A Complete Analysis Of Trump’s 150th Unpresidented Week As POTUS
Trump’s first major typo after winning the election was spelling Unprecedented incorrectly. He infamously tweeted “Unpresidented.” This typo is emblematic of his administration: An impulsive, frantically thrown together group of characters with virtually no oversight. After Trump was sworn in, I started writing the weekly “Unpresidented” column, analyzing every day of his presidency. This is week 150.
It is all but certain President Trump will be the 3rd President in United States history to be impeached in the House of Representatives. President Nixon would’ve been included on this infamous list if he didn’t resign before the articles made it to the full House vote. President Trump won’t grant us that same reprieve.
This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made a historic announcement. Pelosi said that House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) would be moving forward with drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump. The evidence that President Trump extorted Ukraine to pressure them to interfere in the 2020 election, and subsequently obstructed Congress, is overwhelming. The House Judiciary hearing this week highlighted why this conduct is impeachable and outlined how this is exactly the kind of conduct the Founding Fathers feared.
While there has been a media narrative that Democrats have failed to convince Republicans to support impeachment, the real story is that Republicans haven’t been able to shift polling away from impeachment. The Republican defense against impeachment, which has always been based on falsehoods and conspiracy theories, fell further apart this week. The Russia-crated conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election has been debunked at every level, and so has the allegations against Hunter Biden. These defenses failed to move Independents away from supporting impeachment and it actually increased among women.
The new argument this week was that the conduct of President Trump wasn’t impeachable, but House Judiciary law professors Pamela Karlan, Noah Feldman, and Michael Gerhardt clearly indicated that was the case. The one Republican-called witness, Professor Jonathan Turley contradicted himself and his argument that there wasn’t enough evidence fell flat.
Meanwhile, President Trump was at the NATO summit in London being mocked by world leaders. After spending the first years of Trump’s presidency trying to curry favor with him through flattery, it appears leaders of NATO have realized trying to reason with President Trump is a lost cause. From French President Emmanuel Macron’s press conference where he schooled Trump on the threat of ISIS to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mockery of Trump, it was an embarrassing summit for the United States.
President Trump’s strange capitulation to Saudia Arabia also continued this week after a Saudi Air Force officer opened fire on his classmates, killing three people at Naval Air Station Pensacola. With echoes of his reaction to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump’s first instinct was to parrot the narrative of King Salman rather than wait for details of the killer’s motive.
Let’s dive into another Unpresidented week.
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Trump’s Authoritarian Fixer
Day 1,047: Monday, December 2
Monday’s top stories:
- The Washington Post: Barr doesn’t accept key inspector general finding about FBI’s Russia investigation
- The New York Times: Democrats Ready Impeachment Report as Republicans Argue Trump Did Nothing Wrong
- Reuters: White House tells House Democrats that it will not participate in Wednesday impeachment hearing
- BuzzFeed News: Here Are The Latest Secret Memos From Mueller’s Report
- Politico: Senate panel look into Ukraine interference comes up short
- NBC News: GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, after claiming ‘witch hunt,’ to plead guilty to misusing campaign funds
- Bloomberg: U.S. Proposes Duties on $2.4 Billion of French Goods Over Tech Tax
- The Daily Beast: Zelensky Tells Trump: Please Stop Saying Ukraine Is Corrupt
- The Daily Beast: Lisa Page Speaks: ‘There’s No Fathomable Way I Have Committed Any Crime at All’
- CNN: Top Republican on House Judiciary Committee calls for Adam Schiff to testify
- Axios: NATO allies spooked by Trump despite White House soothing
- South China Morning Post: China puts Hong Kong port calls by US military on hold after Donald Trump signs democracy act
- NBC News: Trump campaign says it will ban Bloomberg reporters from events, rallies
- Reuters: U.S. defense chief calls on Turkey to stop holding up NATO readiness plan
- The Daily Beast: Trump Is First to Use PATRIOT Act to Detain a Man Forever
- AP: Trump administration quietly releases Lebanon military aid
- NBC News: Steve Bullock drops out of Democratic presidential race
- CNN: Joe Sestak ends long-shot 2020 Democratic presidential campaign
The House Impeachment Report
Day 1,048: Tuesday, December 3
On Monday, House Republicans released a report that served as a full-throated defense of President Trump’s Ukraine extortion plot. Today, House Democrats released their findings in the impeachment inquiry into that plot, and it included incredibly damning new details.
After 100 hours of depositions from 17 witnesses and 30 hours of public testimony from 12 of those witnesses, a draft of the House’s impeachment report is here. Although there were additional witnesses the White House has kept from testifying, House Democrats have decided they have enough evidence to move forward with the impeachment of President Trump. The report will make its way to the House Judiciary Committee for further review, where articles of impeachment will reportedly be crafted and sent to the full House for a vote before Christmas. The report makes clear Democrats are circling “Abuse of Power” and “Obstruction” as articles of impeachment. Whether they will include bribery is still up for debate.
The report outlines, in robust detail, how President Trump attempted to extort foreign election interference from the Ukrainian government in the form of investigations into his political targets. In furtherance of this scheme, President Trump deployed multiple allies, in and outside his administration, to pressure Ukraine to launch the investigations into the Bidens and the Russia-created Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory. At the core of this extortion campaign was the fact the Trump Administration withheld military aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine, and it was explicitly made clear to Ukraine that they needed to launch the probes in order to receive either.
After President Trump was made aware of the existence of the whistleblower complaint regarding his July 25 phone call with President Zelensky, and the House launched their investigation, Trump released the aid on September 11. Ukraine has still not obtained a White House meeting with President Trump.
The report also came to this conclusion (which we’ve covered before):
President Trump’s closest subordinates and advisors within the Executive Branch, including Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Energy J. Richard Perry, and other senior White House and Executive Branch officials had knowledge of, in some cases facilitated and furthered the President’s scheme, and withheld information about the scheme from the Congress and the American public.
But one of the most damning details involved House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA). Over the course of the report, it becomes clear that Nunes was even more complicit in the extortion plot than many originally thought. The new revelations paint the way he conducted himself in the impeachment hearings in a significantly more damning light in hindsight. Nunes’s conduct was clearly a desperate attempt to cover up a scheme that he himself was potentially involved in and at the very least aware of.
There were multiple questionable calls involving Devin Nunes, Rudy Giuliani, indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, a member of Nunes’s staff Derek Harvey, and former member of Nunes’s staff Kashyap “Kash” Patel. This first record is particularly damning because it showcases that Nunes may have been involved in crafting the false narrative of Ukraine meddling that Solomon published in The Hill. Also, why was Nunes communicating with Lev Parnas, who waged a smear campaign against then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and also claimed Trump himself sent him on a “mission” to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens?
Over the course of the four days following the April 7 article, phone records show contacts between Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas, Representative Devin Nunes, and Mr. Solomon. Specifically, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas were in contact with one another, as well as with Mr. Solomon. Phone records also show contacts on April 10 between Mr. Giuliani and Rep. Nunes, consisting of three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three minute call.
On the morning of May 8, Mr. Giuliani called the White House Switchboard and connected for six minutes and 26 seconds with someone at the White House. That same day, Mr. Giuliani also connected with Mr. Solomon for almost six minutes, with Mr. Parnas, and with Derek Harvey, a member of Representative Nunes’ staff on the Intelligence Committee.
Call records also show that around midday on May 10, Mr. Giuliani began trading aborted calls with Kashyap “Kash” Patel, an official at the National Security Council who previously served on Ranking Member Devin Nunes’ staff on the Intelligence Committee. Mr. Patel successfully connected with Mr. Giuliani less than an hour after Mr. Giuliani’s call with Ambassador Volker. Beginning at 3:23 p.m., Eastern Time, Mr. Patel and Mr. Giuliani spoke for over 25 minutes. Five minutes after Mr. Patel and Mr. Giuliani disconnected, an unidentified “-1” number connected with Mr. Giuliani for over 17 minutes. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Giuliani spoke with Mr. Parnas for approximately 12 minutes.
Here’s a bird’s eye view of the call records:
Looks like Devin #Nunes is in deep, deep trouble.
Comprehensive list of call records listed in #ImpeachmentReport
Nunes/senior aide Derek Harvey calls
Giuliani and indicted Lev Parnas, who were engaged in disinformation campaign and Ukraine dirt on Bidens. pic.twitter.com/n0bKgBnpIX
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) December 3, 2019
There were also call logs between the Office and Budget Management (OMB) and Rudy Giuliani, who was running point on the extortion plot, the day Yovanovitch was removed from her post.
This is fascinating, as flagged by @KatyTurNBC and @AriMelber as I sit on tv w them: @RudyGiuliani was in contact with OMB. pic.twitter.com/UwYD4CZffy
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) December 3, 2019
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) spoke about the fact Nunes appears to be implicated in the scheme in a press conference today.
“It is, I think, deeply concerning that at a time when the president of the U.S. was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity.”
Devin Nunes is not handling this well. Nunes is suing CNN for publishing Parnas’s claims that Nunes went to Vienna last December to meet with former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin and that Nunes spoke about the need for probes into the Bidens and the Ukraine meddling conspiracy theory.
In lawsuit against CNN, @DevinNunes says network should have known Parnas was “a renowned liar, a fraudster, a hustler, an opportunist with delusions of grandeur…” Not good timing given phone records in intel report. https://t.co/GCBYc71KeP pic.twitter.com/Bp2g1DXjBe
— Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) December 3, 2019
After calling for Nunes’s recusal, Parnas’s lawyer responded to the impeachment report and this lawsuit:
Lev Parnas’ attorney, Joseph Bondy, added: “Devin Nunes was definitely part of an attempt to gather information about the Bidens. He was definitely involved in Ukraine. He definitely had involvement in the GOP shadow diplomacy efforts in Ukraine, contrary to his claims.”
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) December 3, 2019
Yesterday, House Republicans released a fact-averse report defending President Trump’s extortion plot. Today, the House released a report directly implicating Devin Nunes with hard evidence/phone records. At the very least, Nunes had knowledge of the scheme. The lead byline on the GOP report was Nunes. It was a defense of himself.
In other news…
- Business Insider: Macron corrects Trump to his face at NATO meeting over his repeated false claims that ISIS is defeated
- CNN: Trump makes at least 21 false claims at NATO meetings
- The Washington Post: How the Ukraine pressure campaign began as an effort to undercut the Mueller investigation
- NBC News: Newly released documents shed light on Mueller-Trump meeting
- The Washington Post: House Republicans’ defense of Trump on impeachment at odds with witness testimony
- CNN: Fresh intelligence points to Iranian threat against US forces and interests in Middle East, officials say
- Politico: ‘One of the hardest decisions of my life’: Kamala Harris ends once-promising campaign
- Reuters: France says primed to retaliate with EU over U.S. tariff threat against Paris
- CNBC: Each NATO country’s financial contribution to the military alliance
- CNN: Graham says he’s ‘1,000% confident’ Russia meddled in 2016 US election — not Ukraine
- NBC News: Trump labels Democrats ‘unpatriotic’ as he arrives in London for NATO gathering
- Bloomberg: Trump Sees No Deadline for China Deal, Prefers to Wait For 2020 Election
- The Guardian: Photos contradict Trump’s claim not to know Prince Andrew
- TheHill: House passes resolution disapproving of Russia being included in future G7 summit
- CNN: Former official says Trump often refused to believe his intelligence briefings
- CNN: IRS whistleblower declines to appear for transcribed interview
- The Daily Beast: Trump Denies Knowing Prince Andrew, Despite Numerous Photos of Them Together
- The Week: The 1st and 2nd members of Congress to endorse Trump will plead guilty to federal crimes, resign
The First House Judiciary Impeachment Hearing
Day 1,049: Wednesday, December 4
Wednesday’s top stories:
- The Independent: A Breakdown Of The House Judiciary Impeachment Hearing
- Axios: Giuliani visits Ukraine to meet with prosecutors at heart of impeachment inquiry
- CNN: Giuliani’s calls with mysterious ‘-1’ raise more questions for House Democrats
- Politico: Trump abruptly cancels NATO news conference after tense exchanges with world leaders
- Reuters: Court tells banks to hand Trump financial records to House Democrats
- HuffPost: William Barr Says Those Who Don’t Show More Respect To Cops May Not Get Police Protection
- The Daily Beast: Devin Nunes Tries to Explain Away His Parnas and Giuliani Calls to Hannity
- The Daily Beast: Fox News Legal Analysts: GOP Impeachment Witness Is ‘Simply Wrong’
- Bloomberg: Trump Administration Moves to End Food Stamps for 750,000
- Axios: World leaders caught on hot mic appearing to gossip about Trump
- Associated Press: US Navy seizes suspected Iranian missile parts set for Yemen
- BBC: China sanctions: US House passes bill over treatment of Uighurs
- CNN: North Korea warns US to prepare for ‘Christmas gift,’ but no one’s sure what to expect
- TheHill: Senate confirms Trump pick labeled ‘not qualified’ by American Bar Association
- The Independent: More than 100 Jewish graves defaced in France with Nazi swastikas
- USA TODAY: Kamala Harris and Donald Trump trade Twitter jabs after she leaves the presidential race
Pelosi Announces Incoming Articles Of Impeachment
Day 1,050: Thursday, December 5
“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence… the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.” – President George Washington in his 1796 Farewell Address
The Founding Fathers did not declare independence from a monarch and fight a revolutionary war to create a country that would eventually elect a president who would seek to declare himself king and sell out to the highest foreign bidder. The Founders particularly feared a future president bending to foreign influence for personal gain. This is precisely why the impeachment clause was created, and why it’s being used against President Trump.
Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will proceed with drafting articles of impeachment for President Trump. Pelosi said that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election by withholding aid and a White House meeting. In her remarks today, Pelosi continued:
“Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections. His actions are in defiance of the vision of our founders and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
That story was told over the course of weeks of public impeachment hearings, and in the House Impeachment report released this week. The report established a pattern, from welcoming Russia’s election interference in 2016 to trying to extort it from Ukraine ahead of 2020. As we see outlined in the report, and in the hearing this week, this is exactly the conduct the Founding Fathers feared.
The debates among the Founders about the importance of protecting America’s election integrity and preventing a president from becoming a foreign asset are no secret. They thought deeply about this risk, and it’s why they crafted the impeachment and emoluments clause (which Trump likely violates by profiting from the presidency). This was the common theme among three of the law professors who testified in the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing. They all agreed that the impeachment clause was crafted for a President that has done exactly what President Trump has done.
I covered this in my recent analysis for The Independent:
Professor Feldman summarized his thoughts on Trump’s conduct succinctly in his opening statement. After stating that the Founding Fathers feared a president who might abuse his power for personal gain, Feldman continued: “On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency.”
Professor Gerhardt’s testimony made the key point that Trump’s obstruction of Congress is impeachable and that an act does not have to be a federal crime to be impeachable. Gerhardt stated: “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable. This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created a constitution, including impeachment, to protect against.”
Karlan, Feldman, and Gerhardt all agreed that what Trump did was impeachable bribery. Karlan made sure to make a distinction between bribery in the impeachment clause and the bribery statute that wasn’t created until decades later. All three also agreed that it doesn’t matter that Trump eventually released the military aid. They argued that if the president even attempts to abuse his office, that is an impeachable offense.
While Democrats and their witnesses cited the Founding Fathers who feared foreign influence, Republicans took a different route. In July, President Trump presented a distorted version of the conservative unitary executive theory when he said: “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” Attorney General William Barr is also a believer of this theory. Of course, the Constitution does not allow Trump to do whatever he wants. While you’ve heard Republicans quoting Hamilton throughout this impeachment process, you won’t hear them quote Federalist 65 which contradicts Trump and Barr’s interpretation of his theory.
As Professor Bradley Hays wrote in The Washington Post, Hamilton actually intended the unitary executive to increase accountability by centralizing the power of the executive. Hays also notes that Hamilton explicitly states that the unitary executive does not place the President above the law:
In Federalist 65, he clearly states that a president impeached for misconduct is also “liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law.” In other words, the presidency was not designed to be free from prosecutorial inquiry.
There has been a lot of cherry-picking of what the Founding Fathers believed from Republicans. Make no mistake, Donald Trump is exactly the corrupt President they crafted the Constitution to protect Americans from.
In other news…
- ProPublica: Inside the Cell Where a Sick 16-Year-Old Boy Died in Border Patrol Care
- The Washington Post: Barr’s handpicked prosecutor tells inspector general he can’t back right-wing theory that Russia case was U.S. intelligence setup
- Business Insider: Nancy Pelosi lambasted a reporter for asking if she hated the president, then stormed offstage: ‘Don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that’
- CNN: Pompeo had off-the-books meeting with Republican donors in London this week
- CNN: US considers sending thousands more troops to Middle East to deter Iran
- TheHill: Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days
- NBC News: House Democrats slam Trump admin for ‘illegally withholding’ Puerto Rico hurricane aid
- NBC News: GOP senator, at White House’s request, blocks Armenian genocide resolution
- The New York Times: Karen McDougal, Who Claimed Trump Affair, Sues Fox News
- NBC News: Biden calls Iowa voter who pushed him on Ukraine ‘a damn liar,’ challenges him to pushup contest
- Business Insider: Justin Trudeau met with Trump to explain the ‘context’ of a joke he made about him with NATO leaders but stopped short of apologizing
- Newsweek: Rudy Giuliani Won’t Say Why He’s in Ukraine and Refuses to Confirm His Location
- Politico: Judge orders release of ex-acting AG Whitaker’s financial documents
- Reuters: Ukraine threatens to wall off part of Donbass region if no agreement with Russia
- Time: Tear Gas Is Now a Fact of Life in Hong Kong. Residents Are Wondering What It’s Doing to Their Health
- The Daily Beast: Ex-Infowars Staffer: We Made Up Shariah Law Threat Stories
- CNN: George Zimmerman sues Trayvon Martin’s parents and others for $100 million
White House Refuses To Participate, Again
Day 1,051: Friday, December 6
Friday’s top stories:
- Reuters: White House says it won’t participate in impeachment hearing next week
- The Daily Beast: Rudy’s New Ukraine Jaunt Is Freaking Out Trump’s Lieutenants—and He Doesn’t Care
- Vox: Rudy Giuliani just blew up Trump’s “no quid pro quo” talking point
- The Washington Post: Phone logs in impeachment report renew concern about security of Trump communications
- Politico: Senate Republicans puncture House GOP dreams for impeachment trial
- CNN: Trump asks Supreme Court to block House subpoena for financial documents and take up case
- Axios: Duncan Hunter to resign from Congress after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds
- CBS News: Pensacola shooting today: suspect was member of Saudi Air Force, killed 3 people at Florida Navy base
- CNN: Supreme Court blocks Justice Department from restarting federal executions next week
- The Washington Post: Congress, White House near deal to create Space Force in exchange for paid leave for federal workers
- CNBC: Trump brings a third case over his financial records to the Supreme Court
- NPR: The Stakes For Ukraine Are High In Monday’s Summit Between Putin And Zelenskiy
- HuffPost: Greta Thunberg Joins Massive Protest At Site Of UN Climate Summit
- Rantt Media: Stephen Miller: The Jewish White Supremacist
- CNN: Trump made 96 false claims over the last two weeks
- CNN: House Democrat says he plans to vote against all articles of impeachment
- AP: ‘Dark money’ ties raise questions for GOP Sen. Ernst of Iowa
- BBC: ‘Dotage of a dotard’: North Korea renews attack on Donald Trump
- The Independent: Jeremy Corbyn releases leaked government documents that show Boris Johnson ‘lied about Brexit deal’
- Reuters: Fears grow about Sydney after Australia fires merge into giant blaze