The official intra-party fight for control of the GOP is off and running as well.
Here we go again, citizens!
The Democrats serving as impeachment managers are Representatives Raskin, DeGette, Cicilline, Castro (Joaquin), Swalwell, Lieu, Plaskett, Neguse, and Dean. (Thanks, Baud!) The Trump defense strategy on the Republican side is rather less clear to me, but I assume we’ll hear from the kooks in the Sedition Caucus, which comprises most House Republicans.
PS: Sorry for squashing not one but TWO posts, but I’m gonna leave this one up for impeachment hearings discussions.
Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept, and Ryan Grim, the DC Bureau Chief of The Intercept, both had thoughts over the weekend over the recent Giuliani and Bannon pushed misinformation and agitprop campaign against VP Biden.
Democrats knew the entire time that this would be Trump’s final move, and that this would roughly be how it rolls out. If there does turn out to be a ton more that is legit and credible, they can blame Russia all they want, but they’ll have themselves to blame for walking into it
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) October 18, 2020
Right but the primary turned on electability, and Democrats calculated that Trump’s plan to weaponize Hunter — which he telegraphed so thoroughly he got impeached — wouldn’t be effective. We’re about to see if that was a good bet.
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) October 18, 2020
Spare me the bullshit of how Biden (and the EU) wanted the prosecutor fired because he wasn’t vigilant enough about fighting corruption. The US & EU don’t care if their puppet regimes tolerate domestic corruption. Why is the US VP dictating who the Ukrainian prosecutor should be?
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 18, 2020
From Robert Mackey’s reporting in The Intercept from May 10, 2019 (emphasis mine):
VIRAL RUMORS THAT Joe Biden abused his power as vice president to protect his son’s business interests in Ukraine in 2016, which spread last week from the pro-Trump media ecosystem to the New York Times, are “absolute nonsense,” according to Ukraine’s leading anti-corruption activist. That evaluation is backed by foreign correspondents in Kiev and a former official with knowledge of Biden’s outreach to Ukraine after President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed in a popular uprising in 2014.
The accusation is that Biden blackmailed Ukraine’s new leaders into firing the country’s chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to derail an investigation he was leading into a Ukrainian gas company that the vice president’s son, Hunter, was paid to advise.
The truth, Kaleniuk said, is that Shokin was forced from office at Biden’s urging because he had failed to conduct thorough investigations of corruption, and had stifled efforts to investigate embezzlement and misconduct by public officials following the 2014 uprising.
Properly debunking this particular conspiracy theory is easier said than done, though, since it is set in Ukraine, a country with byzantine political intrigue at the best of times, and these are not the best of times. The rivalries between political factions in Kyiv are so intense that even the country’s new anti-corruption agencies are at each other’s throats.
There is no question that Biden did, during a visit to Kyiv in late 2015, threaten to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless Shokin was dismissed. But the vice president, who was leading the Obama administration’s effort to fight corruption in Ukraine, did the country a favor by hastening Shokin’s departure, Kaleniuk said, since he had failed to properly investigate corrupt officials.
“Shokin was fired because he attacked the reformers within the prosecutor general’s office,” Kaleniuk said, “reformers who tried to investigate corrupt prosecutors.”
Before it reached the Times, the frenzied speculation about Biden, and the supposed meddling in the 2016 election by anti-corruption prosecutors in Ukraine, was regularly featured on a network of far-right websites that work to boost Trump and undermine Democrats. Among the first outlets to promote the idea of the Ukrainians as the real meddlers was Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news agency. That theme, and related conspiracy theories about Ukraine and Democrats, were then featured in a series of opinion columns by John Solomon, a columnist for The Hill in Washington. Solomon’s stories, based on interviews with disgruntled, far-right Ukrainian officials who had previously been featured in Sputnik, have been enthusiastically embraced by the conspiracy theorist-in-chief.
We know that all of the Hunter Biden was doing illegal things in Ukraine, and elsewhere by leveraging his father the Vice President misinformation and agitprop was first seeded in RIA Novosti in May 2014. It was an early attempt to dirty up VP Biden, as well as Secretary Kerry and VP Cheney by suggesting their children were engaged in illegal activities in Ukraine and other post-Soviet states in case any or all three of them ran for president in 2016. Once again, here’s the screen grab with the link to where I found it.
It was also an attempt to throw as much garbage out there to make it difficult for anyone who was not a Ukraine and Russia expert to cover what had been going on with the Maidan Movement, the backlash against Russian interference in Ukraine, and Russia’s response of both scarfing up Crimea through a manipulated and unreliable plebiscite and invading eastern Ukraine as part of an unconventional warfare campaign that leverages Russian special operations, Russian backed private military companies (Wagner Group), and Russian speaking/ethnic Russian Ukrainians living in Donbass and other eastern Ukrainians. I was involved with working on this problem set from January through May 2014 when I was assigned, under temporary assigned control, as the Cultural Advisor to the Commanding General of US Army Europe. This included doing an assessment and report for the Commanding General of US Army Europe on the Maidan Movement, Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs and the effects of their activities on the politics and economy of Ukraine, and Putin’s intentions for Ukraine.
Perhaps Mr. Greenwald and Mr. Grim should read the reporting in a publication called The Intercept.
The US Army has given itself a self inflicted black eye in how it has mishandled LTC Vindman’s promotion.This did not need to happen. Even though the reality, regardless of anything else that might or might not happen or have happened, is that because LTC Vindman was never going to be able to deploy as a Foreign Area Officer in his region of expertise again. By complying with a lawful subpoena to testify before the House of Representatives, he both raised his profile and did so while stymying one of Vladimir Putin’s objectives in regard to Ukraine. As I wrote back in February, going to either the US Embassy in Kyiv or in Moscow as the Defense Attache or Senior Defense Official was simply out of the question. It would not be safe for him to be placed in either of those assignments, which are usually the highest level assignment that a Foreign Area Officer can aspire to. That didn’t mean that his career had to be over, nor did it mean that the Army didn’t have a meaningful path forward they could have created for him.
What the Army needed to do was to have the Chief of Staff or the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army or the senior officer overseeing Functional Area 48/Foreign Area Officers to sit down with him, explain the reality, and tell him that even if they had to put his promotion in above the zone – after the year in which he should be promoted – because it had to wait until after the election in November, that it would ultimately go through. They also needed to tell him that he was going to matriculate at one of the Senior Leader Colleges for his war college year, preferably one of the ones NOT in Washington, DC to get him out of DC and thereby out of the sights of the President, his surrogates, and his enablers. Back in February, when it was reported that he would be attending the Academic Year 2021 Resident Course at US Army War College in Carlisle, PA, I wrote:
LTC Vindman will be matriculating at the end of July/beginning of August into the resident class at USAWC for academic year (AY) 2021. When he graduates he will have earned both a Masters in National Security and Strategy and his Joint Professional Military Education Level II certification. Without these he would not be eligible for an O6 (colonel) level command or equivalent assignment. He’s just at the right stage of his career, around 22 years in, to be sent to one of the senior leader colleges. Given how the selection process for the Senior Leader Colleges is done, I suspect that this was also always his intended follow on assignment to serving on the National Security Staff of the National Security Council as his assignment was supposed to originally end in May of this year. While it does not always work out that way because life is not neat, the expectation is that the officers who attend the Senior Leader Colleges will serve well past their graduations retiring as full colonels or captains near or at the 30 year mandated retirement or be promoted to general officer/flag officer and serve past the 30 year mark.
Here’s what I think is likely to happen to LTC Vindman and his career based on informed speculation. He will attend USAWC as a student next academic year, graduate, and I would expect that he will be then moved onto the faculty as the Director of Eurasian Studies where he’ll oversee the Eurasian Regional Studies Elective (every student in the resident class is required to take a regional studies elective, but they get to choose which one, which is why it is called an elective even though it is mandatory – don’t ask me, I just worked there…). If this happens, then at some point he’ll be promoted to full colonel and will serve out the remainder of his career at USAWC. He and his family will have eight years of stability in a lovely small town that is close to a medium sized city (Harrisburg) and within a ninety minute to two hour drive of three large cities – Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC – depending on traffic and whether you’re driving like you stole it. During the short summer breaks between resident class graduation and course prep for the next academic year, he, like many of the Foreign Area Officers (FAOs) assigned to the faculty will be available for temporary duty assignments in his functional speciality as a Foreign Area Officer. While the pinnacle of a career for a FAO is usually being a Defense Attache (DAT) or Senior Defense Official (SDO) at a US embassy within their region of expertise, given LTC Vindman’s prominence, I’m not sure that will be possible. I cannot imagine it would be safe to send him back to US Embassy Moscow to be the DAT, especially given how Russian intelligence and security treats US personnel assigned there. I expect that he and his family will have the stability that this type of assignment at USAWC brings: not having to relocate every two or three years, being able to keep your kids in the same schools until they graduate, and allowing one’s spouse to finally begin to put down some career roots.
Honestly, this is all they had to do to 1) make things as right as they could given the reality while 2) still doing as right as possible by LTC Vindman. Tell him that they would ensure that his promotion would go through, even if it was delayed a bit and give him a legitimate and meaningful career path to serve until he was ready to retire. Whether that was at year 25 or 28 or 30 when it would become mandatory for him to retire if he wasn’t being selected for brigadier general.
As we now know, this didn’t happen. Instead of getting him out of DC for his war college year, we now know he was headed to National War College, which is part of the National Defense University at Ft. McNair in DC. We now know that no one in the senior Army leadership was willing to make it clear that his promotion would eventually go through, even if delayed a bit Nor were they ready to resign on principle over the politicization of the Army’s merit based promotion system. And, apparently, we now know that no one in senior Army leadership took the time to provide him with an acceptable career path as a colonel given the reality that now existed: that it is not safe for him to deploy as a senior Foreign Area Officer to be the Defense Attache or Senior Defense Official at either US Embassy Kyiv or US Embassy Moscow. What LTC Vindman needed was senior mentorship that provided him hope for a useful and fulfilling career path for the final eight years or so of his service as a US Army officer. From the reporting and his attorney’s statement, this does not appear to have happened.
A couple of final points.
First, please, everyone, stop fantasy casting LTC Vindman in a potential Biden administration. He is not only not going to be the Secretary of the Army, nor the US ambassador to Ukraine, he is also not qualified for either of those positions. LTC Vindman is many things, not least of which a real patriot, but he has neither the management experience to be Secretary of the Army, nor the diplomatic experience to be the ambassador to Ukraine. If VP Biden is elected and if he doesn’t find himself facing a Republican majority Senate led by Mitch McConnell, the senior political and diplomatic appointees he nominates will need to be actual professionals with the actual expertise and experience to properly do their jobs. Stunt casting or nominating donors or other elites and notables with no actual experience and expertise for these jobs is simply not going to work. Too much damage has been done over the last four years to let wealthy, connected people role play and play act being cabinet secretaries or ambassadors. That said, he would certainly be qualified to go back to the National Security Staff as the senior director for Russia, Ukraine, and/or Eastern Europe. Or to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Russia, Ukraine, and/or Eastern Europe. I suspect, however, that he will soon be hired by one of the major think tanks as one of their senior fellows dealing with issues pertaining to Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe.
Second, everyone needs to understand the immense pressure LTC Vindman was under. Pressure that only got worse when Senator Duckworth placed a hold on the 1,100 or so Army promotions to the ranks of colonel, brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, and general until she was assured that LTC Vindman’s promotion to colonel would not be held up by the President as an act of revenge. Let me be very clear, I am not saying that Senator Duckworth’s actions are wrong. I am saying that by her increasing the pressure on the Secretary of the Army, she increased the pressure on LTC Vindman. Those other 1,100 or so men and women now have their lives upended. Some of them are slated into commands at brigade (colonel), division (major general), corps (lieutenant general), Army Service Component Command (major general or lieutenant general), or Geographic Combatant Command (general) and cannot take up those commands until their promotions are finalized. Some are slated into deputy command and senior staff assignments at this same commands. Some where preparing to relocate their families; relocations which are now on hold and no longer sure things. What Senator Duckworth is doing, and she’s a retired lieutenant colonel herself so she knows exactly what she’s doing, is increasing pressure on the Army leadership – senior civilian appointees and uniformed – by creating a knot in the professional pipeline. That knot has a huge follow on ripple effect. It isn’t that promotions will be held up for a few weeks to a few months, it’s that an entire set of personnel changes and rotations into and out of assignments is now completely up in the air. And while this is not LTC Vindman’s fault, I guarantee that some of these 1,100 or so officers who are having their lives placed on hold and their careers potentially upended will blame him. This isn’t because they aren’t good officers, but because they’re humans. The more that Senator Duckworth increases the pressure by holding up these promotions, the more the pressure also increased on LTC Vindman. So it shouldn’t be surprising that he wanted to remove himself from the equation and relieve the pressure on himself.
Third, and finally, while it is not impossible – as in it would be legal – do not expect that a President Biden will suddenly reinstate LTC Vindman by recalling him to active duty shortly after inauguration in January 2021 and then immediately promote him to colonel. Aside from assuming that Biden will win in November and take office in January, which is putting your eggs in your cart without counting them before your horse has left the barn, it takes LTC Vindman’s agency away from him. He may find that even if this opportunity is presented to him that he enjoys being retired, that he and his family are happy with the professional and personal changes that he felt he had no choice but to make. And as much as I respect Senator Franken, there is no way that LTC Vindman would be presented with a Medal of Honor shortly after Biden would be inaugurated in January 2021.
“Putin, sadly, has got all of our political class, every single one of us, including the media, exactly where he wants us.” Fiona Hill speaks to Lesley Stahl in her first interview since the impeachment inquiry. Watch tomorrow on 60 Minutes. https://t.co/VioR1BrQ7Z pic.twitter.com/LK7Q2mZjEZ
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 7, 2020
There’s another reason things turned for the US economy last week… A geopolitical game over oil prices outside US control.
— Shawn Donnan (@sdonnan) March 7, 2020
At 10:16 a.m. on a wet and dreary Friday morning, Russia’s energy minister walked into OPEC’s headquarters in central Vienna knowing his boss was ready to turn the global oil market upside down.
Alexander Novak told his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman that Russia was unwilling to cut oil production further. The Kremlin had decided that propping up prices as the coronavirus ravaged energy demand would be a gift to the U.S. shale industry. The frackers had added millions of barrels of oil to the global market while Russian companies kept wells idle. Now it was time to squeeze the Americans.
For over three years, President Vladimir Putin had kept Russia inside the OPEC+ coalition, allying with Saudi Arabia and the other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to curb oil production and support prices. On top of helping Russia’s treasury – energy exports are the largest source of state revenue – the alliance brought foreign policy gains, creating a bond with Saudi Arabia’s new leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
But the OPEC+ deal also aided America’s shale industry and Russia was increasingly angry with the Trump administration’s willingness to employ energy as a political and economic tool. It was especially irked by the U.S.’s use of sanctions to prevent the completion of a pipeline linking Siberia’s gas fields with Germany, known as Nord Stream 2. The White House has also targeted the Venezuelan business of Russia’s state-oil producer Rosneft.
“The Kremlin has decided to sacrifice OPEC+ to stop U.S. shale producers and punish the U.S. for messing with Nord Stream 2,” said Alexander Dynkin, president of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow, a state-run think tank. “Of course, to upset Saudi Arabia could be a risky thing, but this is Russia’s strategy at the moment – flexible geometry of interests.”
The OPEC+ deal had never been popular with many in the Russian oil industry, who resented having to hold back investments in new and potentially profitable projects. In particular, Igor Sechin, the powerful boss of Rosneft and a long-time Putin ally, lobbied against the curbs, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private conversations.
The Kremlin was also disappointed the alliance with Riyadh hadn’t yielded major Saudi investments in Russia.
For several months, Novak and his team had been telling Saudi officials they liked being in the OPEC+ alliance but were reluctant to deepen production cuts, according to people familiar with the relationship. At the last OPEC meeting in December, Russia negotiated a position that allowed it to keep production fairly steady while Saudi Arabia shouldered big reductions.
When the coronavirus started devastating Chinese economic activity in early February – cutting oil demand in Saudi Arabia’s biggest customer by 20% — Prince Abdulaziz tried to convince Novak that they should call an early OPEC+ meeting in response to cutback supply. Novak said no. The Saudi king and Putin spoke by phone – it didn’t help.
As the virus spread and analysts forecast the worst year for oil demand since the global financial crisis, the Saudi camp was hopeful Moscow could be won round at the next scheduled OPEC meeting in early March. The Russians didn’t rule out deepening cuts, but kept making the point that shale producers should be made to share the pain. Putin, who has been the final arbiter of Russia’s OPEC+ policy since the alliance started in 2016, met oil Russian producers and key ministers last Sunday…
His enablers in Washington may have chosen to betray their oath of impartial justice and cover up his abuses of power, but the fact remains: The President is impeached forever. Period.
— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) February 15, 2020
*relentlessly mocks Pelosi for not impeaching Trump, and when she does, relentlessly mocks her for Chuck Schumer’s failure to flip Senator”
why doesn’t she want to impeach the attorney general, which I just googled is possible https://t.co/7xVpFAGimk
— Proud Bloomberg Disliker (@MenshevikM) February 13, 2020
In 2018, the House, led by “centrist” Nancy Pelosi, picked up the most seats in a generation, winning 41 GOP-held seats for a net gain of 39 seats. Many of those GOP seats were won by … wait for it … centrists in swing districts in red states. ????? https://t.co/v3iTb3YWz5
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) February 18, 2020
And yet Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a French fascist from a party founded by some of Hitler’s last bodyguards, was welcomed with thunderous applause. https://t.co/4Cvc7fWspn
— zeddy (@Zeddary) February 9, 2020
And CPAC was never exactly Mitt’s kinda people anyways. Remember when we could make fun of the grifters, resume-padders and grievance voters who hung around that event like flies circling carrion?
But he’ll go to a place he knows would result in violence against Romney
Of all the supposed “true conservatives” who’s become Trump bootlickers, Schlapp is one of the dumbest and one of the worst https://t.co/NIEFaiJac2
— Dana Houle (@DanaHoule) February 9, 2020
I wish I could remember which twitter wit referred to Matt Schlapp as ‘the sound made by two porkchops falling onto a wet kitchen floor.’
These Trump remoras can’t make me like Mitt Romney, but they’re making me more sympathetic to the general, near-extinct class of Honorable Republicans.
Worth the two minutes.
Colbert is a gem. pic.twitter.com/To69UTmYxU
— The Hoarse Whisperer (@HoarseWisperer) February 6, 2020
Mitt’s an upper-class Mormon. He grew up in a wealthy suburb in Michigan, moved to Massachusetts for college and to New York to make his fortune, moved back to Massachusetts to jump-start his political career because ‘nobody elects a president from Utah‘. He still has multi-million-dollar ‘family vacation homes’ in California and New Hampshire. But his primary loyalty has always been to his class and his faith, not necessarily in that order, and there’s no better place on earth for a well-to-do Mormon of impeccable LDS lineage than the state of Utah. They don’t care what that vulgar gentile in the White House thinks, although they’ll dutifully pull the (R) lever during the general election.
If you don’t trust my insight, McKay Coppins is also a Mormon:
Unsurprisingly, Romney’s vote to convict is not being met with the same apocalyptic rage in Utah as it is in much of MAGA country. https://t.co/hxhcAYJiFf
— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) February 10, 2020