Trump’s ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, now says that he told a Ukrainian official that release of security assistance and military aide would not occur unless they agreed to publicly announce an investigation of the former Vice President Biden family. His revised testimony in the form of a supplemental declaration comes after others testified under oath to the House impeachment inquiry committee that he had indeed told them this.
The transcript of former Ambassador William Taylor’s testimony was released along with hundreds of pages of others appearing before the House inquiry committee. Taylor said that an informal back channel with Ukraine was being set up by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani that threated official US policies. A state department official, George Kent, criticized Giuliani as engaging in a campaign full of lies. Taylor said that the hold on military aide was indeed contingent on cooperation of the Ukrainians with Trump’s request for a favor that would interfere with US elections.
Meanwhile Trump’s Republican enablers are said to be pushing for the public disclosure of the original whistleblower who broke the story about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian President asking for a political favor.
Federal prosecutors have disclosed phone call records of Trump’s long time friend Roger Stone that implicate President Trump was working with Stone to obtain stolen emails Julian Assange had obtained from the 2016 that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Like many others in Trump’s circle of associates, Stone has been charged with numerous felonies including obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
In yet another example of corruption and lack of ethics, President Trump is ordered to pay $2M in damages for misusing funds from his tax-exempt foundation in addition to the previous order to shutter it. Trump often used the non-profit for self-dealing and paying off debts and obligations for his other businesses.
Trump is the first president in over a century to not have a dog in the White House. It is easy to see why someone like Trump is totally unfit to own a pet. Never one to miss an opportunity to lie to America, Trump retweets a fake photo of him placing a blue ribbon metal around the neck of the dog Conan, who helped to chase down terrorist al-Baghdadi as he tried to escape from US commandos down a tunnel.
One of Trump’s legacies after he leaves office which some doubt, if he ever leaves office, will be his mark on the federal courts. He has now appointed 45 conservative judges on the nation’s federal appeal courts in addition to two Supreme Court justices. Not surprising, Republicans in the Senate have gamed the system by changing the rules for considering nominees such that there is less time to delay votes on contested issues, as well as allowing the rights of home-state senators to block nominations.
A woman who lost her job with a federal contractor by an expression of free speech, fingering the president’s motorcade as it went by her on the way to a golf course, ran as a Democrat in a local election and won. She said that as she watched the motorcade approach her blood began to boil in anger.
American troops who retreated from on-coming Turkish and Russian forces in Syria have settled back to protecting the oil fields of northern Syria. What authority we have to protect oil fields that do not belong to us, all while we left allied forces and civilians to fend for themselves.
With the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran has begun processing uranium passed the limits of the previous agreement. Trump’s state department criticized Iran’s behavior, which was totally predictable when Trump pulled the U.S. out of a hard-fought for agreement made during the Obama administration. Another display that Trump knows how to break things but he does not know how to build anything except his narcissistic ego.
Another one of Trump’s broken promises was that he would shrink the trade gap and bring manufacturing back to the US. Despite two years of trade tensions the trade deficit widen to nearly $500B in the first nine months of 2019, increasing by over 5%.
The public part of the House impeachment hearings gets started with the testimony of distinguished diplomats George Kent and William Taylor. Taylor, a West Point grad and Vietnam war veteran, testified that a member of his staff overheard Ambassador Sondland speaking with President Trump (no less in a public place in a foreign country full of Russian operatives on an unsecured phone line) about Trump’s requirement of a political investigation in exchange for military aide to Ukraine or a meeting with the President. The State Department aide, David Holmes, would later testify directly what he heard Sondland and Trump discuss. This links Trump directly to extorting a political favor from a vulnerable country at war with Russia in return for military assistance. Sondland was quoted as saying all the Trump cared about was the investigation of his political rival Biden. During the testimony Trump fired off several dozen tweets claiming that the hearings were the greatest scam in the history of America.
Former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testifies she was the victim of a smear campaign who Trump labeled as “bad news” and who is “going to go through some things” in her abrupt dismissal from her post. Her ouster then cleared the way for the “three Amigos” to insert themselves as a unofficial back channel attempting to hijack American – Ukrainian policy from career diplomats. The leader was none other than Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. As the ambassador was testifying the President was once again demonstrating his lack of judgement by tweeting attacks on her character and her three decades of performance as a diplomat. House committee chair Adam Schiff declares this attempt to intimidate the witness is yet another impeachable offense as witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
Republicans unable to attack the credentials of the witnesses continue to blame the process and Democrats. They complain that the Democrats have not allowed their witnesses to be called, all the while the White House has prohibited numerous federal employees from responding to congressional subpoenas to appear. One of those subpoenaed was chief of staff Mulvaney who admitted in front of the nation that there was a quid pro quo and that these things happen all the time.
The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi claims that the mounting evidence proves that Trump attempted to bribe a foreign head to investigate an American political rival which is clearly an impeachable offense. A new poll reports that only 1 in 4 Americans is unsure about impeachment with 44% saying the House should vote to impeach.
All while supporters of Trump say the reason he was delaying aide to Ukraine was because of his concern about corruption, it comes out that former Energy Secretary Rick Perry hand delivered to President Zelenskiy a list of people he recommended the new young President use as energy advisors, including a prominent political backer. Then a few weeks later Perry’s American partner in the corrupt scheme win a 50-year contract for drilling at a Ukrainian owned site.
While the impeachment inquiry is going, Trump shows his admiration of other strongman, tyrants, and autocrats during Turkey’s President Erdogan’s visit to the White House. Yes, the same Turkey that just invaded Northern Syria attacking America’s Kurdish allies, causing the hasty retreat of American soldiers and the establishment of Russian forces in camps previously housing Americans. Trump went so far to say he was “a big fan” of President Erdogan. Upon his return home, in a show of bravado Erdogan said that he had given back the “don’t be a fool’ letter he received from Trump shortly before Turkey ignored the American President’s pleas and empty threats not to enter Syria.
With the economy addicted to cheap money and debt that is widening income inequality, Trump takes credit for a “boom like we have never seen before.” But having bullied the Federal Reserve into moving interest rates lower, Trump is still not happy. He called for interest rates to go even lower, perhaps negative to supposedly make the economy more competitive. Of course he is just doing what he always did before, borrowing and using other people’s money to prop up his unsustainable businesses.
At another Trump rally in the deep south where he works his fans into a frenzy, one of them attacked a protester’s free speech balloon of the President. He later defended his action said it was a matter of good in fighting evil.
The President has once again turned to the Supreme Court, this time to block a subpoena for his tax returns despite a number of lower courts rejecting Trump’s claim of immunity.
A civil rights watchdog released emails from Trump’s chief advisor on immigration policies, Stephen Miller, displaying Miller’s affinity and promotion of white nationalist views. He corresponded with organizations such as Breitbart helping to inflame anti-immigrant sentiments.
Trump’s long-time ally Roger Stone joins a cast of others convicted felons as he too has now been convicted of lying to congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice. He is the sixth Trump aide to be convicted as a result of Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling into our elections. Trump continues to claim that the investigation was a fruitless witch hunt that completely exonerated him. It was not. Mueller did not find that Trump could be indicted because of a previous ruling by the justice department that they could not prosecute a sitting president..
The House Impeachment hearings continue with more damming testimony that President Trump did indeed attempt to influence, extort, and bribe a foreign government to investigate a domestic political rival in exchange for $400M worth of military aide and White House visit. Trump’s own hand-picked megadonor E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland declares that yes it was a quid pro quo, that everyone in the administration including Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Vice President Pence, and Sec. of State Mike Pompeo knew about,. He went on to claim it was orchestrated by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani whom the President told him to work with. Sondland also did not dispute what others overheard in his call with the President over an unsecured phone in public setting when the President asked about the investigations after Sondland had met with Zelensky.
A career decorated Army officer, Lt Colonel Alexander Vindman, testified his shock over call between Trump and Zelensky where Trump asked for a favor to investigate the Democrats and promoted the fictional narrative that it was the Ukrainians not Russians who interfered with the 2016 elections. National security official Fiona Hill testified that the three Amigos (Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and Rick Perry) were carrying out a domestic political errand over a backchannel for the President that bypassed the U.S. embassy and had little to do with advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives.
After this week Republicans in the House, along with their enablers at Fox News, have nothing that is defensible so they resort to attacking the process, the credentials of decorated veterans, the distinguished careers of patriotic state department officials, the media, and of course the Democrats who sit alongside them in the House committee. Trump continues his twitter tantrum blaming everyone except his own treasonous criminal behavior.
In addition to Ukraine, House investigators are now exploring whether the President lied and obstructed justice in a series of written responses as part of Special Prosecutor Mueller’s probe into Russian interference.
Trump’s State Department astonishes the world’s diplomats once again by claiming that Israel’s settlements outside of Israel into the Palestinian West Bank no longer violate international law. This reverses a nearly 40-year old policy of the U.S. and much of the world.
The president personally intervened in a case of a Navy SEAL who was ousted due to war crimes in Iraq including shooting civilians and murdering a wounded captive. The SEAL was among others being prosecuted who took trophy-style photos with the corpse of a captive. Trump ordered that he be promoted and his rank and honors restored. Rarely has there been a time when a sitting President intervened and overruled military commanders in personnel matters related to maintaining order and discipline among their charges. In yet another example of what other strong-man autocrats do to cozy up the their military, Trump pardoned a US Army commando who was set to be tried for killing Afghan civilians.
Under the Trump administration, criminal prosecutions of polluters by the EPA are reported to have fallen to a 25- year low. An EPA watchdog group notes that the decline is not a surprise given the administration’s dismantling of decades worth of environmental protections.
With North Korean talks stalled at yet another deadlock, the Koreans complain that they U.S. has betrayed them and threatens that the current imbalance can no longer be tolerated. A few days later Kim Un Jong restarts live-fire military drills along the border which had previously been suspended. North Korea also called former Vice President Biden a “rabid dog who must be beaten to death with a stick”, which was even too much for Trump who said that “sleepy and very slow Joe” was “somewhat better than that.”
Trump finally says something in defense of the of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. Yet, he ruled out for now signing a rare bipartisan bill supporting activists with sanctions against China for human rights violations. He cited his friendship with China President Xi who he said was “an incredible guy.” And of course he touted that he was close to the “largest trade deal in history” with China which he did not want to disrupt.
Under Trump’s new deficit-busting tax cut, more big corporations are finding their tax bills have gone to zero. As example, FedEx which paid $1.5B in 2017 taxes, paid nothing in 2018. Where did they invest all that extra cash? Mostly in dividends and stock buy backs that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. An independent study has found that Trump’s tax cuts of the corporate rate from 35 to 21% have not led to investments that create new jobs or improve the working class, but only to increases in income inequality and the national debt.
Trump’s Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, resigned in protest over the President’s meddling in military justice matters. President Trump ordered that disciplinary action on Navy Seals accused of war crimes be halted or reversed by the DoD. Spencer’s boss, the Defense Secretary Mark Esper admitted that Trump had ordered him to do just that but failed to support his own department leadership and judicial system under pressure from the President. The intrusion of a sitting president into negating the results of the military justice system for maintaining order, discipline, and lawful behavior creates yet one more controversy. In a tweet Trump defended his pardon of war crimes claiming that “we train our boys to be killing machines” and can’t prosecute them for doing just that. Is this what American has become under Trump?
President Trump makes a surprise visit to war-torn Afghanistan over Thanksgiving where he claims the Taliban desperately want a deal and that peace talks with them have resumed. It was the first visit of this President to the theatre of America’s longest-running war.
The House Judiciary Committee now prepares to take up the impeachment probe and act on the findings of the House Intelligence Committee. The Judiciary Committee will be responsible for writing up the article of impeachment to be presented to the Senate. The President continues to complain and whine how unfair and unconstitutional this has become,. and is a total witch hunt. Me thinks the witch protesteth too much.
Officials now say that the President was indeed briefed on the whistleblower’s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine. Within a few weeks of that briefing, the White House released some $400M in military aid once it became apparent that the improperness and illegality of the President’s quid pro quo request for a favor was going to be investigated.
The Supreme Court is now becoming fully entangled in the investigation into President Trump as it blocked a House committee from receiving financial records that lower courts had granted. A different U.S. District Court has ruled that former White House Counsel Donald McGhan must comply with a House subpoena, despite Trump having blocked his appearance. It was previously reported that Trump had ordered McGhan to fire Special Prosecutor Mueller, while he was conducing his Russian probe, which would obviously be cause for obstruction of justice.
Facing intense bi-partisan pressure, President Trump does one thing right by signing two bills that support human rights in Hong Kong as pro-democracy protesters fight in the streets to keep from losing their special autonomous status within China.
Conan, the military dog that helped chase down terrorist Abu al-Baghdadi was welcomed to the White House by President Trump and Vice President Pence. Not surprising, Conan is seen getting patted and praised by Pence, while Trump, the first President in eons not to have a pet, stands off to the side looking total incapable of connecting with the animal.
A pair of turkeys, Bread and Butter, also make their appearance at the White House for the official Thanksgiving Day pardoning. However, Trump could not get thru the ceremony without taking a stab at the Democrats and in particular, Adam Schiff, head of the House impeachment inquiry.
The above news has been taken from a number of international, national, regional, and local news media sources, both print and digital. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.