Emotional Schiff Speech Goes Viral, Delighting the Left and Enraging the Right

New York Times

Emotional Schiff Speech Goes Viral, Delighting the Left and Enraging the Right

Representative Adam B. Schiff took a risk in telling senators they must convict and remove President Trump because “you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country.”

‘The Truth Matters,’ Schiff Says in Emotional Appeal to Senate.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, the lead impeachment manager, gave an impassioned speech urging senators to convict and remove President Trump. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

But here, right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth. No constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter any more. And you know, you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now, he’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters, because right matters, and the truth matters, otherwise we are lost.

WASHINGTON — Senator James M. Inhofe, a conservative Republican from Oklahoma, has made clear that he intends to vote to acquit President Trump. But after Representative Adam B. Schiff’s fiery speech Thursday night calling for the president’s removal, Mr. Inhofe felt compelled to give his fellow lawmaker some grudging respect.

“I have to say this,” Mr. Inhofe told reporters Friday morning in the Capitol. “Schiff is very, very effective.”

Mr. Schiff, a California Democrat who steered the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump and is the lead prosecutor in his Senate trial, has long been a hero to the left and a villain to the right. But never has he aroused as much passion as he has during his closing arguments in the president’s impeachment trial.

First, there was Thursday’s declaration that “you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country,” and then on Friday, he invoked a news report that Republican senators had been warned that their heads would be “on a pike” if they voted against Mr. Trump.

On Friday morning, the phrase #RightMatters — from the last line of Mr. Schiff’s Thursday speech — was trending as a hashtag on Twitter. The Daily Beast declared that the remarks “will go down in history.” Ryan Knight, a progressive activist, called it “a closing statement for the ages.” Video of the speech quickly went viral. Liberals lavished him with praise.

“I am in tears,” wrote Debra Messing, the “Will & Grace” actress and outspoken Trump critic. “Thank you Chairman Schiff for fighting for our country.”

Republicans had precisely the opposite reaction. Many view Mr. Schiff, 59, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, as a slick and self-righteous political operator intent on undoing the results of the 2016 election — or preventing Mr. Trump from winning in 2020. In the Senate, Republicans took particular umbrage at his declaration that they could not trust the president.

“I don’t trust Adam Schiff,” Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, shot back.

On Fox News, Mr. Schiff was filleted. “Amateur Thespian Schiff Tries Out Some New Lines,” TV monitors broadcasting the network declared Thursday, as the host Tucker Carlson mocked the congressman, calling him a “wild-eyed conspiracy nut.”

And if Mr. Schiff had made any inroads with Republicans in the Senate chamber, he may have undercut them on Friday with his “head on a pike” remark, drawn from an anonymously sourced CBS News report. Mr. Schiff used it to liken Mr. Trump to a monarch, but the implication was that Republicans were terrified of crossing him.

“The whole room was visibly upset on our side,” said Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, “and it’s sad, it’s insulting and demeaning to everyone to say that we somehow live in fear and that the president has threatened all of us to put our head on the pike.”

Mr. Schiff took a risk in telling senators they must convict and remove President Trump because "you know you can't trust this president to do what's right for this country."
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

 

A Stanford- and Harvard-educated lawyer, Mr. Schiff is drawing on skills he honed as a young federal prosecutor in Los Angeles. He first drew national attention in 1990 by winning the conviction of an F.B.I. agent who became romantically entangled with a Russian spy, and was accused of selling government secrets in exchange for promises of gold and cash.

Prosecutors said Mr. Schiff took a risk in his bald declaration Thursday night that the president could not be trusted because Republicans in the chamber, almost all of whom support Mr. Trump, would see the criticism as implicitly directed at them.

“When you make an argument like that, you better be sure that your entire audience is with you,” said James G. McGovern, a criminal defense lawyer at Hogan Lovells in New York and a former prosecutor.

Multiple Republicans said afterward that they had not at all been moved by Mr. Schiff. “It seems to me their case is weaker today than it was yesterday,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Senate Republican.

But Anne Milgram, a former attorney general of New Jersey and now a law professor at New York University, described Mr. Schiff’s sharp criticism of Mr. Trump as a “wise calculation,” because unlike a regular jury trial, Mr. Schiff does not need a unanimous verdict. The argument was aimed, she said, at the four or so moderate Republicans whose votes Democrats will need to call witnesses at the trial.

Regardless of the risk, it was clear on both sides of the aisle — and to experienced prosecutors who watched — that after a long day of complicated and sometimes monotonous testimony, Mr. Schiff’s oratory broke through. Mr. Schiff apparently thought so himself. He posted the last eight minutes, the most dramatic part of his speech, on Twitter Thursday night, and by Friday evening it had been viewed 5.9 million times.

“Sometimes when Schiff steps to the mic I think he’s a little scripted,” Ms. Milgram said. “I did not feel that last night. I thought it was the most authentic I have seen him. He sort of crossed into another level.”

Mr. Schiff opened by carefully leading the Senate through the House’s case that the president abused his office by trying to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, weaving in bits and pieces of testimony and commentary along the way. He then turned to his Senate audience and stated what he believes to be the obvious: Mr. Trump is guilty.

“Do we really have any doubt about the facts here?” Mr. Schiff asked. “Does anybody really question whether the president is capable of what he’s charged with? No one is really making the argument Donald Trump would never do such a thing, because of course we know that he would, and of course we know that he did.

But that, Mr. Schiff said, led to the most critical question of all: “Does he really need to be removed?” The answer was yes, Mr. Schiff said, then offered a situation in which the Russians interfered in the 2020 election to help Mr. Trump, just as they did in 2016.

In the Capitol, Mr. Schiff is ordinarily serious, composed and in control. But as he moved toward his closing comments, he grew visibly emotional as he recalled the testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the White House national security aide and Ukrainian immigrant who testified in impeachment hearings before Congress and helped Democrats build their case.

Colonel Vindman, who fled the former Soviet Union with his family when he was 3, testified that he felt deeply uncomfortable with a telephone call Mr. Trump had on July 25 with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, when Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to “do us a favor” and investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Schiff recalled how Colonel Vindman told lawmakers that unlike in the former Soviet Union, “right matters” in the United States.

“Well, let me tell you something,” Mr. Schiff went on, his forefinger jabbing the air for emphasis. “If right doesn’t matter, if right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. Doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is.” If “right doesn’t matter,” he concluded, “we’re lost.”

Michael D. Shear and Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

Trump on Trial is a continuing series of articles offering reporting, analysis and impressions of the Senate impeachment proceedings.

John Roberts Has More Power Than Mitch McConnell Would Like You to Think.

By Martin London       January 20, 2020

 

London is a retired partner for the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and the author of The Client Decides; he was a principal lawyer for Vice President Spiro Agnew.

As chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts presides at the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Chief Justice Reads Impeachment Rules to Senate

The Constitution is, in many respects, vague. And no part of our founding charter has more gaps than the impeachment clauses.

At the time of drafting of the Constitution, the colonists were still recovering from a bitter eight-year war for independence, in which their adversary was the armed forces of the British King George III — the tyrannical monarch who had stripped them of their right to self-government. So while the Founders understood the need for an executive department of any effective government, they were wary of recreating anything close to a monarchy. The result was a compromise, a tripartite state consisting of a legislature, an executive and a judiciary.

One of the checks in this balance was to give the legislature the power to remove any member of the executive branch, including the President, by impeachment.

But the Founders chose not to provide many details regarding the impeachment process. All they told us in Article I was that (i) the House “shall have the sole power of Impeachment,” and the Senate “the sole power to try all Impeachments,” (ii) “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside” and (iii) it takes a two-thirds vote to convict, and the punishment is limited to removal from office.

That’s it. The Article says nothing about witnesses, hearings or any other procedural aspects in either house. Indeed, it is only when we reach Article II that we learn the standard for impeachment and conviction is “Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Now, facing the third-ever presidential impeachment trial in history, we grapple with procedural issues left unspecified by the Founders, but that are potentially of great significance on the issue of this President’s guilt.

The most prominent question today, is shall the Senate hear witnesses? Precedent suggests the answer is “yes”– there have been 15 prior impeachment trials in the Senate (two involving Presidents) and all have had witness testimony in the Senate.  And there is no Constitutional bar against witnesses in what the Constitution refers to as an impeachment “trial.” But Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader in the Senate, is clearly willing to ignore precedent and has thus far refused to commit to calling witnesses. He even considers that his constitutional oath to do “impartial justice” permits him to coordinate every aspect of trial management with counsel for the President, who objects to witnesses.

 

But wait a minute. While McConnell is not mentioned in the Constitution, Chief Justice John Roberts is. Indeed, it is the Chief Justice of the United States who shall “preside” over the trial, not the Majority Leader. So why isn’t it up to Roberts to decide whether witnesses shall appear?

Absent anything in the Constitution to the contrary, it seems obvious that the witness dispute should be resolved by the ruling of the constitutionally appointed “Presiding Officer” of the trial. This is especially true if we were to abide by the conservative element of our judiciary that insists on the strict construction of the words of any constitutional or statutory provision.

Why isn’t “let presiding officer decide” the guiding principle here? Because the Senate, without a shred of constitutional authority, has adopted a set of rules that would effectively strip the presiding officer of much of his power to “preside” over the trial.

Are those Senate rules constitutional? I keep a pocket copy of the Constitution in my backpack. I have reread it a dozen times. I see nothing in there giving McConnell, or a majority herd of senatorial sheep, the power to limit the Chief Justice’s constitutional power — and duty — to “preside” over this trial.

Is there a remedy for this illicit power grab? Yes. The remedy is for the Chief Justice of the United States to exercise his sworn duty and “preside” over the trial unencumbered by unconstitutional Senate rules. If he deems it relevant to call witnesses, he has the power and the duty to do so, whatever McConnell thinks.

But even assuming the Senate did get, from some unknown source, the right to make impeachment rules that fill in the blanks left by the Founders, whence comes the assertion that the Senate can overrule the presiding officer on any issue? The claimed source is the Senate’s impeachment Rule VII, which provides, “The Presiding Officer on the trial may rule on all questions of evidence, including, but not limited to, questions of relevancy, materiality, and redundancy of evidence and incidental questions…” But later in the rule the Senators granted themselves the right, by majority vote, to overrule the Presiding Officer with respect to those rulings.

What the Constitution giveth, the Senate taketh away.

Rule VII is also the basis of numerous media articles that erroneously state that every ruling by the Chief Justice is subject to being overturned by the will of the Majority Leader, or the majority, and therefore the appointment of the Chief Justice is “ceremonial.” Really? I would not be surprised if you do not find the word “ceremonial” in your copy of the Constitution, because I cannot find it in my copy either.

Conclusions:

1. The Senate lacks authority to adopt any rule placing any limit whatsoever on the Chief Justice’s power to preside over this trial. In his capacity as presiding officer, Justice Roberts has unlimited authority to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents, and if the occasion arises, he should so rule.

2. Even if one were to assume Senate Rule VII passed constitutional muster, the rule is quite limited, and arguably would not prevent the Chief Justice from issuing a subpoena requiring the attendance of a witness or the production of documents. The ability to overturn a ruling on relevance is not a grant of total authority to overrule every act of the presiding officer.

Will our “institutionalist” Chief Justice rise to the occasion and do the right thing here?

Republicans aren’t serving the country, or even the president. Just themselves.

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) on Capitol Hill on Dec. 3, 2019. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) on Capitol Hill on Dec. 3, 2019. (Alex Brandon/AP)

 

It is another of President Trump’s dubious achievements to turn the ultimate constitutional check on presidential abuses of power into an utter farce. Watching Republican senators complain that there is “nothing new” in the case made by House impeachment managers, while they are actively opposing the introduction of new evidence and new testimony, is confirmation of barefaced bad faith. In this matter, elected Republicans are mainly serving, not the president, and certainly not the republic, but themselves. Having decided that no amount of evidence would be sufficient for conviction, they realize that the presentation of a full and compelling case would convict them of servility and institutional surrender. So a quick and dirty Senate trial is the best way to limit the exposure of their malpractice.

This crime against democracy is compounded by the eagerness of Republicans to use impeachment as a fundraising opportunity and method to energize base voters. The theory seems to be: If you are going to betray the constitutional order, you might as well profit from it.

In the impeachment trial, all the dismal signs point to acquittal at any cost. And it is not the first time the president has skated. Despite compelling evidence of wrongdoing and obstruction of justice in the Mueller report, Trump largely escaped accountability (even as many of his smarmy advisers did not escape jail). The appearance of vindication in this case immediately preceded the president’s decision to squeeze an embattled foreign power for his political benefit. Give Trump an inch, and he’ll take Ukraine.

Jonathan Turley: “Trump’s impeachment defense could create a dangerous precedent.”
President Trump doesn’t have to commit a crime to be impeached, says constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley. (Joy Sharon Yi, Kate Woodsome, Jonathan Turley/The Washington Post)

How has the president largely avoided the consequences of his corruption? By employing the methods of his mentor Roy Cohn. Admit nothing. Stonewall investigators. Defy subpoenas. Viciously attack opponents. Flood the zone with exculpatory lies. Feel no shame. Show no mercy. Claim anything short of prison to be complete exoneration.

In terms that would have gladdened the heart of Richard Nixon in his day, the coverup is working. Senate Republicans seem determined to cover up for Trump’s coverup. What is essentially state-run media — Fox News and conservative talk radio — have created a narrative of establishment persecution that covers up for the Senate’s coverup of the Trump coverup. The president is protected by layer upon layer of obfuscation, misdirection and deception. Gradually at first, but now in a sudden rush, the norms of truthfulness, public service and ethical behavior have given way. And the message has been sent to Trump and future iterations of Trump: Corruption has no consequence.

This is a danger to the country because success breeds replication. Politicians who never dreamed of being anarchic and transgressive now conduct their public business like the Marx Brothers on a caffeine high. Consider Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) responding to a perfectly appropriate question by CNN’s Manu Raju by saying, “You’re a liberal hack.” It is nothing new for a senator to show his or her temper. But McSally then posted her petulance on Twitter and began raising money on the basis of it. It is human to lose your cool; taking pride in it is to lose one’s marbles. But this is normal political behavior in the age of Trump.

There is further danger in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s likely acquittal by the Senate. The president never views a near-miss as an opportunity for reflection and reformation. He sees it as permission to indulge his every urge. And his most consistent urge has been to seek unfair advantage in the upcoming presidential election. The months between Senate acquittal and the November vote will be fertile ground for further cheating.

And the election itself presents the greatest danger. Trump avoided accountability after the Mueller probe. He is likely to avoid accountability for the Ukraine squeeze. That leaves one last source of accountability — the election in November. This will be a test, not of the Republican Party, but of the republic.

Every presidential election is important. This one will have an added dimension. It will be more than a referendum on the president. It will be a referendum on the moral and ethical standards we apply to our political life. Will corruption, cruelty and coverups be excused and encouraged? Or will the boundaries of integrity, honesty and public spirit be redrawn.

Congress — with the large exception of the House majority — has largely failed to defend the democratic virtues essential to self-government. American voters had better do better.

Read more:

Michael Gerson is a nationally syndicated columnist who appears twice weekly in The Post.

Pompeo yelled at reporter: ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’

USA Today

After interview, Pompeo cursed at reporter, yelled: ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’

Deirdre Shesgreen, USA Today                  
Report: Recording links Trump to Ukraine ambassador ouster: ‘Get rid of her!’

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used the “F-word” and other expletives after a testy interview with a National Public Radio host on Friday, the news outlet said.

Pompeo unloaded on NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly after an interview in which she questioned him on Ukraine and Iran, among other issues. He grew extremely irritated by Kelly’s Ukraine questions, according to NPR.

“‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?'” Pompeo apparently shouted at Kelly after the interview. The State Department’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pompeo is scheduled to travel to Ukraine next week for a meeting with that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a central figure in the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Ukraine is a pivotal U.S. ally in the effort to counter Russian aggression.

The State Department said Pompeo is going to Kyiv to “highlight U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The Eastern European country is at war with Russia.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, arrives to conduct briefings for members of Congress on the targeted killing of Iran's senior military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

 

In the impeachment proceedings, House Democrats have charged Trump with abuse of power for soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election, one of two articles of impeachment currently being tried in the senate. Trump pressed Zelensky to open two investigations that would have helped his re-election campaign. As part of that pressure campaign, Trump ousted former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, a career foreign service diplomat.

Yovanovitch was targeted by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Trump has publicly attacked her.

“Do you owe Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch an apology?” Kelly asked Pompeo, who has declined to publicly defend the diplomat.

“You know, I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran,” he responded.

Kelly pressed him. “I just want to give you another opportunity to answer this, because as you know, people who work for you in your department, people who have resigned from this department under your leadership, saying you should stand up for the diplomats who work here,” she said.

Pompeo said he had defended “every State Department official,” to which Kelly said: “Sir, respectfully where have you defended Marie Yovanovitch?”

“I’ve said all I’m going to say today,” he responded.

She then asked if he tried to block Giuliani’s “shadow foreign policy” in Ukraine.

“The Ukraine policy has been run from the Department of State for the entire time that I have been here, and our policy was very clear,” he asserted. Numerous other State Department officials have testified that Giuliani and other Trump associates used irregular channels to pressure Zelensky.

After the interview, Kelly said she was taken to the secretary of State’s private living room, where Pompeo was waiting for her. “He shouted at me for about same amount of time as the interview itself. He was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine,” Kelly said, in an account released by NPR with the interview transcript.

She said he used the F-word and “many others” when he asking her if Americans cared about Ukraine. He then asked her if she could find Ukraine on a map.

“I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing. I pointed to Ukraine,” she recounted.

Pompeo then said: “‘People will hear about this.'”

GOP voters acknowledge, dismiss Trump’s law-breaking

MSNBC

The Rachel Maddow  Show / The MaddowBlog

Poll: GOP voters acknowledge, dismiss Trump’s law-breaking

By Steve Benen       January 23, 2020

Audience members cheer as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump signs autographs at a campaign event, Feb. 21, 2016, in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)

As his Senate impeachment trial continues, Donald Trump would probably like to have the kind of broad public support Bill Clinton had during his impeachment trial, but he clearly does not.

CNN’s poll found most Americans want to see Trump removed from office. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll found a plurality reaching the same conclusion, echoing the latest findings from Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

And then there’s the latest report from the Pew Research Center:

As the Senate impeachment trial gets underway, slightly more Americans say that Donald Trump should be removed from office than say he should stay in office, with these views starkly divided along partisan lines.

Roughly half of U.S. adults (51%) say the outcome of the Senate trial should be Trump’s removal from office, while 46% say the result should lead to Trump remaining in office.

Making matters slightly worse for the president, the same report found that 63% of Americans believe the Republican either has definitely or probably done illegal things, while 70% believe Trump has definitely or probably done unethical things. All of which suggests the public does not hold their president in the highest regard.

That said, there was one easy-to-miss gem in the Pew Research Center’s findings:

Among the two-thirds of Republicans who say Trump has definitely or probably not done things that are illegal, nearly all (97%) say that he should remain in office following the Senate trial. While a majority of the 32% of Republicans who say Trump has likely done illegal things either during the campaign or while in office also say he should remain in office (59%), about four-in-ten (38%) say the president should be removed from office.

Or as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent put it, “A solid majority of Republicans who say Trump has probably done illegal things say he should remain in office.”

And that’s a tough hurdle to clear. As the impeachment proceedings continue, and House managers make meticulous presentations detailing the president’s abuses, corruption, and illegalities, there’s a large group of Republican voters who are willing to concede that Trump appears to be a criminal, but they nevertheless want him in office.

For these GOP voters, the president’s violations of the law simply aren’t a deal-breaker. Their approval of Trump is detached from their assumptions about Trump’s illegalities.

Aaron Blake added, “It’s a notable commentary on the moment we find ourselves in today. It’s one thing for views of the Ukraine scandal to have hardened; it’s another thing for a sizable chunk who think Trump has done illegal things to shrug their shoulders, oppose his removal and even approve of him as president. It suggests that there is a very large portion of Trump’s base that simply can’t be peeled away, even if he was proved to have committed a crime. It seems unlikely they’ll then be swayed by an ‘abuse of power’ or ‘obstruction of Congress’ – the two impeachment articles Democrats have offered – almost no matter the evidence.”

To understand why so many congressional Republicans have embraced Trump with such irrational and unshakable vigor, look no further than the Pew results.

10 years after Vatican reform, Legion in new abuse crisis

Associated Press – World

10 years after Vatican reform, Legion in new abuse crisis

By Maria Verza and Nicole Winfield       January 19, 2020

In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, tears well up in Ana Lucia Salazar's eyes as she tells her story of abuse, during an interview in Mexico City. Salazar says that she was sexually abused by a Legion of Christ priest when she was eight. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, tears well up in Ana Lucia Salazar’s eyes as she tells her story of abuse, during an interview in Mexico City. Salazar says that she was sexually abused by a Legion of Christ priest when she was eight. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

 

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The administrator of the elite Catholic school in Cancun, Mexico, used to take the girls out of class and send them to the chapel, where the priest from the Legion of Christ religious order would sexually abuse them.

“As some were reading the Bible, he would rape the others in front of them, little girls aged 6 to 8 or 9,” said one of his victims, Ana Lucia Salazar, now a 36-year-old Mexican television host and mother of three.

“Afterward, nothing was the same, nothing went back to the way it was,” she said through tears at her home in Mexico City.

Salazar’s horrific story, which has been corroborated by other victims and the Legion itself, has sparked a new credibility crisis for the once-influential order, 10 years after the Holy See took it over after determining that its founder was a pedophile.

But more importantly, it has called into question the Vatican reform itself: The papal envoy who ran the Legion starting in 2010 learned about the case nearly a decade ago and refused to punish or even investigate the priest or the superiors who covered up his crimes, many of whom are still in power and ministry today.

The scandal is not the story line the Legion was hoping for as it opened its general chapter Monday in Rome, a weeks-long gathering to choose new leaders and approve policy decisions going forward.

The assembly was supposed to have shown off the Legion embarking fully on its own after 10 years of Vatican-mandated reform. The Holy See imposed structural changes after revelations that the Legion’s late founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, sexually abused at least 60 seminarians, fathered at least three children and built a secretive, cult-like order to cater to his whims and hide his double life.

The Cancun scandal, though, has exposed that the Vatican reform failed to address one key area: to punish known historic abusers and the people who covered for them, and change the culture of cover-up that enabled the crimes.

From the outset, the late papal envoy who ran the Legion, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, refused to hold complicit Legion superiors accountable or investigate past abusers.

“De Paolis said there would be no witch hunt, explicitly, and the consequence is that abuse and its cover-up have remained unpunished,” said the Rev. Christian Borgogno, a former Legion priest who co-founded the “Legioleaks” Facebook group where Salazar first went public in May. Borgogno said De Paolis’ decision to leave in place Legion superiors, many of whom were close to Maciel, “made reform impossible.”

“The only way out was to foster charismatic leaders, and they were even repressed,” he told the AP. “That’s the main reason why many of us left.”

Following the AP story, the Legion announced on Monday it would conduct an investigation with the Vatican into the cover-up of the case, and vowed all superiors involved would cooperate.

Salazar, whose story has made headlines in Mexico, wants more: “What I want is for the pope to get radicalized,” she said. “There’s only one position, to be on the side of the violated children,” not a religious order that has among its priests “villains, delinquents, rapists, accomplices and victimizers.”

“The Legion of Christ has no reason to exist,” she said, echoing calls from even within the church that the Vatican should have suppressed the order 10 years ago. “It’s like taking apart a cartel; you have to remove the ringleaders and dismantle it.”

Legion spokesman the Rev. Aaron Smith argued that the Legion’s leadership had indeed changed over the past decade, noting that 11 priests are participating in the 2020 general chapter for the first time, and that most of the 66 participants are new to the assembly since the Vatican reform began. More than a dozen others, however, belong to Maciel’s old guard.

Smith said the power structure of the Maciel era had been dismantled, with more decentralized authority and systems of checks and balances put in place.

“It would be practically impossible today to have actions like the ones which occurred during Maciel’s tenure to go undetected,” he said in emailed responses to questions, after declining an on-camera interview.

The scandal has struck the Legion at its core — Mexico — and cast a discrediting light where it hurts most: the Legion’s prestigious private schools, which cater to Mexico’s elite and are the order’s main source of income. Former Legion priests say the scandal is a devastating blow that they long warned about, since a loss of credibility among wealthy Mexicans would deprive the Legion of its key base.

Already, the Mexican bishops conference has ended its silence about the Legion to denounce the newly revealed abuse and the Legion’s failure to provide “a specific act of justice or reparation for the victims” even after it acknowledged the crimes, vowed more transparency and pointed to its child protection policies in place now.

The archbishop of Monterrey — a Legion stronghold — denounced the group’s “criminal silence” and treatment of victims, and led recent calls from Mexican bishops for an end to the statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases. It was a remarkable turnabout, given that Mexico’s Catholic hierarchy long supported the Legion and benefited from the once-wealthy order’s largesse.

Even the Vatican’s ambassador to Mexico, Monsignor Franco Coppola, broke the Holy See’s tradition of diplomatic discretion to publicly criticize the Legion’s handling of the case and call for the Vatican to investigate the “web of cover-up” behind it. That too was remarkable, given that the Vatican itself has been implicated in the Maciel cover-up.

Coppola also echoed calls from victims and the archdiocese of Monterrey for the Legion superiors implicated in the cover-up to at least stand down from the general chapter, calling it a “great gesture of humility,” though until Monday none had accepted.

But on Monday evening, the Legion announced that the Rev. Eloy Bedia, who had been the Mexican superior who handled the complaints in the 1990s, had agreed to not participate in the meeting. But he also defended himself in a letter released by the order and noted that all personnel movements in the 1990s were decided by Maciel, not him.

Asked about the criticism from the Mexican hierarchy, Smith said the Legion welcomed the input as it seeks to improve its handling of past cases of abuse and prevention efforts going forward.

He said the general chapter would evaluate current child protection practices, ensure proper outreach to victims, and could mandate a continuation of the investigation into other cases of abuse of power by Legion superiors.

However, victims see such promises as nothing more than lip service, and dismissed the letters they received from the leadership after the scandal broke promising reparations and change. The Legion hasn’t yet settled all requests for financial compensation from eight of Maciel’s original victims, who made formal requests in 2018.

Salazar’s case is particularly grave since her parents went to the bishop, himself a Legionary, to denounce the priest, Fernando Martínez Suárez, as soon as Salazar told them in late 1992 that he had digitally raped her. Then aged 8, she had been jumping on her parents’ bed one night when she revealed that Martínez would sit her on his lap, pull her panties aside, penetrate her and masturbate himself.

“My mother says that while I was jumping, it seemed like I was a butterfly, as if I were lifting the weight off, as if I were flying,” Salazar said.

But Martínez had friends, chief among them Maciel, who it turns out had sexually abused him. Martínez was one of nearly a dozen Legion priests who were childhood victims of the founder and went onto molest other minors, a multi-generational chain of abuse that the Legion acknowledged last month.

Last week, the Legion announced that Martínez had asked to be defrocked, after an outside investigation determined he molested at least six girls in Cancun and that a series of Legion leaders, from the original bishop who took Salazar’s complaint to De Paolis himself, decided against reporting him to police or even the Vatican. Martinez had been transferred from Cancun to a seminary in Spain, with no formal restrictions imposed after the Legion received the first reports.

De Paolis, one of the Vatican’s top canon lawyers, then essentially became part of the cover-up: He had learned of the case between 2011-2013 when he was asked to take action against Martinez since no proper investigation had ever been conducted. But at the moment in which Martinez could have finally been brought to justice, De Paolis settled on inaction since no other complaints had been received, according to the investigation by the Praesidium firm. Martinez was subsequently transferred to Rome in 2016.

The current Legion superior, the Rev. Eduardo Robles Gil, apologized to Salazar for how her case was handled originally and all the subsequent “deficiencies.”

“I could have remedied it starting in 2014, but I followed the decisions that were taken about abuse cases from previous decades, and we didn’t reexamine it,” he wrote her in November.

He forwarded a letter from Martínez to Salazar, in which her abuser begged her forgiveness “for the grave harm I caused you.” He termed his behavior “faults” that were the result of an “uncontrolled sexuality.”

Salazar was deeply offended, feeling the letters diminished the crimes and cover-up. “It was revictimizing to me, humiliating, disgusting.”

After Salazar came forward, other Martínez victims broke their silence.

Their stories were no surprise to Beatriz Sánchez, an English teacher at Cancun’s Colegio Cumbres in the early 1990s who heard about the rapes after discovering a group of his victims whispering — and weeping — in the bathroom.

“When one approached me she said: ‘Miss, each time Father is doing it harder with the littlest ones and we don’t want this to happen to them, please help us,’” Sanchez told AP.

She urged them to write it down — and then was promptly fired when she reported him to Martinez’s then-superior, Bedia.

After Salazar went public, the school official who used to take the girls out of class to offer them up to Martinez was fired from her job at another Legion school.

One of the young victims was Biani López-Antúnez, whose mother had also reported the abuse to the Legion in 1993.

Irma Hassey said she hadn’t pried for details when her daughter first revealed Martinez’s abuse as a child, not wanting to hurt her further, and only learned the full extent in November.

Now, she said, she realizes with horror that for two years “I was leaving my daughter at the door of a rapist.”

In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, Ana Lucia Salazar shows a photo of herself when she was 8-years-old, on her smart phone during an interview with the Associated Press in Mexico City. At the time Salazar says she was sexually abused by a Legion of Christ priest. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, Ana Lucia Salazar shows a photo of herself when she was 8-years-old, on her smart phone during an interview with the Associated Press in Mexico City. At the time Salazar says she was sexually abused by a Legion of Christ priest. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, Ana Lucia Salazar holds the letters that Legion of Christ's new director general Rev. Eduardo Robles Gil, and her abuser sent to her asking for forgiveness, during an interview in Mexico City. Salazar says she was deeply offended by the way the letters diminished the crimes and cover-up. "It was revictimizing to me, humiliating, disgusting." She said. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, Ana Lucia Salazar holds the letters that Legion of Christ’s new director general Rev. Eduardo Robles Gil, and her abuser sent to her asking for forgiveness, during an interview in Mexico City. Salazar says she was deeply offended by the way the letters diminished the crimes and cover-up. “It was revictimizing to me, humiliating, disgusting.” She said. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2004 file photo, then Pope John Paul II gives his blessing to late Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, during a special audience the pontiff granted to about four thousand participants of the Regnum Christi movement, at the Vatican. It was revealed that Maciel sexually abused at least 60 seminarians, fathered at least three children and built a secretive, cult-like order to cater to his whims and hide his crimes. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, File)In this Nov. 30, 2004 file photo, then Pope John Paul II gives his blessing to late Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, during a special audience the pontiff granted to about four thousand participants of the Regnum Christi movement, at the Vatican. It was revealed that Maciel sexually abused at least 60 seminarians, fathered at least three children and built a secretive, cult-like order to cater to his whims and hide his crimes. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, File)

In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, Ana Lucia Salazar holds one of the letters that her abuser sent to her asking for forgiveness, during an interview in Mexico City. Her abuser begged her forgiveness "for the grave harm I caused you." He termed his behavior "faults" that were the result of an "uncontrolled sexuality." (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, Ana Lucia Salazar holds one of the letters that her abuser sent to her asking for forgiveness, during an interview in Mexico City. Her abuser begged her forgiveness “for the grave harm I caused you.” He termed his behavior “faults” that were the result of an “uncontrolled sexuality.” (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

In this Jan.19, 2020 photo, Biani Lopez-Antunez, shows a copy of the letter she wrote describing the sexual abuse she and others suffered when they were children at the hands of a Legion of Christ priest, at park in Mexico City. She wrote the letter at the behest of a teacher she had asked to protect her and her classmates. Her mother had also reported the abuse to the Legion in 1993. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)In this Jan.19, 2020 photo, Biani Lopez-Antunez, shows a copy of the letter she wrote describing the sexual abuse she and others suffered when they were children at the hands of a Legion of Christ priest, at park in Mexico City. She wrote the letter at the behest of a teacher she had asked to protect her and her classmates. Her mother had also reported the abuse to the Legion in 1993. (AP Photo/Christian Palma)

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2014 file photo, Legion of Christ's new director general Rev. Eduardo Robles Gil, right, prays during a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis at the Legion of Christ main headquarters, the Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, in Rome. Robles Gil apologized to Ana Lucia Salazar for the abuse she suffered at the hands of a Legion of Christ priest when she was a child, on how her case was handled originally and all the subsequent "deficiencies.""I could have remedied it starting in 2014, but I followed the decisions that were taken about abuse cases from previous decades, and we didn't re-examine it," he wrote her in November. "Today, I am ashamed I didn't." (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca, File)In this Feb. 25, 2014 file photo, Legion of Christ’s new director general Rev. Eduardo Robles Gil, right, prays during a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Velasio De Paolis at the Legion of Christ main headquarters, the Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, in Rome. Robles Gil apologized to Ana Lucia Salazar for the abuse she suffered at the hands of a Legion of Christ priest when she was a child, on how her case was handled originally and all the subsequent “deficiencies.””I could have remedied it starting in 2014, but I followed the decisions that were taken about abuse cases from previous decades, and we didn’t re-examine it,” he wrote her in November. “Today, I am ashamed I didn’t.” (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca, File)

In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, Rogelio Cabrera, president of the Mexican bishops conference, takes his hand to his forehead after speaking during a news conference in Mexico City. The Mexican bishops conference ended its silence about the Legion of Christ to denounce the new revelations and the Legion's failure to provide "a specific act of justice or reparation for the victims" even after it acknowledged the crimes. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)In this Jan. 14, 2020 photo, Rogelio Cabrera, president of the Mexican bishops conference, takes his hand to his forehead after speaking during a news conference in Mexico City. The Mexican bishops conference ended its silence about the Legion of Christ to denounce the new revelations and the Legion’s failure to provide “a specific act of justice or reparation for the victims” even after it acknowledged the crimes. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2011 file photo, the late Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, papal delegate for the Legion of Christ, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Vatican City. The latest scandal has exposed that the Vatican reform of the Legionaries of Christ charted by De Paolis failed in at least one key area: rooting out the culture of abuse and cover-up that enabled father Marcial Maciel's double life and allowed his crimes and the crimes of others to go unchecked for decades. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)In this Aug. 25, 2011 file photo, the late Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, papal delegate for the Legion of Christ, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Vatican City. The latest scandal has exposed that the Vatican reform of the Legionaries of Christ charted by De Paolis failed in at least one key area: rooting out the culture of abuse and cover-up that enabled father Marcial Maciel’s double life and allowed his crimes and the crimes of others to go unchecked for decades. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)

Winfield reported from the Vatican.

Spotted lanternfly costing Pennsylvania $50M annually.

Associated Press – U.S.

Study: Spotted lanternfly costing Pennsylvania $50M annually

Michael Rubinkam, AP       January 16, 2020

FILE - This Sept. 19, 2019, file photo, shows a spotted lanternfly at a vineyard in Kutztown, Pa. Penn State researchers estimate the spotted lanternfly is causing some $50 million in damage per year in the state’s hard-hit southeast. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

 

The spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest from Asia that is wreaking havoc on valuable trees and vines, is costing the Pennsylvania economy about $50 million and eliminating nearly 500 jobs each year, according to a Penn State study released Thursday.

The study represents researchers’ first attempt to quantify the destruction caused by the large, colorful planthopper. First detected in the U.S. in 2014, in Pennsylvania’s Berks County, it has since overrun the state’s southeastern corner and spread into nearby states including New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia.

Economists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences estimated the financial impact on industries most susceptible to spotted lanternfly, including nurseries, vineyards, Christmas tree growers and hardwood producers.

In the state’s hard-hit southeast, spotted lanternfly imposes $29 million in direct costs on growers and forest landowners, according to the study. Secondary costs, including reduced business and household spending, represent another $21 million each year.

If the insect were to expand statewide, it could cause $325 million in damage and wipe out 2,800 jobs, the researchers estimate. The state’s $19 billion forest products industry would be especially vulnerable. Pennsylvania, with its vast unbroken stretches of forest, is the nation’s No. 1 producer of hardwoods.

“The part that we’re really concerned about is what’s going on out in the forest. This thing is feeding on trees and those trees are worth a lot of money,” said Jay Harper, a study co-author and director of Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center.

“This is a call to arms,” he said.

Spotted lanternfly is believed to weaken, though not necessarily kill, trees like maple, oak and black walnut. A greater economic threat than tree mortality is the prospect that states and nations could limit imports from Pennsylvania in an effort to prevent the bugs’ spread, according to Wayne Bender, who leads the Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council, part of the state agriculture department.

“The industry is taking it very seriously and has taken proactive … measures to minimize the threat and movement of spotted lanternfly,” he said.

Elsewhere, scientists have been testing chemical and biological methods of lanternfly control. Government contractors are removing tree of heaven — an invasive tree that is the lanternflies’ preferred host — from public property. Pennsylvania has also established a quarantine meant to limit the bugs’ spread.

The Penn State study was funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative agency.

Newlyweds died together in the plane crash in Iran a week after their wedding

CNN

Newlyweds died together in the plane crash in Iran a week after their wedding

(CNN)The celebration of a new life together turned to loss when newlyweds died in the Tehran plane crash as they traveled home to Canada.

Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji tied the knot on January 1 in Tehran in front of their family and friends, according to CNN news partner CTV News.
A week later, they were two of the souls to lose their lives when a plane crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people on board, including 63 Canadians. The Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines flight crashed in Tehran minutes after takeoff.
Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji

Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji
The Victims Wednesday included the  newlyweds, a family of four, a mother and her daughters, “bright students and dedicated faculty members,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
“They were basically the kindest souls that I knew,” friend Amir Forouzandeh told CTV News. “Honestly, if you met them even once you could tell that these two belong together for sure.”
Pourzarabi and Gorji had traveled to Iran for their wedding, Reza Akbari, president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, told CNN news partner CBC.
“It’s devastating and shocking,” Akbari told CBC. “It’s a tragic moment.”
Akbari said the couple and others in the Iranian community are being mourned on the messaging app Telegram, which is popular in Iran. He said he knew at least eight of the victims.
“When you go from top to the bottom, it’s hard to believe — all these wonderful people … these people who really were actually impactful in our community, they’re not among us anymore,” he told CBC. “And in one incident all of them are gone.”
Photos of the bride wearing a white, strapless gown and the groom in a black tuxedo smiling as they walked hand-in-hand flooded the bride’s Facebook page with messages of condolence. They were only in their mid-20s, according to CTV News.
‎Sima Hamzehloo‎ talked about Gorji as an intelligent, talented and polite woman, in a post on the bride’s Facebook page. “Although you wanted to leave for a better life, it was the Middle East that couldn’t leave you my dear,” Hamzehloo wrote.
Another friend of Gorji’s posted a photo of the pair when they were teenagers competing at a math tournament.
“Time could have get frozen back there, but well it didn’t,” Yasamin Rezaei wrote in a Facebook post.
The University Of Alberta community also is in mourning. Pourzarabi and Gorji were graduate students studying computer science, the school said.
Ten students, faculty and alumni of the school died in the crash, the university said.
“These individuals were integral to the intellectual and social fabric of our university and the broader community,” University of Alberta President and Vice-Chancellor David H. Turpin said in a statement.
“We are grieving for lost colleagues, classmates, teachers, and mentors, as well as loved ones, family, friends, and roommates,” Turpin said. “We will feel their loss — and the aftermath of this tragedy — for many years to come.”

 

Trudeau says Canadians ‘deserve’ answer on the fatal Iran plane crash.

Yahoo News Canada

‘Something very unusual happened’: Trudeau says Canadians ‘deserve’ answer on the fatal Iran plane crash

Elisabetta Bianchini        January 8, 2020

Canada reacts after 63 Canadians are killed in Iran plane crash

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko confirmed Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, a Boeing 737-800, crashed on its was from Iran’s capital, Tehran, to Kyiv and there were no survivors.

“Tehran airport is anything but a simple one. Therefore, for several years UIA has been using this airport to conduct training on Boeing 737 aircraft aimed at evaluating pilots’ proficiency and ability to act in emergency cases, Ihor Sosnovsky, Ukraine International Airlines vice president of operations said in a statement.

“According to our records, the aircraft ascended as high as 2400 meters. Given the crew’s experience, error probability is minimal. We do not even consider such a chance.”

Messaging from the Canadian government

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was joined by other government officials for a press conference to discuss the events of the tragic crash. The prime minister said that 138 passengers on the plane were connecting to Canada on PS752.

“I want to express my deepest condolences to all who are mourning a loss of a love one,” Trudeau said.

He also confirmed that the Canadian government will ensure that the crash is thoroughly investigated.

“We’ve had many countries step up to provide their assistance and support,” Trudeau said. “[Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne] will be engaging directly with his Iranian counterpart…to request a presence from Canada in Tehran and in the investigation.”

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau told the media that the investigation is in the early stages but the crash happened about two minutes after takeoff, which occurred in a “normal fashion” before contact was lost. Garneau said this suggests that “something very unusual happened.”

Trudeau and Garneau both could not confirm the cause of the crash, with the prime minister saying that Canadians “deserve” answers he cannot categorically say that the plane was not shot down.

“It is too early to speculate. I would encourage people not to speculate, we are certainly aware that this is a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Trudeau said.

The transport minister also confirmed that Iran is leading the investigation but Canada has “offered to the Ukrainians all the technical assistance that they may wish.”

“It’s also true that the transportation safety board…is also going to be involved because there were Canadian nationals won this particular flight,” Garneau said. “They have indicated that if it was the desire of the Ukrainian or the Iranians…that Canada would be prepared to assist in terms of black box data interpretation.”

Details about the victims

There were 63 Canadians, 82 Iranians, 11 Ukrainian passengers and crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons on board. The airline has released a list of passengers on the flight. More information continues to be revealed about the victims of the fatal crash.

Pedram Mousavi, Mojgan Daneshmand, Darya Mousavi and Darina Mousavi. (CBC News)
Pedram Mousavi, Mojgan Daneshmand, Darya Mousavi and Darina Mousavi. (CBC News)

 

Reuters has reported that 30 Edmontonians were on the plane, including University of Alberta professor Pedram Mousavi, his wife Mojgan Daneshmand and their daughters Daria and Dorina. Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Northgate Centre Medical Clinic in Edmonton, and her two daughters were also killed, according to CBS News.

The University of Guelph released a statement confirming that two students from the school were aboard the plane, Ghanimat Azhdari and Milad Ghasemi Ariani, who was pursuing a PhD in the Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the tragic loss of two of our students,” University of Guelph president Franco Vaccarino said in a statement. “Our thoughts go out to the families of these two students and to anyone else affected by this tragedy. Any loss to our campus community touches all of us.”

What we know so far

The crash follows increased tensions in Iran following the killing of Iranian military leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani by the U.S. last week.

Global Affairs Canada has alerted all Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel to Iran “due to the volatile security situation, the regional threat of terrorism and the risk of arbitrary detention.”

“Canadians, particularly dual Canadian-Iranian citizens, are at risk of being arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained,” the advisory from the government agency reads. “Iran does not recognize dual nationality and Canada will not be granted consular access to dual Canadian-Iranian citizens.”

Reuters is reporting that a Canadian security source said the initial assessment of Western intelligence agencies is that the plane was not brought down by a missile. It is believe that the plane crash was caused by a technical malfunction.

We Took a Step Back From the Brink ???

Esquire

We Took a Step Back From the Brink, But Not Because the President* Knows Where He Took Us

By Charles P. Pierce            January 8, 2020

Donald Trump’s Iran speech was equal parts sniffing, slander, and stump speech.

President Trump Addresses The Nation After Iranian Attacks In Iraq Target Bases Where U.S. Troops StationedWin McNamee/Getty Images. (Optional Musical Accompaniment To This Post)

The deadly airplane crash has garnered some attention, but almost nobody has mentioned the earthquake, the one that shook the ground near the nuclear plant. It was a Tuesday night drawn from the worst parts of the Bible in the land in which all the worst parts of the Bible once took place. Meanwhile, Iran fired off some ballistic missiles and, thank god, did little more than blow up some sand and give El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago the opportunity to take another grotesquely mendacious victory lap on the TV. The president*’s appearance on Wednesday noon was equal parts sniffing, slander, and stump speech. The worst part of it is something we’re all going to have to get used to hearing over the next year:

Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion dollars, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash. Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they chanted “Death to America.” In fact, they chanted “Death to America” the day the agreement was signed. Then Iran went on a terror spree funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq. The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.

This is garish, reeking slander. And the way you know it it is garish, reeking slander is that Tailgunner Ted Cruz has picked up this trope and is running with it. Outside of Senator Huckleberry from South Carolina, no elected official has grown quite as comfortable in the sewer of Trumpian politics than the Tailgunner has.

For approximately the 900th time, the money involved in the JPCOA deal with Iran belonged to Iran in the first place. Some of it was from Iranian assets frozen after the Shah was overthrown, and some of it was the result of settlements. It was held, interest-free, by the United States for more than 40 years. In addition, almost all of the Iranian “hell” he cited was created since he tore up the nuclear deal. All of this is fairly easily debunked, but expect to see it promoted by all the usual suspects over the next year, as the president* prepares to run against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and whoever gets the Democratic nomination—in that order.

US President Donald Trump press conference
All is well! <Getty Images

 

(Also, the president* went out of his way to make the following point: “For far too long, all the way back to 1979, to be exact, nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond.” Under the bus, Ronnie. You, too, Poppy.)

And this, I am sorry, may be the funniest thing he’s ever said:

The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout. [Ed. Note: Because you pulled out of the deal.] Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.

No. Stop it. You’re killing me. Nobody is listening to you, and certainly not the countries that spent 11 years crafting a deal you shattered like a kid throwing a rock through a window. Really. You are lot funnier than I gave you credit for being.

The obvious fact is that he didn’t know anything about anything last week, and he doesn’t know anything about anything now that he’s pushed the Middle East toward a general conflagration. The position of the United States in the region is just as tenuous now that Qasem Soleimani is dead as it was when he was alive. There is no policy. There are no policymakers.

US-IRAN-IRAQ-UNREST-DIPLOMACY
Everyone’s having fun. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKIGetty Images

 

(Apparently, the briefings given to members of Congress on Wednesday regarding the details of the killing of Soleimani were not a hit. Democratic Congressman Jerry Connolly called them “sophomoric.” And Mike Lee, the famous konztitooshunal skolar from Utah, said it was the worst briefing he’d ever been given.)

We have for the moment taken half a step back from the brink, not because the president* knows where he took the country—or, for that matter, where he is in any given moment—but at least partly because the Iranians contented themselves for the moment with blowing up a bunch of sand. I remain skeptical that their retaliation will continue to be so benign. The world seems still to be slouching toward the Plains of Megiddo, where this president* likely would attempt to bribe someone in order to build a hotel.

Oh, and did I mention the locusts?

He chases ’round this desert, ‘cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be/That’s why I love mankind…