CVIndependent

Fri12132019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

On this week's multicolored-light-strewn weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World again puts on MAGA-vision; Jen Sorensen ponders all the retro trends; (Th)ink looks inside the mind of Mr. Zuckerberg; Red Meat needs to revise a history paper; and Apoca Clips posits that Rudy's goose may be cooked.

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Happy Thanksgiving! On this week's gravy-slathered weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips learns the real truth behind that ridiculous Tesla truck announcement; Red Meat makes plans for a solo Thanksgiving; This Modern World looks at the perspective of wealthy Democrats; Jen Sorensen wonders what happens if a president commits crimes, but almost half the country doesn't believe it; and The K Chronicles has a Hollywood moment.

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On this week's cornbread-stuffing-filled weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World wonders what the deal is with all this impeachment stuff; Jen Sorensen looks at Facebook going all the way to 1984; The K Chronicles isn't very impressed by Hollywood; Red Meat suffers the consequences of some unwise diet choices; and Apoca Clips "learns" something at a convention.

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On this week's pumpkin-pie-infused weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat deals with a bad cough; Apoca Clips checks in with Donny Junior on his book tour; Jen Sorensen ponders "woke culture"; The K Chronicles offers a soundtrack for the upcoming race war; and This Modern World looks at the aftermath of a Donald Trump bank robbery.

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In a mostly party-line vote last week, the House of Representatives passed a resolution establishing the ground rules for the ongoing impeachment inquiry—allowing the release of deposition transcripts, providing opportunities for the president’s lawyers to present evidence, and setting up televised public hearings just in time for Thanksgiving.

This, of course, didn’t stop House Minority Whip Steve Scalise from complaining about “Soviet-style impeachment proceedings.” Other Republicans argued that Democrats were “abusing the process” or that, because no Republicans voted for the inquiry, it’s merely a partisan sideshow.

Even so, now that the impeachment inquiry is officially official, we should be getting a sense of how the White House and its allies plan to defend Donald Trump against mounting evidence that he withheld military aid as leverage to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rivals. What we’re actually seeing, however, is not one defense, but scattershot multiple defenses—some contradictory, some conspiratorial, and some that seem culled from a Reddit thread, all led by a president who refuses to admit the possibility that he did anything inappropriate, let alone illegal. As best I can tell, there are four at play:

1. No quid pro quo.

2. Sure, a quid pro quo, but it wasn’t illegal.

3. An attempted quid pro quo, but that doesn’t count.

4. Hell yeah, a quid pro quo, but it was a good thing, because The Truth Is Out There, man. 

The first defense belongs to Donald Trump, and increasingly to Donald Trump alone. In his mind, and on his Twitter feed, the July phone call with Ukraine’s president—in which, according to the White House’s edited account of the conversation, he conditioned aid on an investigation into a conspiracy theory that the Ukrainians framed Russia for the 2016 DNC hack and urged an investigation into the Bidens—was “perfect.” There was nothing inappropriate about it. No quid pro quo.

Since Trump did no wrong, everyone who says he did must be part of a conspiracy. The whistleblower, Trump tweeted, “must be brought forward to testify.” The top Ukrainian expert on the National Security Council—who testified that he was told Trump would only meet with Ukraine’s president if Ukraine opened the investigations Trump demanded—is a now “Never Trumper,” Trump has asserted, as if that has any bearing on the substance of his testimony.

The no-quid-pro-quo line has become a bridge too far for even some loyalists. After all, even the best news the White House got last week—that a Trump appointee to the NSC said he didn’t think there was anything illegal about the call with the Ukrainian president—also came with the confirmation that Trump froze military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate his enemies.

That brings us to defense No. 2: The quid pro quo happened, but it wasn’t criminal (or impeachable). The Washington Post reported that, during a private Senate GOP lunch last week, some senators pitched this line of attack—“the U.S. government often attaches conditions to foreign aid and that nothing was amiss in Trump’s doing so in the case of aid to Ukraine.” As Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, told the Post, “To me, this entire issue is gonna come down to: Why did the president ask for an investigation? To me, it all turns on intent, motive.”

This defense would work better if Trump didn’t stomp on it. On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the story was “false.” Perhaps a quid pro quo wasn’t impeachable, he said, but it didn’t matter, because there wasn’t one.

Then there’s defense No. 3, that Trump’s conspiracy failed, so no harm, no foul. Per The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page: “Democrats want to impeach Mr. Trump for asking a foreign government to investigate his political rival for corruption, though the probe never happened, and for withholding aid to Ukraine that in the end wasn’t withheld.”

It’s true that Trump released the money just before the scandal broke, but the fact that he got caught before his extortion scheme bore fruit hardly speaks to a presidential temperament. Besides, his efforts to stoke an investigation in Ukraine continue. Just last week, NBC News reported, Rudy Giuliani was in Ukraine meeting with a former diplomat who alleges that Ukraine’s government conspired with the DNC to hurt Trump in 2016. At the same time, a group of Russia-friendly Ukrainian parliamentarians are seeking an investigation into whether their country set up Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, now a resident of a federal prison.

Giuliani tweeted last week that “frenzied” Democrats are “covering up, because it’s bigger than you think.”

And herein lies the last line of defense, that there is a grand conspiracy yet to be unraveled, connecting the Deep State and the Obama administration and Joe Biden and the DNC and Ukraine and Russia and George Soros and probably Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files.

Trump’s die-hards are pinning their hopes on John Durham, the prosecutor Attorney General William Barr tapped to investigate the investigators who first looked into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, an effort—like Giuliani in Ukraine—to discredit the Intelligence Community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. Over the weekend, The Independent reported that, based on Barr’s requests to British intelligence services, officials there believe “they are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services.”

As incoherent as they seem, these defenses are all aimed at a singular audience. Over the weekend, NBC and Fox News released polls showing that 49 percent of voters believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office. But both polls also showed that about 90 percent of Republicans oppose impeachment. As long as that’s the case, the White House’s bet is that there’s no way the Republican-led Senate will convict Trump … so long as there’s a thin reed to grasp.

Anything will do, really.

Contact Jeffrey C. Billman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in National/International

On this week's tax-return-releasing weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips welcomes back Flamey the Fire Safety Rhino; Red Meat has an idea for a movie; This Modern World gets Trump's thoughts on that perfect phone call; Jen Sorenson ponders Bill Barr's attack on the non-devout; and The K Chronicles examines the early dissent over primate change.

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On this week's power-outage, fire-free weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles plays the victim card; This Modern World talks lynchings; Jen Sorensen ponders the hurdles between here and Trump's removal from office; Red Meat pays tribute to the glue stick; and Apoca Clips listens as Li'l Trumpy talks about the killing of that terrorist.

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On this week's illegitimate, unconstitutional, witch-hunt-laden weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorensen looks at the Trump administration's next potential claim; The K Chronicles examines how police get treated when they kill a citizen; This Modern World listens to Rudy go on and on; Apoca Clips listens to Mick Mulvaney go on and on; and Red Meat wonders why Mr. Bix threw up where he did.

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“There are three ways in which we may rule,” said Charles Aycock, then the soon-to-be governor of North Carolina, to his supporters in 1900. “By force, by fraud or by law. We have ruled by force; we can rule by fraud; but we want to rule by law.”

Aycock was rallying his fellow white supremacists not only for his own election, but also to pass a state constitutional amendment that would, in effect, disenfranchise most black voters. By modern standards, this was a startlingly revelatory admission: Whites were willing to govern under the rule of law, Aycock was saying, but only if they could dictate its terms. But they were also willing to use force or fraud to dictate those terms.

Indeed, white supremacists had used recently used force to accomplish that goal, during the November 1898 Wilmington coup, overthrowing a municipal government deemed too friendly to African Americans and murdering at least 60 black men. They used fraud, too: Aycock and the so-called Suffrage Amendment both prevailed that November by a roughly 60–40 spread—according to the unlikely tallies of Democratic clerks.

For the next 70 years, having cheated and bullied their way to absolutely power, white supremacists got to write the laws.

I thought of Aycock’s quote—captured in David Zucchino’s forthcoming book, Wilmington’s Lie—and the sense of entitlement behind it, when I read the letter the White House dispatched to the House of Representatives last week, calling the impeachment proceedings illegitimate and saying the administration wouldn’t participate.

“You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and Constitutionally mandated due process,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone told House leaders on Oct. 8. Since the White House judged the case against Trump “baseless,” the president “cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry.”

From a legal perspective, Cipollone’s letter is patently absurd. Impeachment is spelled out in the Constitution; it, by definition, cannot be unconstitutional. The administration can’t simply declare the president innocent and therefore ignore congressional subpoenas. As Gregg Nunziata, the former chief counsel for Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, put it, the letter was a “barely lawyered temper tantrum” and a “middle finger to Congress.”

It was the latest in a string of them.

That same day, Trump’s Department of Justice was in federal court arguing that the courts had erred four decades ago by allowing Congress to review transcripts of Watergate grand-jury proceedings. The House Judiciary Committee now wants to review Robert Mueller’s grand jury materials, and—for some unfathomable reason—the DOJ is desperate to stop that from happening.

Also that day, the State Department ordered Gordon Sondland—the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and now a key player in the Ukraine scandal, who also owns Provenance Hotels, which includes Palm Springs’ Villa Royale—not to appear for a scheduled congressional deposition. Text messages between Sondland and former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker released by Congress appear to show that the administration was withholding military aid from Ukraine unless the country indulged Trump’s conspiracy theories about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and reopened an investigation into Joe Biden’s son—except for one, in September, in which Sondland assured the head of the embassy in Kiev that he was “incorrect about President Trump’s intentions” and that there was “no quid pro quo.”

Sondland was awarded the ambassadorship after giving Trump’s inauguration committee $1 million; his appointment was championed by U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, to whom he gave $17,900, and his wife gave $57,900, according to Open Secrets.

In addition, Rudy Giuliani announced that he would disregard a House subpoena for documents and dared Congress told hold him in contempt.

It didn’t take long for dominoes to begin falling. Two of Giuliani’s henchmen were arrested boarding one-way flights out of the country, accused of routing hundreds of thousands of Russian dollars into Republican political campaigns in an effort to, among other things, oust the American ambassador to Ukraine—which Trump did. Giuliani himself is said to be under investigation.

Meanwhile, Sondland is testifying over the State Department’s objections, and The Washington Post reported that he plans to say that Trump dictated his “no quid pro quo” message to the Ukrainian embassy. And according to The Wall Street Journal, in August, Sondland had told U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin that Ukrainian aid was directly tied to these investigations.

The White House knows the direction in which this is going. The only recourse is to paint the exercise as illegitimate—to assert, as Richard Nixon did, that “when the president does it, that means it’s not illegal”—and to hope the president’s supporters, cheered on by the president’s propaganda machine, choose not to care.

Charles Aycock was a white supremacist, but that’s not the thing that most tightly binds him to Donald Trump. Instead, it’s the authoritarian sense that that the rule of law exists to further their interests and can be ignored when it restrains them.

By force, by fraud or by law.

Contact Jeffrey C. Billman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in National/International

On this week's fresh-and-fruity weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat chronicles Earl's new job at the DMV; Apoca Clips listens in as Don Jr. and Eric discuss Hunter Biden's alleged misdeeds; The K Chronicles gets wistful about the joys of being young; This Modern World ponders some extremely good-faith arguments against impeachment; and Jen Sorensen offers a tribute, of sorts, to the right-wing punk.

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