The Week’s Most Notable:
Lev Parnas will never be a hero but . . .he may have set in motion a change in the course of the third impeachment trial in American history. His public interviews and especially his confirmatory evidence may force the Senate to call witnesses and present new documents. If that happens, the GOP controlled Senate will still not convict, but Trump may have difficulty mounting an effective celebratory exoneration tour.
With a bit of awkward pomp and some confusing circumstance, the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump officially began this week. Unlike the Clinton trial, this one is not beginning with bipartisan agreement on how to proceed. We can expect intense argument and some tense votes about procedure, such as calling witnesses.
The Week of Saturday, January 11 through Friday, January 17, 2020 [#26]
Saturday, January 11
[Afghanistan] Taliban Bomb Kills Two U.S. Soldiers – Talks with the Taliban are “stalled.”
[Iran] Protests Over Plane Downing and Government Continue – The protests give the impression that the PR value of the missile attack on Iraqi/U.S. bases was weak. This impression needs verifying. [Update: On Sunday it was reported demonstrators were attacked with live ammunition.]
Sunday, January 12
[Iran, War] Defense Secretary Says No Evidence of Immediate Embassy Threat – On a Sunday talk show, buried in dialog, Sec. Esper said he believed (Trump) that four embassies were threatened, but he hadn’t seen any evidence that the threat was imminent. This continues a general administration pattern of backing Trump’s assertions while walking back their content. The cumulative lack of threat evidence points to the Soleimani assassination as generalized – something that Trump just thought was a good thing to do. [Update: Trump had authorized the assassination in June, with certain conditions.]
Monday, January 13
[impeachment Trial] Trump Calls for Dismissal, GOP Senate Says No – Consistent with his argument that the whole impeachment thing is illegitimate, Trump tweeted that because a trial lends credibility to the Democrat Witch Hunt, the case should be dropped. “There aren’t 51 votes to dismiss,” was the reply. This dynamic – Trump demanding pure absolution and the Senate GOP caught between the ridiculous and reality – is sure to be a prominent feature of the trial.
[Ukraine Scandal] Russia Hacks Burisma – As further evidence that Russian cyberwar activity is full-on for 2020, the phishing attack on the Biden-correlated Ukrainian firm – despite all the publicity – shows a typical brazenness about poking the eagle’s eye.
Tuesday, January 14
[2020 Elections] Seventh Democratic Debate – Most of the takeaways from the debate by the six remaining candidates (Cory Booker had withdrawn from the race) were about the Democratic voter’s overriding concern: Who’s going to beat Trump? Electability. This was at the center of the Warren/Sanders contretemps and the perceived weakness of Buttigieg with black voters. Biden did not damage his electability gloss. The Iowa caucuses are 21 days away.
[Impeachment] House Releases Parnas Documents – Tranche One of what promises to be multiple releases of documents, recordings, and notes from Giuliani associate Lev Parnas has several highlights: top Ukrainian prosecutor (Lutsenko) told Giuliani he would provide dirt on Bidens if Amb. Yovanovitch went away; Yovanovitch was under surveillance; Trump ok’d Giuliani seeking Zelensky-Trump meeting.
[Mueller Investigation] Michael Flynn Seeks to Withdraw Guilty Plea – Advised by his (newish) lawyers to be consistent with the Trump absolute innocence story, Flynn wants to change his plea and attack government motives. This is not likely to fly with the presiding judge.
[Border Wall] Trump Plans Additional $7.2 Billion Diversion for Wall – There was immediate pushback from both houses and both parties, as the wall idea is not congressionally popular – much less Trump’s again stealing billions from military programs. No action on this until after the Senate trial.
Wednesday, January 15
[Impeachment] House Votes to Send Impeachment Articles to Senate – Along with the articles, the House approved the seven impeachment managers, headed by Adam Schiff.
[impeachment] Lev Parnas Spills to Maddow – Seldom does network reporting rise to the level of “news” but this was a major exception. Rachel Maddow’s (MSNBC) interview of the federally indicted Parnas was both a revelation concerning one of the more derided characters in the Ukraine scandal, but also about the information he could provide. With the caveat that everything he says needs to be examined and cross checked, he asserted, among other things: Trump was aware and in charge of Ukraine scheme; that scheme was about the Bidens, never about corruption; VP Pence was involved with the scheme, especially concerning Zelensky’s inauguration; Att. Gen. Barr was also aware and involved with the scheme. All of this is controversial, of course, but Parnas brought emails, recordings, notes, etc., that bit by bit corroborate his assertions. Democrats want to bring this information, if not Parnas himself, to the trial; Trump and the GOP most certainly do not. It’s likely that public reaction will be decisive on what happens.
[China Trade] Trump Signs China Trade Deal, Phase One –”Not entirely window dressing” correctly characterizes this agreement. It reverses some $200 billion in lost China trade, while leaving most tariffs in place. It is a small, but politically exploitable, step toward halting the trade war.
[Equal Rights Amendment] Virginia Passes ERA, Opens the Way to Final Approval – However, the deadline for states’ approval was 1982. The deadline can be changed, but not with a Republican controlled Senate.
[Climate Emergency] NASA/NOAA Say 2010’s Hottest Decade on Record – Eight of the hottest years (globally) in history occurred in this decade.
Thursday, January 16
[Impeachment] Senate Begins Impeachment Trial – After swearing in the Chief Justice and the members of the Senate, the trial of Donald J. Trump formally began. Substantive action begins next Tuesday.
[Impeachment] GAO: White House Broke the Law Withholding Ukraine Aid – The General Accounting Office is the government watchdog of record, so this finding will provoke legal action by the House, if not Barr’s Justice Dept. Since Trump/GOP can no longer claim the Ukrainian business ”broke no laws,” the Democrats will seek to include the report in the impeachment trial.
[Ukraine Scandal] Ukraine to Investigate Firing and Surveillance of Amb. Yovanovitch – Involving major irony, after all attempts to get investigation of the Bidens, Ukraine is going after Ukrainian bad actors associated with Giuliani.
[USMCA] Senate Approves USMCA Replacement of NAFTA – Democrats are letting Trump take credit for a complex trade agreement they significantly crafted. It’s NAFTA 2.0, but still a big deal.
Friday, January 17
[Corruption] Former GOP Rep. Chris Collins Sentenced to Two Years in Prison – The charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI resulted in conviction and now sentencing. He cried, “I stand here today a disgraced former congressman.”
[Iran, War] Iran Missile Strike Injured Eleven Americans – The Pentagon finally reported concussions from the explosions.
In a way, Parnas provided the leverage Speaker Pelosi may have felt was missing from the articles of impeachment. The new evidence, including Trump’s direct involvement in illegally stopping military aid (per the GAO) will make it difficult for McConnell/GOP to entirely bypass witnesses. The issue is becoming not IF witnesses will be called but WHO and HOW MANY.
Should there be any doubt, this is not a trial in a court of law but a contest – who can score the most points with the public. That’s why Trump has loaded his legal team with legal celebrities and Fox News familiar faces. Their goal, since the outcome is already known, is to discredit the Democrats and present Trump as a victim. And the Democrats? The impression is they think this is about presenting a case.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are passingly familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search (Google it).]
Quote of the Week
“Zelensky walked a thin diplomatic balance beam and came out without falling flat on his face. For a political novice, he seems to have a keen sense of exactly how to appease opposing factions in order to protect Ukraine’s interests.”
Nina Janko Wiez, Wilson Center Scholar, on Zelensky’s response to Iran’s downing of Ukraine’s jet. Jan. 12, 2020.