By Robert A. Vella
It’s been quite a week, hasn’t it? There’s impeachment in the U.S. of the most ethically corrupt and morally bereft president in the nation’s history, turmoil in the U.K. over Boris and Brexit, warmongering over Iran, real war in Yemen, upheaval in Hong Kong, escalating tensions over Kashmir, ethnic hostilities and disease outbreaks in Africa, economic uncertainty over trade and other issues, radiation in Japan and Russia, the abandonment of nuclear arms control, and rising global anxiety over climate change. Remote observers from another civilization would probably think we humans are a bunch of irrational and destructive morons. They might wonder how we ever rose to prominence on this planet. They also might contemplate how much time we have left before our inevitable demise. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with us?
I’ll let you answer that question. Here are some relevant stories for this Friday:
White House panic
There appears to be rising “anxiety, unease, and concern” — as one person close to the White House described the mood in the West Wing — that the whistleblower’s allegations could seriously wound the president and some of those around him. “There’s not a lot of confidence that there’s no there there,” this person said.
Another person familiar with the discussions described the mood inside the White House as “shell-shocked,” with increasing wariness that, as this impeachment inquiry drags out, the likelihood increases that the president could respond erratically and become “unmanageable.”
For a president whose brand is viewed as strength, Wednesday’s press conference made him look defeated, said one person familiar with the situation. While Trump relished questions on the Russia investigation, he seemed to be in no mood to answer questions about Ukraine.
… one Republican strategist close to the White House points out that the president’s base approval ratings are already sky-high — and impeachment will do little to win over new supporters.
How Trump learned of whistleblower
The officer first shared information about potential abuse of power and a White House cover-up with the C.I.A.’s top lawyer through an anonymous process, some of the people said. The lawyer shared the officer’s concerns with White House and Justice Department officials, following policy. Around the same time, the officer separately filed the whistle-blower complaint.
The revelations provide new insight about how the officer’s allegations moved through the bureaucracy of government. The Trump administration’s handling of the accusations is certain to be scrutinized, particularly by lawmakers weighing the impeachment of the president.
… McConnell also allowed his caucus to back a resolution written by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer calling for the full whistleblower complaint to be released to Congress. McConnell signed off fast-tracking that resolution, which carried the day with unanimous support.
A McConnell aide said the decision to go full-speed-ahead with the disclosure resolution aligns with the office’s belief that obtaining that full document will help the Senate Intelligence Committee conduct its bipartisan oversight of the Administration. Not one Republican was ready to publicly align with the White House’s refusal to quash the complaint and block its release to Congress. While foreign policy is largely the purview of the executive branch, spending taxpayers’ dollars is a legislative power, and McConnell was still smarting about the aid delay.
… McConnell always has a way out. While he is bound to consider an impeach referral from the House, he also has in his back pocket a potential motion to dismiss. In 1999, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia tried the gambit during Bill Clinton’s trial in the Senate, only to have it come up 10 short of the required 67 votes. It’s a long-shot, for sure.
The Kremlin said on Friday that it hoped that Washington would not release confidential details of phone calls between President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comment when asked about the White House’s release of a reconstruction of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that has set off a U.S. domestic political storm.
The gap between the haves and have-nots in the United States grew last year to its highest level in more than 50 years of tracking income inequality, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Thursday.
Income inequality in the United States expanded from 2017 to 2018, with several heartland states among the leaders of the increase, even though several wealthy coastal states still had the most inequality overall, according to the figures.
The nation’s Gini Index, which measures income inequality, has been rising steadily over the past five decades.