Why Trump, Facing Impeachment, Warns of Civil War

Why Trump, Facing Impeachment, Warns of Civil War

By Jelani Cobb

October 5, 2019

Facing an impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump made an irresponsible and foolish comment that could reasonably provoke violence among his most devout followers.Photograph by Evan Vucci / AP

Two years ago, amid the maelstrom of Charlottesville and the outrage surrounding Donald Trump’s subsequent praise for various neo-Nazi-adjacent protesters, it went largely unnoticed that the President followed those comments with a defense of Robert E. Lee. The Unite the Right rally had been called in response to the Charlottesville city council’s decision to remove a statue of Lee from a park, and, on the second day of demonstrations, James Alex Fields, Jr., a twenty-year-old white supremacist, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring dozens of people and killing the thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer.

Still, five days later, Trump tweeted, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.” He went on to ask if Washington and Jefferson would be next. I wrote at the time that it was striking to see Trump and his then chief of staff, John Kelly, both Northerners, take up the cause of the apostate Lee. But, given that Trump’s willingness to verbally assail his perceived enemies is equalled only by his willingness to pander to those whom he considers supporters, perhaps it should not have been surprising that a Queens-born politician would wind up embracing Southern Lost Cause denialism. Earlier this year, Trump reiterated that support, referring to Lee as “a great general, whether you like it or not. He was one of the great generals.”

Trump returned to the topic of the Civil War yet again last weekend, when he tweeted a quote from a Baptist pastor’s statement that to impeach Trump would render a “Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” Hyperbole is Trump’s native tongue, but, even by that standard, it was a wildly grandiose claim to argue that not only would his impeachment echo throughout the nation a hundred and fifty-four years from now but also that American politics would continue to grapple with the implications of who stood on which side of the question, and museums and entire fields of scholarship would be devoted to helping the country understand the roots of such a catastrophe. The entire narcissistic arc of the President’s public life can be understood as a quest to force the world to reckon with Trump as a man of consequence, even if he is, in fact, a man bereft of ideas and original thought.

We tend to speak of the Civil War as a singular event that took place between 1861 and 1865, which was caused either by the expansion of slavery or an abstract argument over the principle of “states’ rights,” depending on where you stand politically. But the Civil War’s origins don’t lie in the politics of 1861; they’re a product of the politics of 1776. The four years of war between the Union and the eleven seceding states of the Confederacy were the culmination of decades of attempts to forestall armed conflict over slavery. A short list of the political events leading to the war would include the Northwest Ordinance, the Three-Fifths Compromise, the Jackson-era Gag Rules on slavery, the Missouri Compromise, the Nullification Crisis of 1831–32, the Mexican-American War, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, the Dred Scott decision, and the election of Abraham Lincoln. In 1858, when William Henry Seward, who was then a senator from New York, referred to the conditions that preceded the war as an “irrepressible conflict,” he did so with decades of political history to support that conclusion.

By comparison, Trump’s problems are self-inflicted. He brought the freewheeling amorality with which he led the Trump Organization—an enterprise he continues to profit from—to the White House. (An amendment to Seward’s speech that includes Trump would be titled “Irrepressible Conflicts of Interest.”) He is not grappling with vast foundational questions. From the loftiest perch in American politics, Trump has spewed vitriol, trampled norms, provoked violence, nurtured racism and misogyny, invited foreign intervention into an American election, befriended adversaries, and alienated allies. He followed up his civil-war threat on Tuesday, tweeting, “I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of the United States of America!” It was a breathtakingly irresponsible and foolish comment that could reasonably provoke violence among his most devout followers. As the blog Lawfare noted this week, far-right militias are taking Trump’s language about war and the possibility of a Democratic coup d’état seriously.

A hundred and six years separate the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and the near-impeachment of Richard Nixon. Twenty-four years later, in 1998, Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, and acquitted by the Senate. Should Trump be impeached, there will be, for the first time in the nation’s history, a generation of Americans that has seen two impeachments in their lifetimes. That is itself a statement on how tumultuous the politics of this era are.

Nevertheless, civil war is not the primary concern that should be raised by the prospect of impeachment. Trump’s potential to provoke volatile divisions is not limited to his fellow-Americans. Among the more unanticipated traits of the Trump Administration is its relative reluctance to use military force, despite the President’s own verbal combativeness. The inability of the now-departed national-security adviser John Bolton to persuade Trump to attack Iran—and Trump’s habit of ridiculing Bolton’s hawkishness—are examples of this. When pushed to retaliate for Iran’s downing of an American drone, Trump approved a strike only to cancel it at the eleventh hour. He was apparently concerned that a military intervention might hurt his chances of reëlection. Yet we have also seen that Trump is acutely sensitive to embarrassment. It’s not inconceivable that the humiliating spectacle of a public tribunal and the possibility of a premature and ignoble end to his fiasco of a Presidency could provoke him to use the military to lash out abroad. Baseline Trump is erratic and unpredictable. The thought of an agitated Trump under the pressure of potential impeachment further navigating the complexities of Iran or North Korea should be profoundly unsettling. The dark portent is not that Trump will inspire a reënactment of the central conflicts of America’s past. It’s that he will author a novel catastrophe all his own.

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TRUTH

JOINCHEAT SHEETNEWSLETTERSLOG IN

NO SILVER BULLET

We Don’t Need New Laws to Fight Right-Wing Terror. We Need to Call It by Its Name.

Published 10.07.19 4:45AM ET 

Last month’s massacre of 22 people in a Texas Walmart by a man aiming to battle “a Hispanic invasion” is only the latest horror story as the radical right continues to murder and terrorize. For the first time in memory, a consensus of U.S. law enforcement officials agree that white supremacist domestic terrorism has become the No. 1 terrorist threat facing the United States. The question now is, what is to be done?

I recently attended a conference hosted by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, entitled “Domestic Terrorism and Its Global Context: Exploring the USG Approach”—an invitation-only gathering of government officials, civil society activists and academics concerned with the threat. The meeting was convened specifically to make suggestions for U.S. government action.

I have been studying the radical right for almost 25 years now, and it’s difficult enough to come up with anything approaching a “solution” for private groups or individuals, let alone laws or police actions that must and should be carried out by a government that respects civil liberties in a free society. There is nothing approaching a silver bullet for the government, or for private citizens.MEMBERS ONLY

IN PLAIN SIGHT

Epstein Flaunted Girls After His Arrest at Hair Salon for the Stars

Even after his jail stint, Jeffrey Epstein frequented his friend Frédéric Fekkai’s high-profile salons with a bevy of very young women, former stylists say.Updated 10.07.19 2:34AM ET Published 10.06.19 8:54PM ET 

In the years after he registered as a sex offender, millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein launched a veritable crusade to rehabilitate his image. The convicted felon donated to prominent charities, convinced friends to invite him to A-list events, and took to wearing a Harvard sweatshirt whenever there was a camera around. But among the most important stops on Epstein’s comeback tour were his regular appointments at hairdresser Frédéric Fekkai’s high-profile salons.

Multiple former Fekkai employees told The Daily Beast that Epstein regularly brought groups of young women into the New York salon after his conviction, where he paid for their services and had them sit on his lap and stroke his hair. When he was in Florida, former employees said, Epstein would have Fekkai stylists make house calls to his Palm Beach estate. 

Unbeknownst to them, Fekkai’s brand had received an influx of cash years earlier from a company backed by L Brands—the same retailer owned by Epstein’s only known client, Les Wexner.

A spokesperson for Frederic Fekkai brands said the company had been sold by the time of Epstein’s conviction in 2008, and that Fekkai was not involved in the salons at the time. 

“Neither he, nor the current management team, had any knowledge of the incidents described and, in Mr. Fekkai’s limited acquaintance with Mr. Epstein, he never witnessed any of the deplorable conduct that led to Mr. Epstein’s conviction,” the spokesperson said.

Two decades ago, Epstein would have been almost indistinguishable from the dozens of celebrity clients who flocked to Fekkai’s Upper East Side salon. Fekkai, a charismatic coiffeur known for his boyish good looks, opened his first salon in 1988 and rose quickly from unknown French hairdresser to stylist to the stars. He styled celebrities like Demi Moore, Jodie Foster, and Meryl Streep for the red carpet, and was credited with giving Hillary Clinton her signature short, layered ‘do.

A 2005 New York Times article listed cuts at Fekkai’s salon—which could run up to $750 apiece—as one of many upsides for Epstein’s personal assistants. “In addition to the rich payday, he also ladles on the perks,” the article said of the financier. “He maintains a charge account at Frédéric Fekkai, the society hair dresser, for their unlimited use and pays for all food eaten during his lengthy business hours, including takeout from Le Cirque.”

But Fekkai and Epstein appeared to be closer than just stylist and client. The financier had 16 numbers for Fekkai in his black book of contacts, including the hairdresser’s home number, his French cellphone, and a number for his assistant. Flight logs show Fekkai flew on Epstein’s private plane at least twice, in 2000 and 2002, along with Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell and his shady model scout pal Jean-Luc Brunel

Simone Banos, a longtime friend of Fekkai, told The Daily Beast that Epstein and Fekkai ran in similar New York social circles, but said she couldn’t imagine the hairdresser staying friends with Epstein after he was convicted of soliciting a minor for prostitution and accused by dozens more of sexual assault.

A spokesperson for Fekkai said the hairdresser had “a very limited acquaintance with Epstein, who was known to aggressively cultivate celebrities. He was not Epstein’s friend or his stylist.”

“Frederic is disgusted and sickened by Epstein’s activities, which no one was aware of in 2000 and 2002, when Frederic accepted a ride on his jet,” the spokesperson said. “Had he been aware, he would never have boarded that plane, let alone with his 5-year old son, his son’s nanny and his girlfriend at the time.”

But four former Fekkai employees said Epstein remained a regular at the salon, even after his 2008 conviction. Three of these employees recalled Epstein bringing a rotating cast of tall, beautiful, and suspiciously young-looking women with him for monthly appointments. (The fourth employee remembered Epstein bringing women in with him, but could not recall details of their interactions.)

The financier paid for the women’s haircuts and dye jobs from his house account, the employees said, and either he or a female associate dictated exactly how their hair was styled. In between services, the women sat on Epstein’s lap or stroked his hair—in full view of the hundreds of guests at Fekkai’s 9,000-square-foot hair emporium. “It was very out in the open,” one former employee said. “Everyone knew.”

“He didn’t give an eff,” another former employee said. “He was coming in like he was running the show. He didn’t care.”“He didn’t give an eff. He was coming in like he was running the show. He didn’t care.”

Several of the former employees told The Daily Beast they asked not to work with Epstein or the women he brought in after his conviction. But they also said they did not want to complain too much, because it was clear Epstein was friendly with Fekkai, and because they could not tell if something illegal was going on.

“The thing is, we could never tell how old the girls were,” one former employee said. “They came in heels, makeup… They were all way too young for him, but legal? You didn’t always know.”

“But he was a pig no matter what,” the employee added.

In Palm Beach, the ritzy vacation town where Epstein was first charged, Fekkai employees said stylists made regular house calls to the financier—in the same $2.5 million estate where he spent his yearlong house arrest. One stylist said he was first introduced to Epstein by Fekkai himself, at the New York salon, and started cutting Epstein’s hair at his Palm Beach home in 2012. Three current and former co-workers confirmed that they had heard the stylist talk about these trips.

The stylist said he often spoke with Sarah Kellen and Lesley Groff—two of Epstein’s assistants who have been accused of recruiting girls for his sexual massages—but never saw anything that aroused his suspicions.“Any girls that I saw that were there, I always found them very educated… Very smart, very articulate,” he told The Daily Beast. “When I was there for the hour, hour and a half, he was a gentleman.”

A Fekkai Brands spokesperson said the company completed an exhaustive review of its records and found no receipts for house calls to Epstein’s residences. 

“If a stylist did make a house call to one of his homes, he or she did not do so as an employee of the company,” the spokesperson said.“Any girls that I saw that were there, I always found them very educated … Very smart, very articulate.”

What the stylists did not know was the extent of their company’s financial relationship with Les Wexner—Epstein’s only known client. Wexner is the CEO of L Brands, which owns brands like Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works and had an agreement to run upmarket stores under the C. O. Bigelow name. He first hired Epstein as his personal financial adviser, but eventually handed over an uncommon amount of money and power to the relatively unknown money man.

Among other things, Wexner gave Epstein full power of attorney, and reportedly donated more than $10 million to Epstein’s charity through his personal foundation. Several of Epstein’s accusers have claimed the financier posed as a Victoria’s Secret talent scout in order to lure them into hotel rooms and assault them. (Wexner claims he had no personal knowledge of Epstein’s impropriety, and cut ties with him in 2007 when the allegations against him emerged.)

Fekkai first entered Wexner’s orbit in 2004, when Bath & Body Works and C.O. Bigelow began selling his line of home haircare products, which had until then been sold only in high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus. One former Fekkai executive told The Daily Beast that she advised against the deal, thinking it would diminish the brand’s status, but that Fekkai was set on it. 

“It wouldn’t have happened if Frédéric wasn’t behind it, and of that I’m certain,” the executive said.

The following year, private equity company Catterton Partners issued a celebratory press release announcing it had taken a majority stake in Frederic Fekkai, Inc. What the press release did not mention was that Catterton was backed, in part, by L Brands. In fact, both the L Brands executive and a former Fekkai executive said Wexner had considered buying the hair products company outright. 

“L Brands did not have a direct investment but did participate in a private equity fund which had stakes in a number of companies, including a controlling interest in Fekkai,” a spokesperson for Fekkai Brands told The Daily Beast. 

L Brands never wound up buying Fekkai’s company. Instead, the company was purchased in 2005 by Procter & Gamble for a reported $440 million. The company—known for producing drugstore standbys like Pantene and Herbal Essences—tried and failed to introduce Fekkai’s product line to a mass-market audience, dropping its price point as well as its prestige.

P&G eventually sold the company to Designer Parfums and Luxe Brands at an estimated $390 million loss. A lawsuit filed by Fekkai employees this year claimed Luxe Brands had mismanaged the company and degraded the brand, turning its flagship location into a “mall salon” that “does not offer the same luxurious environment that the clients had grown accustomed to.”

“Fekkai’s three changes of ownership in ten years, and two changes of ownership in only three years, among other things, have made it difficult for Plaintiffs to feel comfortable having a long-term future at Fekkai,” the plaintiffs wrote. (The lawsuit was settled out of court.)

Last winter, Fekkai bought his company back from Designer Parfums and Luxe Brands for an undisclosed sum—something he had reportedly been hoping to do for some time. In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Fekkai said he was eager to be in the driver’s seat, and expand his brand internationally and online.

“The brand needs a leader,” he said, “someone who knows what they’re doing, who the team can respect.”

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Dreamer’s World October 02, 2019 – A Painless Choice

    I took a big step today. I finally signed off the last social media account that I still had open (I don’t count this blog as a social media account) and it was so painless and easy that within 5 minutes I wondered why I had waited so long.

    My job has exposed me to multiple levels of why it is time to leave social media in the past. There is practically zero security, and whatever caution you might take to protect yourself can be undone very easily and quickly either by accidental actions of friends online or by malicious people willing to lurk and collect enough data about you to make it profitable for them to sell that information.

    I don’t have a close family to connect with online. I don’t make friends with people on the internet. I found zero interesting things to keep me there. It was time to go, and that was that. I know people who cannot break their social media addiction, but I am powerless to help them until they admit that they want to quit on their own.

‘Extremely Dangerous’: Trump Tweet Calling Impeachment Inquiry a ‘Coup’ Heightens Fears of Refusal to Leave Office

Published onWednesday, October 02, 2019byCommon Dreams

‘Extremely Dangerous’: Trump Tweet Calling Impeachment Inquiry a ‘Coup’ Heightens Fears of Refusal to Leave Office

“The orderly transfer of power in the United States has always depended on the active cooperation of the outgoing president. What happens if that cooperation is not forthcoming?”byJake Johnson, staff writer

 27 Comments

President Donald Trump speaks to the press about a whistleblower after a swearing-in for US Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia in the Oval Office of the White House September 30, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Days after amplifying a right-wing pastor’s warning of a “Civil War-like fracture” if he is removed from office, President Donald Trump late Tuesday said the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats is a “coup,” heightening fears that Trump could refuse to allow a peaceful transition of power if he is ousted by Congress or defeated in 2020.

“As I learn more and more each day,” the president tweeted, “I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!”

“Trump’s ‘coup’ language isn’t an errant presidential tweet, it’s an official Trump administration talking point that multiple top aides have rolled out on state TV today.”
—Matthew Gertz, Media Matters

Observers reacted with alarm to Trump’s tweet and said it should not be treated as a typical online outburst from the president.

“This is extremely dangerous,” Matthew Gertz, senior fellow at Media Matters, said, pointing out that Fox News hosts and contributors have been aggressively pushing the “coup” narrative in recent days.

“Trump’s ‘coup’ language isn’t an errant presidential tweet,” Gertz added, “it’s an official Trump administration talking point that multiple top aides have rolled out on state TV today.”

Historian Angus Johnston asked in response to Trump’s tweet: “What happens when he tweets something like this the day after he loses re-election?”

“The orderly transfer of power in the United States has always depended on the active cooperation of the outgoing president. What happens if that cooperation is not forthcoming? The answer—the day-to-day answer for November and December 2020 and January 2021—isn’t obvious,” Johnston said. “Tweets like tonight’s crank up the costs of breaking with Trump, but they also underscore the fact that there’s no guarantee that waiting him out will be an effective alternate strategy.”

Concerns that Trump could resist leaving office if ousted by the constitutional process of impeachment or defeated in the 2020 election are not new. Trump has repeatedly suggested on Twitter and during campaign rallies that his term should be extended to compensate for the time “stolen” by the Mueller investigation.

“This is not a drill, and there is no reason to believe Trump will go quietly if he is defeated,” wrote The Intercept‘s Mehdi Hasan in a column in March. “There is every reason, however, to believe he and his allies will incite hysteria and even violence. Those who assume otherwise haven’t been paying attention.”

In the days since House Democrats formally began their impeachment inquiry last month, Trump has rapidly escalated his hysterical attacks on political opponents and the whistleblower who raised alarm about the president’s call with Ukraine’s leader.

Last week, as Common Dreams reported, Trump suggested the person who provided information about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president is a spy and a traitor should be executed. On Sunday, Trump warned of “big consequences” for the whistleblower as the anonymous individual’s lawyers said the president’s attacks have put the person’s safety at risk.

On Monday, Trump asked whether Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, should be arrested for “treason,” a crime punishable by death.

Following the president’s “coup” tweet Tuesday night, Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, said “the logical conclusion of this nonsensical statement is that the military should step in, save Trump, and arrest Trump’s political opponents.”

“Let that sink in,” Parsi added.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don’t survive on clicks. We don’t want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can’t do it alone. It doesn’t work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won’t Exist.

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A Great Idea

Published onMonday, September 30, 2019byCommon Dreams

Sanders Unveils Plan to Hike Taxes on Corporations That Pay CEOs ‘Hundreds of Times What Their Workers Make’

“It is time to send a message to corporate America: If you do not end your greed and corruption, we will end it for you.”byJake Johnson, staff writer

 32 Comments

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, pumps his fist in the air toward supporters as he arrives to speak during a campaign rally at Civic Center Park on September 9, 2019 in Denver. (Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday unveiled a proposal to reduce massive disparities between executive and worker pay by hiking taxes on corporations that pay their CEOs dramatically more than median employees.

“The American people are sick and tired of corporate CEOs who now make 300 times more than their average employees, while they give themselves huge bonuses and cut back on the healthcare and pension benefits of their employees,” Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement.

Sanders’s plan would impose a tax increase of 0.5 percent on corporations that pay their CEOs between 50 and 100 times more than their median employees. The penalty would increase progressively for companies with larger CEO-worker pay gaps.

The senator’s website outlines the tax penalties under the “Income Inequality Tax Plan,” which would apply to private and public corporations with annual revenues of more than $100 million.

  • Companies that pay CEOs between 50 and 100 times more than their median employees: +0.5 percent
  • Between 100 and 200 times: +1 percent
  • Between 200 and 300 times: +2 percent
  • Between 300 and 400 times: +3 percent
  • Between 400 and 500 times: +4 percent
  • More than 500 times: +5 percent

If the plan were in effect last year, according to the senator’s office, Walmart would have paid as much as $790 million more in taxes, McDonald’s as much as $110.9 million more, and JPMorgan Chase as much as $991.6 million more.

“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, the American people are demanding that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” said Sanders. “It is time to send a message to corporate America: If you do not end your greed and corruption, we will end it for you.”

The Sanders campaign said the revenue raised by the plan would be used to finance the senator’s proposal to eliminate all $81 billion of medical debt in the United States.

The plan comes as a new report released Monday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) detailed the “staggering” CEO-worker pay gaps at some of America’s largest and most profitable corporations. It also comes just days after the Census Bureau found that U.S. inequality in 2018 reached its highest level in five decades.

“At the 50 publicly traded U.S. corporations with the widest pay gaps in 2018, the typical employee would have to work at least 1,000 years to earn what their CEO made in just one,” IPS found. “Among S&P 500 firms, nearly 80 percent paid their CEO more than 100 times their median worker pay in 2018, and nearly 10 percent had median pay below the poverty line for a family of four.”

Sarah Anderson, project director at IPS and lead author of the new report, said in a statement that a tax penalty of the kind proposed by Sanders would “build on the living wage movement by encouraging corporations to lift up the bottom and bring down the top of their wage scales.”

“Such reforms would also give a boost to small businesses and employee-owned firms and cooperatives that spread their resources more equitably than most large corporate enterprises,” said Anderson.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don’t survive on clicks. We don’t want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can’t do it alone. It doesn’t work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won’t Exist.

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Dreamer’s World September 29, 2019 – Advice From Snoopy And The Gang

A little friendly advice from Snoopy and The Gang is to enjoy every moment. Get your rest when you can and enjoy the quiet times when you have the chance. Never let an opportunity pass to tell someone special that you love them, and never let an argument keep going.

Always be thankful for what you have, and work for what you want. Remember to be kind to those around you, and to help those in need. Plan your days around the things you love and want to do, not what you are forced to do. Work smarter, not harder.

Read something new each day. Try something you haven’t done before. Be the best person that you want to be.

‘As Bad, If Not Worse, Than Watergate’: Whistleblower Complaint Alleges Massive White House Cover-Up

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

byCommon Dreams

‘As Bad, If Not Worse, Than Watergate’: Whistleblower Complaint Alleges Massive White House Cover-Up

“This whistleblower complaint is only the tip of an iceberg of corrupt, illegal, and immoral behavior by this president,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders.

byEoin Higgins, staff writer

 45 Comments

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions about the duo's July phone call.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions about the duo’s July phone call. (Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

The Thursday morning release of the official whistleblower complaint at the heart of a controversy which has triggered an official impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump intensified concern among Democrats and outside critics who say the complaint goes beyond a single phone call by alleging a wider White House conspiracy to cover it up.

“Sounds like the cover-up and the crime are both impeachable,” tweeted Sludgereporter Alex Kotch.

“Instead of hiring burglars to investigate political rival Trump asked a foreign government to do it for him and then tried to cover it up.”

—Ari Berman, Mother Jones

As Common Dreams reported, the scandal stems from a July phone call between Trump and Zelensky in which Trump asked the Ukrainian president for a “favor”—to investigate Biden’s son Hunter’s employment by Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings from 2014 to 2019.  A memorandum of a condensed version of the conversation was released Wednesday. 

During a Thursday hearing of the House Intelligence Committee featuring Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) saidthat the complaint indicates that the cover-up is aimed at concealing the knowing criminal behavior of the administration. 

“The whistleblower complaint has exposed a criminal effort to extort political dirty work from a foreign government, and a massive cover-up orchestrated by the White House,” said Castro.

The complaint (pdf) alleges that, after the call, White House officials moved to put a word-for-word transcript of the conversation into a server separate from the normal one reserved for such matters. 

“In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced—as is customary—by the White House situation room,” the whistleblower writes in the complaint. 

Particularly, the complaint claims, intervention came from the administration’s legal counsel. 

“The public deserves to have full transparency regarding Trump’s abuse of office.”

—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

“White House officials told me they were ‘directed’ by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization and distribution to Cabinet-level officials,” says the whistleblower. 

Specifically implicated in the complaint are the president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr.

“They knew the President had violated his oath of office,” said Rep. Val Demings (D-Fl.). 

The cover-up is “as bad, if not worse, than Watergate,” Mother Jones writer Ari Berman said

“Instead of hiring burglars to investigate political rival Trump asked a foreign government to do it for him and then tried to cover it up,” said Berman.

New Yorker writer Susan B. Glasser wrote Thursday that the phone call is part of a pattern of behavior:

The Ukraine scandal is, among many other things, a portrait of American foreign policy gone terribly wrong, hijacked by a President who has shredded the vast U.S. national-security apparatus in favor of a rogue operation looking out for his own interests and overseen by his personal agent, Rudy Giuliani. To anyone who has been paying attention, this has been the President’s approach to foreign policy from the start: it has been all Trump, all the time.

Trump’s pattern of behavior, and the current scandal being simply a part of it, was a point that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also made in a statement Thursday.

“This whistleblower complaint is only the tip of an iceberg of corrupt, illegal, and immoral behavior by this president,” said Sanders. “What the House must do is thoroughly investigate Trump’s cover-up of this call and his other attempts to use government resources to help his re-election campaign. The public deserves to have full transparency regarding Trump’s abuse of office.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said on Twitter that Congress must act as soon as possible to stop the president from continuing to use “the Oval Office as his campaign office.”

“We cannot let the occupant make a mockery of our Constitution any longer,” said Omar. “Congress must cancel the upcoming recess so we can finally impeach this president.”

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