February 08, 2020

Week 169

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

This was one of the most frightening weeks, as Trump seized on his impeachment acquittal to retaliate against his perceived enemies. Within 48 hours, Trump’s Department of Homeland Security suspended the Global Entry program for New York residents, Trump’s Treasury Department turned over confidential records on Hunter Biden to Senate Republicans opening investigations at his behest, and Trump ousted Alexander Vindman and his twin brother from the National Security Council and recalled Gordon Sondland from his post as U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

The only brakes on Trump’s momentum in seizing power were a visual rebuke by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who ripped up Trump’s State of the Union speech on national television while standing behind him, and Sen. Mitt Romney voting to convict Trump of abuse of power, the first senator in U.S. history to vote to remove from office a president from the same party, denying Trump a strictly partisan vote.

Trump closed the week with an event at the East Room in the White House, where he openly praised only those who had stood unequivocally by him, while promising revenge against his enemies, including Pelosi, Romney, and a long list of others, including institutions like the FBI.

Some of us have been calling out Trump’s authoritarian impulses since November 2016. This week the rest of the country not already there, caught up!

  1. On Saturday, the NYT Editorial Board chastised “A Dishonorable Senate,” saying they have “abdicated their duty by refusing to seek the truth,” noting every past impeachment trial has had witnesses.
  2. The board noted, “the precedent this sets is alarming,” noting, “with the Senate’s blessing for his scheming to have Ukraine investigate the Bidens, Mr. Trump now poses an even greater threat to the next election.”
  3. On Saturday, WAPO reported the Library of Congress decided not to showcase a mural-size photograph of demonstrators at the 2017 Women’s March last year, citing concern it would be perceived as critical of Trump.
  4. The mural, set to be part of a June exhibit called “Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote,” was instead replaced with a photo of eight people in the Women’s March in Houston.
  5. The decision was made five days before the exhibit opened. The Library’s decision is the second-known instance of a federal government institution preventing images critical of Trump from being shown to the public.
  6. On Tuesday, the Architectural Record obtained a preliminary draft of an order by the White House which would rewrite the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture for federal building, issued in 1962.
  7. The new order, titled “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again,” argued the founding fathers embraced the classical models of “democratic Athens” and “republican Rome” that today have little appeal.
  8. On Sunday, in an interview with Radio Free Europe, when asked what message the removal of an NPR reporter from his pool sends, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it sends “a perfect message about press freedoms.”
  9. On Sunday, The Hill reported two South Carolina Republicans introduced a bill to name a highway interchange the “President Donald J. Trump Interchange,” citing, “he fights tirelessly to restore our American values.”
  10. On Saturday, the Intercept reported top Navy SEAL commander Collin Green will step down early, after clashing with Trump over his intervening in the court-martial of Special Warfare Operator Chief Eddie Gallagher.
  11. On Saturday, WAPO reported U.S. border officials say Trump’s wall is vulnerable to flooding and will require the installation of hundreds of more large storm gates to prevent flash floods from knocking it over.
  12. Because most gates are in areas without electricity, agents must open them manually and leave them open for months at a time, allowing easy entry for smugglers and migrants into the U.S.
  13. On Sunday, WAPO reported that Trump’s impeachment acquittal could have profound ramifications for future presidents, effectively lowering the bar for permissible conduct.
  14. Since the House Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry, Trump has projected a sense of persecution and self-pity, calling impeachment a coup to overthrow him and undo his 2016 election victory.
  15. Like with the Mueller report, which found Trump repeatedly worked to thwart and block the Russia investigation, Trump will face no consequences for Ukraine in a time the country is deeply polarized.
  16. Presidential historian Jon Meacham said, “It is not hyperbolic to say that the Republican Party treats Donald Trump more like a king than a president,” saying this was “a central and consuming anxiety of the framers.”
  17. On Sunday, Axios reported according to sources in the regime, after three years of taking risks and avoiding catastrophe, Trump is feeling increasingly confident, bordering on the sense of invincibility.
  18. Aides cite pushback Trump got for withdrawing from the Paris Accord and moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as examples where senior aides were too alarmist, and he suffered no repercussions for his decision.
  19. Aides also say after impeachment Trump will give less credence to voices of caution. Trump feels that every gamble he has taken has paid off, and he has succeeded despite experienced officials who were Chicken Littles.
  20. On Sunday, Trump sent a series of tweets about Democrat 2020 candidate Mike Bloomberg, calling him “Mini Mike” and “fake news” in a series of tweets after Bloomberg aired ads targeting Trump for being overweight.
  21. Trump also tweeted, “Mini Mike is now negotiating both to get on the Democrat Primary debate stage, and to have the right to stand on boxes, or a lift, during the debates.” Bloomberg’s campaign denied this claim.
  22. On Monday, Vanity Fair reported according to Republican insiders, Trump is out for revenge against his adversaries, with one saying, “It’s payback time,” and, “He has an enemies list that is growing by the day.”
  23. On Sunday, an NBC/WSJ poll found Trump’s approval climbed to 46% approve, 51% disapprove — his highest numbers since May and up five points since December. Trump’s strong approval of 36% was his highest.
  24. The poll also found 46% say Trump should be removed from office, 49% disagree, essentially unchanged from 48%/48% in December.
  25. The poll also found 52% believe Trump abused the power of his office, the first article of impeachment, 41% say he did not; 53% say Trump obstructed Congress, the second article, 37% say he did not.
  26. On Sunday, after the Super Bowl, Trump tweeted, “Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs on a great game,” adding, “You represented the Great State of Kansas” and the “entire USA.” Kansas City is in Missouri.
  27. On Monday, CNN reported as Trump prepares to deliver his State of the Union on Tuesday night, he had not spoken to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi since October 16, when he called her a “third-grade politician.”
  28. On Monday, Miami Herald reported a video released on Instagram showed that during the Super Bowl national anthem, Trump can be seen greeting guests, adjusting his chair, and straightening his suit jacket.
  29. The video was taken by a real estate agent for a Russian-American firm who frequents Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties. Trump has been publicly critical of those who do not “stand proudly” during the anthem.
  30. On Monday, the DOJ sided with Trump in his appeal of a lower court ruling, telling the Supreme Court in filing that the House subpoenas of Trump’s finances are unconstitutional.
  31. In a separate filing Tuesday, the DOJ said that the House’s “limited and implied investigatory powers poses a serious risk of harassing the President and distracting him from his constitutional duties.”
  32. On Monday, House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team made their closing arguments in the Senate. Each side had two hours to argue their case. The trial had little intensity compared to last week.
  33. The notion of censure was floated by reporters, but most Republicans say Trump committed no wrongdoing and was the subject of a partisan investigation. Democrats also showed no interest in the idea.
  34. Rep. Jason Crow said senators had a duty to remove Trump, saying, “No one is above the law,” even presidents. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries warned against a “new normal” in which presidents are not held accountable.
  35. As Democrats were speaking, Trump tweeted, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” and then tweeted, “KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”
  36. Rep. Val Demings outlined Trump’s “corrupt scheme.” Republican House manger Lee Zeldin mocked Demings (who is a black woman), telling reporters her remarks were not “angry, hysterical, loud & wacky enough.”
  37. During lunch recess, Trump tweeted, “Where’s the Whistleblower? Where’s the second Whistleblower? Where’s the Informer? Why did Corrupt politician Schiff MAKE UP my conversation…And sooo much more.”
  38. Trump lawyer Pat Cipollone said impeachment is “an effort to overturn the results of one election and to try to interfere in the coming election that begins today in Iowa,” and senators should let the people decide.
  39. Ken Starr invoked Martin Luther King Jr., saying his words were not just about freedom, but also about justice, referencing “the moral arc of the universe” — an arc that “points toward justice” and fundamental fairness.
  40. Patrick Philburn called Adam Schiff “an interested witness who had been involved in, or at least his staff, in discussions with the whistleblower,” but failed to mention Cipollone, who Democrats call an “actual fact witness.”
  41. Jay Sekulow urged senators to end “the first totally partisan presidential impeachment in our nation’s history,” claiming what Trump did was not an abuse, but “policy disputes” over Ukraine.
  42. After, House Rep. Sylvia Garcia said Trump must be removed for the next generation, saying, “they will ask why we didn’t do anything” to stop Trump, and told senators that they “inherited a democracy” to pass on.
  43. Rep. Zoe Lofgren pushed back at a GOP argument on impeaching in an election year, saying, “If impeachment in election years was not to be, our founders would have said so.”
  44. Schiff closed out, saying, “A man without character or ethical compass will never find his way, even as the most recent and most egregious misconduct was discovered, he was unapologetic, unrepentant and more dangerous.”
  45. Schiff said Trump “betrayed our national security, and he will do so again,” and, “He has compromised our elections, and he will do so again,” adding, “You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is.”
  46. Schiff said, “History will not be kind” to Trump, adding, “Not because it will be written by ‘never Trumpers,’ but because whenever we have departed from the values of our nation, we have come to regret it.”
  47. Schiff closed by telling senators, if you “vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of iron and for all of history…But if you find the courage to stand up to him…your place will be among the Davids who took on Goliath.”
  48. Three Democrats running for president flew back to D.C. for the closing arguments: Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. The first primary was Monday evening in Iowa.
  49. Shortly after, Sen. Lisa Murkowski said on the floor, “I cannot vote to convict,” adding, “The House failed in its responsibilities. And the Senate should be ashamed by the rank partisanship that has been on display here.”
  50. Shortly after, Sen. Joe Manchin called for censuring Trump: “His behavior cannot go unchecked by the Senate and censure would allow a bipartisan statement condemning his unacceptable behavior in the strongest terms.”
  51. A source told WAPO Manchin, a moderate from a deeply red state, had been grappling for weeks with how to respond to Trump’s conduct. Manchin was one of the Democrats considering acquittal.
  52. On Monday, House Speaker Pelosi defended moving forward with impeachment, telling reporters, “we have pulled back a veil of behavior totally unacceptable to our founders” for the American people to see.
  53. Pelosi added, “Whatever happens, he has been impeached forever,” adding, “I think the spotlight that is on him will be very hot for him to handle.” House Democrats are largely behind her move.
  54. Pelosi also called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a “wholly owned subsidiary of the White House,” and called Trump his “puppeteer.” Pelosi also said Trump had tarnished the Senate.
  55. On Monday, BuzzFeed reported on the fifth installment containing hundreds of pages of FBI interview reports from the Mueller probe obtained from the DOJ under a FOIA request. Much was redacted.
  56. Steve Bannon told the FBI “he thought the Putin stuff was not a big deal” during the campaign, but he was not happy Jared Kushner “attempted to back channel for communications with Russia during the transition.”
  57. Rick Gates noted a network of Ukrainian oligarchs and fixers connected with Paul Manafort. Manafort introduced him to Konstantin Kilimnik in 2007 as someone he worked for the International Republican Institute in Moscow.
  58. All but four lines of the 17-page interview with Sean Spicer were redacted. Spicer said of James Comey that Trump said he never asked him for loyalty, but added, “even if he had, ‘Who cares?’”
  59. Stephen Miller said he sometimes wrote tweets for Trump, as did Kushner, Hope Hicks, and Dan Scavino. He said he did not know who had access to Trump’s phone and whether it was password protected.
  60. Miller said no one discussed changing the RNC platform with Trump, but on Ukraine, Trump generally would say, “Who’s gonna send their kids to defend Ukraine?” and he was not interested in war with Russia.
  61. On Monday, a technical glitch caused the Iowa Democratic Party to not announce the results of the Democrats’ first primary as anticipated that night. Conspiracy theories and complaints of rigging ensued.
  62. Delays were caused by problems with a mobile app developed by a tech firm Shadow, which was used to report figures to the state party. Shadow was acquired by Acronym, a nonprofit digital outfit, in 2019.
  63. Just after midnight, Republicans suggested, without evidence, that the caucuses were rigged against Bernie Sanders, including Trump’s campaign manager, who tweeted, “Quality control = rigged?”
  64. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “The Democrat Caucus is an unmitigated disaster. Nothing works, just like they ran the Country,” and, “The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is ‘Trump’.”
  65. Later in the morning, Trump also tweeted, “It is not the fault of Iowa, it is the Do Nothing Democrats fault. As long as I am President, Iowa will stay where it is. Important tradition!”
  66. Trump also tweeted, “When will the Democrats start blaming RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, instead of their own incompetence for the voting disaster that just happened in the Great State of Iowa?”
  67. Trump also tweeted, “The Democrat Party in Iowa really messed up, but the Republican Party did not,” adding, “I had the largest re-election vote in the history” of Iowa. The RNC has canceled multiply GOP primaries.
  68. On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee chair and ranking member said no foul play was involved, with Sen. Mark Warner noting there was “no indication” that the failures were “the result of malicious cyber activity.”
  69. On Thursday, CNN reported the Iowa Democratic Party said Trump supporters exacerbated the Iowa caucus breakdown by placing prank phone calls that hindered the reporting of results.
  70. On Friday, Trump tweeted, “The Democrat Party has given up on counting votes in Iowa. Looks like it all got computer “fried,”” and, “Nobody knows who the real winner is,” adding, “But I WON Iowa big!”
  71. On Tuesday, a judge in Alabama denied the “Stand Your Ground” defense for Brittany Smith, who killed a man who raped her and threatened to kill her and her family. She now faces first-degree murder charges.
  72. On Tuesday, NBC News reported LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Federation said it is tracking 206 state bills targeting LGBTQ Americans, including more than two dozen introduced in January alone.
  73. On Tuesday, watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a Hatch Act complaint against Kushner, saying he advocated for Trump’s re-election while acting in a government capacity on CNN.
  74. On Wednesday, Trump’s lawyer argued for a delay in E. Jean Carroll’s request for Trump’s DNA in her defamation suit, saying the request should wait until the court decides if Summer Zervos can proceed with her lawsuit.
  75. On Thursday, Erik Helland, a basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, resigned after the university found he used a racial epithet while recounting a story from his NBA career in front of players.
  76. On Tuesday, Gallup found Trump’s approval rose to 49%, his highest level in office, 50% disapprove. His approval rose 6 points with Republicans (94) and 5 with Independents (42), and down 3 with Democrats (7).
  77. On Tuesday, Rudy Giuliani told NPR Trump should “absolutely, 100%” investigate Joe Biden after the expected acquittal. Giuliani also called the acquittal “a total vindication.”
  78. Sen. Rand Paul read the name of the alleged whistleblower on the Senate floor next to a placard with the name. Politico reported Senate Republicans seemed fine with it, noting it was out there already.
  79. On Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Chair Jim Risch said he has no plans to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and Burisma despite Sen. Lindsey Graham calling him to, saying, “I’ve got other things I’m doing right now.”
  80. On Tuesday, Trump excluded CNN from the annual pre-State of the Union lunch with news anchors. This is the first time a president has singled out a single network to be disinvited. Last year, two CNN anchors attended.
  81. Daily Beast reported despite NBC’s Lester Holt and Chuck Todd, ABC’s David Muir and George Stephanopoulos, and CBS’s Norah O’Donnell and Margaret Brennan attending, no one asked about CNN not being invited.
  82. Trump also noted “MSDNC isn’t here as well,” and got no pushback. Todd anchors an MSNBC show. One attendee described Trump as confident, adding, “He wasn’t angry at all. He was friendly, outgoing, and relaxed.”
  83. Trump also said of his SOTU speech that he planned to be low-key and not spend much time talking about impeachment, saying instead he will deliver a barn-burner speech after the Senate acquits him Wednesday.
  84. Trump also said he planned to give the Medal of Freedom to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, a staunch ally, who announced on Monday that he has advanced lung cancer.
  85. On Tuesday, records showed an Arizona man, Jan Peter Meister, threatened Rep. Schiff, leaving him a voicemail after drinking alcohol and watching Fox News, threatening to kill him.
  86. On Tuesday, several House Democrats announced they would boycott Trump’s SOTU, including Chair Maxine Waters and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Al Green, Ayanna Pressley, and Steve Cohen.
  87. Later, Trump delivered his SOTU. The address was more akin to a subdued version of his campaign speech at rallies rather than a traditional SOTU address, and was full of false or misleading statements.
  88. Unlike his inaugural speech in January 2017 when he cited “American carnage,” Trump claimed the end of “American decline” after three years in office, while avoiding mention of his impeachment.
  89. As Trump entered the House chamber, Republicans chanted, “Four more years.” Trump bragged about his accomplishments, saying they were like nothing ever before. Republicans cheered Trump’s divisive lines.
  90. Trump appeared to not shake Pelosi’s outstretched hand before he began his speech. When he made false claims about “illegal aliens,” Pelosi shook her head behind him and mouthed, “Not true. It’s not true.”
  91. Trump took a shot at far-left Democrats running in 2020, saying, “Socialism destroys nations,” adding, “To those watching at home tonight, I want you to know: We will never let socialism destroy American health care!”
  92. Trump urged lawmakers to send him a bill to lower prescription drug prices, saying he would sign it. Several Democrats leaped to their feet and chanted “H.R. 3! H.R. 3!,” a reference to a House-passed bill to do that.
  93. Trump included reality-TV type theatrics. He introduced Amy Williams, the military spouse of Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams, who is serving in Afghanistan, and then announced a surprise that her husband was in the chamber.
  94. Trump pointed to a single mother and her fourth grade daughter, who he said was trapped in a low-performing school in Philadelphia, saying no parent should have to sent their child “to a failing government school.” He announced she would be receiving a scholarship.
  95. During the SOTU, Trump awarded Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom, surprising onlookers and Limbaugh himself. Limbaugh has a long record of extremely racist, misogynistic, and homophobic rhetoric on his show.
  96. Parkland dad Fred Guttenberg was removed from the audience by the Capitol Police after shouting “victims of gun violence like my daughter” while Republicans were applauding Trump.
  97. During the speech, a handful of Democrats walked out, including Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Bill Parscrell, and Tim Ryan, who tweeted, “It’s like watching professional wrestling. It’s all fake.”
  98. After Trump spoke, Pelosi, standing behind him, tore up Trump’s remarks which were laying in front of her in four piles, one by one, telling reporters after, “It was the courteous thing to do considering the alternative.”
  99. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence told “Fox & Friends” that Pelosi hit “a new low” by ripping Trump’s SOTU speech, adding, “I think the American people see through it. They see through the pettiness.”
  100. On Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler said the House expects to continue its investigation into Trump, and that the House “will likely” subpoena John Bolton, who previously refused to testify.
  101. On Wednesday, in a private meeting with House Democrats, Pelosi said she felt “liberated” after ripping up Trump’s speech for the world to see, saying, “He shredded the truth, so I shredded his speech.”
  102. Pelosi added, “I didn’t go in there to tear up the speech, and I didn’t even care that he didn’t shake my hand, in fact, who cares?” adding, “But I’m a speed reader….so I knew that it was a pack of lies.”
  103. Pelosi added, “What we heard last night was a disgrace,” adding, he disgraced by House by using it as a backdrop to a reality show. House Democrats gave Pelosi a standing ovation when she finished her remarks.
  104. Secretary of State Pompeo tweeted an image from “The Simpsons” cartoon show of Lisa Simpson tearfully ripping up a sheet of paper with the word “*SOBBING*” in a jab to Pelosi.
  105. Shortly after Bill Oakley, a former writer for the show, tweeted, “Mr. Secretary of State please do not ever ever ever use Simpsons material in your twitter or watch the show or refer to it in any way.”
  106. On Wednesday, Nielsen ratings found despite Trump’s reality show spin, just 37.2 million watched his SOTU, down 20% from last year, and well below his audiences for 2017 and 2018.
  107. One possible reason for the dip noted was that viewers may be feeling overwhelmed: a Pew survey found 66% of Americans say they are “worn out by the amount of news these days.”
  108. On Wednesday, Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz announced on Twitter he filed an ethics complaint against Pelosi, claiming, “Her conduct was beneath the dignity of the House, and a potential violation of law (18 USC 2071).”
  109. On Thursday, the Miami-Dade Democratic Party filed an official complaint with the Florida bar association against Gaetz, citing his role in storming the SCIF where closed-door depositions were held in October.
  110. On Thursday, the House voted along party lines to table a GOP resolution of disapproval against Pelosi which claimed the “conduct of Speaker Pelosi was a breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings.”
  111. On Wednesday, FBI director Christopher Wray warned in a House Judiciary hearing that Russia is engaged in “information warfare” heading into the 2020 presidential election.
  112. Wray said similar to 2016, Russia is relying on a covert social media campaign aimed at dividing American public opinion and sowing discord, using fictional personas, bots, social media postings, and disinformation.
  113. When asked if either Trump or Attorney General William Barr had directed him to investigate Joe or Hunter Biden, Wray demured, saying, “No one has asked me to open an investigation based on anything other than facts.”
  114. On Wednesday, Sen. Mitt Romney said he would vote to convict Trump in a historical speech on the Senate floor. WSJ reported the White House was caught off guard by Romney, having predicted unanimity among the GOP.
  115. Romney said this is “the most difficult decision I have ever faced,” adding, “Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office.”
  116. Romney cited his religion, saying, “I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.”
  117. Romney added Trump’s legal team’s argument that the Senate should leave the decision to the voter “is inconsistent with the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate, not the voters, try the president.”
  118. Romney said, “Like each member of this deliberative body, I love our country. I believe that our Constitution was inspired by Providence,” adding, “As it is with each senator, my vote is an act of conviction.”
  119. Romney said Trump’s action “rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor,” adding, “the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust,” and “What he did was not perfect.”
  120. Shortly after Romney’s speech, Trump’s press event with reporters on the South Lawn scheduled for 2:15 p.m. was abruptly canceled.
  121. On Wednesday at 4 p.m., after senators were given the opportunity to address fellow senators, the Senate voted 52-48 to acquit Trump on abuse of power, and 53-47 to acquit on obstruction of Congress.
  122. Romney voted to convict Trump on abuse of power, becoming the first sitting senator in U.S. history to vote to remove from office a president from the same party, denying Trump a strictly partisan vote.
  123. Notably, all three of the red state Democrats — Sens. Doug Jones, Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema — voted with Democrats giving a unanimous vote to convict on both articles.
  124. Shortly after, Trump tweeted, “I will be making a public statement tomorrow at 12:00pm from the@WhiteHouse to discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!”
  125. At a press conference after, McConnell refuse to answer reporters on whether Trump had done something wrong, saying, “Listen, we voted…it’s time to move on … as far as I’m concerned it’s in the rearview mirror.”
  126. McConnell also refused to say whether Romney should be expelled from the GOP, saying, “I was surprised and disappointed, but we have much work to do for the American people.”
  127. Shortly after, Trump retweeted his previous president for life tweet of a video-montage adaptation of a 2018 Time magazine cover, showing him being re-elected indefinitely. He retweeted it again on Thursday.
  128. Shortly after, Donald Jr. posted a photo of Romney on his Instagram, showing Romney wearing high-waisted jeans, with the caption: “Mom Jeans, Because you’re a pussy.”
  129. Later Wednesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown wrote in an op-ed that Senate Republicans admitted to him privately that they acquitted Trump out of fear.
  130. On Wednesday, the NYT Editorial Board called Trump’s SOTU “the most harshly partisan” in memory, noting it was full of “distortions and deceptions,” and that he “hijacked the House chamber.”
  131. The board also noted he turned the SOTU into a “campaign rally, corrupting the role presidents have played,” and it showed Trump “intends to deploy every power available to a president in pursuit of his re-election.”
  132. Later Wednesday, Schiff told MSNBC that after the Senate voted not to hear witnesses, the House asked Bolton’s lawyer if he would be willing to submit an affidavit under oath on Ukraine, and he refused.
  133. Schiff added, Bolton “apparently was willing to testify before the Senate, but apart from that, seems intent on saving it for his book.” Schiff said there was no decision yet on whether to subpoena Bolton.
  134. Later Wednesday, Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson announced they would investigate Hunter Biden, saying in a letter to the Secret Service they are “reviewing potential conflicts of interest” while Biden was VP.
  135. Later Wednesday, the White House threatened to veto a $4.7 billion emergency aid package to Puerto Rico for the island’s recovery from a series of damaging earthquakes ahead of a planned House vote Friday.
  136. The Office of Management and Budget called the House legislation “misguided,” adding, “Neither Puerto Ricans nor the American taxpayers benefit when emergency aid is misallocated, lost, or stolen through waste, fraud, and abuse.”
  137. On Wednesday, AG Barr issued new restrictions on the FBI opening new political investigations, saying for all new investigations into 2020 candidates or staff the DOJ must be notified and Barr must approve it.
  138. The order comes after the DOJ inspector general report found FBI agents did not follow protocols and falsified information in their investigation of Trump campaign staffer Carter Page.
  139. The order said the DOJ had the duty to ensure elections are “free from improper activity or influences,” on the same day Trump was acquitted of abusing his office, and will remain in effect through the 2020 election.
  140. Barr is the first attorney general to require the FBI to consult with the DOJ before opening politically charged investigations. Since he took office, Barr has opened numerous politically charged investigations.
  141. On Wednesday, BuzzFeed reported Trump is withholding approval for at least six commercial orders worth roughly $30 million for arms and ammunition from U.S. companies for sale to Ukraine.
  142. A White House official told BuzzFeed, “It might be wise for the Ukrainians to look for other sources,” adding the sales are still being “evaluated,” despite Ukraine already having put money down.
  143. On Wednesday, Foreign Policy reported at U.S. embassies, Trump appointees are forcing out career diplomats. One official noted, “There’s zero support or pushback from the department for the career people.”
  144. Trump has appointed a higher percentage of allies and supporters who have no foreign policy experience than previous presidents, sowing a culture of mistrust between appointees and career diplomats.
  145. On Thursday, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said in an op-ed she and her colleagues testified “because it is the American way to speak up about wrongdoing. I have seen dictatorships around the world.”
  146. Yovanovitch said, “I had always thought that our institutions would forever protect us,” adding, “it turns out that our institutions need us as much as we need them; they need the American people to protect them.”
  147. Later Wednesday, in what appeared to be an act of retaliation by Trump against a state that voted against him, the Department of Homeland Security chief announced on Fox News that New York residents can no longer sign up for global entry.
  148. On Thursday, Yahoo News reported the Treasury Department complied with Republican senators’ requests on Wednesday for highly sensitive and closely held financial records about Hunter Biden.
  149. Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking member on Grassley’s Finance Committee, noted “the blatant double standard” of the Trump regime agencies “rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests” while ignoring Democrats.
  150. On Thursday, at the National Prayer Breakfast, an event meant to foster personal connections across party differences, Trump unloaded on his political enemies, while Pelosi was seated a few feet away.
  151. Trump held up the front pages of USA Today and WAPO, which read “ACQUITTED” and “Trump Acquitted.” Trump said, “my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal.”
  152. Trump added, “They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing, very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.”
  153. Sniping at Pelosi and Romney, Trump said, “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.”
  154. When Harvard professor Arthur Brooks asked the 200 members of Congress and others at the event to raise their hands if they love someone whom they disagree with politically, Trump did not raise his hand.
  155. Trump also said people of faith sometimes “hate” people, adding, “When they impeach you for nothing, then you’re supposed to like them? It’s not easy folks,” adding he was doing “my best” to try otherwise
  156. On Thursday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News that Democrats pursued a “dishonest and corrupt” impeachment, adding, “This has been going on” since Trump “went down the escalator.”
  157. Grisham stated, “So many people have been hurt,” adding, “Maybe people should pay for that,” and, “People should be held accountable for anything they do to hurt this country and this president.”
  158. On Thursday, at her weekly news conference, Pelosi said Trump “looked to me like he was a little bit sedated” at the SOTU, adding, “He looked that way last year, too. But that was that.”
  159. Pelosi also said Trump’s remarks had more to do with the “his state of mind” than the actual state of the country, and that he disrespected the House, using it “as the backdrop for a reality show.”
  160. Pelosi said of Romney being the first senator to vote against his own party on impeachment, “God bless him for his courage,” and said Trump’s legacy will always bear the “scar” of impeachment, regardless of his acquittal.
  161. Pelosi called Trump’s comments at the prayer breakfast “completely inappropriate,” adding, “I don’t know what he understands about people who pray,” and, “He can say whatever he wants, but I do pray for him.”
  162. Pelosi added, “I thought what he said about Romney was particularly without class.” She also said the House has “no plans” to subpoena Bolton.
  163. On Thursday, Trump tweeted, “Had failed presidential candidate @MittRomney devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering” Obama as he did to him, “he could have won the election.”
  164. On Thursday, Romney told the Times he expects to face “unimaginable” consequences for his vote, adding, “I don’t know what they’ll be,” and saying, “I just have to recognize that and do what you think is right.”
  165. Later Thursday, Trump celebrated his acquittal with a speech in a packed East Room of the White House. Unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton, Trump expressed no remorse or contrition post-acquittal.
  166. Trump held up the front page of WAPO, saying, “I did nothing wrong. I’ve done things wrong in my life,” and called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt,” adding, “It was all bullshit.”
  167. Trump called Democratic leaders “vicious and mean,” and called himself a victim, claiming impeachment was just the latest scrutiny he had faced since he announced he would run for president in 2015.
  168. Trump said, “We’ve been going through this now for almost three years. It was evil, it was corrupt,” adding, “This is a day of celebration because we went through hell.”
  169. Trump said, “We first went through Russia, Russia, Russia,” and attacked his enemies including James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok, Christopher Steele, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.
  170. Trump also attacked Hunter Biden, without mentioning his name, for his board seat on Burisma while Joe Biden was VP, saying Hunter was “a son that made no money, that got thrown out of the military.”
  171. Trump also attacked Alexander Vindman, who testified in the impeachment inquiry, saying, “Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and his twin brother, right?” adding, “We had some people that — really amazing.”
  172. Trump said Democrats may try to impeach him again, saying, “Because if they find that I happen to walk across the street and maybe go against the light or something, let’s impeach him.”
  173. Trump only complimented those who stood unequivocally behind him. He praised Rep. Elise Stefanik, saying, “I’ll always be your friend,” and, “What a great future you have; what a great future. Thank you.”
  174. Trump also praised more than a dozen GOP defenders including Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Steve Scalise, Mark Meadows, and Devin Nunes, while attacking Romney as “a failed presidential candidate.”
  175. Trump also praised McConnell, saying, “Mitch, he stayed there right from the beginning,” adding, “He never changed,” and, “I want to tell you, you did a fantastic job. … He understood this was crooked politics.”
  176. With AG Barr seated feet away, Trump attacked the FBI, saying, “If I didn’t fire James Comey, we would’ve never found this stuff,” claiming after he fired the “sleazebag” Comey, that “They were ratting on each other.”
  177. Trump ended saying, “I want to apologize to my family for having them have to go through a phony, rotten deal by some very evil and sick people,” adding, “Our country is thriving. Our country is just respected again.”
  178. On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 54-page, bipartisan report of recommendations on responding to foreign election interference in 2020.
  179. The report was critical of the Obama administration’s paralysis on Russia interference, and also critical of Senate Leader McConnell for forestalling a stronger bipartisan response.
  180. The report said Obama warned Putin that “the kind of consequences that he could anticipate would be powerfully impactful to their economy and far exceed anything that he had seen to date,” but it did not work.
  181. Sen. Ron Wyden said in an addendum not issuing a “bipartisan public acknowledgment of the ongoing attack” was a mistake, saying even if it reflected poorly on Trump’s campaign, the public should be warned.
  182. The report recommended that Trump “should take steps to separate himself…from political considerations when handling issues related to foreign influence operations.”
  183. On Thursday, the Fresno Bee reported Twitter is demanding that Rep. Nunes pay its legal fees from a lawsuit he filed seeking the identities of more than a dozen Twitter accounts, including Devin Nunes’ Cow.
  184. On Friday, Rep. Chip Roy told “Fox & Friends” about an idea being floated among House Republicans: a resolution to “expunge” the House’s impeachment of Trump.
  185. Roy said, “when we’re back in charge, we can have a vote, we can have a resolution,” adding, “I don’t know if it will carry any legal weight, but we can send a loud message that this was a political, partisan effort.”
  186. On Friday, Trump retweeted a series of tweets from his allies, including, “ACQUITTED FOR LIFE,” and “Short List of Debunked Democrat Hoaxes,” including Russian collusion, quid pro quo, and Pelosi praying for Trump.
  187. On Friday, Schiff said on CNN that Bolton owed the American people an explanation “at some point why he is willing to put this in a book but not in an affidavit under oath.”
  188. On Friday, Bolton’s lawyer accused the White House of trying to suppress his book, after the NSC sent him a letter expressing concerns that the manuscript contained classified information.
  189. Bolton’s spokesperson said in a statement: “This latest leak from the NSC’s pre-publication review process raises even more serious concerns that the process has been thoroughly breached.”
  190. On Friday, Joe Walsh, a Republican who called Trump “unfit” for office, ended his presidential bid. Walsh said in an op-ed he believed Republicans who supported Trump were part of a “cult” and under a “spell.”
  191. On Friday, in a letter to the senior members of the Senate Ethics Committee, Tom Mueller, author of a book on the history of whistleblowing, alleges that Sen. Paul “engaged in improper conduct.”
  192. Late Thursday, Bloomberg reported the White House is considering firing Alexander Vindman from the National Security Council, after he testified in impeachment inquiry.
  193. On Friday, Trump retweeted a video clip of ally Tom Fitton on Fox Business saying of Vindman, “I don’t know how we can expect the president to have any trust in this person’s work.”
  194. On Friday, Trump told reporters Mick Mulvaney is staying on, saying a rumor he would be fired and could be replaced by Trump ally Rep. Mark Meadows was a “false report.”
  195. However, when Trump was asked if Vindman was leaving, he said, “Well, I’m not happy with him,” adding, “They’ll make a decision,” without specifying who “they” are.
  196. Trump also backed the idea of expunging his impeachment floated on “Fox & Friends,” saying, “They should because it was a hoax,” adding, “It was a total political hoax.”
  197. Pelosi responded, saying, “there’s no expunging,” adding, “If they don’t want to honor their oath of office, then they’re going to expunge from their own souls the violation of the Constitution that they made.”
  198. Shortly after, at a rally in North Carolina, Trump falsely claimed Pelosi had broken the law by tearing up his speech, saying, “it’s an official document,” adding, “It’s illegal. She broke the law. … I thought it was terrible.”
  199. On Friday, NYT reported Vindman will be transferred out of the White House NSC staff as early as Friday. It was unclear what role he would assume next in the Defense Department.
  200. Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient and an Iraq war veteran, and who said to his father at the impeachment inquiry, “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth,” was marched out of the White House by security guards.
  201. Vindman’s lawyer said, “There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over…Lt. Col. Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right, frightened the powerful.”
  202. Shortly after, Trump also ousted Alexander’s twin brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an Army officer who also worked on the NSC as a lawyer.
  203. Shortly after, Trump ordered Gordon Sondland, who had also testified in the impeachment inquiry, to be recalled from his post as U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
  204. Others who testified have also left their posts or been reassigned, including Yovanovitch who resigned last week, William Taylor, Fiona Hill, Kurt Volker, Tim Morrison, and Jennifer Williams.
  205. Sen. Susan Collins, the moderate who voted to acquit Trump, saying he had learned his lesson, noted, “I obviously am not in favor of any kind of retribution against anyone who came forward with evidence.”
  206. Trump also attacked red state Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin who voted to convict, tweeting, “I was told by many that Manchin was just a puppet for Schumer & Pelosi,” adding, “That’s all he is!”
  207. On Friday, a federal appeals court ruled individual members of Congress cannot sue to stop Trump from having his private businesses accept payments from foreign governments.
  208. The court unanimously dismissed a lawsuit filed by more than 200 Democrats in Congress seeking to enforce the Constitution’s emoluments clause. A case brought by the AGs of D.C. and Maryland continues on.
  209. Shortly after, Trump celebrated the ruling, tweeting, “Another win just in. Nervous Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress sued me, thrown out,” adding, “This one unanimous, in the D.C. Circuit. Witch Hunt!”
  210. On Friday, Donald Jr. tweeted, “Allow me a moment to thank…Adam Schiff. Were it not for his crack investigation skills, @realDonaldTrump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired.”
  211. On Friday, WAPO reported the Trump Organization is charging Secret Service rates as high as $650 per night at properties like Mar-a-Lago and Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.
  212. On Friday, NY AG Letitia James announced New York plans to sue the Trump regime over its decision to suspend the Global Entry program, noting the “unfair targeting of New York State residents.”
  213. Late Friday, an unverified Twitter account tweeted a photo of Trump walking across the South Lawn, which showed a visible line between his the orange color of his face and his actual skin color.
  214. Trump, well known for his vanity, responded Saturday, tweeting, “More Fake News. This was photoshopped, obviously, but the wind was strong and the hair looks good? Anything to demean!”
  215. On Saturday, Trump defended firing Vindman, tweeting, “Fake News @CNN & MSDNC keep talking about “Lt. Col.” Vindman as though I should think only how wonderful he was.”
  216. Trump added, “Actually, I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him,” adding, “but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly, & was given a horrendous report by his superior.”
  217. Trump also tweeted Vindman’s superior said he “had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information,” adding, “In other words, “OUT”.”
  218. Vindman will report to the Pentagon on Monday, until a previously scheduled assignment at the Army War College begins in July. His twin brother Yevgeny will join the office of the Army general counsel.
  219. Trump also tweeted, “Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s Impeachment Hoax has lifted Republican Congressional Polls,” adding, “she lost the House once before!” and, “my Polls, WAY UP, which was expected.”
  220. Trump also again attacked Rep. Debbie Dingell, tweeting, “who called me, tears flowing, to thank me” for her husband’s funeral, “then voted against me on the partisan Impeachmen [sic] Hoax.”
  221. Trump added Dingell said “everybody (Dems) wants to get out of town” and, “She could have had a much better week if Crazy Nancy…did not bring the phony & corrupt Impeachment Hoax.”

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Copyright Amy Siskind, February 8, 2020

Trump turns away as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reaches out to shake his hand as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 4, 2020 (Photo credit: the official Twitter account for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi).