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What Now?! – November 23, 2019

New York Times: “Republicans have sought for weeks amid the impeachment inquiry to shift attention to President Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate any 2016 election meddling, defending it as a legitimate concern while Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of pursuing fringe theories for his benefit.”

“The Republican defense of Mr. Trump became central to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday… She said that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which also propagated it.”

“In a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill’s testimony, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election.”

Politico: “Now that House Democrats have wrapped up public hearings on President Trump’s pressure campaign to get Ukraine to launch politically advantageous investigations, there are plans to hold at least one public impeachment hearing on Trump’s misdeeds as alleged in the special counsel’s report.”

“It’s a gathering that could fuel articles of impeachment beyond those tied to the Ukraine controversy. Democrats say they have new Mueller-related fodder after Roger Stone’s recent trial raised questions about whether Trump provided false statements to the special counsel’s team. And the hearing could even feature a star witness — former White House counsel Don McGahn. A judge is set to rule in the coming days on whether McGahn must comply with a House subpoena.”

“CNN’s Jake Tapper thinks fact-checking Donald Trump is no longer enough — and he’s created an hourlong special exploring the effects on foreign policy, business and the national culture of the president’s compulsive lying,” Politico reports.

“While news organizations including The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have openly weighed when and whether to call Trump’s misstatements ‘lies’ — a term that implies malice and forethought — Tapper thinks the media is well past the point of giving Trump the benefit of the doubt. His special, therefore, represents a new benchmark in the mainstream media’s adjustment to Trump’s norm-shattering presidency.”

Playbook: “One theory that’s been bouncing around is that Democrats will get near wrapping up impeachment and someone like John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney will decide — or be forced — to testify. Do Democrats wait for their testimony? A judge is scheduled to hear testimony Dec. 10 on whether people have to give depositions.”

Adam Serwer: “All of these arguments, ranging from the weak to the false, obscure the core reason for the impeachment inquiry, which is that the Trump administration was engaged in a conspiracy against American democracy. Fearing that the 2016 election was a fluke in which Trump prevailed only because of a successful Russian hacking and disinformation campaign, and a last-minute intervention on Trump’s behalf by the very national-security state Trump defenders supposedly loathe, Trump and his advisers sought to rig the 2020 election by forcing a foreign country to implicate the then-Democratic front-runner in a crime that did not take place. If the American people could not be trusted to choose Trump on their own, Trump would use his official powers to make the choice for them.”

Greg Sargent: “It’s time to drop the posture that Trump’s defenders can be shamed into accepting what has been unearthed, or that they can be shamed into arguing from a baseline of shared democratic values, or into arguing over how to interpret a comprehensive set of shared facts.”

“Instead, let’s rhetorically treat Trump’s defenders as his criminal accomplices. Not just as ‘enablers’ of Trump’s corruption but as active participants in it.”

Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch: “The Ukraine scandal now unfolding in congressional impeachment hearings has at its core a Shakespearean twist: President Trump, abetted by his paladins of spin, has trapped himself in an alternate universe. To undermine the well-established fact that Russia corrupted the 2016 vote to help him win, Mr. Trump and his allies have tried to build a fiction that pins those crimes on Ukraine.”

“In so doing, he has confirmed our darkest fears. The president’s bid to solicit foreign help to impugn a domestic political rival in 2019 should wipe away any doubts about his willingness to do the same with Russian help in 2016.”

“Mr. Trump and his enablers — Rudolph Giuliani foremost among them — have scrambled all year to do two deeds at once. They want to besmirch Joe Biden, without foundation, for supposedly using his office as vice president to protect his son Hunter, who served until recently on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. And they want to reinvent what happened in 2016 so as to switch the blame for the election meddling from Moscow to Kyiv.”

Peggy Noonan: “Look, the case has been made. Almost everything in the impeachment hearings this week fleshed out and backed up the charge that President Trump muscled Ukraine for political gain. The pending question is what precisely the House and its Democratic majority will decide to include in the articles of impeachment, what statutes or standards they will assert the president violated.”

“What was said consistently undermined Mr. Trump’s case, but more deadly was what has never been said. In the two months since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry was under way and the two weeks since the Intelligence Committee’s public hearings began, no one, even in the White House, has said anything like, ‘He wouldn’t do that!’ or ‘That would be so unlike him.’ His best friends know he would do it and it’s exactly like him.”

President Trump “suggested that he might veto legislation designed to support anti-government protesters in Hong Kong — despite its near-unanimous support in the House and Senate — to pave the way for a trade deal with China,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Trump: “We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi, he’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy, but we have to stand … I’d like to see them work it out, okay? I stand with freedom, I stand with all of the things that I want to do, but we are also in the process of making one of the largest trade deals in history. And if we could do that, it would be great.”

President Trump went on Fox & Friends this morning to continue to promote the thoroughly debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton posted a cryptic message: “Glad to be back on Twitter after more than two months. For the backstory, stay tuned… We have now liberated the Twitter account, previously suppressed unfairly in the aftermath of my resignation as National Security Advisor. More to come…”

The Bulwark: “When the whistleblower filed the complaint, the Office of the Inspector General quickly concluded that it was both credible and ‘a matter of urgent concern.’ Consequently, the OIG had a legal duty to report it to Congress. But when the OIG filed what should have been a pro-forma notification of the complaint with the Director of National Intelligence, something happened. Instead of facilitating the passing of the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees as the law requires, the administration began a frantic effort to bottle it up, permanently.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi will participate in a CNN town hall in December, where she will take questions directly from a cross-section of voters as her colleagues consider articles of impeachment against President Trump, CNN reports.

Jake Tapper will moderate the December 5 event that will air live at 9 p.m. ET from Washington, DC.

Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press that he initially had his own suspicions about financier Jeffrey Epstein’s death while behind bars at one of the most secure jails in America but came to conclude that his suicide was the result of “a perfect storm of screw-ups.”

Said Barr: “I can understand people who immediately, whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups.”

Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund, has bet more than $1 billion that stock markets around the world will fall by March, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The wager, assembled over a span of months and executed by a handful of Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, would pay off… if either the S&P 500 or the Euro Stoxx 50 declines.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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