Mark Kelly is a goddamn astronaut!
Go West, young man! Don't spend all your time and energy in the Rust Belt, because we have just as good a shot at taking Arizona's 11 electoral votes as we do Wisconsin's 10. And we have a better than even chance of picking up a Senate seat in the Grand Canyon state if we can somehow induce our voters to show up like they did in 2018, when they rejected Martha McSally the first time. Which is why the senator just hit the panic button and begged for a bailout from out-of-state donors.
This morning, Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democratic pollster, published new numbers on Arizona and Iowa. Trump has never been popular in Arizona, and 52 percent of respondents to a phone/text poll conducted in the past two weeks disapprove of the president. Even against a historically unpopular candidate in 2016 (we're not going to fight about this now!), Trump was only able to win by 3.6 percent, as compared to Romney's 9 point margin in 2012. And while he polls basically even with Joe Biden, and only slightly ahead of Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg, about 8 percent of respondents remain undecided.
In the fall of 2018, Chucklefucker Lev Parnas was so broke that he had to borrow money to pay for the herring and schnapps at his son's bris. The following summer, he was swimming in cash, enjoying charter flights, luxury cars, and personal bodyguards. What changed? According to CNN, Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash waved the magic money wand and started raining cash down on his American fixer.
"I'm the best-paid interpreter in the world," Parnas joked, according to CNN's sources. Firtash's disheveled hairball lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova back this up, minus the wink-wink, nudge-nudge, insisting that it was they who hired the jet-setting former stockbroker and aspiring natural gas magnate as a "translator" for their dealings with Firtash.
"That's a crock," Toensing snapped, when NBC suggested that Firtash was paying Parnas directly. Later her firm issued a more sober statement, saying "Mr. Firtash met Mr. Parnas for the first time in June 2019. Mr. Firtash had no business relationship with Mr. Parnas or Mr. Fruman. Mr. Parnas was retained as a translator by the law firm of diGenova & Toensing. No money has been paid to Mr. Parnas by Mr. Firtash beyond his work as a translator for the law firm."
We have questions!
We do not need another one.
Say it ain't so, Pete.
In an interview with Cosmo this week, Mayor Pete Buttigieg decided to talk about his plans for the Supreme Court by ... praising former Supreme Court Justice and lifelong Republican Anthony Kennedy, who stepped down so Donald Trump could put Brett Kavanaugh on the Court.
So I've floated several ideas and deliberately kept some level of open-mindedness about which ones are going to work best. One of them would be to have 15 members, but 5 of them can only be seated if the other 10 unanimously agree. The idea here is you get more justices who think for themselves. Justices like Justice Kennedy or Justice Souter, and there are many legal scholars who think this could be done without a constitutional amendment under current law.
Where to start?
Rudy Giuliani Says He Never Met Ukrainian Oligarch Dmitry Firtash, And You Can Take That To The Bank!
And Bill Barr saw NOTHING! You bet!
When Mama Nancy says "all roads lead to Putin," she ain't kidding. She might have added, "and they all run straight through Ukraine on their way to Russia." Turns out Trump's big plan to take out Joe Biden was cooked up by a Ukrainian oligarch as a gift to the Trump administration, which he hoped would suddenly decide not to extradite him to face bribery charges in the US. Because the best way to beat a bribery charge is ... with another bribe which is also an illegal campaign finance contribution laundered through the Justice Department. Watergate Schmatergate!
Our story begins this summer when Dmitry Firtash, described by the Justice Department as an "upper-echelon [associate] of Russian organized crime," decided to fire Lanny Davis and replace him with disheveled Fox shills Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova. Lanny Davis, a one-time lawyer for the Clintons, was a useful conduit to Trumpland when he represented Michael Cohen. But with Cohen flipping on Trump and taking that sabbatical in Otisville, Firtash went looking for someone who could bypass all those annoying Justice Department lawyers to get his case in front of the Big Orange Cheese himself.
The Sunday Show Rundown!
It's been another tough week for the Trump administration, but nobody's having a worse week than Mick Mulvaney.
The (acting) chief of staff decided on Thursday to just outright admit to quid pro quoing the living shit out of Ukraine! After confidently announcing a new emolument charge (G7 in Trump Doral!) and telling everyone to "get over it" about abusing the power of the presidency, Mulvaney enjoyed 1.5 seconds after the press briefing before Trump surely yelled at him worse than when he coughs in his presence. Ever since then, Mulvaney has been trying to shove the impeachment genie back in the bottle with varying degrees of failure.
Fool for a client, indeed.
Rudy Giuliani has lost his goddamn mind. We've said it before but this time for serious. Finding himself smack in the middle of a congressional impeachment investigation and a criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York, Rudy has decided that right now is the ideal time to fire his lawyer.
Because he's a MAVERICK! Or perhaps a LUNATIC! Definitely one of those two.
Describing it as "silly to have a lawyer when I don't need one," Giuliani told the New York Daily News that he was blowing off the congressional subpoena, and "if they decide to do an enforcement, I'll need someone to go to court with, and we'll figure that out at the time." He already hired his former law school classmate Jon Sale to write a NUH UH YOU CAN'T MAKE ME letter to Congress, so Rudy's pretty sure he's home free now.
Didn't see that one coming.
If you had John Bolton pegged as one of the good guys in the Ukraine debacle, please award yourself 10 points. Zero points will be awarded for predicting that Rudy Giuliani would be the criminal wunderkind who brings down the whole administration -- you can smell that idiot coming a mile off. Because of the scotch, and cigars, and pungent arrogance.
The New York Times was first to get the money quotes from former chief Russia advisor Fiona Hill's House testimony yesterday. Hill described then-National Security Adviser John Bolton as livid that Trump had outsourced America's Ukraine policy to Rudy Giuliani to manipulate for Trump's personal benefit. Calling the President's private attorney "a hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up," Bolton told Hill that she needed to report Rudy's shadow foreign policy role to "White House lawyers," making sure to add that he himself had nothing to do with their illegal schemes.
When the best you've got defending you on the Sunday shows is Ron Johnson and Jim Jordan, your prospects are not looking good.
The long-awaited Trump impeachment is speeding up! Mark Zaid, one of the attorneys for the Ukrainium One whistleblower, has stated he is now representing " multiple whistleblowers. The announcement of a second whistleblower -- the second intel whistleblower, on top of the IRS whistleblower who already existed, and who is being described as "an intelligence official with first-hand knowledge" (NOT "hearsay," Lindsey Graham!) of some of the allegations outlined in the original complaint, threw a wrench on ALL the talking points of Trump's ardent defenders, to the point that nobody from the White House even showed up for the Sunday shows. But a couple of idiots from Congress did!
It was perhaps most difficult this week for GOP Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Appearing on NBC's "Meet The Press," OshKosh M'Gosh Johnson was asked about what he told the Wall Street Journal about how EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland told him Trump was doing quid pro quos with Ukraine and basically extorting the nation for electoral assistance in exchange, but don't worry, Donald Trump told him that's a damn lie and Donald Trump always tells the truth.
It did not go well for Johnson.
Spoiler Alert: They're just assholes.
The Republicans have a crafty new strategy on deck to deal with impeachment. They're going to go to Grandmother's house, hide in her bed, put on her lace cap, and be so gentle and nice to the swing-district Democrats that they'll climb under the blanket and be devoured whole! IT CAN'T FAIL!
The Washington Post reports this morning that the GOP is floating a plan to woo congressional Democrats in Trump 2016 districts by promising a basket full of warm, sweet legislation if they'll only cuddle up next to the president and stop all that ugly impeachment talk.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, said the appeal would be based on these Democrats' 2018 election promises to work with the president — accompanied with a warning that impeachment would hamper possible legislative victories.
What a deal! The President will only do his job if the Democrats will promise not to do theirs! Or as freshman national security Democrat Elissa Slotkin told the Post yesterday at a town hall in Michigan, "The president of the United States acknowledged openly that he went to a foreign leader and asked for dirt on an American. I cannot give up the rule of law in some trade. That is not something anyone should be trading away."
Besides the whole NOT HOW CONSTITUTION GOES thing, we can think of one or twelve tiny problems with this plan.
Problem #1: The GOP are ASSHOLES, That's Kind of Their Brand
The president's lawyers need to get some good lawyers. Again.
Bill Barr, you got some 'splainin' to do! The attorney general's decision to steal the whistleblower complaint from the Intelligence Committee's Inspector General looked BAD even before the transcript of President Armtwister's phone call with the Ukrainian president came out yesterday. Trump's persistent attempts to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to work with Barr and Rudy Giuliani to gin up fake dirt on Joe Biden made it WORSE. Now that we've seen the whistleblower complaint it looks UNFUCKINBELIEVABLY CORRUPT.
The very first paragraph of the body of the complaint says, "the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference in the 2020 U.S. election" and that "Attorney General Bill Barr appears to be involved as well." It should go without saying that Barr's recusal from any matter relating to the whistleblower complaint was not optional here, since he's now a fact witness as to whether Trump put his plan into effect. That he's out there now shouting from the rooftops that the orange Boss Hogg never did tell him to GIT THEM BIDEN BOYS is kind of the point. This is exactly what the Special Counsel statute was written for:
It's the Sunday Show Rundown!
We begin with Treasury Secretary and
actor/producer of the
hit film Rules Don't Apply, Steven Mnuchin, who appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" and NBC's "Meet the Press" to talk about the additional sanctions the Trump administration has put on Iran. But to Mnuchin's dismay, the main story was Trump seeking help from a foreign government (again) to get dirt against a political opponent (again) to win an election (again).
Focusing on "State of the Union," which spares us from Chuck Todd, Mnuchin tried the bold tactic of "I know nothing":
TAPPER: And just, as a general premise, is it OK with you for a president, any president, to pressure a foreign leader, a foreign leader that wants hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States in aid, to investigate a political rival? Is that acceptable?
MNUCHIN: Well, you're -- you're speculating that the president pressured. I don't have any reason to believe that the president pressured...
TAPPER: He brought it up eight times.
MNUCHIN: ... in any way. Again, you're speculating. Just...
TAPPER: That is not speculating. That is in "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" that he...
MNUCHIN: So -- so, everything in "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal," we should assume, is always factual?
TAPPER: OK. So how many times did he bring it up, then?
MNUCHIN: I'm not aware.
Mnuchin flopped about when Jake Tapper asked my favorite rhetorical question:
TAPPER: But let me just close by asking, if, for instance, President Obama had pressured a foreign leader, Putin or the president of Ukraine, anyone, and said, I want you to look into Donald Trump Jr. or I want you to look into Eric Trump, international businessmen, both of them, would you not find that inappropriate?
MNUCHIN: Again, I'm not going to speculate on that...
For a second, Mnuchin almost sidestepped that question successfully ... but then he tried to help Trump's little Biden/Ukraine conspiracy and inadvertently hoisted himself by his own petard:
MNUCHIN: What I do find inappropriate is the fact that Vice President Biden at the time's son did very significant business dealings in Ukraine. I, for one, find that to be concerning. And, to me, that is the issue perhaps that should be further investigated.
TAPPER: I don't understand. So it is OK for Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump Jr. to do business all over the world, it's OK for Ivanka Trump to have copyrights approved all over the world while President Trump is president, but while Vice President Joe Biden was vice president, his son shouldn't have been able to do business dealings?
MNUCHIN: Again, I don't -- I don't really want to go into more of these details, other than to say...
TAPPER: Well, you're just setting a precedent that the president is violating.
MNUCHIN: Again, I think there is a significant difference in what you're saying, OK, or what I was saying between Biden and his son's relationship with the Ukraine oligarch and potential business dealings that the Trump Organization has had which predated his presidency.
Seems the only significant difference is that it's ok for Trump but not others. And like that, Tapper points out both the hypocrisy and projectionism of the Trump administration. For this and Mnuchin swearing more Iran sanctions work, here's the video:
We move on to former CIA Director and current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Appearing on both ABC's "This Week" and CBS's "Face the Nation," he was asked a very simple question: If the Iran sanctions are working, then why is the situation worsening instead of improving? Pompeo gave the same condescending answer in both, partially because both were asked by women (Martha Raddatz on ABC and Margaret Brennan on CBS, respectively), but it was his answer on CBS that had an interesting caveat:
BRENNAN: This attack on Iran. It seems Iran's behavior is getting worse, not better, based on the Trump administration's campaign. You've been very aggressive with these sanctions. Why do you think sanctioning them leads to better behavior?
POMPEO: Margaret, you-- you start the clock at the wrong point. Nineteen-seven--
BRENNAN: I'm talking about what happened this summer.
POMPEO: Nineteen seventy-nine is the trajectory of the Iranian Revolution. Forty years of terror. Forty years of terror.
That's not how it works! You don't get to conveniently choose the point in which the clock starts on history. But since Pompeo decided the "clock" starts on 1979, here's an interesting historical overview of why THAT particular year is interesting:
So Pompeo wants to start at the point where the CIA-installed Shah of Iran was deposed -- or when the consequences of our intervention in another country's government leadership destabilized the region began. Of course, that's a very convenient time to "start the clock" for the former CIA director. But if Pompeo has a problem with 1979, has no one told him about
1986 or Oliver North? Maybe this will help:
Seems rather convenient to leave out the part where we sold weapons TO Iran to fund an illegal war in Central America, which destabilized THAT region and created the migrant refugee crisis Trump ignores or cages in detention camps. Pompeo condescension, here is the video:
We end with former Secretary of Defense and retired Marine General James Mattis. While appearing on ABC's "This Week" to promote his book on leadership, he was asked by Martha Raddatz what makes a good leader.
MATTIS: Well, I think the most important thing that you have to have to be a good leader, is you have to have the ability to build trust, and that starts with listening. I'll put it in George Washington's words: listening, learning, helping and then leading.
But right before this answer, Mattis was asked a very straightforward question that he decided to sidestep:
RADDATZ: Secretary Mattis, I just want to turn to something else that's in the news, and that's the whistleblower investigation. President Trump just said "I hope they can put out that conversation." Should a president be asking foreign leaders to investigate political opponents?
MATTIS: Yeah, Martha, this is not something I have background on. I don't know anything more than what I read in the news. And apparently no one has seen the complaint, so I really prefer to talk about things I know more about.
Leadership, or whatever.
Have a week!
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Is Parscale pissing on our leg, or is it raining?
Brad Parscale is GRRRR SO MAD, you guys. Donald Trump's campaign manager will not stand for Fake News CNN accurately reporting that his wife Candice is the registered owner of a digital media company which raked in upwards of $900,000 from the pro-Trump America First Action PAC. How dare those scumbags viciously attack Republicans by printing truthful information showing that the "firewall" between the Trump campaign and the PACs slurping up sacks of secret cash is protected by Ol' Pube Beard's sacred promise not to speak to his own wife!
Burn baby burn.
Donald Trump would set fire to the last glacier on earth if it meant he could win Pennsylvania again in 2020. He spent the entire day yesterday in the swing state getting high on the fumes of burning hydrocarbons and his own flaming ego. And you, the lucky American taxpayer, paid for the matches! Because the White House isn't even pretending to segregate the people's business from campaign events, as every president since Reagan has done. They just book him at a Shell plant in Monaco, Pennsylvania, stick a regular MAGA rally speech on the Teleprompter, and call it Remarks on American Energy and Manufacturing.
Ooops, make that Monaca, Pennsylvania. Thanks, crackerjack professionals in the White House Press Office!
It's your Real Time rundown because we don't know why.
We have decided to start recapping Bill Maher's Real Time. Because we hate ourselves.
After a boring interview with George Will, we moved on to Real Time's meat and potatoes, the panel discussion. This week's panel: “The Bulwark" editor Charlie Sykes, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, and “free speech champion" and New York Times Opinion writer Bari Weiss.
The panel discussion turned, as all of American life does lately, to whether we should
Impeach The Motherfucker in the aftermath of Trump's disastrous interview with George Stephanopoulos where he said he would not refuse foreign help nor report it to the FBI. Maher said we should impeach, for the correct reasons. Eliot Spitzer went with the feeble argument of
inaction waiting until the election:
Spitzer: Look, first you don't impeach someone for something he might do but hasn't done. Trump is a narcissistic demagogue who is the worst president we've ever had. Let's take that as a baseline. But, but ... I think, Bill, it is better for our democracy to beat him at the electoral box next year. We can impeach him, the Senate won't convict him. Let's beat him with democratic votes. We should do it, we can do it. Let's get a good candidate.
So a few things there, Client 9.
Meet some VERY BEST very best people!
MAY GOD OUR FATHER PAINT THIS COUNTRY RED WITH THE BLOOD OF JESUS! So sayeth Lynda Blanchard, President Trump's nominee for ambassador to Slovenia. NBC has a story today on Blanchard and the rest of the inaugural committee donors whose nominations to represent US America to the hottentots are stalled in the Senate for the inelegant reason that they're TOO STUPID. There's knowing in the abstract that Trump is selling off our diplomatic corps to any dickhead with a checkbook, and there's knowing that the guy he wants to send to the Bahamas thinks that nation is actually a US protectorate.
Look, before you get yer panties in a bunch, just remember that California real estate developer Doug Manchester was smart enough to give $1,000,000 to Trump's inauguration. So, like, he may not know anything about geography or history, but he's got enough to sense to pick a winner!
Yeah, it's going to be one of THOSE articles.
Not for nothing, but this isn't over.
BREAKING! The guy who sent Trump a letter saying, "Presidents are kings who can't obstruct justice, hire me!" has found that the president didn't obstruct justice! Thanks, Bill Barr -- you're a hell of a wingman.
While we await the release of the REAL Mueller report, as opposed to the Barr whitewash letter, let's take a moment to remind ourselves that the president's legal troubles are in no way at an end. He might well get away with playing footsie with the Russians, winking and nodding about sanctions and gratefully accepting the massive electoral boost from Putin's pet hackers, but he's not getting away with all of it. So here's a helpful list of the pending legal threats to the Trumpland gangsters.
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