Trump Hits Back After Ally Denounces ‘Weakness’ With Iran

The president was responding on Tuesday night to a series of tweets by Senator Lindsey Graham, who has long been one of the more hawkish members of the Republican conference.
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U.S. chief justice juggles dual roles during Trump impeachment trial
U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts pulled double duty on Tuesday as he juggled dual responsibilities at the Supreme Court and President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.
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Op-Ed: Trump lawyers argue abuse of power isn't a thing when it comes to impeachment. History says otherwise
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Trump’s Myth About Adam Schiff
Never in the field of political conflict has so much been made by so many out of so little.Since the topic here is caricatured speeches, I hasten to add: Winston Churchill didn’t say that. As the Senate’s impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins, one of the more curious, and less enlightening, elements has been the focus by the president’s legal team on mentioning an old speech by Representative Adam Schiff, the leading House impeachment manager.During a September 26 hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, which he chairs, Schiff delivered an ill-advised parody rendition of Trump’s July phone call with President Volodymr Zelensky of Ukraine. Although the president’s team keeps promising a defense of Trump’s behavior on the merits, it has been more inclined to invoke that moment than to offer any substantial defense.On Tuesday, the Senate impeachment trial began with what was ostensibly an argument about its rules, as proposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump’s lawyers began with brief comments endorsing the rules. Then Schiff spoke at length, with a detailed (though doomed) argument for why the rules should be altered to include calling witnesses and gathering documents. Then came a rebuttal by the president’s lawyers.[Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes: Trump’s impeachment brief is a howl of rage]“It's very difficult to sit there and listen to Mr. Schiff tell the tale that he just told,” said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. “Let's remember how we all got here. They made false allegations about a telephone call. The president of the United States declassified that telephone call and released it to the public.” (It’s unclear what about the allegations were false; Trump released the call in a last-ditch effort to forestall impeachment after weeks of stonewalling.)Cipollone continued: “When Mr. Schiff saw that his allegations were false, and he knew it anyway, what did he do? He went to the House, and he manufactured a fraudulent version of that call. He manufactured a false version of that call. He read it to the American people, and he didn't tell them it was a complete fake.”Cipollone’s philippic had effectively zero relevance to the matter at hand, but it was surely not a mistake or a coincidence. The September 26 episode has been at the center of Trump’s defense messaging.In the president’s reply brief on January 18, Cipollone and Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow wrote, “Mr. Schiff created a fraudulent version of the July 25 call and read it to the American people at a congressional hearing, without disclosing that he was simply making it all up. The fact that Mr. Schiff felt the need to fabricate a false version of the July 25 call proves that he and his colleagues knew there was absolutely nothing wrong with that call.”And in their longer trial memorandum on January 20, they wrote, “Chairman Schiff began the hearings in this matter by lying once again and reading a fabricated version of the President’s telephone conversation with President Zelenskyy to the American people.”There’s no arguing that Schiff’s rendition of the phone call was extremely dumb. There was no need to dramatize or exaggerate the call, which is is extremely incriminating on its own. With his stunt, Schiff gave his opponents a useful tool to demagogue the whole proceeding. It was perhaps Schiff’s biggest tactical error of the impeachment so far.And it is also completely beside the point. Cries of “fraudulent” aside, Schiff was fooling no one. The transcript was already, at that point, public, so anyone could read it for themselves. No one in the room with Schiff believed he was offering the real transcript; it’s doubtful anyone watching on TV or the internet did, either, and in any case Schiff acknowledged it was not real.[David A. Graham: Impeachment is incredibly popular]That didn’t stop Trump from tweeting about it again and again and again. The frequency with which the president has tweeted about the episode has much to do with the frequency with which his lawyers have invoked it. It’s a question of audience. Sometimes lawyers use legalese; this legal team is speaking Hannity-ese. They aren’t trying to convince any senators as a matter of law, because the lawyers know that there aren’t the votes to convict Trump and remove him from office. Nor are they making any attempt to convince the plurality of Americans who support removing Trump.The Trump team’s defense is political, not legal, and thus it echoes the president’s political strategy throughout his tenure: He has focused on ginning up support among the minority of Americans who (staunchly) back him, while making practically no effort to expand his support and win over those who oppose him. Instead, he caters to the conservative media outlets that prop him up. Ranting about Schiff’s dumb parody doesn’t win any legal points, but it will score points—and get airtime—in those outlets.As with many of Trump’s base plays, this one is deeply cynical. It supposes that voters have no sense of proportion or weight. Even if Schiff had been trying to fool someone, it’s absurd to assign such a moment equal weight as the accusations against Trump. The president stands accused of subverting American foreign policy and the will of Congress, coercing a foreign government to interfere in domestic affairs to aid his own reelection effort; and of obstructing the function of Congress. Adam Schiff stands accused of making some dumb remarks.And if the president’s lawyers really believed that telling goofy and easily disprovable lies was disqualifying for a political leader, they’d be working for different clients.
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Why John Roberts won’t save the impeachment trial from partisanship
US Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. waits for the arrival of former US President George H.W. Bush at the US Capitol Rotunda on December 3, 2018, in Washington, DC. | Jabin Botsford via Getty Images What to expect from the man presiding over the impeachment process. The Supreme Court is the most consequential institution in American politics. And yet the public almost never gets to see the chief justice, or any of the justices for that matter, in action. This will change as President Trump’s impeachment trial moves to the Senate on Tuesday. The Constitution provides that the chief justice “shall preside” over the impeachment trial of a president. The role of the chief justice is mostly ceremonial and may only matter in the event that a tie-breaker vote is needed; historically, chief justices have relied on a Senate parliamentarian to manage the process. But Roberts could, if he chose, exert real influence on the trial by compelling witnesses to appear or by ruling on the admissibility of evidence. It’s not likely, but it is possible. Since there’s a chance that Roberts, who was picked to lead the court in 2005 by George W. Bush, might play a significant role in the impeachment saga, I reached out to Joan Biskupic, author of The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts. Biskupic has covered the Supreme Court for more than 20 years and knows Roberts about as well as anyone. We discussed Roberts’s ideological background; the role he’s played on the court and in American politics; and whether we can expect him to preside over Trump’s trial impartially. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows. Sean Illing What would you say is the most important thing the average citizen should know about John Roberts? Joan Biskupic John Roberts is a student of history; before getting his law degree at Harvard, he considered a PhD in history. So he is aware of the weight on his shoulders as he presides over only the third Senate trial of a president in US history. He will be ready for his moment on the dais. He is reserved, cautious, and will probably follow the lead of his mentor William Rehnquist, who presided at the Clinton trial in 1999, and insert himself in the process as little as possible. He will also be thinking about his place in history. He said at one public appearance fairly early in his tenure: “You wonder if you’re going to be John Marshall or you’re going to be Roger Taney. The answer is, of course, you are certainly not going to be John Marshall. But you want to avoid the danger of being Roger Taney.” Sean Illing Who was Roger Taney? Joan Biskupic Chief Justice Taney wrote the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, which many people regard as the worst ruling ever. He said African Americans could not be citizens, invalidated the Missouri compromise, helped lead to the Civil War. Sean Illing Would you call Roberts a moderate? A conservative? An ideologue? Joan Biskupic Roberts cannot be defined by a single label. He is generally conservative, as we have seen on issues such as race, religion and campaign finance. But recall that in 2012, he split from his conservative brethren to cast the deciding vote to uphold the Obama-sponsored Affordable Care Act. As I chronicled in my book, that move came after multiple switched votes and tense negotiations with his colleagues. Today, the chief holds even more of a controlling vote because he is at the ideological center of the court (post-Anthony Kennedy). Overall, he is likely to continue to show his conservative stripes but in certain high-profile cases, when he is in the middle, he’ll inch to the center. Last June’s census case decision is an example of that. Sean Illing Does he put his role a justice over his identity as a conservative Republican? Do his rulings bear that out? Joan Biskupic We’ve had 45 presidents and only 17 chief justices. That’s where his identity is, not in his former roles as an appellate lawyer or a member of the Reagan-Bush administrations. His prior political work may shape his approach, and he has revealed his conservative roots in his rulings, but he is mostly mindful of what he’s doing as chief justice. Sean Illing As you know, Roberts just released the 2019 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary. The political undertones of these things are often hard to decipher, but he wrote that “We have come to take democracy for granted” and explicitly called for more “civic education.” What do you make of that? Do you think he was quietly speaking to Trump? Joan Biskupic I think he was speaking to many constituencies in that report: the public most broadly, fellow judges and Trump, too. Even before Trump came into office, Roberts was concerned about the judiciary becoming entangled in politics. “We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans,” he has said repeatedly. Since Trump took office, that message has taken on more urgency. Think of the chief’s rebuke of Trump over the so-called “Obama judge” in November 2018. Sean Illing Roberts’s role in the Senate impeachment trial is largely ceremonial, but if circumstances force him to get involved, how do you expect him to handle it? Joan Biskupic Under the Senate rules, he could be asked to rule on the relevance and materiality of evidence. I think he will try to avoid any decision that influences the direction of the trial and whether Trump is acquitted or convicted. He would want Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer to work out what they can, as Trent Lott and Tom Daschle did in 1999. We’re not in 1999, of course. Things are far more polarized, but as much as he can do it, I believe Chief Justice Roberts will relay anything substantive to a vote of the Senate and majority will. Sean Illing What role is do you expect him to play in the Senate impeachment trial? Do you think he’ll be fair and impartial? Joan Biskupic I think he will enter the chamber on Tuesday intent on being fair and impartial and signaling in every way that he is both objective — and detached from the Senate as the true decision-maker here. Remember, the senators are sitting as the “court” in this instance. The chief justice works in a world far from television cameras. Many people watching the Senate trial will be seeing him in action for the first time. He will try to set a sense of decorum and avoid anything that would put him or the Supreme Court in a bad light.
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Supreme Court rejects fast-track review of health care suit
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Trump’s lawyers began the impeachment trial with a blizzard of lies
Sekulow (L) and Cipollone (R) arrive at the US Capitol on Tuesday. | Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images The opening statements from Trump’s lawyers indicated that gaslighting will be a key part of their strategy. The opening debate of the Senate impeachment trial on Tuesday afternoon was supposed to be merely about the trial rules. But in quintessential Trump fashion, members of President Donald Trump’s legal team wasted no time telling a number of lies before things really got going. Though getting facts wrong might be somewhat understandable in the context of extemporaneous statements, these falsehoods came in the context of prepared remarks read by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and personal Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. And if that approach is indicative of how the rest of the trial will go, casual watchers may end up with an understanding of the timeline of Trump’s Ukraine dealings and ensuing impeachment that’s at odds with reality. Falsehood No. 1: Trump’s lawyers claimed Republicans didn’t have access to key information during House impeachment inquiry As part of an effort to portray the process that resulted in Trump’s impeachment and trial as a partisan witch hunt, Cipollone at one point complained that “not even [House Intelligence Committee chair and impeachment manager Adam] Schiff’s Republican colleagues were allowed into the SCIF,” or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, which is basically the secure facility that members of Congress used to review classified information pertinent to the impeachment inquiry. "Not even Mr. Schiff's Republican colleagues were allowed into the SCIF" -- this is a blatant lie from Cipollone— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 21, 2020 This assertion is not true. As a number of reporters pointed out, not only did Republicans involved in the impeachment have access to the SCIF, but many of them also used it. Cipollone says “Not even Mr. Schiff’s Republican colleagues were allowed into the SCIF” during impeachment investigation. That’s 100% false. Any member of the three investigating committees could attend, and many Republicans did!— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) January 21, 2020 As part of a made-for-TV stunt, House Republicans did storm a SCIF in October to protest Democrats not providing Republicans who were otherwise uni in the impeachment inquiry with access to closed-door depositions. However, Republicans who were on one of the three committees involved in the process had the same access as Democrats. When the trial resumed after a brief pause following Sekulow and Cipollone’s statements, Schiff noted that Cipollone made “a false statements” about access to the SCIF, and said, “I will tell you this: He’s mistaken. He’s mistaken ... [Republicans] got the same time we did.” Falsehood No. 2: Schiff “manufactured” Trump’s comments during the July Zelensky call That wasn’t the only easily refutable lie pushed by Cipollone during his trial-opening remarks on Tuesday. At another point, he alluded to how Schiff paraphrased Trump’s now-infamous July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and claimed, “when Mr. Schiff saw that his allegations [about Trump abusing his power] were false, and he know it anyway, what did he do? He went to the House and he manufactured a fraudulent version of that phone call.” “He read it to the American people, and he didn’t tell them it was a complete fake,” Cipollone added, echoing a talking point that Trump has incessantly used to discredit the impeachment inquiry. Another new low.White House Counsel for President of United States on the floor of Senate engaging in disinformation.Repeating false claim that Schiff “manufactured a false version of that call.” The call transcript was ALREADY PUBLIC, Schiff was obviously paraphrasing it.— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) January 21, 2020 But those comments are a gross mischaracterization of what Schiff did. Schiff paraphrased the phone call for dramatic effect, and made clear he was doing so. While that decision may have been an ill-advised one — I criticized it at the time because it provided Trump with grist to diminish the proceedings — in no way did Schiff try and bamboozle people into believing Trump said things he didn’t say. Cipollone on Schiff's summary of the call: "He read it to the American people, and he didn't tell them it was a complete fake."In fact, Schiff disclosed up-front that his summary of what Trump said on the call was "shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words."— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) January 21, 2020 And there was more Cipollone wasn’t alone in getting basic stuff wrong. Sekulow’s opening statement also served as an extended complaint about process, but he also managed to mangle the facts (he claimed House Democrats delayed transmitting articles of impeachment to the Senate for a longer period of time than was actually the case) and mischaracterize the impeachment process (he said Trump “was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses” during the House inquiry when in fact the White House declined to do so). Sekulow: "The President was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses.... denied the right to access evidence... and denied the right to have counsel present at hearings. That's a trifecta, a trifecta that violates the Constitution of the United States." #CheddarNews— Cheddar News (@CheddarNews) January 21, 2020 Although most of the impeachment trial is still to come, the way Cipollone and Sekulow handled their opening statements suggests the White House is confident they have little to worry about from Senate Republicans, some of whom have indicated they would at least like to hear from witnesses as part of the process. Facts, not to mention a sense of shame, will not get in the way of the narrative Trump’s legal team intends to push about Democrats having it out for the president — and they’re betting that the American people either won’t be able to see through it or agrees with them. Schiff made clear that he also views Cipollone and Sekulow’s false claims as part of a strategy. After the aforementioned break, he mentioned a number of the lies and said, “why don’t they have a better argument to make on the merits?” SCHIFF: "When you hear them attack the House managers, what you're really hearing is 'we don't want to talk about POTUS's guilt ... so we'll attack the House managers b/c maybe we can distract you for a moment' ... why don't they have a better argument to make on the merits?"— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 21, 2020 When he wrapped up, the next speaker — Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) — also devoted some time to debunking false claims Cipollone made about Trump and executive privilege. The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.
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The Smartphone Has Changed How History Is Written
History, as a discipline, comes out of the archive. The archive is not the library, but something else entirely. Libraries spread knowledge that’s been compressed into books and other media. Archives are where collections of papers are stored, usually within an inner sanctum of a library. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s papers, say, at the New York Public Library. Or Record Group 31 at the National Archives—a set of Federal Housing Administrative documents from the 1930s to the1970s. Usually, an archive contains materials from the people and institutions near it. So, the Silicon Valley Archive at Stanford contain everything from Atari’s business plans to HP co-founder William Hewlett’s correspondence.While libraries have become central actors in the digitization of knowledge, archives have generally resisted this trend. They are still almost overwhelmingly paper. Traditionally, you’d go to a place like this and sit there, day after day, “turning every page,” as the master biographer Robert Caro put it. You might spend weeks, months, or like Caro, years, working through all the boxes, taking extensive notes and making some (relatively expensive) photo copies. Fewer and fewer people have the time, money, or patience to do that. (If they ever did.)Enter the smartphone, and cheap digital photography. Instead of reading papers during an archival visit, historians can snap pictures of the documents and then look at them later. Ian Milligan, a historian at the University of Waterloo, noticed the trend among his colleagues and surveyed 250 historians, about half tenured or tenure-track, half in other positions, about their work in the archives. The results quantified the new normal. While there is a subset of researchers (~23 percent) who took few (less than 200) photos, the plurality (~40 percent) of researchers took more than 2,000 photographs for their “last substantive project.”The driving force here is simple enough. Digital photos drive down the cost of archival research, allowing an individual to capture far more documents per hour. So, an archival visit becomes a process of standing over documents, snapping pictures as quickly as possible. Some researchers organize their photos swiping on an iPhone, or with an open-source tool named Tropy; some, like Alex Wellerstein, a historian at Stevens Institute of Technology, have special digital camera setups, and a standardized method. In my own work, I used Dropbox’s photo tools, which I used to output PDFs, which dropped into Scrivener, my preferred writing software.These practices might seem like a subtle shift—researchers are still going to collections and requesting boxes and reading papers—but the ways that information is collected and managed transmute what historians can learn from it. There has been, as Milligan put it, a “dramatic reshaping of historical practice.” Different histories will be written because the tools of the discipline are changing.***I’ve spent a lot of time in archives. They make me feel like a pilgrim of a very obscure religion, and the process shares the features of other sacred journeys. You put your things in a special locker, keeping only laptop, phone, pencil. You’re inspected for purity on the way into the sanctum and instructed in a series of obscure rights and responsibilities that attend to touching this very special paper. The rooms are beautiful. No one talks. Everyone is on a secret mission, just like you. Sometimes you’re handed white gloves. They don’t smell of old books—that’s the glue, a part of publishing—but sometimes, when you catch a whiff of perfume, lead, ink, chemicals, it seems as if a box exhales the very air of the past. On the way out, you must prove you’ve stolen nothing from the boxes that are kept in the vaults. Paper more valuable than gold! (Inhales dust.)But this sort of rarified “archive mysticism,” which, Wallerstein said, “literally goes back to Ranke”—Leopold von Ranke, the celebrated 19th century historian—is more romantic than analytical. For historians who need grant funding and child care, or life support from their families and partners, the ideal “that to be a historian is to find the right archive and go inhale its dust” can be unachievable. Shorter trips mean cheaper trips, which, Milligan predicts, will make archival work more accessible.In other words, different types of people will be able to do history. “I would expect this to lead to more top-notch, archivally-based scholarly work from those outside of well-resourced institutions,” Milligan told me. “It also opens up a lot more ability to research for people who are caregivers, whether for children or parents, which will lead to more diverse authors.”[Read: Artificial intelligence is cracking open the Vatican’s secret archives]It may be, too, that widespread digitization of archival materials could allow people outside the professionalized, largely western historical tradition to do history. Tim Hitchcock, a historian at the University of Sussex, put the argument in transnational context: Digitization has “democratised historical research, creating a space for people to interrogate their own communities' histories,” he wrote to me. Different people working with the same historical materials will probably change how history is written.Even the same person, though, might write differently if their core process changes. Miriam Pawel, the author of several books based on archival material., purchased a huge screen for her latest, she told me. and could simultaneously pull up photos of documents and her word doc. Counterintuitively, because it’s harder to work with documents on a screen than to flip through photocopied pages, she found herself taking more detailed notes on her first pass through documents than she had when she worked on paper. That translated into a more detailed outline for her massive biography of the California governors Pat and Jerry Brown, The Browns of California, and she thinks, a book that better reflected the material in the archives.There’s some precedent for how history has been changed by increasing digital accessibility. Wellerstein groups photo-taking in the archives under a broader set of changes that he terms “high volume” research methods. “The practices will change what kind of questions you’ll ask,” he said. Take a highly regarded book, Charles Rosenberg’s The Cholera Years. In it, Rosenberg tracks how three newspapers in New York covered cholera. “He spent years working on that,” Wellerstein said. “You can call up every source he used in that book in one afternoon using ProQuest,” one of several databases of newspapers.That does not invalidate the book, which Wellerstein described as “great,” but someone working on the same topic now would have the option to expand the field of inquiry. “You might look nationally, internationally, look over a vast amount of time, correlate cholera with something else,” he said. “Would you get better history? I don’t know. You’d get different history though.”[Read: Future historians probably won’t understand our internet, and that’s okay]If a single archive visit allows a historian to capture five, ten, 20 times as many documents, the expectations of the depth of archival work will almost certainly increase. Patrick McCray, a historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara, quantified the increase in the documents he has captured over time by looking at the size of his files for several different books. “The file for my giant telescopes book (2004) is 9.7MB now,” he wrote to me. ”My Moonwatch book (2008) file size = 2 GB; Visioneers (2012) = 10 GB.” His most recent book is already up to 77 GB.Was there something to the long, paper-rich archive visit, though? As with so many things in the digital age, the downsides have often been less obvious than the conveniences, but they emerge eventually.In a 2016 essay, the University of Pittsburgh historian Lara Putnam argued that archival visits used to require picking up local knowledge. But the rise of digital searching generally “decouples data from place.” You don’t have to know anything about a particular neighborhood, city, region, or nation to find relevant information to a project. “Peripheral vision was prohibitively expensive,” Putnam writes. Now, you’re expected to know what might lie outside the frame of your argument. If you’re writing about Germany, why not take a database peak at Switzerland, or if you’re working on Brazil, why not search Angola (or Mexico)?But you might lose another kind of peripheral vision—what’s going on locally at the archive you’re visiting. All the difficulty of getting to and staying near an archive might have had some purposes. “This experiential friction, the very thing that made international historical research in an analog world inefficient, tends to teach border-crossing researchers things they need to know, whether they know it or not,” Putnam observed. “When foreign researchers slog away in archives day after day next to in-country intellectuals, they can be forced to confront the value of locally produced expertise.”Wellerstein pointed to a related problem he found himself fighting. When you digitize more, you can be tempted to believe that your record is complete, even though historians know that only certain things are captured in documentary evidence. “You can overestimate your knowledge when it looks like you have everything,” he said.Like so many changes in day-to-day life brought on by smartphones, it’s hard to sort out the directionality or even angle of change, as the devices we use intersect with other layers of our societies. This being history, then, it’s important to note the other contexts for this era of historical inquiry: a decline in Cold War funding of “area studies,” a deepening financial globalization, the precarity of most graduate students (and some professors), a widening of the historical profession to include historically excluded groups, a reevaluation of the postcolonial position of research universities in western countries, and many other things.But the literal job of doing history has changed. It works through screens now, that much is for sure. Now, we’ll have to look to the historians to document what that means.
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