• Horowitz Releases His Report
• Full Speed Ahead on NAFTA v2.0
• Buttigieg-Warren Spat Looks to Be Winding Down
• Another Bush Enters the Fray
• Top Cop Slams Top Senators
• The Wrong Side of History
And so, the moment is finally at hand. After a contentious (and final) hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, articles of impeachment will be announced today.
The purpose of the hearing, which took pretty much all day Monday, was for the Democrats' counsel to lay out the case for impeachment. It took a very long time for Daniel Goldman, counsel for the House Intelligence Committee, to get to business, because the Republicans in the room were even more aggressive than usual when it came to stunts and delays and other sorts of parliamentary parlor tricks. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), in particular, is going to emerge from all of this either as a hero to Trump supporters nationwide, or else as a man with no teeth after someone loses patience and punches him in the kisser. Maybe it will be both.
Anyhow, once Goldman got down to brass tacks, he clearly and forcefully made the case that Trump has committed impeachable offenses, and that there is a mountain of evidence proving as much. He also addressed the haste with which Democrats are moving forward, explaining that Donald Trump is trying to get foreign governments to interfere in U.S. elections as we speak, and that TV lawyer/fixer Rudy Giuliani is still on the loose. In other words, while the Democrats might like to wait to talk to every witness, and while they might prefer to leave no stone unturned, there simply isn't time for that under the circumstances. Exactly how truthful that justification is, well, each person will have to judge for themselves.
Of course, all of this was just kabuki theater laying the groundwork for what has been inevitable for about a month now: articles of impeachment. Sometime this morning, at least two articles will be announced: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It's possible that a third article, obstruction of justice, will be added to the list. It depends on how much support there is for that particular charge among the House Democratic caucus. Whether it is two articles or three, Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) expects his committee to vote on them on Thursday.
Once Judiciary has approved the two (or three) articles of impeachment, they will head to the whole House for a vote, likely to be held in the middle of next week. That means that by the time National Maple Syrup Day (Dec. 17) rolls around, Donald Trump will be right in the middle of a sticky situation, as the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. On Sunday, he sent out one hundred and five tweets. Once he's officially facing charges? It's going to get hairy. (Z)
In a development that was anti-climactic on many levels, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his report on the origins of the FBI's Russia probe. He concluded that while the FBI made significant mistakes in its handling of the inquiry, the investigation itself was not corrupt, was not triggered by political considerations, was not a response to the Steele Dossier, and that any conspiratorial thinking about the matter is off base.
Donald Trump, then, got only about 5% of what he wanted, and was otherwise pretty thoroughly rebuked. That did not stop him from spinning things as a major victory, however; he described the report as "far worse than I would have ever thought possible," the FBI's conduct as "a disgrace," and said that Horowitz provided proof of "an attempted overthrow" of the U.S. government. On the other hand, Trump's personal lawyer...er, his Attorney General Bill Barr, and Barr's handpicked special prosecutor John Durham denounced Horowitz's findings, and said that he was wrong in making the determinations that he did. Perhaps the folks in the White House should get together so they are on the same page when it comes to their messaging. One could easily get confused when Trump says that Horowitz found clear evidence of a conspiracy, and Barr and Durham say Horowitz screwed up because he failed to find clear evidence of a conspiracy.
One person who was quite clear about the findings, however, was James Baker, the former FBI general counsel who has been one of the folks smeared over and over by the President during the last two years. "I think the President should apologize to us," he told CNN. "The conclusions are quite clear that the President's statements over these past several years were all wrong—that there was no hoax, there was no conspiracy to overthrow anybody, there was no sedition, there was no treason, there was no evidence of any of that." Baker probably shouldn't hold his breath waiting for that apology.
Meanwhile, there were a few tidbits in Horowitz's report that were not previously known. One of those is that Christopher Steele, though he eventually put together a dossier that put Donald Trump in a less-than-flattering light, was actually favorably inclined toward the Trump family. Why, you may ask? Because he is friends with...Ivanka Trump. They are close enough that they've dined together, visited each other in their respective home countries, and have even exchanged gifts. Can you imagine what would happen if Steele were friends with Hunter Biden instead? It's just another reminder that two very different sets of rules apply in Washington these days, depending on whether you're with the President or against him. (Z)
In timing that is...unexpected, to say the least, House Democrats are going to partake in their single-biggest act of cooperation with Donald Trump on literally the same day that they announce articles of impeachment against him. To wit, it is expected that sometime this afternoon, leaders in Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. will formally announce that they have reached agreement on an updated NAFTA pact.
House Democrats have reportedly already signed off on the deal, which means Trump will get a pretty big feather in his cap heading into next year's elections. Why would Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) & Co. do that? Well, the new NAFTA provides stronger protections for laborers, and also increases the percentage of a car that must be built in the U.S. in order for that car to be called "American." This therefore addresses one of the biggest complaints about NAFTA v1.0, and also gives moderate Democrats something to campaign on in 2020, particularly if they come from rust-belt districts. The updated pact also addresses some issues that were not particularly on the radar 25 years ago, like digital trade rules and environmental protections.
Of course, until the approvals are official, anything could happen. Nonetheless, if current expectations hold, the House will formally vote to impeach Trump on Dec. 18 and then will vote to formally approve the new NAFTA on Dec. 19. Pelosi has already said she doesn't want impeachment to be the final thing that her chamber does before Christmas, so it's likely she's going to do everything possible to make sure that this is the sequence, even if the dates turn out to be a little different. (Z)
The campaigns of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend) have reached the same basic conclusion: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has an ironclad grip on a segment of the Democratic base (around 17% of them), Joe Biden has the same (around 25%), and every other campaign is fighting over the remainder. That being the case, and with time ticking down to Iowa, it's not so surprising that Warren and Buttigieg have spent the last few days poking each other in the eye, with each making the case that the other isn't transparent enough.
In Buttigieg's case, what he (says he) wants is Warren's tax returns from the years where she was both a practicing attorney and a Harvard faculty member. The Senator released her client list and an accounting of her total fees for those years ($1.9 million), as well as a decade's worth of returns, but has not released the specific returns Buttigieg has demanded. What Warren (says she) wants is to know who Buttigieg consulted for while working at McKinsey and Co., and exactly how he's collecting so much in donations these days. On Monday, the Mayor bowed to this pressure and announced that he will open his fundraisers up to reporters, will release the names of the bundlers who raise money for him, and will (with permission) release his client list from his time as a consultant.
That means that we're pretty close to the end of this little dustup, as Buttigieg has now committed to giving up 100% of what he's been asked to give up, while Warren is 80% of the way, and is more likely than not to go the other 20% and release some more tax returns. On top of that, all of this is primarily for the benefit of voters in the states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and those in the know say that residents of those states don't actually care about this very much. So, even if Warren digs her heels in on that last 20%, there isn't much utility in keeping this tempest in a teapot going. (Z)
Which family is America's greatest political dynasty? Could be the Adamses or the Roosevelts; both of those families produced two presidents, along with the odd member of Congress here and there. Or, if you like quantity, maybe it's the Tafts (one president, one chief justice, two governors, two U.S. Senators, two Representatives, and four cabinet secretaries) or the Kennedys (one president, three senators, four representatives, two ambassadors, two cabinet secretaries, a bunch of lesser offices, and still counting).
Of course, there is one family that can claim two presidents plus a bunch of other offices held plus they're still building their résumé. That would be the Bushes, who saw yet another member throw their hat into the ring on Monday. Since there are only about eight names available to Bush family members (and that includes both men and women, as well as both first and last names), it shouldn't surprise you too much to learn that the newest person to join the family business is named Pierce Bush. He's the grandson of George H. W., and son of Neil.
Bush is going to run as a Republican (naturally) in TX-22, a seat being vacated by Rep. Pete Olson (R). The good news for young Bush (he's 33) is that TX-22 has a PVI of R+10. The bad news is that there are 12 other Republicans running, and that PVI is probably out of date, as the Cook Political Report has the seat rated "toss-up." Bush plans to run on a "the Democrats are all socialists, and Donald Trump isn't a real Republican" platform, which does not seem like a winner in the current climate. Still, name recognition goes a long way, especially in a race where you have more opponents than you do fingers, so we'll see if he can make some noise. (Z)
On Saturday, Sgt. Chris Brewster of the Houston Police Department responded to a domestic disturbance report, and was killed by an angry boyfriend with a gun. The city, and the Department, are in mourning, of course. And on Monday, Police Chief Art Acevedo decided to share a few thoughts with the media about who is to blame, as he sees it:
I don't want to hear about how much they support law enforcement. I don't want to hear about how much they care about lives and the sanctity of lives yet, we all know in law enforcement that one of the biggest reasons that the Senate and Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and others are not getting into a room and having a conference committee with the House and getting the Violence Against Women's Act [passed] is because the NRA doesn't like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends. And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend. So you're either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts, or you're here for the NRA.
Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which was first passed in 1994, has stalled in both the House and the Senate, with little hope of progress anytime soon.
Naturally, neither McConnell nor his two Texas colleagues have had any comment on Acevedo's remarks. It is not terribly likely that they are going to reverse their current, bought and paid for pro-NRA stance (all are among the Top 5 beneficiaries of NRA money in the Senate, with McConnell ranking #1). However, if anything is going to put pressure on them, it will be the perception that they are on the opposite side of this issue from law enforcement and from abused women. That is a bad look, to say the least, particularly at a time when the NRA money spigot might soon run dry. (Z)
In theory, we were going to run the latest entry in our series on scandals today. However, it didn't quite work out, because we need another day to whip the Watergate writeup into shape. In its place, we're going to do a slightly different sort of historical piece, covering an event that was far too harmful, far too venal, and far too big to be thought of as a mere scandal. This one is an atrocity, one of the worst in human history: the Armenian genocide.
For those unfamiliar with the story, over the course of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire came to occupy a place not dissimilar to the one occupied by Jews in Germany. That is to say, the Armenians were a small but distinct minority, condensed into a relatively limited geographic space, were apparently enjoying above-average economic prosperity, and were not adhering to the predominant religion of the Empire (the Ottomans were, of course, Muslim, while the Armenian citizenry of the Empire was mostly Armenian Apostolic, along with some Catholics and Protestants). Various forms of harassment and persecution were commonplace, and there were massacres, most notably the Hamidian massacres of the late 1890s that left between 100,000 and 300,000 Armenians dead.
By the early 1900s, the once-mighty Empire was falling apart, culminating in a military coup in 1908. The coup, led by military officers called the "Young Turks," overthrew sultan Abdul Hamid II and left a military triumvirate known as the Three Pashas in power. World War I broke out in 1914, and—as ambitious military officers are prone to do—the Pashas rushed into the war, joining on the side of the Germans. They planned and launched an assault on Russia, culminating in the Battle of Sarikamish, which lasted from December 22, 1914, to January 17, 1915. Although the Russians had problems of their own, and would soon be plunged into a civil war, they soundly defeated the Turkish forces.
Needless to say, the Young Turks were angry and embarrassed by this development, and eager to find someone to blame. That included, in particular, Ismail Enver Pasha, who was officially Minister of War, but was also the dominant member of the Three Pashas. Enver Pasha profoundly disliked the Armenians and had been eager for an excuse to resume persecuting them, and so he began to promulgate the story that they had aided the Russians at Sarikamish, thus resulting in the Turkish defeat. The term that we would use today is "fifth column," but that phrase was not actually coined until the Spanish Civil War two decades later.
On April 24, 1915, Enver Pasha ordered that several hundred prominent members of the Ottoman Armenian population be rounded up and executed. This is the start date for the Armenian genocide. Over the course of the next two years, the Armenian population of the Empire would drop from 2,133,190 down to 387,800. Not all of these people were killed; some fled successfully and became the first wave of the Armenian diaspora. However, most of them were—the best estimate is that about 1.5 million of the 1.75 million "lost" Armenian Ottomans died at the hands of the Turkish government.
This is necessarily a very brief narrative; if you want to read a proper account, we would recommend Ronald Grigor Suny's They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else. In any event, when a nation commits an atrocity like this, there are basically two options afterward. They can apologize profusely and work very hard to make amends as best as possible, or they can deny, deny, deny. The Turkish government chose the latter, a position that they remain steadfast about to this day, despite over 100 years having passed. They say that the number of dead Armenians is "only" 300,000, and that those individuals were not systematically targeted, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Turkey's denials have been remarkably effective in, at very least, muddying the waters. Quite commonly, perhaps even a majority of the time, a reference to the Armenian genocide will be prefaced with a qualifier like "historians believe" or "it is generally understood that" or the like. Don't put any stock in such things; historians believe that the Armenian genocide happened in the same way that they believe that Monday comes after Sunday. It is generally understood that the Armenians were targeted by the Ottomans in the same way that it is generally understood that the earth orbits the sun.
Anyhow, because this particular genocide was a long time ago, and because it resulted in a much-reduced and much-less-visible Armenian population, and because the Turkish government insists on Armenian Holocaust denial as a condition of diplomatic relations, this is a story that is not nearly as well known as it should be. That may soon change, however, as more and more nations are insisting that the Turkish government take ownership of their historical crimes. It appears that the U.S. will soon be among those nations, as a bill is wending its way through Congress right now that would formally recognize the Armenian genocide.
And that is where this historical item suddenly becomes an apropos subject for a site focused on modern politics. You get three guesses as to which side of this debate Donald Trump is on, and the first two don't count. That's right, given his propensity to side with strongmen, dictators, and the like, the President used his muscle to get Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) to object to a motion that would have formally committed the U.S. to the position that what happened a century ago was a genocide. This kept the matter from sailing through the upper chamber without needing to be put to a vote.
Eventually, both Trump and the Turkish government are going to lose this battle. Cramer admits that the resolution will eventually pass the Senate, and says he won't block it again. Meanwhile, more than 40 nations have formally acknowledged the Armenian genocide, and the list grows by the month. Still, can you imagine what would have happened if Trump had tried to get involved, in any way, in denying the Jewish Holocaust? It just shows where Trump's instincts take him, however, when domestic political considerations are not a concern. (Z)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec09 How to Fix the Impeachment Process
Dec09 Trump Appeals Tax Return Case to the Supreme Court
Dec09 Warren and Buttigieg Are Fighting with Each Other
Dec09 Booker Rakes in Big Bucks
Dec09 Maine Group Launches Massive Campaign against Collins
Dec09 North Carolina Congressman Won't Run in 2020
Dec09 Duncan Hunter to Resign from Congress
Dec09 Dixville Notch May Not Go First
Dec08 Sunday Mailbag
Dec07 Saturday Q&A
Dec06 Pelosi Marches Forward
Dec06 Joe Loses His Cool
Dec06 Kim Promises "Christmas Gift"
Dec06 Warren Has Definitely Fallen Off
Dec06 Kerry Endorses Biden
Dec06 Democrats Try to Sweet Talk Bullock
Dec06 Graves Joins the Crowd Headed for the Exit
Dec05 House Learns What "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" Are, or Maybe It Doesn't
Dec05 Democrats Hint at Three Articles of Impeachment
Dec05 Giuliani Is Still at It
Dec05 Biden Says He Will Consider Harris as His Running Mate
Dec05 Kemp Defies Trump and Appoints Loeffler to the Senate
Dec05 Graham: Russia Interfered with the 2016 Election, Not Ukraine
Dec05 Horowitz: Russia Probe Was Legitimate
Dec05 Trump Calls Trudeau "Two-Faced"
Dec05 Heck Won't Run for Reelection
Dec04 House Intelligence Committee Releases Report on Ukraine
Dec04 Who Will Be the Impeachment Managers?
Dec04 Trump Loses Another Ruling Related to His Finances
Dec04 Harris Has Her Kamala to Jesus Moment
Dec04 Steyer Makes the Debate Cut
Dec04 Democrats Can't Sleep on Michigan Senate Seat
Dec04 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part VI
Dec03 Republicans Close Ranks Around Trump
Dec03 Page and Zelensky Speak Out
Dec03 Trump Readies for Another Trade War
Dec03 Steve Bullock Exits Democratic Presidential Race
Dec03 Garland Tucker Exits North Carolina Senate Race
Dec03 Duncan Hunter to Plead Guilty
Dec03 Assessment of Open House Seats
Dec03 I Am Not a Crook: A Look at History's Most Scandalous Scandals, Part V
Dec02 Intelligence Committee Will Circulate Draft Report Today
Dec02 Ranking Republican on Judiciary Committee Wants Schiff to Testify
Dec02 Biden Will Crisscross Iowa for 8 Days
Dec02 Booker is Desperate for Donors
Dec02 Candidates on the Cusp
Dec02 Joe Sestak, We Hardly Knew Ye
Dec02 Disinformation Will Run Rampant in 2020
Dec02 Adam Schiff's Star Is Rising