanovitch in messages to Parnas and gave him updates on her location and cellphone use.

Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Wednesday that the messages are “profoundly alarming” and “suggest a possible risk” to Yovanovitch’s security in Kyiv before she was recalled from her post.

“These threats occurred at the same time that the two men were also discussing President Trump’s efforts, through Rudy Giuliani, to smear the ambassador’s reputation,” Engel said.

He said the committee staff flagged the information for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and is seeking assurances that proper steps have been taken to ensure the security of Yovanovitch and committee staff. He said he also wanted to know what, if anything, the State Department knew about the situation.

“This unprecedented threat to our diplomats must be thoroughly investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Engel said.

In a Twitter post Tuesday, Hyde called Parnas a “dweeb” and suggested the messages about surveilling the ambassador were a joke.

Parnas, in turn, also said Wednesday that Hyde’s texts shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Democrats released the files Tuesday and Wednesday as they prepared to send articles of impeachment to the Senate for Trump’s trial. The documents could add pressure on the Senate as it debates whether to hear witnesses in the trial.

The text and phone records show Parnas communicating with Giuliani multiple times a day before Yovanovitch’s removal, as well as a handwritten note that mentions asking Ukraine’s president to investigate “the Biden case.”

Among the documents is a screenshot of a previously undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Zelenskiy dated May 10, 2019, which was shortly after Zelenskiy was elected but before he took office. In the letter, Giuliani requests a meeting with Zelenskiy “as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent.”

The Associated Press reported in October that Zelenskiy had huddled three days earlier, on May 7, with a small group of key advisers in Kyiv to seek advice about how to navigate the insistence from Trump and Giuliani for a probe into the Bidens. He expressed his unease about becoming entangled in the American elections, according to three people familiar with the details of the three-hour meeting. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, which has roiled U.S.-Ukrainian relations.

One of the documents released by Democrats is a handwritten note on stationery from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that says “get Zalensky to Annonce that the Biden case will be Investigated.”

Parnas told Maddow he took the notes as he was speaking by phone to Giulliani, receiving precise instructions about the demands Trump wanted to convey to Zelenskiy’s team.

Trump asked Zelenskiy in a July 25 call to investigate the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of a gas company based in Ukraine.

The documents were sent to the House Judiciary Committee by three other House panels “to be included as part of the official record that will be transmitted to the Senate along with the Articles of Impeachment,” according to a statement. Some of the materials were made public while others were blacked out and marked as sensitive.

Parnas and his business partner, Igor Fruman, both U.S. citizens who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, were indicted last year on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of records. Prosecutors allege they made outsize campaign donations to Republican causes after receiving millions of dollars originating from Russia. The men have pleaded not guilty.

In several of the documents, Parnas communicated with Giuliani about the removal of Yovanovitch. The ambassador’s ouster, ordered by Trump, was at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Yovanovitch testified in the House impeachment hearings that she was the victim of a “smear campaign.”

Trump on the July call told Zelenskiy that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things.” She had been recalled from her diplomatic post roughly three months earlier.

On April 23, just before Yovanovitch was directed to return to the United States, Giuliani texted Parnas, “He fired her again.” Parnas texted back, “I pray it happens this time I’ll call you tomorrow my brother.”

Parnas also received messages from Hyde, who referred to Yovanovitch as a “bitch.” Hyde is now running for a U.S. House seat in Connecticut.

After texting about the ambassador, Hyde gave Parnas detailed updates that suggested he was watching her. In one text, Hyde wrote: “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Her computer is off.” He said she was under heavy security and “we have a person inside.”

Hyde at one point texted Parnas that ″they are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” and “guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money … is what I was told.”

Parnas texted back: “lol.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, another committee chairman, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, said the texts are “deeply disturbing” and the evidence they compiled “certainly suggests that people were surveilling the ambassador.”

“What’s most disturbing about these texts is that they seem to suggest that there’s somebody inside the embassy who’s supplying information to Parnas and Hyde about the movement of the ambassador,” Schiff said. “So it raises a whole host of troubling questions,” he said, about how far the president and Giuliani were willing to go.

Lawrence Robbins, an attorney for Yovanovitch, called for an investigation into the messages.

“Needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch’s movements for unknown purposes is disturbing. We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation to determine what happened.”

On Twitter, Hyde dismissed the claims as “laughable” and appeared to try to distance himself from Parnas. He said he would “welcome” an investigation.

The text messages show that Parnas consulted Giuliani in January 2019 after the U.S. denied a visa to former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Giuliani replied: “I can revive it.”

The following day, Giuliani told Parnas, “It’s going to work I have no 1 in it.” Giuliani then predicted “he will get one,” before giving Parnas the phone number for Jay Sekulow, the leader of the president’s personal legal team. Sekulow is expected to be part of Trump’s legal team during the impeachment trial.

Trump has repeatedly denied knowing Parnas and Fruman, despite numerous photos that have emerged of the men together. Among the materials released from Parnas’ phone this week were more photos of him with Trump, as well as the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., first daughter Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Asked by Maddow about Trump’s denials of knowing him, Parnas said he had spoken one-on-one with the president numerous times.

“He lied,” Parnas said of the president. “I mean, we’re not friends. Me and him didn’t watch football games together, we didn’t eat hot dogs. But he knew exactly who we were, who I was especially.”

It will be interesting to see how the White House spins Parnas’ accusations!

Tony

Democratic Debate – Blah!

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) listen as former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Democ

Dear Commons Community,

I watched the Democratic Presidential Debate last night and thought it was a “blah” event.  No real fireworks and a lot of softball questions.  Mercifully, we are down to six debaters.  Here are a couple of observations.

Warren and Sanders Conflict Over Women Candidates

Tensions between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were running high before the debate following a CNN report that Sanders had told Warren during a 2018 meeting that a woman could not win the presidential election. Both candidates’ campaigns, and much of the broader progressive infrastructure, signaled that they wanted a de-escalation. 

When CNN brought up its own reporting, Sanders repeated his denial ― and Warren turned in what’s likely going to be a key moment of the debate. 

“Can a woman beat Donald Trump?” she asked. “Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women.” Her response won laughter and applause from the debate audience.

Joe Biden Keeps Ticking

Though Joe Biden isn’t the clear front-runner in Iowa, he is the clear leader nationally, thanks to his strength with Black voters and the primary electorate’s broad belief that he’d be the strongest candidate against Trump. And it’s not clear that a victory by another candidate in Iowa would change that. 

So it was somewhat surprising Biden did not face more attacks from the other candidates. Sanders, in particular, had signaled he wanted to challenge Biden on his vote for the Iraq War and his past support for cutting Social Security. The Social Security topic never came up in the debate, and Sanders did not force the issue. And though Biden and Sanders did clash over the war, a lack of pointed follow-ups from the moderators allowed each candidate to mostly repeat their standard talking points.

 “Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and Rumsfeld had to say,” Sanders said. “I thought they were lying. I didn’t believe them for a moment. I took to the floor. I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently.”

“I was asked to bring 156,000 troops home from that war, which I did,” Biden responded, referring to his time as Barack Obama’s vice president. “I led that effort. It was a mistake to trust that they weren’t going to go to war. They said they were not going to go to war.”

So we move on to the Iowa caucuses on February 3rd!

Tony