The Circus is in Town Edition
APPROVAL ALERT AT PRESS TIME:
FiveThirtyEight Poll: 41.3% — down from 41.4% last week
Rasmussen Poll: 50% — up from 49% last week
53% IN FAVOR OF IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY — 11/12/19 — CBS News Poll
Welcome to Trumplandia, a place where with a bit of wit and snark, we keep the world caught up on all of the tasty Nuggets-O-Trump you may have heard about but were too busy to care. Because most of this minutia occurs just below the massive headlines about the POTUS, it’s in a land of its own. Here, an infusion of social media, video clips and print media meld with our outdated political views to make more delicious “Fake News” about our Commander-in-Chief.
So just like the president, we start it all with a little tweet like this:
The Main Attraction
The week of our Trump — Nov. 9, 2019: During a historic week that saw the fourth American president in history face impeachment, the first line of witnesses gave their testimony before the Intelligence Committee of the United States House of Representatives.
Referenced as a circus, a sham, a hoax and a witch hunt by the focus of the inquiry, President Donald Trump, early headlines were grabbed by drag queen Pissi Myles, who reported on the hearings with her cellphone for a startup app called “Happs.” The Atlantic City, N.J. queen, dressed in heels, a platinum blonde wig and a red dress, skied above the other reporters and grabbed early attention, but the fun and games ended quickly.
Once top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent took their seats the essence of the inquiry was apparent.
Both lifelong diplomats provided a stark contrast to the circus of which Trump referred, but it wasn’t long before the proceedings caused him to seethe, tweet, deflect, and of course, lie about his interest in the “fake hearings.” He even tried to hold an event to compete with the inquiry, but we’ll touch on that later. Let’s just say that Thanksgiving came a little early.
Often direct and without much pizazz, the two lifelong diplomats laid out a story that placed the president and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, as the head of a shadow foreign policy effort that looked to hold up nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the country beginning an investigation into Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The effort came to light in September when a whistleblower complaint was disclosed and concerns were raised about a call between Trump and Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on July 25, 2019.
Taylor was one of the first people to push back against the scheme. Taylor, in numerous correspondences with former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, uncovered what he termed an “irregular” channel in diplomatic relations that threatened past policy on the Eastern Bloc nation.
Taylor said the aid, which had been approved by Congress and was set to help Ukraine fight Russian aggression in the region, appeared to be held up as part of a plan to have Biden and his son Hunter investigated at the request of President Trump. Taylor questioned the policy and even considered resigning his post rather than be involved in the plot.
Described as “bribery” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Ca.), Taylor and Kent highlighted the first day of testimony. However, it was a revelation by Taylor that became a larger bombshell. He said his suspicion increased when he had dinner with Sondland a day after the July 25 call. He said that while in the restaurant, Sondland called Trump on an unsecured line and that at least two aides overheard the exchange.
According to Taylor, Trump asked Sondland about the investigations into the Bidens, with the understanding that the Ukraine president would publicly announce the probe and in return gain a visit to the White House and access to military aid that had already been allocated by Congress.
Kent and Taylor were both labeled as “Never Trumpers” by Republicans in Congress, including all the usual suck-ups like Rep. Jim Jordan (R- Ohio) and co-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R- Ca.).
The next session, held yesterday, was no less brutal.
Ousted U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch outlined how she felt threatened by the president and Giuliani after it was learned she was not in good favor with Trump. Serving more than 30 years and under both parties from President Ronald Reagan to Trump, Yavanovitch was pushed out in Ukraine by what she called a smear campaign set in motion by Giuliani and the president’s son, Don, Jr.
Yovanovitch said the smear campaign made her feel unsafe, especially after an exchange with Sondland where she was urged to say pleasant things about Trump publicly to regain his favor. She said she felt intimidated after seeing her name mentioned in the July 25 call to Zelensky in which Trump described her as “not good,” and told the new Ukraine president that she was “going to go through some things.”
Yovanovitch was recalled from Kyiv in May amid rumors that she was against the president. She testified that she believed her commitment to anticorruption in Ukraine had made her a target. She theorized that Giuliani and Trump may have wanted her out of the way in order to continue the scheme to shake down Ukraine for political dirt on Biden.
While testifying about her experience and ultimate removal, Trump found the time to watch her testimony and offered a tweet that was critical of Yovanovitch and could serve as a new article of impeachment for witness intimidation. Trump wrote:
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”
The post was read into the official record by committee Chairman Adam Schiff, (D-Ca.), who asked the former ambassador if she wished to comment about it. She said she took Trump’s comments as potential threats and that she was intimidated by his inference. She said such statements by the leader of the free world could make other witnesses fearful of testifying.
Trump later defended his social media attack by saying that he had the right to speak, even if it was in real-time about a formal public hearing of which he was the subject.
Late yesterday, State Department aide David Holmes, reportedly testified that the previously undisclosed telephone conversation between Trump and Sondland directly linked Trump to the demand that Ukraine investigate the Bidens. Taylor and Holmes said the call made it clear Trump was more interested in getting political dirt on Biden than he was in protecting Ukraine from Russia.
The next round of impeachment hearings are set for next week.
As mentioned earlier, Trump decided to hold a highly controversial meeting with the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey during the impeachment proceedings.
Erdogan, someone of whom Trump is an admitted fan, drew criticism about a month ago from Democrats and a surprising number of Republicans for his attack on America’s longtime Kurdish allies. The attacks in northern Syria followed a telephone conversation between the two leaders that ultimately led to the hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops and a drastic change in U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Members of Congress urged Trump to rescind Erdogan’s invitation to the White House in light of the recent military action where Turkey encroached on the Syrian border and killed many of our former comrades after the American withdrawal.
Although assured that no negative action would be taken against the Kurds at the time, the Turks launched a military offensive against an U.S. ally which was instrumental in dismantling ISIS/ISIL in the region. Despite Trump’s assurances, many Kurds were slaughtered during the pullout, and his only counter was a strongly worded letter to Erdogan in which he chided him to agree to a ceasefire and to not be a “tough guy” or “a fool.”
The U.S. worked on a ceasefire that allowed Kurds to leave their homes in order to survive. Kurdish officials estimate about 500 civilians have been killed since the American pullout and more than 300,000 people have been displaced.
During his visit to the Oval Office, Erdogan returned the letter to Trump and reportedly showed Republican members of Congress, most of whom are critical of Turkey’s role in the region, a propaganda video that portrayed the Kurds as terrorists.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jim Risch, (R-Idaho) Ted Cruz (R- Tx.), Joni Ernst (R- Iowa) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) all attended the 90-minute meeting and presentation. Erdogan was warned about the recent purchase of a Russian missile defense system, which could result in sanctions and violate agreements with NATO. Erdogan was reminded that using the Russian system in the region would also force America to no longer furnish Turkey with F-35 fighter planes.
Despite the odd timing, Trump hosted the man who has been seen as brutal dictator and someone who is a questionable ally. Trump has stated that U.S. troops have been left in the region to guard oil fields in Syria.
Taking a Stab at It
Late last week The Donald decided to attend yet another public sporting event, but this time he hedged his bet against being booed by attending a college football game in the friendly confines of the state of Alabama.
Despite their normal winning ways, the Crimson Tide were big losers on that day, while Trump, who had been booed publicly in D.C. and New York just weeks prior, was deemed the biggest winner after receiving a warm welcome among his Red State base.
Visiting Tuscaloosa, Ala. For the game the Crimson Tide and the Tigers of Louisiana State University, Trump sat just above the field where this time he did not have to dodge jeers and chants calling for him to be locked up. Instead, he was allowed to wave to the crowd and offer a few fist bumps to his supporters.
It was a happy time for the president and first lady.
It was not such a joyful time for the Trump Baby Balloon, which was also in attendance at the game. The iconic balloon, which has been flown all over the world, was grounded in Alabama after a vandal stabbed it, causing the 20-foot tall balloon to crash in a heap.
Police said they arrested a 32-year-old man identified as Hoyt Deau Hutchinson and charged him with criminal mischief after he become enraged at the sight of the balloon.
“It comes a point when you gotta take a stand. We don’t have two parties anymore. We have good versus evil,” Hutchinson was quoted as telling a local radio station following his release. “When you got one party that says it’s okay to kill babies, and by the way, this is the first time I’m ever seen a liberal get mad about chopping up a baby.”
Hutchinson yelled: “Trump 2020,” as he was being arrested by police. He said the sight of the balloon made him shake with anger. He said he purchased Alabama paraphernalia to fit in and used a fabric cutter to slash the balloon. A Facebook Live video was discovered where Hutchinson disclosed that he planned to slash the huge balloon at all costs.
Upon his release, Hutchinson also set up a crowdsourcing page to raise money for his legal fees associated with the attack.