Yovanovitch laments ‘amoral’ and visionless state of the State Department at award ceremony

In her first public comments since the impeachment hearings, retired Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch told students at Georgetown University Wednesday that her former employer is currently in a shambles. “Right now, the State Department is in trouble,” she said in an acceptance speech for the Trainor Award, celebrating her decades-long work as a U.S. diplomat. “Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership.”

Yovanovitch suggested the department's current emphasis on sizing up monetary contributions country by country is both shortsighted and counterproductive to the nation's long-term foreign policy goals. “It’s not about a handout for foreign friends; it’s about enlightened self-interest,” she explained. “For example, it’s hard to see how cutting funds to the World Health Organization in the middle of the coronavirus crisis keeps Americans safer.” Unfortunately, this is the type of concept that requires an explanation under the Trump-era leadership of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Yovanovitch also said some of the current shortcomings were an outgrowth of the "hollowing out" of the department internally, in terms of expertise, institutional knowledge, and personnel. "The policy process has been replaced by the decisions emanating from the top with little discussion," Yovanovitch observed. "Vacancies at all levels go unfilled and officers are increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policy, even behind closed doors."

The veteran diplomat also warned that America's current trajectory could leave us isolated as our allies find "more reliable partners.”

“To be blunt: An amoral, keep-'em-guessing foreign policy that substitutes threats, fear and confusion for trust cannot work over the long haul, especially in our social media-savvy, interconnected world," Yovanovitch said. "At some point, the once-unthinkable will become the soon-inevitable: that our allies, who have as much right to act in their own self-interest as we do, will seek out more reliable partners, partners whose interests might not align well with ours."

As dire as her prognosis was, she still chooses to be positive about the future of U.S. diplomacy. "Some people say I'm too optimistic, and that may be, but throwing up our hands is a self-fulfilling prophecy," she said. "In these trying times, optimism is no longer a default setting for many of us—it's a choice."

What a testament to Yovanovitch’s strength of character after what Donald Trump and his henchmen put her through. Brava! 

Trump brags that he’s all about getting revenge on those who failed to ‘kill the king’

Every day of the Senate trial, Adam Schiff made the cases that Donald Trump is not a king. He’s not free to use the weaponry of the state as his personal tool, and not exempt from the consequences of his actions. He’s a citizen, constrained by law like the rest of us.

But of course, Republicans disagreed. And on Saturday morning Donald Trump made it clear that not only does he consider himself a king, he intends to make the remainder of his rule all about “grievance, persecution and resentment.”

Trump based his morning tweets on a two-week old article from The New York Times which looked at Trump’s post-impeachment actions. Susan Collins may have claimed that Trump was going to be chastened by the hearings, impeachment,  and trial.

And Trump has made it clear that he did learn something from the whole process. He learned that he can get away with anything — absolutely anything — without being concerned that Republicans will hold him accountable.

Following the impeachment, Trump has fired those who testified against him like Lt. Col. Vindman and Gordon Sondland. He’s taken petty vengeance on people like Vindman’s twin bother for having the bad taste of being related to someone on Trump’s enemies list. He’s held a White House session of self-congratulation in which he pointedly left out even most of the Republicans who voted to acquit over their failure to be sufficiently loyal. He’s continued hollowing out agencies across the government. He made it clear that he did send Giuliani to Ukraine to mine for political turds, and he told Geraldo Rivera that the way he will deal with phone calls to foreign leaders in the future is by conducting them in secret with no one listening in.

In one sense Trump’s mentality post-impeachment is that of the bunker. He’s been even more suspicious, more dismissive of the idea that anyone else has an opinion worth listening to, more determined to surround himself with a handful of only the most loyal, most protective staff (Welcome back, Hope Hicks!).

But if Trump is suspicious and angry down there in the gold bunker, he’s also feeling like he now has the space to revenge himself on anyone and everyone. And, of course, he’s ramped up his use of the Justice Department—and primary tool William Barr—to protect his friends, punish his enemies, and defy the whole concept of rule of law.

Trump has not just drawn a hard connection between himself and the state, he used his morning tweets to select a quote from the Times article that was surely meant to be a criticism.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, “you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr.Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.” 

Trump added a “witch hunt!” claim to this statement, making it clear that as he was reading this section, he was nodding along. King, yes, Persecution, certainly. Resentment, and how.

The series of revelations that spilled in the last three days showing that not only was Barr putting pillows in place to protect Trump’s associates from facing consequences of their crimes, but building a whole team designed to second-guess and undermine veteran prosecutors shows how far down the fascism path Trump is already gone. Trump has already embraced “jokes” about naming himself president for life. Now he’s putting out tweets in which he’s the king.

And his rabble is applauding.

Susan Collins is so concerned about Trump that she’s going to make a sternly worded phone call

The White House better be prepared. It’s going to get a sternly worded phone call from Sen. Susan Collins over the impeached president’s interference in the sentencing of Donald Trump’s buddy Roger Stone after his conviction in federal court. She told reporters that Wednesday, saying that Trump should "play no role whatsoever when it comes to sentencing recommendations" and that he "should not have commented" and that she wished he "would not tweet." No word on whether she's also going to talk about the tweeting on the phone call. But boy, that's sure going to strike terror in Trump's heart.

She also has questions for Attorney General William Barr, she says, but she's not sure if there should be any hearings yet over Trump and Barr turning the Department of Justice into Trump's defense counsel. She wouldn't want to be hasty. Still, a sternly worded phone call might be happening. I'm sure she really wishes it would help. But don't worry, she says, about Trump being "emboldened" by being let off the hook by her and her Republican pals.

Her time's up. Please give $1 to help Democrats in each of these crucial Senate races, but especially the one in Maine!

He wasn't acting out because he knows now that there are no limits to his power, now that the Senate will let him do literally anything. It's just him acting like a toddler, she says. He "often acts in an impulsive manner," she explained in a USA Today interview. "I think the president was angered by impeachment and that is reflected in the personnel choices he made," she said. Because that makes it so much better, the fact that he's now a 4-year-old on speed, and it had absolutely nothing to do with her.

No, she's not responsible at all for his behavior now. She was doing her solemn duty and certainly, she told the Bangor Daily News, if the president had committed "treason or bribery," she would definitely have voted to impeach. The House, however, called Trump's treason and bribery in withholding aid to Ukraine in order to force that country to interfere in the presidential election on his behalf "maladministration." So they didn't meet her bar.

But boy, Trump, she better not catch you doing this again, or you'll be in big trouble.

Susan Collins really doesn’t want to talk about what lessons Trump learned in impeachment anymore

Following the Tuesday Night Massacre, which happened after last week's revenge binge from impeached president Donald Trump, intrepid CNN reporter Manu Raju caught up with Sen. Susan Collins to see what she's thinking about it all. She clearly did not appreciate the fact that Raju remembered what she said last week. The part about "I believe that the president has learned from this case," which she downgraded to "hopes" after Trump point blank said there was no lesson to be learned because "it was a perfect call."

Fast forward a week, and she really wants to be done talking about it. Asked by Raju if, after the actions Trump has taken, she still thinks there's "any lessons he heard from being impeached," she snapped. "I don't know what actions you're referring to. I've made very clear that I don't think anyone should be retaliated against." Then she launched into lecturing Raju: "That has nothing to do with the basis by which I voted to acquit the president, as I made very clear to you, Manu, on numerous occasions because his conduct, while wrong, did not meet the high bar established in the constitution for the immediate ouster of a duly elected president." Which had absolutely nothing to do with the question at all.

Collins has chosen her side, and Maine knows it. Please give $1 to help Democrats in each of these crucial Senate races, but especially the one in Maine!

Because she doesn't want to answer the question. She didn't want to answer it later, either, when she continued to insist that she bore no responsibility at all for Trump being totally unfettered now. Her vote against impeaching Trump, she told reporters, "wasn't based on predicting his future behavior." Which is a hell of a cop-out for the person who once said impeaching him would be enough to make him curb his future behavior.

Collins is completely abdicating responsibility for both her past and her future failures to do her goddamned most essential job of being a check on the president. What she does think is her job is not obvious (besides granting defense contracts to companies that in turn contribute tens of thousands of dollars to her reelection campaign).

Watch: 

catch that chyron: "GOP Sen. Collins Won't Say If Trump Learned Any Lessons After Acquittal." of course, last week she excused her vote by saying he did learn from impeachment & would be more cautious.....#mesen #mepolitics pic.twitter.com/QMTKd7g2TJ

— Lauren Passalacqua (@laurenvpass) February 12, 2020

MR: In light of the president's actions, do you think there's any lessons he heard from being impeached?

SC: I don't know what actions you're referring to. I've made very clear that I don't think anyone should be retaliated against. That has nothing to do with the basis by which I voted to acquit the president, as I made very clear to you, Manu, on numerous occasions because his conduct, while wrong, did not meet the high bar established in the constitution for the immediate ouster of a duly elected president. And that was the rationale for my vote to acquit him. That is the reason why….

MR: Do you think he learned any lessons?

SC: … In all the years that … since George Washington was inaugurated as our first president that we have never removed a duly elected president from office. It's because the conduct alleged should be so dangerous to our country and so egregious and proven by the House managers that the person should not remain in office one moment more. That was the standard established by the House managers. It was the standard that I used in acquitting President Clinton and that's the reason for my vote and I don't know why you're equating the two.

MR: Well you said the president learned his lesson. Do you think he learned any lessons?

[Collins’ office door slams shut.]

The House must demand Barr testify about Stone intervention—and be prepared to force his compliance

This cannot go on. Three top prosecutors (which may turn into four) in the Roger Stone case have now withdrawn after Attorney General William Barr's Department of Justice ordered them to revise their guideline-based recommendations on Stone's sentencing. This happened the morning after Donald Trump tweeted that he "cannot allow" the prosecutors' recommended sentencing of Stone, an ally and key stonewaller in the Robert Mueller investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russian government hacking in the 2016 elections.

It is time to haul Barr to the House to explain himself. Immediately. If he refuses a subpoena, then inherent contempt must be used to force his compliance. The House has broad but almost-never-used powers to compel such testimony: This is precisely the dire occasion they were designed for.

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The resignation of three top names from Stone's case signals clearly that the federal prosecutors involved believe Barr has acted with corrupt intent in reaching down to order a reduced sentencing ask. They, too, should be subpoenaed immediately so that they may describe the situation that led to their self-removal. This is an extraordinary situation: Even if a teetering-toward-fascism Republican Party will not so much as pretend at "concern" for Trump and Barr's move, the House can expose it without their assistance.

It must be done. The Department of Justice has within the span of days been turned formally into a tool for "processing" allegations against Trump's political opponents and, now, overriding the sentencing of Trump's criminal allies. Barr will resist, but it must be done regardless.

Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for the inspector general at the Department of Justice to “open an investigation immediately.” That internal review, however, would be obviously insufficient. Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee and lead House manager in Trump's Senate-stifled impeachment trial, sent out an initial statement calling the reported Barr-Trump intervention a "blatant abuse of power" and, coupled with Trump's retaliatory firings, "the gravest threat to the rule of law in America in a generation." But it does not yet threaten subpoenas.

Schiff is correct in his diagnosis—and now the House must once again act. It is not optional; it cannot be danced around. Barr has committed an act of corruption so blatant that prosecutors have resigned rather than carry it out; he must explain himself under oath.

Giuliani and Barr are smoothing out their partnership on Trump’s extortion and slander pipeline

During the impeachment hearings before House committees, Attorney General William Barr repeatedly stated that he knew nothing about Donald Trump’s Ukraine plot. Barr said that, despite Trump informing Ukrainian officials that Barr would be in touch with them, he had not been. Of course, Barr had been in Rome, trying to promote some of the same conspiracy theories, but that was different.

That was also then. Now that the Republican Senate has given Trump a free pass on using his office for extortion and slander, Barr is no longer pretending that he’s not part of the propaganda machine. On Monday he wasn’t quite confirming reports that he and Rudy Giuliani were coordinating on a defamation pipeline. But as of Tuesday, that’s exactly what’s happening.

As The New York Times reports, Barr says that he isn’t treating Giuliani any differently than he treats anyone else, except for when it comes to … pretty much everything. According to Barr, the Justice Department is obligated to “have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information.” That’s nice. That apparently includes information from people under federal investigation, whose associates are already under indictment, and who are passing along information generated by foreign officials noted for their corruption, at least one of whom has already admitted that he simply made this stuff up to please Giuliani and Trump.

But then, why shouldn’t Donald Trump’s personal attorney have a personal pipeline to the attorney general? After all, Trump has already made it clear that he can overrule the federal justice system, and even a unanimous vote of the Supreme Court, whenever he feels like it. That Article II, it’s one bad article.

As an example of just how like everyone else Giuliani is being treated, The Washington Post reports that a special “intake process in the field” has been set up to review information provided by Giuliani. Giuliani will be spared the trouble of actually bringing his claims to the Department of Justice. Instead, intelligence agencies and the department will “scrutinize” Giuliani’s claims about Trump’s political opponents.

If that sounds a lot like Barr saying that he will use the FBI and other resources to conduct the investigations Trump wants and hone the power of the Justice Department for political persecution, it’s because it’s exactly like that. In fact, the DOJ is already on the case, checking out information Giuliani handed to U.S. attorneys in Pittsburgh.

According to Barr, the Giuliani Pipeline was created so “any information coming in about Ukraine could be carefully scrutinized by the department and its intelligence community partners,” which, again, is indistinguishable in any practical sense from William Barr simply announcing that the Department of Justice is now investigating Joe Biden, with Rudy Giuliani acting as a special agent in the field. 

Just wait for Wednesday. We’ll probably get there.

Trump’s targeting of truth tellers is turning the intelligence community into a crowd of cowards

Donald Trump’s removal of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, his brother Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was not a “massacre” in the spirit of what happened with Richard Nixon’s dismissal of special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Because what raised the body count in Nixon’s case was that his own people resigned rather than carry out clearly immoral orders. That’s not a problem for Trump.

The whole story of Donald Trump’s occupation of the White House has been one in which every unit of the government—from the EPA to the DOJ to the State Department—has been systematically cleansed of competency in favor of reflexive obedience. So naturally no one at the White House had a second thought about escorting out a decorated veteran for the crime of speaking the truth, or another veteran for the crime of being related to someone Trump doesn’t like. And just as naturally, Trump had no hesitation in owning these actions.

But what Trump has done so far, may be just a hint of the destruction to come, and what he’s already done to the intelligence agencies represents a looming threat from both inside and outside the nation.

Every time Trump plumbs new depths of odiousness, his staff makes a scramble to create an excuse. On Friday, that excuse was that Vindman wasn’t being let go because he obeyed a congressional subpoena; it was all just part of a “shrinking” of Trump’s already wildly reduced White House staff. 

And every time Trump’s staff constructs one of these pretexts for why he’s not as awful as he seems, Trump rushes forward to make it clear that he so, so is. Just as he continuously blew up the various reasons that Republicans concocted as excuses for Trump’s actions in Ukraine, he couldn’t allow the public to think that he was anything less than a monster in sending away Vindman.

That’s why Trump was on Twitter Saturday morning to make it clear he was sacking the Ukraine expert for being “very insubordinate.” Why Yevgeny Vindman was also shipped off wasn’t clear. Apparently he was insubordinate adjacent. Trump’s advisers surely have an excuse for that one, too.

Of course, both Vindmans are just immigrants in the armed services. As The Washington Post reported last November, Trump’s attitude in that area was godawful on multiple fronts.

“The Trump administration has reversed almost all progress, out loud and with purpose. Their message to immigrant service members is the same as that to Vindman: You are foreign, you are suspect, you cannot belong.”

But if what Trump has done so far seems egregious (because it is), it’s barely a patch on things to come. As The Washington Post reports, Trump has his staff working up the removal of intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson. Atkinson’s involvement was simply that he notified Congress of the existence of a whistleblower complain as required by law

Who watches the watchmen? Not a damned soul, apparently. Or at least no one who is allowed to do anything about it. Like speak.

At the State Department, at the National Security Council, at the CIA, the FBI, the DOJ … everywhere in the government the actions have been the same. Long term non-partisan employees have been forced from their positions and roles that have never in the past been political have been made over in the service of Trump. By long tradition, the CIA director does not attend the State of the Union address to avoid even a symbolic suggestion that the agency acts out of anything but its best interpretation of the information. But Gina Haspel was there on Tuesday night, bouncing up with the best Republican jack-in-the-boxes to applaud every moment of Trump’s partisan attacks and game show stunts.

Even before Trump gets around to sacking Atkinson, the conversion of the intelligence community into another aspect of his campaign machinery is already clear. As Politico reports, the regular briefing of Congress on threats to the nation has been delayed. The reason for that delay: “fears of provoking Trump's ire.”

Even though the purpose of this annual appearance is to outline the biggest threats to the nation in front of the nation, intelligence agencies are now arguing to move the whole hearing behind closed doors. More than that, they want the whole threat overview classified. After all, people don’t need to know what the dangers are; not when the biggest is sitting on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Intelligence agencies don’t want to tell Congress the truth about what is happening in public, because they’re afraid they might say something Trump doesn’t like. Because saying something that Trump doesn’t like can be punished. Even if it’s true.

Especially if it’s true.

The NSC’s top Russia expert was sacked three weeks ago, but was the problem Russia … or was it Iran?

Andrew Peek is the son of a Fox News contributor frequently retweeted by Donald Trump. He formerly worked as an adviser to two Republican senators. Peek was also formerly the senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council—a post he held for less than three months before being escorted out of the White House on Jan. 17 of this year.

An NSC director being hustled out of the White House under guard is very unusual, to say the least. Shortly after he was dismissed, stories indicated that Peek had been under investigation for some time, possibly even before he was asked to step into the role formerly held by Fiona Hill. But none of those stories explained exactly what Peek might have done to merit being marched off the property. 

And three weeks later, no one is talking.

The impression that Fiona Hill made on millions of Americans when she testified in the impeachment hearings against Donald Trump was one of a consummate professional—the epitome of the type of person anyone would want working at high levels of the American government. But Hill was replaced by the overtly political Tim Morrison, and after Morrison came Peek. And after Peek came security officers.

Peek first joined the Trump White House in a role at the State Department, where he worked on Middle East issues, particularly issues related to Iran. According to The Daily Beast, it was new national security adviser and former State Department official Robert O’Brien who selected Peek to come with him to the NSC after O’Brien assumed his new position in September, replacing John Bolton.

But if the investigation into Peek relates to something that happened before he came to the NSC, that leads to an obvious question: Is the subject of that investigation something that happened while Peek was in his role at the State Department? If it is, does that issue also involve O’Brien? Or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?

Days after his departure, multiple sources indicated that Peek was removed for issues related to security, and possibly to an incident that result in the revocation of the clearance to handle classified information necessary for a role at the NSC. Considering the casual way in which the Trump White House has handed out clearance to staff who have absolutely failed to qualify for it, that seems severe. Or, as one expert indicated to TPM in the days after Peek was removed, “It could be a particularly egregious security violation.” Within the State Department and national security community, rumors flew. Whatever the truth behind them, the way Peek left his position definitely raised more than a few eyebrows.

But there is one rumor that has come up repeatedly, in this case expressed by National Iranian American Council organizer Reza Marashi. According to Marashi, “One of Trump's top Iran advisers got suckered into a honey trap, had their laptop/iPhone stolen and hacked before they woke up, and the White House refused to take precautionary measures regarding their security clearance.” While that statement doesn’t name Peek directly, the timing of the events and the subject of Iran would make Peek a possible candidate for the honey-trapped adviser. Other reports have featured Peek as being trapped by Russian honeys.

That one of the Pompeo State Department’s political appointees might have wandered into such a trap seems possible—though it should be noted there is nothing that directly connects Peek to this account other than timing and a lot of pointing fingers.

But if Peek’s removal comes courtesy of his having handed over classified U.S. information to Iran, that would reinforce the idea that the new wave of Trump-approved officials at lower tiers are proving every bit as incompetent as his more visible White House staff. On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Iraqi officials don’t believe that Iranian militias were behind a rocket aimed at an Iraqi base occupied by American forces on Dec. 27.

In response to that attack, Donald Trump ordered the bombing of multiple sites in both Iraq and Syria that were supposedly connected to Iranian-supported militias. In turn, those attacks generated fresh uprisings in Baghdad, including a very visible assault on the huge U.S. embassy compound. And that led directly to a U.S. attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani along with several Iraqi militia leaders. Which generated unrest in both Iraq and Iran, and brought a response that not only injured dozens of American troops stationed in Iraq, but brought about the accidental downing by Iran of a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing hundreds of civilians.

This whole spiral of disasters was set off on U.S. claims that the original attack had come from a specific Shiite militia group with ties to Iran. But Iraqi officials say that the rocket was launched from a Sunni area where militants were supported by the Islamic State. So as the U.S. and Iran began hurling military threats, the big winner may well have been ISIS.

Was Peek—a National Security Council member fresh off the role of Iran expert at the State Department—consulted following the rocket attack? Did he play a role in either the U.S. response on Dec. 27 or the Jan. 3 attack that killed Soleimani? Were U.S. officials particularly on guard over the idea that Iranian officials may have gained access to classified information, and did this contribute to a desire to make a forceful response? Was the whole idea of some impending action on the part of Iran based on the idea that Iranian forces had U.S. information in hand?

None of this is clear.

Why Andrew Peek was removed from White House grounds on Jan. 17 remains unknown, and the latest article from The Daily Beast doesn’t really say anything more than was already broadly acknowledged. But if Peek was the subject of a monthslong security investigation that began before he was named to a critical post at the National Security Council, it certainly seems possible that someone might have expressed some concern before he slid into Fiona Hill’s vacated chair.

Pete has a wall. Bernie has a ceiling. Biden hit the floor. Warren has a path

One would never know it by the post-Iowa media narrative of the Democratic race, but there is a fourth candidate in the top four coming out of Iowa. That candidate finished third, over-performing expectations and beating out the national front-runner. Wow! Who’s that?, you say. She’s a woman, tall and a touch lanky. She’s got a famous dog. Oh … right!

Seriously, the mainstream media counted Elizabeth Warren out before Iowa happened. Then when she claimed one of the three tickets heading out of Iowa, they counted her out again. The only stories I have seen for a solid four days now are about the jostling for first between Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders and then an onslaught of stories perseverating over whether Joe Biden can rise from the dead. Since the mainstream media won’t write a single thing about Warren, I’m going to because, while Warren isn’t getting the post-Iowa boost that Buttigieg and Sanders are, I still think she’s got the best chance of building a coalition that can appeal to the broadest range of voters.

Here’s why: Buttigieg is gaining in New Hampshire and might pull out a first or second place win there. But he’s still nowhere with people of color. He’s got a wall once he hits more diverse states, South Carolina, in particular. Could that change? Perhaps, but we haven’t seen any evidence of that yet and his efforts to broaden his appeal have fallen flat so far. 

Bernie’s theory of the case has always been that he can beat Trump because he will motivate more people to the polls, including an army of youth and other nontraditional voters, to vote for his revolution, as he calls it. He has continually polled strongest among voters under 30 and, to his credit, across a range of demographics. He was well organized in Iowa and his campaign predicted turnout there would rival that of 2008, when Barack Obama drew a whole new generation of voters to the polls. "I will tell you this without a shadow of a doubt,” Sanders said, heading into Iowa, “If there is a large voter turnout—if working people and young people come out in large numbers—we will win and win big." Sanders campaign spokesperson Mike Casca told Politico, “If there's a huge voter turnout, you can turn off your TV—Bernie won.”

Unfortunately for Democrats as a party, turnout was nowhere near ‘08 levels (roughly 240,000 caucusers), rather it was closer to 2016 levels (roughly 170,000 caucusers). The record-level turnout that the Sanders camp hyped doesn’t seem to have materialized. Perhaps to Sanders’ credit, turnout among voters under 30 appears to have increased slightly from 2008 levels. The Sanders camp also put serious energy into increasing participation with nontraditional voters by organizing satellite caucuses, which the campaign argues could still help Sanders edge out Buttigieg in the state delegate equivalent count. But any way you slice it, turnout was underwhelming and perhaps even concerning given the necessity of beating Donald Trump.

What that suggests is that bringing more voters into the fold as Sanders aimed to do isn’t enough. On the other hand, nominating someone who alienates Democrats’ most loyal voting bloc, as Buttigieg seems to, could produce exactly the type of turnout problems in the Rust Belt states that hobbled Hillary Clinton in ’16, not to mention the fact that it would make expanding the map very difficult for Democrats. 

And while Joe Biden on paper seems to be the perfect candidate to hit both of those notes, on the stump he has proven to be uninspiring, which is exactly why he finished fourth in Iowa. Once voters really start paying attention to Biden, he fails to make the conversion. That was true even though both he and Buttigieg had a wide open state for two weeks while Sanders, Warren, and Amy Klobuchar were all stuck in Washington at Trump’s impeachment trial. Buttigieg was able to capitalize on that advantage, Biden wasn’t and it’s telling.

So who, you ask, could put together a coalition that motivates progressives, working class voters, and people of color, while still drawing cross-over votes among never-Trumpers? Warren. While Warren did not dominate hardly any counties across Iowa, her numbers were strong enough among a wide variety of voters and regions of the state that she pulled off a third-place finish. The fact that Warren actually outperformed expectations in Iowa is a story that has been completely ignored. She also remains third in national polling and third in FiveThirtyEight’s 2020 forecast behind Sanders (who got the biggest bump) and Biden for securing a majority of delegates to win the nomination.

Warren still edges out Buttigieg in the forecast, albeit by a single percentage point. As Nate Silver put it, “The case for Warren is that she's in 3rd place, more or less, and the Top 2 candidates aren't that far ahead of the pack and have big vulnerabilities.” All of which is to say, her complete erasure from the political discussion is curious to say the least. But as Democrats continue their quest for a candidate who can beat Trump, they need one that doesn’t turn off voters in any direction while having the fire in their belly for a fight over the long haul. Unless and until voting patterns and polling suggests otherwise, Warren is that person.

Warren’s overall appeal was apparent in two pre-Iowa polls: one showing that given the choice of nominating a candidate through the wave of a magic wand, voters chose Warren over every other Democratic candidate, which was also true in June 2019; and the other showing that Warren would be the least likely candidate to alienate Democrats if she were to win the nomination.

If you're a Democrat and could wave a magic wand�that would nominate any candidate for 2020, who you would pick? New polling by @Civiqs @DataProgress says: ***Elizabeth Warren*** That was true in June 2019, as well. Write up by @markhw_ https://t.co/UWVz9mRGjK pic.twitter.com/IfGKPzPWrJ

— meredith conroy (@sidney_b) February 3, 2020

If this poll is accurate @ewarren would be the most unifying nominee for Democratic voters. https://t.co/e6sFaUOihy

— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence) January 29, 2020

It's not that I think Warren is the perfect candidate, no candidate is ever perfect, as the recent exit of several staffers of color in her Nevada campaign demonstrates. It's just that I believe she has the best path to pull from all the demographics Democrats need to beat Trump, which includes both motivating nontraditional voters and attracting votes from high-propensity voters who don’t necessarily identify as Democrats. We will need every single vote we can get and, at this point, Warren bridges those gaps better than any other candidate in the field.

But whether Warren gets through the next few contests where other candidates have advantages is still an open question. Buttigieg is already getting a sizable bump in New Hampshire polling and Sanders just proved that he’s a fundraising juggernaut with a $25 million haul in January alone. Warren’s chances will likely depend on perhaps outperforming in one of the next several contests with a first- or second-place finish and remaining viable through Super Tuesday. But if Warren really does have a chance, don’t expect the mainstream media to let you know.

#MattGaetzIsATool trends big-time after announcement of ‘ethics complaint’ filing against Pelosi

On Thursday morning, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida announced that he had filed an ethics complaint against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for ripping up her copy of Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. It’s predictable and arguably exactly what Pelosi was expecting, with Gaetz saving network pundits from hours of bad takes on the actual contents of the speech. Gaetz is acting out one of the many theatrical displays of fealty that Republican hacks will be performing for their fearful and corrupt leader. It’s very on-brand for the Republican Party: conducting a witch hunt against a woman, wasting American taxpayer money, and not doing their actual jobs as legislators. 

Gaetz is a special kind of craven, though, as he combines the condescension of Ted Cruz with the piss-poor intellect of Louie Gohmert. This is a man who has in the past tried to intimidate witnesses and has had his own run-ins with the law, all issues of ethics.

After the announcement of the ethics complaint, #MattGaetzIsATool went viral on Twitter.

Because there is video of every hypocritical moment in these many Republican tools’ lives, here’s a reminder of the kind of hypocritical, two-inch-deep politician Matt Gaetz is.

"Let me say right here, right now. Absolutely Donald Trump should release his tax returns." GOP Rep Matt Gaetz #MattGaetzIsATool pic.twitter.com/WcQKygIwIu

— Scott Dworkin (@funder) February 6, 2020

And a moment with someone who served his country and actually believes in the oath he took to protect our country’s values and institutions:

Watch GOP Rep Matt Gaetz get told to his face by a Veteran that he�s betraying his oath of office for defending Trump�s high crimes. #MattGaetzIsAToolpic.twitter.com/0jZSKkqiKb

— Scott Dworkin (@funder) February 6, 2020

Who doesn’t like a good Trump bill-signing meme?

She shredded those lies and filed them where they belonged, in the trash. It was HER copy of the lies. The President disrespected the House creating a reality show giving a medal to a racist. �� #MattGaetzIsATool pic.twitter.com/FEiLsFHmc1

— Kim Shelton (@KrazyNbama) February 6, 2020

Here’s a riddle.

Q: What do you get when you cross a failed sobriety test, a failed anti-bullying advocate, & a failed steak salesman? A: This photo.#MattGaetzIsATool pic.twitter.com/k33RojydAW

— Eric Wolfson (@EricWolfson) February 6, 2020

Gaetz knows all about House ethics complaints.

That time we filed a House Ethics Complaint against Matt Gaetz for intimidating a witness and obstructing justice #MattGaetzIsATool https://t.co/KggQexAt03

— Scott Dworkin (@funder) February 6, 2020

Here’s a visualization of the hashtag.

#MattGaetzIsATool Donald Trump's tool. pic.twitter.com/s6BXW76fZZ

— The Joy of Trolling (@twelthavenue) February 6, 2020

And another one, which makes me laugh. A lot.

#MattGaetzIsATool Imagine thinking Matt Gaetz is a good person to try and lecture you. pic.twitter.com/gyzelJOrMD

— The Joy of Trolling (@twelthavenue) February 6, 2020

And because the children are our future.

This girl is going places!#MattGaetzIsATool #Traitor #CorruptGOP pic.twitter.com/kHnpK0GrQP

— Mark Buckman for Bernie Sanders! (@bAdmArk) February 6, 2020