Friday, September 29, 2023

Jim Jordan Earns a Bottomless Pinocchio

You might have heard that Thursday's House GOP impeachment inquiry hearing was a bit of a disaster for Republicans. I'm sorry to say that I watched the entire thing because launching something like that is - indeed - a serious matter. But in the end, it was a colossal waste of time because Republicans have NOTHING.

As an example of that, take a look at Rep. Jim Jordan's closing statement.

He repeated a lie that has been thoroughly debunked for years now - claiming that then-Vice President Biden had Viktor Shokin -the Ukrainian prosecutor - fired to protect Hunter Biden's involvement in Burisma.

Jordan got an assist in resurrecting that lie by the notorious John Solomon - who has been spreading these kinds of lies for years now. According to a recent column by Solomon, he got some new information on all of this from the State Department as the result of a FOIA request. Included was a letter Victoria Nuland sent to Shokin.
Nuland sent a letter to Shokin in June 2015 on behalf of then-Secretary of State John Kerry congratulating Shokin and suggesting they were “impressed” about the job he was doing on corruption reforms.

The date of that letter is important, so let's look at a timeline for the events in question.

February 2015 - Shokin became prosecutor general just one year after the Euromaiden protests in Ukraine, which ousted Putin's puppet, President Yanukovych. Here's what Nuland said about the State Department's first priorities with Shokin:

The initial expectation, when we began talking about the third loan guarantee, which I believe was in the summer of 2015, was that Prosecutor General Shokin make more progress than we had seen to clean up corruption inside the Prosecutor General's Office itself...and that he make more progress in mounting big corruption cases, including against Yanukovych cronies, that he make more progress in investigating the hundred dead on the Maidan by snipers during 2013-2014.

June 2015 - Nuland sent a letter to Shokin, which is more aspirational than congratulatory (emphasis mine).

We have been impressed with the ambitious reform and anti-corruption agenda of your government. The challenges you face are difficult, but not insurmountable. You have an historic opportunity to address the injustices of the past by vigorously investigating and prosecuting corruption cases and recovering assets stolen from the Ukrainian people.

July 2015 - Key prosecutors under Shokin, including his former driver, were caught with stashes of diamonds and incriminating documents in their homes, causing an uproar in Ukraine. Documents seized at the time indicated the men appeared to have a connection to Shokin. Police found copies of his passports, property registration certificates and even his license to carry firearms. Shokin's response was to sack the deputies who sought to investigate the subordinates who came to be known as the “diamond prosecutors.”

September 2015 - U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt gave a speech in Odessa calling out the corruption in Shokin's office and specifically mentioned Burisma Holdings owner Mykola Zlochevsky.

We have learned that there have been times that the PGO [Prosecutor General's Office] not only did not support investigations into corruption, but rather undermined prosecutors working on legitimate corruption cases.

For example, in the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, the U.K. authorities had seized 23 million dollars in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people. Officials at the PGO’s office were asked by the U.K to send documents supporting the seizure.

Instead they sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him. As a result the money was freed by the U.K. court and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus.

The misconduct by the PGO officials who wrote those letters should be investigated, and those responsible for subverting the case by authorizing those letters should – at a minimum – be summarily terminated.

October 2015 - Ukrainians wanted Shokin fired.

November 2015 - Then-Vice President Biden had a phone call with Ukrainian President Poroshenko - for the first time linking the loan guarantee to investigating and prosecuting corruption.

[T]he Vice President reiterated the U.S. willingness to provide a third $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine contingent on continued Ukrainian progress to investigate and prosecute corruption.

December 2015 - Biden traveled to Ukraine

A key goal for the trip was to urge the government to crack down on corruption, starting with the removal of the powerful prosecutor general, viewed by U.S. and European officials as an impediment to reform...

On the plane, according to a person who participated in the conversation, Biden “called an audible” — he changed the plan. It was time for a bigger punch: The loan guarantee was the main point of leverage with Ukraine, the vice president declared, so he instead should tell Poroshenko the loan would not be forthcoming until Shokin was the time Biden landed in Kyiv, four people with direct knowledge told The Fact Checker, the Obama White House was firmly on board with the plan.

Notice that by this time, the goal of the trip was to seek the removal of Shokin. To the extent that Biden "called an audible," it was to tie the ouster to the loan guarantee. 

If you've managed to wade through all of that, you'll have some idea of the myriad of lies Jordan told in that clip up above. But what's even more damning is that most of the information in my timeline came from a fact-check article in the Washington Post that Jordan quoted from! So he had as much access to the truth as I did. IOW - he's lying and KNOWS he's lying...repeating the same nonsense that has been debunked over and over again.

During the Trump presidency, the fact-checkers at the Washington Post attempted to document every lie he told. At one point, they noticed that there were a bunch of these lies that the former guy told over and over again - despite the fact that he knew they were lies. So they came up with a name for that phenomenon - "Bottomless Pinocchios."

For his own mendacity yesterday - I award Jim Jordan with a Bottomless Pinocchio. 

The reason I've taken the time to do that is to make the point that when it comes to MAGA Republicans, it doesn't matter how often their leaders are fact-checked. The lies will be repeated and believed ad nauseam. 

But at least for me, fact-checking is still important. When I feel my sanity holding on by a thread due to the shenanigans from people like Jim Jordan, the facts are what keep me sane.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Are you feeling gaslighted by coverage of the 2024 presidential race? If so, here's why.

Almost two years ago I wrote two pieces about how military leaders were concerned that then-President Trump would instigate a military coup to remain in power.  An article published last week by James Fallows zeroes in on General Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as "The Patriot" who "protected the Constitution from Donald Trump."

Twenty men have served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs since the position was created after World War II. Until Milley, none had been forced to confront the possibility that a president would try to foment or provoke a coup in order to illegally remain in office. A plain reading of the record shows that in the chaotic period before and after the 2020 election, Milley did as much as, or more than, any other American to defend the constitutional order, to prevent the military from being deployed against the American people, and to forestall the eruption of wars with America’s nuclear-armed adversaries. Along the way, Milley deflected Trump’s exhortations to have the U.S. military ignore, and even on occasion commit, war crimes...

Joseph Dunford, the Marine general who preceded Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, had also faced onerous and unusual challenges. But during the first two years of the Trump presidency, Dunford had been supported by officials such as Kelly, Mattis, Tillerson, and McMaster. These men attempted, with intermittent success, to keep the president’s most dangerous impulses in check. (According to the Associated Press, Kelly and Mattis made a pact with each other that one of them would remain in the country at all times, so the president would never be left unmonitored.) By the time Milley assumed the chairman’s role, all of those officials were gone—driven out or fired.

In other words, the former president's Chief of Staff and Defense Secretary felt he needed to be monitored at all times - due to his dangerous impulses. Fallows captured the line being walked by these military leaders and Trump.

[I]t is fair to say that Milley came close to red lines that are meant to keep uniformed officers from participating in politics. It is also fair to say that no president has ever challenged the idea of competent civilian control in the manner of Donald Trump, and that no president has ever threatened the constitutional underpinnings of the American project in the manner Trump has. The apportion­ment of responsibility in the American system—presidents give orders; the military carries them out—works best when the president is sane.

It's clear that Trump read the Fallows piece about Milley - or perhaps it's more likely that someone summarized it for him. That's because the day after it was published, Trump floated the idea that Milley should be executed. Let's now add that one to the list.

How has mainstream media reacted to this latest threat? A Washington Post headline referred the guy who protected the Constitution from Trump as "a polarizing figure." But for the most part, they've ignored the whole thing. This meme pretty much captures what happened.

While Trump was suggesting that Milley should be executed, a poll was released by the Washington Post and ABC News claiming that Trump leads Biden by 10 points overall and among young voters by 20 points. So of course the hot topic was the poll, even though the Post itself called it an outlier.
Trump’s lead in this survey is significantly at odds with other public polls that show the general election contest a virtual dead heat. The difference between this poll and others, as well as the unusual makeup of Trump’s and Biden’s coalitions in this survey, suggest it is probably an outlier.
Daniel Miller captured the situation perfectly. 

These days we're being inundated with polls that have never been accurate this far away from actual voting. There's also the constant pearl clutching about Biden's age and the supposed unpopularity of VP Harris. But the fact that the other party's likely presidential nominee is busy inciting violence as a natural extension of our political disagreements - which should be setting off alarms bells all over the country - gets pretty much ignored.   

If you're feeling gaslighted by coverage of this presidential race, I can assure you that you're not crazy. Perhaps reporters and pundits should spend more time listening to historians. 

Or perhaps they should pay more attention to polls like this:

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