November 24, 2019

As the news came fast and furious today, I could not help thinking of the famous quotation, “The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

We had plenty of monsters today as old ideas began their death rattle and new ones began to peep.

There was lots more on the Ukraine scandal, as leaders formerly in control tried to stay that way. Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R-CA), who has been accused of trying to smear the Bidens and down play the Russian attack, was asked point-blank if he had been in Vienna with Shokin, the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor that Biden helped to fire, as a participant alleged on Friday. Nunes’s answer was illuminating: he simply refused to answer, saying: “Everyone’s going to know the truth…. I can’t compete trying to debate this out with the public media when 90% of the media are totally corrupt.” He added: “We’ve got all the facts on our side.”

All the facts on his side, but he couldn’t tell us any of them, because… the media asked him about them? Remember, yesterday I said to watch what he does, not what he says. The same man who said the tale of his trip to meet Shokin was “demonstrably false” and that he was going to sue CNN for breaking the story is now not talking. We also learned today that Nunes did, in fact, go to Austria at exactly the time Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas said he went, with a number of aides. The trip cost almost $57,000 of taxpayers’ money.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) was also toeing the Trump party line when he insisted on Fox News Sunday that we do not know that it was Russia that hacked the Democratic National Committee; it could have been Ukraine. We do know, of course. Our intelligence experts all say it was Russia. It is Russia’s leaders—and a number of Republican politicians– that are pushing the Ukraine story. Kennedy, remember, was one of the eight GOP leaders who spent last July 4 in Moscow. Even FNC’s Chris Wallace, who was conducting the interview, pushed back against Kennedy, and reiterated, once again, the story of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The whole line of argument from Trump supporters has become so absurd that they clearly think of they are on the ropes. Today on the Fox News Channel, personality Jeanine Pirro dismissed ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s testimony against Trump by saying “that he, like many Deep State bureaucrats, is not a fan of the president.” Sondland is a hotel magnate with no diplomatic experience at all, who got his job by literally giving Trump a million dollars. The argument that he is a hostile bureaucrat sounds desperate.

This morning, we also learned that when the Ukraine scandal broke, the White House scrambled to construct a justification for the decision to withhold money from our ally. Another word for this kind of activity is cover-up, and in the end, a cover-up is what sank Richard Nixon. Also significant is that the story was leaked by three people in the White House, so Trump’s control over his people continues to erode.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post came out and said it: Republicans are guilty not only for violating their oath of office by supporting a criminal president, but also for broadcasting Russian propaganda. Remember that Jennifer Rubin is a conservative commentator.

We also learned that the House intelligence committee is reviewing audio and video tapes and photographs provided by Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Parnas’s lawyer insists that Parnas is “non-partisan,” and wants to do “what is in the best interests of our nation.” Parnas is the same man who refused to honor a subpoena to testify in front of Congress, and his lawyer wrote an incredibly insulting letter to Congress in comic sans font. Their tone has changed in the last month.

It is likely that this change of tone reflects a power shift in Washington. We learned today that Trump is no longer using the Oval Office but instead is working from the private residence. The Politico story that broke the news suggests he is doing so because he fears spies and is more comfortable in the private residence, but this does not pass the smell test. Presidents generally work in the Oval Office unless they are ill. Either he is retreating out of fear of the impeachment proceedings, or the cognitive problems that we have all noticed are becoming severe enough that he is no longer comfortable being in public.

Finally, perhaps the biggest story today was the firing of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer over the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy seal accused of committing war crimes, and that story highlighted that Trump is both trying cement is power and is being challenged over it. Gallagher was acquitted of murder but convicted of posing with the body of a prisoner. For that, he was demoted. From the first, this case has bothered Trump. On Twitter, he accused the Navy of mistreating Gallagher, and he reinstated Gallagher’s rank. It is extraordinary for a president to get involved in an individual disciplinary cases, and Pentagon officials asked the president not to, because it would hurt military discipline and weaken our standing in the world. In the midst of this wrangling, Spencer announced publicly that Gallagher would have to go before a review board to see if he could stay in the elite Navy SEALs. This afternoon, Spencer announced that “I hereby acknowledge my termination as United States Secretary of the Navy.” The White House offered a complicated story about him being fired for being insubordinate, but it was clear from his carefully written resignation letter that he had been contemplating leaving over the Gallagher case for a while. Today’s date on the letter was clearly written later, by hand, and in a hurry. When he heard of the resignation, Gallagher’s lawyer told a reporter: “This case is bananas. You can quote me on that.”

And the letter is a doozy. Spencer says, “I cannot in good conscience obey in order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of United States.”

Guess who took the same oath.

Spencer called out Trump for violating his oath to defend the Constitution, but it is worth noting that right now it is Spencer, not Donald Trump, who is out of a job.

“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”