Impeachy Keen – Full Speed Ahead


by Roxanne Tellier

Another week, another round of hysteria emanating from the beleaguered White House resident. With the impeachment inquiry picking up speed, despite the constant obstruction and spurning of Congressional subpoenas, the inquiry is still on track to finish as early as Christmas.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that Trump himself has brought them to this moment, stating that his actions are “a betrayal to his oath of office, betrayal of national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”

The first order of business is for all senators to agree on a set of rules that will be in place for a trial. While the Republicans have declared that the Democrats are behaving ‘unfairly,’ in fact the rules and procedures used are pretty much the same as those in place from former President Bill Clinton’s trial.     

The big question will be whether it is even possible to have a truly bipartisan process in the Senate, with so many of the GOP living in fear of possible Trump reprisals, should they display any disloyalty to him.

Hopefully, the use of electronic voting, rather than a roll call vote, will allay some of their fears. However Brian Babin, of Texas, has argued that Americans ‘deserve to hear from our own voices rather than from a spreadsheet on the Clerk’s website.”

He added that electronic record voting “shields Members from having to stand before their colleagues, their constituents, and the world.”  It could be argued that that is precisely why a large contingent of Republicans would prefer to vote anonymously.

Despite the talking point that Republicans have hammered incessantly, that the Democrats are attempting to overturn the 2016 election results, the real reason to move forward with this impeachment investigation and trial hinges on the Trump admin’s determination to topple democracy in America.

The Democrats (and a large portion of Americans) have weathered nearly three years of constant chaos and the overturning of norms, so the denial of election results is something that’s long disappeared in the rear view mirror. In fact, if anything, what is clear in the overt and covert actions of Trump’s cabal of AG Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Rudy Giuliani is a determined attempt to rewrite history, and overturn the established fact that Russia helped Trump to victory.

As far back as 2017, when Breitbart’s Steve Bannon was put in charge of national security, there was never any question that the Trump administration preferred to work outside of governmental norms. Bannon operated outside of, and with no input from, the National Security Council, like a shadow NSC, preferring an environment that allowed no dissenting opinions, and left no paper trail.

In the days and weeks since the whistleblower alerted the Select Committee on Intelligence of his ‘urgent concern’ about the president’s actions, it’s become very clear that the president has indeed authorized several of his colleagues and big donors to operate outside of institutional norms as yet more ‘shadow government agents.’  

Last month it was revealed that, since May,  AG Barr had been conducting an administrative review into the origins of the Mueller inquiry. At the end of October, the process had switched to a criminal probe, seeking to overturn the official conclusion that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election, with the intention of installing Trump as president. While the Mueller Report did not establish any criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump, it did not clear the president of obstructing justice.

Barr’s escalation of the ‘investigation of the investigators’  to a criminal probe has raised concerns of a Kremlin styled ‘justice department’ that can, at any moment, begin criminal proceedings against the political foes or dissenters of the Trump regime.

Meanwhile, as the GOP tells anyone who’ll listen that this is all Democratic sour grapes, and that the House needs to get back to work, the House has indeed passed over 400 bills that have been sent on to Mitch McConnell’s Republican controlled Senate. And there the bills languish, as Moscow Mitch crowns himself the ‘Grim Reaper’ of liberal legislation. 

Senator Tammy Duckworth recently had a taste of Mitch’s refusal to work, when she unveiled legislation to protect undocumented relatives of military members and veterans, allowing them to remain in the U.S. temporarily .

That bill will more than likely also die, on McConnell’s watch.

So I wonder – how can elected representatives who spend all of their time defending Trump’s criminal activities, indulging in illegal, harebrained schemes to slow down the pace of the impeachment inquiry, or actively engaging in the tearing down of the pillars of democracy, face their constituents when they return to home base? How can they expect to be re-elected, when there’s no proof that their time in office has actually moved the country forward, or helped their fellow Americans?

What do they know that allows them to continue pursuing a complete lack of accountability, while expecting to coast into a smooth re-election, that we don’t?

My fear, after three years of seeing the abnormal redefined as normality is that America is falling into a state of learned helplessness. The ‘Resistance,’ once vocal and widespread,  now seems more tepid than  red hot. A few boos at the president’s attendance of a sports game smells more like acceptance of a new reality than an organized front of opposition.

………………………………………………………………..

Fans and friends of musician Ernest Lee were saddened to hear of his passing in September. On Sunday, November 10, we had a Celebration of Life for him, at the Royal Canadian Legion – Woodbine Heights Br. 22,  1240 Woodbine Avenue. (Just north of Mortimer Ave.) 

Here’s a little time line of the events, from organizer Robert Winter:

Controlled Demolition which features Ernest Lee Band drummer Mark Hundevad on vibes and drums, Ernest band alumni Jim Heineman on sax and Sam Heineman on drums and keys.

” We kick off at 2:00, music starts at 3:00. Food provided. Cash bar. We are at the Legion but since it is not a Legion event hats are allowed. Music features a set by Controlled Demolition which features Ernest Lee Band drummer Mark Hundevad on vibes and drums, Ernest band alumni Jim Heineman on sax and Sam Heineman on drums and keys. Special solo guest appearance by long time Ernest friend Steve Fever on acoustic. The Ernest Lee Band will play a set, with regular band members Mark Hundevad on drums, Russell Noseworthy on bass, Robert Winter on guitar. Jim Bish will be on sax. Jim spent time playing with Ernest many years ago and rejoined the band in 2019. John Fletcher, long time Ernest band alumni on guitar and bass, will be joining us on guitar. “

The Three Divas; from left to right – Mari Nicholson, Roxanne Tellier, and Marion Drexler

Featured singers for this set of Ernest Lee original songs and songs by others that Ernest put his stamp on were Marion Drexler, Mari Nicholson and Roxanne Tellier. A draw for 5 of Ernest’s CD Rhythm & Rhyme was held after the music for those who donated to Dixon Hall who have an excellent music program for disadvantaged Toronto youth.

Finally!


by Roxanne Tellier

” There is something almost arbitrary about this scandal instigating impeachment, given the barbarity of Trump and his administration. On a scale that includes keeping immigrant children in cages, I’m not quite sure where to rank the president’s pressuring the leader of a foreign country to investigate a political rival’s son. But it also doesn’t really matter. Impeachment is long overdue. If Trump’s call with Zelinsky is what gets us there, so be it.”   Alex Shephard, The New Republic

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been banging the impeachment drum since almost  the moment the inauguration balloons began to sadly deflate.

When the Democrats took the House in November 2018, public sentiment seemed to point to a belief that they would move towards impeaching Trump, based on any number of issues. And when the Mueller Report landed with all the grace of a mother dropping a baby on it’s head, the impeachment issue was again raised. After all, Mueller’s ‘conclusion’ was that he’d done his job, and now it was up to the Democrats to move forward.  

Nancy Pelosi, however, disagreed on moving to impeach the president. Repeatedly, she told her party and her country that she’d rather beat him, resoundingly, in the 2020 election.

Many of us wondered if America could last that long.

Beyond the mental and emotional exhaustion that has been engendered by Trump’s incessant need for excitement and attention, there was a case to be made that failing to prosecute the president for his misdeeds, based on a fear of electoral retribution, made us wonder how long the Dems could shirk their constitutional responsibilities to hold him accountable for his many crimes, whether real or perceived.

Of course, they – and we – knew that any accusation levelled at Trump or his administration would result in a solid phalanx of his highest level co-conspirators rising up through the swampy waters to defend his right to do whatever he wanted, up to and including a late night whim to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, just to see if it lost him any of his base. (It wouldn’t.) 

We knew in advance that the pearl clutching, eternal victims would level false accusations at those whom they would accuse of simply being jealous rivals, and call any attempt at bringing the executive branch into control as an undeserved ‘witch hunt.’  “Smoking gun? What smoking gun? ”    

But Trump, like any addict, simply couldn’t help himself. The very day after the Mueller Report toothlessly mamby pambied through a sorta kinda accusation of Russia having meddled in the 2016 election (to help Trump)  he was on the phone to the newly elected Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenksky, asking for ‘a favour’ …. that Zelensky take his focus off protecting his own country to investigate the son of Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden.  

Trump subscribed to a debunked conspiracy theory that accused then Vice President Biden of urging the Ukrainians to fire the Kyiv general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in order to save his son, Hunter Biden, from being accused of corruption. In fact, this position on Shokin was supported by Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, European allies, and groups like the International Monetary Foundation. (IMF)

Trump’s phone call to the Ukraine was asking for ‘dirt’ on a political rival, from a foreign country – exactly what he’d been accused and found guilty of doing in 2016. “Russia … if you’re listening… ‘

However, his own Department of Justice so roiled the waters that the Democrats knew they’d have trouble convincing the nation to agree that this was an impeachable offence.

Trump’s call also had a more sinister overtone; a week prior to the call, Trump had told his acting White House Chief of Staff, Nick Mulvaney, to slow walk the Congressionally approved $390 million dollars of military aid that Ukraine desperately needed to fight back against Russian advances.

Implicit in Trump’s request for ‘a favour’ was that the aid might never actually reach the Ukraine at all, should Zelensky refuse to investigate the Bidens.

On August 12th, a whistleblower reported an ‘urgent concern’ to the Inspector General of the Department of National Intelligence (DNI) Michael Atkinson. After review, the inspector general deemed the complaint to be credible, and he kicked it upstairs, to the attention of the acting director of the DNI, Joseph Maguire.

For reasons that still don’t make any sense, Maguire opted to ask for the recommendations of both the Oval Office, and the Department of Justice, despite the complaint explicitly naming both Trump and AG Barr as the focus of the complaint. And .. wonder of wonders! both Trump and Barr thought it would be best to just let this complaint go, unheard.

On September 9th, the inspector general reported the complaint to House Intelligence Chairman, Adam Schiff, advising him that Maguire had dismissed the complaint. On September 19th, the House Committee met with Atkinson behind closed doors to discuss the situation, although Atkinson did not disclose the nature of the complaint.

But the word was now out on the street – something worthy of whistleblowing had happened in the Oval Office. No one knew what that might be – at first.

It wasn’t long before Trump, and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, began speculating to the press that it might be about this phone call. They hadn’t done it, they assured the world, but if they did, it would be okay because .. Trump is above the law. Or so it was inferred.

With information that pointed to an abuse of power, a request for help in getting dirt on a political rival, AND the appearance of a cover up in hand, Pelosi announced on September 24th that the House would begin a formal impeachment enquiry into Trump.

Unsurprisingly Trump’s defence was to produce a heavily redacted five page summary of the thirty minute conversation that they believed would exonerate the president. In fact, it only dug the hole deeper.

When the actual whistleblower’s complaint was declassified and released the following day, the nation discovered that the issues raised had to do with the president “using the power of his office” to solicit foreign election help, and included a description of efforts by senior White House officials hiding away and ‘locking down’ access to all records of the call.

Forget Roy Cohn – what Trump really needed was a Rose Mary Woods.

As more information has appeared, it’s become apparent to about 70% of Americans that this president needs to be investigated, and probably, impeached. The 30% that disagree are his ‘deplorable’ base, and his highest ranking party members, who have circled the wagons to protect his criminality…. again.

As Giuliani, Lindsey Graham, and other GOP talking heads made the rounds of the Sunday morning political talk shows, it became clear that they have decided to use the same old defences of the last hundred scandals; start by denying, deflect by saying someone else did the same thing, and then distract by having a temper tantrum, complete with raised voice and red face.

Just as he and his party did when Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual improprieties, they would blame and shame the victim … and let the accused walk free to take his throne again.

Last night, Graham was overheard having a full blown, loud conversation on his cell phone with “Jared” – presumably Jared Kushner, on a Jet Blue flight. He mentioned that he would be on Face the Nation, and coordinated his talking points, saying, “Listen – this is what I’m going to lay out. This is Kavanaugh on steroids! This is hearsay – and this person has bias.”

This morning, on Face the Nation, Mr Graham equated the whistleblower’s complaint to the sexual accusations against Kavanaugh, saying – without truth – that the transcript of the call, and the particulars of the complaint, were not matched. He became increasingly angry with the interviewer, who disagreed, and he then proceeded to demand to know, ” Who is this whistleblower? What bias do they have? .. I wanna know why the whistleblower was told about this phone call … Who told the whistleblower about the transcript? Who helped this person write this complaint? Who told the whistleblower about a phone call between the POTUS and a foreign leader? Who are these people and what are they up to?”

This is ‘whataboutism‘ to the nth degree; faced with what seems to be a credible accusation, that the president and his personal lawyer have, even unwittingly, confirmed, Graham reacts with indignation towards an unknown person who acted with more backbone and courage than Graham could ever scrape up in all of his miserable 64 years on the planet. Shoot the messenger! It’s a witch hunt!

Lindsey Graham wants to speak to your manager!

(damn … I’d love to know what they have on Graham. It’s gotta be some very, very fine kompromat.)

These efforts to uncover the whistleblower’s identity are not only dangerous to the wellbeing of the whistleblower, but in the long run, may well serve to compromise, and perhaps fatally damage, the very act of whistle blowing, which has been an important weapon in finding and rooting out political corruption at the highest levels.

At this point, it would seem that the whistleblower’s words have been corroborated, in some cases, by the president himself.

We can probably already guess exactly how Trump will defend himself through this trial …. he will react as he always does, with denial, deflection, whataboutism, and then just simply walking away to play another game of golf at the tax payer’s expense.  That’s his pattern.

Trump is incapable of seeing himself as a teammate in a party, just as good or as bad as previous American presidents, because he demands to be considered better than all the presidents who’ve gone before him. His allegiance to Russia is beyond troublesome, and Russia’s request that any phone calls between Trump and Putin remain classified also suggests that there’s been the same sort of extortion discussed in those calls – though which side is pressuring which is yet to be determined.

We know he will denigrate the media, and, with his usual projection, proclaim them  “the laughing stock of the world.” And we know he will dump manure on the heads of America’s intelligence officials, willy nilly, because any kind of intelligence just scares the pants off of little Donny.

And in the end, Trump will proclaim that the whole thing is ‘just a continuation of the witch hunt.’  But I don’t see any witches around here. What I see is a president betraying his country, to achieve his own personal ends.

The other day, Trump told his cronies that he believed the whistleblower was a type of spy, and he lamented that spies were not treated as harshly as they’d been, back in the day. Well, there’s a very large segment of the population that wishes that traitors who committed treason were punished as they were, back in the day, as well.

Be careful what you wish for, Mr Trump.