To Christian Counselors, Mike Pompeo Lauds the Trump Administration’s Foreign Policies While Kurds Die

Today, in Nashville at a conference hosted by Tim Clinton (aka the American Association of Christian Counselors), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded the foreign policy of the Trump Administration. His glowing praise comes amid Congressional testimony from former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and worsening atrocities involving the Kurds and Syrian Christians.

Calling America a force for good in the world, Pompeo told AACC attenders that the Trump administration “has spoken the truth in many ways that previous administrations haven’t done.” Pompeo lamented the persecution of Christians by ISIS at the same time Christians are now being killed by Turkish forces invading Northern Syria. This morning’s Christianity Today headline is: “Christians Killed on Syria’s Front Lines.” Due to President Trump’s decision to remove American military presence, Christians are suffering at the hands of Turkish aggressors.

The section discussing religious persecution that I referred to above begins at 12:31 and ends at just after the 15 minute mark in the clip below.

It is surreal to hear Pompeo talk about truth telling in foreign policy when there is abundant evidence that the President has not told the truth about his dealings with Ukraine. To me, the whole situation is surreal. The entire crowd acts as if nothing is happening in the wider world. The president just stabbed the Kurds in the back and is under an impeachment investigation. The president’s whim makes the resurgence of ISIS more likely and emboldens a dictator in Turkey who is no friend of religious freedom.

 

Is the Constitution Unconstitutional?

Yesterday, Donald Trump’s White House Counsel told the House of Representatives that the White House would not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry in any way. The letter began:

I write on behalf of President Donald J. Trump in response to your numerous, legally unsupported demands made as part of what you have labeled contrary to the Constitution of the United States and all past bipartisan precedent-as an “impeachment inquiry.” As you know, you have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process.

For example, you have denied the President the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans. You have conducted your proceedings in secret.

In essence, the letter claims the impeachment inquiry has no Constitutional basis since the House has not voted to initiate the inquiry and since the Republicans don’t have subpoena power.

The problem with this line of thought is that the Constitution does not require  a House vote or any particular procedures. Here is what the Constitution says:

The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment. (Article 1, Section 2)

The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.

Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law. (Article 1, Section 3)

The House acts as a grand jury which does work in secret. The House investigates possible charges and if necessary constructs Articles of Impeachment which are then tried in the Senate. Because the Constitution doesn’t specify procedures, the House can do things publicly and privately or in some combination.

It appears to me that Trump is painting himself into a corner and is trying to buy some time. However, many of those following him might believe that his rights are being infringed just because he said so.

At least two of his current supporters once offered a different point of view of the executive branch’s failure to cooperate with Congress.  Lindsey Graham had this to say about Nixon:

This is the situation we are now in with Trump. He has repeatedly failed to comply with requests for information and subpoenas or allow his staff to comply.

Trey Gowdy, who is now going to assist Trump in his defense, once agreed it was wrong to withhold information.

Trump’s letter, in essence, argues that the Constitution is unconstitutional. Trump wants to drive the process but has no authority to do so.

While the Kurds Fear, Donald Trump Revels in His “Great and Unmatched Wisdom”

There is no bottom.

Maybe this will be the 25th Amendment moment. Congressional Republicans and evangelicals are all up in arms about Donald Trump’s decision to leave Northern Syria wide open for Turkish forces to engage the Kurds. Even though the Kurds fought with us against ISIS, Turkey views them as terrorists and wants to wipe them. Trump has stood aside after a call with Turkey’s strongman leader, Erdogan.

The “great and unmatched wisdom” line is the headline grabber but also insane is the threat to obliterate Turkey’s economy if they go “off limits.” There is a megalomania here that is frightening.

UPDATE: This is an extraordinary message from the DOD:

George Washington Warned About “the Party Spirit” and Foreign Influence

Given the fact that a sizable number of citizens can’t identify what is wrong with Donald Trump’s appeal to foreign governments for election interference and the accompanying impotence of Republican office holders to condemn it, I want to rehearse George Washington’s words about party affiliation and foreign influence. Here is Washington from his farewell address (1796):

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Washington foresaw our own time with his words here. Trump certainly cares about “his own elevation.” The extreme partisanship of the GOP is about party not country. Slowly but surely, Trump has transformed the GOP away from its principles into a group of people afraid to offer dissent.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

Trump has opened the door, now publicly and widely, to foreign influence and access to the Trump administration. In the case of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy angled for a meeting by pledging an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, even though there is no evidence of need for such an action.

The U.S. policy toward Russia has shifted dramatically under Trump and we still don’t know why. Washington warned about the very situation we find ourselves in. Where are all of the Christian nation, what-would-the-founders-do Republicans? They remain silent unable to come up with a good pithy Founders’ quote to support a president-monarch who farms out influence for personal gain.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

Republican office holders who fancy themselves patriots after the spirit of the founders need a reality check. Donald Trump is not governing in the spirit of Washington, Madison, and Jefferson. This is the time to ask ourselves, with Franklin, if we are going to keep this Republic

Donald Trump’s New Strategy: Publicly Suggest Foreign Governments Investigate Political Rivals

Well, all of those Trump defenders who questioned the Intelligence Community whistleblower can be quiet now because Donald Trump just publicly suggested what was once private. Watch starting at 1:38:

Trump said President Zelenskyy should start an investigation into the Bidens and “China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as Ukraine.”

Twitter was abuzz with reaction:

Law professor Orin Kerr said:

Christian Post political writer Napp Nazworth asked:

Congressman Justin Amash wrote:

This from Zack Hunt is pretty funny and inspired my headline:

In sum, the new strategy seems to be to dare the nation to do something about it. He seems to be saying to his base that he will do whatever he wants and thus far, they seem to be going along with it. My question is about Republican office holders. Will they see the problem here? This is setting the tone for any future presidency. If the GOP does not act in some manner, there will be no obvious limits. Will soliciting foreign help in our elections be the new normal? Will foreign governments fight their battles via our candidates? This is not a sustainable position.

Trump Releases Ukraine Conversation; Impeachment Open Forum (UPDATED)

UPDATE: 9/26 – The DNI complaint has been declassified and is available to the public. You can (and should) read it here.

UPDATE: 9/27 – Now the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community’s letter about the DNI complaint has been released to the public. You can read it here.  Readers should remember that the IG is a Trump appointee. He believes there is reason to believe laws may have been broken by the conduct described by the whistleblower and that the matter is of urgent concern.

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Yesterday was dominated by news of Nancy Pelosi directing House committees to explore articles of impeachment and then today President Trump released a summary of his conversation with Ukrainian president Zelenskyy.

You can read the summary of that conversation here.

My purpose with this post is to give regular readers a place to comment and contribute links to reactions from evangelical leaders on these topics. I haven’t seen anything specific from any of the usual suspects but I imagine they will come out soon with defenses of Trump. There are serious problems in the conversation with Zelenskyy and I hope some evangelical leaders will think of the country first.

UPDATE: Hunter Biden did nothing wrong according to Ukrainian prosecutor at the heart of the Trump controversy.

Trump Boosts Promotional Video Which Borrows White Nationalist Logo (UPDATED)

UPDATED: Mediaite posted an op-ed from an anonymous meme-maker who claims the logo is innocent. While I think it is good of Mediaite to provide a forum for a possible explanation, I don’t know enough about “Carpe Donktum” to evaluate his/her claims. I also need to add that I originally thought the ad came from the Trump campaign. However, it was produced by a supporter of Trump and retweeted by the president. I have corrected my post to reflect that.

…………………

Somebody supporting the Trump re-election effort is too familiar with white nationalist symbols. Recently, Trump retweeted a video that ended with a lion logo surrounded by red, white, and blue which has been promoted by a white nationalist group. Watch:


As first reported by Mediaite this morning, Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski found a tweet from white nativist group VDARE using the logo in 2016 and showed it next to the final shot of the Trump/Pence video.

Note the 2016 date. The logo is the same as the one used in the Trump/Pence ad just this week.

The Lion’s Guard

The logo is also associated with a group called “The Lion’s Guard.” This group (which was promoted and praised on white supremacist site Daily Stormer in 2016) aims to provide security at Trump rallies and was removed from Twitter for awhile. They are back now with the same logo.

Note the slogan on the group’s website:

Better to be a lion for a day, than a lamb for eternity.

The slogan is a simpler version of a quote attributed to Mussolini:

It’s better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.

In 2016, Trump retweeted this quote knowing the attribution was to Mussolini:

Donald Trump and/or his social media team thought it would be a good idea to promote a symbol which communicated nativist themes. They who have eyes to see, let them see.

 

 

 

Marc Stanley in The Times of Israel: Dear Great Leader

In this The Times of Israel op-ed, attorney Marc Stanley has taken note of Donald Trump’s assessment of Jews who support the Democratic party and at first seems to strike a penitent note.

With the High Holy Days around the corner, I just can’t wait for Yom Kippur to begin atoning. As you recently proclaimed, Jews who vote Democratic are “disloyal.” Well, I hope you will find a way to forgive me, for I have been disloyal—very disloyal.

Then Stanley lists the many ways he has “misunderstood” the president. If only he understood Dear Great Leader Trump’s special ways of showing respect to Jews, then maybe he wouldn’t be so “disloyal.”

In the op-ed, Stanley reminds readers that most American Jews are just as “disloyal” as he is which should give the president some reason to worry about his current strategy.

Trump’s DNI Pick John Ratcliffe Once Hosted Wallbuilders for a Local Prayer Breakfast

This came across the wire today.

 

John Ratcliffe is Donald Trump’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence to replace Dan Coats. In addition to having little intelligence background or experience, questioning Russia’s role in the 2016 election and inflating his resume, he is (or at least was) sympathetic to Christian nationalism.

It seems fair to go back to Ratcliffe’s days as a mayor of Heath, TX since his public service experience is so thin. He has been a Congressman since 2014 when he defeated 91 year old Ralph Hall and conservative Republican in a primary. There is no serious Democratic resistance in the district. In that race, David Barton endorsed Hall.

Given Ratcliffe’s rise to power, no doubt now all is forgiven. In addition to a Trump loyalist, Russia doubter, Rep. Ratcliffe may be sympathetic to Christian nationalism.

Hat tip to Ron West’s blog.

 

High Crimes or Misdemeanors?

For me, this is enough.