Foreign Affairs Open Thread: Why Trump Hates Ukraine

Three of President Trump’s top advisers met with him in the Oval Office in May, determined to convince him that the new Ukrainian leader was an ally deserving of U.S. support.

They had barely begun their pitch when Trump unloaded on them, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the meeting. In Trump’s mind, the officials said, Ukraine’s entire leadership had colluded with the Democrats to undermine his 2016 presidential campaign.

“They tried to take me down,” Trump railed…

So far, a dozen witnesses have testified before House lawmakers since the closed-door impeachment inquiry began a month ago. One theme that runs through almost all of their accounts is Trump’s unyielding loathing of Ukraine, which dates to his earliest days in the White House.

“We could never quite understand it,” a former senior White House official said of Trump’s view of the former Soviet republic, also saying that much of it stemmed from the president’s embrace of conspiracy theories. “There were accusations that they had somehow worked with the Clinton campaign. There were accusations they’d hurt him. He just hated Ukraine.”…

Julia Ioffe is a great reporter, and an immigrant from Russia. “Here’s Why Ukraine Pops Up in So Many U.S. Scandals”:

One main reason for Ukraine’s outsize presence in our news cycles is money: There’s a lot of it sloshing around, and, as the ladies selling at the designer store know, it tends to find its way into all kinds of crevices.

Ukraine would like America and Europe to think of it as a promising young democracy, the good little country struggling to fend off the gravitational pull of evil Russia. There is a lot of truth in that. But it is also an oligarchy where a very small number of people control the country’s natural resources, a legacy of its Soviet past. Around each of these people is a clan vying for influence, resources, and political power. They sponsor media outlets and politicians. Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, for example, has promised to fight corruption but is also closely linked with one of the country’s most powerful oligarchs.

“It’s a pay-to-play democracy, or has been in the past,” says Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), who was Obama’s last assistant secretary of state for human rights, democracy, and labor. “At its most corrupt, you can get very rich, but you need permission to get very rich, so politicians and oligarchs are linked in all kinds of ways. In some ways, it’s very similar to Russia. But Ukraine is a country where you’re more likely to get rich without getting killed if you’re a Western businessman or political consultant.”

Indeed, plenty of American political operatives find there’s a lucrative market for their services in the country. Ukrainians see Americans as being really good at what in that part of the world is known as “political technology”: using data, polling, consulting to win elections. One candidate in Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election, for example, made the American political consultants working on his campaign a major selling point. It didn’t work, but Ukrainians still pay top dollar for any associations with the American political elite. “It was a part of the world where there was a lot of money to be made,” says Andrew Weiss, who oversees Russia and Eurasia research at the Carnegie Endowment. “These are people getting paid in a way that is totally out of proportion to how you would be paid elsewhere.” Consider, for instance, the $12.7 million that Manafort made in just five years. Bernie Sanders’s chief 2016 strategist, Tad Devine, was handsomely compensated for work he did for Yanukovych, too. When Devine was contemplating working on the 2014 Ukrainian election, he stipulated that his rate would be $10,000 per day—not including travel…
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Election 2020 Open Thread: Smart Move, Sen. Harris

The horse-race touts at Politico would *very much* like Kamala Harris to shut up and go back to her knitting the Senate, but Houle’s right; New Hampshire would not vote for a woman of color from the opposite coast even if she promised to rebuild the Old Man of the Mountain at (other states’) public expense. The state is very white and its politics are very retro; they’re working as hard as any formerly Confederate state to make sure the college kids who might not understand ‘our local traditions’ can’t corrupt the purity of their voting pool. Even leaving aside the cranky libertarians who’ll swarm the Dem primary before voting for Trump next year, Democratic primary voters are pretty much divided between Sanders and Warren. Also, too:

So Kamala went to Iowa, later that day, and did this:

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All our illusions were just a parade

It’s nut-cutting time up in the hizouse today, as the House votes to formalize the impeachment process. Here are the four arguments we will hear against impeachment

1. Trump did nothing wrong, it’s a witch hunt! (Hannity)
2. Trump may have done something wrong but nothing that rises to the level of impeachment (Susan Collins, John Thune)
3. Trump have done something impeachable but derp derp the Democrats haven’t prove it at all (Jonathan Turley)
4. Trump did something impeachable and the Dems’ case is airtight but they shouldn’t impeach because Applebee’s (Bobo

Not so different than the arguments against taking action against climate change

1. Climate change isn’t happening
2. Climate change is happening but it’s not because of human activity
3. Climate change is happening because of human activity but we can’t do anything about it
4. Climate change is happening and we should do something but Dems are doing cap-and-trade and a carbon tax would be better. Or, alternately, Dems are doing a carbon tax and cap-and-trade would be better.

This is why I’m skeptical of all nonsense about civil discourse and the marketplace of ideas. It’s all based on a faulty model of the human mind. In many, maybe most, cases, people decide pick a side first and then make up reasons why that side is the right one.

Anywho, let’s raise some money for the 17 most endangered House democrats incumbents. They may not all vote for the impeachment resolution today but you can be sure if they don’t it’s because Nancy told them they didn’t have to.

Goal Thermometer

Update. Benny says Happy Halloween.

Send me a subpoena baby, tell me what to do

I’ll be curious to see if John Bolton shows up when he gets his subpoena and also if he actually throws Trump under the bus or just makes up stuff that supports Trump’s positions. It would be funny if he threw Trump under the bus and then Tucker and John Woo Yoo called him a liberal traitor. But no matter what happens, we know that in the diners and bars of Rust Belt America, Trump will be as popular as ever.

With the vote on impeachment coming up, let’s try to hit our targets for the Balloon Juice House Fund, which is split among the 17 most vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

Goal Thermometer

Repub Venality Open Thread: Oh, Joy, Another 80s Reboot We Didn’t Need

Turns out those ‘Opportunity Zones’ aren’t just a financial lifeline for Jared Kushner’s family of grifters — it’s a smorgasbord for allll the financial predators among Donny Dollhands’ associates…

In the 1980s, Michael Milken embodied Wall Street greed. A swashbuckling financier, he was charged with playing a central role in a vast insider-trading scheme and was sent to prison for violating federal securities and tax laws. He was an inspiration for the Gordon Gekko character in the film “Wall Street.”

Mr. Milken has spent the intervening decades trying to rehabilitate his reputation through an influential nonprofit think tank, the Milken Institute, devoted to initiatives “that advance prosperity.”

These days, the Milken Institute is a leading proponent of a new federal tax break that was intended to coax wealthy investors to plow money into distressed communities known as “opportunity zones.” The institute’s leaders have helped push senior officials in the Trump administration to make the tax incentive more generous, even though it is under fire for being slanted toward the wealthy.

Mr. Milken, it turns out, is in a position to personally gain from some of the changes that his institute has urged the Trump administration to enact. In one case, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, directly intervened in a way that benefited Mr. Milken, his longtime friend.

It is a vivid illustration of the power that Mr. Milken, who was barred from the securities industry and fined $600 million as part of his 1990 felony conviction, has amassed in President Trump’s Washington. In addition to the favorable tax-policy changes, some of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers — including Mr. Mnuchin, Jared Kushner and Rudolph W. Giuliani — have lobbied the president to pardon Mr. Milken for his crimes, or supported that effort, according to people familiar with the effort…

The former “junk bond king” has investments in at least two major real estate projects inside federally designated opportunity zones in Nevada, near Mr. Milken’s Lake Tahoe vacation home, according to public records reviewed by The New York Times.

One of those developments, inside an industrial park, is a nearly 700-acre site in which Mr. Milken is a major investor. Last year, after pressure from Mr. Milken’s business partner and other landowners, the Treasury Department ignored its own guidelines on how to select opportunity zones and made the area eligible for the tax break, according to people involved in the discussions and records reviewed by The Times.

The unusual decision was made at the personal instruction of Mr. Mnuchin, according to internal Treasury Department emails. It came shortly after he had spent time with Mr. Milken at an event his institute hosted…

Mr. Milken — operating from an X-shaped trading desk in Beverly Hills, Calif. — was a Wall Street legend. He pioneered the junk bond, which enabled financially risky companies to borrow billions of dollars and ignited a wave of often-hostile corporate takeovers that came to define a go-go era. His firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert, hosted an annual event, which came to be known as the Predators’ Ball, where the era’s greatest financiers mingled. Mr. Milken became a billionaire.
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