Bearing Witness to Trump Month 36

Trump Watch Question of the Month:

Name just two of the reasons that President Trump’s defense team argued during the Senate trial why his acts were not impeachable. Read on to find the answer.

Week of December 29 – January 4, 2020

After U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, the U.S. Embassy in the heavily-guarded green zone of Bagdad undergoes an attack when protestors enter the compound, set fires, smash windows, and destroy an outer reception area. Instead of remembering the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, during Obama’s term, why should it now not be “Remember Baghdad” under Trump?

President Trump shocks the world once again by authorizing the U.S. military to kill, no it was assassinate, a general and senior member of a foreign government with which we are not (yet) at war, Iran. And doing so in a third country where our forces are invited guests, Iraq. General Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard military unit, died along with a militia deputy commander al-Muhandis, from a U.S. drone airstrike as his convoy was leaving the Baghdad International Airport. The administration claimed that the Iraqi’s were planning an imminent attack on American forces and thus the strike was lawful. While the history of these Iraqis provides evidence of their work against American interests in Iran, Trump went so far to make the incredulous statement that he took military war-like action to kill them to actually stop a war! Tensions and incidents between the U.S. and Iran have been increasing steadily ever since Trump removed the U.S. from the nuclear deal with Iran and imposed additional sanctions.  When did the U.S. decide it was ok to assassinate foreign leaders and why is Congress still MIA?  The Iranian government promptly promised that it will forcefully revenge the new martyr’s death. U.S. installations around the world and at home go on high alert as the White House orders U.S. citizens out of Iraq, only to be followed shortly by Iraq ordering the U.S. military forces to leave Iraq.  Trump sends thousand of rapid response Army forces once again to the Middle East, even though we already have tens of thousand there who seem to have little effect.

The remnants of ISIS, which the Iranian General we killed had been fighting in northern Iraq, celebrate the American action to take out one of their enemies. What an absolute quagmire the U.S. has not had the courage to get the hell out after decades of chaos.

President Trump announced this week that he sign the first step or Phase 1 of a China trade deal later this month. Few details have been released, leaving many to conclude it is just more theatre that does little to restore the more open market trading with the world’s second largest economy that Trump has deconstructed in the past three years.

New emails emerge that point directly to the President Trump intentionally withholding Congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political favors of investigating the Biden family.

Week of January 5 – 11, 2020

Yet another week when the world held its breath as the U.S. and Iran inched closer to an all-out war. To revenge the U.S. assassination of its top military commander last week, Iran lobbed more than a dozen ballistic missiles into Iraq targeting bases used by American military. Thankfully, it was mostly a demonstration for its home audience, as there were no deaths of Americans or Iraqis. Unfortunately, in the hours after the attack, when Iran feared an immediate response from the U.S., it accidentally shot down a commercial airliner leaving Tehran airport killing 176 passengers. And of course the U.S., government acts like it has no culpability in setting off the chain of events which led to this avoidable tragedy, as so often happen as nations stumble into wars.

In his defense, probably due to strong guidance from his cabinet, President Trump does not immediately respond with a tit-for-tat and announces that there will be no further military action by the U.S. against Iran unless Americans are harmed. He tweets “all is well” obviously trying to make his impulsive actions and lack of a cohesive strategy, which triggered this attack, look far better than they are. Instead, he places more economic sanctions on the country, which while numbering over 1,000 to date have had little effect except to notch up tensions and opportunities for miscalculation and accidents. Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin says the sanctions are working very well. Yes, of course they are. That is one contributing reason we have missiles flying into U.S. bases all while the Iranians continue to enrich uranium!

The day after the attack on the U.S. bases in an address to the nation, while standing in front of his military commanders like a war-time president, Trump announces the U.S., who had only one week earlier assassinated a military leader of a country it is not at war with, was “ready to embrace peace.” He declares that the Iranians are standing down. But he cannot help himself and he later lies to the nation that the Obama administration gave Iran the billions of dollars is used to develop missiles which now attack American bases and that Obama’s 2013 nuclear deal increased Iran’s hostility.

Prior to the missile launch Iran announced it was going to abandon its limits on enriching uranium, which was prohibited by the nuclear agreement Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018. Trump responded in a tweet by threatening to bomb over 50 sites in Iran, including cultural heritage sites which he said were fair game. Yes, our commander in chief is threatening to commit war crimes by Twitter. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Esper immediately walked it back saying that it would not attack culture sites and would adhere to the laws of armed conflict.

Iraq’s Parliament, so incensed that the U.S. conducted the assassination of the Iranian General outside of the Baghdad airport, passed a resolution demanding that U.S. troops leave the country. The White House responded that it would not, confirming what everyone already new that America has become an overextended bullying occupying power. And that if the U.S. did leave the Iraqis would have to pay ransom-like restitution for all the money we have invested in the country. Baghdad asks that the U.S. immediately send a high level delegation to Iraq to negotiate our withdrawal.

The House of Representatives, fearing Trump will drag the nation into yet another avoidable Middle East war, votes on a resolution requiring the President to seek congressional approval for taking further military hostilities. Finally, Congress gets serious about its constitutional war-power responsibilities. Members of Congress attended a closed door meeting where the administration was to have shared classified information about imminent threats to the U.S. which Trump used to justify targeting the Iranian General Soleimani. Lawmakers left the meeting with some saying it was the worst most insulting national security briefing they had every attended on such a grave matter. Even Senate Majority Leader and Trump apologist Mitch McConnell urged restraint and patience. Trump tweets he had calls from others claiming it was the greatest presentation they had ever been given.

Administration officials announce that the Trump administration had ordered that a second Iranian, this time Abdul Reza Shahlai, a commander of Iran’s Quds force in war-torn Yemen, be executed in yet in another Middle East country where we are conducting hostilities. The operation was unsuccessful.

While the world’s attention and blustering is on the Middle East, an attack by terrorists in Kenya kill three U.S. servicemen and destroy their aircraft. Trump hardly makes mention of his own Benghazi moment.

President Trump sends North Korea’s Kim Un Jong a happy birthday greeting. Kim responds that best wishes for his birthday will do nothing to avoid more conflict with the resumption of stalled nuclear negotiations.

In its war against immigration, the White House announces that it could expand travel bans to other countries, the majority of which were Muslim.

Back home the administration also continues its attack on science, the environment, and future generations by announcing that it will roll back policies that required the effects of climate change be considered in new infrastructure projects.

The week ends with the President at another raucous rally in Ohio taking credit for making a deal that saved the country of Ethiopia in its war with Eritrea and earning Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, implying that he Trump should have been awarded the coveted prize.

Week of January 12 – 18, 2020

After a month-long delay the House of Representatives takes a vote to proceed then formally walks the two Articles of Impeachment against Donald J. Trump down the hall to the U.S. Senate. In a solemn ceremony Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared Trump was guilty of an assault on the Constitution by his abuse of power of office and obstructing congressional oversight and investigatory powers given to it by the constitution. Thus begins only the third Impeachment trial of a U.S. President, and the first one during a time in which they were running for reelection.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has already said it will be a swift trial of acquittal without hearing from witnesses who could either defend or implicate the President, now takes over the process. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts is sworn in to preside over the trial. In a mockery of justice not to be served, Senators then swear to perform impartial justice as jurors, despite most Republican Senators declaring their allegiance to the President’s defense with no need to hear evidence or witnesses. The House appoints seven members who will act as impeachment managers and prosecutors in the Senate.

The White House starts adding to its defense team as if it was another reality TV show. The team includes Ken Starr the special prosecutor who led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton (for an act that seems so trivial compared to now); Alan Dershowitz who defended accused murderer and sports star actor O.J. Simpson and Jeffery Epstein who committed suicide awaiting trial for abusing underaged girls; and Jane Raskin who worked organized crime and racketeering cases. They all seem rather ideal for someone like President Trump.

In a bombshell announcement that further implicates the President, the General Accounting Office has concluded that the White House and OMB violated federal law by withholding Congressionally-mandated military aid to Ukraine. The House did not impeach the president for that per se, but for an abuse of power by withholding that aid for a quid pro quo exchange of a political investigation into a rival of Trump, ex Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Lev Parnas, associate of Trump’s personal attorney Giuliani, claims that operatives of the President had former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch surveilled by physical and electronic means while Trump’s state department worked to have her removed to clear the way for Ukraine to investigate Biden. Parnas also claimed that President Trump and Attorney General Barr knew exactly what was going on and that the President was indeed directly involved in the efforts to pressure Ukraine’s President Zelensky to interfere in American elections by digging up dirt on a political rival. Parnas is awaiting trial for his own acts after he was arrested while boarding a plane with a one way ticket out of the country.

President Trump lied to the nation once again after the Iranians attacked American bases in Iraq when he said no Americans were harmed and that all were safe. Now over a week later the pubic finds out that 11 US troops were being treated with some of them evacuated to European medical facilities.

The new book “A Very Stable Genius: Donald Trump’s Testing of America” claims that during a Pentagon briefing in 2017 President Trump launched into a mean-spirited tirade against top military brass. He was reported to have said “you’re a bunch of dopes and babies” who he would not go to war with. The same book, written by two Washington Post journalists, recounts that also in 2017 the President told his then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that he wanted to scrap the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This law prohibits companies from bribing foreign businesses to acquire or retain business. No surprise there.

The Treasury Department reports that the federal deficit topped $1 trillion in 2019 largely due to President Trump’s deep tax cuts and large spending increases. The deficit (not debt) grew some 17% last year which was lower than the 28% of the previous year. The budget deficit for the first three months of the current fiscal year is already some $357B which is up another 12% from the same period a year ago. So much for conservative values of reducing the debt and spending. Oh, I forgot, that only matters when there is a Democrat in the White House.

The day before Trump is to sign a long-delayed “Phase 1” trade deal with China, to cool off a trade war he started that was costing Americans billions in tariff taxes and lost international sales, the administration announces that, surprise, China is no long a currency manipulator. The Chinese obviously knew that Trump was desperate for some good news this week. The very hour that the House was voting to send the impeachment over to the Senate the President was having a lavish lunch and televised signing ceremony with China’s trade delegation. The details of the Phase 1 are murky and most economic experts think we are largely just getting back to where we were before Trump launched his tariffs. Nevertheless, Trump said that “nobody has ever seen anything like it…this is the biggest deal anybody has ever seen.” Yet another exaggeration from a man who just can’t help it every time he opens his mouth.

President Trump this week tweets more lies that he was the person “who saved pre-existing conditions in your healthcare” which was a key part of Obama’s ACA. The Trump administration has been dismantling Obamacare piece-by-piece through executive action and legal fights ever since he took office.

More members of Congress, except Trump’s apologists and sycophants in the Senate, are questioning Trump’s assertion that the U.S. was facing such an imminent threat that it justified the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani. Trump claimed that four American embassies were targeted but which then later his own Defense Secretary Mark Esper denies. Trump responds by tweeting out a fake image of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wearing Muslim garb in front of an Iranian flag and blames the corrupted Democrats for coming to the Ayatollah’s defense.

President Trump must have been watching closely this week the news out of Russia where his buddy Putin further consolidated power when he fired Prime Minister Medvedev and received the resignation of his entire cabinet. With that he began to fast track sweeping changes to the Russian constitution that are expected to make it easy for Putin to remain indefinitely in power, when under the current constitution he would have to resign after this term. Putin loves to lie as much of Trump and much of what he says publicly is the opposite of the truth. In this case Putin claimed that the proposals would strengthen the parliament and bolster democracy.

Late last fall as President Trump and House Republicans were clamoring for an investigation of ex-Vice President Biden’s son Hunter and his business with Ukrainian company Burisma, we now learn that Russian spies were hacking into the company in hopes of uncovering more intelligence to help, hum let me see, could it be President Trump? They were obviously trying to get more dirt to influence the current impeachment of Trump as well as the next American election when Trump may face Biden, similar to their 2016 election meddling when they hacked the email servers of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. An act that Trump publicly asked the Russians to undertake.

Week of January 19 – 25, 2020

The third impeachment trial of a sitting U.S. president began in earnest this week in the Senate. Over sixteen hours during three days the House Impeachment Managers working late into the night presented their case. They shared overwhelming evidence from their own proceedings of President Trump’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress’s investigation. However, they were restricted from calling any new witnesses or presenting new evidence due to the Republican-led chamber refusing to conduct a fair trial. Yes, the Chief Justice of the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court presided as the Senate voted that hearing directly from witnesses or forcing the White House to honor legal subpoenas was just not going to happen.

The Republican sycophants in the Senate are basically making the case that Trump wants; he is a king, autocrat, and demagogue who is not subject to the laws of the country. Newspapers editorials and letters from the public across the country call the Senators out for being unpatriotic, cowards, and even worse treasonous for their defense of the undefendable. Not surprising, the press whom the president has called much worse, has been corralled into a pen like protesters are these days, and television coverage of the proceeding restricted to a single feed of the podium speaker controlled by Senate.

The Trump defense team is expected to make the case that the President had every right to demand Ukraine do what he wanted, including for his own personal or political gains. But there can be little doubt that the White House continually obstructed the pursuit of justice and impeded their constitutional right to investigate presidential wrongdoings. The White House ordered officials past and present not to respond to House subpoenas nor testify voluntarily. The also refused to turn over numerous documents requested by the House.

Representative Adam Schiff of California did a remarkable job hour after hour presenting the facts of the House impeachment. In a stirring moment he red from a prophetic letter that Alexander Hamilton wrote to the first president, George Washington.

“When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits — despotic in his ordinary demeanor — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”

As the impeachment trial was proceeding the 73-year old President was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and belittling the convictions of the 17-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg. The theme of this year’s Davos conference is the environment, but President Trump said very little about the environment or climate change. Instead, he whined about being impeached back home, disparaged fellow Americans, discredited climate change activists like Greta as pessimistic doomsayers, and took credit for an economic expansion in the U.S. that began long before he was in office and which he has kept going through huge deficit spending and artificially low interest rates that have increased wealth inequality.

Now three years into his presidency, Trump has surpassed making over 16,000 false or misleading claims. He averages about 15 a day. According to the Washington Post he made 8,155 last year, an increase of nearly 500 from 2018. While 20% of his claims came over twitter, his best venues for wild exaggerations or downright lying were during his raucous rallies where the crowds of Trump supporters just don’t seem to care that their President consistently lies, blames, attacks, demeans, belittles, and bullies to whip up the crowd.

The President sets a record for the most tweets in a single day of 123 as House Democrats presented the case for his impeachment to the U.S. Senate. Good to know he is focused on the business of the Executive Branch.

In a CNBC interview President Trump says what most thought he eventually would get around to as a Republican President, that he’s willing to consider cutes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. There’s no surprise as the federal deficit has exploded during his first three years, despite a robust economy when it should be shrinking, due to his deep corporate tax cuts and increased spending.

The administration gave final approval to the Keystone pipeline to be built across land owned by the federal government, for the people of the United States, in Montana. Keystone will carry the dirtiest type of oil from tar sands out of Canada toward refineries along the Gulf Coast. There it will be turned into fuels that will contribute further to climate change.

Trump previously declared in another lie to the American public that no troops were hurt in the Iranian retaliation for the U.S. assassination by drone of General Soleimani. The Pentagon now says that 34 troops were injured, most having suffered traumatic brain injuries as more than a dozen missiles landed and exploded across the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq. Trump now says he remember hearing they had headaches. Nothing like support of the troops from their ever so patriotic Commander in Chief.

Over the past 8 months it has been reported that over 20,000 additional troops have poured into the Middle East and now total nearly 80,000. So much for his pledge to end these longest lasting wars of the country while he incites a Civil War back home.

In a White House ceremony Trump said he was engaged in a cultural war to protect religious expression from the totalitarian far left. This coming from a president who has demonstrated the least religious and ethical behavior of any modern-era president, other than his devotion to the Church of Trumpism.

Playing to his base, Trump became the first President to participate in the annual March for Life gathering in Washington DC. He proclaims he is the most pro-life president evet. In 1999 he said that he was pro-choice in every respect. He was probably lying in both circumstances.

Week of January 26 – February 1, 2020

The week begins with yet another explosive report in a yet to be published book from Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton. Bolton claims he was told directly by Trump that he wanted to freeze military aide to Ukraine until they, a foreign government, launched a political investigation of the Biden family. Trump denies he told Bolton any such thing, but the President lies so much who can believe a word he says, and the truth is often exactly opposite of what he does say. No wonder the White House had previously ordered present and past administration officials to ignore congressional subpoenas.

Despite making a solid case that the Senate trial would not be a fair trial, or a trial at all, without the calling of witnesses, the Senate votes mostly along party lines of 51-49 to do no such thing. Only two Republicans, Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, had the moral courage to vote for witnesses. All this despite some 70% of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum who were polled thinking that testimony from witnesses should be called for. If the President is not guilty, then witnesses would support that defense argument. And if he was guilty then that evidence should equally be heard. But hear no evil see no evil owned the day. The corruption of their constitutional duty continues by a political party that seems to have no sense of duty to something larger than their party or loyalty to the growing cult of Trumpism.

The impeachment continued this week with the President’s defense team presenting their case. Watching it only reminded me how we are living in two countries with two sets of facts, history, values, and increasingly morality and ethics. Listening to the deceptive magic acts performed by Trump’s lawyers makes it so obvious why poor people in this country facing criminal action have little chance and are sent to prison so much more often than the rich. The wealthy can hire legal teams like that of the President’s who can manipulate down to be up, black to be white, no is yes, wrong is right, bad is good, and of course corrupt is perfect.

Despite overwhelming evidence presented the week before by House Managers, the defense team cited a buffet of reasons that included: there was no basis for removal, the President’s actions were appropriate, the President’s call with Zelenskiy was perfect, he did absolutely nothing wrong or improper, there was no crime hence could be no impeachment, it’s all fake and a hoax, even if there was abuse of power is not impeachable offense, obstruction of Congress is not an impeachable offense, they did not hear from any direct witnesses so there is no justification, the House rushed its case and process, the House was too slow in making its case, the House did not try hard enough in calling uncooperative administration witnesses, the House tried too hard in pushing the White House for testimony that it did not have the authority to do, an impeachment of a sitting president would overturn the prior election and steal the next election, and even if Trump did everything claimed he is above the law and cannot be impeached. The most bizarre argument came from alleged constitutional expert Alan Dershowitz who said, basically, that a president could commit any offense which would not be impeachable so long as the president thought it was done so to ensure his reelection which he thought would be in the best public interest. One more step to the erosion of a democracy. How could Chief Justice Robert’s sit there and listen to such rubbish?

By the end of the week and after two more days of questions and answers, many Republican enablers and accomplices of Trump’s behavior began saying that while what the House alleged of Trump was likely true it was just inappropriate or bad judgement by the President, but not reasons for removing him from office. Even Trump’s staunchest supporters like Lindsey Graham have gone on the record saying Trump genuinely believes he does nothing wrong. Have they not been following the chaos of the past three years within the federal government and international affairs inflicted by a President who thinks he is above the law and can do as he please. And then always blame, deride, taunt, disparage, mock, badger, insult, bully, demean, attack, ridicule, smear, demonize, belittle, denigrate, and of course fire when he can (all these things done over thousands of tweets) everyone else for those things he does or when things go wrong. Have the Republicans not read the history of how so many strongmen autocrats came to power in supposed democracies by eroding democratic institutions one step at a time, normalizing what would until then have been seen as intolerable behavior? The Senate trial ends with many Senators saying they expect to acquit the President the day after his State of the Union address next week. No surprise.

The President finally unveiled his long-awaited peace plan for Israel and Palestine, and of course calls it a “winner.” Standing next to Trump during the announcement was Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who like Trump is also undergoing prosecution for alleged misdeeds while in office. Quite the photo shoot of two leaders who have been accused of disgracing the highest offices of their respective countries. Of course, no Palestinian leaders were present, nor had they participated in creating the peace plan much less agreeing to it. Not surprising the plan gives Israel nearly every thing they wanted including most of the West Bank, protection for illegal settlements already established to become permanent enclaves within the Palestinian state, and all of Jerusalem. Days later the Palestinians cut off all formal ties with the U.S. and Israel.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo continues Trump’s war against the press when he bars a NPR reporter from his international trip that includes Ukraine. It comes a few days after Pompeo could not take the heat of a reporter’s tough questioning. This follows a Republican Senator after a day of impeachment hearings calling a reporter a liberal hack.

The Defense Dept. now says 64 troops were injured in the Iranian attack on the U.S. airbase in Iraq after Trump ordered the assassination of an Iranian general. Trump initially said there were no injuries, then dismissed them as being akin to headaches and not serious.

Despite the President’s claims he was reducing America’s exposure in the Middle Easts, the U.S. dropped more bombs on Afghanistan last year than anytime since 2013. We continue to use drones in Yemen and make matters worse in a country where a humanitarian crisis in well underway. More aircraft squadrons, missile batteries, and thousands more support troops have moved into air bases within our “ally” Saudi Arabia. No wonder the House voted this week to reassert Congressional authority for approving military action around the world. But does anyone think Trump will care much less respect the role the constitution gives to Congress on war-making?

In a rally in Iowa prior to the state’s presidential caucuses, Trump works up his cult followers by deriding his political opponents as being crazy and sick and part of a lunacy and madness. He claimed that Democrats were going to crush family farms (when his China trade war has done that) and that environmentalists would soon be coming to kill farm cows, then “you’re next” he warned the crowd. He also said he was the smartest person. Humble too.

In some good news the economy continues to expand as the third year of the Trump administration ends. Economic growth in 2019 was reported to be 2.3% which while modest, is the slowest of the three years. Of course it should be doing well when we are running a federal deficit of $1T and have forced interest rates so low that the feds are practically giving money away, albeit mostly to those who don’t really need it. In other economic news Trump signs a New North American trade deal, the USMCA, that replaces the 26-year old NAFTA trade pact he has railed against since his campaign. A good thing, but Trump can’t resist lying about it by saying it is the biggest trade deal ever made. It’s not.


The above news items have 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.