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  1. #4336

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Who was in the White House photo of the ‘meltdown’ meeting, annotated

    Trump and congressional leaders meet at the White House on Oct. 16 to discuss Turkish military aggression in Syria. (The White House)

    JM Rieger
    Oct. 17, 2019 at 1:24 p.m. EDT
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Trump on Wednesday met for the first time since Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry of Trump. It did not go well.

    Depending on which account you believe, Trump either called Pelosi a “third-rate” or a “third-grade” politician and either Trump or Pelosi had a “meltdown” before Pelosi walked out. After the meeting, Trump tweeted three photos to show what he described as Pelosi’s “meltdown.” Whoever had the “meltdown,” nearly everyone in the room appeared to be extremely uncomfortable.

    Let’s review:

    1) President Trump

    Shortly after the meeting ended, Trump tweeted that Pelosi had a “meltdown” and later told his Twitter followers to “pray for her, she is a very sick person!”

    Nancy Pelosi needs help fast! There is either something wrong with her “upstairs,” or she just plain doesn’t like our great Country. She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2019
    2) Pelosi

    Pelosi told reporters after the meeting that Trump called her a “third-grade politician” before adding, “I think now we have to pray for his health.”

    3) Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper

    Esper has not commented publicly on the meeting. After the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Esper undercut Trump’s plan for containing the Islamic State by saying there was not intelligence to back up Trump’s claim that Turkey and Syria would have the same interest in guarding Islamic State prisoners as the Kurds.

    4) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley

    Milley’s facial expression was the focus of much speculation following the meeting. An aide told The Post’s Josh Dawsey that Milley also undercut Trump’s assertions on the Islamic State.

    Trump told legislative leaders today that he was tougher than Mattis, who was "world's most overrated general," per Dem familiar with meeting. "He wasn't tough enough. I captured ISIS." But Mark Milley, chairman of joint chiefs, said ISIS could "reconstitute," per aide familiar.

    — Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) October 16, 2019
    It’s also the subject of a lot of Twitter jokes.

    same energy

    — Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) October 16, 2019
    5) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.)

    McConnell did not speak at the meeting and declined to discuss it after. Sullivan and Scalise appeared to be in the same mind-set as Milley at the moment this photo was taken.

    McConnell tells reporters, “I didn't make any observations in the meeting. I don't have any to make now.”

    — Emily Cochrane (@ESCochrane) October 16, 2019
    6) White House counsel Pat Cipollone

    Much of Cipollone’s face is hidden behind Scalise. Cipollone recently wrote to House Democrats that the White House would not participate in what he called an illegitimate impeachment inquiry. Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said impeachment did not come up at the meeting.

    7) White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland

    Ueland’s facial expression at the end of the table seems to mimic that of Scalise, Sullivan and Milley.

    8) Reps. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)

    After Trump downplayed the threat posed by the Islamic State, saying the United States doesn’t need to worry about “terrorists 7,000 miles away,” Cheney said the 9/11 terrorists also came from thousands of miles away. Engel is one of three House Democratic chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry.

    Menendez told CNN after the meeting that Trump was “belligerent” from the start of the meeting.

    “He smacked down a whole bunch of papers on the table and said, ‘You all asked for this meeting. I reluctantly agreed to it,’ ” Menendez said Trump said. “No one had asked for the meeting.”

    9) House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.)

    After the meeting, Hoyer said, “Never have I seen a president treat so disrespectfully a coequal branch of the government of the United States.”

    10) Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.)

    Schumer told reporters after the meeting that Trump engaged in “a nasty diatribe not focused on the facts.”

    11) Texas Republican Reps. Mac Thornberry and Michael McCaul

    Both voted to broadly condemn Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria before meeting with Trump. Pelosi raised the 354-60 vote with Trump at the meeting.

    12) White House and congressional aides, including Schumer’s Chief of Staff Mike Lynch and Pelosi’s Chief of Staff Terri McCullough

    Top aides for Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and McCarthy attended the meeting.

    13) Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and McCarthy

    After the meeting, McCarthy slammed Pelosi for “storming out” of the meeting and said it was “productive” after she left.

    14) Other reported attendees

    Trump tweeted out two additional angles of the meeting.

    Do you think they like me?

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2019
    The Do Nothing Democrats, Pelosi and Schumer stormed out of the Cabinet Room!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2019
    Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith (D-Wash.) was seated next to three empty chairs after Pelosi left. After the meeting, Smith said Trump insulted former defense secretary Jim Mattis “at great length.”

    House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith on Trump’s comments about Mattis at White House meeting:

    "He insulted the former defense secretary at great length. … He basically said, ‘Consider the source, he doesn't know what he's talking about, he's a terrible general.’"

    — JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) October 16, 2019
    McConnell’s Chief of Staff Sharon Sonderstrom and McCarthy’s Chief of Staff Dan Meyer are among those seated against the back wall.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  2. #4337

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Mulvaney confirms Ukraine aid withheld in part to force probe of Democrats
    Karoun Demirjian and John Hudson
    Oct. 17, 2019 at 5:46 p.m. EDT

    Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters Thursday that President Trump blocked nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in part to force the government in Kyiv to secure a politically motivated investigation of Democrats, a startling acknowledgment after the president’s repeated denials of a quid pro quo.

    Mulvaney defended the maneuver as “absolutely appropriate.”

    “Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it, that’s why we held up the money,” Mulvaney said, referring to an unproven conspiracy theory that a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server was taken to Ukraine in 2016 to hide evidence that Kyiv, not Moscow, interfered in the last U.S. presidential election.

    Mulvaney also said the funds had been withheld because European countries were being “really, really stingy when it comes to lethal aid” for Ukraine, and over whether Ukraine’s leaders “were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice.”

    But he characterized the decision to leverage congressionally approved aid as common practice, citing other instances in which the Trump administration has withheld aid to foreign countries and telling critics to “get over it.”

    “I have news for everybody: get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney said. “Elections do have consequences and they should, and your foreign policy is going to change … there’s no problem with that.”

    Mulvaney’s bold defense of Trump’s Ukraine actions comes as the House’s impeachment probe is closing in on the president’s most senior advisers, to determine whether Trump abused his power and pressured a foreign government to conduct investigations that could help his chances of reelection in 2020.

    To the Democrats on the three panels conducting the impeachment probe, Mulvaney’s words marked a significant turning point.

    “We have a confession from the president,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, referring to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump pressured his counterpart to open investigations into the 2016 election and former vice president Joe Biden’s son, who sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

    Mulvaney, Swalwell said, “co-signed the president’s confession,” adding that the administration was still engaging in “an ongoing coverup.”

    Privately, some Republicans were incensed, calling Mulvaney’s comments a strategic mistake in the midst of the impeachment probe.

    “Totally inexplicable,” said one GOP lawmaker, complaining of the “damage” Mulvaney’s words caused. “He literally said the thing the president and everyone else said did not happen.” The congressman spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

    During his Thursday news conference, Mulvaney said the decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine had “absolutely nothing to do with Biden.” He also denied assertions that the administration had tried to hide anything by moving the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky to a more secure server.

    “Let me ask you this, if we wanted to cover this up, would we have called the Department of Justice almost immediately and have them look at the transcript of the tape, which we did, by the way?” Mulvaney said. “If we wanted to cover this up, would we have released it to the public?”

    But in the wake of his comments, other administration officials, as well as Trump’s legal team, attempted to distance themselves from Mulvaney.

    A Justice Department official took issue with Mulvaney’s remarks, stating that “if the White House was withholding aid in regards to the cooperation of any investigation at the Department of Justice, that is news to us.

    And in a statement, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow said “the President’s legal counsel was not involved in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s press briefing.”

    While Mulvaney spoke Thursday, members of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees — which are conducting the impeachment probe — met behind closed doors with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who told them that Trump had outsourced official U.S. policy on Ukraine to his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

    Sondland was uncomfortable with that decision, he testified, though he still carried out the strategy.

    “I would not have recommended that Mr. Giuliani or any private citizen be involved in these foreign policy matters,” Sondland said, according to his prepared remarks.

    Mulvaney dismissed those concerns, defending the president’s right to put foreign policy in the hands of his personal lawyer.

    “You may not like the fact that Giuliani was involved, that’s great, that’s fine,” Mulvaney said, referencing Sondland’s remarks. “It’s not illegal, it’s not impeachable, … the president gets to set foreign policy and he gets to choose who to do so, as long as it doesn’t violate any law.”

    Sondland, a major Trump donor who has became a focus of the impeachment inquiry due to his outsized role in U.S.-Ukraine policy, criticized the president’s temporary hold on aid and the recall of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Sondland called her an “excellent diplomat” and said he “regretted” her departure, which followed a campaign by Giuliani to paint her as disloyal to the president.

    Democratic lawmakers emerging from Sondland’s deposition said that while they found him to be generally credible and were glad that he chose to testify despite White House pressure not to, they thought Sondland was being selective and cagey with details.

    “He doesn’t answer the questions with the specificity that we’ve seen from the other witnesses and the recall of detail,” said Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), a member of the Oversight Committee.

    “I think he’s clearly trying to defend his reputation and his own behavior,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He also criticized some of Sondland’s testimony as “not credible to me, with respect to his sort of not understanding all the things that were happening around him, and in full view of the American people.”

    In his prepared remarks, Sondland, a hotel magnate who came to the job with no diplomatic experience, depicts himself as a well-meaning but in some cases out of the loop emissary for the president who tried to do what he could to prop up the government of Ukraine as it fends off Russian-backed separatists.

    Sondland said in principle he opposes any “quid pro quo” that would exchange U.S. support to a friendly nation for an investigation into the Bidens.

    But he said he became aware only recently that Trump’s efforts to investigate the Ukrainian energy company Burisma were due to its associations with Biden, whose son Hunter sat on its board.

    “I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President’s 2020 reelection campaign,” he said, explaining that he “understood that Burisma was one of many examples of Ukrainian companies run by oligarchs and lacking the type of corporate governance structures found in Western companies.”

    Sondland’s apparent failure to connect the dots between Burisma and the Bidens occurred as Giuliani made several televised appearances over the spring and summer criticizing Hunter Biden’s involvement on the board, and numerous newspaper and magazine articles questioned whether his role at Burisma could prove to be a drag on his father’s presidential campaign.

    “Withholding foreign aid to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong,” he stated in his prepared testimony. “I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings.”

    But that testimony appears to conflict with what other current and former Trump administration officials told House investigators over the last two weeks. Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Russia and Europe, told House investigators that she was concerned by Sondland’s talk of investigations in a July meeting, which she eventually relayed to a lawyer for the National Security Council.

    And Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia George Kent testified that Sondland was deputized, along with former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, be one of “three amigos” running Ukraine policy. The move came during a May meeting that Mulvaney organized following Yovanovitch’s ouster.

    Last week Volker provided impeachment investigators with text messages showing that Sondland had said Trump, before agreeing to meet in person with his Ukrainian counterpart, wanted the “deliverable” of a promise from Zelensky to investigate Burisma and the 2016 election.

    Sondland claimed that his pursuit of investigations in Ukraine were always in line with long-standing U.S. policy to push for transparency and anti-corruption efforts in the country. He added that he was never aware of objections to the plans for Ukraine policy from Hill or her boss, national security adviser John Bolton. Hill testified Monday that Bolton was livid that Giuliani was directing a shadow Ukraine policy.

    “I have to view her testimony — if the media reports are accurate — as the product of hindsight and in the context of the widely known tensions between the NSC, on the one hand, and the State Department, on the other hand,” Sondland said.

    Josh Dawsey, Matt Zapotosky and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  3. #4338

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    After saying Trump held back aid to pressure Ukraine, Mulvaney tries to walk back comments
    Karoun Demirjian and John Hudson
    Oct. 17, 2019 at 8:03 p.m. EDT

    Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said at a news conference Thursday that President Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid in part to pressure Ukraine to pursue an investigation that could benefit him politically — acknowledging before the nation a quid pro quo that is at the heart of an impeachment inquiry and that the president and his allies have vigorously denied for weeks.

    Mulvaney told reporters that Trump wanted the government in Kyiv to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory that a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server was taken to Ukraine in 2016 to hide evidence that it was that country, not Russia, that interfered in the presidential election.

    “Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server?,” Mulvaney said. “Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it, that’s why we held up the money.”

    Mulvaney denied that the aid was also contingent on a Ukrainian investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, or Biden’s son Hunter, another potential quid pro quo that congressional Democrats are looking into as part of the impeachment inquiry.

    Mulvaney defended the president’s actions as commonplace and appropriate. “I have news for everybody: get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney said.

    Later, after Trump’s lawyer and Republicans distanced themselves from Mulvaney, the White House scrambled to walk back his comments, issuing an official statement blaming the media for misconstruing his words “to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump.”

    “Let me be clear,” Mulvaney’s written statement said, “there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. There was never any connection between the funds and the Ukrainians doing anything with the server … there was never any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server.”

    Maggie Haberman

    Mulvaney was briefed and was supposed to go out and do the WH briefing in part to announce a decision that aides knew the president couldn't do himself (Doral) and in part to face questions re Ukraine, per ppl familiar with what happened.

    He was prepped to go a certain way on Ukraine but wasn't supposed to suggest a quid pro quo. POTUS said he didn't see, but he did watch at least part of it, and was happy with how Mulvaney did and sent him that message, those ppl said.

    Yashar Ali ��
    Potus being happy with Mulvaney while his legal team scrambled to distance themselves is *chef’s kiss*
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

  4. #4339

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Architect of bin Laden raid says Trump is working to 'destroy' the country
    Anchor Muted Background
    By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

    Updated 7:16 PM ET, Thu October 17, 2019

    Washington (CNN)Retired Adm. William McRaven said Thursday that the US is under attack from President Donald Trump, who he believes is working to "destroy" the country from "within" and "without."

    "If you want to destroy an organization, any organization, you destroy it from within, you destroy it from without and then what you do is you convince everybody that you're doing the right thing," McRaven told CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead."

    "So when you take a look at what the President has done, he's undermined the intelligence community, the law enforcement community, the Department of Justice, the State Department. He has called the press the enemy of the American people and I will tell you, I've fought a lot of America's enemies. The press is not the enemy of the American people."

    McRaven, who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, added that Trump is also "undermining us from without."

    "He's obviously left our allies the Kurds on the battlefield," McRaven said while outlining a scathing op-ed he wrote for The New York Times. "We feel like we've betrayed them. He's undermined our NATO allies, he's taken us out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear agreement) and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal) and really the international community has lost faith in America. And then throughout the course of all of this, he's convinced us he's doing it for all the right reasons, and I think that is really what is troubling."

    McRaven's criticism of Trump comes as the President faces a fast-moving impeachment investigation into his contacts with Ukraine and bipartisan criticism over his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. On Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing the Trump administration's troop withdrawal.

    McRaven's comments to CNN expand on his New York Times op-ed published earlier Thursday under the headline "Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President."

    "...if this president doesn't demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office -- Republican, Democrat or independent -- the sooner, the better," he wrote. "The fate of our Republic depends upon it."

    Trump has previously dismissed criticism from McRaven, labeling him a Hillary Clinton supporter in 2018.
    "He's a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer," Trump told Fox News at the time. "And, frankly, wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?"

    CLARIFICATION: The headline and story have been updated to properly reflect McRaven's statements on CNN.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.

    ― Frank Zappa

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