By Robert A. Vella
I’ve been asserting for some time now that President Trump’s brazen admissions of his corrupt behavior are not just the result of megalomania run wild – that is, the inability to see any wrongdoing in his actions – but are also an attempt to intimidate any congressional Republicans whose support for him might be wavering as the impeachment process moves forward. It’s analogous to The Godfather movies in which Michael Corleone justifies his criminal conduct as in the interests of “The Family” and that any betrayal by subordinates automatically warrants the ultimate punishment.
I think both of these psychologies, plus the intent to shift negative attention away from himself, motivated Trump today to publicly ask Ukraine and China to investigate his main Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden. The request of China would seem bizarre considering his hostility towards that Asian power, but it is actually understandable because his administration is currently engaged in trade negotiations with the Chinese government at a crucial time when the global economy is slowing down. The message Trump is sending to China’s leader Xi Jinping is clear: Help me dig up dirt on my political rival, and I’ll play nice on trade.
Trump’s shameless move is either mad genius or sheer stupidity. I think it’s the latter because, no matter how much China wants a return to normalized trade, it isn’t naive enough to trust Trump. As a ploy to intimidate Republicans, Trump might have some success because the GOP knows its base support would collapse if Trump was removed from office upon being impeached. However, he has also put Republicans in an even more precarious political situation because – by publicly urging Ukraine and China to aid him in corruption – Trump has openly impeached himself.
Note: former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker is testifying today (as I write this) before the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry.
Here are today’s developments:
Kurt Volker, the former special representative for Ukraine negotiations, will dispute Rudy Giuliani’s account of back channel meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, sources told the Washington Examiner.
“I believe that Kurt will take the position that he was not directing Rudy,” said Townsend. “If anything, Rudy was asking for his assistance and Kurt was not fully aware of what [Giuliani wanted] from the Ukrainians.”
That forecast suggests that Volker, who rose through the ranks of the Foreign Service to be U.S. ambassador to NATO in 2008, will not sacrifice his reputation and future prospects in order to protect Trump.
In his quest to rewrite the history of the 2016 election, President Trump’s personal attorney has turned to an unusual source of information: Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Rudolph W. Giuliani in recent months has consulted several times with Manafort through the federal prisoner’s lawyer in pursuit of information about a disputed ledger that would bolster his theory that the real story of 2016 is not Russian interference to elect Trump, but Ukrainian efforts to support Hillary Clinton.
The relationship, which Giuliani acknowledged in an interview this week with The Washington Post, stems from a shared interest in a narrative that undermines the rationale for the special counsel investigation. That inquiry led to Manafort’s imprisonment on tax and financial fraud allegations related to his work in Kiev for the political party of former president Viktor Yanukovych.
Democrats say the State Department watchdog used a closed-door briefing on Wednesday to give them “conspiracy theories” tied to Ukraine, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“It’s essentially a packet of propaganda and disinformation and spreading conspiracy theories. Those conspiracy theories have been widely debunked and discredited,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters after an hourlong briefing with State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
The closed-door, hour-long briefing was part of a hastily assembled meeting requested by the State Department watchdog.
In other news:
The Trump administration plans to enact new 10-25% tariffs on about $7.5 billion worth of European Union products starting on Oct. 18. The move follows a ruling Wednesday by the World Trade Organization that the EU had been subsidizing Airbus, giving the U.S. a significant victory in a 15 year-long legal fight over aviation subsidies.
EU officials have long disputed that their policies amount to a subsidy program. European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom warned the U.S. against enacting new tariffs. “We remain of the view that even if the United States obtains authorisation from the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, opting for applying countermeasures now would be short-sighted and counterproductive,” she said in a statement provided by the European Commission.
U.S. factory activity contracted for the second straight month in September and hit a 10-year low, triggering fresh concerns about the economy and a broad stock-market decline.
The U.S. manufacturing readings were among several data points released Tuesday pointing towards the global impact of the U.S.-China trade war, as trade flows are set to grow this year at the weakest pace since the financial crisis, with rising tariffs and cooling growth.
Slowing economic growth has prompted a wave of central bank stimulus measures around the world, including from the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. The latest effort came Tuesday, when the Reserve Bank of Australia cut its key interest rate for the third time this year.
A U.S. Coast Guard officer will plead guilty to illegally stockpiling firearms and compiling a list of political and media figures he wanted to kill, federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Court filings indicated that Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson will enter his plea Thursday in federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland.
When he was arrested in February, prosecutors described him as a white nationalist who was plotting mass killings, and they fought to keep him in jail pending trial. But because there is no federal domestic terrorism law, he faced only firearms charges.
More than a dozen letters said to be from police officers and employees allege that there is rampant racism and mistreatment inside the Columbus Police Department.
The release of the letters comes a year after the Ohio department started its own investigation and assessment following similar concerns in 2018.
One of the anonymous letters wrote that “there are officers and supervisors who take advantage of their power and rank and often use that power and rank to try to eliminate or at the very least give minority officers a difficult time.”