Maine Sen. Susan Collins is not having a good week. All eyes are on her over impeachment, where she's alternately trying to pretend she's all responsible for getting witnesses for the Senate trial (the presence of which has not been confirmed) while at the same time blowing off the new evidence provided by Rudolph Giuliani associate Lev Parnas.
That's all D.C. stuff, though, so what are people talking about in Maine, where Collins has had such an easy political life? Well, they're talking about how she lied to a constituent about taking money from the Sackler family, and has refused to return her campaign donations from Eli Lilly. Back in 2007, she got $2,300 from Jonathan Sackler, former vice president and son of the former head of Purdue Pharmaceuticals. That was just a few months before Purdue had to pay $600 million in fines for misleading regulators, doctors, and patients about the addictive nature of OxyContin. The Maine Beacon, a project of the Maine People's Alliance, reports "Eli Lilly’s PAC has given Collins at least $5,000 and their lobbyist, Leigh Ann Pusey, gave the maximum donation of $2,700 to Collins in 2018. She also gave at least $2,000 to Collins’ political action committee, 'Dirigo PAC.'" Back in
Here’s what she told a constituent, Maine's People Alliance co-director Amy Halsted, about the Sackler donation: "That's not true. That's not true. So where did you hear that? From the Sacklers? No, I have not. […] Never. No, no. So, I think you should check your sources." Never in this election cycle, perhaps? Seems like it would be smart of Collins to be doing some opposition research on herself this time around, so she can be prepared next time she has to answer a tricky question. Which, frankly, isn't very often since she refuses to have town hall meetings with constituents.
Collins also told Halsted that she would not be returning any money from the pharmaceutical companies that have made Maine one of the top 10 states for opioid overdose deaths. She won't return the money, nor will she donate it to charity. She's above all that. "I'm not influenced by the contributions that my campaign receives," she said.
Not at all. She's already in their pocket—because she is just another extremist Republican.
The group Republicans for the Rule of Law, a group you may remember produced a video of former conservative prosecutors explaining how and why Donald Trump needed to be impeached for breaking the law, has released another video. This time, in the wake of the news that former President Clinton investigator Ken Starr is joining Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team, Republicans for the Rule of Law seems to want to remind Ken Starr of his own legal positions on obstruction of justice.
They have been releasing excerpts of video from Starr’s 1998 testimony to Congress, where he outlined his belief that then President Bill Clinton had obstructed justice as Starr investigated Clinton’s extramarital affair.
In one of the clips, Starr explains that the “invocation of privileges” by the Clinton White House was indicative of its unwillingness to comply with the legal investigation being conducted. In the clip, with a younger, beer-loving future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sitting behind him, independent counsel Starr tells members of Congress that he considers unmeritorious, frivolous uses of presidential privilege to be “abuses” of the power of the office. But seemingly the only job of the Trump White House the past couple of years is stopping people from testifying or talking with investigators.
The second clip is even more on the nose. In it Starr tells Congress that the Clinton White House has misused its powers of privilege to impede his investigation, and in so doing had “delayed and impeded the investigation.”
As we head into Donald Trump's impeachment trial next week, it's worth remembering this promise from Moscow Mitch McConnell:
"I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There's not anything judicial about it. […] The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I'm not impartial about this at all."
On Thursday, McConnell stood with his hand in the air in front of Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts and took the oath "I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God."
When he took that oath, when he signed his name to the book proclaiming that oath, he became a perjurer. It's not just crazy liberal bloggers saying so. Former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter says so, too.
Donald Trump is a nervous, seething wreck. According to The New York Times, Trump “has become increasingly unnerved by the prospect of a Senate trial, even one in which his Republican allies are widely expected to acquit him. And by the few times the president did anything in public on Thursday, it was clear he was looking for ways to do something about it.” Where “do something about it” usually means complain, but occasionally means trying to butter up a potentially wobbly Republican senator.
Trump first delayed an event touting his efforts on behalf of prayer in schools, keeping students waiting for an hour while the senators signed their oath for the impeachment trial. Once he took reporters’ questions, he burst out in resentment, whining about how his trade deals (which he seriously exaggerated) are “the second story to a total hoax” and “everybody knows that” the impeachment is a hoax (hoax hoax hoax hoax). House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff is, he said, “corrupt,” because, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently noted, every insult Trump deals is projection.
After talking to reporters, Trump turned to Twitter, shout-tweeting “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!” Then he started sucking up to Sen. Lamar Alexander, who’s retiring and has suggested he might vote to include witnesses in the impeachment trial. Then, The Times reports, he met with aides, again focusing heavily on impeachment.
Senate Republicans are determined to help Trump out every way they can, yet he’s still freaking out. Seems like all his claims that “everybody knows” impeachment is a “hoax” might be covering up some vague understanding that people know there’s a there there.
As reporters grilled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week about whether she felt pressured to send over the articles of impeachment to the Senate, she laughed it off. “Absolutely total cooperation,” Pelosi offered, after 24 hours in which several Senate Democrats reversed themselves on challenging her strategy. “We have 1,000 flowers blossoming beautifully in our caucus.”
But later that morning when Pelosi announced she would finally transmit the articles, Capitol Hill reporters were quick to declare her the loser in her face-off with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She hadn't extracted a single promise from McConnell on rules for the Senate trial. Some reporters were still crowing about it this week. In a hot take for CNN, Chris Cillizza wrote, "Pelosi's goal was simple: To try to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's hand. Pelosi wanted to use her possession of the articles of impeachment to yield promises and/or compromises from McConnell—most notably on the issue of witnesses being allowed to be called in the Senate trial. Except that McConnell wasn't playing ball."
Genius. McConnell triumphs again! Only that was never Pelosi's main goal. She knew McConnell wasn't going to let her dictate the terms of the Senate trial any more than she would have let him tell her how to run the House impeachment. What Pelosi really wanted was to give the impeachment articles enough room to breathe that McConnell couldn't sweep them under the rug and out of public consciousness before people had even awoken to the New Year.
Cillizza memorialized his insights on Tuesday. Fast forward two days and the Senate GOP caucus is cracking under the weight of new revelations further enmeshing Trump in the Ukraine scandal. Not only did the Government Accountability Office determine the Trump administration broke the law by freezing Ukraine funding, an explosive interview of indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas put Trump at the center of the imbroglio. Add those two revelations to the growing minefield of trouble spots for Senate Republicans—such as John Bolton's willingness to testify—and Pelosi's garden is beginning to bear fruit.
It's still unclear whether the Senate trial (set to begin next Tuesday) will end up including witnesses and documents, but what is undoubtedly true is that Pelosi's gambit has put the GOP caucus between a rock and a hard place. McConnell has put new restrictions on press access during the trial in order to insulate his members from pesky questioning. The White House was pushing for dismissal but the votes weren't there because vulnerable Republicans needed a trial with at least some semblance of decorum. But now those very same GOP lawmakers are desperately trying to thread the needle of staying loyal to Trump while still managing to win reelection. It isn't pretty. Just look at someone like Maine Sen. Susan Collins, whose approval ratings have dropped 36 points since 2015 from 78% to 42% now, according to Morning Consult's latest polling. She's now the most unpopular senator in America.
If Pelosi had done as everyone expected and immediately transmitted the articles, McConnell would have dispensed with them in the first couple weeks of 2020 and the Republican caucus would be breathing a sigh of relief as they eyed November. Instead, we've got fresh reporting, Bolton, Parnas, the GAO, and polling showing that more than 70% of Americans and battleground state voters alike want a fair Senate trial with witnesses and documents.
Pelosi was asked Thursday for a response to Senate Republicans who say they shouldn't have to consider new evidence such as Parnas' allegations because it wasn’t included in the House investigation. "They're afraid of the truth," Pelosi offered without missing a beat.
They sure are. And none of them are enjoying Pelosi's green thumb.
Pelosi on Senate Republicans not wanting witnesses during the impeachment trial: "They're afraid of the truth." pic.twitter.com/FPulKwsgUf
Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts vulnerably revealed to her critics and die-hard fans alike that she is bald on Thursday, after suffering a fierce battle with alopecia that cost her her cherished crown. "This is my official public revealing," she began in an exclusive interview with The Root. "I've only been bald in the privacy of my home and in the company of close friends." The congresswoman is known publicly for being one-fourth of the House’s no-nonsense, liberal group of newcomers dubbed The Squad alongside Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib.
When Pressley spoke with the black news and culture site, she talked about a black hair journey that was as much personal as it was political. She said she often wore wigs and extensions until about four or five years ago, when she decided to merge her own hair with extensions and create a waist-length style dubbed Senegalese twists. "And what happened is that, I got these Senegalese twists and I feel like I met myself fully for the first time," the congresswoman said. "You know, I sort of looked in the mirror and I said, 'oh, there I am,' and it felt good."
While assuming her hair would be interpreted as a political statement of militancy, Pressley said it instead became an intentional statement of cultural pride. "What I was not prepared for was the glorious gift and blessing of the acceptance and the community and the affirmation," she said. "Now I walk into rooms and little girls are wearing T-shirts that say 'my congresswoman wears braids.’"
So when missing patches morphed into “sinkfuls of hair” last fall, she said she would look in the mirror and increasingly see someone who felt like a stranger. "I did not want to go to sleep because I did not want the morning to come where I would remove this bonnet and my wrap and be met with more hair in the sink," she said. Pressley lost the last of her hair in December, on “impeachment eve.”
"I was completely bald ... and in a matter of hours, was going to have to walk into the floor, the House Chamber, House of Representatives, and cast a vote in support of articles of impeachment," she said, adding that she "didn't have the luxury of mourning what felt like the loss of a limb." After casting her vote, Pressley left as soon as she could and “hid in a bathroom stall.”
"I felt naked, exposed, vulnerable. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed,” she said. “I felt betrayed, and then I also felt that I was participating in a cultural betrayal because of all the little girls who write me letters, who come up to me, who take selfies with me #twistnation." Pressley said she felt like she owed them an explanation, and even though her husband assured her she did not, she knew she would go public with her hair journey at some point.
"The reality is that I'm black, and I'm a black woman, and I'm a black woman in politics, and everything I do is political," she said. Reminded of the India Arie song “I Am Not My Hair,” Pressley said she still wants her hair and hopes that going public will help her in her journey. "I am ready now because I want to be freed from the secret, and the shame that that secret carries with it," she said, "and because I'm not here just to occupy space, I'm here to create it."
As someone who is quick to hide thin edges and other hair imperfections with no plans of changing, I can appreciate Pressley’s unveiling as pure, unadulterated courage in a society that seldom favors black women who don’t have straight or wavy hair. Even amongst black people, the perception of black hair is complicated. As I wrote in September for Honeycomb Moms, H&M’s feature of a black child model amongst other models with intentionally messy hair led to the company being heavily scrutinized and deemed culturally unaware.
Ezinne Kwubiri, a Howard University alumna and H&M’s head of diversity and inclusion, however, called out those critics in an Instagram post defending the child. “She looks like just about everyone of the little girls her age that surround me in my neighborhood and are in my home for parties and sleepovers,” Kwubiri said. “I love that H&M is advocating to let children be children and not force them to subscribe to grown up programmed ideas of how beauty and confidence should be displayed.”
To some, hair is a crown of glory meant to be revered when long and flowing and tamed when short and kinky. To others, it is an expression of beauty, standing tall and proud in its natural state, and to some, still, it’s just hair. But regardless of how we differ in our perceptions of black hair, Pressley revealed something deeply personal and made herself vulnerable in the process. I hope we can all see her as beautiful.
Republican senators caught amid a battery of fires engulfing the White House are frantically searching for a way out. Between the Government Accountability Office report determining the Trump administration broke the law by withholding security assistance from Ukraine to the blockbuster Rachel Maddow interview of indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, vulnerable members of the GOP caucus are trying to claw their way to safety on the fly. No one solution has permeated the caucus, just a scattershot bid for survival. It's an impossible task when Republican lawmakers long ago decided their path to enduring power was to back Donald Trump and all his corruption come hell or high water.
Turns out hell was their fate as the sun arose on the morning they would take their oaths to "do impartial justice" in the impeachment trial of the 45th president of the United States. The night before, Parnas, who desperately wants to testify before Congress, gave his firsthand account of the criminal enterprise Trump has been running from the Oval Office. "President Trump knew exactly what was going on," Parnas told Maddow. "He was aware of all of my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president."
Yes, Parnas has been criminally indicted and his account must be vetted. But that's the whole point—his account must be vetted. Parnas has too many receipts in the way of texts and handwritten notes not to be taken seriously, which is exactly why GOP senators are fumbling about looking for refuge from the facts—many facts. In fact, they want refuge from all the facts, including Parnas, the conclusions of the nonpartisan GAO, the potential testimony of John Bolton, the recently reported emails directly implicating Trump and his top deputies in the scandal, not to mention all the other evidence unearthed by the House inquiry.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins is trying to run a misdirection on the Parnas revelations, questioning why the House Intelligence Committee didn't address the very evidence it subpoenaed last October but didn't receive until two days ago. "Doesn't that suggest that the House did an incomplete job, then?" Collins offered. No, it does not. The materials had been seized by the FBI and unavailable during the House inquiry, so Democrats pressed forward with what was available to them.
For his part, Texas Sen. John Cornyn is trying to keep the illegality of withholding aid to Ukraine from reaching Trump by compartmentalizing it. “It’s a civil matter, it’s not a criminal matter... It’s not directed at the president, it’s the Office of Management and Budget,“ Cornyn told reporters of the GAO report. “The GAO report identifies the OMB, not the president,” he adds. Oh, okay, so how about all those emails showing that Trump ordered the freeze?
And Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, already facing an uphill climb in her reelection bid, has clearly concluded there's simply no way to deal in facts and acquit Trump. Therefore, it's time to start demonizing the press, just like Trump does. When asked by CNN's Manu Raju if the Senate should consider new evidence in Trump's impeachment trial, McSally disparaged Raju.
"Manu, you’re a liberal hack—I’m not talking to you," she said as she brushed past him and into a hearing room. McSally was so proud of herself, she tweeted out the video from her own account with the words, "You are," as in a liberal hack, in case anyone missed it the first time. Classy.
In short, Republicans are all searching for the exits as Trump's five-alarm fire of corruption rages on, but no one knows exactly where they are and who will survive.
Sen. Susan Collins has never really had to face hard scrutiny in her reelection campaigns, and boy does it show. The lies and obfuscations that roll so easily off the tongues of her fellow Republicans sound absolutely idiotic, naive, and ham-handed coming from her. Consider her reaction to the bombshell revelations from Ukraine plot co-conspirator Lev Parnas Wednesday.
Asked about the documents handed over to the House on Tuesday, Collins decided to attack House investigators. "I wonder why the House did not put that into the record and it's only now being revealed," Collins said. When informed that the House only got those documents this week, Collins sniffed "Doesn't that suggest that the House did an incomplete job, then?"
So she's either a partisan hack or an idiot who hasn't paid any attention to the past several months to any of this process, and the fact that the Trump administration completely stonewalled the investigations. So the Parnas documents can be dismissed, and don't convince her that the Senate needs to have a real trial, gather new evidence, and hear from witnesses. What a far cry from the last impeachment!
Like her appearance on Meet the Press in January 1999. "As one who has advocated allowing them to call unlimited number of witnesses, I think it would be helpful for me to do my job of searching for the truth to hear firsthand from witnesses." And in a press conference that same month: "I need witnesses and further evidence to guide me to the right destination, to get to the truth."
Yeah, I'm going to go with partisan hack. Though that doesn't preclude idiot.
Donald Trump is just dying to have his impeachment trial be a D.C. mash up of COPS and Jersey Shore, but apparently some sanity crept into the script he's been preparing and his gaffe-a-minute personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani didn't make the cut.
Instead, Trump's defense team will mainly include White House counsel Pat Cipollone as his chief advocate, another Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow, and Cipollone's deputy Pat Philbin, an alum of George W. Bush's White House.
Politico reports that Cipollone is "a well-respected litigator within conservative circles"—never mind that he's put his name on a series of legally unsound, garbage opinions that have flowed from the White House counsel's office under his direction. But none of that really matters to Trump. The biggest problem is that Cipollone might be a ratings dud.
Politico reports that the decision to make Cipollone Trump's front man is "the biggest gamble."
"I don’t know how much TV Pat has done,” a former administration official said. Yikes ... red alert, red alert!
“The president is very attuned to how people perform on TV,” a senior administration official said. “He knows he will be acquitted, but is itching to get his side of the story told under oath and in front of the world. He’s itching to have a robust defense be the best offense.”
Whether Cipollone turns in a good performance surely won't be a mystery, as Trump will be following along and likely tweeting in real time. If Cipollone is bombing, Trump will be the first to let the world know that he's never even met that man.
No wonder Donald Trump wants the Senate to quickly short-circuit his impeachment trial: New evidence is constantly coming out about his campaign to extort Ukraine into helping him in the 2020 election. Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee released documents from Lev Parnas, the Rudy Giuliani associate who’s already been indicted for funneling foreign money to political campaigns, and they contain bombshell after bombshell. Coming as the House prepares to send the impeachment articles to the Senate, this puts additional pressure on wobbly Republicans to vote to call witnesses in the trial—and it’s information that would not have been out in time for a trial if Speaker Nancy Pelosi hadn’t held the articles since December.
The newly released documents include a letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky making it very clear that he’s working for Donald Trump, not the United States government—literally “I am private counsel to President Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States”—before asking for a meeting with Zelensky in very interesting language. “I have a more specific request. In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you.” With Trump’s knowledge and consent.
They include Giuliani promising to revive a visa for former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin that had been turned down due to his corruption, with Giuliani specifically telling Parnas that “I have no 1 in it.” (Shokin did not end up receiving a visa.)
Parnas also took handwritten notes saying “Get Zalensky to Annouce that the Biden case will be Investigated,” of which former top government lawyers Neal Katyal and Joshua Geltzer write that it shows that “the real goal here” was “not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of a leading political rival, Joe Biden.” Actual investigations, they point out, happen in secret.
All of these documents are bombshells because they confirm things we already knew, things that are implicit in the White House summary of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky but that Republicans have claimed were innocent or somehow unproven. That’s huge. But Parnas also turned over documents that reveal something new: As Parnas was in contact with Giuliani and working to get Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch removed from her post in Ukraine, another of his associates apparently had her under surveillance. Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut, told Parnas he was in touch with a “private security team” and that, at one point, “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off.” At another point, “They will let me know when she’s on the move.”
”They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” Hyde even wrote. “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money . . . what I was told.” In other words, you don’t have to get very many steps removed from Trump himself before people involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine into trashing Trump’s political opponents were actually suggesting violence against a United States government official.
And if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had his way, the Senate would already have acquitted Trump in a speedy trial with no witnesses. If he has his way, the Senate will still acquit Trump in a speedy trial with no witnesses, even with this information available and former national security adviser John Bolton having said he would testify under subpoena. It’s not just Donald Trump. The Republican Party is a corrupt enterprise throughout its leadership.