Elaine Luria’s got the best political ad this election cycle

I’d like to think that there’s still a place for non-veteran Democrats to serve in the age of Trump, but this ad for Elaine Luria, who is running for reelection in Virginia’s second congressional district, really demonstrates just how powerful of an argument candidates can make when they’re coming from a place of deep national security experience. Luria, a commander in the Navy, not only won in 2017, in a district that Trump carried by over 3 points, and hadn’t sent a Democrat to Congress in almost 20 years, but she had the courage to stand up and support the impeachment proceedings against the President when other moderate Democrats in red districts did not. And it seems like a model that could be replicated around the country, especially as suburban women continue break with Trump… Again, I hope we don’t get to the point where the only path to Congress involves serving in uniform, or being an ex-CIA officer, like Michigan’s Elissa Slotkin, but it really feels as though now is the time for women with national security experience to come forward, and draw a sharp contrast with Donald Trump, who, while he purports to be a strong military leader, continues to put our allies in harms way while giving the dictators of the world everything that they desire.

I have some concerns about making the Democratic Party the party of national security officers and career military, but, if that’s what it takes to right the ship, I think I’m OK with it.

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Giuliani associate Lev Parnas confesses to conveying the quid pro quo to Ukraine for Trump

I’d wanted to talk about former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and whether she’s angling to take the vice presidency away from Mike Pence, but then Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas came along fucked up my plans by announcing to the world that he’d reached out to the incoming Zelensky government as far back as May on behalf of the Trump administration, telling them that, if Ukraine didn’t announce an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Pence wouldn’t be attended his swearing-in as President, and the U.S. would freeze the military aid they so desperately needed.

Here’s how the New York Times story begins.

Not long before the Ukrainian president was inaugurated in May, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s journeyed to Kiev to deliver a warning to the country’s new leadership, a lawyer for the associate said.

The associate, Lev Parnas, told a representative of the incoming government that it had to announce an investigation into Mr. Trump’s political rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his son, or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing-in of the new president, and the United States would freeze aid, the lawyer said.

The claim by Mr. Parnas, who is preparing to share his account with impeachment investigators, challenges the narrative of events from Mr. Trump and Ukrainian officials that is at the core of the congressional inquiry. It also directly links Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to threats of repercussions made to the Ukrainians, something he has strenuously denied…

If corroborated, Parnas’s account would prove that this extortion plot cooked up by Trump and Giuliani started quite a bit earlier than we’d previously thought. And, of course, it would disprove Giuliani’s claim that he was not involved in any discussions concerning the withholding military aid to Ukraine. More importantly, though, Parnas isn’t just saying that these things were discussed by members of the Trump team. He’s not saying, as others have, that he heard the President’s call with Zelensky and found it troubling. He’s saying that he was given explicit instructions to convey the quid pro quo, and that he did so.

I should also mention that Parnas, along with his associate Igor Fruman, is also thought to have bribed former Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas, offering $20,000 in exchange for his help in removing Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, from office. [According to ABC News, Parnas and Fruman also contributed $350,000 to a SuperPAC that channeled approximately $3 million to Sessions’ 2018 reelection campaign.] Sessions, it would seem, accepted the deal, and authored a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking that he consider “terminating” Yovanovitch’s “ambassadorship and find a replacement as soon as possible.” The letter was sent by Sessions on May 9, so roughly around the same time that Parnas was conveying the terms of the deal to Zelensky and his people. [This gambit, by the way, worked, and Yovanovitch was pulled out of Ukraine.] As for why they wanted Yovanovitch, a 33-year veteran of the foreign service, out of the way, one can assume it was because she did not share their opinion that U.S. diplomacy should take the form of extortion for personal political gain, especially when it would mean withholding aid desperately needed to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression.

One last thing… It should be noted that, had it not been for the whistleblower’s complaint of August 12, and the fact that the State Department wasn’t successful in keeping it under wraps, this plan cooked up by Trump and Giuliani could very well have worked. As we know now, Zelensky had already booked an appeared on CNN with Fareed Zakaria during which he apparently planned to announce the investigation into the Bidens. This was to have taken place on September 13, but it fell apart when the scheme was made public.

Trump, of course, continues to maintain that everything he did was “perfect.”

note: The “transcript” Trump keeps referring to, and asking people to read, is not a transcript. Right at the top of the document, it says that it’s “not a verbatim transcript.” Furthermore, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, has testified before Congress that the document in question is inaccurate, in that several items of importance were purposely omitted… So, while I’d like to do what the President wants, and “read the transcript,” I can’t. No one can. The actual transcript, which is must exist somewhere within the White House, has yet to be made public.

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The sad, desperate and likely coerced hypocrisy of Lindsey Graham

Again, I know it doesn’t do any good to post here about Republican hypocrisy. I know that not one of my conservative readers will change his or her mind just because I’ve demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump, or one of his defenders in Congress, is a hypocrite. With that said, though, I can’t help but feel compelled to share the following quotes from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee… I know it’s unlikely, but maybe just one person out there will read this post and be reminded that there was a time in the not too distant past when Republicans felt there was no greater crime than being a so-called “flip-flopper,” and changing one’s stance on issues.

Let’s start back in September, shortly after news about the whistleblower’s complaint broke. At that time, Graham was adamant with reporters that the Trump administration had not threatened to withhold security aid from Ukraine in order to get them to agree to open an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. “If you’re looking for a circumstance where the president of the United States was threatening the Ukraine with cutting off aid unless they investigated his political opponent, you’d be very disappointed,” Graham said. “That does not exist.” So we started with a full-throated denial.

Then, two weeks ago, Axios quoted Graham as saying that he’d keep an open mind on impeachment, should evidence of such a quid pro quo exist. “If you could show me that… Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call,” the Senator said, “that would be very disturbing.”

Now, though, with the confirmation that a quid pro quo did in fact exist, things seem to have taken a bit of a turn for our heroic, principled protagonist.

Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, you see, offered a revised statement to the House Intelligence Committee a few days ago, in hopes, no doubt, of avoiding perjury charges. And, in it, he pretty much confirmed that he was doing a little light extortion on behalf of the President. You see, when he testified under oath in October, Sondland had said that he “never” thought there was any precondition placed on the American aid to Ukraine. When U.S. intelligence officials testified after Sondland, however, and mentioned to members of Congress that they had discussed these preconditions with the ambassador, his memory apparently started to improve. In his revised testimony, Sondland shared the following… “I said that resumption of the U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.” So, not only was Sondland aware of the quid pro quo, but he was actually one of the people in the Trump administration who was laying it out for Ukrainian officials, and explaining what it was that they had to do if they wanted to receive the military aid appropriated by the U.S. Congress. And now, it would seem, he’s coming clean about it.

So, you might think, given his earlier comments, that this might be enough to get Graham motivated to at least agree to the necessity of an official inquiry, right? I mean, here we’ve got an actual member of the Trump administration saying under oath that that there was a quid pro quo, right? Well, apparently not… Graham, who earlier in this chain of events demanded that interview transcripts with witnesses be made public, is now saying that he refuses to even look at what witnesses like Sondland are saying. “I’m not going to read these transcripts,” he said yesterday. “The whole process is a joke.” [It would seem to me that someone who refused to read sworn testimony on the subject of national security would be disqualified from serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but what do I know.]

And, today, Graham’s decided to take it even further, saying that there couldn’t have been a quid pro quo, as Sondland has laid out, as Trump and company are “incapable” of pulling anything like this off. [When all else fails, fall back on the “Trump is too inept to attempt something like this” defense.]

But, wait, it gets even better. Graham is also suggesting that Sondland, who gave a $1 million donation to the Trump inaugural fund (in exchange for an ambassadorship), is actually a deep state operative working with the Democrats.

It pains me to say it, but I’m beginning to think that Graham, at the outset, may not have been acting in good faith when he said that he’d keep an open mind with regard to impeachment, if only evidence of a quid pro quo could be demonstrated. But maybe this is just what the new Lindsey Graham does, though. He did, after all, once call Donald Trump a “kook” who was “unfit for office”, before becoming his most vocal defender and the Senate. Why would a United States Senator behave in such a manner? I don’t imagine it’ll do us much good to speculate here. With that said, however, it would not surprise me one bit if, at some point in the future, we heard that he was being coerced to support Donald Trump at every turn, no matter what.

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The Monkey Power Trio’s new record, “You Can Do Anything… The Universe Wants You To Do,” is now available

A few years back, I regaled you with stories about my one-day-a-year band’s 22nd session, which took place in the soulless exurbs of Atlanta. Well, it took a hell of a long time, but the vinyl recording of that historic session is now available from Pochahontas Swamp Machine Records. It’s called “You Can Do Anything… The Universe Wants You To Do,” and I’m staying up late tonight, mailing copies out to the ever-narrowing list of college radio stations who still enthusiastically play the Monkey Power Trio. If you live in a community without one of those radio stations, please consider buying a copy today, dragging your hi-fi into a busy intersection somewhere in your town, and playing it repeatedly for passers-by.

Posted in Art and Culture, Mark's Life, Monkey Power Trio | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Thank you, Donald Trump, for helping the Democrats take back Kentucky

Yesterday, at a rally for Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin in Lexington, Donald Trump said to the crowd, “You gotta vote, because, if you lose, it sends a really bad message.” He then went on to add, “You can’t let that happen to me.”

Well, they let it happen to him.

Continuing the trend we saw start during the 2018 midterms, when the Democrats took back the House of Representatives in a resounding rebuke of Trumpism, it’s being reported this evening that Matt Bevin was defeated in a surprise upset by his Democratic challenger, Andy Beshear.

It’s worth noting that, when Trump spoke yesterday in Kentucky, a state that he’d won by nearly 30 points in 2016, Bevin, according to the polls, had a 3 point lead over Beshear. Trump can argue, and I’m sure that he will, that this wasn’t about him, but his visit coincided with a nearly 4 point drop… in a state that he’d won by 30 POINTS in 2016!

Still, though, I wouldn’t put this loss entirely at Trump’s feet. Bevin was disliked intensely in the state by a great many people, who organized against him. But I think, at the very least, Bevin’s defeat speaks to the fact that candidates can no longer expect to just ride to victory on the President’s coattails, regardless of how good he might be at fundraising. Will Republican candidates stop inviting Trump to campaign with them, and stop trying to remake themselves in his image? Probably not. But, now that Scott Walker, Paul LePage, Kris Kobach and Matt Bevin have all met the same fate, you’ve got to think that some might start thinking twice about hitching their wagons to a man who some 50% of Americans feel strongly is both extremely corrupt and completely unfit for office… Donald Trump can yell all he wants about the rise of the “angry majority,” as he calls his supporters, but they don’t seem to be turning out in sufficient numbers to actually win races, even in red states.

While I did absolutely nothing to help Beshear win, it makes me proud to think that some of my family members in Lexington most likely did. It’s the town where I was born, and I love seeing headlines like this one, showing just how soundly Bevin was defeated there, even after Trump’s visit… Good work, Lexington… Now let’s organize to get Mitch McConnell out of office. [If you’d like to see McConnell voted out of office, consider joining me and donating to the campaign of Amy McGrath.]

update: True to form, Donald Trump is saying that Bevin’s loss isn’t his fault. He just tweeted out that his visit and support gave Bevin a 15 point boost in the final week of the election. Polling, however, as I noted above, showed Bevin in the lead by 3 points on October 24. If Trump were telling the truth about the 15 point bump, Bevin would have won tonight by a whopping 18 points.

Furthermore, the Trump 2020 campaign put out a statement this evening saying that, “The President just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line, helping him run stronger than expected in what turned into a very close race at the end.” Again, this is not even remotely true.

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