Since the release of the Mueller report, Democrats have been toying with the idea of impeaching President Trump, moving the goal posts from collusion with the Russian government to committing obstruction of justice. However, a new talking point has emerged: Trump is involved in a “cover-up.”
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D.Calif., said, “We do believe that it’s important to follow the facts. We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.”
The media has been having a free-for-all, taking this shiny new term and milking it for all its worth.
MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace likened this episode to former President Richard Nixon. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer trotted out House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to agree with the House speaker. And MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell shed light on how Trump is engaged in the cover-up by not turning over documents (including his tax returns), letting aides testify before Congress, and asserting executive privilege on the Mueller report.
Of course, Trump denies this charge.
“Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk in to look at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up,” Trump told reporters at the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday. “I don’t do cover-ups.”
Pelosi’s use of the term “cover-up” seems to be a calculated move. It’s almost a blanket term that all Democrats can use instead of a term such as “obstruction.” If Democrats can’t move anywhere on a particular investigation, they can say it’s a cover-up. And if they don’t get the desired result out of an investigation, they can hammer home that it’s because it’s a cover-up.
Democrats haven’t been shy about using subpoena power since gaining control of the House. According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration is blocking 20 separate investigations led by House Democrats, including Trump’s tax returns, the Mueller report, and his financial dealings. Trump is blocking aides from testifying before Congress, he asserted executive privilege over the Mueller report, and he even sued both Deutsche Bank and Capital One to get them to not comply with congressional subpoenas.
The goal is to let the courts decide whether the Trump administration has to comply with these subpoenas. But the courts have been a mixed bag for Trump so far.
On issues such as Trump’s watered-down travel ban or his “remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers, the courts have ruled in Trump’s favor. However, the dam is beginning to break on some of these investigations as a federal judge said that Deutsche Bank and Capital One can turn over Trump’s financial records to House Democrats.
Looking at the bigger picture, Democrats are making it clear what their central messaging will be for the 2020 election, regardless of where these investigations lead. They’re pinning their hopes that voters will catch wind of this idea that Trump is spearheading a cover-up, believe he hasn’t been more forthcoming and transparent, and side with Democrats at the ballot box.
Thanks to a last-minute bipartisan agreement and President Trump’s willingness to back down on some demands, the Senate Thursday afternoon passed $19.1 billion package of disaster aid for states and territories, ending an eight-month impasse.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., appeared to credit Trump, sending out a press release headlined: “President Breaks Gridlock on Disaster Aid.”
The measure, approved 85-8, is now headed for the Democrat-led House, where lawmakers are expected to pass it by unanimous consent Friday and send it to Trump for signature.
Once enacted, the measure will provide money for states and Puerto Rico for hurricanes dating back to 2017 as well as wildfires, tornadoes, and recent Midwest flooding.
The measure would exclude Trump’s request for $4.5 billion in emergency funding to help deal with the recent surge in illegal immigration along the southern border. Removing the border funding eased the agreement. Democrats were opposed to its inclusion, and Trump agreed to leave it out after talks with Republicans Thursday. Republicans said they’ll attempt to move the border security funding separately.
The measure would also include millions more for Puerto Rico despite Trump’s argument that the island has already received enough disaster aid.
It would provide more than $3 billion for farm crop damage due to storms and nearly $1 billion for the Marine Corps and Air Force to repair bases and restore equipment damaged by recent hurricanes.
It also would provide $600 million to the Economic Development Administration to provide grants to areas damaged by storms in 2018 and 2019.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., sparked a firestorm of opposition among his fellow Republicans this week when he called publicly for impeaching President Trump. The president responded by calling Amash a “loser,” and the rest of the party apparatus quickly fell in line behind Trump. The head of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, criticized Amash for “parroting” the Democrats’ talking points, and conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza parroted McDaniel by referring to the congressman as the Left’s “useful idiot.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., denounced Amash for being disloyal to the president and suggested that he may no longer belong in the Republican Party. Even the Club for Growth, one of the Right’s most venerable anti-establishment groups, has criticized Amash for failing to toe the party line on impeachment.
On one level, this is not surprising. The team mentality that characterizes partisan politics has always been a prominent feature of life in the nation’s capital. Still, the swift and nearly unanimous outcry that greeted Amash’s comments suggests that our party politics has entered a new phase.
This shift is reflected in the fact that Amash’s colleagues on the House Freedom Caucus voted this week to condemn his comments. While the Freedom Caucus stopped short of kicking Amash out, a number of its members were nevertheless calling for just that.
Instead of taking formal action to condemn Amash for his policy position on what constitutes an impeachable offense, his fellow Freedom Caucus members could have simply disagreed with him. That a band of former rebels and party outcasts saw that as insufficient is much more revealing of the dysfunction in American politics at present than whether or not the House of Representatives votes to impeach the president.
A group of conservative Republicans formed the Freedom Caucus in 2015 because they were frustrated with being marginalized continuously by their party leaders. They wanted to increase their leverage in intra-party disputes over policy. According to Raúl Labrador, one of the group’s founding members, the caucus was established to give members who were out of step with their colleagues a place to be heard. “That’s the whole purpose of the organization. We have a lot of people here who feel like they are not being heard.”
In response to the Freedom Caucus’ subsequent efforts to push the Republicans to the Right, party leaders removed three conservatives from the whip team and then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, stripped one prominent caucus member of his subcommittee chairmanship. When asked about the retribution, then-Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, responded, “I expect our team to act like a team.” An anonymous Republican aide described the sentiment among party officials in less diplomatic terms. “They’re not legislators, they’re just assholes.”
In the past, reactions such as these prompted conservatives to criticize their fellow Republicans for putting party ahead of principle in a naked bid to retain power at any cost. Yet how the Freedom Caucus reacted to Amash’s comments suggests that today even conservatives accept party as the measure of all things. In voting to condemn Amash, members of the Freedom Caucus downplayed the fact that their group was established to prevent its members from being intimidated into remaining silent. In a remarkable turn of events, the Freedom Caucus ostracized one of its own for not toeing the party line four years after the Republican Party tried to ostracize it.
This is a worrisome development because a latent hostility to the freedom of the party’s rank and file is inherent in all party bureaucracies. Of course, politics is a team sport. Our two-party system offers most voters a choice between Democratic and Republican candidates in most elections. In that way, party labels help to make politics work, at least in theory, by helping voters to compare and contrast the candidates who are asking for their vote.
But party labels can only do so if there is a party line against which the loyalty of candidates can be measured. And therein lies the problem.
Today, the Republican Party line is ambiguous at best. No one can say precisely what it means to be a Republican because the definition is continually shifting. The only thing of which Republicans appear to be sure is that there is a party line to which they must adhere.
More troubling, the president gets to set the party line at any given moment, not the people’s elected representatives in Congress. Trump captured this well when he called Amash “a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there.” In the eyes of the party apparatchiks, Amash’s apostasy is not that he crossed some clear policy line regarding what constitutes an impeachable offense. Instead, it is that he dared to suggest that Trump, as the very personification of the Republican Party, committed an impeachable offense. In that way, Amash threatened the one thing that defines what it means to be a Republican. He crossed the line.
This explains Republicans’ swift reaction to Amash. The party faithful quickly condemned him instead of letting his constituents decide whether he should be punished because they wanted to affirm their own partisan bona fides. Viewed from this perspective, members of the Freedom Caucus affirmed their loyalty to the Republican Party when they dubbed Amash an apostate merely for expressing support for a policy position with which they disagreed.
Republicans of all stripes would do well to remember the words of one of their party’s founding members and leading lights. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln succinctly captured the essence of what it meant to be a Republican and an American. Back then, the party line was to ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people” did not perish from the Earth.
The firestorm sparked by Amash suggests that things have changed.
The new party line to which Republicans appear to give their “last full measure of devotion” is that government of the party, by the party, and for the party shall be protected at all costs.
James Wallner (@jiwallner) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a senior fellow at the R Street Institute. Previously he was a Senate aide and a former group vice president for research at the Heritage Foundation.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., calls on President Trump to replicate former President Ronald Reagan’s example in Grenada, and use military force to remove Nicolás Maduro from power in Venezuela.
Reagan, Graham writes, “intervened militarily, ensuring Grenada didn’t become a satellite state of Cuba. The U.S. must be willing to intervene in Venezuela the way we did in Grenada. Mr. Trump should tell Cuba to withdraw all security forces from Venezuela immediately. If Cuba doesn’t comply, the U.S. should move military assets to the region.”
While I share Graham’s concern over Venezuela’s humanitarian disaster, which will get worse in the coming months, Venezuela is not Grenada.
Absent an attack by Maduro on U.S. interests, or against interim president Juan Guaidó, or against Colombia, it would not be in the U.S. national interest to use force. This is not to say that the United States should avoid a presence of force in and around Venezuelan territory. But invading Venezuela would be a lot more complicated than invading tiny Grenada. Venezuela is 2,629 times bigger than Grenada in land area. As an island, Grenada is also a lot easier to access and control. The U.S. Navy could simply surround Grenada and dominate the mobility of its forces. Venezuela? Forget it.
Venezuela’s military is also significantly more advanced than Grenada’s was when the U.S. invaded in 1983. While many Venezuelan units would likely surrender at first contact with U.S. forces, that cannot be guaranteed. In addition, Venezuelan regime loyalists in asymmetric formations such as the colectivos would pose a continuing challenge even after Maduro was removed. In short, the risks and complexities of a military operation against Venezuela must be weighed against any benefits.
This doesn’t mean that Trump should sit idle. His administration has invested too much credibility to surrender the rightful interim president of Venezuela Guaidó to Maduro. But Trump himself has presented the alternative to military means of driving Maduro out: obstructing Cuba’s oil theft. If the Cubans lose Venezuelan oil, they will be forced to abandon Maduro. That’s the way to move forward, not through an invasion.
Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth asked the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general Thursday to investigate whether the agency broke the law in granting dozens of waivers to the oil industry to not blend corn ethanol into the gasoline supply.
Duckworth said new documents show that EPA has deceived members of Congress about its reasons for granting 35 small refinery exemptions in the last two years, compared to the seven granted under the Obama administration.
“Recent document disclosures reveal that the EPA misled Members of Congress, industry and the public,” the senator said in a letter to EPA acting Inspector General Charles Sheehan. “This deception by EPA political appointees may indicate improper motives and conflicts of interest, and it warrants a thorough review.”
Duckworth is the first lawmaker to call on the EPA inspector’s office to launch such a probe after months of prodding by the likes of Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst demanding that agency stop granting the exemptions to oil companies. They argue that most of the refineries were attached to large oil companies such as Exxon, which do not meet the requirements for an exemption under the law.
Duckworth’s state is the third-largest ethanol producer in the country behind Iowa and Nebraska. The ethanol industry argues that the agency’s refinery exemptions have caused producers of the corn-based fuel to lose market share.
The refinery industry says the ethanol industry’s argument is baseless, arguing that they need the waivers to reduce the costs imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard. The standard requires refiners to blend an increasing amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels into the fuel supply each year.
But with increased pressure on farmers from President Trump’s trade policies with China, lawmakers say the exemption program is exacerbating the economic harm to farmers. Farmers are suffering from China’s retaliatory tariffs on soybeans and a range of other U.S. agricultural commodities.
Nevertheless, the EPA is poised to roll back regulations in a week to allow more ethanol to be sold during the summer months by lifting restrictions on 15% ethanol fuel blends. The pro-ethanol camp says the plan, endorsed personally by Trump, will be a boon to corn farmers. But with the trade war and the refinery exemptions in place, they say, those gains could be lost.
Meanwhile, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., on Thursday introduced legislation to prevent the agency from abusing the refinery exemption program. The ethanol lobby in Washington applauded the bipartisan bill as a means of ensuring transparency is reintroduced back into the refinery waiver program.
Rep. Steve Cohen, Tenn., on Thursday said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Democrat, is unpatriotic for not beginning the process to impeach President Trump.
“Well she needs to do what’s right. She says that she’s doing this because of patriotism, not politics,” Cohen told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.
“It’s hard to see that. I mean, patriotism would say jump into hell for a heavenly cause. And the fact is when you have a Constitution and you have a rule of law, and it’s being destroyed in a reckless gangster manner, you need to act. I think the — the only — the only reason not to act is because of politics,” he said.
“Wait, wait, wait. I mean, you’re saying, it sounds like you’re saying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not being patriotic. Is that right?” Harlow asked.
Cohen replied, “Not necessarily. I think, you know, you can be patriotic in different ways. But if — if you going to say whether going for impeachment is patriotic or not going for impeachment is patriotic, I think going for impeachment is, when you see it laid out before you. And I see that.”
He said he did not want to “get into it with Nancy” because of their working relationship, but he said Trump needs to impeached because “I think it will be the best thing for the country and the best thing for the Democrats both.”
In a press conference on Thursday, Pelosi said House Democrats are not on the path towards impeachment, despite Trump wanting them to do so.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that President Trump wants to be impeached is nonsense.
“When she says the president wants to be impeached. I don’t buy that. When she says her caucus is not divided. I don’t buy that. She’s either delusional or misrepresenting where her caucus really is,” the South Carolina Republican told reporters on Thursday.
Lindsey Graham: “When she [Nancy Pelosi] says the President wants to be impeached. I don’t buy that. When she says her caucus is not divided. I don’t buy that. She’s either delusional or misrepresenting where her caucus really is.” pic.twitter.com/BW0kyOR8fB
— Jason Donner (@jason_donner) May 23, 2019
Pelosi said Trump abruptly walked out of a White House meeting Wednesday on infrastructure because he was frustrated Democrats were not planning to impeach him. “The White House is just crying out for impeachment,” the California Democrat said during a press conference. “That’s why he flipped yesterday.”
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., told MSNBC this week that 80% to 90% of the House Judiciary Committee Democrats are ready to begin an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
Graham said this shows Democrats are “hell-bent” on impeaching Trump regardless of what leadership says.
Theirs is one the most difficult jobs. But police officers must be held to the highest standards. Where officers fall short, they must be held to account.
Yet, as is most of the time in America, we should salute police officers when serve well under immense pressure. I’ve previously written on such officers, but today I want to draw your attention to a very different kind of cop — officer Corey Pitts of the San Diego Police Department. Because we’ve just received video evidence of what happened on August 8, 2018 when Pitts was confronted with a lethal threat.
And we’ve seen why Corey Pitts is a tribute to the blue uniform.
It began with a desperate 911 call that a man armed with a weapon was attacking another individual. Officer Corey Pitts was the first to arrive on scene. There, he was confronted by a shirtless man bearing a long metal chain. The man, later identified as Vaughn Denham, ran at Pitts, who retreated behind his police car. Denham aggressively struck the car’s hood with his chain and then advanced toward Pitts with the apparent intention of striking him. Pitts drew his taser and fired. The taser was ineffective. Facing a threat to his life, Pitts had used minimal force. But that force had failed. So Pitts faced a choice: whether to use his firearm or to try alternate means of resolving the situation.
We must note that at this point Pitts would have been legally justified in using his firearm. The taser had failed, an armed Denham was approaching aggressively, and Pitts was responding to a report that Denham had already struck another individual (who was later found to have been seriously injured).
But instead of firing his weapon, Pitts retreated while holding Denham at gunpoint. Under great pressure, Pitts repeatedly warned Denham that he would be shot if he continued advancing and did not drop the chain. Pitts continued to call for backup and accurately relayed his position. But Denham kept swinging his weapon. He closed the distance with Pitts. Eighty seconds after first deploying his taser, Pitts fired two rounds from his handgun. Denham was hit and fell to the ground. The published video of the incident ends here but the investigation report shows that Denham then attempted to regain his footing. Pitts and another just-arriving officer handcuffed Denham and provided medical attention. Sadly, their efforts were in vain: Denham died.
Nevertheless, this is a story of excellent everyday policing under the most trying of circumstances. Pitts was alone facing an armed attacker. He knew that if Denham was able to strike him, he might lose control of his firearm and be killed. But he didn’t panic. He sought to resolve the situation with minimal force, then sought to defuse the situation as he waited for backup. It was only when he had extinguished all alternatives that the two-year SDPD veteran fired.
This is very hard work. Pitts and those hundreds of thousands of other professionals like him deserve our gratitude. You can watch the video below.
Trump #MAGA Vs Pelosi #FakeNews : Trump Is DONE Negotiating With @DNC Snakes, If You Were Trump Would You? #Impeach?! For What?!!
Pelosi-Trump war paralyzes government; ‘American Taliban’ to be released from prison
Government paralyzed: Trump calls for end to ‘phony investigations’ after Pelosi accuses him of engaging in a ‘cover-up’
The very public rift between President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday illustrated of how much the Russia … See More collusion investigation — and what Trump supporters would call Democrats’ obsession with ousting him from the Oval Office — have paralyzedthe government. The meeting between Trump and Democratic leaders Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was cut short and any plans to rebuild America’s infrastructure were put on hold after Pelosi accused of the president of engaging in a “cover-up.” Trump, in a Rose Garden statement, said that Democrats must end their “phony investigations” before he’ll negotiate with them on issues like infrastructure.
So, right now, both sides remain at a standstill. Trump and the White House insist Democrats can’t accept the findings of no collusion in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report and want “do-overs” with numerous congressional investigations. Democrats show no signs of easing up on their investigations and insist Trump is obstructing justice by instructing witnesses to defy subpoenas and be uncooperative.
‘Catastrophic’ tornado damage reported in Missouri capital
Jefferson City, the capital city of Missouri, has taken a direct hit from a tornado and suffered possibly “catastrophic” damage, according to reports. According to the National Weather Service, a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” was observed over Jefferson City at 11:43 p.m., moving northeast at 40 mph. The twister appeared to have traveled through the center part of town, the Jefferson City News-Tribune reported. “We are currently identifying the location of damages and searching for injured residents,” Lt. David Williams of the city’s police department said in a statement to the News-Tribune. “The primary need at this time is for those not affected to stay clear of the impacted areas so that Emergency personnel can assist those in need.”
‘American Taliban’ to be released from prison Thursday
John Walker Lindh, the Islamic militant who became known as the infamous “American Taliban,” is set to be released from a U.S. federal prison Thursday despite lawmakers’ concerns. Lindh, who has been behind bars in Terre Haute, Ind., is set to be discharged several years before he would complete the 20-year prison sentence he received for joiningand supporting the Taliban. The former Islamist fighter and enemy combatant was arrested in 2001, just months after the Sept. 11 attacks and the start of the war in Afghanistan, along with a group of Taliban fighters who were captured by U.S. forces.
In a letter last week to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, lawmakers expressed concerns about the “security and safety implications” of freeing an unrepentant terrorist who officials say continues to “openly call for extremist violence.” They also sought details on how the agency is working to prevent prisoners such as Lindh from committing additional crimes after their release and asked which other “terrorist offenders” are next in line to be freed.
Avenatti’s legal troubles continue to mount
Federal prosecutors in New York on Wednesday charged embattled attorney Michael Avenatti with defrauding adult-film star Stormy Daniels, the client who propelled Avenatti into the national spotlight. Avenatti, 48, faces one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted of those charges. Daniels (aka Stephanie Clifford) is not named in the indictment, but a federal law enforcement official confirmed to Fox News that she is the client prosecutors claimed Avenatti defrauded.
Avenatti rocketed to fame representing Daniels when she sued to be released from a non-disclosure agreement involving an alleged tryst with President Trump in 2006. He parlayed his notoriety into numerous cable news appearances and even was floated as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2020.
Former staffer for Michelle Obama evades subpoena in Smollett case
Tina Tchen, the former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, declined Wednesday to be served with a subpoena by a retired Illinois judge seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor in the Jussie Smollett case, according to the process server. In an email to former Illinois appellate judge Sheila O’Brien obtained by Fox News, the process server wrote that a security guard at the Chicago law firm where Tchen is a partner “called up to her and spoke with her and she said that she in [sic] never going to accept service and to not allow me up to their Law firm.” The subpoena would have required Tchen to appear at a May 31 hearing on O’Brien’s request for a special prosecutor and provide “any and all documents, notes, phone records, texts, tape recordings made or received at any time, concerning your conversations with [Cook CountyState’s Attorney] Kim Foxx in re: Jussie Smollett.”
Ben Carson hits back at Ilhan Omar after she knocks his performance during House hearing
Trump administration fights back against lone judges nixing policies’with the stroke of the pen.’
John Cusack defends not standing ‘fast enough’ for Wrigley Field military salute.
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Worst product failures, from Coca-Cola’s New Coke to Microsoft’s Zune.
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