The president of the United States isn’t taking this whole impeachment thing very well is he? From his red-faced tarmac tirades last week to his hysterical tweeting over the weekend, it’s clear that he is losing whatever tenuous hold he had on his emotions. Here’s just a sample of the most powerful man in the world’s state of mind right now:
“State Department has stepped up Hillary Clinton Email probe.” @foxandfriends You mean the 33,000 Emails that she has deleted and acid washed so they can never be found, even though she said that all 33,000 pertained only to her daughter’s wedding, and her Yoga!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019
His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2019
Yes, he’s demanding that House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., be investigated by “the highest authority” (whoever that might be) for treason and fraud. And he’s retweeting supporters who are threatening civil war if the House impeaches him. To say he is upset is an understatement.
The other big Republican with his name in the crosshairs is Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani — who, it must be remembered, was leading the GOP presidential primary field eight years ago at this point, proving that the Republican Party has been heading over the cliff for a long while. Giuliani seemed barely coherent on television this weekend; one imagines that if he had become president we would probably have landed in pretty much the same place we are now.
Giuliani showed up on ABC’s “This Week” with his hands full of papers he claimed would prove that Donald Trump had been framed by the Democrats. He lied in claiming he had never pushed the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had hacked the Democratic National Committee to frame to Russians, but did insist that the Ukrainians had created “false information” and colluded with Hillary Clinton to interfere in the 2016 election. His client has certainly signed on to the Ukrainian hacking theory. That’s what Trump was referring to in his conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky when he mentioned CrowdStrike, a computer security firm in California whose founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, is — well, no, not Ukrainian. (He’s Russian by birth.)
Giuliani waved his papers around for the cameras and claimed that if Trump hadn’t demanded that the Ukrainian president investigate Joe Biden he would have violated Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, whatever that means. (That largely concerns the president’s authority to convene or adjourn Congress, and his duty to deliver the State of the Union.) Giuliani also said he would not appear before the House Intelligence Committee, or that perhaps he would if they put in a chairman he approved of (i.e., not Adam Schiff).
He had a lot to say and little of it made any sense.
Giuliani is falling apart. He’s in the middle of a contentious divorce. His former colleagues in the Justice Department have said that the prosecutor he once was would have arrested the lawyer he is now. His legacy as “America’s Mayor” after 9/11 has been shattered. It’s only a matter of time before Donald Trump has to pull the plug on this relationship in order to save himself. Whether Giuliani sticks with the boss or follows in the footsteps of his previous fixer, Michael Cohen, his future doesn’t look bright.
The question then will be whether Trump calls in the B-team, longtime Republican lawyers Joe diGenova and his wife Victoria Toensing. They are all up to speed on this Ukraine situation, since they’ve been working with Giuliani since at least last spring. The New York Times reported in May that while Trump had decided not to bring the conservative power couple into the White House to work on the Russia probe, they would “assist him with other legal matters.” This explains that.
Toensing and diGenova had been pushing the Ukraine conspiracy theory on Fox and on Twitter for months:
— Victoria Toensing (@VicToensing) March 21, 2019
Toensing was even scheduled to accompany Giuliani on his controversial and ultimately canceled trip to Ukraine, and has personally met with the Ukrainian prosecutor at the center of the conspiracy theory.
Recall that Toensing was also involved in the bogus Uranium One scandal as well as “Spygate.” She defended former Trump underlings Mark Corallo and Sam Clovis, both witnesses in the Mueller investigation. In other words, this dynamic duo has been operating “off the books” in Trump World, as Chris Wallace put it on Fox News this weekend, for some time. As Josh Marshall has reported, Toensing and diGenova have recently signed another client by the name of Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who happens to be the former business partner of Paul Manafort, Trump’s now-incarcerated former campaign chairman. It’s a small world after all.
But Trump might have another reason for turning to diGenova and Toensing. They know their way around impeachment. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the late ’90s, the Washington Post called them “The Power Couple at Scandal’s Vortex.” The reporter on that piece was Howard Kurtz, now of Fox News, who wrote:
DiGenova has become a white-hot media presence, politically connected lawyer and all-around agent provocateur. He and Toensing, also a battle-tested former prosecutor, keep popping up wherever there is trouble — as commentators, as investigators, as unnamed sources for reporters. A classic Washington power couple, diGenova, 53, and Toensing, 56, occupy a strange, symbiotic nexus between the media and the law that boosts their stock in both worlds. They are clearly players, which gives them access to juicy information, which gets them on television, which generates legal business.
These people were made for the Trump era. In fact, in some ways they invented it. Here’s Toensing, after the revelation that she was approached by a go-between for Linda Tripp, the woman who was working with GOP operative Lucianne Goldberg to trap Lewinsky into talking about her affair with Bill Clinton on tape:
On NBC’s “Today” the next morning, Toensing assailed what she called “the anatomy of a lie. … That’s how it works here, folks. It ain’t pretty. … They put out just enough of a kernel of truth and then spin it, because what they want to do is make it look like all Republicans got together to go after the president.”
Sound familiar? I wrote about the two of them back in February of 2018, when it was announced they would represent Corallo. DiGenova had been giving interviews pushing a theory that Barack Obama and James Comey had engaged in “a brazen plot to exonerate Hillary Clinton and frame an incoming president with a false Russian conspiracy.” In fact, diGenova had been working that beat even before the 2016 election, complaining on Fox News about Comey’s handing of the Clinton email case:
Comey’s a dirty cop. And if there’s one thing a prosecutor hates worse than a criminal, it’s a dirty cop. … He threw this case. He did it for political reasons. He lied publicly about the quality of the case. He lied publicly about the law. He lied publicly about the ability to get documents when he could have used the grand jury and he didn’t.
Recall that Rudy Giuliani had been saying much the same thing at the time, and was rumored to be working with the New York FBI office to ensure that Comey would blow up the Clinton campaign in the last days.
There’s no word that diGenova and Toensing were working with Giuliani back then. They really didn’t have to. They’re professional Republican operatives who do character assassination for a living. They don’t have to be told.
So of course they are involved in this Ukraine business. They have been at the center of every bogus right-wing conspiracy hustle of the last 20 years. Where else would they be?
Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers
The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.
This article first appeared in Salon.
How a general strike might play out in the United States
The idea that pandemic-related economic insecurity might spur a general strike has been trending among pundits and the public in the past week. Such a labor action, which would imply a complete shutdown of all industries as all workers cease showing up to work, would be historically unprecedented, a prominent historian told Salon.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Trump is preparing the ground for a totalitarian dictatorship
We're all going to know someone who has died of the coronavirus when this is over. The tragic news is all over Facebook and Twitter already. My friend Patricia Bosworth, the actress and biographer, died on Friday of the virus. Everyone has friends and acquaintances who have the virus, family members who have died, favorite musicians or actors and friends of friends who are sick and dying. The virus has taken them from us, but so has Donald Trump with his inaction and lying and childish finger-pointing and failure to take responsibility.
This article first appeared in Salon.