Some Decisions Should Be Easy

Some smart people make them difficult.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, announced a decision yesterday:

The Mueller report lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump and Donald Trump welcomed that help. Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack. 

Mueller put the next step in the hands of Congress: “Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.” The correct process for exercising that authority is impeachment.

To ignore a President’s repeated efforts to obstruct an investigation into his own disloyal behavior would inflict great and lasting damage on this country, and it would suggest that both the current and future Presidents would be free to abuse their power in similar ways.

The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.

She explained her decision to Rachel Maddow last night. The senator begins speaking at 1:25 of this short video. If you watch it, you’ll see that Sen. Warren is a very smart person who made an easy decision (it’s more evidence that she should be our next president).

Rachel Maddow: “What made you decide to take this step today?”

Elizabeth Warren: “Well, I read the report.”

There are other smart people reading the Mueller report (or being told what’s in it) who believe the issue is much more complicated. They’ve seen polls that say the American people aren’t enthusiastic about impeachment. They’re concerned that impeaching the president would “tear the country apart”. They assume that Republican senators would never vote to remove this president, no matter what he’s done. They’re worried that Democrats would suffer in the next election. They think the election would end up being all about impeachment, not the issues voters really care about. They think most voters are too cynical to care about the president’s behavior. For some reason, they think that publicizing the president’s misdeeds in televised hearings would discourage Democratic voters and energize Republican ones.

It’s unfortunate that some of the smart people having trouble with this decision are Democrats in Congress.

From Jamil Smith, writing for Rolling Stone:

Despite a few outliers, such as freshmen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib [and now Elizabeth Warren], most Democrats in Congress have not recognized that the responsibility of impeachment is now at their doorstep, so I fully expect the Democratic Party as a whole will pull its punches.

The pathetic part is that it isn’t because it isn’t “worthwhile.” Impeaching a man who did nothing to stop a foreign attack on American elections on his behalf, then went on to a presidency where he obstructed justice while locking up migrant kids and letting Puerto Rico drown? Yeah, that’s worthwhile. No, they’ll hold off from impeachment… The common perception appears to be that an attempt at impeachment — with Republicans holding a slight but firm majority in the Senate — would be doomed to failure and the entire enterprise would hurt the chances of swing-state Democrats seeking re-election. But it is foolish to assume that every impeachment effort would go the way of Newt Gingrich in the Nineties, when a harebrained effort to fire President Bill Clinton backfired on the Republicans at the ballot box [and ignoring how impeaching a corrupt Republican president, Richard Nixon, helped the Democrats in the 1970s]….

Should Democrats take impeachment off the table, they would let [him] get away with it. It is that elementary. There is no guarantee that he will not repeat the very same encouragement of those Russian efforts, all the while playing dumb so as to avoid legal culpability.

If Democrats were smarter, they would understand that initiating the impeachment of [this president] might actually galvanize their base because it would demonstrate that leadership was willing to take the obvious, the logical and the constitutional step once presented with such an abundance of evidence. They would grasp that the visual of their party standing up to a president wedded equally to corruption and to his assortment of bigotries would be appealing to an electorate where black voters are increasingly driving the conversation. Democrats would seize upon the Mueller Report as a flashpoint for organization and recruitment, rather than take the task of prosecution that the Constitution assigned to Congress, hand it off to voters and call that “democracy.” It is up to us as citizens to choose our elected officials, not to do their jobs for them.

How about this instead? Since there is plenty of evidence that the president abused his office, the House of Representative should begin impeachment proceedings. If the evidence is there (hardly an open question at this point), let the House send the matter to the Senate for final determination. If they choose to, let each Republican in the Senate argue that the president’s behavior hasn’t been all that bad. But let’s see how all the senators vote when they have to go on the record, after hearing all the evidence and arguments.

Whatever Congress ends up doing, the presidential candidates will proceed with their campaigns, emphasizing the issues they want to emphasize. Then, in the next election, let the voters decide whether they prefer Democrats or Republicans. If our system of government still works, the Democrats will take the presidency, the House and the Senate in the 2020 election.

It’s really that simple.

Tell Pelosi to Impeach the Bastard Now

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent a letter yesterday to her Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives:

In his summary letter and press conference, Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the President did not obstruct justice.  The Mueller report appears to directly undercut that claim.

Our Chairmen are studying the report, and have released a joint statement.  As we continue to review this document, we will have more to report and will update you on the next steps that must be taken.  The Caucus is scheduling a conference call for Monday to discuss this grave matter, which is as soon as our analysis and this Holy Season’s religious traditions allow.

The Mueller report states, “We concluded Congress has authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” which “accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”  Congress will not be silent.

Sure, Congress won’t be silent, but will the Democrats begin impeachment proceedings or will they merely proceed with their plans to investigate and publicize the president’s unfitness? I’m not going to repeat the overwhelming arguments for impeaching the president. If you’re not convinced, you might dip into these commentaries:

Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, “Democratic Equivocation Over Impeachment Is a Moral and Political Disaster”

Noah Bookbinder, The New York Times, “Mueller’s Damning Report”

Brian Beutler, Crooked, “Democrats’s Impeachment Panic Is Endangering the Country”

Heather Digby Parton, Salon, “Roadmap for Impeachment: Mueller’s Purpose Is Clear”

Yoni Applebaum, The Atlantic, “The Mueller Report Is an Impeachment Referral”

The Moscow Project (unsigned), “The Mueller Report, Like the Watergate Roadmap, Should Be Considered an Impeachment Referral”

George Conway, The Washington Post, “Trump Is a Cancer on the Presidency — Congress Should Remove Him”

Charles Pierce, Esquire, “The Mueller Report Is a Challenge to Congress: Save the Republic. Impeach the President”

Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times, In a Functional Country, We Would Be on the Road to Impeachment”

Really, now that we have the redacted Mueller report, no argument is needed to justify the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives taking action next week.

But if you would like to give Speaker Pelosi some encouragement on the matter, you can send her a message at Speaker Contact. Or you can call her Washington office at (202) 225-4965 or her San Francisco office at (415) 556-4862.

I sent her a few thoughts. It was easy:

Madame Speaker: This is not a moment for political calculations or equivocation. It is time to fulfill your responsibilities as Speaker of the House. You must initiate impeachment proceedings against the president. We know he is guilty of obstruction of justice. The rule of law demands action now. Not impeaching him will give him license to behave even worse (and to argue that if he had done anything wrong, the Democrats would have impeached him). But even from a political standpoint, it would be a terrible blow to Democratic voters across the country who gave you back the House majority and want the president to be held to account. You must act and act now. 

Contacting the House member for your district is also a good idea. You can find their contact information at Directory of Representatives.

We need to decide as a nation if the rule of law still applies to the government of the United States or if our presidents are above the law. Now is the moment to answer that question.

Start the Impeachment Process Now, Part 2

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, now famous for recently proclaiming “let’s impeach the motherfucker”, and political activist John Bonifaz present the case for the House of Representatives to immediately begin the impeachment process:

[The president] is a direct and serious threat to our country. On an almost daily basis, he attacks our Constitution, our democracy, the rule of law and the people who are in this country. His conduct has created a constitutional crisis that we must confront now. 

The Framers of the Constitution designed a remedy to address such a constitutional crisis: impeachment. Through the impeachment clause, they sought to ensure that we would have the power, through our elected representatives in Congress, to protect the country by removing a lawless president from the Oval Office.

We already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable offenses, including, just to name a few: obstructing justice; violating the emoluments clause; abusing the pardon power; directing or seeking to direct law enforcement to prosecute political adversaries for improper purposes; advocating illegal violence and undermining equal protection of the laws; ordering the cruel and unconstitutional imprisonment of children and their families at the southern border; and conspiring to illegally influence the 2016 election through a series of hush money payments.

Whether the president was directly involved in a conspiracy with the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election remains the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But we do not need to wait on the outcome of that criminal investigation before moving forward now with an inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives on whether the president has committed impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the state: abuse of power and abuse of the public trust.

Those who say we must wait for Special Counsel Mueller to complete his criminal investigation before Congress can start any impeachment proceedings ignore this crucial distinction. There is no requirement whatsoever that a president be charged with or be convicted of a crime before Congress can impeach him. They also ignore the fact that many of the impeachable offenses committed by this president are beyond the scope of the special counsel’s investigation.

We are also now hearing the dangerous claim that initiating impeachment proceedings against this president is politically unwise and that, instead, the focus should now shift to holding the president accountable via the 2020 election. Such a claim places partisan gamesmanship over our country and our most vulnerable at this perilous moment in our nation’s history. Members of Congress have a sworn duty to preserve our Constitution.  Leaving a lawless president in office for political points would be abandoning that duty.

This is not just about [the president]. This is about all of us. What should we be as a nation? Who should we be as a people? In the face of this constitutional crisis, we must rise. We must rise to defend our Constitution, to defend our democracy, and to defend that bedrock principle that no one is above the law, not even the President of the United States. Each passing day brings more pain for the people most directly hurt by this president, and these are days we simply cannot get back. The time for impeachment proceedings is now.

Begin to Impeach the Motherfucker

Leading Democrats in Congress say they should wait for the Mueller investigation’s findings before talking about impeachment, even though they don’t know what the Mueller findings will be or when the investigation will end. Meanwhile, we have a president who is unfit to serve another day.

David Leonhardt of the NY Times makes the case for impeaching him now:

The presidential oath of office contains 35 words and one core promise: to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Since virtually the moment [the president] took that oath two years ago, he has been violating it.

He has repeatedly put his own interests above those of the country. He has used the presidency to promote his businesses. He has accepted financial gifts from foreign countries. He has lied to the American people about his relationship with a hostile foreign government. He has tolerated cabinet officials who use their position to enrich themselves.

To shield himself from accountability for all of this — and for his unscrupulous presidential campaign — he has set out to undermine the American system of checks and balances. He has called for the prosecution of his political enemies and the protection of his allies. He has attempted to obstruct justice. He has tried to shake the public’s confidence in one democratic institution after another, including the press, federal law enforcement and the federal judiciary.

The unrelenting chaos that Trump creates can sometimes obscure the big picture. But the big picture is simple: The United States has never had a president as demonstrably unfit for the office as Trump. And it’s becoming clear that 2019 is likely to be dominated by a single question: What are we going to do about it?

The easy answer is to wait — to allow the various investigations of Trump to run their course and ask voters to deliver a verdict in 2020. That answer has one great advantage. It would avoid the national trauma of overturning an election result. Ultimately, however, waiting is too dangerous. The cost of removing a president from office is smaller than the cost of allowing this president to remain.

He has already shown, repeatedly, that he will hurt the country in order to help himself. He will damage American interests around the world and damage vital parts of our constitutional system at home. The risks that he will cause much more harm are growing.

Some of the biggest moderating influences have recently left the administration. The defense secretary who defended our alliances with NATO and South Korea is gone. So is the attorney general who refused to let Trump subvert a federal investigation into himself. The administration is increasingly filled with lackeys and enablers. Trump has become freer to turn his whims into policy — like, say, shutting down the government on the advice of Fox News hosts or pulling troops from Syria on the advice of a Turkish autocrat.

The biggest risk may be that an external emergency — a war, a terrorist attack, a financial crisis, an immense natural disaster — will arise. By then, it will be too late to pretend that he is anything other than manifestly unfit to lead.

For the country’s sake, there is only one acceptable outcome, just as there was after Americans realized in 1974 that a criminal was occupying the Oval Office. The president must go.

Mr. Leonhardt then discusses reasons to impeach him. He has used the presidency to enrich himself, even making decisions favoring his business’s foreign customers. He has obstructed justice. He has subverted our democracy, just one example being his violation of campaign finance laws by directing the payment of hush money in at least two cases. 

Practically speaking, the next step is for the House of Representatives to form a committee charged with drawing up articles of impeachment. Holding hearings and confirming the president’s high crimes and misdemeanors would take some time. The time to start is now. 

So perhaps newly-elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib should have said “Let’s begin the process of impeaching the motherfucker” instead of what she actually said in that bar Thursday night. That would have been more precise. And I think we can all agree that calling him a “motherfucker” was too kind.

Darkness in America

I suppose it’s possible there were some “very fine people” who chose to march with the Nazis and Klan in Charlottesville, chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us”. Perhaps they were seriously misinformed about the nature of the event. But as Chris Rock said today: “If 10 guys thinks it’s ok to hang with 1 Nazi then they just became 11 Nazis”.

The good news is that the president* sunk so low today that more of our fellow citizens will turn against him, finally seeing him for what he is. His angry defense of white supremacy even generated disgusted reactions from a few of the right-wingers on Fox (order has probably been restored by now).

Congresswoman Gwen Moore, a Democratic Congresswoman who represents Milwaukee, called for his impeachment:

“As we once again hear [the president*] defend those responsible for the deadly riot in Charlottesville and receive praise by hate groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis, the time has come for Republicans and Democrats to put aside our political differences and philosophical debates for a higher cause. For the sake of the soul of our country, we must come together to restore our national dignity that has been robbed by [his] presence in the White House. My Republican friends, I implore you to work with us within our capacity as elected officials to remove this man as our commander-in-chief and help us move forward from this dark period in our nation’s history.”

Of course, impeachment is unlikely, given the Republican majority in the House, but perhaps the House and Senate will vote to censure him. I could see our not-as-terrible-as-some Republican Congressman voting for that. 

Perhaps being censured would finally give our president* the heart attack or stroke he so richly deserves (after his new chief of staff told him what “censure” means). 

Meanwhile, the sun, earth and moon are speeding toward the locations in space that will give America a solar eclipse on Monday. The “totality – the area where the sun is completely blocked by the moon – will be 70 miles wide and will travel from Oregon in the morning to South Carolina in the afternoon. The rest of the country will see a partial eclipse. 

Vox has a cool eclipse tracker that allows you to see when the eclipse will occur in your zip code and how much of the sun will be hidden. At its peak here in New Jersey, 72% of the sun will be hidden at 2:44 p.m. I don’t plan to use the special glass or glasses you need in order to avoid permanent eye damage, but I’ll certainly take a quick look. Coincidentally, I have an appointment with our optometrist at 3 p.m. I can experience the eclipse from his parking lot and then he can tell me if I’m blind.

I’m just brainstorming here, but I wonder if someone could convince our president* that the eclipse will be a Message telling him his presidency is over. Eclipses have often made a big impression on the ignorant and/or simple-minded. Assuming he’s in Washington, however, the moon will only block 81% of the sun. That might not be enough. But the Secret Service could tell him he’s got a rally to attend in South Carolina (they like him down there) and arrange him to be outside at just the right time. It’s a long shot, but one can dream.

PS: Another Democratic Congresswoman, Jackie Speier, who represents the area south of San Francisco, has called for the president* to be removed because he is mentally unfit: “[He] is showing signs of erratic behavior and mental instability that place the country in grave danger. Time to invoke the 25th Amendment”.

One Week and Floundering

Eight days ago, before the inauguration, we already knew a couple of things (roughly quoting Richard Yeselson of Dissent):

  1. Our new President is an authoritarian, mentally-ill ignoramus, uniquely unfit and dangerous.
  2. The Republican Party is morally and intellectually bankrupt.

Given (1) and (2), I can’t think of anything since the inauguration that’s been more than a mild surprise. Given who he is and who his fellow Republicans are, what did we expect?

I’ll mention a few things anyway:

He gave an interview to a TV network other than Fox. Many observers thought he came across like a crazy person. One said it was the scariest thing he’d ever seen. Although many of his supporters probably enjoyed it. There’s a transcript of the interview here.

He’s still using Twitter and his outdated, easy-to-hack phone. He still spends a lot of time watching television and occasionally tweets in response to what he just heard, sometimes repeating exact phrases. One reporter said the tsunami of leaks from the White House make the President sound like a “clueless child”. I think he sounds more like an angry old fool with a severely damaged ego.

He has signed some executive orders, as new Presidents always do. For the most part, these have been aimed at impressing his supporters and may never amount to anything (he can’t get billions of dollars to build a wall by issuing an executive order). An exception is the one that will limit funding for overseas healthcare providers (the abortion “gag-rule”). It’s even worse than similar orders issued by other Republican Presidents. (Vice President Pence, who is an extreme foe of abortion rights, probably had a lot to do with it.)

Of course, that terrific replacement for the Affordable Care Act that he promised to announce in a day or two hasn’t been announced yet. But someone in the administration did take a concrete step regarding the ACA: they canceled an advertisement intended to get people to sign up for health insurance by the January 31st deadline. 

Meanwhile, The Washington Post obtained a secret recording of Congressional Republicans talking about the Affordable Care Act. It demonstrates what we already knew: they don’t know what parts of the ACA to repeal or what to replace those parts with. It’s great to hear them speak honestly for a change, so I’ve attached some choice excerpts at the bottom of this post. 

On the impeachment front, the President isn’t bothering to hide his eagerness to cash in on his new position. He doubled the membership fee at his Florida resort from $100,000 to $200,000; announced plans to build several more hotels in the US; and only plans to stop immigration from Middle Eastern countries where he doesn’t do business or doesn’t plan to (Iran bad; Saudi Arabia – where the 9/11 hijackers came from – good). A lawsuit has already been filed against the President regarding his foreign business dealings. You can read an explanation by one of the lawyers involved here and can see the formal complaint here.

Finally, the President’s spokesman announced that Mexico would reimburse us for the Wall sometime in the future, but in the meantime, companies that import stuff from Mexico (like fruits and vegetables, beer and cars) would pay for the wall through a new 20% import tariff. After it was pointed out that the tariff would be passed along to American consumers in the form of higher prices, the proposal was discounted as merely one of several ways we, not Mexico, could pay for the Wall, which, by the way, Republican politicians in Texas aren’t crazy about anyway.

As a result, and maybe in recognition of the fact that the Executive Branch of our government is now in the hands of knavish fools and foolish knaves, the President of Mexico canceled his visit to Washington.

Oh, and the President wants an investigation of the 3 million people, all of whom he knows voted for his opponent, because that’s how many more people voted for Hillary. Buenas noches, amigos.

As promised, excerpts from the Washington Post article based on that secret recording:

[A Representative] worried that one idea floated by Republicans — a refundable tax credit — would not work for middle-class families that cannot afford to prepay their premiums and wait for a tax refund…

[Another said] “It sounds like we are going to be raising taxes on the middle class in order to pay for these new credits.”

 … A freshman congressman … warned strongly against using the repeal of the ACA to also defund Planned Parenthood…

Of particular concern to some Republican lawmakers was the plan to use the budget reconciliation process — which requires only a simple majority vote — to repeal the existing law, while still needing a filibuster-proof vote of 60 in the Senate to enact a replacement….

… They did not have a clear plan on how to keep markets viable while also requiring insurers to cover everyone who seeks insurance.

[A Senator asked:] Will states have the ability to maintain the expanded Medicaid rolls provided for under the ACA, which now provide coverage for more than 10 million Americans, and can other states do similar expansions?

[A Representative] worried that the plans under GOP consideration could eviscerate coverage for the roughly 20 million Americans now covered through state and federal marketplaces and the law’s Medicaid expansion: “We’re telling those people that we’re not going to pull the rug out from under them, and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them.”

They are also still wrestling with whether Obamacare’s taxes can be immediately repealed, a priority for many conservatives, or whether that revenue will be needed to fund a transition period.

And there seems to be little consensus on whether to pursue a major overhaul of Medicaid — converting it from an open-ended entitlement that costs federal and state governments $500 billion a year to a fixed block grant…. doing so would mean that some low-income Americans would not be automatically covered by a program that currently covers 70 million Americans.

New Developments in the Mother Russia/Motherf****r Scandal

I already had a title for a post called “The Big Picture on Health Insurance”, but that topic can wait. The T__p/Putin scandal seems to be growing. The British newspaper The Independent just made the story even more interesting:

(1) The ex-spy Christopher Steele who investigated Trump’s Russian connection eventually concluded that the FBI intentionally ignored solid evidence on the matter. In fact, Mr. Steele decided that there was a cabal in the FBI willing to cover up damaging information about T__p while the Bureau pursed a vendetta against Hillary Clinton;

(2) Back in the summer, when T__p downplayed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and simultaneously called for the Russians to hack Clinton’s emails, and when the Trump campaign later removed a plank from the Republican platform condemning the invasion, it was all done in response to a recent request from Russia. 

If any of this is true, then T__p, people close to him and members of the FBI committed treason. Ideally, they would all end up in prison. There would also be a constitutional amendment allowing for a new election. 

Even if these charges are true, however, it’s unlikely we’ll get a new election. That would require amending the Constitution, which would require cooperation from too many self-serving Republican politicians. T__p’s impeachment, however, followed by a stretch in a Federal prison, could easily happen. When they can’t avoid the truth anymore, the Republican sleazes in Congress will rush to get rid of the bastard.