The President’s spiritual advisor is a perfect fit

Paula White, prosperity gospel televangelist, millionaire, and former megachurch pastor, is perhaps Donald Trump’s closest and most trusted spiritual advisor. She’s also an official member of the administration, serving as Advisor to the Faith & Opportunity Initiative, an office that coordinates outreach to religious communities. I’d never heard of her before she emerged as part of Donald Trump’s inner circle, and I was curious to learn more about the woman who, according to rumors James Dobson heard, personally led Trump to faith in Christ.

The more I learned, the more she and the President seemed to have in common. They’re both very comfortable in front of crowds and on camera. They’re both very rich. They’re both on their third marriages. Their respective organizations have both been investigated for misuse of funds. Mrs. White was not charged with any tax offenses, though the investigation did find that her church paid $2.755 million to her relatives over the course of four years, and that she and her husband drew a salary of $5 million each year. The President didn’t fare so well in his investigation: in November of 2019 the Donald J. Trump Foundation was ordered to pay $2 million in damages after he illegally used the charity’s funds to buy portraits of himself, help his 2016 campaign, and pay off legal obligations for his businesses. The Trump Foundation was then dissolved, and Mr. Trump will be subject to special supervision if he ever wants to run a charity in the state of New York again.

Mrs. White also seems to have mastered the art of feeding the President’s insatiable ego with a Christianese flavor all her own. “To say no to President Trump would be saying no to God,” she says.

In 2017, on The Jim Bakker Show—

Let’s stop there for a second. The Jim Bakker Show. Jim Bakker has a show. Again. I was stunned to learn this.

For those unfamiliar, Jim Bakker was a well-known televangelist in the 1980s. He is better known, though, for his lavish lifestyle, for using his show’s funds to pay hush money to a church secretary (whom he either had consensual sex with or drugged and raped, depending on which of them you believe), for covering it up, stealing millions of donated dollars, being convicted of 24 felony counts, and spending nearly 5 years in prison. He was released early, partly due to the efforts of his celebrity attorney, Alan Dershowitz—who, as it happens, is currently representing Donald Trump in his impeachment trial.

Now that I think about it, starring in a TV show, paying hush money to cover up adultery while claiming to be a Christian, stealing donors’ money for one’s own benefit, hiring Dershowitz afterward: no wonder The Jim Bakker Show is all in for Trump. They’re practically the same person.

But I digress. Paula White explained on The Jim Bakker show that God raises up kings (rulers) and sets them down (Daniel 2:21), so resisting Trump is “fighting against the hand of God.” On another occasion, while praying for the President, she declared that “any tongue that rises against him will be condemned, according to the Word of God.”

So, according to Mrs. White, saying no to this human man is equivalent to saying no to Almighty God. Resisting him for any reason is resisting the hand of God. And God’s word says that anyone who speaks out against Trump will be condemned.

There’s a word for this kind of “teaching.” Heresy.

But she’s not only heretical. She’s bonkers. In this clip from January 5th of this month, Mrs. White makes some statements that I can’t say necessarily qualify as heresy, but I’ve spent my entire life in church and among believers, and this woman sounds insane to me.

“We come against the marine kingdom. We come against the animal kingdom. Any—the woman that rides upon the waters. We break the power in the name of Jesus.” The marine kingdom? The animal kingdom? I’ve racked my brain, trying to think of any Scripture, any theology I’ve ever heard that might make sense of this, but I’ve got nothing. She goes on to pray against any “strange winds” that might be sent against the President or herself, then shouts “Let pride fall!” four times in a row.

The part that’s really got people up in arms is this at the end: “We command all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now. We declare that anything that’s been conceived in satanic wombs that it’ll miscarry.” Now, I concede (and hope) that she’s probably speaking metaphorically here. But even if she is, this is so bizarre, not to mention hurtful and insensitive to women who have suffered miscarriages.

Dr. Russell Moore, evangelical author and preacher, and president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, had this to say about Mrs. White:

“Why so harsh, Dr. Moore?” some of you may be wondering. I’ll tell you.

On her website right now, there is a page for donations, her “First Fruits” program. Part of the text reads, “…through your first fruits offering, [emphasis hers] He gives you the power to acquire wealth…”

This is neither new nor unusual for Paula White. For her 2019 First Fruits drive, she wrote, “I Prophetically Decree and Declare Deliverance & Prosperity are Yours in 2019. This is the Year YOU Inherit YOUR Promised Land!” (Again with the random capitalization. I am convinced it’s contagious.)

For Passover in 2019, her website used out-of-context verses to promise her followers that if they donate money to her, God will make them rich, heal their sicknesses, grant them long life, assign an angel to them, and go after their enemies.

On Easter Sunday of 2016, she said, “There’s someone that God is speaking to, to click on that donation button by minimizing the screen. And when you do to sow $1,144. It’s not often I ask very specifically but God has instructed me and I want you to hear. This isn’t for everyone but this is for someone. When you sow that $1,144 based on John 11:44, I believe for resurrection life.” She seems to be promising salvation to the person who donates that sum.

In October 2019, she told viewers that they were “mandated by God” to give thousands of dollars (by far the smallest amount she recommended was $1000) to Jim Bakker to build a new TV studio. Also on The Jim Bakker Show, she said, “You need to send in $3,500. You need to send in $35,000. You need to send in that $100,000 check…If you do not write that P.O. Box, and you do not call that toll-free number, and you do not become a ministry of sustainer, you will never see sustainment in your life. And your dream’ll die. Your call will die.”

She’s a false teacher. She’s a heretic. She’s a swindler and a charlatan. And she has the ear of the most powerful man in the world.

He seems happy with her performance.

“Thank you Paula,” he said. “What a great job you do. The evangelicals. I hear we’re more popular than ever with the evangelicals.”

The first sitting President attended the March For Life today. I wish that were a good thing.

It’s hard to blame pro-lifers for being excited: today, for the first time in its 45-year history, a sitting President attended the March For Life in person. Other Republican Presidents have addressed the March via video, but none have actually shown up until now. This is not an insignificant moment for a movement that has long fought an uphill battle against the popular conception—aided by (naturally) the media—that they are few in number and therefore ought to be discounted.

In truth, the nation remains nearly equally divided on the issue of abortion. Gallup found just this past June that 49% of Americans self-identify as pro-life, compared to 46% who self-identify as pro-choice. And momentum is on the side of the pro-lifers: in 1995 those percentages were 33-56.

“Let us work together to build a culture that cherishes innocent life,” the President said in his speech. I can’t argue with that.

But I hope my fellow pro-lifers won’t blame me for being skeptical of his motives. Donald Trump was pro-choice for 64 years. He once co-hosted a pro-choice fundraiser. He gave an interview to Meet the Press in which he declared, “I am pro-choice in every respect.” He remained a supporter of abortion right up until 2011, when he was toying with the idea of a 2012 Presidential run. In other words, he started calling himself pro-life when it became politically expedient for him to do so.

He is hardly the first politician to pivot on a significant issue at the very instant it works in their favor. Socially conservative and liberal voters alike may be vexed to realize that Donald Trump was the first President ever to begin his term while openly supporting gay marriage. President Obama’s eventual public support for it was entirely driven by political considerations, and ultimately happened because Joe Biden forced his hand. Hillary was against same-sex marriage while that was the safe position to hold. In 2004 she believed that marriage was “a sacred bond between a man and a woman.” But every politician knows that nothing is as sacred as getting votes.

Trump’s late-in-life conversion to the cause, his pro-life rhetoric, his appearance at March For Life: these are all calculated moves. They’re transactional. He knows he needs those voters. He knows how to get them. “They are coming after me because I am fighting for you,” he told the crowd. (Yes, on the day commemorating 60 million dead babies, he was still the victim.)

I hear you, friends. “Who cares about his motives as long as his policies are helping curb abortion?” It’s a valid argument (though not one I’ve seen often; most seem to almost worshipfully believe that he truly cares about the unborn.)

The tender, compassionate man we’ve all come to know and love

And yes, I am glad whenever abortions decrease. We (and by “we” I mean the left) have come so far from “safe, legal, and rare.” Now it’s #ShoutYourAbortion and Michele Wolf dressed in red white and blue hosting her “Salute to Abortion” and actress Martha Plimpton posing in a “heart abortion” tunic. At least we’re not pretending anymore. And I understand why some in the pro-life movement believe any support is good, and why we would want a fighter on our side.

But the only thing that can ever truly change the realities of abortion in this country is its electorate. Changing the hearts and minds of fellow Americans, persuading them that science and ethics and morality and basic human decency are all on the side of life: that is how we turn the tide. Not through politics. Not through laws. Because politicians can be replaced. Laws can be changed.

That is why it’s a mistake for March For Life and the pro-life movement as a whole to unrestrainedly embrace the most divisive figure in modern American politics. Sure, the 25% or so of Americans who enthusiastically support him are thrilled about his connection to the movement. And I’m sure his involvement has helped solidify his support among those who may have been put off by his other antics.

What about the rest? What about the 51% who find his actions so abhorrent they believe he ought to be removed from office by the Senate? What about the ones who may have been warming to the idea that unborn babies deserve protection, but then they see the pro-life movement championing a man whose words and behavior utterly repel them? We are all susceptible to this sort of prejudice. I’d be willing to bet you know or are even related to someone who won’t even watch a movie starring an actor whose politics they fervently disagree with. Or perhaps one who started boycotting the NFL because of Colin Kaepernick. Personally, I would have my kid flipping burgers before sending them to Liberty University as long as any trace of Jerry Falwell, Jr’s influence remains there.

Short-term gains are good, but not at the expense of a long-term sea change in Americans’ views toward abortion. I fear that’s the myopic trade we’re making, when instead, we could be trying to find and elect leaders who will deliver on the pro-life reforms we want without all the baggage that drives away potential allies.

But who knows? I could be wrong. Maybe the stain will wash out sooner than I believe. Maybe people’s memories will be shorter than I fear. It’s good to hedge sometimes, to leave room in the future for reality to assert itself. Good politicians know this.

For example, during the primaries in 2016, Maureen Dowd asked Donald Trump if, back when he was a Manhattan bachelor, he was ever involved with a woman who’d ended up getting an abortion.

“Such an interesting question,” he said. “So what’s your next question?”

Newly released documents devastate Trump’s defense. (Not that it will matter.)

Tuesday, January 14th, the House Intelligence Committee released new documents received from Lev Parnas. Parnas is a Ukrainian-born American citizen and an associate of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Parnas was arrested in October while trying to leave the country, and indicted on federal charges. (So weird how Trump associates keep getting arrested and indicted, right?) He’s now cooperating with investigators, and just received permission from a judge to hand over his records to the House Intelligence Committee.

In case you’ve wondered why the President—who insists he did nothing wrong; he made a perfect call; he’s a victim of a Democrat hoax—has fought every step of the way to keep witnesses from testifying and evidence from being released, well, this is why.

Once Trump and Republicans could no longer plausibly claim there was no quid-pro-quo, they shifted to explaining that the President was simply genuinely concerned with rooting out corruption in Ukraine. That’s why he wanted an investigation into Burisma and Hunter (read: Joe) Biden. For truth, justice, and the American People.

Yeah, about that. Parnas turned over this letter from Rudy Giuliani to the newly-elected president of Ukraine.

“Just to be precise,” Giuliani writes, “I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States. He goes on: “In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you…”

It’s hard to overstate how crippling this letter is to the President’s defense. Giuliani wasn’t going to Ukraine to represent the President of the United States in his noble quest for truth and justice. He was representing the President, with his knowledge and consent, as a private citizen. A private citizen circumventing the State Department and all legitimate channels of foreign policy in order to leverage the power of his office to gain the upper hand against the biggest domestic threat to his reelection: Joe Biden.

Abuse of power. Obstruction of justice. The House got it right.

But that’s not all. Parnas also turned over a few handwritten notes of his own. Here is the most damning:

“get Zalensky [sic] to Announce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” (Apparently random, erratic capitalization is contagious? Everyone around the President seems to succumb to it sooner or later.)

Note the specific goal here. Not to get an investigation. To get an announcement of an investigation. Odd goal, considering that investigations are usually more successful if their target isn’t tipped off right at the beginning. Odd way to go about a perfectly legitimate investigation of corruption when you have the entire State Department at your disposal.

Not an odd goal if what you really want is to drag the name “Biden” through the mud, and the people who know the law and care about their obligations to the Constitution won’t do it for you. Then it makes perfect sense.

It’s not complicated. We already had enough evidence; this just adds to the pile. The President sent his unelected, unvetted minions to use the power of his office to pressure a foreign government to make an announcement that would hurt his number one political opponent and weaken the biggest threat to his reelection. Then when he got caught, he refused to comply with Congressional subpoenas, and blocked witnesses from testifying.

Abuse of power. Obstruction of justice. He’s already been impeached for them.

But it won’t matter. Senate Republicans have seen these smoking guns. But they’ve already made clear they’re closing ranks. They don’t want to hear from witnesses; they don’t want to look at additional evidence. Multiple Senators have already publicly said they’ll vote to acquit the President, before the trial has even begun. Before they’ve taken their oath to be impartial jurors.

When Nixon broke the law, Republican members of Congress did what was right. It didn’t matter that he was the leader of their party, or that he had won his election in a massive landslide victory. Because he had broken the law and lied to Americans, and he needed to be removed from office. They made it clear that if he wouldn’t resign, they’d remove him.

Now this President, after spending three years under investigation for suspicion of inviting foreign meddling in our elections, actually sent his motley crew of criminal goons to solicit foreign meddling in our election, lied about it, obstructed Congress, blocked witnesses, and will be acquitted by the Senate. Not because he’s innocent, but because they want to remain Senators more than they want to do what’s right.

We don’t have to make it easy for them, though. Contact your Senator. Tell him or her that you want a full and fair trial. Tell them you want to see all the evidence and hear from every relevant witness. Tell them your vote is riding on it. Then follow through.

I’m on my knees, begging you to stop watching Fox News

The hubby and I always like to have a show to watch together in the evenings after the kids go to bed. Currently, it’s The Americans. (We’re late; we know.) It’s a great show, set in the 80s, about a couple of Soviet spies living disguised as ordinary Americans. You know it’s a great show, because it has made me care about these two murderous commies who stand against everything I believe in.

Anyway, back in season three, there was a scene with FBI Agent Stan Beeman that has stuck with me. When I first saw it, I gasped, rewound it, and watched it again, because it was so spot-on. Another FBI agent asks Stan about his previous assignment, during which he lived undercover with a dangerous group of white supremacists, posing as one of them.

“What did it take to fool them?” the agent wants to know.

“Tell them what they want to hear, over and over and over again,” Stan tells him.

“That’s it?”

“People love hearing how right they are.”

Ouch.

If anyone—person, pastor, news outlet, website—always tells you what you want to hear, you can bet it’s not the truth. They’re fooling you.

The truth isn’t partisan. It doesn’t bend and shape itself to our ideological preferences, or our pet notions about a politician or political party. The truth is often hard to hear. It’s uncomfortable. If it makes you feel all warm and cozy, or completely righteous, chances are it’s not the truth. Or not the whole truth. Not always, but often.

A dear friend recently urged me to listen to Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity, which was funny because at that same time, I was thinking about urging her to stop listening to them. We had never spoken about the topic before; she’d never told me that she was a regular Fox viewer—but I knew. She might be surprised to learn that I do keep tabs on Ingraham, Limbaugh, Hannity, Carlson, et al. I just have a very different interpretation of their version of the news, and of their motives. She told me they really care about America. I believe what they really care about is the millions and millions of dollars they earn by telling people like my friend what they want to hear, over and over. They care about getting friendly retweets from their most important, most faithful viewer: the President. They care about keeping him and his fans happy and watching. And it’s working.

Fox knows its demographic. Fox knows what its audience wants to hear. So it tells them what they want to hear. Over and over and over. People love hearing how right they are.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Juliet Huddy was a Fox News host who worked for them for nearly twenty years. She calls Fox News an “agenda-driven network” that is hiding “damning evidence” against the President. She calls Sean Hannity, “the king of lying by omission.” She says “…they’ve done a good job of convincing us, the rest of the world, and their viewers, that the media is lying, that critics of Donald Trump are liars and are the enemy of the state.”

This is all blindingly obvious to anyone who doesn’t primarily get their news from Fox. I say this as someone who used to watch Fox News. I watched them until I realized they were going to support Donald Trump no matter what he did or said. They are not truth-tellers. They are a cheerleading squad. They are virtually state-run propaganda. With the occasional exceptions of Chris Wallace and Neil Cavuto, they are Trump’s personal Pravda.

It’s impossible to have a logical debate with someone who dismisses any facts that don’t fit their narrative. This happens on a regular basis now. I saw someone on Facebook who, when confronted with evidence of Trump’s immorality, the infamous audio of him bragging about “grab[bing] them by the p****,” and trying to sleep with a married woman (“I moved on her like a b***”), this person said she believed the audio was faked. This is such an outlandish conspiracy theory, with no evidence, no basis in fact, that any reasonable adult ought to be too embarrassed to float it on a public forum like Facebook. But she wasn’t. Which I suppose shouldn’t actually be surprising, since the man she’s defending is the king of conspiracy theorists. After all, the impeachment mess he’s in is partially due to his belief in a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine, and he first made waves in politics by pushing the debunked conspiracy theory about President Obama not being born in the US.

But facts matter. Truth matters. Even when—especially when—it conflicts with what we have previously believed. I had to write this blog, because this issue right here is the source of so much of our division and confusion. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had versions of this conversation with myself in my head:

“Now he’s praising the vicious socialist dictator who tortured an American to death during his presidency. How can they still support him?!”

“Jaclyn, it’s because they get all their news from Fox, and Fox says it’s great to make nice with vicious socialist dictators as long as Trump is the one doing it.”

“If Obama had done this, they’d be apoplectic. They’d be rioting in the streets. How can they still support him?”

“Jaclyn, Laura Ingraham is telling them it’s good that he did this.”

“Now the budget deficit is a trillion dollars. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS. How can they still support him?!”

“Jaclyn, they get their headlines from Breitbart.”

“He illegally withheld Congressionally approved aid to a foreign government that’s under attack from Russia to pressure them to hurt the campaign of his political rival. He violated his oath and betrayed his office. It’s so simple and obvious. Nothing could be clearer. How can they still support him?!”

“Jaclyn, it’s because Sean Hannity is telling them it’s all lies.”

“Good lord, look at this tweet. He’s insane. This is humiliating. How in God’s name—literally—can Christians still support him?!

“Jaclyn. Fox News.”

As long as half the country lives in an alternate reality where the only facts allowed are ones that show Trump in a flattering light, and all others are memory-holed or invented whole cloth, no wonder we can’t agree on what’s true.

Yes, mainstream media is biased toward the left. But my friends, they’ve got nothing on Fox News. It does no good, and is in fact hypocritical, to complain about biased news sources, and then only watch the one news source that is more biased than any of them.

We all love hearing how right we are. I’m no exception. (Feel free to leave a comment telling me how very, very right I am, anytime.) But you know what? Please also tell me when I’m wrong. Tell me if there’s something I’m missing. Because more than I want to be right, I want to know the truth. I want to change my opinions, my beliefs, so that they align with the truth. Not the other way around. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s uncomfortable.

If they’re always telling you what you want to hear, if you love them because they always tell you how right you are, they are lying to you.

The Trump GOP is Embracing Socialism

The defense I hear most often from Republicans who aren’t necessarily big Trump fans but believe he’s better than the alternative is this: “It’s Trump or socialism.” Unfortunately, they’re wrong. Trump is already introducing socialism to the US.

It started with his trade war. The President promised to correct our “unfair” trade relationship with China by imposing tariffs on Chinese goods. To this day, he believes those tariffs are paid by China, proving he does not understand how tariffs work, and won’t listen to anyone who does. Tariffs are taxes on imported goods, meaning Americans are paying the Chinese tariffs.

But the Chinese know the tariffs are meant to discourage us from buying their goods, so they, predictably, retaliated. Chinese purchases of American products, especially farm products like pork, beef, and soybeans, have plummeted. Trump’s trade war has been a disaster for American farmers.

So, to make it up to them, Trump has spent $28 billion (so far) bailing them out. That’s more than double Obama’s auto bailout that so angered Republicans. The main difference, besides the cost, is the fact that the auto companies had to pay it back. Taxpayers won’t see Trump’s $28 billion again. It’s gone.

As a side note, another point I often hear in support of the President is the tax cuts (which had little to do with the President; tax reform was always Paul Ryan’s baby.) And yes, Americans have benefitted from tax cuts. I’m a big fan of tax cuts. But guess what? The increased costs Americans are paying due to Trump’s trade war have already wiped out the savings we’ve seen from the tax cuts. More tariffs are scheduled to begin late this year, and he’s already threatened to impose more in the future.

So, what do his trade war and bailout for farmers have to do with socialism? It’s simple: direct state intervention in the economy.

The Mises Institute, an organization which “seeks a free-market capitalist economy,” explains in their article Trump’s Road to Socialism:

“…Trump’s tariffs are not only a new tax for Americans, but a policy of directly picking winners and losers in the economy…Government interventionism doesn’t simply stop there. The natural result of these new government barriers is for businesses to seek ways around them, such as Harley’s decision to move some manufacturing to Europe. This, of course, sparked backlash from President Trump, threatening further retaliation for such a move. As we’ve seen time and time again, the more Trump digs in to his support for protectionism, the more he will seek to interfere with the actions of individual companies.”

As indeed, he seems to think he has the right to do. In a tweet on August 23 of this year, he said, “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China…” American companies are hereby ordered? And for anyone who thinks he was just mindlessly mouthing off again, he doubled down later that day: “For all of the Fake News Reporters that don’t have a clue as to what the law is relative to Presidential powers, China, etc., try looking at the Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977. Case closed!” So yes, that’s the President of the United States, claiming he has the power to force American companies out of China, one of our biggest trading partners.

His authoritarian streak is no surprise; we’ve all seen it from the beginning. But Republican complacency in the face of outrageous threats like these is shocking. Crippling free trade, making threats and issuing demands to private companies, using taxpayer money to band-aid the fallout of his own lousy decisions: These are all actions that any self-respecting free-market Republican would have loudly denounced a short time ago.

The Institute goes on: “The result is an economy that increasingly replaces the market with state control. This is precisely why Mises wrote extensively about how escalating economic interventionism led to socialism.”

Economist Ludwig von Mises wrote of state interference in markets: “…one must go farther and farther until the market economy has been entirely destroyed and socialism has been substituted for it.”

In his announcements about the farm bailouts, Trump even keeps referring to American farmers as “our Great Patriot Farmers.” Those tweets could have been written by Chairman Mao.

President Trump has different motives and goals than the Democrats and Democratic Socialists running against him. But socialism isn’t defined by motives.

Conservatives have always believed in free markets and limited government. Republicans used to believe in them. But now, being a Republican means supporting everything this President does, even when his actions are antithetical to everything you ever believed about the economy.

I am fundamentally opposed to socialism, and that is one of the many reasons I’m not a Republican anymore.

Republican Rebuttals

I’ve heard from a few readers about yesterday’s post, asking why I didn’t include the parts of Ambassador Sondland’s testimony that help the Republican case, rather than only the damaging parts. The two main reasons were: 1. Space and time constraints, and 2. I don’t believe any of his testimony actually helped the Republican case.

But Republicans believe it did; I appreciate my readers’ feedback, and I do want this blog to be fair to both sides. So today I’ll summarize the GOP arguments from yesterday, and give you my take on them.

If you don’t have time to watch this clip (it’s 3.5 minutes) I’ll summarize: Rep. Jim Jordan (R) asks Ambassador Sondland when the public announcement Trump had requested of Zelensky took place. Sondland answers that it never did happen. Jordan lays out the quid pro quo claims Sondland made earlier in his testimony: that Ukraine was told they had to make that public announcement in order to get a White House call, a White House meeting, and the military aid they were promised. Jordan says that since Ukraine did end up getting the call, the meeting (not at the White House, but in New York) and aid was released, but Zelensky never made the public announcement, that there was no quid pro quo.

Again, this is like if the white nationalist who tried to blow up a temple in Colorado recently were to claim he’s innocent because the bomb never went off.

Trump suspended aid to Ukraine. This isn’t in dispute. He made clear to Ukraine that he wanted a public announcement. Multiple witnesses have testified to this under oath. The release of the aid, the call with VP Pence, and the meeting in New York did not happen until after the whistleblower report was filed and three Congressional committees announced a joint probe into the matter.

He got caught. The bomb he planted didn’t go off.

Jordan also gets Sondland to admit that Trump never explicitly told him that the aid was tied to an announcement.

This is like a mugger pointing a gun at you, saying “Give me all your money,” then later in court saying, “I never said anything about shooting him!”

The President made it clear what he wanted, both in direct communication with Sondland and others, and through Rudy Giuliani. That he never said aloud, “I am extorting Ukraine,” is hardly exonerating.

Jordan makes a point of saying that in fact, not only did the President not link the aid to an announcement, he explicitly told Sondland the opposite. He read this exchange from Sondland’s own testimony about his September 9 phone call with Trump twice:

[Sondland:] “What do you want from Ukraine?”

The President: “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing.”

Yes, on September 9th, President Trump said to Ambassador Sondland, “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo.”

September 9th was the day the Inspector General informed the House Intelligence Committee Chair and Ranking Member (Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes) of the whistleblower complaint. The complaint that raised concerns about Trump pressuring Ukraine for a quid pro quo to benefit himself politically.

Friends, this does not make him look more innocent. It looks shady as all get out.

That phone conversation with Sondland took place because of a text Sondland received from Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor. Taylor wrote, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Four and a half hours later, after his phone call with the President (during which Sondland testified that Trump was in a bad mood—now we know why), Sondland responded with the text that included the words, “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s [sic] of any kind.”

Everything the President did and said up until September 9th screamed quid pro quo. Then Congress found out about the whistleblower report. Since then, he’s been shouting “NO QUID PRO QUO!” at the top of his lungs, as though the act of saying it makes it real. He’s Michael Scott, bellowing “I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY!”

Now I’ll try to quickly address a few other process complaints I’ve heard:

“This testimony is hearsay; it wouldn’t hold up in a court of law.” This isn’t a court of law; it’s a Congressional hearing. Congress can question witnesses however it likes—and can ruin their lives if they commit perjury.

“Gordon Sondland committed perjury.” Debatable. I haven’t taken the time to try to fact check everything in his testimony. But his testimony yesterday lines up with what we’ve heard from other witnesses.

“The witnesses have no firsthand evidence.” This is just false. We’ve already heard from Lt. Col. Vindman, who was on the July 25 call which prompted the whistleblower report. Sondland was in direct communicaton with the President.

“There’s no clear statement of what the crime is. Quid pro quo? Extortion? Bribery?” I agree that Democrats are flubbing this. The clear crimes are abuse of power, extortion, and obstruction of justice. They need to drop bribery.

“This is totally partisan! A real crime would get bipartisan support for investigation.” In an ideal world, yes. But Republicans have proven that they will defend anything this man does. They’re terrified of a mean tweet.

“Republicans can’t call their own witnesses.” Mostly false. They can subpoena witnesses, but Schiff gets to approve or deny them. He’s the Committee Chair. Them’s the breaks. Two years after Trump won, Americans gave the House back to the Democrats. We’re all learning that elections have consequences.

“Where’s the whistleblower? Trump has the right to face his accuser. Bill of Rights! The Sixth Amendment!” *Sad sigh.* “What do they teach them at these schools?” Fine. Here, the Sixth Amendment: “In all criminal prosecutions—” There. That’s as far as we need to go. This isn’t a criminal prosecution so the Sixth Amendment doesn’t apply.

“This is nothing but a kangaroo court.” *More sad sighs.* Here’s the definition of that term: “An unofficial court held by a group of people in order to try someone regarded, especially without good evidence, as guilty of a crime or misdemeanor.” Yes, this is not a court. But it’s the Congress of the United States. It’s anything but unofficial. And there is good evidence. There is a growing mountain of evidence.

My Republican friends can take heart, though: while Trump will almost certainly be impeached by the House, Republicans control the Senate. They’ll be calling the shots in the trial. And it takes a 2/3 vote in the Senate to remove an impeached President. It will take a miracle (i.e. internal polling that indicates Mitch McConnell’s seat is in jeopardy if he doesn’t convict) to get this Senate to remove him.

A dear friend asked me recently, “Are you not even open to the possibility that those bringing the charges have political motives?”

Yes, of course they have political motives. But their motives are irrelevant if the charges are true.

I’d like to paraphrase his question to all my Republican friends: Are you not even open to the possibility that those defending him from these charges have political motives?

House Republicans Just Ran out of Cliff

At this point, Republicans who are still defending the President are basically Wile E. Coyote barreling full speed ahead through thin air, not yet realizing they’ve run out of cliff.

Gordon Sondland, Ambassador to the European Union, who was appointed to his plum assignment by Trump after donating $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, and cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered Deep State or Never Trump, testified before Congress today. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican member of the Intelligence Committee, greeted Sondland, saying, “Ambassador Sondland, you are here today to be smeared.” Nunes assumed that Sondland’s testimony would be beneficial for Trump, and therefore that Democrats would smear Sondland. (Project much, Devin?)

Unfortunately for Rep. Nunes, we all know what happens when we assume.

Just last month, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the President’s most ardent supporters, said, “If you could show me that Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.”

Today, Ambassador Sondland said this under oath in his opening statement: “I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: ‘Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Ambassador Sondland also had this to say in his opening statement: “Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election, DNC server, and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the President.”

That was, to put it mildly, not what Republicans wanted to hear.

“But,” Republicans have claimed, panting a little from dragging those heavy goalposts, “this doesn’t prove corrupt intent. President Trump cares passionately about rooting out corruption in Ukraine.”

First of all, if you believe that, I have a Trump University degree to sell you. Second, Sondland said this under oath today: “He [Zelensky] had to announce the investigations. He didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it.”

Read that last sentence again. These investigations could go on for a year, and it would be difficult to unearth a more damning statement. Trump didn’t care about corruption in Ukraine. He tried to extort a foreign government into damaging an American citizen—his political opponent. Actual investigations weren’t expected or necessary. Only a public statement that would cast doubt over Joe Biden’s candidacy, and help Trump’s reelection prospects.

It doesn’t get more corrupt. There’s not a better example of abuse of power.

If you don’t believe me that Sondland’s testimony today was terrible for Republicans, just look at this reaction shot of Devin Nunes afterward:

I especially enjoy the helpless hand gesture from Stephen Castor, the GOP’s attorney.

The Articles of Impeachment haven’t been put to a vote yet. There’s still time for House Republicans to redeem themselves. I’m not holding my breath. But if I had a Republican representative, he or she would be hearing from me.

Make sure yours hears from you.

Don’t Vote for People who Think You’re Stupid

Can you BELIEVE it? Shifty Schiff is ABUSING his chairmanship and REFUSING to allow DULY ELECTED Members of Congress to ask questions, all because they are REPUBLICANS! Aren’t you OUTRAGED?!

(Again with the “duly elected.” Lord, give me patience.)

Watch the clip if you’d like to see a textbook example of a publicity stunt. If you don’t want to watch it, I’ll briefly explain: Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, tries to yield to (give speaking time to) Elise Stefanik, a Republican Congresswoman from New York. Adam Schiff, the Democrat Committee Chairman, gavels her down and tells her she’s not recognized (doesn’t allow her to speak.) Stefanik snaps that this is the fifth time Schiff has interrupted duly elected Members of Congress, and Nunes expresses disbelief: “You’re gagging the young lady from New York?”

To the average American, and especially the average Republican, it looks like that’s what’s happening. Schiff is a big old meany. A evil, misogynistic, Demonrat meany.

Nunes and Stefanik knew that’s how it would look.

They also know the rules. The House passed the rules for how this impeachment process would be run two weeks ago. Everything Congress does is run by rules. According to the rules that were just voted on and approved, Nunes gets 45 minutes straight of questioning time. He can use those minutes himself, or he can yield them to minority staff counsel (the GOP staff attorney, Stephen Castor.) He cannot yield any of those 45 minutes to other representatives. It’s against the rules. After each side’s 45 minutes, each sitting member then gets 5 minutes of questioning time. That’s how it works.

Nunes and Stefanik know this. They’re not stupid; they’re not ignorant; they didn’t forget. They knew exactly how that little scene would play out, and that’s why they did it. So that Elise Stefanik could play victim, so she could rack up brownie points with Trump’s base, so they could make Adam Schiff out to be a villain. They know they can count on Fox News to back up their version (which it obediently did, splashing “GAGGING THE GENTLEWOMAN” across its website.) And they know they can count on the majority of Republicans to credulously believe everything they say.

And of course, Elise Stefanik knows she can turn this manufactured outrage into sweet, sweet campaign cash.

Here’s Rep. Stefanik questioning the witness at the same hearing she’s telling her constituents that Adam Schiff flat out REFUSED to allow her to ask questions in because she’s a Republican:

My Republican friends, they are lying to you. They are manipulating you. They are counting on you to be gullible and ignorant. It’s condescending and offensive.

But you don’t have to put up with it. You don’t have to allow yourself to be manipulated. We can demand better from our leaders. We can demand better leaders.

Don’t vote for people who lie to you. Don’t vote for people who think you’re stupid.

If You Can’t Defend It, Confuse Them

If you’re listening only to Republicans’ takes on the first public impeachment hearing yesterday, you’ve been left with the impression that Democrats limped home last night, battered and ashamed, having learned nothing of value and having their star witness exposed as worthless.

In fact, if you’ve listened only to Republicans’ takes on this process from the beginning, then you’ve been given the impression that the whole thing is illegal, a sham, a farce, that the President’s rights are being violated, his enemies have been plotting this against him all along.

Friends, hear me: they are lying to you.

Garry Kasparov, Russian chess grandmaster and widely regarded symbol of opposition to Vladimir Putin, explains the Republican strategy: “The GOP keeps throwing out irrelevant garbage & conspiracy theories to convince its base that the impeachment case is too complex to follow, so just listen to them and Fox News. When in fact it’s not complicated. As I documented regarding this technique pioneered in Russia, the larger goal is to cause so much doubt and hostility that people shut down their critical thinking and trust only a few ‘friendly’ sources.” (Emphasis mine.)

For weeks, Republicans denounced behind-closed-doors hearings as “Soviet-style,” insisting that the American people have a right to know what’s going on. Then, when Democrats made them public, they started calling it a “show trial,” and the President himself said there should be no public hearings.

For weeks, Republicans pointed to the fact that Democrats had not yet held an official vote to open impeachment hearings as a “gotcha,” proving they weren’t serious about impeachment and solely motivated by politics. When Congress did hold an official vote, not a single Republican voted to investigate the President’s actions regarding Ukraine. Despite the testimony of multiple concerned civil servants, not a single Republican would go on record saying “Congress should look into this.” Which conveniently allows Republicans to now call this a partisan process.

Republicans demanded to see the transcripts, then when Democrats released them, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) refused to even read them.

The President continues to tweet (somewhat hysterically, in all caps) “READ THE TRANSCRIPT!” I did read it, and you can, too. (Keep in mind that this is not a word-for-word transcript, but a memo of the conversation. Parts have been left out—worrying parts, according to Vindman, who was on the call, and who tried to make corrections to it, but was rebuffed. The full transcript would normally have been kept on one computer system, but White House lawyers ordered it to be moved to a highly secure system. Which seems odd if it was a “perfect call” as the President has repeatedly insisted.) I have to tell you, and I’m being honest here: reading the whole transcript makes Trump look worse than before I read it. I’ll try to do a whole post on it in the near future. He wants everyone to read it because he believes it proves there was no quid pro quo, but it does quite the opposite. One begins to wonder if the President actually understands what “quid pro quo” means.

The President insists that every administration witness who testifies that he did, indeed, want a quid pro quo from Ukraine is a Never Trumper (and human scum.) But Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the EU, donated a million dollars to Trump’s presidential campaign. He’s been a reluctant witness, modifying his memory and admitting that he did indeed tell a Ukrainian official that if they wanted their military aid, they needed to make a public statement that they’d be investigating Burisma (the company Hunter Biden was involved with) after the testimony of other witnesses put him in danger of potential perjury charges. Republicans can’t “Never Trumper” their way around this one.

Republicans continue to harp on about the identity and motivations of the whistleblower long after he or she has ceased to be necessary to this investigation. The claims laid out in the whistleblower’s report have been corroborated again and again by multiple witnesses, under oath.

Jim Jordan (R) made a splashy sound bite for himself, triumphantly crowing that a quid pro quo obviously didn’t happen, because Ukraine got their military aid, and never made that public announcement. He didn’t mention that Trump only released the aid after Congress started asking questions. Saying that that proves no quid pro quo is like saying the white nationalist who tried to blow up a temple here in Colorado recently is obviously innocent because the bomb never went off.

Lindsey Graham and Ben Shapiro have even defended Trump’s actions by claiming that he is literally too stupid and incompetent to have intentionally formed a quid pro quo. These are his defenders, people.

Some are shifting from claiming there was no quid pro quo, which was all we heard at the beginning, to saying that if there was one, it wasn’t illegal unless there was corrupt intent. (Thus the “too stupid to be corrupt” defense.) Friends, they’re making this shift because the evidence he did engage in a quid pro quo is overwhelming.

Perhaps most maddening, though, were the repeated statements yesterday about “hearsay.” Republicans mocked Ambassador Bill Taylor—by all accounts a gifted and dedicated civil servant—for giving testimony about what a member of his staff witnessed, for never having met the President, for not having “firsthand” knowledge.

So who does have firsthand knowledge about all of this? Former national security advisor, John Bolton. Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney. The President’s lawyer, Rudy Guiliani. Attorney General, Bill Barr. But all of them have been forbidden to testify. By the President.

Ask yourself, if the call was so “perfect,” if the President did nothing wrong, if this is all a witch hunt, why doesn’t he want the people who know the most about it to talk to Congress?

Refusing to cooperate with a Congressional investigation and barring key witnesses from testifying is obstruction of justice.

Add it to the Articles of Impeachment.

Friends, the testimony and evidence so far are not good for the President. They’re very bad. Republicans are throwing every distraction and conspiracy theory they can think of at you, because it’s all they have.

Don’t shut down your critical thinking. Don’t let them make a simple case seem too complicated to understand. It’s not.

Please Stop Proving him Right

Have you ever wondered why the accusation of “fake news” and his attacks on media have been so well-received by Donald Trump’s supporters?

It’s because he’s got a point.

We on the right have known for years what so many on the left refuse to acknowledge: the news is biased. The most recent example still hasn’t even hit major outlets, but social media has been blowing up about it all day.

This video has just surfaced from August. It shows ABC News anchor Amy Robach apparently venting to a room of people about how she had a witness, corroborating witnesses, and photographs confirming the Jeffrey Epstein pedophile/sex abuse story three years ago, but ABC spiked it. You should watch the video:

We already know that NBC squashed the Harvey Weinstein story, and according to Ronan Farrow’s account in Catch and Kill, that decision was influenced by Hillary Clinton, who pressured Farrow to drop his investigation of her loyal (and generous) supporter.

Now we learn that ABC did the same with the Jeffrey Epstein story. In the video, Robach says the network was worried about losing access to British royals, Will and Kate, since the Epstein story implicated Prince Andrew. Robach also says, “She was in hiding for 12 years. We convinced her to come out. We convinced her to talk to us. Um, it was unbelievable what we had. Clinton—we had everything.”

Robach had this story in 2016. During the Presidential campaigns. When Bill Clinton’s wife was running for President. And ABC buried it.

ABC issued a statement, claiming that, “At the time, not all of our reporting met our standards to air.” So, the victim’s testimony, corroborating witnesses, and photographs were not enough to meet their standards.

Yet when Julie Swetnick accused Brett Kavanaugh of drugging and gang-raping young women, ABC was happy to run that story. Apparently, salacious allegations against a conservative Supreme Court nominee met their standards, even though Swetnick’s allegations were never corroborated by any other witnesses, and at least two people she named as able to support her claims in both this and a previous lawsuit both say they never even met her until after the alleged events took place. Oh, and she later recanted her entire story and claimed she barely read the statement Michael Avenatti gave her to sign.

This is only one example. A personal favorite is the oft-repeated lie that the Obama Administration was scandal-free. I guess it was scandal-free if you ignore Fast and Furious, Benghazi, “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor,” drone strikes on US citizens, using the IRS to target conservative groups, fighting nuns in court to force them to pay for contraception and abortion pills, and bombing a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan.

Republicans are used to this double standard from news media. Learning today that ABC spiked a huge story that could have harmed Hillary Clinton’s campaign is shocking, but not surprising.

You can say that Fox News is biased, that it’s nothing but state-run propaganda now, and I will agree with you. But if the rest of the news media want to stop being accused of being “fake news” by the President, they should stop proving him right so often.

Edit: After I published this post last night, I saw this from CNN’s Brian Stelter’s newsletter:

Stelter introduces the video as “obtained by a right-wing, pro-Trump activist group,” as if this somehow changes the content of the video.

And this, from the same newsletter:

So you see, a major news network intentionally buried a story in order to protect powerful men, saying nothing while a billionaire pedophile was allowed to continue raping underage girls for three more years, and the news outlets are the actual victims here. The true villains are, as always, people on the right who are angry about it.

Brian Stelter, please stop proving him right.