Thursday, February 28, 2019

Bye-Bye Bibi?


In its report on Netanyahu's developing indictment story this morning, CBS News noted that "if indicted it would make the first time in Israel's history that a sitting prime minister is charged with a crime." Netanyahu was in Moscow meeting with another right-wing crook, Vladamir Putin, when the stories started breaking in Israel and around the world early yesterday. I might add that if Trump is indicted it would make the first time in U.S. history that a sitting president is charged with a crime." That sounds like a move in the right direction-- both for Israel and the U.S.

Once the high court turned down a request from Likud to block the announcement of an indictment, The timing on this-- it's been in the works for 3 years-- is far more crucial than a non-Israeli might guess because... the national elections are a month away. Haaretz noted this morning that the indictment changes everything. When Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced today that he had finally decided to "indict him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, pending a hearing," make it more difficult for Netanyahu to just shrug the whole thing off as a left-wing "witch hunt," as he's been doing for a couple of years now.
One of the largest teams of investigators ever – from the police and Securities Authority, and attorneys at all levels of the Justice Ministry-- have worked on this case for three years. There was even a "devil’s advocate" team of lawyers tasked with presenting the defendants’ case.

...[I]n the 24 hours before Mendelblit’s announcement, you could already hear an evolution in their messaging. There’s a new tone. It is saying that no matter what Netanyahu is accused of and what he may have done, Israel needs him. If he is forced to leave, Israel’s security will be in jeopardy, so stop making such a fuss about a few cigars and some friendly articles on a website.

Just a day before Mendelblit’s announcement on Thursday evening, Netanyahu was still in Moscow, meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was the perfect setting for the new message-- Israel needs Netanyahu because only he can speak to Putin. The main quote the Prime Minister’s Office released from the meeting encapsulated that: Netanyahu had apparently told Putin “the direct link between us is a vital component in preventing risks and friction between our militaries and contributes to security and stability in the region."

The Russian-speaking Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin sat in on the Putin-Netanyahu meeting. He was on Israeli radio immediately after returning to extol Netanyahu’s personal rapport with his Russian counterpart and to paint a farcical picture of Kahol Lavan co-leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid arriving to meet Putin, arguing between them over who would go in first.

Netanyahu’s inner circle understands that it has to accept that some voters will believe Mendelblit, and they need to convince them that if even the indictments are true, it doesn’t mean Netanyahu must leave.

They are exposed not only to the recently published polls, which are showing a slow but noticeable shift of right-wing voters from the governing coalition parties-- particularly Kulanu, but also Likud-- toward Gantz and Lapid’s [Blue and White] alliance. They are also reading the internal polling that is showing, in the words of one right-wing pollster working for a coalition party, that “the Likud vote is brittle-- holding for now, but Mendelblit’s announcement could break off a significant proportion.”

Netanyahu will shrug off all the allegations and pretend everything can continue as normal. He is still prime minister, defense minister and leader of Likud. But he knows that from today, he is a prime minister on notice. Israel has never been in this situation; these are uncharted waters.

What’s more, everyone around Netanyahu will know he is on notice. Next month, in the White House, President Donald Trump will know it. The audience at the AIPAC Policy Conference will know it. It will be at the front of the minds of everyone engaging with him-- including Putin when they next talk on the phone.

When Israelis go to vote on April 9, for the first time they will be asked to vote for a prime minister on notice. Should Netanyahu still succeed in winning enough votes to enter coalition negotiations, the other party leaders, his potential partners, will be able to demand the kind of prices a premier under notice must pay.

Mendelblit’s decision is not yet the final indictment. But it is a new millstone hung around Netanyahu’s neck, a weight no previous Israeli prime minister has ever experienced. He will now have to carry it around wherever he goes, and it will drag him down.
If Israel can save itself from a corrupt leader, why can't the U.S.? And, as serious as Netanyahu's crimes are, they appear almost insignificant compared to Trump's. If you've gotten this far in the story, I'm going to give you a treat than no one else knows and that I'm not going to go on Twitter and carry on about. On Sunday's talking heads shows-- one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. Tim Hardin knows nothing about impeaching Trump but... tune in on Sunday.

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Hard Times For Progressives Running For Congress


How welcome are progressives in Congress? Obviously, Republicans don't want them around. But neither do large swathes of the Democratic congressional establishment. Before I get going... a little caveat. When the Democrats elected their leadership team this session, Pelosi had the most votes-- 202. But among all the other leadership jobs, the second largest number of votes went to Ted Lieu, who was running for co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee-- 161 votes. So it's not like individual members of the caucus dislike progressives. It's a leadership that is both geriatric, sclerotic, corporate and increasingly sold out. The 3 top party leaders, along with their ages and how much loot they're taken from the financial sector since 1990:
Nancy Pelosi- 79 on March 26- $4,072,569 from the Financial Sector
Steny Hoyer- 80 on June 14- $6,865,814 from the Financial Sector
Jim Clyburn- 79 on July 21- $2,939,335 from the Financial Sector
The leadership's successful candidate for DCCC chair was Illinois Blue Dog and New Dem Cheri Bustos, a protégée of-- some say Frankenstein monster of-- Rahm Emanuel. Bustos is a very anti-progressive member with a solid "F" from Progressive Punch and a lifetime crucial vote score of 51.87, the worst in her state, worse even than reactionary Blue Dogs Dan Lipinski and Brad Schneider. As soon as she was confirmed she named 3 useless New Dems as co-chair the DCCC recruitment committee.

Today she joyfully announced that that Pelosi's House Majority SuperPAC would be headed by Robby Mook, not just a conservative but an objected failed conservative. Legally, the DCCC isn't allowed to coordinate with the House Majority PAC, but if you believe that, I would be happy to make you the owner of every major bridge in America for a reasonable price. Why is Mook's appointment important? Well, last cycle, for example, the House Majority PAC brought in $95,686,237 and spent $67,812,160 of that on independent expenditures for a select few of their "favorite" Democratic candidates. Almost all the big money went to help elect conservative candidates from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party and almost none went to help progressives.

Let's take Anthony Brindisi as an example. He was one of the most conservative Democrats in the New York state legislature and a firm NRA ally, perfect for the DCCC and its affiliates like the House Leadership PAC. The PAC spent $2,505,215 beating up on GOP incumbent Claudia Tenney, Today Brindisi doesn't just sport an "F" in Congress, he is the co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition. Over in New Jersey, the SuperPAC spent $1,192,264 pounding Republican Leonard Lance plus another $891,300 in favor of his Democratic rival, New Dem Tom Malinowski. In Washington state's open 8th district, they spent $3,144,931 torturing Republican Dino Rossi with negative TV spots to help elect New Dem Kim Schrier. There were 21 expenditures of over a million dollars and 20 of them went to help elect a Blue Dog or a New Dem. The only one that went to a progressive was for Mike Levin, who many in DC assumed, incorrectly, would join the New Dems instead of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Goal ThermometerEveryone I spoke with yesterday after the Mook announcement told me it will get worse for progressives with him running the SuperPAC. "He's a bitter asshole," one well-connected Hill staffer told me. "Clinton didn't pick him [to run her miserably-failed campaign] by chance." The Blue America ActBlue 2020 congressional thermometer on the right is where you can contribute to the kinds of progressive candidates who are running on a Bernie-like platform, not on a Mookish "No-Can-Do" platform. In 2012, when Mook was Executive Director of the DCCC, the committee elected Kyrsten Sinema, with $1,994,427 he green-lit. She turned out to be the worst Democrat in Congress and head of the Blue Dogs. Mook spent over a million dollars on 26 races, almost all on behalf of conservatives. Of those 26, he managed to flip 8. Only two were progressives, Rick Nolan and Carol Shea Porter. The others were all Blue Dogs and New Dems like Sinema and Cheri Bustos on whom he spent the most money!

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Ro Khanna Introduced A Resolution Calling For The Formal End To The Korean War. Will Trump Pay Attention?


Khanna has 18 co-sponsors fo a resolution formally ending the 69 year old Korean War. Khanna is asking Trump to provide a clear roadmap to achieve a final peace settlement while highlighting the importance of reciprocal actions and confidence-building measures between the parties. Khanna: "Historic engagement between South and North Korea has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to formally end this war. President Trump must not squander this rare chance for peace. He should work hand in hand with our ally, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to bring the war to a close and advance toward the denuclearization of the peninsula."

Former Pres. Jimmy Carter, who supports Khanna's resolution predicted that, if adopted it "will help bring this nearly 70 year conflict to a close. I have visited North Korea several times to talk with their leadership and study the best path forward for peace. Ending the threat of war is the only way to ensure true security for both the Korean and American people and will create the conditions to alleviate the suffering of the ordinary North Koreans who are most harmed by ongoing tensions."

Co-sponsors include Barbara Lee (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Andy Kim (D-NJ), and Deb Haaland (D-NM), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Judy Chu (D-CA) and José Serrano (D-NY). The resolution calls on the Trump Administration to make greater efforts to include women in the peace process, citing the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 which Trump signed into law.

The resolution clarifies that ending the war does not necessitate a withdrawal of US troops from Korea or an acceptance of North Korea as a legitimate nuclear power. The resolution calls on the Administration to continue the repatriation of servicemember remains, and expand cooperation to achieve reunions of divided Korean and Korean-American families and facilitate people-to-people exchanges and humanitarian cooperation.

Trump is desperate for a deal with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un that he can spin into something that looks like "a win" for himself-- at least to his base, the base that didn't know, in Michael Cohen's sworn testimony that Trump "is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat." The deal Trump looks like he's giving Kim doesn't look like a winner for the U.S., although at least it will include the peace declaration Khanna is calling for-- still not a peace treaty, but a step up from the 1953 armistice.

Trump is agreeing to establish quasi-embassies-- called liaison offices-- with North Korea and North Korea will agree to stop producing materials for nuclear bombs at Yongbyon, which will be shut down. For this to be real, Kim would have to agree to international inspections. Trump's quid pro quo is an agreement to advocate lifting some UN sanctions (so it can pursue joint economic projects with South Korea).

UPDATE: Trump Phucs Up In Hanoi

Maybe Trump was too preoccupied with thoughts of impeachment, imprisonment, Matt Gaetz, and his rotten kids behind bars to focus on Korean nukes, but the headlines this morning were all about how his poorly-planned talks with Li'l Kim had abruptly collapsed. I have terrible bronchitis and cough all night. At one point I woke from a fitful sleep and there was Trump on TV in Hanoi doing a surreal and completely incoherent press conference about Otto Warmbier. Has he slipped over the ledge of senility? Or was it just the cough medicine? Oh, there's a video:

Talks between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un collapsed Thursday after the two sides failed to bridge a standoff over U.S. sanctions, a dispiriting end to high-stakes meetings meant to disarm a global nuclear threat.

Trump blamed the breakdown on North Korea’s insistence that all the punishing sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Pyongyang be lifted without the North committing to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Trump explained at a closing news conference after the summit was abruptly cut short. He said there had been a proposed agreement that was “ready to be signed.”

...Mere hours after both nations had seemed hopeful of a deal, the two leaders’ motorcades roared away from the downtown Hanoi summit site within minutes of each other, their lunch canceled and a signing ceremony scuttled. The president’s closing news conference was hurriedly moved up, and he departed for Washington more than two hours ahead of schedule.

The disintegration of talks came after Trump and Kim had appeared to be ready to inch toward normalizing relations between their still technically warring nations and as the American leader dampened expectations that their negotiations would yield an agreement by North Korea to take concrete steps toward ending a nuclear program that Pyongyang likely sees as its strongest security guarantee.

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The Debate Over Tactics In the Modern Left: Radical Opposition or Strategic Inclusive Engagement?


World CO2 emissions are growing, not falling. What will the children say? (source)

by Thomas Neuburger

Modern America is a tense place these days. By that I mean, there are a number of tensions in American social and political life that are, this year, coming to a frothy head.

First, consider the tension in center and leftish circles around class war and the 2020 election. Many argue that the right way for to Democrats to win this election is by embracing "identity politics" — that racial justice, justice for women, for gay, lesbian and trans individuals, for indigenous peoples and all other victimized groups must come first, must be placed front and center. And not just for presentation and marketing purposes (though many do argue that vote-getting starts with making the identity case), but because fighting the old white patriarchy is a necessary precursor to fighting the class war — that if the old white patriarchy is in place, the class war can't be won.

Adolph Reed Jr. has written much about this tension on the left (his latest is here), and proponents of the Sanders candidacy stand almost alone in believing the solution lies in winning the class struggle.

So that's one tension. Another is the tension around radical, oppositional action versus a more considered, careful, inclusive approach. Visitors to DWT recently read about Rep. Pramila Jayapal and her "balancing act" — her attempt to keep real progressives, not-so-real progressives and Party leaders all aligned with genuinely progressive legislation like Medicare for All. Time will determine if that strategy succeeds; everyone I know hope it does.

Radical opposition, however, has its proponents, and no subject inspires them more than the coming climate catastrophe, which the world is doing less than nothing to head off (see graph at top).

Will the politics of accommodation work in this sphere, or will radical action be required? Must the current system be broken and rebuilt before a climate solution can be enacted?

As writer David Atkins explains it in the following twitter thread, the choices left to us are really one choice. First, the Right will not let — is not letting — the current system survive in any case; they're breaking norms with everything they touch. Second, the current system cannot provide a climate solution. Thus breaking that system the way the Left wants to break it provides the only hope "for those of us who want to live to 2050."

Radical thoughts for a radical time. Here's that thread. See what you think after you read it.
Short thread here on climate change, the norms of democracy, and the battle between the right, center left and progressive left. Ready? Here goes... /1

The Right has always depended for its success on the implicit or explicit threat that it would be willing to subvert all the norms of democracy to achieve its goals, whether it be "2nd amendment remedies" or the Federalist Society's changing all the rules in the courts.../2

This is how the Right works the refs: they let everyone know that they're willing to pull out ALL the stops if white male patriarchy and racism don't stay centered in society, and if rich people don't get to keep all the loot. /3

The center left has long depended on being the "responsible" party. The cogent ones, the level headed ones. The perpetual Real Mothers in the Justice of Solomon [story] willing to sacrifice almost anything to salvage the system. /4

The problem is that this dynamic between right and center left is codependent and convenient to the status quo. The far right gets to keep the angry old racists happy, the center left keeps the concerned vaguely cosmopolitan educated crowd happy. And the donors always win. /5

The progressive left [is] saying "enough of this game. We, too, are willing to break the norms of American democracy because these issues are life and death emergencies." We're not going to play the responsible straight man to the GOP's destructive clown. /6

Yes, we KNOW the Green New Deal can't pass through the Senate under the current system. We're not stupid. We're [putting] down the marker that if this system won't let the GND pass, we will change the system until it does--eliminate the filibuster, add states, pack courts, etc. /7

So when the center left says "but I can pass this weaker version", the answer is twofold:
1) no, you can't. The GOP is a destructive clown that won't give you the time of day, either. But also,
2) we don't care what you think [you] can pass. We're telling you what we need. /8

And if that means changing the system? So be it. If it means breaking the system? So be it. The norms of 20th century American democracy are worthless compared to the threat of climate change. Also, radical inequality. Also, the declining middle class. /9

The right has been very effective playing this game. They are signaling loud and clear they would rather have a Putin-backed dictatorship under a corrupt idiot than give up old white male privilege or [plutocratic] control. What is the left willing to do? How far will we go? /10

The center left's answer? Nowhere. We'll do whatever we can with the system we have, and whatever happens long as nobody's stock portfolio takes a hit. That is completely, totally unacceptable to those of us who want to live to 2050. Or have [kids] who do. /11

If the system won't budge with us, we'll budge the system. We are dealing with catastrophic threats, and econ/tech challenges well beyond the capacity of our current politics. Your experience within the system means nothing now. Your commitment to the goal is everything. /12

In short, the current system WILL NOT SURVIVE. The right sees an existential threat from a browning, more progressive population. They cannot afford for democracy to survive, and they will kill it if given half the chance. /13

But the current system also won't let us deal with our environmental, technological and economic challenges in anything like the timeframe we need to solve them. Which means the defenders of that system are just as dangerous in their own way as the right wing is. /14

The future belongs to the side that changes the system to accomplish their goals. Will it be young progressives? Or will it rich old racists? There is no middle ground. There is no responsible defense of the status quo. It's going to be one side or the other. /fin
His conclusion is striking, but not surprising. We've heard it from others as well. As Atkins says:

• The defenders of the present system are as dangerous in their way as the right wing is.
• The future belongs to the side that changes the system to accomplish their goals. 

The terms of this debate apply to a number of policy fields, and we'll be hearing some form of this discussion, of this tension, throughout the 2020 campaign. For example, the Medicare For All debate has already been characterized (accurately in my view) as a battle to replace capitalism (see Ed Walker's "The Green New Deal Challenges the Domination of Capital").

But the argument above applies no more directly than it does in the climate debate, where the clock is running, the end (if it comes) is near and total, and there's no turning back to anything that went before, no matter how much we wish it were not so.

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Democrats Have Largely Shrugged Off The Power Of The NRA-- Largely But Not Completely


Yesterday, the whole country was focused on Michael Cohen's testimony at Elijah Cummings House Oversight Committee. The early afternoon break in the questioning was so that the members of the committee could head off to the floor so they could vote on the first of two gun control bills. That first bill passed, comfortably. H.R. 8, Mike Thompson's background checks bill will prohibit a gun dealer from transferring a firearm to an unlicensed buyer until a background check has been completed, has had between 80 and 96% approval in national polls. Yesterday it won 240-190. There were 227 Democratic co-sponsors and 5 Republican co-sponsors-- Peter King (R-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Brian Mast (R-FL), Fred Upton (R-MI) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ)-- and even Blue Dogs who have sucked up to the NRA in the past signed on, perhaps reluctantly, as co-sponsors. The last 2 members to sign on-- in the last couple of weeks-- weren't Republicans but very right-wing Blue Dogs Joe Cunningham (SC) and Kurt Schrader (OR). In the end just two Democrats voted for the continuation of regular mass murder of American children: Jared Golden (ME) and Collin Peterson (MN). Aside from the 5 Republican co-sponsors, 3 other Republicans-- Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Vern Buchanan (FL) and Will Hurd (TX)-- voted for the bill.

The GOP motion to recommit was meant to ensure that ICE knows when a person in the U.S. without legal status attempts to buy a gun. The only Republican to oppose it was Justin Amash but 26 Democrats voted with the GOP in favor of it:
Cindy Axne (New Dem-IA)
Anthony Brindisi (Blue Dog-NY)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Angie Craig (New Dem- MN)
Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL)
Joe Cunningham (Blue Dog-SC)
Antonio Delgado (NY)
Abby Finkenauer (IA)
Jared Golden (ME)
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)
Kendra Horn (Blue Dog-OK)
Andy Kim (NJ)
Conor Lamb (PA)
Susie Lee (New Dem-NV)
Elaine Luria (New Dem-VA)
Ben McAdams (Blue Dog-UT)
Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL)
Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Max Rose (Blue Dog-NY)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Mikie Sherrill (Blue Dog-NJ)
Elise Slotkin (New Dem-MI)
Abigail Spanberger (Blue Dog-VA)
Xochitl torres Small (Blue Dog-NM)
Jeff Van Drew (Blue Dog-NJ)
The second bill, H.R. 1112 by Jim Clyburn and Peter King-- the so-called Charleston Loophole-- will extend the initial background check from from 3 to 10 business days. If the initial review isn’t completed after 10 business days, the dealer would be required to request an escalated review by the FBI that would run for another 10 business days and if the escalated background check hasn’t concluded within 10 business days, the sale could proceed if the dealer certifies they have no reason to believe the buyer is barred from obtaining a firearm." It is also expected to pass, probably later today. This one just had 15 co-sponsors (King being the only Republican on board).

Look at that graphic showing a 2017, Gallup poll in which 96% of voters favored requiring background checks for all gun purchases, something the GOP and a shrinking gaggle of right-wing Democrats have been voting down. The NRA seemed to have the power to thwart the will of 96% of the voters!!

The Republican-controlled Senate isn't going to pass these two bills-- and even if one gets through the Senate, Trump would veto either for the NRA, which illegally laundered millions of dollars in Russian money to help elect Trump. CNN tried explaining why the timid Democrats are less frightened of the NRA than they have been in the past.

Compared with the 1990s or even the early 2000s, House Democrats today are far less dependent on districts with large numbers of culturally conservative blue-collar and rural voters. Instead, the party's new majority is centered on urban and suburban districts that are either racially diverse, well educated, or both.

The willingness, even eagerness, of most House Democrats to embrace new gun control measures highlights how the party's evolution into a metropolitan-based coalition is shifting its incentives-- and reconfiguring its central fault line. For years, social and cultural issues-- ranging from abortion, gay rights and guns to questions of racial equity and immigration-- created the most difficult divisions for a Democratic House caucus trying to protect a large number of rural and Southern seats.

But those social issues are likely to prove much less divisive for today's metro-centered party. The big vote expected Wednesday for the background check bill will likely be only the forerunner for aggressive House action in the months ahead on an array of other hot-button cultural issues that once divided the party-- from providing legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children by their parents to expanding protections at work for gays and other measures to restrict access to guns, for instance by raising the minimum age to purchase one.

"I think we are going to see a consistent and sustained legislating on gun safety," said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the gun control group formed by former Rep. Gabby Giffords. "Guns used to be an issue that divides Democrats and unites Republicans. Now the opposite is true."

Moving forward, this reconfigured House Democratic caucus is likely to fracture more around issues relating to taxes, spending and the role of government. The new fissure may involve lawmakers from affluent suburban districts resisting the most ambitious spending plans of their liberal colleagues from more safely Democratic areas, such as single-payer health care.

"The fault lines are now around 'Medicare-for-all,' and free college and guaranteed federal jobs and the kind of things that were in the talking points that went with the Green New Deal," notes Matt Bennett, executive vice president for public affairs at the centrist Democratic group Third Way.

While those disputes may be approaching, Wednesday's gun vote will reveal a degree of consensus among Democrats on social issues unimaginable in earlier decades.

When Clinton passed his gun control bills during the early 1990s, he faced widespread opposition from House Democrats representing rural and blue-collar districts. In 1993, 69 House Democrats-- over one-fourth of those who voted-- opposed the Brady bill requiring background checks for all gun sales from licensed dealers. The 77 House Democrats who opposed the assault weapon ban in 1994 represented fully 30% of those voting. (Both measures passed only because of substantial crossover support from Republicans representing suburban districts outside the South.)

In the 1994 midterm elections, two months after Congress approved the assault weapons ban, Republicans surged to control of both the House and Senate, and particularly devastated Democrats across the South. Though the Republican wave swept out even many House Democrats who opposed Clinton's gun control agenda, those losses discouraged the party from pressing further gun control initiatives. And when Democrat Al Gore narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election, in part because he failed in heavily blue-collar states where the National Rifle Association campaigned fiercely against him (including New Hampshire and his home state of Tennessee), the conviction hardened among most Democrats that gun control had become a losing issue for the party. After losing the House in 1994, Democrats controlled the chamber for just four years before seizing it again in the 2018 election.

As the party's presidential nominee, John Kerry downplayed the issue in 2004 (even being photographed on a goose hunt) and President Barack Obama almost completely avoided it in both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns. In 2009 and 2010, while Democrats held unified control of government, they did not advance any major gun control proposals.

"I don't remember anybody even suggesting that we ought to do guns back then," said Ambler, an aide at the powerful House Rules Committee at the time. "It was off the table."

Even as late as 2011, 43 House Democrats voted for NRA-backed legislation that would override state limits on carrying weapons by requiring every state to honor a concealed carry permit granted by any other state.

But after Obama's re-election in 2012, two factors pushed Democrats to reconsider. One was the trauma of continued mass shootings, starting with Sandy Hook and continuing with a litany of tragedies so searing they are known by just their locations: Charleston, the Pulse nightclub, Las Vegas, Parkland.

The other factor was a growing awareness that the voters they feared most to alienate by advancing gun control measures-- particularly blue-collar and rural whites, especially men-- were already abandoning the party over other issues. Meanwhile, stronger measures to control guns consistently drew majority support in polls from the constituencies that the party increasingly relied on, particularly minorities, suburbanites and well-educated whites, especially women.

Over time, the evidence grew more irrefutable that by abandoning gun control, Democrats were trying to placate voters they had already lost, while slighting the voters they were attracting. In the latest polling from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, for instance, two-thirds of nonwhite adults, nearly two-thirds of college-educated white women and a majority of college-educated white men all said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun rights-- while a nearly two-thirds majority of blue-collar white men and a thin plurality of blue-collar white women said the opposite.

The current among Democratic officials started to shift when Obama pushed a universal background check bill after Sandy Hook. Fifty Senate Democrats (including two independents who caucused with the party) voted for it in 2013, and only five voted no, one of whom, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, did so only for procedural reasons. (The bill failed to reach the 60 votes required to overcome a Republican filibuster, and the House, under GOP control at the time, refused to consider it.)

By 2016, Hillary Clinton advanced a more aggressive gun control agenda than any party presidential nominee since Gore in 2000. In 2017, the number of House Democrats who supported the NRA-backed legislation on nationwide concealed carry permits plummeted to six. And in 2018, dozens of Democratic challengers in House races touted their support for additional gun control measures, particularly the universal background checks. On Election Day, 40 Democratic challengers beat Republican incumbents with strong records of supporting the NRA, according to Giffords' calculations.

"Forty Democrats were elected to replace Republicans and almost every one of them made gun safety an issue in their campaign," said Deutch.

The key to the shifting politics of guns is that Democrats from such suburban seats in all parts of the country-- even the South-- are generally supporting tougher restrictions. Rep. Lucy McBath, an African-American Democrat, beat a Republican incumbent in suburban Atlanta by stressing her support for gun control. The Giffords organization closed its election campaign last fall with heavy spending that helped Democrat Lizzie Fletcher oust Republican Rep. John Culberson in the suburbs of Houston.

"If I told you I couple of years ago that we'd close doing that, you'd tell me I shouldn't have the keys to a political program," Ambler said. "We made guns part of the message that got him fired."

While the "blue dogs" centered in rural districts provided the core internal Democratic resistance to gun control in earlier years, advocates are confident the universal background check bill will draw support from almost all of today's largely suburban blue dog caucus, starting with its chair, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, an Asian-American and strong gun control advocate who represents a seat outside Orlando. Although the blue dogs will likely resist the left's most expansive plans for taxing and spending, most of them comfortably embrace the party's liberal mainstream on cultural issues.

Today's blue dogs "don't look anything like ... the guys who were voting against those things under Clinton," said Bennett. "The most avowedly conservative of the Democrats, the centrists, even most of them are going to be on board for these (social) things."

Ambler anticipates that more Republicans will cross over to support the background check bill than Democrats will defect to oppose it. And both Ambler and Deutch consider it likely that House Democrats will pass other gun-related legislation over the next two years, such as measures to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21; "red flag" laws designed to make it easier for law enforcement to confiscate guns from individuals considered an "extreme risk" of violence; and possibly legislation to ban certain types of semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Deutch has introduced legislation to regulate assault weapons under the National Firearms Act, which bans fully automatic weapons. "We are going to have a debate on weapons of war and whether they belong in our community or not," Deutch says.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah
The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump. Today, I’m here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump.
-from the opening statement of Micheal Cohen as he appeared before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019
In all my life, I have never met a Republican who has a sense of irony. The Republicans questioning former Trump attorney Michael Cohen are a maximum case in point. As one Democratic rep (Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland) intimated during Wednesday's hearing, republicans are obviously more upset that Cohen has stopped lying to cover for Trump than they were when he was telling the lies for their leader that got him convicted of lying before Congress. Then they go before the national television cameras and try to knock down Cohen's credibility, as if they have the credibility of their own to do so. At that point, it's no longer about Cohen's shaky credibility but their own. The issue isn't even that all politicians lie. For politicians, the ability to lie is as important as a football wide receiver's ability to catch the ball. The issue is that you think your lies don't matter but the lies of the person before you do.

As I always say, the Republican mind is a thing to behold. Perhaps, someday, a scientist will discover that there is such a thing as, for lack of a better term, mental DNA. Perhaps scientists will one day be able to map out a genome for the Republican mind. They might even find a cure. Until then, it appears that we will have to settle for the idea of the Republican mind just being more reptilian and lacking the intellect or capability to develop a sense of irony. That certainly matches up with other Republican characteristics such as off the charts greed while pushing Jesus. It's all about living in that instant; no consequences.

In the case of the republican members of the committee questioning Michael Cohen, the disconnect is staggering. It's an attribute of the mentality of all cult members. The Manson girls had it. The Jim Jones cultists had it. Jim Jordan his fellow Trump-loving cultists have it. It's the same thing. I just wish they would fast forward to the part where they drink the cyanide-grape juice cocktail. For me, that would be "Must See" TV.

I couldn't watch the entire day of hearings. I'm not that much of a glutton for punishment. There was Jim Jordan, taking time out from his day dreaming about high school wrestlers. There was some church lady type from the hills of West Virginia who, thankfully did not use her whole five minutes of allotted time but spoke just long enough to reveal an IQ that may reach up to 70. May. I'm feeling generous today, as you can tell. Let's just say that I hate the idea that she may have a drivers license and be legally allowed to get behind the wheel of a truck. But, of all of the proceeding that I saw, I was especially struck by the 5 minutes that Republican Rep Jody Hice of Georgia got. He used his whole 5 minutes in an attempt to impugn Michael Cohen's credibility as a witness. Hice is best known for his stated beliefs that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a real witch and that her presence in Congress is best explained by his delusional idea that New York City is under the spell of a "well-known" coven of witches. Of course, for Republicans, that makes him very credible so...

One last note on this for today. Cohen himself pointed out that none of the Republicans on the committee bothered to ask about President Trump. In other words, despite their concerns about Cohen lying, they weren't at all interested in getting to the truth, or at least having it spoken, since they already know the horrible truths about their idol and are very, very, very comfortable with those horrible truths. Said Cohen to the Republican law makers:
I did the same thing that you're doing now. For ten years. I protected Trump for ten years. The more people that follow Mr. Trump, as I did blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I'm suffering

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Beating Down Trump's Phony National Emergency


Yesterday, the House voted, 245-182 to void Trump's absurd declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. Every single Democrat voted for it-- as did 13 Republicans:
Justin Amash (MI)
Brian Fitzpatrick (PA)
Mike Gallagher (WI)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA)
Will Hurd (TX)
Dusty Johnson (SD)
Tom Massie (KY)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA)
Tom Rooney (FL)
James Sensenbrenner (WI)
Elise Stefanik (NY)
Fred Upton (MI)
Greg Walden (OR)
Is your Republican congressman on that list? No? Why not? Nate McMurray is running for a western New York seat occupied by one of the Republicans who refused to vote to uphold the Constitution, Chris Collins, a zombie-like Trump enabler. Nate told us that Collins "has proven again and again to be unwilling to do anything that might conflict with the will of the President. His chief value is not conservatism; it’s obedience. Look at the record. He has shown that he will defend the President no matter how base, strange, or unjust the act committed. We can only speculate why, but what is certain is that Collins is denying the true emergencies that too many of the people of this region face-- lack healthcare, jobs, opportunity."

Don Bacon is another one who talks about patriotism but has always and will always put Trump before country. His Democratic opponent, Kara Eastman, told us that Bacon "clearly said that an end-run around Congress is 'not healthy.' Of course, he did not support the executive actions of Obama. Yet he then voted in favor of this manufactured 'national emergency' yesterday, despite the fact that we know border crossings and apprehensions were much higher under the George W. Bush administration."

Mike Siegel is running for a Texas seat occupied by Trump crony Michael McCaul, who was chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and was the congressional architect of Trump's family separation agenda and babies-in-cages policy. "No surprise, but McCaul would rather pass Trump's loyalty test than honor the United States Constitution," said Mike this morning. "This is a guy who fashions himself a 'security expert,' who three years ago gave public interviews saying a Border Wall is 'not the answer' to addressing cartel activity, but who now would give Congress' most fundamental power, the power of the purse, to an authoritarian megalomaniac."

Burgess Everett reported after the House vote that Senate Republicans unloaded their angst on Pence for many of the same reasons we just read from Mike Siegel, Kara Eastman and Nate McMurray. At a GOP lunch, he "faced a wall of resistance" as he begged pissed off Republican senators to stick with Trump. Pence’s robot-like pitch "did little to move wavering GOP senators."
As many as 10 Senate Republicans could support a resolution of disapproval if a vote were held today, according to four GOP senators who attended the lunch and heard Republican senators' complaints. That’s far more than the four needed to pass the legislation on a simple majority and force Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency. Currently there are three public “yes” votes in the Senate GOP conference.

...Trump’s supporters are confident that at least there aren’t 20 Republicans who will join 47 Senate Democrats to muster a veto-proof majority. Still, a rebuke by a large bloc of GOP senators would be an embarrassing result for the White House, and Tuesday’s meeting with Pence underscored the tensions lingering between the White House and Senate Republicans.

As the vice president stumped for Trump’s national emergency maneuver, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky argued to Pence that his party would be ceding the high ground on the issue, one of about a half-dozen Republicans to raise questions about the move during the lunch.

“The vice president pushed back,” said a source familiar with the exchange. Pence “gave the explanation that this diverges from DACA,” the source said, referring to an Obama administration action protecting some undocumented immigrants. “We would characterize it as a very productive discussion.”

"Sen. Paul had a friendly discussion with the vice president, that if we do go down this path it will damage our ability to be considered the party of rule of law," said a Paul spokesman.

...Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who previously warned the president against declaring the emergency, acknowledged Tuesday that there was a “fulsome discussion” at the lunch between GOP senators and Pence and Justice Department officials.

And the Kentucky Republican said he himself is not sure about the legality of the national emergency declaration, though he has previously vowed to support the president in a floor vote.

“The [DOJ] lawyer was there to make his arguments. There were some counter arguments. I haven’t reached a total conclusion,” McConnell told reporters. “I personally couldn’t handicap the outcome at this point … but we will certainly be voting on it.”

More than a half-dozen Republican senators are mulling voting for the resolution, though they are hesitant to become the deciding vote to defy Trump and make an announcement before they know exactly what they are voting on and how it might affect military projects back home.

..."I am very worried prudentially about the slippery slope that could occur, emboldening future democratic presidents to implement radical policies contrary to law and contrary to the constitution," added Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is undecided and has privately voiced skepticism of Trump's declaration.

And it was clear that Trump was doing little to convince the rank and file, despite a tweet Monday urging the party to hang together.

“I’m getting to the bottom of some stuff. But I don’t know yet,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) of his stance. He spoke to Trump over the weekend about disaster relief for his state and said the border emergency never came up.

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Cohen To Trump's Enablers In Congress: If You Continue To Follow Trump You Will "Suffer The Same Consequences That I’m Suffering."


Michael Cohn's testimony was worth watching this morning, regardless of the Republican harassment from the sidelines and regardless of the lack of any real new information. Early in Cohen's opening statement he said two things that sum up the unfortunate Trump years. First came: "He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat." A bit later, he said "Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation-- only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the 'greatest infomercial in political history'...The campaign-- for him-- was always a marketing opportunity." During the questioning, it was Jamie Raskin (D-MD) who understood the import of the second statement. When he asked Cohen if that kind of predatory and financial attitude was still motivating Trump after he occupied the Oval Office. Unfortunately, Cohen didn't get what Raskin was asking him so that line of testimony ended.

After the opening statement was released, but before, Cohen's testimony began, Adam Davidson wrote at the New Yorker that Cohen is, basically, a real piece of crap. Has be become "penitent and regretful about one aspect of his badness, specifically the bad things that he did for Trump over the past twelve years." Davidson points out that "he has remained defiantly silent on the many, many other bad things he has done. When he leaves prison (he is scheduled to start a three-year sentence in May), he will remain a very rich man, wealthy from a decade of grifting."
Cohen will try to be a hero of this age, in the Greek sense of the hero: a flawed man with special powers, brought low by his own hubris, who moves the plot forward. It could be his greatest act of heroism. During his testimony, he will-- he claims-- lay bare many things that he knows about Trump, and he will bring proof. He will bring receipts that show that Trump knowingly reimbursed Cohen for his contribution to an illegal scheme to silence a woman with whom Trump had an affair. He will tell us, in detail, Trump’s view of America, the Presidency, African-Americans, and how, Cohen says, Trump said that running for President was the “greatest infomercial in political history.” Most important, perhaps, Cohen will provide something that followers of the special counsel’s investigation have desperately wanted: actual financial statements from 2011 to 2013, a period when the Trump Organization was engaged in a range of suspicious business practices around the world.

Republicans are already seeking to impeach Cohen’s testimony, to reveal him to be a liar and a criminal. That will be easy to do. Cohen went to one of the worst law schools in America, and then spent years working alongside a string of lawyers and others who would go on to be convicted of crimes. His first legal job was with a lawyer who later pleaded guilty to bribing insurance adjusters. Later, Cohen worked with a doctor convicted of insurance fraud. Cohen also worked closely with taxicab moguls, including his father-in-law, who would be convicted of crimes. Cohen himself remained unindicted. (His life story is told beautifully in an episode of the podcast “Trump, Inc.”) And Cohen, surely, has lied constantly, including before the very committee that hosts him today. Before his flip away from Trump, Cohen was a voluble but duplicitous source for countless reporters, who knew that Cohen would always answer his phone and would always talk (and always lie). But his mendacity was so obvious and easily proved that the falsehoods acted, often, as confirmations. And he is, of course, a convicted felon going to prison. If the Republicans are wise-- though they likely won’t be-- they could use some restraint, and let Cohen impeach himself.

Yet Cohen’s testimony is a defining moment, even if we dismiss every unverified claim-- his accounts of overhearing, from Trump, racist comments and a con man’s disdain for his country-- and consider only the documentary evidence. Most telling of all, perhaps, is the fact that Cohen-- this scheming, awful man-- is the person the President retained as his private lawyer until just last year. This is the company the President keeps; this is who he is.

There is a final fact about Cohen that should also be kept in mind. Cohen was not a singular figure in the Trump Organization. He doesn’t bring all the goods. According to his publicly filed records, Trump has more than five hundred separate lines of business, and Cohen, it seems, was involved in only a handful of them. His testimony on Wednesday should not be thought of as the full accounting of the inner workings of Trump’s world. Much of what Cohen has to say he learned by overhearing a conversation or taking note of a brief aside. He apparently has financial records from 2011 through 2013, but doesn’t, it appears, have documents from any other year. (This is because Cohen played a role in an application for a loan from Deutsche Bank.) He wasn’t a central player in the business with access to all the documentation. The true insiders-- Allen Weisselberg, Jason Greenblatt, George Sorial, and the older Trump children-- know far more about every aspect of the Trump business than Cohen does.

Wednesday’s testimony is a huge moment in Trump’s Presidency. It is unlikely, though, to diminish the country’s political chasm. Cohen will be dismissed by the President and his allies as a liar trying to reduce his prison sentence. Trump’s supporters will continue to back him. But it will be a kind of accounting, under oath and before the world, from Cohen that we haven’t had yet. It is only a beginning, a timid beginning, that both gives new information and is also a crucial performance, a visual image of Trump’s indecency that will be remembered for generations. It is unlikely to be the last.
The Wall Street Journal's Nicole Hong noted that in terms of "the hush-money payments, it’s not just Mr. Cohen’s word against President Trump’s. David Pecker, the chief executive of the National Enquirer’s publisher, has also told federal prosecutors about Mr. Trump’s involvement in the payment scheme... For instance, Mr. Pecker met with then-candidate Donald Trump in August 2015 and offered to use the National Enquirer to buy the silence of any women who tried to publicize allegations of sexual encounters with Mr. Trump. Less than a year later, Mr. Trump called Mr. Pecker and asked him to stop Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, from telling her story of a nearly yearlong affair with Mr. Trump, The Journal has reported. Mr. Pecker’s company, American Media LLC, ultimately paid $150,000 for her story and never published it, known in the tabloid industry as a 'catch and kill.'"

While of Cohen was testifying, Roger Stone, a self-admitted career liar and proud dirty-trickster, contradicted his assertion that Stone told Trump in a call in July 2016 that Stone had talked to Assange and there would be an email dump damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign. All the vicious Republicans on the committee are just trying to rip Cohen to shreds-- not that hard to do-- but none of them have actually tried to defend Trump. As Chris Christie said to ABC News today, "There hasn't been one Republican yet who's tried to defend the president on the substance. I think that's something that should be concerning to the White House."

These are some of the excerpts from Cohen's opening statement:
I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.

Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for President, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said "yes" to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.

I am ashamed of my own failings, and I publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.

I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty – of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him.

I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.

He is a racist.

He is a conman.

He is a cheat.

He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.

...The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump. Today, I'm here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump.

I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false-- our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign.

Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That's not how he operates.

In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there's no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.

There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me "How's it going in Russia?"-- referring to the Moscow Tower project.

You need to know that Mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.

To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.

And so I lied about it, too-- because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie. And he made it clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.

Over the past two years, I have been smeared as "a rat" by the President of the United States. The truth is much different, and let me take a brief moment to introduce myself.

...Last fall I pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in coordination with Individual #1.

For the record: Individual #1 is President Donald J. Trump.

It is painful to admit that I was motivated by ambition at times. It is even more painful to admit that many times I ignored my conscience and acted loyal to a man when I should not have. Sitting here today, it seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong.

...Let me now tell you about Mr. Trump.

I got to know him very well, working very closely with him for more than 10 years, as his Executive Vice President and Special Counsel and then personal attorney when he became President. When I first met Mr. Trump, he was a successful entrepreneur, a real estate giant, and an icon. Being around Mr. Trump was intoxicating. When you were in his presence, you felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself-- that you were somehow changing the world.

I wound up touting the Trump narrative for over a decade. That was my job. Always stay on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life. At first, I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed.

Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.

Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation-- only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the "greatest infomercial in political history."

He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign-- for him-- was always a marketing opportunity.

I knew early on in my work for Mr. Trump that he would direct me to lie to further his business interests. I am ashamed to say, that when it was for a real estate mogul in the private sector, I considered it trivial. As the President, I consider it significant and dangerous.

But in the mix, lying for Mr. Trump was normalized, and no one around him questioned it. In fairness, no one around him today questions it, either.

A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes.

As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails.

In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of "wouldn't that be great."

Mr. Trump is a racist. The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries "shitholes."

In private, he is even worse. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a "shithole." This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States.

While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way.

And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.

And yet I continued to work for him.

Mr. Trump is a cheat.

As previously stated, I'm giving the Committee today three years of President Trump's financial statements, from 2011-2013, which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to Forbes. These are Exhibits 1a, 1b, and 1c to my testimony.

It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.

I am sharing with you two newspaper articles, side by side, that are examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his assets, as I said, to suit his financial interests. These are Exhibit 2 to my testimony.

As I noted, I'm giving the Committee today an article he wrote on, and sent me, that reported on an auction of a portrait of Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 3A to my testimony.

Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself. Please see Exhibit 3B to my testimony.

And it should come as no surprise that one of my more common responsibilities was that Mr. Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.

And yet, I continued to work for him.

Mr. Trump is a conman.

He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly-- and she did not deserve that.

I am giving the Committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms. Clifford's attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 4 to my testimony.

Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a Home Equity Line of Credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. I did that, too-- without bothering to consider whether that was improper, much less whether it was the right thing to do or how it would impact me, my family, or the public.

I am going to jail in part because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that payment from the American people before they voted a few days later.

As Exhibit 5 to my testimony shows, I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank account on August 1, 2017-- when he was President of the United States-- pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me-- the word used by Mr. Trump's TV lawyer-- for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf. This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year-- while he was President.

The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws. You can find the details of that scheme, directed by Mr. Trump, in the pleadings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

So picture this scene-- in February 2017, one month into his presidency, I'm visiting President Trump in the Oval Office for the first time. It's truly awe-inspiring, he's showing me around and pointing to different paintings, and he says to me something to the effect of…Don't worry, Michael, your January and February reimbursement checks are coming. They were FedExed from New York and it takes a while for that to get through the White House system. As he promised, I received the first check for the reimbursement of $70,000 not long thereafter.

When I say conman, I'm talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.

As I mentioned, I'm giving the Committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump's direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump's grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission. These are Exhibit 6.

The irony wasn't lost on me at the time that Mr. Trump in 2011 had strongly criticized President Obama for not releasing his grades. As you can see in Exhibit 7, Mr. Trump declared "Let him show his records" after calling President Obama "a terrible student."

The sad fact is that I never heard Mr. Trump say anything in private that led me to believe he loved our nation or wanted to make it better. In fact, he did the opposite.

When telling me in 2008 that he was cutting employees' salaries in half-- including mine-- he showed me what he claimed was a $10 million IRS tax refund, and he said that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving "someone like him" that much money back.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump said he did not consider Vietnam Veteran, and Prisoner of War, Senator John McCain to be "a hero" because he likes people who weren't captured. At the same time, Mr. Trump tasked me to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft.

Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment.

He finished the conversation with the following comment. "You think I'm stupid, I wasn't going to Vietnam."

I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.

And yet, I continued to work for him.

Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not. I want to be clear. But, I have my suspicions.

Sometime in the summer of 2017, I read all over the media that there had been a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 involving Don Jr. and others from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian government, and an email setting up the meeting with the subject line, "Dirt on Hillary Clinton."

Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father's desk-- which in itself was unusual. People didn't just walk behind Mr. Trump's desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: "The meeting is all set." I remember Mr. Trump saying, "Ok good…let me know."

What struck me as I looked back and thought about that exchange between Don Jr. and his father was, first, that Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also, that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone-- and certainly not without checking with his father.

I also knew that nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump's knowledge and approval. So, I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on Hillary with the Russian representative when he walked behind his dad's desk that day-- and that Mr. Trump knew that was the meeting Don Jr. was talking about when he said, "That's good…let me know."

Over the past year or so, I have done some real soul searching. I see now that my ambition and the intoxication of Trump power had much to do with the bad decisions I made.

...And, by coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal, scurrilous attacks by the President and his lawyer-- trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel. Mr. Trump called me a "rat" for choosing to tell the truth-- much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government. As Exhibit 8 shows, I have provided the Committee with copies of Tweets that Mr. Trump posted, attacking me and my family-- only someone burying his head in the sand would not recognize them for what they are: encouragement to someone to do harm to me and my family.

I never imagined that he would engage in vicious, false attacks on my family-- and unleash his TV-lawyer to do the same. I hope this committee and all members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will make it clear: As a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable.

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