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Washington Report: November 22nd, 2019

24 Nov 2019

Washington Report: November 22nd, 2019

Shutdown Averted … Headspinning Display … Conversation … Confrontation … Cybertruck … and other news of the week.
Best,
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners


 

 

 

“Everyone is entitled to his own opionion, but not to his own facts.”
– Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former U.S. Senator and Ambassador to the UN
This week I couldn’t get DPM and his famous quote out of my mind. Everyday, his words seem more relevant.


 

Shutdown Averted For Another Month

Rollcall “President Donald Trump signed a monthlong spending bill Thursday, hours before government funding had been set to expire at midnight. The continuing resolution funds the government through Dec. 20. … BGov ‘The Senate had an easier time passing the stopgap funding measure than the House did, with 74 members voting in favor and 20 members, all Republicans, opposing. By comparison, the House passed the measure 231-192, amid complaints about the slow pace of spending talks and the inclusion of measures that would extend the authorization for portions of the USA Patriot Act.”
BGov “Lawmakers passed legislation o fund the government for another month, but have downplayed expectations for a full fiscal 2020 spending deal by the next deadline on Dec. 20.
Appropriators have declined to say when they expect an agreement on top-line allocations for the 12 fiscal 2020 spending bills, after more than a month of exchanging offers. A deal to get all 12 bills signed into law by the Dec. 20 deadline is unlikely, members of both parties have said, and lawmakers have yet to say which bills would be in the first package that could pass both chambers.

Lawmakers also have yet to clarify the White House’s role in negotiations. Republicans say President Donald Trump will need a role, and Democrats have asked him to stay out of the way. Those challenges make the month-long runway provided by the new continuing resolution seem relatively short to some lawmakers. Appropriators and their staffers are exchanging offers on allocations “all the time,” and the numbers being discussed are close together, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters this week.”


After seven public hearings with 12 witnesses over five days, the impeachment inquiry moves to a new stage: a public report and a handoff to the House Judiciary Committee. What’s next: House Intelligence Committee staffers have been drafting a report that they plan to deliver to Judiciary that lays out their case for impeachment. It will also lay out their recommendations for next steps. Timing? Soon after Thanksgiving recess, if not immediately upon Congress’ return in December.in the next few weeks
Republican staffers are working on a report of their own, GOP aides say, and will likely release it once Democrats publish theirs. ”


Evidence Beyond Dispute

AP “After two weeks of riveting public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, there is a mountain of evidence that is now beyond dispute.
1. Trump explicitly ordered U.S. government officials to work with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on matters related to Ukraine, a country deeply dependent on Washington’s help to fend off Russian aggression.
2. The Republican president pushed Ukraine to launch investigations into political rivals, leaning on a discredited conspiracy theory his own advisers disputed.
3. Both American and Ukrainian officials feared that Trump froze a much-needed package of military aid until Kyiv announced it was launching those probes.

Those facts were confirmed by a dozen witnesses, mostly staid career government officials who served both Democratic and Republican administrations.”


No Defense

Peggy Noonan,* Wall Street Journal “Look, the case has been made. Almost everything in the impeachment hearings this week fleshed out and backed up the charge that President Trump muscled Ukraine for political gain. The pending question is what precisely the House and its Democratic majority will decide to include in the articles of impeachment, what statutes or standards they will assert the president violated.
What was said consistently undermined Mr. Trump’s case, but more deadly was what has never been said.
In the two months since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry was under way and the two weeks since the Intelligence Committee’s public hearings began, no one, even in the White House, has said anything like, “He wouldn’t do that!” or “That would be so unlike him.” His best friends know he would do it and it’s exactly like him.
On Wednesday Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, was both weirdly jolly and enormously effective in doing Mr. Trump damage. He followed the president’s orders; there was a quid pro quo; “everyone was in the loop, it was no secret“; Rudy Giuliani was the point man, with whom Mr. Sondland worked “at the express direction of the president.” It was his third try at truthful sworn testimony and it was completely believable. …
* Author, columnist, speech writer/special assistant to Ronald Reagan, speechwriter for VP George Bush,


Headspinning Display

Hive “It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week. The public phase of the House impeachment inquiry has proven to be a head-spinning display of career bureaucrats and diplomats, and in one case a political appointee, laying out in excruciating and damning detail Trump’s effort to pressure the fledgling Ukrainian government to publicly announce investigations into a domestic political rival, Joe Biden, and a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election.
Impeachment Takeaways (WaPo)
1. David Holmes’s succinct explanation of two quid pro quos
The explanation by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, of how the Ukraine quid pro quos worked got lots of attention Wednesday — remember “two plus two equals four?” Sondland’s point was basically that everyone understood why a White House meeting and military aid were being withheld, even if President Trump never explicitly told him to convey a quid pro quo. But Holmes even more methodically and succinctly laid out how the quid pro quos worked, and how they allegedly would have been understood by the Ukrainians to include not just a White House meeting but also military aid.

2. Fiona Hill isn’t here to play games
Pretty much every witness — up to and including Sondland in his blockbuster testimony Wednesday — has been reluctant to craft a narrative or be overly combative with lawmakers.
Hill doesn’t appear to have any such reservations. In her opening statement, she made clear she will take on the conspiracy theories that Republicans, including those on the committee hearing her testimony, have been pushing about Ukraine’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” Hill said. “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”
She added: “In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

3. Where’s John Bolton?
Some saw Hill as a proxy for former national security adviser John Bolton, under whom she served in the White House and whose potential testimony still hangs over these proceedings. Bolton has said he wants the courts to weigh in on whether he should testify, but Democrats aren’t subpoenaing him because they say it would take too long.

—————-

THE CONVERSATION
————————
I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and … went on to state that President Zelenskyy “loves your ass.” I then heard President Trump ask, “So, he’s gonna do the investigation?” Ambassador Sondland replied that “he’s gonna do it,” adding that President Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to. After the call ended … I then took the opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the president’s views on Ukraine. In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the president did not “give a s–t about Ukraine.” Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not “give a s–t about Ukraine.” I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the president only cares about “big stuff.” I noted that there was “big stuff” going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant “big stuff” that benefits the president, like the “Biden investigation” that Mr. Giuliani was pushing. The conversation then moved on to other topics.”
– David Holmes, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv,

THE CONFRONTATION
—————————-
“I actually said to him, ‘Who put you in charge of Ukraine?’ … I’ll admit I was a bit rude. And that’s when he told me, ‘The president.’ And that shut me up.”
“He [Sondland] wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing. He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy.”
AND THEN THIS …
“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves. … The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified…. And as I told this Committee last month, I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.”
-Dr. Hill, formerly the top Russia specialist on the National Security Council,


Stephen Miller Is A White Nationalist … Does It Matter?

NYT “Somewhat lost in the frenzy over impeachment this week was a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on Stephen Miller, a White House speechwriter and close adviser to the president. An analysis of more than 900 emails from Miller to editors at Breitbart News, the report shows Miller’s single-minded focus on nonwhite immigration and his immersion in an online ecosystem of virulent, unapologetic racism. The Miller of these emails isn’t just an immigration restrictionist, he’s an ideological white nationalist.
It’s tempting to dismiss this as old news. Miller is, after all, the architect behind the Trump administration’s most draconian border and immigration policies, as well as some of its harshest anti-immigrant rhetoric.

But suspecting Miller’s ideological allegiances is quite different than knowing them. … With the emails — supplied by Katie McHugh, a former editor at Breitbart — we now know what Miller was reading and thinking about in the year before he joined the Trump campaign. And there’s no denying the nature of the material. … The evidence is overwhelming: Miller was immersed in white power ideology. He was fluent in the language of white nationalism, attuned to its ideas. He was an obvious sympathizer who brought that sympathy to the federal government, where he has a direct hand in making immigration policy and choosing personnel.

For three years, Miller has used his perch to inflict fear and anxiety on refugees, asylum-seekers and unauthorized immigrants. Maybe, if you were charitable to Miller and sympathetic to restricting immigration, you could frame this as a misguided but good faith attempt to pull back from a more liberal status quo. No longer. These emails show that Miller’s views flow from his commitment to racist exclusion and the protection of a white demographic majority.
… The question now is whether any of this can be made to matter. Miller’s aversion to nonwhite immigrants, after all, is hardly a secret … He’s been pushing white nationalist policies for three years. “The evidence is incontrovertible,” Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, said of Miller’s white nationalist associations. “It’s no longer speculation. It’s now been substantiated.” He said bluntly: “Stephen Miller must resign.” And, over 100 House Dems are calling for Trump to fire senior adviser Stephen Miller – saying he’s not fit to lead the admin’s immigration policy after past emails documented his “extremist, anti-immigrant ideology.”
“Stephen is not going anywhere,” a senior White House official told The Daily Beast last week. “The president has his back.”
(So, how much hate have we learned to tolerate? jr)


Indicted

theSkimm “Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has some legal issues to attend to. Yesterday, Israel’s attorney general charged him in three corruption cases with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. It’s the first time an Israeli PM has been indicted while in office.
So what’d he do? The investigation has been ongoing for about three years. In two of the cases, Netanyahu is accused of getting involved with media and telecom companies in exchange for positive news coverage. In the other, he’s accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts (like cigars and champagne) in return for favors. Netanyahu dismissed the allegations as lies and called the indictment an attempted coup. He seems ready to fight this and called on Israelis to “investigate the investigators.” The attorney general said nobody is “above the law.”
So does he have to step down? Nope. He could face a trial – and would have to step down if convicted. But there’s also the possibility that parliament decides to grant him immunity. In the meantime, he can keep his position. The problem for him: that was already on shaky ground.
Why In October, he failed to form a government. His rival, Benny Gantz, was then tasked with trying to form one. But he failed too. Now, any member of parliament gets a shot. If after three weeks there’s still no coalition, Israel could go back to the polls for the third time in less than a year.

Netanyahu is the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history. And has stayed popular with his base until now. But some said that being indicted is an entirely different story. Now, he could stand to lose support at a critical point in his political life.”


Cybertruck

The Cybertruck has arrived and it looks nothing like any pickup truck you’ve ever seen. Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed the long-awaited electric pickup truck. … The Cybertruck looks like a large metal trapezoid on wheels, more like an art piece than a truck.
Musk has made striking claims about the truck’s capabilities. Among them, he has said the Cybertruck would be more capable, in terms of towing and hauling, than a Ford F-150 and perform as a better sports car than a Porsche 911. Another eye-catching feature of the truck is its price. The base version of the truck will start at $39,900 … it will compete well with the cost of a nicely equipped F-150. Prices for the top end Tri Motor AWD version of the Cybertruck start at $69,900. Buyers will also be able to choose Tesla’s “self-driving” option for $7,000. (The truck should be able to drive itself once the software for that becomes available.) BTW, Ford is developing its own electric F-series truck, while General Motors, which makes Chevrolet and GMC pickups, also has its own electric pickups in the works. Earlier Thursday, GM CEO Mary Barra said the auto maker expects to begin selling its electric pickup in the fall of 2021.
The market potential for Tesla’s truck remains somewhat of a mystery. There has, to date, been little overlap between full-size pickup truck buyers and Tesla buyers. For instance, Teslas and other electric cars sell well on America’s coasts, while large pickups sell best in the Midwest. Actual production will begin in late 2021 (for the base model).

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