Republicans Have No Leg to Stand On and They Know It
Trump has no real argument for why Gordon Sondland can’t testify before Congress, and neither do congressional Republicans.
By Charles P. Pierce October 8, 2019
MANDEL NGANGETTY IMAGES
“Well, Johnny Olson, it’s Tuesday. What’s our impeachable offense today?”
“For today’s winner, we have a lovely obstruction of Congress.” From The New York Times:
The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees is certain to provoke an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment…
…But in making the decision, hours before he was scheduled to sit for a deposition in the basement of the Capitol, the Trump administration appears to be calculating that it is better off risking the House’s ire than letting Mr. Sondland show up and set a precedent for cooperation with an inquiry they have strenuously argued is illegitimate.
Reaction from the obstructed Congress in question was swift and predictable: the Democrats threatened to add another count to the indictment, and the Republicans pretended they were born last Saturday. From Rep. Adam Schiff via CNN:
“The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress.
Here with a contrary view is Rep. Jim Jordan.
“You think about what the Democrats are trying to do: Impeach the President of the United States 13 months prior to an election, based on an anonymous whistleblower with no firsthand knowledge who has a bias against the President.”
The Republicans have no leg to stand on and they know it. There’s no privilege they can invoke. Sondland is obviously a key witness directly involved with the events that the House is tasked with investigating. The way you know that is that the president*’s account on the electric Twitter machine admits that’s the case.
I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see. Importantly, Ambassador Sondland’s tweet, which few report, stated, “I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” That says it ALL!
West Virginia poverty gets worse under Trump economy, not better
By Aimee Picchi, Orig. Pub. September 28, 2018
The Appalachian state is, along with Delaware, just one of two states where poverty rose last year, bucking the national trend of growing incomes and declining hardship, according to U.S. Census data released earlier this month. West Virginia’s poverty rate climbed to 19.1 percent last year from 17.9 percent, making it just one of four states with a poverty rate above 18 percent.
President Donald Trump plans to visit West Virginia on Saturday, when he’s expected to tout his economic accomplishments. The president has said he’s “very proud” of the state and claimed that he “turned West Virginia around.” His administration has focused on reviving jobs in the coal industry, which has added about 2,000 jobs across the U.S. since Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
Mr. Trump has boasted about the state’s GDP growth, but its economy grew by 1.3 percent in the first quarter, or 37th in the nation and lagging the national rate of 1.8 percent, according to government data. It had fared better in 2017: up 2.6 percent for the year, tenth among the 50 states, compared with 2.1 percent for the nation.
Coal “is a potent message,” but it overlooks the reality of West Virginia’s economy, said Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a nonpartisan think tank. “The growth we’ve had is in low-wage industries. Folks who find jobs haven’t found jobs that keep them out of poverty.”
Jobs in low-wage industries have grown 14.5 percent since 2001 in West Virginia, compared with a decline of 2.8 percent in jobs that pay higher wages during the same time, according to the WVCBP’s figures. The state has about 22,000 people employed in mining and logging, compared with 131,000 education and health care workers and 155,000 government workers, two of the biggest industries in the state, according to government data.
West Virginia’s dismal trends point to an economic issue that’s impacting states across the country: Workers at the bottom of the pay scale aren’t benefiting from the growing economy. Their issues range from low pay to unstable and scanty work hours, which makes it difficult to earn a living wage. Almost one in four West Virginians is employed in a low-wage job, the WVCBP found.
“It’s cashiers, retail sales people, service employees — those are our fastest growing jobs, but those jobs don’t pay very well,” O’Leary notes.
At the Manna Meals soup kitchen, more people are coming in for nourishment, said its executive director, Tara Martinez. The Charleston soup kitchen served almost 10,800 meals in August, compared with about 9,700 in January.
“There’s a direct correlation between the hopelessness and the lack of jobs,” she said. “The jobs that are available are minimum wage and part time — they don’t have benefits. When you have that, coupled with the hopelessness of, ‘How do I get out of this cycle?’ and having to go to a soup pantry, it’s like a hamster wheel.”
The opioid crisis is another issue facing West Virginia, which Martinez said she believes is tied to low-wage jobs and a lack of opportunity. Her observations echo academic findings from Princeton economists Anne Case and Nobel Prize-winner Angus Deaton, who found rising mortality rates for less educated white adults in the U.S., which they called “deaths of despair.”
And West Virginia plays directly into the issues highlighted by Deaton and Case. The state, whose population is 95 percent white, is frequently listed as one of the least educated states in the country.
About 21 percent of West Virginians between ages 25 to 64 has a college degree, according to the National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis. At the national level, about one-third of American workers have a college degree.
The post-recession economy has favored Americans with college degrees, providing them with both growing incomes and professional opportunities. But many who lack that credential have been left out of the recovery, as evidenced in West Virginia.
“People who don’t have jobs or don’t have any way out of this cycle, there’s a hopelessness that overtakes them,” Martinez said.
To be sure, West Virginia is coping with other hurdles in its battle against poverty, such as an aging population, higher rates of disability, and a small workforce compared with bigger states, such as New York or California. The state’s small size — just 1.8 million people last year, down 50,000 from 2010 — means it’s harder to lure employers to the state, O’Leary noted.
West Virginia had a net job loss of 26,000 from early 2012 to late 2016, according to a study from West Virginia University. And the state has the lowest labor force participation rate of all 50 states, at 53 percent.
Employment is growing slowly at a projected 0.7 percent per year through 2022, or below the national growth rate of 0.9 percent. At that rate, local employment isn’t expected to reach its 2012 peak until 2021, the study found.
West Virginia’s poor residents will face another burden beginning in October, when work requirements for food stamps go into effect across the state. Martinez said she believes the measure, which requires able-bodied adults without dependents to work, volunteer or receive job training for at least 20 hours a week to receive food stamps, will push more into poverty and ramp up demand for her soup kitchen’s services.
“It’s frightening and I’m worried and I’m doing everything I can to make sure our doors are still open,” she said, noting that she expects demand for meals to rise by 30 percent. “It’s going to be a lot of fundraising and pleading.”
She added, “You have huge companies, corporations that do really well and make a substantial profit and paying their employees as little as possible — and their employees are on food stamps or other benefits.”
Conservatives want you to believe that not having to choose between paying for rent or medicine is Soviet-style tyranny.
By Chuck Collins March 12, 2019
Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
A Stalinesque Dwight Eisenhower statue looms over Abilene, Kansas. (Shutterstock)
Beware of the specter of socialism!
Anytime a politician proposes a wildly popular idea that helps ordinary people, a few grumpy conservatives will call them “socialists.” Propose to reduce college debt, help sick families, or ensure the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes — suddenly you’re a walking red nightmare.
Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart is so alarmed he’s convened an “Anti Socialism Caucus” to ward off “the primitive appeal of socialism” that will “infect our institutions.” Democrats’ talk of restoring higher income tax rates on the wealthiest or helping families with childcare was enough to trigger Treasury Secretary Steve Munchin to quip, “We’re not going back to socialism.”
These same politicians consistently vote for tax cuts for the rich and to gut taxes and regulations on corporations so they can exercise their full freedom and liberty — to mistreat workers, pollute the environment, and rip off their customers.
The “shrink government” fear-mongers want you to believe there are only two flavors of economic ice cream. Choose strawberry and you get liberty-choking gulag communism. From this vantage, any proposal to rein in the unchecked power of global corporations and the rule-rigging rich is creeping socialism.
Choice number two, blueberry, is plutocracy, a society where the super-rich lord over the rest of us. It’s an economically polarized dystopia with stagnant wages and a declining standard of living for the majority.
Conservative demagogues aim to scare you into embracing their pro-plutocrat agenda as the only tolerable choice.
The good news is there many flavors to choose from. A number of presidential candidates have proposed or endorsed policies such as low cost or free college, a higher minimum wage, taxing the super-rich, and investing in infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions.
These ideas are tremendously popular with voters, winning majority support among Republicans, independents, and Democrats. As Fox News sheepishly reported from their own polling, over 70 percent of voters support tax hikes on households with over $10 million in income — including 54 percent of Republicans.
What would today’s hysterical Republicans say about the “socialist” presidency of Dwight Eisenhower? Most likely they would call him “Red Ike.” After all, during Eisenhower’s two terms between 1953 and 1960, the wealthy paid a top tax rate of 91 percent on incomes over the equivalent of $1.7 million for an individual and $3.4 million for a couple.
That crafty pinko Eisenhower also presided over government-subsidized mortgages that helped millions of Americans purchase their first home and attend college for free. He presided over the construction of public housing and state-owned infrastructure (like highways).
In the early 1960’s, the specter of socialism stalked the land again, this time in the form of a proposal to create a national health insurance program to cover senior citizens. Conservatives mounted a full-throated resistance movement to what George H.W. Bush at the time called “socialized medicine.”
The rest of us know it as Medicare.
Prior to the passage of Medicare in 1965, half of the country’s seniors didn’t have hospital insurance, and one in four went without medical care due to cost concerns. One in three seniors were in poverty. Half a century later, nearly all seniors have access to affordable health care, and the elderly poverty rate has fallen to 14 percent.
Now a majority of Americans support some form of “Medicare for All,” expanding universal coverage beyond seniors and disabled people to include children and adults.
Stay tuned for more fear mongering. Universal health care, the red baiters will say, will zap our national initiative and hurl us toward Soviet-style tyranny. Instead, maybe it will mean not having to choose between paying rent or for medicine.
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I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration
I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. September 5, 2018
The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process here.
President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.
It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.
The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
I would know. I am one of them.
To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.
But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.
That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.
The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.
Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.
In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.
Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.
But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.
From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.
Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.
“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.
The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.
It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.
The result is a two-track presidency.
Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.
Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.
On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.
This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.
Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.
The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.
Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.
We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.
There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.
The writer is a senior official in the Trump administration.
More children have been killed by guns since Sandy Hook than U.S. soldiers in combat since 9/11
By Ryan Sit March 16, 2018
The number of children killed by gunfire in the U.S. since the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, surpasses the total of American soldiers killed in overseas combat since 9/11, according to a Department of Defense report.
The report accounts for total deaths in the five military operations since the war on terror began following the September 11, 2001 attacks through 10 a.m. EST Thursday, March 15. Over 17 years of combat, the U.S. has lost 6,929 soldiers. Including Department of Defense civilians killed overseas, that number grows to 6,950.
In the five years and three months since the December 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 first graders and six adults with an AR-15-style rifle, about 7,000 children have died by gunfire. Though the exact figure is unclear, it rivals the tally of U.S. military deaths overseas—in 11 fewer years.
An analysis of gun-related deaths among children and a new report by the Department of Defense shows that more kids have been killed by gunfire since the Sandy Hook massacre than the number of U.S. soldiers killed overseas since 9/11.DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES
On Tuesday, a global activist group placed 7,000 pairs of empty shoes outside the Capitol building—one pair for each child killed by a gun since Sandy Hook. The group, Avaaz, arrived at that figure based of an American Academy of Pediatrics report, which said about 1,300 children are killed by guns every year.
At that rate, the number of children killed by guns since Newtown would be about 6,825. But an analysis by the fact-checking site Snopes of the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention data—which the American Academy Pediatrics cited in its report—found that this figure may be low.
According to Snopes, a review of deaths for children 17 or younger for years 2013 to 2016 (2017 was not yet available), found 5,683 firearms-related deaths, or an average of 1,421 per year. Extrapolated over the five-year and three-month period, the tally is about 7,460, Snopes found.