What Now?! – January 18, 2020

The Washington Post excerpts a section of A Very Stable Genius where President Trump is meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I want to win,” he said. “We don’t win any wars anymore . . . We spend $7 trillion, everybody else got the oil and we’re not winning anymore.”

Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.

“I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.

Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

For a president known for verbiage he euphemistically called “locker room talk,” this was the gravest insult he could have delivered to these people, in this sacred space. The flag officers in the room were shocked. Some staff began looking down at their papers, rearranging folders, almost wishing themselves out of the room. A few considered walking out. They tried not to reveal their revulsion on their faces, but questions raced through their minds. “How does the commander in chief say that?” one thought. “What would our worst adversaries think if they knew he said this?”

The House Intelligence Committee released materials Friday provided by Lev Parnas, who investigators say acted as a “direct channel” between Rudy Giuliani and individuals close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Axios reports.

“The new materials detail conversations between Parnas and one of House Intelligence Ranking Member Devin Nunes’ aides, highlighting surveillance efforts against Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.”

Washington Post: “The text messages corroborate Parnas’s previous claims that he arranged conversations with the Ukrainian prosecutors for the Nunes aide. And they deepen questions about how much Nunes knew about the pressure campaign — even as he served as one of Trump’s most vociferous defenders during the House impeachment hearings.”

Lev Parnas claimed on MSNBC that he was visited in jail by John Dowd, a former attorney for President Trump, who told him to cooperate and sacrifice himself for the president. 

Said Parnas: “They tried to keep me quiet.”

President Trump’s impeachment defense team for his upcoming Senate trial will include Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr, sources confirmed to The Hill.

The Washington Post says Trump’s team will also include Robert Ray, who along with Starr, investigated President Bill Clinton.

Monica Lewinsky reacts to news that Ken Starr is on President Trump’s impeachment defense team: “This is definitely an ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ kinda day.”

“Senate Republicans are discussing speeding up the pace of President Trump’s impeachment trial by using the trial rules to limit the number of days each side has to make opening arguments,” The Hill reports.

“Republicans, according to senators, are discussing giving both Trump’s legal team and House managers 24 hours to present their case, similar to the 1999 proceeding. But unlike the Clinton trial, each side would have to use their time within two days.”

The Hill: “Pressure is growing on Senate Republicans to call Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to testify in the impeachment trial.”

“Democrats are opening the door to hearing from Parnas as a witness at the impeachment trial after an explosive round of media interviews and new evidence released by House Democrats, which details Parnas’s role in trying to convince the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that it’s “likely” she would support calling witnesses after the initial phase of the impeachment trial but has not yet made a decision on any particular individual, The Hill reports.

Said Collins: “While I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I tend to believe having additional information would be helpful. It is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999.”

Jonathan Chait: “In May of 2016, shortly after Donald Trump had wrapped up his party’s nomination, but when the notion he might win the presidency seemed remote at best, Benjamin Wittes wrote one of the very early essays attempting to analyze how an obviously authoritarian president might abuse his powers. ‘The soft spot, the least tyrant-proof part of the government, is the U.S. Department of Justice,’ he argued, laying out how prosecutorial discretion could allow a president to harass his domestic enemies.”

“Yesterday’s news that the Department of Justice is exploring yet another probe of James Comey, the former FBI director turned Trump antagonist, would seem to confirm those fears have been borne out.”

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken another whack at former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature achievement: Establishing stricter nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches. And on her birthday,” the Washington Post reports.

“USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps announced new proposed rules for the Food and Nutrition Service that would allow schools to cut the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfasts while giving them the ability to sell more pizza, burgers and fries to students.”

New York Times: “The rule was applauded by food companies but condemned by nutritionists who predicted a comeback for starchy foods like potatoes and the return of daily hamburgers.”

“The Supreme Court on Friday said it will consider whether states may punish or replace ‘faithless’ presidential electors who refuse to support the winner of their state’s popular vote, or whether the Constitution forbids dictating how such officials cast their ballots,” the Washington Postreports.

“Lower courts have split on the question, and both red and blue statesurged the justices to settle the matter in advance of the ‘white hot’ glare of the 2020 election. They say they fear a handful of independent-minded members of the electoral college deciding the next president.”

CNBC: “A decision in the matter is expected by the end of June.”

“The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear the Trump administration’s appeal in a legal fight over religious exemptions for Obamacare’s requirement that employer-based health plans cover birth control,” The Hill reports.

President Trump told his health secretary yesterday that he regrets getting involved in the administration’s policy on vaping, Axios reports.

Said Trump: “I should never have done that fucking vaping thing.”

“The administration’s ban on flavored vapes is one of its most prominent health policy decisions, but trying to find a compromise between public health groups and the pro-vaping community caused massive political headaches.”

A federal judge sentenced former Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) to 26 months in prison Friday on charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to the FBI, the Washington Post reports.

“Collins sobbed in the courtroom while making an emotional statement to Broderick about the impact of his criminal conviction on himself and his family.”

Said Collins: “I have no excuse. I tarnished my reputation.”

“You’ve got a good one now, even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a bitch. Can you believe that?”

— President Trump, speaking about the presidency while honoring the LSU football team.

Former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus previewed on Fox Newswhat might be President Trump’s final defense in his impeachment trial: “Sometimes the best defense is the ‘so what’ defense. If everything the Democrats said is true, it’s still not impeachable. If everything Lev Parnas said is true, it’s still not impeachable. That’s what this is about.

Greg Sargent: “The Hannity segment is a fog machine of disinformation and incoherence. But the whole thing is must-watch TV. It features arguments that set up the claim that there’s nothing wrong with anything Trump did. Those will be key to his defense — and to justifying making the trial as much of a coverup as possible.”

“Nearly one dozen American troops were wounded in Iran’s Jan. 8 missile attack on Iraq’s al-Asad air base. This week, they were medically evacuated to U.S. military hospitals in Kuwait and Landstuhl, Germany, to be treated for traumatic brain injury and to undergo further evaluation,” Defense One reports.

Senior military and Trump administration officials had said on Jan. 8 that 11 Iranian missiles had caused “no casualties, no friendly casualties, whether they are U.S., coalition, contractor, et cetera.”

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told CNN its impossible to compare President Trump to past holders of the office.

Said Brinkley: “We always are trying to compare presidents to each other, but we haven’t had an outlaw president before, and that’s what you have with Donald Trump.”

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