It bears repeating. Donald Trump was not only press-ganging Volodymyr Zelensky in an illegal scheme for partisan gain. He was rewriting the history of 2016 in order to wound enemies (Democrats) and help friends (Vladimir Putin)—as well as to give Kremlin operatives room to strike again. It is in no way overstating it to say the president of the United States is the head of an international conspiracy to defraud the American people.
It has remained to be seen how far the Republican Party is willing to go in defense of Trump’s conspiracy. Senate Republicans quickly conceded that Russia sabotaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, but stopped short of saying the president benefited (because admitting that would be admitting Trump is an illegitimate president.)
But now, as the impeachment process enters a new and dangerous phase, we are seeing new GOP behavior (though we have witnessed plenty of hints). David Drucker, a superlative reporter, wrote today that Republicans decided the best way to defend the president is to embrace “the claim of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.”
Let’s be clear. There was no Ukrainian interference. That’s according to the special counsel’s report, which cited one and a half dozen national security agencies. That’s according to the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report. That’s according to every career official in the State Department who testified under oath last month.
The idea that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked the US originated in the Kremlin. The idea that the Democrats, not Trump’s campaign staffers, conspired with foreign operatives is more than “conspiracy theory.” It is a fascist ploy to turn lies into truth. This is why I said recently Trump’s crime is so much worse than abuse of power. It’s treason.
And the Republicans, like lemmings, are heading for a cliff.
Now, it’s one thing to follow the party wherever it goes. Ordinary partisan activity, however vile, isn’t something I care to debate now. It quite another thing, however, to know what you’re doing is wrong and do it anyway. The Republicans can’t not know.
First, because intelligence officials briefed Senate Republicans, telling them explicitly the Ukraine-attacked-us story is pure Putin disinformation. Second, because Fiona Hill, a former member of the White House National Security Council, and a Russia authority, was clear about what House Republicans were already doing. She said:
In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests. I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016 (my italics).
And now we have another reason why the Republicans can’t not know they are participating in conspiracy to defraud the American people. Rudy Giuliani, who is not regarded for his discretion, confessed to knowing the Ukraine-attacked-us story was bunk. Not only that, the president’s personal attorney actually said he decided to pursue “evidence” of Ukraine’s attack in order to undercut Robert Mueller’s report.
I knew they were hot and heavy on this Russian collusion thing, even though I knew 100 percent that it was false. I said to myself, ‘Hallelujah.’ I’ve got what a defense lawyer always wants: I can go prove someone else committed this crime.”
So: to defend Trump is to defend Russia.
Is that where the Republicans want to go?
Well, yes, if Tucker Carlson is any indication. The Fox News host is on the bleeding edge of attempts by Trump partisans to expand what the American people think is acceptable behavior. On his show last night, he said: “I’m totally opposed to these [US] sanctions [on Russia] and I don’t think we should be at war with Russia and I think we should take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine.”
He went on to say the Democrats hate America more than Vladimir Putin does.
Tucker: I should say for the record that I’m totally opposed to these sanctions and I don’t think we should be at war with Russia and I think we should take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine pic.twitter.com/aWvj4j8lII
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) December 3, 2019
I think it’s fair for some conservative writers, like Charlie Sykes and Matt Lewis, to characterize the Republicans as dupes and stooges or parroting the Kremlin line. But at some point, we must face what it means for Republicans to know the truth but to advance Kremlin lies anyway, even when doing so slowly burns down the republic. At some point soon, we must stop calling dupes, and start calling them the enemy.
Courts have avoided refereeing between Congress and the president — Trump may change all that
President Donald Trump’s refusal to hand over records to Congress and allow executive branch employees to provide information and testimony to Congress during the impeachment battle is the strongest test yet of legal principles that over the past 200 years have not yet been fully defined by U.S. courts.
It’s not the first test: Struggles over power among the political branches predate our Constitution. The framers chose not to, and probably could not, fully resolve them.
Donald Trump sounds like a complete lunatic because he’s isolated himself in a far-right media bubble
Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
If you have an older relative who spends way too much time stewing in the conservative media, you may have experienced a moment when you not only disagreed with him, but you realized that you had no earthly clue what he was going on about. Perhaps it was when he started talking about the UN plot to eliminate golf courses and replace paved roads with bicycle paths. Maybe he stopped you in your tracks with a discourse on why flies were attracted to Barack Obama, or complained about the government insisting on referring to Christians as "Easter-worshippers" or expressed outrage over 9/11 hijackers being given leniency by Muslim jurists.
American exceptionalism is killing the planet
Ever since 2007, when I first started writing for TomDispatch, I’ve been arguing against America’s forever wars, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that, despite my more than 60 articles, American blood is still being spilled in war after war across the Greater Middle East and Africa, even as foreign peoples pay a far higher price in lives lost and cities ruined. And I keep asking myself: Why, in this century, is the distinctive feature of America's wars that they never end? Why do our leaders persist in such repetitive folly and the seemingly eternal disasters that go with it?