POLITIKS OF GRAFFITI 165: “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” -MLK

JANUARY 04, 2020

Week 164

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember. https://theweeklylist.org/weekly-list/week-164/
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From Amsterdam this week. Artist: Teachr1 collab with Michael Rappaport.

Throughout my time keeping the list, I have been concerned that since Trump would do anything to stay in power, when he felt he was losing his grip, we risked him taking extraordinary actions. This week, Trump assassinated Iran’s top general Qasem Soleimani — a decision he made while vacationing in Mar-a-Lago, and unilaterally, without seeking approval or consulting with Congressional leaders.ENU7KGSWsAA63-4

As a backdrop, this week additional reporting and documents released under Freedom of Information Act requests painted a far more dire picture for Trump heading into a Senate impeachment trial. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continued to hold the articles of impeachment, the mood seemed to shift with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell trying to defend his statements about pre-judging the matter and his actions of moving in lock-step with the White House.

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This week the country was again rocked by an anti-Semitic attack, amid a massive increase of hate crimes in U.S. major cities. Trump remained passive on the rise of hatred of all kinds, which continued to escalate to record levels in 2019.

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NYC, November 2019.
  1. On Monday, WAPO reported that during Trump’s first 1,075 days in office, he visited a Trump property on 331 days, or 31% of the time. Trump has dubbed his property Mar-a-Lago as the “Southern White House.”
  2. On Tuesday, CNN reported Trump closed out 2019 with a round of golf. During 2019, he spent one in every five days at one of the Trump golf courses — a total of 86 days.
  3. Trump, who criticized Obama for golfing while in office, tweeting in 2015, “I mean he’s played more golf than most people on the PGA Tour,” has golfed 251 days in three years. Obama golfed 333 rounds in eight years.
  4. On Thursday, 39 GOP senators and 168 representatives signed a “friend of the court” amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to “reconsider” Roe v. Wade as part of a Louisiana abortion access law due to be heard in March.
  5. On Friday, the Trump regime joined too, filing a brief asking the Supreme Court to allow the Louisiana law to go into effect, arguing that it does not pose an unconstitutional burden on women seeking an abortion.
  6. On Tuesday, NPR reported aid to farmers ballooned in 2019 to over $22 billion — including more than $14 billion in compensation for Trump’s trade wars — up from $13 billion in 2018, and the highest level in 14 years.
  7. On Friday, the Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index fell in December to 47.2, the lowest level since June 2009. Global trade remains the most significant issue due to Trump’s trade wars.
  8. On Saturday, AP reported there were more mass killings in the U.S. in 2019 than in any year dating back to at least the 1970s. Of the 41 mass killings, 33 were mass shootings. More than 210 people were killed.
  9. On Friday, a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago —  the country’s three largest cities — are poised to hit an 18-year peak.
  10. NYC had 229 anti-Semitic hate crimes, a modern city record. The Anti-Defamation League noted conspiracy theories on the fringes 20 years ago have reached the mainstream through cable-TV and social media.
  11. On Saturday, five members of an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish congregation in Monsey, New York, a suburb outside of NYC, were stabbed with a machete-type knife while celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah at their rabbi’s home.
  12. The incident marks the latest in a string of 13 anti-Semitic attacks in the New York-New Jersey region in recent months, including nine in NYC. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it an act of domestic terrorism,”
  13. Gov. Cuomo also said it was endemic of “an American cancer on the body politic,” adding, “this is violence spurred by hate.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center called on Trump to have the FBI create a special task force.
  14. On Sunday, a gunman killed two worshipers attending services at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, before the church’s security team fatally shot him.
  15. On Sunday, Trump continued his attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, again quoting a conspiracy theorytweet about her son being involved in a Ukraine corruption scandal, and adding, “Any answers Nancy?”
  16. Trump also tweeted a video of scenes of homelessness in San Francisco, and added, “Crazy Nancy Pelosishould spend more time in her decaying city and less time on the Impeachment Hoax!”
  17. Four hours later, Trump finally tweeted about the Monsey attack, calling it “horrific,” adding, “We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism.”
  18. Some Democrats urged Trump to do more, saying he has insufficiently denounced anti-Semitism despite a spike in hate crimes, and has frequently perpetuated offensive stereotypes about Jewish people.
  19. On Monday, Trump tweeted about the church shooting Sunday, saying, “It was over in 6 seconds thanks to the brave parishioners who acted…Lives were saved by these heroes, and Texas laws allowing them to carry arms!”
  20. On Saturday, Trump quoted a tweet about former FBI director James Comey, and added, “A Dirty Cop at the highest level. Scum!”
  21. On Monday, in an op-ed, Comey urged, “we need to fight through our fatigue and contempt,” calling Trump a “shrunken, withered figure,” and noting “the danger he poses to our nation and its values.”
  22. On Sunday, Ivanka told “Face the Nation” she may leave the White House if Trump is re-elected, saying her decision will be “driven first and foremost by my kids and their happiness.”
  23. When asked about migrant children being separated from their parents at the border, Ivanka said, “Immigration is not part of my portfolio, obviously,” adding, “I think everyone should be engaged.”
  24. On Wednesday, Trump named Ivanka and Jared to be included in the presidential delegation to Davos in late January. Critics continued to raise concerns about the family’s role in shaping foreign and financial policy.
  25. On Sunday, Daily Beast reported Republican lawmakers are steering clear of the information Rudy Giuliani collected on his recent trip to Ukraine, and are distancing themselves from him ahead of the impeachment trial.
  26. Sen. Lindsey Graham cautioned Giuliani to have U.S. intelligence scrub the information he gathered “to make sure it’s not Russia propaganda,” adding, “I’m very suspicious of what the Russians are up to all over the world.”
  27. On Sunday, the Kremlin posted a readout of a call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump. Per the readout, Putin thanked Trump for information that “helped thwart terrorist acts in Russia.”
  28. The Kremlin readout also said the two discussed issues of mutual interest, and agreed to “continue bilateral cooperation in combating terrorism.” The White House had yet to release a readout, as has happened prior.
  29. On Monday, the White House said in a statement that Putin called to thank Trump, and to discuss “counterterrorism cooperation” and “future efforts to support effective arms control.”
  30. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted Putin “called to thank me and the U.S. for informing them of a planned terrorist attack,” saying “many lives” were saved and “Great & important coordination!” Details were unclear.
  31. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been indicted on three corruption cases, said, “Immunity isn’t against democracy; immunity is a cornerstone of democracy.”
  32. On Wednesday, Netanyahu announced he would ask Knesset for immunity from the three charges while in serving in office. The request would put the political establishment against the legal system ahead of the election.
  33. On Sunday, NYT reported half a million children have been separated from their families in Xinjiang, China by government authorities intent on instilling their loyalty to the Communist Party over Islam.
  34. On Sunday, NYT provided a full account of the 84 days of “conflict and confusion” behind the Ukraine frozen aid, based on dozens of interviews, previously undisclosed emails and documents, and reviews of testimony.
  35. NYT reported Trump’s demands to withhold aid went on a separate track from Giuliani’s efforts for investigations, sent shock waves through the White House and the Pentagon, and caused rifts in the senior ranks.
  36. The first hold-up came on June 19, when national security aide Robert Blair called Russell Vought, acting head of the Office of Management and Budget, and said Trump had a problem with the aid and stated, “We need to hold it up.”
  37. Given Congress appropriated $391 million of aid by September 30, four top appointees helped acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney with the hold: Vought, Blair, Michael Duffey, and Mark Paoletta, OMB’s top lawyer.
  38. On June 19, Duffey told career OMB official Mark Sandy to attach a footnote to a routine budget document saying the aid was being temporarily withheld. Sandy had never done this in 12 years at the OMB.
  39. On June 27, Mulvaney emailed Blair, asking, “Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?” Blair said it would be possible, but not pretty. “Expect Congress to become unhinged.”
  40. On July 18, a group of top officials meeting on Ukraine learned from an OMB officials that Trump had ordered the hold. That day, the House Foreign Affairs Committee received four calls warning them of the hold.
  41. On July 25, the Pentagon learned of the hold based on Duffey’s email sent 90 minutes after Trump’s call, and officials were concerned given Ukraine had seized a Russian tanker, which could lead to an escalation.
  42. Sandy received a go ahead from OMB lawyers to make a “brief pause” official by inserting a footnote into the budget document, prohibiting the Pentagon from spending any of the aid until August 5.
  43. In late July, Sandy’s authority to oversee the aid freeze was removed and given to political appointee Duffey. Two OMB staffers resigned. Frustrated Pentagon officials were kept in the dark on the reason for the freeze.
  44. Pentagon budget official Elaine McCusker told OMB $61 million of the money needed to be spent by August 12, or would be lost. OMB officials came to consensus on a legal rationale, but it was a “POTUS-level decision.”
  45. Mulvaney worked to schedule a conference call with Trump and Vought, then-NSA John Bolton, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone on August 12 at Trump’s Bedminster club where he was golfing, but the call did not happen.
  46. Mulvaney later reached Trump and aid was kept on hold, as OMB lawyers determined McCusker had inaccurately raised alarms. On the same day, the whistleblower submitted their complaint.
  47. In late summer, OMB officials, along with the White House and DOJ, came up with a rationale for the hold: that lifting it would undermine Trump’s negotiating position in his efforts to fight corruption in Ukraine.
  48. On August 28, Politico published a story on Ukrainian aid being frozen. Trump denied to Sen. Ron Johnson the freeze was related to investigations days later. He also learned of the whistleblower complaint in late August.
  49. In late August, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Bolton met with Trumpin the Oval Office to explain that releasing the aid was in the interests of the U.S.
  50. Sens. Johnson and Rob Portman pushed Trump to release the aid, including a September 11 call from Portman. On September 9, the chairs of three House committees said they would open an investigation.
  51. On September 10, the day before Trump released the aid, Duffey said in an email to McCusker the Pentagon had the authority to do more to release aid by the deadline. She replied, “You can’t be serious. I am speechless.”
  52. On Monday, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the NYT reporting a “game changer,” adding it shows all four witnesses Senate Democrats have requested were “intimately involved and had direct knowledge.”
  53. Schumer demanded Majority Leader McConnell call Mulvaney, Bolton, Blair, and Duffey to testify as the White House blocked them, adding if Trump is “so confident…why won’t you let your men testify?”
  54. On Monday, Sen. Susan Collins told Maine Public Radio she is “open to witnesses,” but said it was “premature to decide who should be called until we see the evidence” and get answers to the questions senators can submit.
  55. Collins also echoed Sen. Lisa Murkowski in being critical of McConnell working closely with the White House on preparations, calling it “inappropriate” for members in either party to prejudge evidence.
  56. To secure witnesses at the Senate trial, Senate Democrats would need at least four Republicans to join them. Senators will return to Washington, D.C. next week.
  57. Later Monday, Trump attacked CNN host Chris Cuomo, tweeting an article from far-right Breitbart on his bloopers, and adding, “He is Fake News, will always be Fredo to us. I should release some of his dishonest interviews?”
  58. Trump also retweeted a doctored video first sent on November 22 of his voice calling in to Chris Cuomo in the place of his mother, and calling Cuomo fake news. Trump has also publicly attacked his brother, Andrew.
  59. On Monday, according to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News averaged 2.5 million viewers per night in 2019, the highest viewership in the network’s 23-year history.
  60. Fox News was the network the most-watched channel on basic cable for 2019. MSNBC came in third with 1.75 million viewers, and CNN came in 22nd with 972,000 average viewers per night.
  61. On Thursday, NY Daily News reported former Fox News reporter Courtney Friel says in a new book that before Trump took office, he told her she was “the hottest one at Fox News” and should come to his office “so we can kiss.”
  62. On Saturday, at least 34 governors, including 13 Republicans, were granted the power to admit refugees by the State Department, after citing the need for workers despite Trump’s cap of 18,000 refugees in 2020.
  63. The Houston Chronicle reported Texas cities including Houston,San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin have also opted in. Trump’s drastic cuts to refugees led to the closure of more than 51 resettlement programs.
  64. On Sunday, AP reported that under Trump, asylum has become almost impossible to get. One factory worker from Honduras who applied, saying he feared being killed, was deported after eight months.
  65. Back in Honduras, a few months later, he was shot and injured. Apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border have plunged by more than 70% in the past six months, as the Trump regime sends a message to migrants not to try.
  66. On Monday, BuzzFeed reported a 40 year-old French man died in ICE custody, the fourth in fiscal year 2020, after eight died in fiscal 2019. He was in custody since November 12 and died December 29 in a hospital.
  67. The House Oversight and Reform Committee said it had launched an investigation into the medical care at ICE facilities, after reporting on a whistleblower account which revealed substandard care.
  68. On Tuesday, WAPO reported the Trump Org fired at least seven workers from its Virginia winery citing their lack of legal immigration status, 11 months after the company began purging undocumented workers.
  69. Two of the workers, who were fired after working at the winery for more than a decade, told the Post the winery had waited until after the year’s work was complete to dismiss them.
  70. On Monday, police said they were investigating swastikas spray-painted on Seth Paine Elementary School in Lake Zurich, Illinois. Also painted were “poop,” “Trump 2020” with an X through it, and “Joe Biden 2020.”
  71. On Monday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the DeKalb County Police Department’s homeland security unit is investigating a series of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim flyers found on homes and cars.
  72. The flyers were found in an area known for its vibrant Jewish community. One flyer described the Holocaust as a “Jew lie” and said Jewish people are “odious creatures,” and was lined with swastikas.
  73. On Monday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice approved a recommendation of a report calling for the firing of all the West Virginia correctional officers who in Week 160 were seen giving a Nazi salute in their graduation photo.
  74. On Monday, a survey by Third Way/Joint Center found 80% of black voters say Trump’s election has made people with racist views more likely to speak out, and 55% say they now face more racism in their daily lives.
  75. On Thursday, NBC News reported Aaron Charles Rowe, 30, a Seattle man, was charged with a hate crime after attacking four men of Korean descent on a downtown street, striking them and shouting, “I hate Chinese.”
  76. On Monday, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by former Trump national security official Charles Kupperman to testify in the impeachment inquiry, saying the House had rescinded its subpoena.
  77. The case was the last long-shot for the House to compel testimony in the Ukraine probe. Bolton had cited the lawsuit as his rationale for not speaking publicly as a witness in the impeachment probe.
  78. On Monday, in a court filing, lawyers for Peter Strzok argued the FBI and Justice Department violated his rights to free speech and privacy in a lawsuit filed in August over his dismissal.
  79. The DOJ argued Strzok’s role in the investigation of Trump “imposed on him a higher burden of caution,” as it asked to dismiss the case. Strzok said his firing leaves career officials vulnerable to firing for political speech.
  80. While the DOJ had argued Trump had nothing to do with the decision to fire Strzok, the filing quoted Trump’s remarks last week taking credit for firing Strzok and others.
  81. On Monday, AP reported Erik Prince has been referred to the Treasury Department for possibly violations due to his trip last month to Caracas, Venezuela, which is under U.S. sanctions.
  82. Prince’s meeting with Venezuela’s Vice President Delcy Rodriguez was flagged as unauthorized diplomatic outreach, and raised questions over whether he was there to open a secret backchannel on behalf of Trump.
  83. On Monday, in a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a coalition of 91 groups called for the removal of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) head William Pendley, as his temporary post is set to expire on Friday.
  84. Pendley is a controversial figure, and an odd pick by Trump, based on his past comments opposing federal land ownership. The letter cited “his actions betray BLM’s mission and demonstrate his lack of fitness to lead.”
  85. On Thursday, conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty asked a judge to immediately purge over 200,000 voters, and find the Wisconsin Elections Commission in contempt and impose a daily fine until it does so.
  86. On Thursday, a federal judge directed the Commerce Department to review and release a cache of documentsincluding emails and attachments sent to and from Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross and others.
  87. The documents include roughly 20,000 pages, about 40% of what the government had previously produced. The DOJ had argued the documents should not be released “because the case has already been decided.”
  88. On Monday, Sec. Pompeo told “Fox & Friends” he would not definitively rule out running for Senate in Kansas, but said it is “not something that I want to do.”
  89. On Tuesday, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said he would not run for Senate in New Hampshire, tweeting, “I am certain I would have won,” but giving no explanation.
  90. On Tuesday, Trump accused Democrats of avoiding a Senate trial to protect the Bidens, tweeting, “The Democrats will do anything to avoid a trial in the Senate in order to protect Sleepy Joe Biden.”
  91. Trump also tweeted the trial would “expose the millions and millions of dollars that ““Where’s” Hunter, & possibly Joe, were paid by companies and countries for doing NOTHING,” adding, “Joe wants no part of this mess!”
  92. Biden said on the campaign trail Saturday that he would defy a subpoena to testify in the Senate impeachment trial, but later clarified to say there is no “legal basis” for him to be called as a witness.
  93. Later Tuesday, Trump called Pelosi the “most overrated person I know!” saying, “They didn’t get one Republican House vote,” and “produced no case,” adding, “so now she doesn’t want to go to the Senate. She’s all lies.”
  94. On Tuesday, thousands of supporters of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, chanting “Death to America” and “America is the Great Satan,” stormed entrances to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
  95. U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces stood by as the militia passed the green zone, hung their flags on the barbed wire protecting the compound, and breached the main embassy reception area and set it on fire.
  96. The militia set up tents, saying they would not leave until the U.S. pulled all diplomats and troops out of Iraq. Diplomats and staffers huddled in a fortified safe room, while the Pentagon sent reinforcements.
  97. The siege came in response to U.S. airstrikes targeting Kataib Hezbollah, which the Pentagon blamed for a rocket attack that killed an American defense contractor on December 27.
  98. Many drew comparisons to the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 after the siege of the embassy in Tehran. Comparisons were also made to a militant group’s attack on an American compound in Benghazi, and Republicans’ reaction.
  99. Later Tuesday, Sec. Pompeo told “Fox News” there were no plans to evacuate the 300 plus diplomats and staffers, or 5,000 troops from Iraq. He told CBS News the U.S. expected Iraqi officials to protect U.S. facilities.
  100. On Tuesday, after attacking Biden, Trump tweeted, “Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible,” adding, “we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy.”
  101. Trump was at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach to play golf as news hit. Instead of golfing 18 holes as planned, he left the club after 45 minutes to return to Mar-a-Lago.
  102. Politico reported Trump was concerned with the optics. He tweeted, “to those many millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and who don’t want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is your time!”
  103. Trump also tweeted, “Very good meeting on the Middle East, the Military, and Trade. Heading back to The Southern White House (Mar-a-Lago!). Updates throughout the day.”
  104. The White House White did not respond to requests about whom Trump had met with at the golf course, or why they met at there rather than at Mar-a-Lago.
  105. Later Tuesday afternoon, Trump tweeted, “The Anti-Bengahzi!” then deleted and corrected the spelling, and tweeted “The Anti-Benghazi!”
  106. Trump also tweeted, “The Fake News said I played golf today, and I did NOT! I had meeting in various locations,” adding, “The Corrupt Lamestream Media knew this” but “failed to report or correct!”
  107. Later Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “The U.S. Embassy in Iraq is, & has been for hours, SAFE!” adding, “our great Warfighters” and “the most lethal military equipment in the world, was immediately rushed to the site.”
  108. Trump also tweeted, “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE!” adding, “This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,” and, “Happy New Year!”
  109. Trump also quoted a lawyer on Fox News, tweeting, “It’s my opinion as a lawyer that the Articles of Impeachment are defective,” saying they should be dismissed. Trump added, “A great lawyer & person. Thank you Brad!”
  110. Trump quoted another Fox News commentator, saying, “This guy (Strzok) was organizing a coup to undo the 2016 election,” and adding, “And he wasn’t the only one,” and, “The greatest Witch Hunt in American history!
  111. On New Year’s Eve, Trump hosted a $1,000-a-head gala at Mar-a-Lago that he personally profited from. Trump boasted to reporters, “We’re going to have a great year, I predict,” as he arrived at his party.
  112. Trump continued to defend Kim Jong Un, saying, “he did sign a contract…an agreement, talking about denuclearization,” calling him a “man of his word” and adding the “Christmas gift” Kim promised might be a “beautiful vase.”
  113. Trump bragged about his handling of the embassy attack, saying, “This will not be a Benghazi. Benghazi should never have happened,” and said he did not want war with Iran, but if it came to that it “wouldn’t last long.”
  114. Trump called impeachment “a big, fat hoax,” saying, “We had, I guess, 196 to nothing, with the Republicans,” and adding, “We had three Democrats come over. One actually joined our party, as you know.”
  115. Trump added, “we did nothing wrong,” adding, “all you have to do is read the transcripts” or you could “go see or speak to the President of Ukraine.” He also called House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff “a corrupt politician.”
  116. Trump added, “I think the impeachment thing — I call it ‘impeachment light.’ It’s a disgrace,” and “Nancy Pelosi should be ashamed of herself. She’s a highly overrated person. I know her well; she’s highly overrated.”
  117. Giuliani, who was attending the celebration, told reporters, “I would testify, I would do demonstrations, I’d give lectures, I’d give summations or I would do what I do best. I’d try the case. I would love to try the case.”
  118. On New Year’s Eve, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts delivered his annual report on the state of the judiciary, in the midst of unprecedented rancor between the branches of government.
  119. Roberts warned, “we have come to take democracy for granted, and civic education has fallen by the wayside,” citing “social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale.”
  120. Roberts warned against “mob violence,” and said “the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital. The judiciary has an important role to play in civic education.”
  121. Roberts called on judges to “reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor,” and to “resolve to do our best to maintain the public’s trust that we are faithfully discharging our solemn obligation to equal justice.”
  122. Roberts, who has clashed with Trump on judicial independence, added, “We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability,” but added that “justice is not inevitable.”
  123. Without naming him, Roberts singled out Merrick Garland for praise for his exemplary educational work over two decades as a tutor at a local school, saying he was “inspiring his court colleagues to join in the effort.”
  124. On Wednesday, in his New Year’s speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared an end to the country’s moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
  125. Kim also threatened, “depending on the U.S. future attitude,” to expand the country’s nuclear force, and to show off a “new strategic weapon” in the near future​ and “shift to a shocking actual action.”
  126. On Wednesday, Sec. Pompeo canceled a week-long trip planned to Ukraine and four other countries to stay and monitor the situation in Iraq, to “ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East.”
  127. Former State Department officials and associates of Pompeo told the Times he is keen to make sure American diplomats are not hurt, after as a congressman he was among the most scathing critics of Benghazi.
  128. Pompeo was scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday to “reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” — the first senior level meeting since impeachment.
  129. Pompeo canceled another meeting with Zelensky planned for November, as it was in the middle of impeachment hearings. The second cancellation could add to Ukrainian suspicions that Trump has little regard for them.
  130. On Wednesday, Politico reported Trump is more comfortable and in a better mood while at Mar-a-Lago. One official described Trump as feeling “liberated” with fewer staffers trying to keep away shady characters.
  131. People who surround Trump at Mar-a-Lago are described as true believers, with one Mar-a-Lago member describing it as “a religious revival,” saying people jump up and down and scream Trump’s praises.
  132. On Wednesday, a GOP political consultant asked in an op-ed what the GOP stood for, saying “a party without a governing theory, a higher purpose or a clear moral direction is nothing more than a cartel, a syndicate.”
  133. He added, the “paranoid element in the party has existed for decades,” and warned “a party that has as its sole purpose the protection and promotion of its leader, whatever he thinks, is not on a sustainable path.”
  134. On Wednesday, NYT reported former Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who received clemency from Trump, has capitalized on his newfound fame by launching a lifestyle clothing brand, and garnering endorsements.
  135. Gallagher and his wife’s online shop refers to SEALs who testified against him in court as “mean girls.” Gallagher also frequently appears on Fox News and his lawyer said he is planning to write a book.
  136. On Thursday, Daily Beast reported Trump is considering pardoning Nicholas Slatten, an employee Blackwater, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2007 massacre in Baghdad.
  137. Blackwater was founded by Trump ally Erik Prince, who has claimed the company was railroaded in the massacre at the Nisour Square traffic circle by America’s far left.
  138. On Thursday, Australia declared a national emergency in New South Wales, citing brush fires which erupted two months ago are likely to get worse in the coming days amid record heat.
  139. A study by the University of Sydney warned the country’s wildlife is in jeopardy, saying approximately 480 million animals have been affected in New South Wales since September.
  140. On Thursday, Trump tweeted, “A lot of very good people were taken down by a small group of Dirty (Filthy) Cops, politicians, government officials,” and cited an investigation “illegally started & that SPIED on my campaign.”
  141. Trump also tweeted, “The Witch Hunt is sputtering badly, but still going on (Ukraine Hoax!),” saying if it happened to a Democratic president “it would be considered the CRIME OF THE CENTURY.”
  142. On Thursday, Just Security said it was able to review unredacted versions of emails from June until early October previously made public under the FOIA, between the Pentagon and OMB on withholding aid from Ukraine.
  143. The emails revealed that the White House was warned that withholding Ukraine aid was illegal, but Trump demanded it anyway. An email from Duffey to McCusker stated, “Clear direction from POTUS to hold.”
  144. On August 26, McCusker emailed Duffey that the Senate Arms Services Committee asked about the aid, “Has OMB directed DOD/DSCA to halt execution of all…If so, when, and what was the reason given?”
  145. On August 27, Sec. Esper’s chief of staff emailed McCusker about the hold, citing concern from a defense contractor. She said it was “difficult because OMB lawyers continue to consistently mischaracterize the process.”
  146. A draft letter from deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist to Vought on August 27 stated “we have repeatedly advised OMB officials that pauses beyond Aug. 19, 2019 jeopardize” obligations of the Impoundment Control Act.
  147. Duffey emailed McCusker on September 11 to say the hold is lifted. When she asked why, Duffey responded, “Not exactly clear but president made the decision to go. Will fill you in when I get details.”
  148. On Thursday, Sen. Schumer called the newly revealed emails a “devastating blow” to McConnell’s push “to have a trial without the documents and witnesses we’ve requested,” saying they further implicate Trump.
  149. Schumer added the emails “further expose the serious concerns raised by Trump administration officials about the propriety and legality of the president’s decision to cut off aid to Ukraine to benefit himself.”
  150. Aides also told WAPO that Schumer and McConnell did not communicate over the holidays. McConnell said he would be unconcerned if a trial never took place.
  151. On Thursday, Pelosi quoted the Just Security article, adding, “Trump engaged in unprecedented, total obstruction of Congress, hiding these emails,” adding, “Why won’t Trump & McConnell allow a fair trial?”
  152. Later Thursday, BuzzFeed reported on the third batch of FBI interview notes from the Mueller probe released by the FBI and DOJ under the FOIA, which included 356 of documents.
  153. Notably, the FBI and DOJ withheld vast swaths of information, citing a number of FOIA exemptions, including an ongoing investigation. The batch included a fully redacted 31-page interview, including the name.
  154. Documents revealed K.T. McFarland was interviewed by the FBI under a proffer agreement in December 2017. McFarland revised her summer interview after it was contradicted by Michael Flynn’s guilty plea.
  155. Roger Stone associate Jerome Corsi told the FBI he realized he had been lying to “protect his own cover story,” and “realized the way he wanted to remember things was not actually how things happened.”
  156. Michael Cohen said in November 2018 he tried to set up a meeting between Putin and Trump following the 2015 U.N. General Assembly at Trump Tower at Trump’s behest. He googled the number for the Kremlin.
  157. Paul Manafort said in October 2018 he believed Trump was sending him messages through Fox News host Sean Hannity. Manafort said Hannity told him Trump said “to hang in there,” and “that Trump had his back.”
  158. Ike Kaveladze said Donald Jr. asked about dirt on Hillary at the June 6, 2016 Trump Tower meeting. He said Kushner asked, “What are we doing here?” and Donald Jr. later asked: “Is there anything you have on Hillary?”
  159. Early Thursday, Reuters reported Iran Revolutionary Guards Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami said: “We are not leading the country to war, but we are not afraid of any war.”
  160. Late Thursday, Iraqi television reported Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed by an air strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport.
  161. An expert told the Times Soleimani is “irreplaceable and indispensable” to Iran’s military establishment. The strike killed five including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the pro-Iranian chief of an umbrella group for Iraqi militias.
  162. Later Thursday, at around 9:30 p.m., Trump tweeted an image of the American flag with no text and pinned it to his page. Trump had gone most of the day without tweeting.
  163. Shortly after, Defense Secretary Esper confirmed that Soleimani was killed in what the Pentagon termed a “defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad,” and “at the direction of the president.”
  164. Esper also said in his statement that Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” but did not provide evidence to back the claim.
  165. Later Thursday, Pelosi spoke to Esper after getting no advance notice of the strike. She tweeted the action was taken “without an Authorization for Use of Military Force” and “without the consultation of the Congress.”
  166. Late Thursday, Trump ally Sen. Graham tweeted, “I appreciate President @realDonaldTrump’s bold action against Iranian aggression,” adding, “To the Iranian government: if you want more, you will get more.”
  167. On Friday, Graham told “Fox & Friends” that he “was briefed about the potential operation” while spending multiple days with Trump in Mar-a-Lago. The “Gang of Eight,” which Graham is not part of, was not notified.
  168. Graham added, “When the President brought it up to me, I was taken aback,” saying, “I’m worried about the stability of the Iraqi government today. I have no idea how they are going to respond.”
  169. On Friday, threatening retaliation, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement Soleimani’s death was “bitter” but that “the final victory will make life more bitter for the murderers and criminals.”
  170. On Friday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted the flag of Soleimani will be raised and “the path of resistance to US excesses will continue,” adding, “The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.”
  171. On Friday, AP reported thousands of Iranians took the streets in Tehran after morning prayer, waving posters of Soleimani and chanting, “Death to deceitful America,” and burning Israeli flags.
  172. On Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi condemned the U.S. “assassination” of the Iraqi militia leader, calling it an act of aggression and a breach of the conditions under which U.S. forces operate in Iraq.
  173. On Friday, Putin said the strike risked “aggravating the situation” in the Middle East. China urged restraintfrom all sides, “especially the United States,” and said it was “highly concerned.”
  174. The European Union warned against a “generalized flare-up of violence.” Britain, France, and Germany called for “stability” and “calm,” and noted Iran bore some responsibility for the escalation.
  175. Although Trump did not inform European allies in advance, Pompeo expressed frustration at their reactions, saying they “all need to understand that what we did…saved lives in Europe as well.”
  176. Pompeo also spoke to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. The State Department readout called the strike a “decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad,” adding the U.S. “remains committed to de-escalation.”
  177. The Russian Foreign Ministry readout cited Lavrov saying, “targeted actions by a UN member state to eliminate officials of another UN member state…grossly violate the principles of international law.”
  178. The U.K. government warned Trump against launching a war against Iran, and urged “all parties to de-escalate,” adding, “further conflict is in none of our interests.”
  179. On Friday, Netanyahu credited Trump for “acting swiftly,” saying the U.S. has a right to self-defense as Soleimani was responsible for the death of Americans other innocent people, and was “planning more such attacks.”
  180. On Friday, the State Department advised all Americans to leave Iraq: the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement saying that due to heightened tensions in the region, U.S. citizens should depart Iraq immediately.
  181. On Friday, Trump sent a series of morning tweets, his first communications with the American people after the strike. Trump tweeted, “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” It was unclear what he meant.
  182. Trump also tweeted, “General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught!”
  183. Trump added, “He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of PROTESTERS killed in Iran,” adding, “He should have been taken out many years ago!
  184. Trump also tweeted, “The United States has paid Iraq Billions of Dollars a year, for many years,” and added, “The people of Iraq don’t want to be dominated & controlled by Iran, but ultimately, that is their choice.”
  185. On Friday, American oil workers fled Iraq. Sixteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iran is the dominant power. Anti-government protestors who were protesting Iran’s influence feared their efforts would be stifled.
  186. On Friday, McConnell returned to DC and spoke from the Senate floor, calling it a “fantasy” that Pelosi can “hand design the trial proceedings,” and adding he will conduct senate business until he gets the articles.
  187. McConnell defended his coordination of the “trial mechanics with the White House,” comparing it to Schumer “openly coordinating political strategy with the Speaker.”
  188. McConnell added, “their turn is over,” and “they’ve done enough damage.” When asked by reporters if he will meet with Schumer about the trial, he said he had already “addressed all of the relevant issues” in remarks.
  189. Schumer spoke next, saying McConnell “hasn’t given one good reason why there shouldn’t be relevant witnesses or relevant documents,” and, “Instead of trying to find the truth, he is still using the same feeble talking points.”
  190. Schumer added, “I’m a member of the Gang of Eight, which is typically briefed in advance of operations of this level of significance,” saying the regime should not only look to “your inner and often insulated circle.”
  191. Shortly after, Pelosi said in a statement: “Today, Leader McConnell made clear that he will feebly comply with President Trump’s cover-up of his abuses of power and be an accomplice to that cover-up.”
  192. Pelosi added, “McConnell is doubling down on his violation of his oath, even after the exposure of new, deeply incriminating documents this week,” and “The American people deserve the truth.”
  193. On Friday, a federal judge ruled Lev Parnas can turn over documents and data seized by federal investigators when Parnas was arrested in October to the House Intelligence Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry.
  194. On Friday, a federal appeals court in Washington heard arguments from the DOJ and House Democrats in two separation-of-powers lawsuits relating to Don McGahn testifying and Mueller grand jury materials.
  195. The court held back-to-back hearings, spanning three hours, and did not announce a decision in either case; however, based on questioning, it appeared the House had a stronger case on the grand jury materials.
  196. A judge asked the House lawyer, “Are you here to say there may be a third article of impeachment?” relating to the Mueller probe, to which he responded, “Yes, that’s on the table. There is no doubt.”
  197. On Friday, Trump quoted Christopher Bedford, The Federalist Senior Editor, tweeting, “There is NOTHING NEW in these Emails at all that’s been discovered. It’s exactly what we knew before.”
  198. Trump continued quoting, “Trump wanted to question aid to a number of different places that he thought were wasteful,” and “Democrats argument for impeachment has not gotten stronger over the last few weeks.”
  199. On Friday, in a series of tweets, Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump, falsely linked Soleimani to the 9/11 attacks, tweeting he “assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists.”
  200. Pence also inaccurately described the number of terrorist as 12, while the correct number is 19. Scholars noted Al Qaeda is a radical Sunni group whose members consider Shiites to be apostates. Soleimani is a Shiite.
  201. On Friday, the Pentagon said it was prepared to deploy an additional 3,500 soldiers to the region. The soldiers joined roughly 650 already in the region, and planned to stay for 60 days.
  202. On Friday, Sen. Tim Kaine introduced a war powers resolution to force Trump to cease hostilities without approval by Congress. After 10 days, Kaine can force a full Senate vote on his motion without being blocked.
  203. Later Friday, Trump told reporters at Mar-a-Lago that he authorized the strike because Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans, saying, “We caught him in the act and terminated him.”
  204. Trump also said that Soleimani should have been taken out by his predecessors, and, “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.” Trump also urged Iran not to retaliate.
  205. Trump also said, after spending almost all his time in office trashing U.S. intelligence agencies and taking the word of foreign governments over them, that America has “the best intelligence in the world.”
  206. On Friday, Russian state media blamed Trump’s impeachment for the assassination of Soleimani, which it described as “a terrorist act,” and claimed Trump may have been “set up” by U.S. intelligence.
  207. Hours later, AP reported Iraqi officials and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq claimed a second deadly air-stikekilled five members of a Popular Mobilization Forces medic convoy. U.S. officials denied involvement.
  208. Later Friday, in a speech to his evangelical Christian base in Miami, Trump told the crowd, “Evangelical Christians of every denomination and believers of every faith have never had a greater champion.”
  209. Trump brought Cissie Graham Lynch, a granddaughter of Billy Graham, the founder of Christianity Today, to the stage, in a rebuke of the editorial calling for his removal. She vowed to help Trump win re-election.
  210. Trump spoke briefly about the strike, saying Soleimani “was planning a very major attack, and we got him,” adding, “as president, I will never hesitate to defend the safety of the American people.”
  211. Trump said he would renew the importance of religion and family, toughen restrictions on abortion, and “safeguard students and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools.”
  212. Trump jabbed at his 2020 opponents, again referring to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the racial-slur “Pocahontas,” and saying we cannot let the “radical left” win as “everything we’ve done will be gone in short order.”
  213. Friday was also the last day for Christianity Today editor Mark Galli, who is retiring. Galli told the Times he was shocked by the response to his op-ed, which crashed the magazine’s website.
  214. Galli said he was “surprised by the ethical naïveté of the response I’m receiving to the editorial,” saying there seems to be “widespread ignorance” about “the gravity of Trump’s moral failings.”
  215. Galli added, “People wrote to me and said they had felt all alone and were waiting for someone in the evangelical leadership” to speak up, adding, “a lot of people who were feeling alone and they’re not feeling that way.”
  216. Galli added some of Trump’s closest followers are “being discipled by him,” saying, “They’re taking their cueson how to react in the public square from Donald Trump, whose basic response is to denigrate people.”
  217. Later Friday, Trump retweeted conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, comparing Schumer to Iran and the reason for not getting advance notice: “Neither were the Iranians, and for pretty much the same reason.”
  218. On Friday, Daily Beast reported Trump told friends and allies at Mar-a-Lago over the past several days that he was working on a “big” response to the Iranian regime, and they would hear or read about very “soon.”
  219. Later Friday, NYT reported in a terse response to its FOIA request, the White House said it would not turn over 20 emails between Blair and Duffey in which they discussed withholding aid, even with redactions.
  220. In a letter, the White House FOIA officer cited an exemption for correspondence involving the president’s staff, saying it would “inhibit the frank and candid exchange of views” in government decision-making.
  221. On Friday, Republican Rep. Phil Roe said he will not seek another term, becoming the 25th Republican to do so for 2020. Roe was the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
  222. On Saturday, Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee urged Pelosi to request a 72-hour mental hold on Trump, following the Iran attack, saying “a mental health hold, which we have tried to avoid, will become inevitable.”
  223. Lee said mental health professionals “foresaw” this type of event as Trump’s “response to the impeachment proceedings, just as his pulling troops from northern Syria was a direct response to the announcement of an impeachment inquiry.”
  224. On Saturday, WAPO reported thousands mourned at a funeral procession for Soleimani chanting, “Death to America, death to Israel,” and “We will take our revenge!”
  225. An Iranian commander quoted by the Tasnim News Agency vowed retaliation, saying dozens of American and Israeli facilities and military assets in the Middle East were at risk.
  226. On Saturday, NATO suspended its Iraq training mission, saying, “The safety of our personnel in Iraq is paramount. We continue to take all precautions necessary.”
  227. On Saturday, a Survey Monkey poll found two of Republicans’ top four choices of whom they would consider voting for in the 2024 presidential election are Trump’s children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka.

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Pro-Iranian militiamen and their supporters set a fire during a sit-in in front of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. U.S. troops fired tear gas on Wednesday to disperse pro-Iran protesters who were gathered outside the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad for a second day as pro-Iranian militiamen and their supporters had camped out overnight at the gates of the embassy. On Tuesday, dozens of the protesters had broken into the compound, trashing a reception area and smashing windows in one of the worst attacks on the embassy in recent memory.

One thought on “POLITIKS OF GRAFFITI 165: “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” -MLK

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