Guardian says House Jan. 6 committee to hold six public hearings in June, but is that enough?

The Guardian is reporting that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack is planning to hold six public hearings in June on how Donald Trump and some allies broke the law in their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But Rick Wilson, a former top GOP strategist and the co-founder of The Lincoln Project, sounded alarm bells, saying the committee members are not putting enough effort into making their case to the public.

The British newspaper, citing sources familiar with the inquiry, said it had reviewed a draft schedule prepared by the House committee. The first hearing is scheduled for June 9 and the last hearing on June 23 will be televised in prime time.

The Guardian wrote:

We want to paint a picture as clear as possible as to what occurred,” the chairman of the select committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson, recently told reporters. “The public needs to know what to think. We just have to show clearly what happened on January 6.”

The select committee has already alleged that Trump violated multiple federal laws to overturn the 2020 election, including obstructing Congress and defrauding the United States. But the hearings are where the panel intends to show how they reached those conclusions.

According to the draft schedule, the June public hearings will explore Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, starting and ending with prime-time hearings at 8 pm on the 9th and the 23rd. In between, the panel will hold 10 am hearings on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 21st.

The Guardian said the schedule is still subject to change. The two prime-time hearings are scheduled to last between one-and-a-half and two hours, while the four other morning hearings will last between two and two-and-a-half hours.

Each hearing will be led by a select committee member, the sources told the newspaper, but the questioning of witnesses who have been subpoenaed to appear will be primarily conducted by the committee’s top investigative lawyers. The investigators also intend to use flash texts, photos, and videos to illustrate the testimony, the sources said.

The Guardian report added that the panel will lay out how the efforts to overturn the election results unfolded over a 65-day period from the time Trump falsely claimed victory until Jan. 6:

The select committee is expected, for instance, to run through how the Trump White House appeared to coordinate the illegal plan to send fake electors to Congress, the plot to seize voting machines, and the unlawful plan to delay the certification of Biden’s win.

The panel is also expected to chart the reactivation of the Stop the Steal movement by the Trump activist Ali Alexander and associates, and how he applied for a permit to protest near the Capitol on January 6 but never held the “Wild Protest” and instead went up the Capitol steps.

The select committee additionally intends to address the question of intent, such as why Trump deliberately misled the crowd that he would march with them to the Capitol, and why he resisted entreaties to call off the rioters from obstructing the joint session on January 6.

The sources said the current schedule calls for capping off the six hearings with a close examination of video footage of leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers and Proud Boys groups meeting in a parking lot on Jan. 5 and their activities at the Capitol.

The sources said the select committee wants to draw a connection between “Trump’s political plan for January 6 and the militia groups’ violence at the Capitol in what could form evidence that Trump oversaw an unlawful conspiracy.”

Wilson sharply criticized the committee’s plan to only hold six hearings in a Twitter thread:

“SIX HEARINGS? SIX? Are. You. F*cking. Kidding. Me?" before adding, "Does no one understand the ballgame here?"

2/ Does no one understand the ballgame here? The witnesses from the Trump world will filibuster, bullshit, evade and jerk themselves off on live TV for roughly 40% of the hearings. Everyone will have a long statement at the opening.

— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) May 23, 2022

Wilson went on to say: "You have to create a spectacle. You have to make people care. You have to have drama. You have to drag and grind the people who tried to do this so long and so hard their knees bleed. A coup attempt that goes unpunished is a training exercise."

And he warned that should the GOP take control over Congress next year, they will hold months of hearings on Hunter Biden’s laptop, begin impeachment proceedings against President Joe Biden for failing to secure the border, and hold months of “show trials” on Afghanistan or antifa.

4/ I PROMISE you, if the GOP was in charge of this, the hearings would NEVER, EVER, EVER stop. cc: @kurtbardella @TaraSetmayer Six hearings means the GOP will try to disrupt them (see Gaetz et al previously) and the Democrats will mumble their objections.

— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) May 23, 2022

Just for comparison’s sake, the Senate Watergate Committee headed by Democratic Sen. Sam Ervin of North Carolina began holding public hearings on May 17, 1973. In all, the committee held 51 days of public hearings, a total of 319 hours, before issuing its final report on June 27, 1974.

Here are highlights of that Senate committee’s hearings:

In May 1974, the House Judiciary Committee began holding formal impeachment hearings against President Richard M. Nixon, and in late July approved three articles of impeachment. Nixon resigned in August 1974 before he could be impeached in a House vote.

Of course, now we probably don’t have that amount of time to hold extended public hearings given the looming midterm elections, but the question is whether the House committee is allowing enough time to make its case to the American public.

Like Elmer Fudd hunting ‘wabbits’ Trump keeps looking for dirt on the Bidens

Not that we’re surprised, but isn’t failed President Trump even a little sick of himself constantly whining about losing the 2020 presidential election? Okay, I know: He didn’t lose it, it was stolen. He could have been a contender. Blah, blah, blah. 

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But his recent appearance on Real America’s Voice show, Just the News, with hosts John Solomon and Amanda Head was mindboggling even for the twice-impeached ex-president.

Trump didn’t waste time, talking about how the president of Russia, the man who has illegally invaded a free and Democratic-run country, leaving untold Ukrainians dead or refugees, should dig up dirt on his (Trump’s opponent) and now the sitting head of the U.S.

Last time I checked, Putin is not an ally to the U.S. Will the idiocy never end?

“As long as Putin is not exactly a fan of our country, let him explain… why did the [former] Mayor [Yuri Luzhkov] of Moscow’s wife [Elena Baturina] give the Bidens (both of them) $3.5 million,” Trump asks.

“I would think Putin would know that answer to that. I think he should release it. I think we should know that answer,” he continued. 

Extended clip is worth watching: "As long as Putin is not exactly a fan of our country... I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it... you won't get the answer from Ukraine... I think Putin now would be willing to probably give that answer." pic.twitter.com/JFGcBk4Kxd

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 30, 2022

This is just more of the same rhetoric Trump has been ranting about since his loss in 2020. 

In response to Trump’s latest blathering, Rep. Ted Lieu tweeted: “Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and a butcher. Here are two responses—President Biden: This man cannot remain in power. Trump: Please help me, Vladimir. I am damn proud of our current President. And nauseated by the former President.”

Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and a butcher. Here are two responses— President Biden: This man cannot remain in power. Trump: Please help me Vladimir. I am damn proud of our current President. And nauseated by the former President. https://t.co/lO3CEnJ54d

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 30, 2022

According to Newsweek, author, journalist, and attorney Seth Abramson wrote, "President Biden is America's commander-in-chief; we're at the brink of open war with Russia; Putin is unambiguously an enemy of America.

"So one would expect any info Putin releases about our commander-in-chief to be a lie—and yet Trump now begs for Putin's aid. Open treachery.”

DNC Chair, Jamie Harrison tweeted: “Trump, the leader of the GOP, loves Putin more than he loves America. It has been evident for a while that the man seriously needs some professional help.”

Trump, the leader of the GOP, loves Putin more than he loves America. It has been evident for awhile that the man seriously needs some professional help. #GOPSoftOnRussia https://t.co/EqcMVn1SwT

— Jaime Harrison, DNC Chair (@harrisonjaime) March 30, 2022

Solomon, a former Fox News contributor, and formerly the editor-in-chief at the conservative newspaper The Washington Times, is also a big proponent of pro-Trump content, with multiple citings of his columns used as evidence by the GOP against impeaching Trump on allegations of pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden. 

"Solomon’s reporting on Burisma, Hunter Biden, and Ukraine election meddling has become inconvenient for the Democratic narrative," House Intelligence Committee ranking GOP member Devin Nunes said in his statement during the Trump impeachment hearings

According to the Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact, while writing for The Hill, Solomon pushed the false Uranium One conspiracy, alleging that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sold a share of America’s uranium to Russia in exchange for a huge donation to the Clinton Foundation.

And Solomon played a key role in helping Giuliani launch the investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden

"I really turned my stuff over to John Solomon," Giuliani told The New York Times.

Co-host, Amanda Head, a notorious anti-masker, began her career as a model, actress, and singer, and was the first freshman to win the Miss Auburn University beauty pageant. She is best known for her turn as a vlogger for The Hollywood Conservative, launched in 2016. 

What has yet to remain clear is why the Republican party refuses to call a traitor a traitor. Perhaps they’re afraid of a poison Russian pill, or of simply losing a midterm seat to a more qualified and ethical opponent, but either way, someday, (I hope) the GOP will realize that as the party once known for its “values,” lost them long ago. 

Democracy in peril: Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign began months before Zelenskyy took office

Ukraine may have saved our democracy and its own back in 2019 by resisting Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the country’s government into announcing an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden.

What many people don’t realize is that Rudy Giuliani had already begun pushing to get the Ukrainian government to announce such an investigation as early as January 2019, when he met in New York with Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko. That’s months before Volodymyr Zelenskyy, running on an anti-corruption platform, won the April 21, 2019, presidential run-off election against incumbent Petro Poroshenko. Biden officially announced his candidacy just four days later.

I would recommend that everyone read the Ukrainegate timeline prepared by Just Security, an online forum that analyzes U.S. national security policy. It outlines the complex chain of events in the campaign to pressure Ukraine that eventually resulted in Trump’s first impeachment. And there was a a quid pro quo offered to Poroshenko—although it did not involve withholding weapons, according to the Just Security timeline.

The Wall Street Journal reported that in late Feburary 2019, Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with Poroshenko to press him to initiate an investigation of Hunter Biden and a debunked theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help Hillary Clinton. They said if Poroshenko went along he would be rewarded with a state visit to the White House. That would have been a boon to Poroshenko, who was in a tough campaign for reelection against Zelenskyy.

Now imagine an alternate history in which Ukraine’s top prosecutor had announced an investigation of the Bidens in March 2019. Poroshenko was pushed to the brink, but did not yield to the pressure.

Poroshenko and Trump in 2017

It would have come completely out of the blue, since there was no “perfect” phone call or whistleblower at the time. Just think about how CNN or The New York Times would have reported on the investigation. How would Biden have reacted to a nasty smear campaign against his sole surviving son, who was in a fragile state as he struggled to recover from substance abuse problems? 

New York Times story dated Feb. 26, 2019 said Biden had held a family meeting earlier that month in which there was a “consensus” that he should run for president. But at the same time, Biden acknowledged in a speech at the University of Delaware that he had been uneasy about “taking the family through what would be a very, very, very difficult campaign” against Trump. “I don’t think he’s likely to stop at anything, whomever he runs against,” Biden said.

If Ukraine had done Giuliani’s bidding, Biden might very well have decided against entering the race. At best, Biden would have entered the campaign as a weakened frontrunner, with a dark cloud hanging over his head. Either way, Democrats would have faced an even more contentious primary contest, which might have yielded a weakened candidate whom Trump would have had a better chance of defeating.

A second Trump term would have posed an undeniable threat to our democracy. As for Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s puppet would have continued undermining NATO and done little to help Kyiv resist Russian aggression.

In Trump’s mind, Ukraine, not Russia, was his enemy. 

***

Let’s look more closely at what happened in the months before Zelenskyy’s inauguration on May 20, 2019. What happened after his inauguration was well-documented by Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson in March 14’s “Trump’s Ukraine extortion campaign didn’t begin or end with `I would like you to do us a favor.”

In August 2018, polls showed that Biden was leading Trump in a head-to-head matchup, and also leading the potential Democratic primary field. Biden indicated that fall that he was strongly considering a 2020 presidential bid. Around the same time, Giuliani Partners was hired by the Boca Raton, Florida, company Fraud Guarantee, co-founded by Parnas, a Ukrainian-American businessman. Giuliani ultimately was paid $500,000 for undisclosed business and legal advice, according to Reuters.

Lev Parnas in 2020
Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman were later convicted in a campaign fraud finance case, for using funds from a foreign investor to try to influence political candidates through campaign donations. There was a $325,000 donation to the pro-Trump American First PAC from a shell company set up by Parnas and Fruman. That was enough for both men to get invited to an exclusive donors’ dinner in April 2018 with Trump at his Washington hotel, at which both men urged the president to fire U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, an anti-corruption crusader, claiming that she was unfriendly to Trump, The Washington Post reported
Parnas and Fruman became Giuliani’s facilitators and translators as he revved up efforts to go after Biden, even though he had yet to declare his candidacy.
 

WAS RUDY A “USEFUL TOOL” FOR A DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN BY RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE?

Now there’s one big unanswered question: Was Giuliani wittingly or unwittingly acting as a “useful tool” to spread disinformation prepared by Russian intelligence aimed at derailing Biden’s presidential campaign? It’s not implausible, because U.S. Intelligence has already confirmed that Russia was spreading disinformation about Biden’s mental health
Giuliani and Trump in 2016
The Washington Post reported in October 2020 that U.S. intelligence agencies had warned the White House in 2019 that Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence and being used to feed disinformation to Trump. Giuliani did ask Ukraine to probe accusations that Ukrainian officials plotted to rig the 2016 presidential election in Hillary Clinton’s favor, by leaking evidence against Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager. Giuliani wanted Ukraine to investigate a mysterious Democratic National Committee server that Trump believed was hidden in Ukraine.
During the November 2019, House Intelligence Committee hearings, Fiona Hill, the former Russia expert for the National Security Council, called out House Republicans for pushing the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” Hill said.
Giuliani was pushing allegations that Biden, while vice president to Barack Obama, pushed to get Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin dismissed, in order to avoid a corruption investigation of Ukraine’s Burisma energy company, whose board members included Hunter Biden. But Giuliani could not have come up with this conspiracy theory on his own, because it was totally baseless. It’s logical to assume that this notion was spoon fed to Giuliani, who eagerly swallowed it.
One method used by Russian intelligence operatives is to put ideas into the head of someone who is receptive to the same goal—in this case derailing Biden’s candidacy. The notion that Biden stood a good chance of defeating Trump in 2020 must have really stuck in Giuliani’s craw. It was Biden who turned “America’s mayor” into a national laughingstock in an October 2007 Democratic presidential debate.

“Rudy Giuliani. There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence — a noun, a verb, and 9/11. There’s nothing else! There’s nothing else! And I mean this sincerely. He’s genuinely not qualified to be president,” Biden said.

At the time, Giuliani was the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. He ended up running one of the most humiliating campaigns in modern U.S. political history, raising more than $60 million and winning only one delegate before dropping out. Giuliani then vanished into the political wilderness for eight years, only to reemerge as Trump’s personal lawyer and hatchet man.

Giuliani had access to Trump, who had repeatedly expressed his willingness to get dirt on his political opponents from foreign sources. Giuliani’s international consulting practice had clients in Ukraine dating back to at least 2008, including Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champion.
During Trump’s first impeachment trial, Giuliani put out this intriguing tweet:

...incriminating documents. It was already a fully-intact bribery/extortion case. The reason you don’t know about it is because of the cover up by the corrupt Democrats and their establishment media!

— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) January 27, 2020

The dossier was allegedly handed to Giuliani sometime in the fall of 2018. That raises some obvious questions: Who prepared it? What were its contents? Who were the witnesses? And who gave the dossier to Giuliani?

There are many possible suspects. A month before Trump’s first impeachment trial, NBC News published a guide to the controversial figures helping Giuliani dig up dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. The story noted that “most of them have ties to pro-Russian political figures or oligarchs.” Three names stand out in this rogues’ gallery: Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russia member of Ukraine’s parliament; Kostiantyn Kulyk, a former prosecutor; and Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian energy tycoon with deep ties to Russia.

Derkach studied at the FSB intelligence service academy in Moscow in the 1990s. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin wrote that a top-secret CIA assessment had concluded that Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation which involves Derkach, identified by U.S. intelligence as a Russian agent, who has been providing anti-Biden information to Giuliani.

Kulyk did prepare a seven-page, English-language dossier in late 2018 that accused Hunter Biden of corruption related to his service on Burisma’s board, according to The New York Times. The dossier also made the dubious claim that U.S. diplomats covered up for crimes committed by the Bidens. Ukrainian officials said Kulyk had ties to a warlord in eastern Ukraine, accused of working for the Russian intelligence services. It’s not clear whether this was the same dossier that Giuliani was referring to in his tweet.

Firtash has been fighting extradition from Austria to the U.S. on bribery and racketeering charges. Parnas has alleged that Giuliani offered help with Firtash’s U.S. legal problems, in exchange for helping with the hunt for compromising information on the Bidens. Federal prosecutors also alleged that Parnas received a $1 million loan from a lawyer for Firtash. 

Firtash was also involved in investment projects with Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who previously was paid millions of dollars to work as a political consultant for Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

HOW GIULIANI PUT THE SQUEEZE ON UKRAINE BEFORE ZELENSKYY’S ELECTION 

At the annual White House Hannukah party on Dec. 6, 2018, Parnas and Fruman held a private meeting with Trump and Giuliani. CNN reported that Trump tasked them to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens, according to associates of Parnas. 

Parnas and Giuliani in 2018

In December 2018, Parnas and Fruman arranged a Skype call between Giuliani and Shokin, the former Ukraine prosecutor general who was the source of the debunked reports that Joe Biden had him fired to stop him from investigating wrongdoing in Burisma.

Biden actually was among multiple Western officials who had urged Ukraine to dismiss Shokin from his post at the country’s top prosecutor because of his insufficient efforts to combat corruption.

Bloomberg News reported that Giuliani met for the first time with then-Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko in New York on Jan. 25-26, 2019. Giuliani held another meeting with the Ukrainian prosecutor in Warsaw, Poland, in mid-February. Parnas and Fruman attended both meetings.

And then in late February we get to the quid pro quo, with Giuliani’s associates telling Poroshenko that if Ukraine announced an investigation of the Bidens, he would be rewarded with a state visit to the White House.

Yet why didn’t the Trump administration try to extort Poroshenko by withholding shipments of lethal weapons? Perhaps because there might have been a previous quid pro quo.

In March 2018, the Pentagon approved the sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. In early April, a Ukraine anti-corruption prosecutor froze four cases involving Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, The New York Times reported. Ukraine also announced it was halting all cooperation with the Mueller investigation. One of the cases resulted from the mysterious black ledger. In August 2016, Ukraine officials revealed the existence of a secret ledger, which appeared to detail payouts totaling $12.5 million to Manafort for his work as a consultant to Yanukovych.

But there was a catch that rendered the Javelin sale mostly symbolic. The U.S. insisted that the missiles be stored in western Ukraine, hundreds of miles from the frontlines in the eastern Donbas region, where Ukrainian forces were battling pro-Russian separatists, The Atlantic reported.

During their early 2019 meetings, Lutsenko fed some information to Giuliani, including bank records that detailed Burisma’s payments to Hunter Biden. But the records did not indicate any wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, according to a New Yorker profile of the Ukrainian prosecutor. Lutsenko told The New Yorker that he suggested to Giuliani that, if U.S. authorities opened an investigation into the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine, the prosecutor-general’s office would share any relevant information.

But Lutsenko soon realized that what seemed most important to Giuliani was to get him to announce investigations into the Bidens and into claims of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to The New Yorker. Lutsenko said he didn’t have any grounds to open such investigations under Ukrainian law. Lutsenko said he sensed that Poroshenko was worried that publicly announcing such investigations would damage Ukraine’s relations with the Democratic Party.

Ukraine had enjoyed strong bipartisan support until Trump came along. Trump’s Republican loyalists were already spouting conspiracy theories put forth by Russian intelligence that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election to help Clinton.

“I was near the red line, but I didn’t cross it,” Lutsenko told The New Yorker. “I was wondering what kind of game he (Giuliani) was playing. I felt like we were getting scammed.”

WE NEED A COUNTERESPIONAGE INVESTIGATION OF TRUMP, GIULIANI, MANAFORT, ET AL.

Imagine the consequences today if Poroshenko and Lutsenko had crossed that red line back in early 2019.

Instead, Giuliani and his associates were back at square one with Zelenskyy’s election. That set in motion the series of events leading to Trump’s “perfect” phone call to Zelenskyy, the arms-for-dirt extortion plot, and the president’s eventual impeachment (the first one, anyway).

The Mueller probe barely uncovered the tip of the iceberg, because its scope was limited to looking only into collusion between Russia and Trump during the 2015-2016 presidential campaign.

The DOJ should make a deal with Parnas and/or Fruman to reduce their sentences in exchange for information about whether Russian intelligence used Giuliani to interfere in the 2020 election by undermining Biden’s campaign. It is also high time that a counterespionage investigation be opened against Manafort, if it is not already under way.

And above all else, we need a comprehensive investigation of Trump’s dealings with Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs over the decades. With the help of former Attorney General William Barr and others, Trump has been able to escape any consequences for his ties to Russia.

Our nation will never be secure until these criminals are exposed and held to account.

Hawley injects QAnon conspiracy theory into Jackson SCOTUS nomination. Democrats should shut it down

Noted insurrectionist and treason-curious Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has decided to bring some QAnon seasoning to the disgustingly and blatantly racist appeals for opposition to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackon’s Supreme Court nomination. In a long and slimy Twitter screed that does not merit linking to, Hawley suggests that Jackson isn’t just “soft on crime”—the dog whistle Republican narrative—but has coddled sex offenders and in particular pedophiles.

Hawley went so far as to say that “her record endangers children,” a charge that has probably already been picked up on by the worst of the worst QAnon conspiracy theorists who feed the right-wing media. Expect it to show up on Fox News any minute now.

That makes Sen. Dick Durbin’s attitude a little too dismissive. The Judiciary Committee chair told Politico: “I don’t believe in it being taken seriously … I’m troubled by it because it’s so outrageous. It really tests the committee as to whether we’re going to be respectful in the way we treat this nominee.”

Yes, yes it does. Particularly when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—after that screed from Hawley was posted—lied through his teeth, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that “I think Judge Jackson will be treated respectfully. I think the questions will be appropriate.” No. The questions will not be appropriate. Hawley just proved that, and McConnell needs to be pressured into holding him to account for that.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates responded appropriately. “This is toxic and weakly-presented misinformation that relies on taking cherry-picked elements of her record out of context—and it buckles under the lightest scrutiny.” The full statement:

Judge Jackson’s is a proud mother of two whose nomination has been endorsed by leading law enforcement organizations, conservative judges, and survivors of crime. This is toxic and weakly-presented misinformation that relies on taking cherry-picked elements of her record out of context—and it buckles under the lightest scrutiny. It’s based on a report unanimously agreed to by all of the Republicans on the US Sentencing Commission, on selectively presenting a short transcript excerpt in which Judge Jackson was quoting a witness’s testimony back to them to ask a question, and on omitting that her rulings are in line with sentencing practices across the entire federal judiciary regarding these crimes. In the overwhelming majority of her cases involving child sex crimes, the sentences Judge Jackson imposed were consistent with or above what the government or U.S. Probation recommended.

There is the problem that when you are explaining, you are losing. But what Bates says is all true, and it’s what Democrats need to bring to next week’s hearing for Jackson: the facts. But they have to bring those facts with anger and fire and ferocity. They have to be prepared to humiliate the worm Hawley (and Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton, and Marsha Blackburn—the very worst of the Republicans are on this committee) to the utmost.

That means some discipline and some coordination among Democrats, which is far too often missing in these hearings. They’re generally too enamored with the sound of their own voices and the rare opportunity to carry on in front of national television cameras to actually be effective.

They can take some inspiration from Twitter. For example, using this:

Clarence Thomas wanted to strike down a law allowing federal courts to order civil commitment for sex offenders. I look forward to Hawley's forthcoming articles of impeachment against this soft-on-crime, child predator-coddling justice. https://t.co/yV8QB1lYUQ https://t.co/aW7ZOB9yqE

— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) March 17, 2022

This shit has to be called out for what it is. Forget the “comity” of the Senate hearing room. Forget the pomp and circumstance of the hearing room. When the likes of Hawley tries to advance this kind of malevolent bile, Democrats need to be united in attacking back and exposing it.

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Is The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker kidding with this Ukraine aid take? Unfortunately not

The New York Times usually wins the awards for the worst, shallowest political coverage most driven by the imperative of normalizing Republican extremism and attacking Democrats. But Washington Post White House Bureau Chief Ashley Parker has dropped in with a doozy of an entry. She’s taken the serious problem of a brutal war and how the United States can respond without risking a broader and even more devastating war, and making it all about the optics.

It’s appalling that she would write that war-news-as-fashion-analysis sentence,* and it’s worse that this is the sentence she was proud to use to represent her story in the tweet. “Look how clever I am,” that tweet screams. “Aren’t I just at the pinnacle of my profession?” Which, sure, given that her specific profession is the kind of media that caused every other reporter in the White House press briefing room on Wednesday to ask Press Secretary Jen Psaki the exact same question—not because they expected her answer would change, but so their networks would have their own reporters on video asking the same not very interesting question.

RELATED: The price of 'we need to do more' is much higher than most people realize

President Joe Biden’s comments, Parker wrote, “at times took on an almost defensive tone,” a total flipping mystery of an observation in a story blatantly aimed at putting Biden on the defensive. Parker then goes on to offer three-plus paragraphs of concrete actions Biden has taken to support Ukraine and attempt to get Russia to back away from war before writing, “But since the actual war between Russia and Ukraine began three weeks ago, Biden and his European counterparts have articulated no clear end game, and Wednesday’s Biden-Zelensky juxtaposition offered something of a split screen, with the U.S. president and his team trying to explain why the administration was falling short on meeting Zelensky’s stirring request.”

They’re not trying to explain why they’re falling short. They’re explaining why a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone would be a very bad idea—and even many Republicans committed to attacking Biden agree on that point, though many are urging him to send fighter jets, a move Psaki explained would cross the line from providing defensive weapons to sending offensive ones. As Psaki also said, “If we were President Zelenskyy, we would be asking for everything possible as well, and continuing to ask for it.” Zelenskyy is doing what he should be doing as the leader of his country. Biden’s job is to lead this country, and as long as there is any other possible option, that means avoiding war with Russia.

About Republicans, by the way: Parker quotes two of them—Sens. Ben Sasse and Susan Collins—urging the administration to send fighter jets. What she doesn’t do is what should be mandatory every time a Republican who was in office in 2020 is quoted on Ukraine: Describe how they voted on the impeachment of Donald Trump for withholding nearly $400 million of military aid and public shows of support from Ukraine and Zelenskyy while Trump engaged in a pressure campaign aimed at getting Zelenskyy help him harm Biden’s political prospects.

In a reasonable media environment, one does not get to go from defending the withholding of aid to demanding the immediate, not fully considered, provision of an entirely new category of powerful military equipment without facing some serious questions about one’s partisan motives. But as Ashley Parker went all in on showing us with this story, this is not a reasonable media environment.

* To be clear, fashion analysis is an important thing when done well. In this case, it was embarrassingly misplaced. Because it was shallow, unserious fashion analysis, it added to the overall offense of this article.

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Wisconsin Republicans gave this investigator $676,000 in public funds to claim election was stolen

Some GOP officials never seem to know when to give up. Despite having absolutely no proof, cries that the election was stolen still seem to ring in the ears of Republicans. Despite legal experts noting that it was impossible, a Wisconsin judge has claimed that there are grounds for the state legislature to “decertify” the results of the 2020 election. The claim follows a review of the election demanded by Republicans, in which individuals in the state assembly hired Michael Gableman, a former state supreme court justice to investigate the election.

The 136-page interim report released Tuesday has received widespread bipartisan criticism and has been labeled unnecessary because not only was it poorly done but used $676,000 in public funds. During a presentation of the report Tuesday, Gableman said the state Legislature should “take a very hard look at the option of decertification of the 2020” presidential election. Moments before Gableman presented, Donald Trump encouraged supporters to listen in, BuzzFeed News reported.

Both Democrats and Republicans alike rejected the idea and called the move illegal.

“Still not legal under Wisconsin law,” Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted. “Beyond that, it would have no practical impact b/c there is no Constitutional way to remove a sitting president other than through impeachment or incapacity. Fools errand. Focus on the future.”

I have ten months remaining in my last term. In my remaining time, I can guarantee that I will not be part of any effort, and will do everything possible to stop any effort, to put politicians in charge of deciding who wins or loses elections. 1/

— Jim Steineke 🇺🇦 (@jimsteineke) March 1, 2022

Not sure what kind of attorney Gableman was, because the report not only falsely claimed Biden’s win could be decertified, but also said that decertifying the election would not have any legal consequence.

“It would not, for example, change who the current president is,” the report said.

Of course, like other conservatives, Gableman also attempted to backtrack what he said and issued confusing contradictory statements.

When Democratic state Representative Jodi Emerson, asked him, "Are you saying we should decertify Wisconsin's votes from 2020?"

Gableman responded:

"I'm not saying it and I did not say it because it's not my place to say it. What is my place to say, and what I do believe, and what I do say, is there appears to me—without having the benefit of input from any substantive witness—there appears to me to be very significant grounds for such an action."

Others also dismissed the report, noting that a recount and investigations were conducted multiple times. According to the Associated Press, despite the recounts, multiple state and federal lawsuits, an audit by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, and a report by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, it was found that Biden defeated Trump by a little under 21,000 votes in Wisconsin.

“There does not appear to be anything new in this report, although it is apparent that Michael Gableman is adopting the most fringe and extreme arguments presented by election deniers,” Attorney Jeffrey Mandell, who is representing the mayor of Green Bay in a lawsuit opposing a subpoena from Gableman, said. “This report, and Mr. Gableman’s presentation, is an embarrassment. This process needs to come to a quick end.”

An Associated Press review of Wisconsin and other battleground states also found far too little fraud to have tipped the election for Trump.

Of course, there are other controversies found in connection with the report. A review conducted by the Associated Press found that the report was paid for with $676,000 in taxpayer money. Additionally, it was due at the end of last year but delayed after mayors and state and local election officials filed multiple lawsuits to block subpoenas issued to them. During his presentation, Gableman said he had spent about $360,000 so far on the investigation and issued 90 subpoenas, but no one with information about how elections are run has spoken with him. 

During the presentation, Gableman not only criticized the process of voting in nursing homes but attacked the use of drop boxes. He recommended changes in voting procedures including shortening the early voting period and dismantling the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Overall Gableman said he hoped the report’s recommendations would be used by lawmakers to enact changes before the session ends next month.

Despite the lack of support for his findings, he even went as far as to suggest that his work continue, as he still has funds remaining in his budget. "I'm not in this for anything other than the truth,” he claimed.

According to CBS News, Gableman was appointed by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in June 2021. Gableman's appointment came a day after Trump issued a statement saying that Vos and other Wisconsin Republican leaders were "working hard to cover up election corruption."

"I'd like to thank the Office of Special Counsel for their tireless efforts in finding the truth," Vos said in a statement. "They've done a good job at showing there were issues in 2020, and the report is intended to help correct these processes for future elections."

Rep. Elise Stefanik shifts her message on Russia-Ukraine, at least for nearly two minutes

Rep. Elise Stefanik, who was a key part of the Republican effort to fight Donald Trump’s first, Ukraine-related impeachment in the House, has a message for the people of Ukraine. It’s not an apology for her support of Trump’s extortion of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an attempt to gain an election advantage over now-President Joe Biden. But—and this is big coming from Stefanik—her message sticks to Ukraine and Russia without overtly attacking Biden.

Last week, as Russia invaded Ukraine, Stefanik was part of a statement from House Republican leaders that blamed Biden for “appeasement,” and she released her own statement railing as much against Biden as against Putin. So her new video message (see below) to the people of Ukraine and to Zelenskyy is a real departure for her. Is that because, in speaking in theory to Zelenskyy, she wanted to avoid echoes of Trump withholding military aid from Ukraine in an attempt to get Zelenskyy to manufacture a scandal about Biden? Is it in some minor way a recognition that Biden’s approach—assembling a major international response with devastating sanctions on Russia—is looking more successful than Republicans were hoping? 

Either way, what Stefanik also isn’t doing is putting distance between herself and Trump. While her descriptions of Putin as “a gutless, bloodthirsty, authoritarian dictator” and a “war criminal” are a far cry from Trump’s descriptions of Putin as “smart” and “savvy” and “genius,” Stefanik is part of a broader Republican pattern of criticizing Putin while refusing to answer questions about Trump’s praise.

But Stefanik’s role in defending Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine makes her approach here particularly nauseating. This is someone who rose to prominence in her party by participating in stunts intended to disrupt the impeachment inquiry, and relentlessly tried to use the inquiry into Trump’s extortion effort to promote the very thing he had been getting at to begin with, dragging Biden and his son Hunter into her questioning at every opportunity. For her to act like she has had the welfare of the people of Ukraine at heart all along is staggeringly dishonest. But then, the entire Republican approach to this issue is staggeringly dishonest.

My message to the people of @Ukraine and @ZelenskyyUa: The United States of America stands firmly with you against Russia’s unprovoked and heinous attack on your country. pic.twitter.com/s4d96sWxb2

— Rep. Elise Stefanik (@RepStefanik) March 1, 2022

To the people of Ukraine, the United States of America stands firmly with you against Russia’s unprovoked and heinous attacks on your country. Your bravery, sacrifice, and resistance against a gutless, bloodthirsty, authoritarian dictator is a beacon of hope for freedom and democracy around the world.

A beacon of hope, but I’m not going to say a word about my party’s leader calling those unprovoked and heinous attacks “savvy.”

As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, I was honored to lead a bipartisan group of congressional members to Ukraine in 2018. I met with the wonderful Ukrainian people and experienced the beauty of your culture and country. Most importantly, I saw firsthand the importance of the security partnership between our two countries to counter Russian aggression, combat Vladimir Putin’s disinformation, and defend democracy and freedom. Today, I remain committed to strengthening that partnership by working with my colleagues to increase military support for the Ukrainian armed forces and establish strong and effective deterrents to counter Putin’s hostility.

It cannot be emphasized enough that these are the words of someone who defended Trump for withholding $400 million of military aid from Ukraine in an effort to gain political advantage at home. 

Additionally, we are working to sanction Putin and his corrupt oligarch cronies immediately and permanently terminate construction of the Nord Stream II pipeline, end Russian energy exports around the world, and provide additional military and financial support to Ukraine. I will not stop fighting until Ukraine receives the resources it deserves and Putin is cut off and isolated from the international community. As you continue your fight against the evil desires of the war criminal Vladimir Putin, all of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people are in our prayers and we will stand behind you in support of this fight for your country. Never stop fighting for a sovereign, self-governing, and free Ukraine.

As GOP blames Biden for Russia-Ukraine, remember these words: ‘I would like you to do us a favor’

There are 46 Republicans in the Senate today who in 2020 voted against convicting Donald Trump for withholding military aid from Ukraine in an attempt to get President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to dig up or manufacture dirt against a political opponent Trump feared. (Fifty-two Republican senators voted to acquit Trump, but six are no longer in the Senate.) The specifics here are important as we consider how those Republicans are responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine—and how they are characterizing President Joe Biden’s response.

During a 2019 phone call, Zelenskyy said, “We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost. ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.” Javelins are an anti-tank weapon and have been essential in Ukraine’s defense against Russia. All you really need to know about Trump’s response is that it began, “I would like you to do us a favor though ...”

Trump froze $400 million in military aid to Ukraine as he made his extortion attempt, only unfreezing the aid months later after a whistleblower complaint about it. That frozen aid, coupled with his “I would like you to do us a favor, though,” as a direct response to Zelenskyy’s ask for more Javelins were at the center of Trump’s first impeachment, on which Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator to vote guilty.

Romney voted guilty, and Sens. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama were not in the Senate at the time. Every other Republican in the Senate—along with all 195 Republicans who voted in the House—voted against holding Trump responsible. (And Hagerty, Lummis, Marshall, and Tuberville absolutely would have voted not guilty given the chance.)

Trump has praised Vladimir Putin as Russia invaded Ukraine, and insisted that the invasion would not have happened if he had been in office. Trump is now claiming credit for NATO’s strength (after he threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO) and for U.S. military aid to Ukraine, all part of his campaign to insist that this would not be happening if he were in the White House. In reality, what Putin would or wouldn’t be doing if Trump was in the White House is a mystery, but what we absolutely know is that if Putin invaded Ukraine, a Trump-led United States would not be taking a leading role in a major international diplomatic response.

Republicans, meanwhile, have largely either dodged answering whether they’re with him on his view of Putin or have tacitly supported Trump’s stance.

The Republican talking points are much more focused on blaming Biden than on blaming Putin. “Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch a renewed invasion of Ukraine is reprehensible,” House Republican leaders said in a group statement last week, before moving directly to their real interest. “Sadly, President Biden consistently chose appeasement and his tough talk on Russia was never followed by strong action.” These are people who literally voted against impeaching Donald Trump for withholding military aid to try to create a scandal that would harm Biden’s chances in 2020. Many House Republicans followed their leaders in blaming Biden more than they blamed Putin, and the same is true in the Senate.

And no wonder. Once Trump got Republicans to back him in attempting to extort elections help from Ukraine, where wouldn’t they go with him?

Putin uses fabrications about Russians and Ukrainians being ‘one people’ to justify aggression

Vladimir Putin has been bullying Ukraine for many years. But that’s not all. Now, in addition to massing Russian military forces along the border—surrounding his neighbor in what can only be seen as preparation for invading that country—he’s lying about Ukrainians’ very identity in order to snuff out their independence.

Americans know a little something about breaking away from a country with whom we share much in terms of cultural roots. Thanks to history, we also know that when powerful countries start remaking the borders of Europe by force, it opens the door to massive bloodshed.

The lies Putin’s telling these days have a very specific purpose, designed to buttress his bullying. The primary lie is that there are no Ukrainians. He denies their existence as a people, as a community that possesses a national consciousness. They’re really just Russians, you see. That’s why it’s not wrong for Vlad to remake or even erase a border that his country agreed to respect in 1994. He openly violated that treaty in 2014 with his military incursion into the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine—where he both provided material support for pro-Russian separatists and sent some of his own troops as well—not to mention his outright forced annexation of Crimea. Russia has been violating the agreement consistently ever since.

One of our country’s most highly regarded experts on Eastern Europe, Zbigniew Brzezinski, explained that “without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” This is why Putin wants to delegitimize the concept of Ukrainianness. It’s all part of his plan to bring them under his thumb and restore his country’s status as a world power, and also perhaps shore up his political position at home in true Wag the Dog fashion. Invasion seems to be imminent.

NEW: The US believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, and has communicated that decision to the Russian military, three Western and defense officials tell me.

— Nick Schifrin (@nickschifrin) February 11, 2022

WHO’S WHO IN UKRAINE?

Who are the Ukrainians? More importantly, who gets to address that question? Putin clearly believes that the answer to the second one is himself, as he laid out his falsehood-laden response to the first one. This took the form of a Jul. 2021 document titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” The two groups are, he claimed, “one people—a single whole … a single people” who have “a common faith, shared cultural traditions … language similarity.” The misinformation was strong in this piece of Фигня.

The article runs through a recitation of historical events extensive enough to make one long for an invasion just to bring it to an end. This 1000-plus year “history” dating back to the medieval state of Kievan Rus’—a loose federation of East Slavic, Baltic, and Finnic peoples in Eastern and Northern Europe that existed from the late 9th to the mid-13th century—is presented in a one-sided fashion that paints the development of a Ukrainianness that exists separate from Russianness as simply false, and as merely the result of foreign influences, ranging from Poles to the Catholic Church to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Political scientist Ivan Krastev noted: “Putin looks at Ukraine and Belarus as part of Russia’s civilizational and cultural space. He thinks the Ukrainian state is totally artificial and that Ukrainian nationalism is not authentic.”

It’s bad enough when a pundit or entertainer tries to define what is and what is not authentic about another group. When the guy doing it has the firepower to actually conquer that group’s country, now we’re talking about a whole other kind of danger.

As for today’s Ukraine, Putin made clear in his missive that he sees himself as the sole and rightful arbiter of what that sovereign nation’s borders should be: “Apparently, and I am becoming more and more convinced of this: Kiev simply does not need Donbas.” In other words: Russia ain’t leaving eastern Ukraine as long as he’s calling the shots. On a side note, Russia doesn’t “need” Donbas either, or benefit in material terms from having some degree of control over it—unless they want a region well-situated to mass-produce Panasonic tape decks.

Finally, Putin presented his conclusion: “I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia.” Now that’s what I call an abusive partner. Thomas Friedman, in the New York Times, recently offered a slightly different phrasing that perfectly captures Vlad’s thoughts on the matter: “Marry me, or I’ll kill you.”

An analysis of Putin’s essay at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank focused on international affairs, noted that it had “been likened in some quarters to a declaration of war” against Ukraine. The analysis included commentary from two experts. Melinda Haring, Deputy Director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, stated:

Putin’s delusional and dangerous article reveals what we already knew: Moscow cannot countenance letting Ukraine go. The Russian president’s masterpiece alone should inspire the West to redouble its efforts to bolster’s Kyiv ability to choose its own future, and Zelenskyy should respond immediately and give Putin a history lesson.

Danylo Lubkivsky, director of the Kyiv Security Forum and a former Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, added:

Putin understands that Ukrainian statehood and the Ukrainian national idea pose a threat to Russian imperialism. He does not know how to solve this problem. Many in his inner circle are known to advocate the use of force, but for now, the Russian leader has no solutions. Instead, he has written an amateurish propaganda piece designed to provide followers of his “Russian World” ideology with talking points. However, his arguments are weak and simply repeat what anti-Ukrainian Russian chauvinists have been saying for decades. Putin’s essay is an expression of imperial agony.

UKRAINE’S HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE

Despite Putin’s propaganda—and the document discussed above is just one part of a far-reaching Russian campaign—the Ukrainian people have a long record of expressing an independent national consciousness, of fighting for their independence from Russia as well as other neighboring states. There’s far too much in his diatribe to refute point by point, but suffice it to say that his denial of Ukrainians’ collective existence is far from fact-based. It’s hard to accept the objectivity of a self-styled historian of Ukraine who, in 2008, Putinsplained the following to then-President Bush, “You don’t understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state.”

In reality, in the late nineteenth century, at the same time as other peoples in Central and Eastern Europe, proponents of a Ukrainian sense of peoplehood—nationalists, they called themselves—emerged and began building a movement. At the end of the First World War, these Ukrainian nationalists fought to create an independent state out of the chaos in the region, but were defeated. The part of their country that had been under Tsarist Russian control was ultimately absorbed by the Soviet Union, with a newly independent Poland taking the portion that had been part of Galicia, a previously Austro-Hungarian province. At the end of the Second World War, the USSR grabbed that territory from Poland as well.

Since 1991, when the Soviet Union broke apart, Ukraine has been independent, and sought to carve its own path outside of Moscow’s shadow. The current president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has cultivated what one Ukrainian journalist described as: “an inclusive Ukrainian national identity transcending the barriers of language, ethnicity and memory that have so often served to divide Ukrainians.”

TRUMP REARS HIS ORANGE HEAD

Zelensky is none other than the man whom our disgraced former president tried to bully into becoming a stooge in his quest to slander Joe Biden. Those actions led to the first impeachment of The Man Who Lost An Election And Tried To Steal It, thanks in part to the brave actions of whistleblowers like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. In fact, Trump as well as numerous right-wing politicians and media figures have all but openly sided with Putin on Ukraine, as Daily Kos’s Mark Sumner thoroughly presented here (and here, on Fucker Carlson specifically).

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman

Vindman, who was born in Ukraine and came with his family to the U.S. in 1979 at the age of three, served as director for European affairs at the National Security Council, and was the top expert on Ukraine in the White House under Fuck a l’Orange. He has urged the U.S. to provide significant defensive military support to Kyiv, and wrote passionately in December about how the land where he was born has evolved since claiming its freedom when the USSR disintegrated:

Over the past 30 years, Ukraine has made major strides in its experiment with democracy. Despite worrying instances of government-backed corruption—undeniably, there is still more work to be done—Ukraine has made hard-fought progress on reform in the midst of war. Six presidents, two revolutions and many violent protests later, the people of Ukraine have sent a clear message that reflects the most fundamental of American values: They will fight for basic rights, and against authoritarian repression.

PARALLELS WITH CHINA AND TAIWAN

We may be seeing some similar developments farther East. After more than seven decades of separation from the mainland government of China, and four decades as a vibrant democracy, the people of Taiwan have increasingly begun to see themselves as having a separate national consciousness as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. For many Ukrainians as well as Taiwanese, the fact that their countries are committed to democratic values, which their erstwhile “big brother” countries reject only serves to heighten their desire to define their separate sense of peoplehood. Both of the larger brothers consider their counterpart’s independence to be a grave offense they cannot abide.

People in Taiwan and China are absolutely paying attention to what’s happening between Russia and Ukraine. Furthermore, the growing ties between Moscow and Beijing—please note the warm meeting between their leaders at the Winter Olympics, hosted by China—not to mention the shared belief that a great power should be able to dominate within a self-defined sphere of influence, offer Putin support for his actions that could counteract potential punishment imposed by the West.

Ultimately, the lies Putin enumerated mask an even more profound truth, one that has nothing to do with an argument about the legitimacy of a particular national identity. Even if Russians and Ukrainians had been “one people” a thousand years ago, or even a thousand days ago, who cares? Things transform in an instant.

DECLARATION(S) OF INDEPENDENCE

Prior to the American Revolution, most of those who were allowed to participate in the political life of the American colonies, as well as their wives and children, defined themselves as English. Nevertheless, they maintained a “right,” as the Founders argued in the Declaration of Independence, to change their minds. Sometimes, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.” Ukrainians, who want to look west rather than north, and who want democracy rather than autocracy, have made the same judgment regarding Russia.

We know what the Russian president is, and what he wants. This is a man who says the quiet part out loud. He actually lamented the collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” He added that the event represented not the liberation of tens of millions but instead “a genuine tragedy.” Why? Because “tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.”

The borders of Russia should apparently encompass everywhere Russian people live—with the caveat that Putin himself defines who is Russian. It’s up to no one else other than the self-proclaimed father of the Russian people, the bridegroom to Mother Russia, who will gather together once again all his wayward children, including the ones who ran away from home and never want to go back. Please note his foreign minister’s characterization of the countries once under the sway of the Soviets as “territories orphaned by the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the Soviet Union.” As for Ukraine specifically, the head of Vlad’s national security council proclaimed in November that it was a “protectorate” of Moscow.

The type of “we’re all one people” ethno-nationalist claptrap Putin has been spewing on Ukraine is at least an echo, even if not a direct parallel, of the language Adolf Hitler used in 1938 to justify the Anschluss that forcibly joined Austria to Nazi Germany and to justify taking the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia, as well as aggressive action toward Poland. In all these cases, Hitler claimed that he was simply reuniting people who shared German ancestry—German blood. To clarify, Putin is talking more about shared Russian culture than blood ties, and there’s no evidence he is bent on genocide or world domination.

Nevertheless, a great power committing this kind of aggression—now threatening to commit even more of it—and using this kind of tribal nationalism as a pretext, is something that Europe has not seen for almost a century. It cannot be allowed to succeed, and thankfully President Biden and our European allies are taking steps to make sure that it doesn’t.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Jen Psaki tears into Josh Hawley for ‘parroting Russian talking points’

It would be nice if we could clone White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki thousands of times and send the newly minted Psaki Corps out to every drunk uncle and horse paste-chugging churl in the U.S., but we don’t have that technology. (Plus it might be unethical or something.)

But while the idea of a rhetorically well-armed Psaki Corps may be a nonstarter (and it would have been nice if someone had apprised me of the ethical conundrums before I designed the uniforms), we’re fortunate to have the Psaki we have. She’s more than a match for Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who has been half-digesting and fully regurgitating Russian propaganda over the past several days.

After Hawley noted that maybe we should just give Putin what he wants in his increasingly aggressive campaign against Ukraine—a rhetorical dereliction that naturally plays right into Putin’s hands—Psaki let loose the dogs of war.

Watch:

Jen Psaki slams Josh Hawley and the rest of the Republicans in Congress who have been "parroting Russian talking points" pic.twitter.com/ZPvlzCRXer

— Brad Beauregard Jr 🇺🇸 (@BradBeauregardJ) February 2, 2022

Transcript!

REPORTER: “Sen. Hawley put out a statement today saying that the president should take NATO membership off the table for Ukraine, that it wasn’t in U.S. interests to do that. Do you think that sort of rhetoric or that sort of position by a U.S. senator right now is helpful in this showdown between the West and Russia?”

PSAKI: “Well, if you are digesting Russian misinformation and parroting Russian talking points, you are not aligned with longstanding, bipartisan American values, which is to stand up for the sovereignty of countries, like Ukraine but others. Their right to choose their own alliances, and also to stand against, very clearly, the efforts or attempts or potential attempts by any country to invade and take territory of another country. That applies to Sen. Hawley, but it also applies to others who may be parroting the talking points of Russian propagandist leaders.”

It’s unclear exactly why Hawley suddenly decided to take the murderous thug Putin’s side over that of our natural ally, but it hasn’t gone over all that well, even among members of his own party.

In response to Hawley’s letter, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of the few Republicans left in Congress who actually cares about representative democracy, tweeted this:

I hate to be so personal, but Hawley is one of the worst human beings, and a self egrandizing con artist. When Trump goes down I certainly hope this evil will be layed in the open for all to see, and be ashamed of. https://t.co/3LirLgeuMz

— Adam Kinzinger (@AdamKinzinger) February 2, 2022

For the nontweeters:

“I hate to be so personal, but Hawley is one of the worst human beings, and a self [aggrandizing] con artist. When Trump goes down I certainly hope this evil will be [laid] in the open for all to see, and be ashamed of.”

When Hawley was informed of Kinzinger’s tweet, he laughed and responded, “Weird.” Kinzinger was ready for that one.

It is weird. We are in weird times. Like having a Senator more interested in pleasing Tucker and playing to worst instincts than leading. Denying Jan 6th truth despite fomenting it, among other things. https://t.co/Uovrh172dh

— Adam Kinzinger (@AdamKinzinger) February 2, 2022

“It is weird.  We are in weird times. Like having a Senator more interested in pleasing Tucker and playing to worst instincts than leading. Denying Jan 6th truth despite fomenting it, among other things.”

Yeah, weird indeed to see Republicans, who are generally all-in on unnecessary wars, do their level best to undermine our best efforts to prevent this one. I lost track of the number of times during the 2003 runup to the Iraq disaster that Republicans compared antiwar peeps (like me, or Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas) to notorious World War II appeaser Neville Chamberlain—all because we thought it might be foolish to invade a country for no clear reason. Well, now we have every reason in the world to project power, unity, and strength in defense of liberal democracy, and suddenly Republicans have cold feet. Unfortunately, this attempt to chip away at our united front can only embolden Putin, who wants nothing more than for the West to drop its longstanding commitment to democracy so he can ooze into the gaps.

Hawley, who attended both Stanford and Yale, must surely know that. Just as he surely knew there were no credible reports of voter fraud prior to the Jan. 6 riot that he egged on.

But Hawley has likely been watching Tucker Carlson, who’s making inroads with his viewers when it comes to supporting Putin against our friendly democratic ally.

That’s right: Carlson’s pro-autocratic bleating is now apparently informing the decisions of Republican politicians, who are distancing themselves from Ukraine as much as possible.

Axios:

Republicans running in high-profile primary races aren't racing to defend Ukraine against a possible Russian invasion. They're settling on a different line of attack: Blame Biden, not Putin.

What's happening: Leery of the base, they are avoiding — and in some cases, rejecting — the tough-on-Russia rhetoric that once defined the Republican Party. GOP operatives working in 2022 primary races tell Axios they worry they'll alienate the base if they push to commit American resources to Ukraine or deploy U.S. troops to eastern Europe.

...

The big picture: Republican hopefuls who vow not to assist in any potential conflict in Ukraine are reflecting — and fanning — anti-interventionist sentiments in the modern GOP.

Hmm. Who’s like Neville Chamberlain now? 

Of course, it helps not to elect a bellowing, kompromat-encrusted lout to the highest office in the land if you’re hoping to protect democracy and human rights around the globe. As Axios notes, frustration with our long, Republican-initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as “former President Donald Trump's warmer posture toward Russia,” have helped nudge the GOP in this new direction.

That said, chances are Hawley is just playing politics here. If Biden had said we were going to bar Ukraine from NATO, Hawley would probably be calling for his impeachment this morning. The dude sways in whatever direction the foul Mordor winds blow.

But this isn’t a joke. We’re talking about the fate of a fragile democratic state with 44 million souls yearning to stay free. Americans once cared about such things, and many of us still do.

Then again, Josh Hawley isn’t much of an American, is he?

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say, “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT,” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE