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Senate Republicans may have realized they neutered themselves for nothing after Bolton’s revelations

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- Commentary

I argued last week the Senate Republicans neutered themselves when they voted down amendments creating procedures worthy of “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

All 53 decided against issuing new subpoenas, entering to new evidence and calling for new witnesses. They decided against accountability, transparency and due process.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

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As a consequence, they created a kangaroo court mocking America’s separation of powers. As a consequence, they revealed themselves, as one Twitter follower put it, to be “a party of moral relativism, ethical nihilism and legal sophism.” Or, like, fascism.

Neutering themselves was the price for loyalty to a president facing the prospect of removal from office. That probably felt like a good trade-off, even for “moderate” senators in bluish-reddish states facing reelection this year. At the very least, standing with Donald Trump, and acquitting him, meant their heads would not be on pikes.

But loyalty to a lying, thieving, philandering sadist was always risky. Turns out the White House knew the Republicans’ carefully planned rationales for defending a criminal president would blow up. The administration knew it was a matter of time before a book by a former Trump official would make fools and knaves of them all.

What’s done is done, though.

Any dog will tell you once neutered, there’s no going back.

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The Times reported the contents of a forthcoming book by John Bolton. In it, the former head of the National Security Council says yup, Trump totally bribed Ukraine to gain advantage at home. He withheld hundreds of millions to aid that country’s war against Russia in exchange for investigations into Trump’s top domestic rival.

Importantly, Trump’s bribery demanded Ukrainian officials turn over “all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to Mr. Biden and supporters of Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton in Ukraine,” per the Times. This is new. More in a moment.

Copies of Bolton’s manuscript had been sent to the White House for standard vetting of classified information. But here’s the thing: the president’s press office didn’t know about the existence of Bolton’s manuscript until it was too late, according to Axios.

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While it’s plausible incompetence is creating headaches for the GOP, it’s equally plausible corrupt motives are in play. Given everything we know about how hard this White House worked to cover up Trump’s bribery, it stands to reason it work just as hard to ensure no one saw Bolton’s book until the Republicans acquitted the president.

Why are the Senate Republicans putting their political lives on the line for a president so ready to betray them? I don’t know. Perhaps the Republicans don’t either. For their own sake, they’d better figure it out. The drip-drip-drip of bad news will continue through Election Day. It’s shrewd to fear a party leader threatening to put your head on a pike. At what point, however, does avoiding such a fate end up causing it?

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Republicans like Lindsey Graham have nothing to fear, however. The South Carolina senator has threatened, in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to open an investigation into Joe Biden and his only living son. Ukraine is awash in corruption, but even that was too much for Ukraine. Not so for Lindsey Graham.

Which brings me back to the Times report.

Up to now, our understanding has been the president held up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for a public announcement of sham investigations. State Department officials testified the announcement was the deliverable. Whether it actually investigated seemed beside the point. But John Bolton says Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, wanted Ukraine to turn over “all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to” Biden and Hillary Clinton. That new detail is meaningful for two reasons.

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One, Trump’s conspiracy theory in which the Ukrainians, not the Russians, undermined our sovereignty in 2016 is not just a conspiracy theory. It is a willful and knowing effort on the part of the president and his confederates to erase the past and replace it with a “new history” in which Trump is the original victim and ultimate hero in a battle with evil Democrats in league with evil Ukrainians attacking the US of A.

Two, Graham, in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is positioned to receive “all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to” Biden and Clinton. He is positioned, in other words, to deepen and widen the force of the president’s lies using the power of an investigation by the United States Senate.

The Republicans neutered themselves.

Now we know what it was for.

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How Trump’s minions poisoned Washington

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What would you do if Trump defender and Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight called you, mistakenly believing you were Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and shared his ideas to help President Trump win re-election? Would you let him talk or inform him he had the wrong number? How would you react if Rudy Giuliani suddenly texted you, claiming he was being held hostage on an airplane by Robert Mueller, who wouldn't release him until he ratted out Trump? Would you laugh it off or write about it?

This article first appeared on Salon.

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Maybe unvaccinated people shouldn’t be allowed to fly

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As the coronavirus spreads, the nation’s leading health official told a Senate committee on Feb. 25 that “we cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus.”

The comments from Alex Azar II, head of Health and Human Services, heightened concerns about the effects of the coronavirus in the U.S., which so far has sickened a relatively small number – 57 – of people in the U.S.

And with hundreds of new cases of the coronavirus reported in South Korea, a spike of deaths in Iran, and a 10-town lockdown in Italy, the rapidly spreading COVID-19 may be on the verge of becoming a pandemic. The World Health Organization now says the disease has “pandemic potential.”

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Earth’s got a new ‘moon’ – here’s what to expect

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The Minor Planet Centre has just announced that the Earth has been orbited by a second moon for the past three years or so. But while excitement about the discovery is growing, it is important to keep in mind that this moon isn’t as impressive as our main satellite. It is extremely faint – it is estimated to be only between one and six metres across – and won’t be with us for much longer.

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