POLITIKS OF GRAFFITI 166: AN ODE TO THE “176”: BLOOD ON HIS HANDS

JANUARY 11, 2020

Week 165

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember. https://theweeklylist.org/weekly-list/week-165/

This week as the country was on the brink of war with Iran, we stood alone, with the Trump regime having neglected to consult with our allies in Europe or the region. Reporting indicated the decision to strike that precipitated the latest crisis was made by Trump and Trump alone, amid his shrinking circle of less experienced but more compliant national security experts. After Iran retaliated, Trump seemed flat-footed, saying he would address the country that night, then backing off. The next morning he addressed the nation in a speech which he seemed to struggle to deliver, full of lies and misinformation, and which clarified little on strategy or the reason for the escalation. One of the numerous unintended consequences of the escalation was a downed Ukrainian Air plane, with 176 passengers killed over Tehran in the fog of war.

IMG_2351
The Scream was created by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1893 but it has become a masterpiece – the masterpiece – for our time. There are comparably “iconic” works of art – the Mona Lisa, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – but they exist in a world of art and beauty. The Scream is ugly and brutal and belongs in the here and now. It is a symbol we reach for as we might for a strong word, to express what we’re feeling this minute.

The basis for the strike was in dispute during the week, as the regime failed to provide Congress or the American people with information to back their ever-changing rationale. By the end of the week, the regime indicated it was threats to U.S. embassies that led to the strike, with Trump specifying, without providing evidence, four embassies in total. Reporting also indicated there was another planned strike the day Soleimani was killed, targeting a senior Iranian military official in Yemen, that failed — indicating a broader attack may have been underway, and further muddying the regime’s account of events.

IMG_2349
This week in New York City.

This week former National Security Advisor John Bolton offered to testify in the Senate impeachment trial, which Trump later said he would likely block, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a vote to send the articles to the Senate. Republicans continued to largely stand behind Trump, even as he nearly brought the country to war without reason, and as the impeachment trial is set to get underway.

IMG_2361
This week in Rome, Italy. Artist: Qwerty
  1. On Wednesday, the New York Bar Association asked Congress in a letter to investigate Attorney General William Barr, saying his conduct “threatens public confidence in the fair and impartial administration of justice.”
  2. The letter also said Barr’s “recent actions and statements” position the AG, and by extension, the DOJ “as political partisans willing to use the levers of government to empower certain groups over others.”
  3. The request marks the first time the New York bar, or any comparable bar association, has asked Congress to investigate a sitting attorney general.
  4. On Wednesday, Pew Research published a survey of 33 countries which found 64% said they do not have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, while just 29% do.
  5. Trump also received the lowest rating of five leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  6. On Thursday, the Justice Department ended their two-year investigation of Hillary Clinton, begun to appease Trump and his allies in Congress. The probe ended quietly, finding nothing of consequence.
  7. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had appointed U.S. attorney John Huber to “review” the Clinton Foundation, Uranium One, and the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server.
  8. On Friday, Bloomberg reported U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are probing whether Russia is targeting Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate for 2020, with election meddling.
  9. Part of the inquiry is whether Russia is trying to weaken Biden by promoting controversy over debunked allegations of his involvement in U.S. policy in Ukraine while his son Hunter worked for an energy company there.
  10. The strategy would mirror what Russia did in 2016, carrying out a sophisticated operation to damage Hillary Clinton. One expert noted Putin’s ability “to convince people of outright falsehoods.”
  11. Unlike 2016 where Russia hacked documents, in 2020, Trump, Giuliani, and Trump allies are all pushing the narrative about Biden in the public domain and seeking to dig up dirt about him in Ukraine.
  12. Also in 2020, Russia is much more overt in carrying out its influence operation, given the U.S. audience is more receptive. Russia has been using its state-run media RT and Sputnik News as part of its operation.
  13. On Friday, in tracking turnover in the Trump regime, the Brookings Institute found in his first three years in office, Trump’s “A Team” turnover is at 80% (52/65), with 35% of the positions undergoing serial turnover.
  14. On Monday, CNN reported the White House had gone 300 days without an official White House press briefing. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has yet to hold a briefing.
  15. On Thursday, authors Stephen King and Don Winslow offered to donate $100,000 each in her name to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital if Grisham holds a press corp briefing for one hour.
  16. On Friday, NYT reported in addition to not holding press briefings, even as the nation was on the brink of war, Grisham has only appeared on Fox News, One America News Network, and Sinclair Broadcast.
  17. On Friday, 13 former White House and military officials, including White House press secretaries for the last three administrations, called for restoring press briefings in an open letter.
  18. They noted, “a well-informed citizenry would be better equipped to understand the difficult choices and decisions presidents must make, especially in times of crisis,” adding it “makes for better democracy.”
  19. On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security said in a bulletin it had no information of “a specific, credible threat” from Iran, but added, “Iran and its partners” have the capability to conduct operations in the U.S.
  20. On Saturday, the website of the U.S. Federal Depository Library Program was briefly hacked, and the home page replaced with a pro-Iranian message and an image of bloodied Trump being punched in the face.
  21. On Saturday, Trump tweeted from Mar-a-Lago, “Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge,” saying Soleimani “was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits.”
  22. Trump threatened, “Let this serve as a WARNING” that if Iran strikes, “we have targeted 52 Iranian sites” — matching the number of American hostages taken in 1979 — including “high level” and cultural targets.
  23. Trump also tweeted, “those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD,” adding, “The USA wants no more threats!”
  24. Trump also tweeted, “They attacked us, & we hit back,” adding, “If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before!”
  25. On Saturday, in response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, “Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME,” and predicted the “end of U.S. malign presence in West Asia has begun.”
  26. International law — the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict — prohibits “any act of hostility against fixed cultural property.
  27. On Saturday, NYT reported in response to Iran-led violence in Iraq, the Pentagon presented Trump with a menu of options, including Soleimani — the most extreme response to make other options appear more palatable.
  28. The day after the American contractor was killed, Trump did not take the option to kill Soleimani, but after watching news reports on the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, he took the extreme option, stunning top Pentagon officials.
  29. Trump took the action despite disputes within the regime about the significance of new intelligence, said to be thin, and information that the attack was not imminent since it was not yet approved by the ayatollah.
  30. Presidents Obama and W. Bush rejected the option of killing Soleimani, citing it would be too provocative. Trump regime officials said they did not anticipate sweeping retaliation because of divisions in Iranian leadership.
  31. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the loudest voice in pushing for the strike. Vice President Mike Pencealso pushed for a response, and his office helped run herd on meetings and conference calls leading up to the strike.
  32. On Saturday, the Trump regime sent Congress a formal, classified notification regarding the strike that killedSoleimani within the required 48-hour time window required by the War Powers Act.
  33. Later Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called releasing only a classified version “highly unusual,” and said, “Congress and the American people are being left in the dark about our national security.”
  34. Pelosi also said the notification “raises more questions than it answers,” and “prompts serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the Administration’s decision to engage in hostilities.”
  35. U.S. officials who had been briefed on the strike said evidence there was to be an imminent attack on American targets is “razor thin,” and that Soleimani was planning to kill hundreds “an illogical leap.”
  36. On Sunday, Secretary of State Pompeo defended the strike on “Meet the Press,” saying, “It may be that there’s a little noise here in the interim, that the Iranians make a choice to respond.”
  37. Pompeo added, “the risk of doing nothing exceeded the risk of taking the action,” claiming there were plotsagainst American interests, and said, “We would have been culpably negligent had we not taken this action.”
  38. Pompeo also defended Trump’s threat to bomb cultural sites on “State of the Union,” saying, “If we need to defend American interests, we will do so,” adding, “the American people should know we will always defend them.”
  39. On Sunday, senior officials told CNN there is widespread opposition within the regime to targeting cultural sites, with one official saying, “Nothing rallies people like the deliberate destruction of beloved cultural sites.
  40. On Sunday, after golfing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump tweeted, the U.S. “spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment,” adding if Iran attacks, “we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way.”
  41. Trump also warned, “These Media Posts will serve as notification,” saying the U.S. will “fully strike back,” and “perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” adding, “Such legal notice is not required, but is given.”
  42. On Sunday, the Iranian government all but exited from the 2015 landmark nuclear agreement, saying, “Iran’s nuclear program will have no limitations in production, including enrichment capacity.”
  43. On Sunday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi advised parliament to expel U.S. troops after the strike which killed Soleimani and eight others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of a powerful Iraqi militia.
  44. Abdul Mahdi told the parliament to take “urgent measures” to force the withdrawal of foreign forces, saying, “What happened was a political assassination,” adding, “Iraq cannot accept this.”
  45. Later Sunday, the Iraqi parliament passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the government to end the foreign troop presence; however, Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in November, could not sign the bill into law.
  46. On Sunday, a U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria halted its years-long campaign against ISIS, as the U.S. braced for retaliation from Iran. The U.S. pulled out 5,200 troops from Iraq, crippling the fights against ISIS.
  47. On Sunday, three Americans, including a U.S. service member and two civilian contractors working for the Pentagon, were killed at the Kenya Defense Force Military Base by terrorist group Al-Shabaab.
  48. Later Sunday, aboard Air Force One returning to Washington D.C., Trump doubled down on his threat to attack Iranian cultural sites, telling reporters, “They’re allowed to kill our people?”
  49. Trump added, “They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site?” adding, “It doesn’t work that way.”
  50. Trump also told reporters he would put “very big sanctions on Iraq” if the country forced out U.S. troops, saying, “if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis. We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever.”
  51. Trump also said he expected Iraq to compensate the U.S. for the air base there, saying of the base, “It cost billions of dollars to build. Long before my time. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it.”
  52. On Sunday, NYT reported more than 60 Iranian-Americans were held up for hours at Washington State’s border after returning from Canada, as the Department of Homeland Security ramped up security at border points.
  53. Most were released after being questioned for up to 10 hours over the weekend. An advocate called the reports “extremely troubling and potentially constitute illegal detentions of United States citizens.”
  54. On Sunday, Speaker Pelosi told House Democrats in a letter that the House will introduce and vote on a War Powers Resolution relating to Iran this week, similar to the one introduced by Tim Kaine in the Senate in Week 164.
  55. The resolution, to be led by Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA and Pentagon analyst, “reasserts Congress’s long-established oversight responsibilities” by mandating Trump cease hostilities unless he gets Congressional approval.
  56. On Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff told “State of the Union” that Democrats are in no rush to turn over articles of impeachment, but adding, “I don’t think it’s going to be indefinite.”
  57. On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News that Republicans should change the Senate rules and begin the impeachment trial, saying, “we’re not going to let Nancy Pelosi use the rules of the Senate to her advantage.”
  58. On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer backed Pelosi on “This Week” saying, “We need the truth, not a coverup, not a sham, not to have some nationally televised mock trial where there’s no evidence.”
  59. On Sunday, Schumer and Sen. Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on the White House to declassify the War Powers Act Notification for Iran Military Action.
  60. On Monday, Secretary Pompeo told Fox Business News, referring to Trump’s January 5 tweet, that “Trump didn’t say he’d go after a cultural site. Read what he said very closely.” This is clearly a lie. Trump said it twice.
  61. On Monday, Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to Trump, also lied, telling reporters at the White House Briefing Room, “He didn’t say he’s targeting cultural sites.”
  62. On Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “the laws of armed conflict” prohibit striking cultural sites, and said the Pentagon had no plans to do so despite Trump declaring them as targets.
  63. Esper also acknowledged striking cultural sites with no military value would be a war crime, breaking from Trump who said the sites are legitimate targets.
  64. On Monday, the Pentagon disputed that U.S. troops were leaving Iraq, after a letter was sent from Marine Brig. Gen. William Seely to Iraqi Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir outlining plans for troop departure.
  65. The draft letter, which was delivered, cited plans for “repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks,” and added, “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”
  66. Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took the unusual step of hosting an impromptu press conference after the draft letter was leaked to the media.
  67. Milley called the letter a “mistake.” Esper said, “We are repositioning forces throughout the region number one,” adding, “That letter is inconsistent of where we are right now.” The letter added confusion to a murky situation.
  68. On Monday, WAPO reported after Trump’s threatening tweet, the senior regime officials began drafting possible sanctions against Iraq if it proceeded to expel U.S. troops.
  69. On Monday, on his first day back in Washington, Trump tweeted, “The Impeachment Hoax, just a continuation of the Witch Hunt which started even before I won the Election…must end quickly.”
  70. Trump added, “Read the Transcripts,” adding, “NO PRESSURE,” and, “get this done.” Trump also said he and Congress should not “be wasting their time” on the “totally partisan Impeachment Hoax.”
  71. Trump also tweeted, “IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON!
  72. On Monday, former NSA John Bolton said he is “prepared to testify” in the Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed, saying he has weighed the issues of executive privilege and after “careful consideration and study” decided he would comply.
  73. Bolton said he left a message for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell before issuing his statement. His willingness to appear complicated matters for McConnell and his attempts to hold a Senate impeachment trial without witnesses.
  74. Schumer said Bolton’s announcement provided “momentum for uncovering the truth in a Senate trial,” adding it is “now up to four Senate Republicans to support bringing in Mr. Bolton.”
  75. On Monday, Trump told Rush Limbaugh the whole process is “sad for our country,” adding Pelosi does not want a trial, saying, “She doesn’t want to get a vote because how could anybody possibly — it’s totally partisan.”
  76. On Monday, Politico reported despite Bolton’s willingness to testify, the GOP-led Senate was not planning to call him as moderate Republicans, four of which would be needed, backed away.
  77. On Monday, Sen. Josh Hawley announced a resolution to change Senate rules to allow the dismissal of articles of impeachment if they are not transmitted to the Senate within 25 days.
  78. Later Monday, Trump told reporters that Bolton “would know nothing about what we were talking about” if he testifies, and said it would be “up to the lawyers” and the Senate to decide whether Bolton appears.
  79. On Monday, NYT reported Pompeo met with McConnell in the afternoon to say he will not run for the U.S. Senate seat in Kansas.
  80. Later Monday, Trump again slammed Los Angeles and San Francisco, saying “the homeless situation” there, and in “many other Democrat Party run cities,” is a “state and local problem, not a federal problem.”
  81. Trump added, “If however, the city or state in question is willing to acknowledge responsibility, and politely asks for help from the Federal Government, we will very seriously consider getting involved.”
  82. On Saturday, NPR reported the Department of Homeland Security quietly posted on its website on December 27 that it agreed to share certain government records from its databases with the Census Bureau.
  83. With this step, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Custom and Border Patrol, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be sharing information with the Census Bureau to produce data about U.S. citizenship status.
  84. On Sunday, tens of thousands marched in New York City in a show of solidarity for New York’s Jewish community after a series of anti-Semitic attacks in a march organized by Jewish advocacy and community groups.
  85. On Tuesday, Cynthia Abcug, 50, was arrested in Colorado after authorities accused her of plotting with far-right QAnon conspiracy theorists to kidnap her child, who had been removed from her custody.
  86. On Thursday, Oregon man James Lamb, 53, was charged with attempted murder and a hate crime after breaking into a motel office, and beating a 70 year-old woman from India who owns the business.
  87. On Thursday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant tweeted there will be “1000 Years of Darkness” if the state elects Mike Espy, who is a black man, as the state’s first black senator.
  88. On Friday, AP reported the Trump regime is considering dramatically expanding the travel ban heading into the election year. Sources say seven countries could be added to the list, a majority of which are Muslim.
  89. The current version of Trump’s ban includes seven countries, five of which are Muslim: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as Venezuela and North Korea.
  90. On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott became the first governor of 43 states so far not to accept refugees, after a September 26 executive order signed by Trump gave states the option not to take refugees.
  91. The Trump regime has been blindsided, as 42 of the the 50 states, including 18 Republican governors, have opted to accept refugees. Seven Republican governors have yet to announce.
  92. Trump’s executive order capped refugees at 18,000, and added the condition that cities and states must give written confirmation by January 21 on whether they will accept refugees.
  93. The executive order has also been ignored by many local governments, even in areas that voted for Trump in 2016. Religious groups, especially evangelical leaders, have lobbied political leaders to accept refugees.
  94. On Sunday, Stephanie Hofeller, daughter of deceased prominent Republican redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller, released a cache of computer files saved on his hard drives onto a public website.
  95. On Sunday, Donald Jr. posted a photo on Instagram of him holding an AR-15-style rifle featuring a magazine with an illustration of Hillary Clinton behind bars, along with the caption, “Nice day at the range.”
  96. On Monday, Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted a fake photo showing Obama smiling and shaking hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, with the caption, “The world is a better place without these guys in power.”
  97. On Tuesday, CNN confirmed it reached a settlement with Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann, who sued the network saying it defamed him. Terms were not disclosed. Sandmann also sued NBC and WAPO.
  98. On Monday, a bipartisan group of campaign finance lawyers urged the White House and congressional leaders to “work together and immediately” restore a quorum on the Federal Election Commission.
  99. The 31 attorneys noted the FEC cannot enforce the law, vote on investigations, provide guidance, or conduct audits. An August 2019 resignation left the agency without a quorum for the first time in 11 years.
  100. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors reversed course, recommending Trump’s former NSA Michael Flynn serve up to six months in prison, citing his failure to “accept responsibility” and “complete his cooperation.”
  101. On Wednesday, WAPO reported the Trump regime is seeking to delay disclosure of how much Secret Service spends to protect him and his adult children, information sought by Democrats, until after the 2020 election.
  102. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and senators are negotiating legislation to move Secret Service back to Treasury. Mnuchin has balked at Democrats’ demand that costs be disclosed within 120 days of it being passed.
  103. On Thursday, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge denied Trump’s bid to have E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit against him tossed out. Carroll said Trump hurt her career and reputation by denying her 1995 rape claim.
  104. On Thursday, Lt. Gen. Francis M. Beaudette, the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, denied a Special Forces tab to retired Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an officer who was pardoned by Trump.
  105. On Tuesday, WAPO reported Veterans groups say the Trump regime has ignored Russia and other foreign actors targeting U.S. troops and veterans with online disinformation for nearly two years.
  106. Agencies representing veterans and service members said disinformation could be weaponized to sow social discord in their communities. They said a December 18 letter to Trump on the matter has been ignored.
  107. On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Republican Party blocked Trump’s primary challengers, Bill Weld and Joe Walsh, from appearing on the state’s primary ballot, the tenth state to do so.
  108. On Wednesday, WAPO reported an article appearing on Teen Vogue praising Facebook for fighting misinformation ahead of the 2020 election was suddenly taken down without explanation.
  109. Facebook initially denied to WAPO that it had paid for the post, calling it “purely editorial,” but later in a statement, Facebook said it had “a paid partnership” with Teen Vogue, which included sponsored content.
  110. On Thursday, Facebook defied public outcry to rein in political ads, rolling out rules that will not limit political ad targeting tools or stop false claims in ads, but will rather allow users to control more of what they see.
  111. On Friday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration referred findings from WNYC and ProPublica’s October reporting on the Trump Organization’s property tax filings to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
  112. On Friday, Politico reported Peter Brimelow, an anti-immigration activist who hosts a website that has published the writings of white supremacists, sued the Times for $5 million for labeling him an “open white nationalist.”
  113. On Tuesday, Pompeo defended the strike, telling reporters that he and other officials “evaluated the relevant risks,” saying Soleimani’s activities “were going to lead potentially to the death of many more Americans.”
  114. Pompeo however did not repeat his assertion that an attack was “imminent,” instead saying, “If you’re looking for imminence, you need look no further than the days that led up to the strike.”
  115. On Tuesday, Iran foreign minister Zarif told “CBS This Morning” that Pompeo informed the U.N. secretary-general, who in turn informed him that the State Department would not grant him a visa for a U.N. visit.
  116. Zarif said the trip would give him a chance to discuss the targeted killing of Soleimani. A U.S. official told APthe application could not be processed in time for his travel, but made it unclear if the application was denied.
  117. Under the 1947 agreement, U.S. authorities “shall not impose any impediments to transit to or from” the U.N. headquarters for representatives of U.N. member nations, with few exceptions.
  118. Later Tuesday, Trump hosted Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the White House. Trump said “We have a tremendous Greek population,” adding, “I really feel I know most of them. I think I know all of them.”
  119. Trump also told reporters on Soleimani, “He was a monster. And he’s no longer a monster; he’s dead,” and “he was planning a very big attack and a very bad attack for us and other people, and we stopped it.”
  120. Trump also said “we saved a lot of lives by terminating his life,” adding, “A lot of lives were saved. They were planning something, and you’re going to be hearing about it, or at least various people in Congress are going to.”
  121. Trump said of bombing cultural sites, “If that’s what the law is, I will…obey the law…But think of it: They kill our people, they blow up our people, and then we have to be very gentle with their cultural institutions.”
  122. Trump also claimed only Democrats running against him are against the attack, saying, “I don’t hear too many people other than politicians who are trying to win the presidency, those are the ones that are complaining.”
  123. On Tuesday, NYT reported the Trump campaign sought to capitalize on the Soleimani killing, running nearly 800 distinct Facebook ads, referring to Trump’s “leadership as commander in chief.”
  124. On Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m., Iran fired a series of ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq which housed American forces. The attack was Iran’s most direct assault since on the U.S. since the 1979 hostage taking.
  125. Shortly after, Saeed Jalili, former secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Council and nuclear negotiator, tweeted a photo of Iran’s flag, seeming to mock Trump for doing the same after the strike on Soleimani.
  126. Iranian state TV announced the strike was in revenge for the U.S. killing Soleimani, and came as Iran buried him. There was no immediate reports of casualties, but buildings were still being searched.
  127. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard warned the U.S. and its regional allies against retaliating on state TV, saying, “any territory that is the starting point of aggressive acts against Iran will be targeted.”
  128. WAPO reported Defense Secretary Esper, carrying a large dark bag, and Secretary Pompeo were seen entering the White House. Officials sought to portray that the situation was not spiraling out of control.
  129. The White House gave mixed messages, with some staff telling reporters Trump would address the nation in prime time, but later canceled. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham chastised CNN for reporting on the address.
  130. At 9:32 p.m., the Iranian Foreign Minister tweeted, “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter,” adding, “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves.”
  131. At 9:45 p.m., after five days of tweeting dire threats, Trump tweeted, “All is well,” adding, “Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!” and, “I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”
  132. Later Tuesday, longtime NBC foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell told MSNBC that Trump has “the worse national security team I’ve ever seen,” citing the thinly staffed group and remaining yes men.
  133. WAPO reported more than half of Trump’s key national security advisers started their jobs in the past year. Key positions like director of national intelligence and secretary of DHS are filled by acting directors.
  134. Hours later, a Ukraine Airlines jet suddenly plummeted shortly after taking off from Tehran. Of the 176 on board, there were no survivors. The flight was bound for Kyiv, and was an American airplane, Boeing 737–800.
  135. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said passengers included 82 Iranians, 68 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 from Sweden, four from Afghanistan, three from Germany, and three from Britain.
  136. Iranian authorities said “technical” problems were the cause of the crash. Ukraine’s Embassy in Tehran initially concurred, but later took down their statement, raising questions about the cause of the crash.
  137. On Wednesday, the White House released a photo from the Situation Room on Tuesday night. Of the 14 principals in the room, all were white, and 13 were men (excluding press secretary Grisham).
  138. On Wednesday, Trump addressed the nation in a 10-minute speech just after 11 a.m. at the White House, flanked by Pence, Pompeo, Esper, and other seven other white male military officials.
  139. As Trump came to the podium, he opened with a forceful statement: “As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” but did not offer specifics during his speech.
  140. Trump appeared to seek to de-escalate, saying Tehran “appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned,” adding, “No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken.”
  141. Trump vowed to keep up the pressure on Iran with “punishing” new sanctions, and called Soleimani the “world’s top terrorist,” although he did not provide any information on the supposed imminent threat.
  142. Trump blamed Obama, repeating false claims that “hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.”
  143. The $150 billion number is well overestimated and was unfrozen money. The $1.8 billion was money spent by Iran for undelivered U.S. weapons, and was settled in an international court, and the amount was actually $1.7 billion.
  144. Trump mischaracterized, “The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for by the funds made available by the last administration,” and falsely claimed “Iran’s hostilities increased” after the 2015 deal.
  145. Trump also falsely claimed that his regime had destroyed “100 percent of ISIS and its territorial caliphate,” saying, “Tens of thousands of ISIS fighters have been killed or captured during my administration.”
  146. Trump called on world powers, including the U.K., Germany, France, Russia, and China, to “break away from the remnants of” the nuclear deal. The deal was signed in 2015, not 2013 as Trump stated.
  147. After failing to notify allies of the strike, Trump noted, “I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process,” but did not provide any details on how.
  148. Trump’s speech was notably incoherent, as he struggled with pronunciation and elocution while reading from the Teleprompter. He also sniffled or snorted 58 times, and stuck his tongue out.
  149. Later Wednesday, WAPO reported the White House knew on Tuesday morning an attack was coming from Iran, and by Tuesday afternoon were told by Iraqi officials that Iran intended to strike at U.S. facilities there.
  150. The attack appeared to be a calibrated event intended to cause minimal American casualties but let the U.S. know Iran had capabilities, and give both sides the opportunity to de-escalate.
  151. Later Wednesday, after the House was briefed, Speaker Pelosi announced the House would vote on a measure Thursday to force Trump to cease all military action against Iran unless he gets approval from Congress.
  152. Pelosi said in a statement that members had “serious, urgent concerns” about the Trump regime engaging in hostilities and “lack of strategy moving forward,” which were not addressed by the notification or briefing.
  153. Two Republican Senators, Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, said they would join the House version when it came to the Senate, calling the briefing by Pompeo, Esper, and C.I.A. director Gina Haspel “insulting.”
  154. Lee added the message from the Trump regime is “to run along and be good little boys and girls and not debate” the justification for the strike, adding, “It’s un-American, it’s unconstitutional, and it’s wrong.”
  155. Later Wednesday, Trump ally Doug Collins told Fox Business News that Democrats are “in love with terrorists,” and claiming “they mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families.”
  156. Late Wednesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a lower court’s order that had blocked the Trump regime from using $3.6 billion of Pentagon money to build sections of his wall along the southern border.
  157. On Thursday, Pence falsely claimed on “TODAY” that the regime could not provide Congress with some of the “most compelling” intelligence on killing Soleimani, claiming it could compromise “sources and methods.”
  158. On Thursday, NYT reported that in the hours leading up to the attack, the White House team was thin, including a handful of seasoned military veterans, but also others who had little foreign policy experience.
  159. On Thursday, WSJ reported Trump’s new national security team was cohesive and less inclined to push back against his wishes than their predecessors. Sen. Graham said the new advisers “understand the president.”
  160. The new security team is also less likely to consult in advance with other members of the regime, Pentagon or State Department officials, congressional leaders, or foreign allies.
  161. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis had challenged Trump at times. Esper and Pompeo, who are West Point classmates, are in lock-step on Iran and do not push back at Trump. Gen. Milley is willing to take more risks than his predecessor.
  162. According to associates, Trump told them after the strike that he was under pressure from GOP Senators, whose support he needs during the impeachment trial, to deal with Soleimani.
  163. On Thursday, Trump then shifted the topic back to impeachment and his record ahead of the election in a series of morning tweets, tweeting, “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!”
  164. Trump also tweeted of Pelosi, “remember her “speed & rush” in getting the Impeachment Hoax voted on & done. Well, she never sent the Articles to the Senate. Just another Democrat fraud. Presidential Harassment!”
  165. Trump also retweeted a doctored, red-tinted photo of Pelosi originally sent by Rep. Elise Stefanik as a fundraising appeal, saying, “Dems obsessed w/ impeachment but won’t send articles to the Senate. Why?”
  166. Trump also tweeted, “The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just reversed a lower court decision & gave us the go ahead to build,” falsely claiming, “Entire Wall is under construction or getting ready to start!”
  167. Trump also bragged about stock market performance, tweeting, “STOCK MARKET AT ALL-TIME HIGH! HOW ARE YOUR 409K’S DOING? 70%, 80%, 90% up? Only 50% up!” then deleted it, and corrected to 401K.
  168. On Thursday, House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith told CNN it was time for Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, saying, “let Mitch McConnell be responsible for the fairness of the trial.”
  169. Shortly after, in a tweet Smith said he had “misspoke,” saying, “I do believe we should do everything we can to force the Senate to have a fair trial,” saying he supports holding the articles if it will help force a fair trial.
  170. On Thursday, Majority Leader McConnell said the Senate will move forward with the “people’s business” next week if Pelosi does not send over the articles, and urged other Democrats to press her to do so.
  171. McConnell added, “Should future House majorities feel empowered to waste our time with junior varsitypolitical hostage situations?” and “trap our entire country into an unending Groundhog Day of impeachment.”
  172. On Thursday, in her weekly news conference, Pelosi continued to resist transmitting the articles, saying, “We need to see the arena to which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?”
  173.  Pelosi also indicated the articles would probably go to the Senate soon, saying, “I’m not holding them indefinitely,” adding, “I’ll send them over when I’m ready. And that will probably be soon.”
  174. On Thursday, Sen.Hawley announced that McConnell backed his resolution to change the Senate rules to dismiss the impeachment if the House does not turn over articles. Ten other Republicans signed on as well.
  175. On Thursday, a USA Today/Ipsos poll found by 52%-34%, Americans called Trump’s behavior with Iran “reckless,” and 55%-24% believe the attack that killed Soleimani made Americans less safe.
  176. Nearly a third of Republicans said the attack had made the nation less safe. The poll also found by 52%-8%, Americans said the attack made it more likely that Iran would develop nuclear weapons.
  177. On Thursday, asked by reporters about Sen. Lee’s criticism of the Iran briefing, Trump said, “Other people have said it was the best presentation they’ve ever seen,” saying the military “didn’t want to give” all the information.
  178. Trump added, “We caught a total monster. We took them out. And that should have happened a long time ago,” adding, “We did it because they were looking to blow up our embassy” — the first mention of an embassy.
  179. Trump also told reporters he did not believe the plane crash in Iran was caused by mechanical failure, saying, “It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood and somebody could have made a mistake.”
  180. On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters, “We have intelligence from multiple sources, including our allies and our own” indicating “the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.”
  181. Trudeau added, “This may well have been unintentional,” and said the new information reinforces the need “for a thorough investigation into this matter.”
  182. On Thursday, Iran denied its military was responsible. A government spokesman called it “a big lie,” blaming accusations on “psychological warfare” and adding the U.S. “is making the pain of the families worse.”
  183. Later Thursday, in a rebuke to Trump, the House voted 224-194 to approve a war powers resolution to restrict him on Iran, with eight Democrats voting against it, and three Republicans voting for.
  184. Earlier Thursday, Trump tweeted, “Hope that all House Republicans will vote against Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s War Powers Resolution.” The three Republicans voting for the resolution were Reps. Matt Gaetz, Thomas Massie, and Francis Rooney.
  185. The resolution directs Trump “to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military” unless Congress has given authorization.
  186. On Friday, WAPO reported Trump, and other Republicans in Congress, were furious with Trump ally Gaetz, who not only voted for the resolution, but also pushed other House Republicans to do the same.
  187. Gaetz’s legislative director emailed Republicans at 11 a.m.: “Reclaiming Congressional power is the Constitutional conservative position!” adding, “voting in favor of H. Con. Res. 83, and hope you will do the same!”
  188. A senior White House official said Gaetz’s move caught Trump by surprise, and called it “super uncool” and “quite unwise,” adding White House officials would not be returning Gaetz’s phone calls or text messages.
  189. On Thursday, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, slammed Rep. Collins for saying Democrats love terrorists, telling CNN, “I left parts of my body in Iraq fighting terrorists. I don’t need to justify myself to anyone.”
  190. On Friday, Rep. Collins apologized, tweeting, “Let me be clear: I do not believe Democrats are in love with terrorists, and I apologize for what I said earlier this week.”
  191. On Thursday, Trump held his first 2020 campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio. Standing in front of a giant American flag, Trump bragged about killing Soleimani, calling him “the world’s top terrorist” and a “bad guy.”
  192. Trump also said of Soleimani, “He was a bloodthirsty terror and he’s no longer a terror,” adding, “the radical left Democrats have expressed outrage,” but “they should be outraged by Soleimani’s savage crimes.”
  193. Trump said, “that was going to be another Benghazi. Had they broken through the final panels of glass, they were breaking it, breaking it,” adding Soleimani was “actively planning new attacks.”
  194. Trump also said, “Soleimani was actively planning new attacks, and he was looking very seriously at our embassies,” and not just Baghdad, adding, “But we stopped him, and we stopped him quickly, and we stopped him cold.”
  195. Trump said Pelosi is “not operating with a full deck,” after which some in the crowd responded with cheers of “Lock her up!” Trump called Chair Adam Schiff “You little pencil neck,” and said he would probably leak to the press.
  196. Trump also said Democrats are “stone-cold crazy,” and “they want crime, they want chaos,” adding, “Gee, now I sort of understand why they hate me, right?…But it’s true. It’s true. Their policies are a disaster.”
  197. Trump spoke on immigration, saying, “Innocent Americans are being brutalized and murdered by illegal alien criminals,” mentioning a supposed crime and rape spree in Ohio, and calling them “animals.”
  198. Trump also claimed he played a role in the Nobel Peace Prize going to the Ethiopian prime minister, saying, “I made a deal, I saved a country,” and on the prize, “Did I have something to do with it? Yeah.”
  199. Earlier in the day, Trump took credit for a report showing the largest one-year decline in cancer rates, tweeting, “U.S. Cancer Death Rate Lowest In Recorded History! A lot of good news coming out of this Administration.”
  200. On Thursday, Pompeo told Fox News host Laura Ingraham, “there were a series of imminent attacks” being plotted by Soleimani, adding, “we don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real.”
  201. On Friday, at a White House press briefing, Pompeo told reporters, “We had specific information on an imminent threat, and those threats from him included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period. Full stop.”
  202. Pompeo’s statement was different from what he told Ingraham the night prior. When pressed, he said, “I don’t know exactly which minute. We don’t know exactly which day it would have been executed.”
  203. Pompeo added, “Soleimani himself was plotting a broad, large-scale attack against American interests, and those attacks were imminent,” including “embassies, military bases [and] American facilities” in the region.
  204. When asked why he and Trump mentioned embassies but Congress did not hear about that in a classified setting, Pompeo contradicted lawmakers, saying, “We did,” adding, “We told them about the imminent threat.”
  205. Several Democratic senators and representatives, including ranking member Sen. Menendez and Chair Smith, said they were not informed about a possible plot to blow up U.S. embassies.
  206. Shortly after, dictionary Merriam Webster tweeted, “We define ‘imminent’ as “ready to take place; happening soon.”” Other words of the week included ‘assassination,’ ‘mourn,’ and ‘de-escalate.’
  207. Later Friday, in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, excerpts of which were released Friday afternoon, Trump said of the Soleimani threat, “I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies.”
  208. WAPO reported the State Department did not respond to questions whether alerts were conveyed to four embassies. The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence also declined to comment.
  209. Senior regime officials say Trump is obsessed with not letting a Benghazi-like attack to happen while in office. An official said the embassy in Baghdad did not receive a threat commensurate to what Trump described.
  210. On Friday, Pelosi said in a letter the House will vote next week to send to the articles to the Senate. She noted “more than 70 percent of the public stating that the President should allow his top aides to testify.”
  211. Pelosi also attacked McConnell’s behavior, saying he “has been engaged in tactics of delay in presenting transparency, disregard for the American people’s interest for a fair trial and dismissal of the facts.”
  212. On Friday, Sen. Susan Collins told the Bangor Daily News that she is working with a “fairly small group” of fellow Republicans to ensure witnesses will be called in the Senate impeachment trial.
  213. On Friday, WAPO reported that on the day of the strike against Soleimani, the Trump regime also targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, a financier and key commander in Iran’s elite Quds Force in Yemen, but that strike failed.
  214. The unsuccessful operation indicated that Soleimani’s death may have been part of a broader operation to weaken the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, not what has been communicated by Trump.
  215. On Friday, the Navy said a Russian navy ship had “aggressively approached” U.S. destroyer USS Farragut, while it was conducting routine operations in the North Arabian Sea on Thursday.
  216. The U.S. ship fired five warning blasts before the Russian ship ultimately changed its course, after initially refusing. A similar incident happened in June, when U.S. and Russian ships nearly collided in the Pacific.
  217. On Friday, police in Palm Beach arrested an Iranian man who was carrying $22,000 in cash and weapons, including a machete, pickax, and two knives near Mar-a-Lago, after receiving a call about a suspicious person.
  218. Later Friday, in his Fox News interview with Ingraham, Trump weighed in on Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, saying they would step back from royal duties, saying, “I think it’s sad.”
  219. Trump has called the Duchess, who is a black woman, “nasty,” and praised Queen Elizabeth II, saying, “She’s a great woman. She’s never made a mistake, if you look. She’s had like a flawless time.”
  220. Trump said of Bolton testifying, “You can’t be in the White House as president, future, I’m talking about future — any future presidents — and have a security adviser, anybody having to do with security, and legal…”
  221. After first saying he had “no problem” with Bolton testifying, when Ingraham asked if he would invoke executive privilege, Trump changed his position, “Well I think you have to for the sake of the office.”
  222. Trump said of Pelosi, “She is obsessed with impeachment, she has done nothing,” adding, “She is going to go down as one of the worst Speakers in the history of our country,” and “And she’s become a crazed lunatic.”
  223. Trump also falsely claimed, “My numbers are the highest they’ve ever been,” saying, “People love that we took out this horrible terrorist,” and adding, “a lot of it is because of the impeachment hoax.”
  224. Trump also claimed he left troops in Syria to take the oil, a war crime, saying, “And then they say he left troops in Syria. You know what I did? I left troops to take the oil. I took the oil.”
  225. When Ingraham asked to clarify and correct Trump’s statement, asking, “Not taking the oil, they’re not taking the oil,” he responded, “Well, maybe we will. Maybe we won’t,” and, “we’re protecting the oil. We have the oil.”
  226. Trump also said Saudi Arabia was paying for U.S. troops, saying ,“I said, listen, you’re a very rich country. You want more troops?” adding, “They’re paying us. They’ve already deposited $1B in the bank.”
  227. On Friday, WSJ reported that Trump allies are exploring a buyout of news channel One America News Network in an effort to shake up the conservative media market, which is dominated by Fox News.
  228. Investment firm Hicks Equity Partners, owned by the family of Thomas Hicks Jr., co-chair of the RNC and a close friend of Donald Jr., is pitching GOP wealthy donors to be part of a roughly $250 million deal.
  229. Later Friday, Iran admitted it shot down the Ukrainian airliner, saying the the shot was “unintentional” and blaming “human error,” after denying it for four days.
  230. Rouhani tweeted, “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” and “My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families.” Iranian protestors called for him to step down.
  231. Pompeo tweeted a video of the protests, adding, “The voice of the Iranian people is clear. They are fed up with the regime’s lies, corruption, ineptitude and brutality” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
  232. On Saturday, in a filing to the FISA court made public on Saturday, the FBI apologized for the way it conducted surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser during the 2016 election.
  233. FBI director Christopher Wray outlined steps taken by the bureau to ensure it does not happen again, saying, “The FBI has the utmost respect for this Court and deeply regrets the errors and omissions identified.”
  234. On Saturday, Trump tweeted to Wray, “Chris, what about all of the lives that were ruined because of the so-called “errors?” Are these “dirty cops” going to pay a big price for the fraud they committed?”
  235. Trump also tweeted, “Where have the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats gone when they have spent the last 3 days defending the life of Qassem Soleimani,” adding, “He was also looking to do big future damage!”
  236. Trump also tweeted, “New polling shows that the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax is going nowhere,” without citing a poll, and claiming, “A vast majority want the Do Nothing Democrats to move on.”
  237. Trump also tweeted, “95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party, a record. 53% Approval Rating overall (can we add 7 to 10 percent because of the Trump “thing?”).” There are no polls showing this to be true.
  238. Trump also tweeted, “Nancy Pelosi will go down as the absolute worst Speaker of the House in U.S. history!” This was the third time in two days that Trump has made this claim.
  239. Trump also tweeted, “Now the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, are asking @senatemajldr Mitch McConnell to do the job that they were unable to do,” adding, “They proved NOTHING but my total innocence.”
  240. On Friday, WAPO reported Iraq’s caretaker PM Adel Abdul Mahdi asked Pompeo in a call on Thursday to begin talks about a “mechanism” for U.S. troops to withdraw after the vote by their parliament.
  241. In response, Pompeo said in a defiant statement, “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicatedto discussing how best to recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal.”
  242. On Saturday, WSJ reported the Trump regime warned Iraq that it could shut down Iraq’s access to the country’s central bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, if U.S. troops are told to leave.
  243. Iraq maintains government accounts at the New York Fed as a way to manage the country’s finances, including from oil sales. Cutting off access to these funds could jolt Iraq’s already shaky economy.

The Weekly List podcast is here! You can find more information here by clicking here.

THE LIST — weeks 1–52 of The Weekly List is out as a book! You can order your copy by clicking here.

Trump addresses the nation from the White House on the ballistic missile strike that Iran launched against Iraqi air bases housing U.S. troops, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and military leaders, looks on.

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/
IMG_2304
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.

IMG_2331

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.

IMG_0538
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.

The Weekly List podcast is here! You can find more information here by clicking here.

THE LIST — weeks 1–52 of The Weekly List is out as a book! You can order your copy by clicking here.

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.

NYC GRAFFITI: ICY AND SOT TAKE ON THE WORLD!

Most of the street art of Icy and Sot, peppered with images that speak the international idiom of youth culture—skateboards, peace signs—doesn’t necessarily say much about the artists themselves. But there is the occasional piece, like the stencil of a man dressed like a beer bottle with the word “BEER” followed by “IS NOT A CRIME” in spray paint that gives clues to where they’re coming from.

The brothers, aged twenty-seven and twenty-two, hail from Tabriz, Iran, where they lived until they moved to Brooklyn last summer. As teenagers, their entry into street art came about from their interest (especially Sot’s) in skateboarding—a growing, though not yet particularly popular, pastime in Iran. They began putting up small stenciled works on the streets of Tabriz and posting the images on the Internet. Documenting their work was important, because the art would be erased within two or three days of being created. For more: http://narrative.ly/the-spirit-of-storytelling/icy-sot-conquer-the-art-world/

In the East Village:

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

At Bushwick Collective:

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

FREE:

ImageImageImageImageImage

Stickers:

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Me and the Icy and Sot ‘boy’:

ImageImage

SEP13. New York City.

MATURIN: MY COMPOUND

As Venezuela is considered the most dangerous country in the world, precautions are made for foreigners who visit here to work. I am scheduled to be here for a month, and at quite an auspicious time, as the president is laid up in a hospital bed in Cuba, making things feel even more surreal than they already are. What is said to make this place so dangerous, is the tendency people have to shoot you here without remorse and without fear of the police. A large percentage of crimes go unsolved. The police aren’t paid enough to put themselves out there, it appears. Whereas in Colombia, I felt an overwhelming police presence, I don’t see it here at all and I’d like to. Last week someone was shot and killed for their Blackberry. It doesn’t seem enough to just mug someone, the thieves intend to kill, as well. People say there’s such a sense of ‘not having’ here, that they will take everything they can. The inflation has gone through the roof and people cannot afford the technological luxuries that we see in most other places. A sense of hopelessness causes some to resort to fatal crimes. So, with all of that being said, my point is, the center I work for has provided us with a driver to take us to and from work, as well as placed us in a secure ‘compound’ out of the main center of the city. We are isolated. Very isolated. But, I do feel safe. Here are some photos to try to give you a sense of our lifestyle for the next month:

Image

Midway between the main road and our compound, is this mobile police trailer. I don’t know how much good it would do us, but it’s nice to see.

Image

Every morning and evening, we wait at the gate with our driver to be authorized to enter or exit the compound.

Image

A massive swimming pool for my enjoyment in my free time. This is a nice perk, for sure.

ImageImage

The view from the bedroom window shows you how far we are from civilization. The buildings you see are just warehouses for construction companies.

Image

The apartment is comfortable. Great size. Air-conditioned. Wi-fi. This is a view from one end of the apartment to the other starting at the bedroom.

Image

The bathroom. Hot water. Powerful shower.

Image

Upon entering the apartment, this is the front room area. Kind of 1960’s kitschy couch and orange chairs. Nice, tall dining table in the kitchen area.

Image

Kitchen. One small burner and one medium burner on the stove. No oven, but a microwave.

Image

Finally, the bedroom from another perspective.

So, you can see that Venezuela has pockets of modernity and there is a vast gap in the social classes here…which lends to the massive crime problem. Actually, living on this compound, are a lot of Iranians who work in the construction business. The relationship between Venezuela and Iran is significant. As a side note, I won’t be going into the barrios, but it turns out that in regards to another significant relationship, Cuban doctors run the hospitals and clinics in those parts of the city.

13JAN13. Maturin, Venezuela.