December 11, 2019

Even as I write this, members of the Judiciary are “debating” the articles of impeachment the committee has prepared against Trump. I put that word in quotation marks because there is no debate going on. Democrats are reiterating the surprisingly consistent facts established over the last several weeks of investigations and hearings, while Republicans, led by Doug Collins (R-GA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Dan Ratcliffe (R-TX) are simply yelling, once again trying to create an emotional—and false—narrative for their supporters, while sapping the energy of those who disapprove of the president.

The tone of the hearing was clear from the start. Committee chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said to his Republican colleagues: “I know you. I have worked with many of you for years. I consider you to be good and decent public servants. I know this moment must be difficult, but you still have a choice…. I hope that none of us attempt to justify behavior that we know in our heart is wrong. I hope that we are able to work together to hold this president—or any president—accountable for breaking his most basic obligations to the country and to its citizens.”

Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary Doug Collins (R-GA) answered by comparing Democrats to Adolf Hitler.

In Mein Kampf, his autobiography, Hitler talked about the power of what he called “the big lie.” He wrote that people were more likely to believe a giant lie than a little one, because they were willing to tell small lies in their own lives, but they “would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. Since they could not conceive of telling “colossal untruths, they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” He went on: “Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”

The US Office of Strategic Services picked up on this when it described Hitler’s psychological profile. It said “His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

Tonight, Collins accused the Democrats of using the techniques of the big lie. “What’s the Big Lie?” he asked. “It’s the one Democrats have told the American people for the last three years. The Big Lie is that the ends justify the means. The Big Lie is that a sham impeachment is okay because the threat is so great. The Big Lie is that political expedience is honorable and justifiable.”

His description of the big lie does not, of course, meet the definition of a big lie, suggesting that it is just a signal to Trump’s base equating the Democrats with Nazis. Jim Jordan (R-OH) continued the hate-fest, telling the base that “they hate us.” Sitting in front of a poster calling the Democrats who drew up the impeachment articles the “Coastal Impeachment Squad,” he said again and again that Trump’s elitist opponents were simply voicing their hatred for Trump’s regular-guy supporters.

This idea originated with Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan, who developed it quite deliberately to try to rally people around Nixon when his popularity began to plummet in 1969. It has become a stock Republican idea at this point, but it is worth noting that it is pushed by Republicans, not by Democrats, who are constantly self-flagellating about reaching out to Trump voters, while there is no corresponding impulse for Republicans.

While Democrats are talking about the promise of America and the need to hold a president to our laws, Republicans are hostile and inflammatory, inciting hatred of Democrats. It will play well with Trump, but it is irresponsible and dangerous.

Louie Gohmert (R-TX) made it clear just how irresponsible Republicans are willing to be. He read out what is allegedly the name of the whistleblower. While Donald Trump, Jr., has tweeted the name, this is the first time it has been made public by an official. There is no reason to do this except to punish this individual and silence others.

The person did as we would hope all officials would do: s/he was concerned about what s/he was hearing from others about the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and reported those concerns to the proper authority (rather than, say, leaking to the press). That authority, the Intelligence Community’s Inspector General, deemed the threat credible and urgent, and passed the complaint on to the acting Director of National Intelligence, who broke the law by refusing to turn it over to the congressional intelligence committees. That’s what broke this whole scandal open. Since then, we have heard testimony from people who actually were on the call—which the whistleblower was not—so there is zero legitimate reason to hear any more from this person. Republicans are hoping to tar the person as a Democrat, taking pressure away from the damning evidence provided by actual witnesses to the phone call itself. And to do that, they are willing to put the person in grave danger.

Republicans are pushing the idea that we are on the verge of a war with each other. CBS News posted a video of Trump supporters at Trump’s rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania last night saying they would start a “second Civil War” if Trump were removed from office. The video seems to be of “regular folks,” but an astute observer noted that one of the men was activist Will Johnson, not from Pennsylvania but from San Francisco, who runs a prominent MAGA website, and who Trump has invited to the White House twice.

The Russians have pushed the idea of another American civil war since at least 2018. Since 2016, they have actively worked to drive us to attack each other.

And as long as we’re looking at Russians… Federal prosecutors in New York asked a judge to revoke bail for Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas, who failed to disclose a $1 million transfer from a Russian bank account to his wife in September, along with his plans to buy a $4.3 million house in Boca Raton, Florida. Parnas was in significant debt until recently, and he disclosed to federal officials only $43,000 in cash. So, while he was working with Giuliani, Parnas took at least $1 million from a Russian source.

Parnas, you will recall, donated $325,000 to Trump’s superPAC. He also donated money to various Republican officials, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Parnas was arrested as he was leaving the country, and was charged with breaking campaign finance laws. Prosecutors say he is an extreme flight risk.

In the midst of all the Republican antics, people and institutions are emphasizing that the rule of law still matters. Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board added its voice to that of the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Post to support impeachment.

And Time Magazine, which has an uncanny knack for sensing societal trends, honored public servants today as its “Guardians of the Year.” It honored those 363,000 people in general, but singled out the whistleblower, as well as former US. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Russia expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Russia expert Fiona Hill, and former Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, all witnesses against Trump in the Ukraine scandal.

It said: “In shouldering the 241-year principle of speaking truth before the American people, each performed a duty. The first day on the job, every federal employee takes an oath, swearing to the same promise the President-elect pledges on the West Front of the Capitol-: to defend the Constitution. The courage they summoned was not to break the law, but to follow it.”

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Notes:

[Folks, I’m trying to upload my notes here tonight, as people have asked. Not sure it will work, so bear with me if it’s a mess….]

Hitler profile: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP78-02646R000600240001-5.pdf

Hearing: https://www.courthousenews.com/congress-bubbles-to-a-boil-at-impeachment-mark-up/

Gohmert: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry/gop-rep-gohmert-publicly-names-person-some-republicans-say-whistleblower-n1100281

Will Johnson:

Russians push Second Civil War: https://www.news.com.au/world/us-civil-war-coming-russia-seizes-on-talk-of-us-split-but-did-it-help-generate-that-in-the-first-place/news-story/261c2002bb9a0318206fbffb680396cc

https://www.businessinsider.com/former-troll-russia-disinformation-campaign-trump-2017-10?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=topbar&utm_term=desktop&referrer=facebook&fbclid=IwAR0z3frSo9rPd_mRngD8l5rsMm9_VNZvGvAVWZWTH073E1JFAZawlmnGMpQ

Parnas: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-11/giuliani-associate-parnas-got-1-million-from-russia-u-s-says

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/12/11/feds-ask-judge-revoke-bail-giuliani-associate/4404171002/

Parnas debt: https://www.npr.org/2019/10/23/771849041/how-a-complicated-web-connects-2-soviet-born-businessmen-with-the-impeachment-in

Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/10/case-impeachment/?arc404=true

LA Times: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-12-07/impeach-president-trump

Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2019/12/06/opinion/time-impeachment/

Philadelphia Inquirer: https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/editorials/impeachment-donald-trump-president-philadelphia-editorial-ukraine-20191211.html?outputType=amp&__twitter_impression=true

Time: https://time.com/guardians-of-the-year-2019-public-servants/