Donald Trump did a rally for his rival yesterday.
Donald Trump has wondered why the United States didn’t take Iraq’s oil to pay for our invasion. He has insisted that the United States must TAKE THE OIL!
The United States didn’t take the oil because pillaging, theft during war, is a war crime (more here). If a practical reason is needed, oil production and pipelines are extremely vulnerable to sabotage and military action. A continuing military presence would be needed to protect the seized oilfields. Trump seems to believe that the oil can be rapidly pumped from the ground and removed. It can’t.
Trump came into office promising to get American troops out of the Middle East. Many people support that goal. We have been in Afghanistan for eighteen years now. It’s not clear that our presence in the region has improved American security, and now our Saudi partners are dragging us into a war in Yemen.
But Trump knows nothing about military action or our relations with the countries in the region and refuses to learn. Nor does he care to use the decision-making aids available to the President. He has some longstanding prejudices, however, along with his willingness to make decisions impulsively.
After a telephone conversation with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump broadcast his decision via tweet to remove American troops from northeast Syria. The withdrawal leaves the Kurds vulnerable to the Turks, who want the Kurds out of the way. Trump assured us that Erdoğan would not harm the Kurds; he would punish Erdoğan with sanctions if he did.
Then Trump changed his mind and sent Erdoğan a letter that sounded like it came from a middle-school bully. Not all the troops were withdrawn. Some were sent to Saudi Arabia. And now the military is concerned that Trump may want to send them all back.
Trump’s ignorance and impulsiveness in this matter have caused problems from the logistical to the constitutional.
Trump’s tweet surprised the American military. They appear to have had no plans for withdrawal, although Trump has been talking about it since his campaign. A case can be made that withdrawal from northeastern Syria, particularly as abruptly as Trump required, is the wrong thing to do. But the military is subject to the civilian Commander-in-Chief, and they should have made a plan. It’s a bit puzzling, because the military is famous for having plans for actions as improbable as invading Canada.
Trump should have known that armies cannot withdraw from combat in the space of time it takes to send a tweet, or even over a few days. Trump could have instructed the military to make plans for withdrawal at the beginning of his presidency, since that was one of his promises. A plan would have dealt with how to protect the Kurds and how long a withdrawal would be likely to take under various circumstances. It could have even covered protecting the oil.
Military and other advisors seem to have used the idea of taking the oil to convince Trump to maintain a presence in the area after his tweet. Trump feels no obligation to the Kurds, and seems convinced that ISIS is defeated and cannot return. But he does want to take the oil. A National Guard unit from South Carolina is now guarding northeast Syria’s tiny oilfields with armored vehicles unsuited to dealing with ISIS.
This corrupts the chain of command. The President made a decision. The military is supposed to take his orders. But they and others have argued back and effectively rescinded the decision, although the troops now in place have a different mission than before. Trump began the corruption by ignoring the National Security Council process for decision-making that would have taken recommendations from the military, the State Department, and others before the decision was made.
Nobody seems now to know what the mission is. Protecting the oilfields is the stated reason the National Guard troops are there. Are there American rules of engagement for encounters with Syrian government troops? Turkish troops? ISIS? Russian troops? Is any of this consistent with the existing Authorization for the Use of Military Force?
Once upon a time, wars in the Middle East were cynically characterized as “blood for oil.” Now that charge is irrefutable, supported by the words of the President.
A Pentagon spokesperson says that the income from oil wells in the Kurdish areas will go to the Kurds. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the United States from “taking the oil.” Trump has said that he wants American companies to develop the oilfields, but they have no interest in doing that illegally, nor in a combat zone.
Trump knows nothing of international law, the geology of northeast Syria, the production of oil, or loyalty to allies. He sees the American military as a profit center. The number of American troops in Syria has remained constant since his pronouncement, but their mission has become less clear. Trump’s ego demands that he proclaim some sort of victory. His ignorance results in inappropriate decision-making by the Department of Defense. He can’t even achieve his own objective of removing the troops from the Middle East.
He is unfit to be president.
More of this, please!
The only places Trump is not likely to get booed at are his own rallies & maybe white evangelical churches. Wide swaths of the population see him as toxic.
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) November 3, 2019
All my NYC people say he’s loathed there. One read he’s leaving reputedly is his attorneys got through to him about inherent jury pool bias.
— GeorgeWilliamHerbert (@GeorgeWHerbert) November 3, 2019
yeah, I know. perhaps unfairly I thought the political makeup of a ufc crowd might self-select differently, and I feel bad about that now
— Gerry Doyle (@mgerrydoyle) November 3, 2019
A great many details are coming out about the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS. It’s looking like (surprise!) not all the details that President Donald Trump gave at his statement this morning were accurate, but I’d like to let things settle out a bit before trying to work through them. Trump gave out a lot of operational information, as is his wont, so at this very moment people are sifting through that information to learn more, both in the open intelligence community and in national intelligence services.
The one thing I will note is a big contradiction between Trump’s recent retreat (and then return?) from Syria and his saying that this operation had been going on for weeks. To cover for an operation like this, the smartest thing would have been to continue US operations in Syria as they had been going. That would have meant turning down President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s desire to go after the Kurds – delay his operation at least. It’s not clear what role this contradiction played in the actual events, but I suspect it was significant.
So let’s look at what we have. Reports are coming out that Trump’s victory photograph was staged a couple of hours after the operation. It certainly looks staged. Let’s compare that photo and the photo of President Barack Obama’s team during the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
The Trump photo contains only six people, all white men, all old except Defense Secretary Mark Esper. It looks like a seventh may have been cut out of the photo at the left, with a laptop in front of him. From left to right, they are National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Vice President Mike Pence, Trump, Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and a military man I don’t know. Most obviously missing is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Obama photo contains fifteen people, only two in full suit and tie.
The Obama photo is active – people are engaged with a screen to our left. The Trump photo is static, posed, about the men,particularly Trump. All of them are looking at the camera, hoping for a place in posterity, although Esper may be looking at something above the camera.
The mess of cables almost steals the center of the photo from Trump. A short red cable lies unconnected in the foreground. For a number of reasons, including security, I would have gotten those cables out of the way in the preparation for the photo. Notice the more economical arrangement of laptops in the Obama photo. Also coffee cups, which indicate an operation in progress.
The Obama photo is much more diverse – two women, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Audrey Tomason, Director for Counterterrorism for the National Security Council. Additionally, the clothes and manner of wearing them varies across the photo, as do the postures and facial expressions of the participants. Identifications of all the people in the photo at Wikipedia. It’s a team of people, each contributing something different to make the operation work.
Trump is, of course, at the center of his photo, the seal of the President of the United States just above his head, in case anyone might not recognize who this is.
Both photos show papers that may contain classified information. In both cases, I think the papers are too blurred to see much, but I am sure we will hear from the open-source intelligence folks if they can figure something out.
I’m posting this quickly to get ahead of the news flow. Already the New York Times has an article supporting my surmise about the contradiction between the retreat and this raid. It also looks like Trump was golfing rather than watching the raid, as he claimed. More later.
Update: The officer on the right is Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, the Pentagon’s deputy director for special operations and counterterrorism.
So that people can savor Alain’s grape jelly.
The Orange-in-Chief announced that US Special Operations forces killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He also announced that he knew that Osama bin Laden would attack the World Trade Center on 9/11 and that strong men had called him “sir” and praised him.
I’ll write some more later, and I suspect Adam will too. But for me, there’s breakfast and taking the kitties for a walk first.
— Cheryl Rofer (@CherylRofer) October 27, 2019
This morning, Donald Trump said that it would be fine with him if China investigated Joe Biden, thereby confirming that he wants other countries, including the authoritarian ones, to do his dirt-digging for him.
Here's the video: Trump is now openly urging the leaders of Ukraine and China to investigate one of his political rivals.
Via CSPAN pic.twitter.com/xKOSRosyck
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 3, 2019
Lo and behold tonight!
Trump raised Biden with Xi in June call housed in highly secure server. That was back in June. Also Elizabeth Warren. Trump isn’t taking any chances. Speaking of her, he also doubled down on his “Pocahontas” attack and said he would have to “hit her again.”
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) October 3, 2019
Also, a conversation has surfaced between Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland from July about a statement Sondland drafted for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to sign saying that Ukraine would investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. The conversation ends with an admonition that text message may not be the best medium for it.
And, no surprise, Trump ordered Marie Yovanovich removed as Ambassador to Ukraine because she wouldn’t play along with his games. But now what we suspected is confirmed.
NEW: Trump ordered the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine after months of complaints from allies, including Rudy Giuliani, that she was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate Biden. w/@MichaelCBender@vmsalama https://t.co/2yoTb1G7Ow
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) October 3, 2019
Sometimes it’s just hard to write about this stuff. It’s painful that the President of the United States is doing stuff like this. Even Chuck Todd is feeling it.
Gotta give the dude some credit here. pic.twitter.com/JoFtKwR8MO
— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) October 3, 2019
A missive from our President:
Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called “Whistleblower,” represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way. Then Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress……
His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..
In addition, I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the “Whistleblower.” Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!
These Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, are doing great harm to our Country. They are lying & cheating like never before in our Country’s history in order to destabilize the United States of America & it’s upcoming 2020 Election. They & the Fake News Media are Dangerous & Bad!
James Risen overheard Jay Sekulow, the President’s personal lawyer who probably will have to be Rudy’s cleanup brigade, in a green room. They’ve lost control of the narrative, and they’re frightened.
“I’m going on CBS at 8,” he said. “I’m going to see the president at 10. We’ve got to get on top of this thing. I think we can, but we have got to get on top of this.”
A moment or two later, Sekulow added: “He’s going all around town, stirring things up. It’s not helpful.”
A political science professor at UMass Amherst:
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) September 25, 2019
Meanwhile, Individual-1 remains Murphy the Trickster God’s gift to political cartoonists…
The law firm representing the whistleblower has put up a website. That website now contains
Presumably they will update as more documents are generated.
The story in these three documents:
We support the bi-partisan, unanimous resolution passed by the Senate regarding our client’s lawful whistleblower complaint and call upon the Acting Director of National Intelligence to transmit the complete disclosure to the two Intelligence Oversight Committees.
The letter to the DNI states that the whistleblower intends to contact the Congressional committees directly and asks for the guidance prescribed by law from the DNI.
The DNI’s letter, signed by the Office’s General Counsel, leans on the previously-stated fact that the complaint includes potentially privileged communications with people outside the Intelligence Community to delay thing. They are consulting with other government agencies.
And this just came across my Twitter feed.
SCOOP: The White House is preparing to release the whistleblower complaint + IG report to Congress by the end of the week, per a senior administration official. POTUS has signed off on it — for now: https://t.co/dy7v5DqxZ1
— Nancy Cook (@nancook) September 24, 2019
To be continued.
Open thread. [Regrets to Watergirl – I have added a new category.]
There are at least two things going on in what we might call the whistleblower saga. I got confused by them last night, so let me try to clarify them for myself and whomever else might be confused.
A whistleblower submitted a complaint to the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), which the ICIG was then required by law to pass on to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire intercepted the complaint and stonewalled when Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the document and him to appear before the committee. (Lawfare) Later reports were that the complaint was against something that President Donald Trump did and that multiple actions were included in it.
More specifically, a telephone conversation that included a promise to a foreign leader was said to be part of it. Initial speculation centered around Vladimir Putin and possible sharing of information about agents inside Russia. Then we were told that the country involved was Ukraine and its new president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
There was a great scramble to find recent news about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, and a timeline suggested that Trump had withheld aid that Congress had voted for Ukraine until Zelensky agreed to find (or manufacture) dirt on the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. And there seems to have been an additional $140 million that went to Ukraine later.
In a wild interview with Chris Cuomo, Rudy Giuliani, the President’s lawyer, admitted that he had asked Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens. Trump initially tweeted a number of contradictory things about his conversation with Zelensky. On Sunday, he admitted that he had asked Zelensky to look into the Bidens.
This is where the story bifurcates. On the one hand, we have the whistleblower complaint, about which we know little. The reports of a promise and multiple interactions seem not to fit with what Giuliani and Trump have admitted to. The Acting DNI continues to (probably illegally) stonewall Congress.
On the other, we have the admission of the President and his lawyer that they were engaged in strongarming the new president of Ukraine to help them with Trump’s re-election campaign. This is clearly a misuse of power, a high crime or misdemeanor, suitable for a charge in impeachment. This is what the news has been running with.
Both stories are important, and different from each other. Trump’s Ukraine blackmail/ extortion/ soliciting campaign assistance from a foreign country did not come directly from the whistleblower complaint. It came from Trump and Giuliani’s admissions in response to speculation about what that complaint contained. Trump has (sorta, in his confusing way) offered a transcript of the telephone conversation, maybe redacted.
That’s not enough. The stories have become separate, but they are related at a fundamental level that has to do with Trump’s corruption. Congress must continue to investigate the whistleblower complaint and include the Ukraine connection.
Trump loves to confuse things, and that’s what he’s doing now. We’ve got to keep things clear in our minds.
We’ve all been wondering about the subject of the whistleblower complaint being withheld by Acting DNI Joseph Maguire from the House Select Intelligence Committee.
Tonight, Washington Post has a hint for us. Twitter is exploding with speculation, and why should they be the only ones?
From Adam Schiff’s letter to Maguire, it can be surmised that the incident that provoked the whistleblower’s concern had to do with someone in the White House.
What was the “promise”? And which foreign leader?
Have at it. Here are some tweets.
JUST IN: The Acting Director of National Intelligence will testify publicly before the House Intel committee on Sept 26 in relation to the whistleblower complaint received by ODNI. The Intel community inspector general will testify in closed session tomorrow, per @RepAdamSchiff pic.twitter.com/wfTXjlh7MP
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) September 18, 2019
Big detail buried in article on whistleblower complaint @RepAdamSchiff escalated:
— Wendy Siegelman (@WendySiegelman) September 17, 2019
What if the whistleblower complaint is not Sue Gordon but John Bolton?
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) September 19, 2019
The White House readout made mention of only Siberian wildfires and trade as topics of discussion. The Russians, as their tweet above suggests, came away think normalization of relations was on the table. 🤔
— Ned Price (@nedprice) September 19, 2019
So, if this is a senior IC guy, he can't be filing over something the President has the right to do, like reveal classified info. I wonder if the "promise" contravened U.S. law, and thereby made it legit territory for a whistleblower complaint. https://t.co/2190Z5okLx
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) September 19, 2019
The Friday night news dump was unusually late this week.
Adam Schiff, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a letter to Joseph Maguire, Acting Director of National Intelligence. Read it – it’s short and to the point.
A whistleblower in the Intelligence Community disclosed a concern to the DNI intended for the congressional intelligence committees on August 12. The Intelligence Community Inspector General then determined that the concern was both urgent and credible. At that point, Maguire had seven days to turn the material over to the House and Senate Intelligence committees. The deadline was September 2. He didn’t.
It looks like Schiff has also requested the material from Maguire. That would mean he heard about it through another channel, possibly notified by the IC IG.
Maguire also consulted the Department of Justice (corrupt William Barr) on whether he should turn the material over. That consultation is not allowed by the law; he’s just supposed to turn the material over.
His basis for not turning the material over is that
the complaint involves conduct by someone outside the Intelligence Community and because the complaint involves confidential and potentially privileged communications.
That describes people who are most likely to be trying to do something bad, like spies, and of course confidential information would be part of it. No point to whistleblowing on something that’s been in the news. “Potentially privileged” might suggest presidential communications. Like other legal arguments the administration makes, it boils down to “No, we don’t want to disclose and will use an utterly transparent excuse.”
Schiff puts all that together
Schiff wants the material by Tuesday, emphasizing that it is an urgent matter. If Maguire doesn’t come up with it, Schiff wants him in front of the committee by Thursday. He also says that the whistleblower had better be protected from reprisal. Good luck with that.
I can imagine a great many possibilities for the content of the complaint, but that’s because there is so little information and the administration is so corrupt.
Next week should be interesting.
Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner
So, this image showed up in my messages:
I’m just hoping this isn’t a Betty Cracker creation already featured here that in my semester-starting-addled brain I somehow forgot.
Anyway: here’s a chance to talk about anything to do w. abuse of or abusive foodstuffs — or anything else that whets your appetite.
My airport sleep mask came with these very perfect stickers. I need a giant sheet of them for everyday wear. pic.twitter.com/aTUwkUvzRm
— Carmen Maria Machado (@carmenmmachado) September 4, 2019
I'm also gonna need a few blanks so I can make custom ones pic.twitter.com/KZvqLLuQTc
— Jess Zimmerman (@j_zimms) September 4, 2019
Overlooked (among the chaos) story of the weekend:
YESSSSSSSS!! I’ve been asking for this! The House will be abandoning its much-maligned 5-minute alternating partisan question format, in favor of the same hearing format as Watergate: having top counsel conduct the inquiries. https://t.co/RXRauUpq4V
— Mueller, She Wrote Podcast (@MuellerSheWrote) September 8, 2019
Democrats are doing a shot-by-shot remake of 1974 and no one on here gives a shit because it was never about impeachment. https://t.co/vEbscAisWa
— Bret "Gregor Samsa" Stephens (@agraybee) September 7, 2019
BREAKING: The US Air Force has ordered a sweeping review of its use of Trump resorts for overnight crew accommodations. It comes as POLITICO uncovers yet another overnight stay at Turnberry by at least a dozen USAF crew members in September 2018. https://t.co/TjHYI9bp9W
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) September 9, 2019
ATTENTION: We’re just 4 days away from the third Democratic presidential primary debate in Houston on Thurs. 09.12.2019.
Have you signed up to host an official @DNC watch party yet? 📺#PresidentialDebate#Debate #PrimaryDebate #Decision2020
— Lady Bridge (@ladybridge) September 8, 2019
How shocking that as @realDonaldTrump is under siege over #SharpieGate and Taliban that he’s putting himself in a situation where racism becomes front-and-Center … we’ve seen this time and again by Trump… https://t.co/pvFYFIrqBY
— Kurt Bardella (@kurtbardella) September 8, 2019
(Could be worse, after all — we could be forced, by some unfortunate confluence of malign forces, to be working for the GOP… )
They should have called this hurricane "Donald" instead of "Dorian" because it's slow, it has no direction, and it destroys everything it touches.
— Alex Cole (@acnewsitics) September 3, 2019
If proof were needed that the conspiracy theories about HAARP are complete bullshite, the fact that Trump hasn’t busted out the weather-altering technology to force Dorian to threaten Alabama would be it. At least it’s great fodder for comic geniuses like David Roth:
It can be difficult to remember given that he routinely appears on television with toilet paper on the soles of both his shoes and at least one of his hands stuck in a big jug of peanut butter, but Donald Trump’s opening position in all things is that he has never been wrong. He has been wronged, and is in fact wronged constantly—by terrible nasty TV actresses and fake cable news anchors and the other antagonists he’s collected over a lifetime of nonstop blowsy public feuding. But that is just the price he pays for always being right and never being afraid to speak out on whatever he has just seen on television. He carries that weight lightly, give or take the fact that he whines about it constantly. There is an entire cable television network devoted to telling this story over and over again, and every day Trump parks his ass in front of it and watches embalmed-looking septuagenarian newsreader types talk about how correct he is and heatedly demand apologies on his behalf, for hours on end. It’s the treatment that he has always believed he deserves…
The issue here is not that Trump doesn’t believe in things like truth and untruth; he absolutely believes that some things are true and other things are false, but what makes them true or false to him is grounded entirely in how he feels about them. Once a belief is lodged in the sodden Nerf of his brain it becomes true to him, and remains that way forever. These things tend, if anything, to become more true over time, or at least become larger. There is probably some latent impulse from his days as a real estate huckster that powers this—in the same way that he once added floors to the oafish towers he developed, he now adds years or billions to the oafish tales he tells from the front of his trade war with China. It also cannot be ruled out that the guy just likes saying large numbers. When Trump authors one of his really avant-garde falsehoods, it’s this impulse that’s generally behind it. He just likes things to be big, if possible “much bigger many say than anything that we’ve ever seen” but always and everywhere as big as he can get away with making them.
And then, eventually, even bigger than that. This was a problem last week, when Trump took one of his favorite parts of the presidency—the constitutionally enumerated power to tell everyone about the weather, and how large it looks like it might be—too far. Hurricane Dorian, which is indeed big and terrible, was moving towards the southeastern United States at the time, and the forecast called for moderate-to-large amounts of destruction in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Trump evidently found this insufficient…
"Just because you slept with someone named Stormy, it does not make you a weatherman."
Joy Beher, on The View.
— Kona Lowell (@KonaLowell) September 5, 2019
A 'mumpsimus' is a stubborn person who insists on making an error in spite of being shown that it is wrong. https://t.co/ZxeSqVQr02
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) September 5, 2019
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) September 5, 2019
— Janna Bastone (@janna_bastone) September 5, 2019
— Mark Novata (@mark_novata) September 4, 2019