Opinion | The Double-Barreled Dream World of Trump and His Enablers – By Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch – The New York Times

By Glenn R. Simpson and 

Mr. Simpson and Mr. Fritsch are the founders of Fusion GPS.

 

“As the founders of Fusion GPS, the research firm that commissioned the reports by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that raised some of the earliest warnings of Russia’s actions, we’re willing to clear up some of the nonsense now so abundant on the right.

House Republicans like Representatives Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan seem eager to portray Fusion as co-conspirators with the Ukrainians in some devilish plot to undermine Mr. Trump’s 2016 candidacy. That could not be farther from the truth. None of the information in the so-called Steele dossier came from Ukrainian sources. Zero. And we’ve never met Serhiy Leshchenko, the Ukrainian former legislator and journalist whom Republicans want to blame for the downfall of Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

That said, our investigation of Donald Trump did get a great boost because of Ukraine, just not in the way Republicans imagine. We began looking into Mr. Trump’s business dealings and ties to Russia in the fall of 2015 with funding from Republicans who wanted to stop his political ascent. The Ukraine alarms went off six months later, when candidate Trump brought into his campaign none other than Mr. Manafort, a man with his own tangled history with Russian oligarchs trying to get their way in Ukraine.

It turns out we already knew a great deal about Mr. Manafort’s activities in Ukraine because we worked on several stories about his work for Russian-backed politicians eight years earlier, when we were both still writing for The Wall Street Journal. That reporting threw a spotlight on how Mr. Manafort, while representing clients involved in fierce geopolitical struggles over Ukraine, had neglected to comply with a lobbying law requiring that he register as a foreign agent — the very law, among others, to which he pleaded guilty of violating.”

Opinion | Why the Searing Politics of the Trump Era Give Me Hope – by Lee Drutman – The New York Times

“But here’s why I’m ultimately optimistic: I see how much the election of Mr. Trump acted as an impetus for people who care about democracy to get involved. The 2018 election registered the highest turnout midterm election in 104 years, and the smart money is on a similarly high turnout election in 2020. It may sound strange to say, but Mr. Trump’s election may yet turn out to be the shock and near-death experience that American political system needed to right itself.

I’m also optimistic because the one reform with the most potential to break our zero-sum partisanship, ranked-choice voting, is gaining tremendous momentum at the state and local level. In 2018, Maine became the first state to use ranked-choice voting for federal elections (after Mainers approved it in two statewide referendums). This month, New York City voters adopted it. Also in 2020, expect voters in Alaska and Massachusetts to decide whether they want in on ranked-choice voting.

By removing the spoiler effect of third parties, ranked-choice voting can break the us-versus-them force driving our partisan warfare, and create space for a political realignment that creates new coalitions to shape economic reforms and negotiate social change.”

Opinion | The Day That Decided the 2020 Election – by Timothy Egan – The New York Times

“The impeachment hearings had been bumping along, the main story clear: a parade of impeccable public servants trying to uphold the values of their country against a gangster White House. A candidate who had gloated over chants of “lock her up” for an opponent who had used unsecured emails had, once elected, conducted foreign policy by extortion, on open cellphone lines penetrated by the Russians.

Most Americans felt that Trump had committed an impeachable offense, but barely half favored removing him by the constitutional equivalent of the death penalty.

Instead, he said that the unusual diplomatic dance in Ukraine was not part of a rogue operation holding up American tax dollars as part of a scheme to take down a political opponent. It was White House policy, the government of the people in service of one person.

“We followed the president’s orders,” he said. “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.” “

Opinion | How to Dislodge the Brute in the White House – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Chuck Hardwick outside his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

“Chuck Hardwick, lifelong Republican, former Pfizer executive, now retired in Florida, voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but not without misgivings. He’d met him in the 1980s and noted a “consuming ego.” Still, elections are about choices, and he disliked the “scheming” Clintons. He was mad at the media for first mocking Trump during the primaries and then turning on him as nominee.

Three years later, Hardwick, 78, whose political career included a stint as speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, is unsure how he will vote in November 2020. Trump confounds him. He admires the president’s energy, his courage in taking on difficult issues like China “stealing its way to prosperity,” his corporate tax cuts, and what he sees as a revitalizing impact on American ambition.

“But if I was on a board that had hired Trump as C.E.O.,” Hardwick tells me, “I’d have to say to him: ‘You’ve got good traits but you can’t manage people. You’re fired.’”

“. . .  For Hardwick, Elizabeth Warren is not a choice. He likes her American story, her humble beginnings, her quick mind, but thinks she’s too far left on economic policy for the country to accept.

That’s probably right. When you want to make the United States more like Europe, you always run the risk of destroying what makes America unique: its hustle and unrelenting creative churn. America was born in contradistinction to Europe not as an extension of it. That identity is nonnegotiable.

Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who has made active preparations to enter the Democratic primary, gives Hardwick a serious option to reject Trump. “I like him — no-nonsense, stable, clear-thinking, data-driven, he would do a good job and keep the economy moving. He looks better to me every day.” Anyone else? “I would not rule out voting for Biden.” “

Opinion | If Trump Were Anyone Else … – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“As the impeachment process unfolds, President Trump’s defenders will throw up dust clouds of complexity. But as the first day of open hearings suggested, it’s simple. Forget about Ukraine and diplomacy for a moment.

Suppose that a low-ranking government official, the head of a branch Social Security office, intervened to halt a widow’s long-approved Social Security payments. The widow, alarmed that without that income she might lose her home, would call the branch director to ask for help.

“I’d like you to do me a favor, though,” the director might respond. He would suggest that her Social Security payments could resume, but he’d like the widow to give him her late husband’s collection of rare coins.

Everybody would see that as an outrageous abuse of power. Whether we’re Republicans or Democrats, we would all recognize that it’s inappropriate for a federal official to use his or her power over government resources to extract personal benefits. The Social Security official could say that the payments eventually resumed, or assert that the widow’s son had engaged in skulduggery — but he’d be out of a job in an instant and would face a criminal investigation.”

Ediorial | Republicans’ Best Defense Is a Bad Offense – The New York Times

“What did Americans learn from the first day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry?

They learned damaging new information, about another witness who reportedly overheard a telephone conversation in which President Trump pressed to find out if the Ukrainians had committed to investigating his top political rival.

They learned they are still served by people of integrity who are committed to advancing the national interest. The day’s two witnesses, George Kent and William Taylor, both deeply experienced diplomats, provided precise, scrupulously nonpartisan and damning testimony about the effort at the center of the inquiry: the secretive shakedown of Ukraine by Mr. Trump and his associates, for the president’s political gain.

And those Americans who tuned in also learned that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have set themselves a degrading task. Rather than engage the facts about Mr. Trump’s Ukrainian escapade, they are twisting them and eliding them and inventing new ones they’d prefer. They spent most of Wednesday stuffing straw men and then ostentatiously knocking them down.”

David Lindsay:  This editorial is an excellent summary of what I watched most of.

Here is one of many good comments I endorsed:

The History Prof
New York

I came of age politically in 1972 by watching the Watergate impeachment hearings. I was 14 years old, and in my naivite, I believed what all the pundits said after Nixon’s resignation: “the Constitution works!” Although teens of the era were taught to distrust older Americans, we had watched in awe as Sam Ervin, John Sirica, and Peter Rodino led the effort to defend the rule of law. And we were grateful to the three senior Republicans–Sen. Barry Goldwater, House Minority Leader John Rhodes, and Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, for meeting with Nixon to advise him to resign, which he did the following day. I think the idealism which Watergate instilled in me led me into teaching. For 35 years I have taught my students about constitutionalism and the rule of law, and the Anglo-American tradition that no person–neither a king nor a president–is above the law. But where now are the Goldwaters and the Scotts, the men who put their loyalty to the Constitution above their loyalty to the Republican Party? I have watched in dismay during the past month as the Republicans have attacked the decent, heroic Americans who have come before the Judiciary Committee to testify: Bill Taylor, Fiona Hill, Lt. Col. Vindman, Marie Yovanovitch, George Kent, etc. Why do the Republicans besmirch their reputations? Because unlike the “Never Trumpers,” who upheld their own conservative values, the Republicans in Congress are “Trumpers-at-any-Price.” History will judge them very harshly.

10 Replies785 Recommended

Opinion | What Trump Is Hiding From the Impeachment Hearings – By Neal K. Katyal – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Katyal is a former acting solicitor general and a law professor.

Credit…Illustration by Alicia Tatone; Photographs by Damon Winter/The New York Times, and Guido Mieth and mbell, via Getty Images

“The public impeachment hearings this week will be at least as important for what is not said as for what is. Congress will no doubt focus a lot on President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and his secret plan to get that government to announce a public investigation of the man he considered his chief political rival, Joe Biden.

But think about what the president is trying to hide in the hearings. He has been blocking government officials from testifying before Congress, invoking specious claims of constitutional privilege. And while the Ukraine allegations have rightly captured the attention of Congress and much of the public, Mr. Trump’s effort to hinder the House investigation of him is at least as great a threat to the rule of law. It strikes at the heart of American democracy — and it is itself the essence of an impeachable offense.

President Trump has categorically refused to cooperate with the impeachment investigation. He has declined to turn over documents related to the inquiry and has instructed all members of his administration not to testify before Congress. Every member of the executive branch who has gone to tell the truth to the House impeachment investigators — like Marie Yovanovich and Alexander Vindman (and maybe Gordon Sondland, too, at least the second time around) — has done so in defiance of the president’s instructions. President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has refused to testify. Secretary of Defense Mike Esper, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, have ignored congressional subpoenas related to the investigation.”

Editorial | The Disorienting Defenses of Donald Trump – The New York Times

By 

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“The case for weighing the impeachment of President Trump boils down to a few simple points: In an effort to win re-election in 2020, Mr. Trump apparently attempted to extort a foreign government into announcing an investigation of his top political rival. The president did so while also trying to revive a conspiracy theory that casts doubt over whether the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election on his behalf. Witnesses have already testified that in order to achieve those goals, Mr. Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid against the bipartisan wishes of Congress. All the while, the president and his staff have refused to cooperate with the congressional investigation into what transpired.

Republicans find themselves in a tough spot. Lawmakers swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, which obliges them to act as a check on the executive branch and any abuses of its power. Yet instead of considering the testimony, many Republicans have chosen reflexively to defend Mr. Trump — not an easy task in the face of such strong evidence of inexcusable behavior.

Here’s a field guide to some of the lines of attack that Republicans have used so far. See if you can recognize them if they appear during the public hearings scheduled to begin this week.”

Opinion | To Beat Trump, Focus on His Corruption –  by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Given the severity of Trump’s misbehavior — turning American foreign policy into an opposition-research arm of his campaign — Democrats had no choice but to start an impeachment inquiry. Yet they need to remember that impeachment is an inherently political process, not a technocratic legal matter. It will fail if it does not persuade more Americans of Trump’s unfitness for office. It will succeed only if he is not president on Jan. 21, 2021.

And it is far more likely to succeed if Democrats can connect it in voters’ minds to a larger argument about the substance of Trump’s presidency.

The most promising version of that argument revolves around corruption: The Ukraine quid pro quo matters because it shows how Trump has reneged on his promise to fight for ordinary Americans and is using the power of the presidency to benefit himself. As Leah Greenberg, a co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, says: “This man is not working for you. He is working to put his own interests first. And he is endangering the country to do it.”

Corruption is one of the public’s top worries, surveys show. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last year, people ranked the economy as the country’s most important issue, and No. 2 was “reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington.” It’s a cross-partisan concern too, spanning Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The corruption argument can appeal to the swing voters who helped elect Barack Obama in 2012, flipped to Trump in 2016 and flipped back to Democrats in 2018. And despite wishful thinking by some progressives, winning swing voters — rather than simply motivating the base — will again be crucial in 2020. “You have to build a bridge for people to walk across,” said David Axelrod, the former Obama strategist, referring to Trump’s 2016 supporters. “If you say the guy is a reprobate and a sleaze and all of that, it’s harder for people who voted for him to walk across that bridge.”

Opinion | The Rules of Impeachment – The New York Times

“. . .  Central to the resolution’s ambitions are ensuring order, transparency and fairness as the inquiry moves to the public stage. Rules are being set for conducting public hearings (including who gets to question whom and for how long), publicly disclosing depositions and issuing subpoenas. Guidelines have been established for the participation of Mr. Trump and his lawyers and the transfer of evidence from other committees to the Judiciary Committee, where any articles of impeachment would be considered. The rules providing for the minority party to call its own witnesses are basically the same as those set by Republicans during the Clinton impeachment.

Indeed, many of the procedures outlined in the resolution, and in a related set of procedures drawn up by the Judiciary Committee, are in line with those followed in the impeachment inquiries in 1974 and 1998. These include the president receiving copies of all evidentiary material; the president and his counsel being invited to all hearings; and his counsel being permitted to ask questions at the presentation of evidence, submit evidence on the president’s behalf, question witnesses, object to the questioning of witnesses and so on.

Perhaps the most notable departure from precedent is a provision concerning the Judiciary Committee stipulating that if the president “unlawfully” refuses to make witnesses or evidentiary material available to the investigating committees, “the chair shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies, including by denying specific requests by the president or his counsel under these procedures to call or question witnesses.” “