Q&A of The Week:
Q: Why did Lev Parnas cross the road? A: To stalk Ambassador Yovanovich.

While the mysterious Mr. Parnas did not personally stalk America’s Ukranian Ambassador through the streets of Kyiv, Rudy Giuliaini’s henchman did hire another henchman to do the dirty work, someone equally ham-handed at being a secret agent, as we found out later in the week when the Republican Party refused to support a run for Congress by one Robert Hyde, a mega donor to Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee and the latest Republican swearing he does not know Lev Parnas, and claiming that his many text messages to Parnas about tracking and threatening a US Ambassador were “a joke.” More locker room talk?

Week #157 of the Trump Era began with the news on Friday that America’s military unsuccessfully tried to kill a senior Iranian military official in Yemen on the same day a drone strike killed Qassim Suleiman in Iraq, making Trump 1 for 2 in murders on foreign soil that day. Had he been successful in killing Quds official Abdul Reza Shahlai, no one knows how many excuses he would have come up with for that operation, especially considering the ever-changing rationale for killing Suleimani that Trump and Administration officials kept trying out before settling on “for the hell of it.” 

Less kind insider leaks attributed Trump’s decision to an attempt to curry favor among hawkish Republican Senators to secure their votes to acquit him in his upcoming Senate Trial, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Friday would be very soon since she decided to finally forward the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate the following week, after 4 weeks of withholding them from a Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who publicly announced he would acquit Trump as soon as possible, without the usual features of a trial. You know, things like evidence and witnesses. Trial stuff.

Then later that day another Trump pipe dream blew up in his face (“Lock her up!”) when it was announced that William Barr’s kangaroo investigation of Hillary Clinton’s role in the “Uranium One” transaction was found to be completely legal and proper, and that no laws were violated by anyone involved.

Which is more that one can say for Trump’s dealings, which will land him in a Senate trial within a week that could result in his removal from office for the Ukrainegate fiasco and the multiple crimes he ordered to be committed there. Having backed off from his original loud demands for a full-blown public trial in the Senate, he is now beseeching Senators to dismiss the charges out of hand, without even the trial that the Constitution demands.

Even Moscow Mitch can’t make everything go away, as cracks in the Senate Republican Majority opened the window to calling witnesses and hearing new evidence, much of which kept developing all week. Naturally, Trump ordered his former National Security Advisor John Bolton not to testify, citing “executive privilege,” even though Mr. Bolton is now a private citizen who had indicated his eagerness to testify. Other witnesses sought by Congress, most of whom are still working in his Administration, will also likely be prevented from testifying, since nothing says “I am innocent” like preventing the people who could exonerate you from testifying. 

One of those potential witnesses, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, called the Iraqi Prime Minister a liar on Friday, then refused to consider withdrawing US troops from Iraq, even after the Iraqi government ordered them to leave by unanimous vote. Trump’s response to all this Friday drama was to (!) take credit for a drop in the death rates from certain kinds of cancer, a drop that medical experts attributed to research advances and higher instances of early detection because more people have heath insurance. That would be directly attributable to Obamacare, which Trump has been doing his level best to destroy for 3 years, to no avail.

On Saturday we heard from former NYC Mayor and current Democratic candidate for President Michael Bloomberg  that he is planning to spend a billion dollars to defeat Trump, even if he is not the nominee, regardless of the policy differences he and the nominee may have. Bloomberg is about 50 times richer than Trump ever was, and won’t miss the money. 

And speaking of a billion dollars, Trump boasted on Saturday how he is renting out US troops to Saudi Arabia. ”They pay cash,” and “have already given us a billion dollars,” so one supposes that makes it alright to turn the United States Armed Forces into mercenaries for hire, to fight any war that any tyrant wants fought, as long as said tyrant can pony up the big dough. 

Funny how the very next day the Pentagon deported all 21 Saudi cadets from the Naval airbase in Florida where they were receiving fighter jet training, as the direct result of one of their number committing a mass murder at the base a month ago. Maybe Trump will have to rent the Saudi king some pilots now.

Speaking of the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, when asked about Trump’s statement, “I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies (that Suleimani was planning to attack),” said he had no idea what the President was talking about. Nor did the Secretary of State or the head of Homeland Security, both of whom said they had no such intelligence reports. 

These 3 people, among others of course, are the ones who inform the President of potential threats based on reports from professionals in the field, never the other way around. Presidents don’t have any other sources of information but their government agencies and advisors. Unless of course you are President Donald J. Trump, who hears voices no one else does, the kind of voices that urge him to lie his ass off constantly and act like a total douchebag.

Sadly for us, the voices in Trump’s head are not manifested in multiple personalities, where at least we’d have a shot of one of them being a decent person, or at the very least amusing. Of all the rotten luck, our crazy president just has the one repulsive personality, one with all the appeal of a rabid warthog that hates everyone and everything. 

And speaking of rabid warthogs, on Sunday we got word that our lowest-paid workers will have a harder time suing large companies for wrongdoing by contractors or franchisees thanks to Trump, under a new rule announced by the Labor Department. The rule says that employees of a fast-food franchise, for but one example, may struggle to win a legal claim against the parent company if a company or franchisee violates minimum-wage and overtime laws. You know, to put the brakes on all those poor people draining the economy by asking for a living wage. The nerve!

On Monday Attorney General William Barr asked The Apple Corporation to unlock the Saudi mass shooter’s iPhones in order to investigate potential terror network involvement in the Florida airbase killings, while Trump retweeted a racist image of Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi dressed in Muslim clothing, demeaning to both Islam and Congress. You know… presidential stuff. He did manage to back off his accusations against China that they are a Currency Manipulator as he sought to downplay the announcement that the USA will run a $1 trillion deficit this year, largely due to his idiotic trade war with China.

Then Trump’s other personal attorney, aka Attorney General William Barr, decided to chime in on Trump’s Impeachment when he said on Monday that he would “raise the threshold” needed to open counterintelligence investigations of presidential campaigns, no doubt with an eye on Trump’s illegal tactics for the upcoming election in November, then urged the Senate Republicans to preserve the option of moving to swiftly dismiss the charges against Trump immediately after opening arguments in his Senate trial, a proceeding in which The Department of Justice can take no part, according the Constitution.

And speaking of illegal tactics and the misuse of Congressionally approved funds, Trump announced he was looting the nation’s military budget to the tune of $7.2 billion to build his wall, and was immediately challenged in court by Democrats.

Following Monday’s news that Russia hacked Burisma as soon as the Ukrainian scandal blew up in Trump’s face this past November, that Ukrainian energy company that Trump and his fellow criminals insist was looted by Hunter Biden in spite of exactly no proof and repeated denials of such nonsense by Ukrainian authorities, Rudy Giuliani made a pitch to join Trump’s legal defense team at his Senate trial, probably to insist that his greatest work of fiction be immortalized in the Congressional Record.

While we’re on the topic of unsavory Trump associates, his old pal and election campaign official George Nader quietly entered a guilty plea to the charge of possession of child pornography and was scheduled to be the umpteenth Trump minion sentenced to prison.

Tuesday was the day that Lev Parnas, fearful of being framed to take the fall for Rudy’s crazy scheme, along with his partner Igor Fruman, dropped a bombshell on the Impeachment Saga when he went public with his firsthand accounts of the entire tawdry operation in Ukraine from its inception to its ruinous conclusion, implicating Trump himself as well as Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton and Congressman Devin Nunes, among others.

Nunes was singled out for the brazen treachery of participating in the crimes in Ukraine, then sitting on the Congressional Committee investigating these crimes, where he distinguished himself during the hearings with loud indignant disruptions of the proceedings, bellowing about “a witch hunt” and the Biden’s nonexistent crimes, while repeatedly attempting to destroy the reputations of some of the finest and most brilliant civil servants America has produced. The revelations of Parnas shed some light on Nunes’ shameful betrayal. 

In multiple nationally televised interviews with Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper, Mr Parnas showed himself to be a calm and measured man with a Brooklyn accent, and a person who woke up too late to the falsity and criminality of the Trump Circus, which he describes as a cult that he got caught up in, and his accounts of the Ukraine operations dovetailed perfectly with the sworn testimony and hard evidence presented at the House Impeachment Hearings. He expressed a healthy fear of this Administration, and especially its compromised Justice Department under William Barr, who he felt was framing him for actions he undertook at the express direction of President Trump.

Of course Washington resounded with the howling denials of Trump, Nunes and all the implicated Administration figures, denials that were rendered hollow by the release of photographs, videos, text messages and documents in Mr. Parnas’ possession, showing him to be a familiar figure in the Trump Administration, a stranger to no one desperately claiming they have never met the man.

The details of the campaign to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in order to clear the way for Giuliani’s criminal scheme were explosive, and suggested that she would be physically harmed or killed in order to further the conspiracy to frame the Bidens for nonexistent crimes and to blackmail Ukraine into interfering with America’s 2020 presidential election. That certainly got Ms. Yovanovitch’s attention, and she called for an investigation by the State Department, which Secretary Pompeo belatedly agreed to, even as he denied that he was aware of Ambassador Yovanovitch being in any danger.

What Pompeo could not deny, however, was being aware of the rogue civilian foreign policy team orchestrating the removal of a US Ambassador, having been placed squarely in the center of this cockamamie scheme not only by Lev Parnas, but by his own ambassadors and by Giuliani himself. He claimed only that he didn’t think they were serious about harming anything but her good name, which, one supposes, makes it okay in Pompeo’s eyes.

Given that Senate Majority leader McConnell has richly earned his nickname “Moscow Mitch” (millions of dollars in illegal Russian funds somehow found their way to old Mitch) by refusing to allow Congress to pass any law protecting America from foreign election interference, the FBI took matters in to their own hands on Tuesday when they announced that its agents would now notify State officials immediately about attacks on their election systems. 

At this point Trump desperately needed a space where his lies would not be questioned and no one would mention the damning evidence piling up against him. No, not the Republican Caucus of the U.S. Senate (good guess, though!), but his go-to happy place, a MAGA rally, this time in Wisconsin, where he was free to lie his ass off about Parnas, Ukraine, Democrats and killing Suleimani, plus this wild admission about why he re-committed America troops to Syria after completely botching their withdrawal: “I kept the oil.”

Boasting about stealing another nation’s natural resources was a hit with his loyal minions, which naturally led to Trump bragging (lying) that he was the greatest human being to ever swallow a cheeseburger whole, and that his economy was the best in history, in spite of the fact that most of his supporters are on the balls of their ass, patiently waiting to something, anything, to trickle down into their empty pockets.

On Wednesday Speaker Pelosi kept her promise (remember that concept?) and led the House to approve the Articles of Impeachment and deliver them to the Senate. She named 7 Impeachment managers, Representatives Adam Schiff, Jerome Nadler, Hakeem Jeffries, Zoe Lofgren, Jason Crow, Val B. Demings and Sylvia Garcia. In a solemn procession, these seven marched the Articles over to the Senate, with Mitch McConnell announcing that the Senate Trial will commence this coming Tuesday, even though he has not yet decided on the rules for the trial (or how to end it before it begins). 

Meanwhile, between official documents released by Court Order and the prodigious archives of Mr Parnas, new evidence up the wazoo kept cropping up against the President, such as the dozens of pages of handwritten notes, text messages and other records laying out the work conducted by Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and his associate Lev Parnas on behalf of the president, including a bizarre Note to Self by Giuliani, (!) reminding himself to commit the crime they were planning, scrawled on a sheet of hotel paper from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that mentions getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son. Yes, it was that surreal and bizarre.

In the face of all this, Trump tried to gain some political capital by announcing trade deals with China and Mexico, the former in reality only a preliminary agreement to keep negotiating and not even getting us back to where we were before he began his ruinous trade war, and the latter a re-branded NAFTA treaty, the same deal that was in place before, with a few commas moved around and renamed the USMCA, an acronym Trump tried out on his crowd by suggesting that they (!) chant it to the tune of the song “YMCA” by the Village People.

Yes, that happened, and for once his MAGA crowd sat in stunned silence at the suggestion, prompting the President to wax eloquent about (!!) buying sneakers on eBay. What that had to do with anything is anyone’s guess, and one guess is that is does not matter one bit to his adoring minions what he says, as long as he is angry and loud and keeps the catchphrases simple.

Then the President acted like he was Mister Sugar Daddy to Puerto Rico by releasing $8 billon to Puerto Rico in Housing Aid as a response to the catastrophic Hurricane Maria, 2 years too late. The island suffered a series of earthquakes this week that went unmentioned by the President, only underscoring Trump’s neglect and racist scorn for this American island and its vibrant people. Don’t look for any upsurge in Latinos for Trump anytime soon, in spite of Vice President Pence’s plans to engage and mobilize Latin Evangelicals (the overwhelming majority of Latinos are Roman Catholics, not Evangelical Christians).

Thursday was the official beginning of the Senate Trial when Chief Justice of The Supreme Court John Roberts swore in the entire Senate as “impartial jurors,” even though Senators McConnell, Graham and several others have publicly denied that they will be impartial, and Senator Rand Paul openly threatened GOP Senators who are vulnerable at election time not to call “any explosive witnesses” (see: Lev Parnas and John Bolton, twin smoking 6-shooters).

The Government Accountability Office chimed in on Thursday following a review of Trump’s withholding of military aid from Ukraine unless they did his political bidding, saying yep, Trump broke the law alright, says so right here in black and white in the 1974 Impoundment Control Act, which says it is illegal for the White House to withhold aid appropriated by Congress. That law also says the White House must alert Congress beforehand if it wished to delay or block funds for any reason, which the Trump administration did not do, same as Trump failed to notify the pertinent Congressional Committee Chairs (as required by yet another pesky law with no wiggle room) of the attacks on General Suleimani in Iraq and Abdul Reza Shahlai in Yemen.

Trump’s response was to threaten yet another country with economic harm if they refuse to do his political bidding, this time our greatest ally, the United Kingdom, when he announced that the upcoming Free Trade deal with Britain would be a nonstarter unless they pulled out of the Iran Nuclear deal. Thus did Trump’s younger and messier-haired doppelgänger, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, learn the true cost to his country of leaving the European Union, being under the thumb of a mad, vengeful and incompetent American President.

News came out on Thursday that one major group was the beneficiary of a huge monetary windfall thanks to Trump, when it was revealed that the top 6 American banks reaped even greater rewards than Trump’s tax cut handed them last year, an extra $32 billion dollars taken off the tax rolls and deposited into the already-bulging portfolios of the ultra-wealthy, who responded not by reinvesting in their companies and thus the greater economy (that’s the entire Trickledown Economics Theory right there, and it has never worked even once), but with even deeper greed as they curbed new borrowing, cut jobs and increased payouts to wealthy shareholders, placing that Trickledown windfall that Trump supporters are hoping for even further out the realm of possibility.

But delusion dies hard, and his faithful cheered Trump’s lies about “the 2 best trade deals in the history of the country, (they’re far from that)” the “greatness of Rudy Giuliani (hardly)” and the completely insane assertion that “our country was going to hell before I showed up.”

Naturally he made no mention of the Governor of Virginia declaring a State of Emergency due to a planned armed demonstration in Richmond by gun nuts, or the FBI’s swift series of arrests of White Supremacists and Nazis connected to the planned event. Perhaps some of those arrested were “the fine people” on the side of the Nazis Trump so famously praised. Or perhaps not.

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