Impeachment: Week in Review (And Michael Cohen, Too)

The main news on impeachment for this week centered around claims made by Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen received millions in fees of various types from Trump’s 2017 inauguration forward, including from major corporations such as AT&T, and an entity associated with Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire. Although it is not clear what these payments portent, confirmation has emerged from AT&T and other entities that payments were in fact made to Cohen, and the FBI has seized Cohen’s business records.  It also appears clear that Cohen was marketing his services on the premise that he had unique “insider” insights about Mr. Trump – there is also the possibility that some kind of access to Trump was marketed or implied.  The Russian connection is suspicious.  This is a developing story; it appears to be related to the Mueller probe.  The Mueller Investigation is now approaching its first anniversary – amid calls from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani that it be quickly concluded.  As perspective on how long Mueller is taking, Robert Fiske was named as the first Clinton Whitewater Independent Counsel in January1994; Kenneth Starr -- the second Whitewater Independent Counsel -- delivered his report to Congress presenting eleven possible grounds for the impeachment of President Clinton on September 9, 1998 – well over four and a half years after Fiske was appointed.  In the general news and context category, multiple news events appear to portend increasing global instability.  The two most notable events are Trump’s recently announced decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement, and the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on the 70thAnniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel.  Among other reactions, the Iran decision prompted Germany’s Der Spiegel to publish a cover showing Trump “flipping off” Europe with a middle finger.   An earlier Der Spiegel cover showed an image of Trump brandishing a long knife in his left hand and holding the severed head of the Statue of Liberty in his right hand.  Singapore was announced as the location of a planned summit meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un of North Korea – following Trump’s scheduled trip to the G-7 summit in Canada on June 8 and 9.  There is wide divergence in speculation about what, if anything, might result from the North Korean summit.     

The Mueller Investigation – Michael Cohen

In the major impeachment story for this week, the Washington Post reported: "President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was hired last year by the U.S.-based affiliate of a Russian business magnate who attended Trump’s inauguration and was recently subjected to sanctions by the U.S. government, the company said Tuesday."  The payments appear to be not an isolated instance, but are among many made to Cohen for consulting "insight" into the operation of the new Trump Administration -- offered by someone who was believed to know President Trump well, and to also have continuing direct access to him.  This is a developing story -- but data provided by Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, has effectively been confirmed by multiple companies who paid Mr. Cohen, including AT&T.

The Hill reports on a possible conflict of interest involving Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  While he was FBI Director, in 2009 the FBI reportedly asked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska: "to spend millions of his own dollars funding an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran while working for the CIA in 2007."  The Hill continues: "Yes, that’s the same Deripaska who has surfaced in Mueller’s current investigation and who was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration."  Developing...

Trump approval up – Dem lead for “Generic” House polls down – Reid warns

The Washington Post reports on a slight but persistent upward trend in President Trump’s approval rating, paired with a slight but also persistent downtick in polling results for a “Generic” House election in 2018 (with no candidates mentioned.) 

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued this warning in an NBC News interview: "I think the less we talk about impeachment the better off we are as a country."

Tom Steyer – NeedToImpeach and NextGen America

National Review reports on California hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer's recent Town Hall in Cedar Rapids Iowa -- this editor drove about 600 miles round trip to both cover and participate in that Town Hall.   According to the NR account, Steyer: "told the crowd... that President Trump communicates effectively like Hitler and must be impeached before he leads the country down a similarly dark path."  NR notes Steyer did make a distinction -- that unlike Hitler, Trump "hasn’t killed millions of people."  The NR report continues: "The crowd rumbled with raised voices, causing Steyer to entertain the comparison some more.  "'I agree! Look, that’s why we want to impeach him!' Steyer said. 'We’d like to end it here while it’s still OK….We haven’t gotten to that point. God bless us, let’s hope we never get anywhere near that point.'”  The event was attended by about 200 people in Iowa's second largest city -- a similar Town Hall event two days earlier in the largest city, Des Moines, reportedly drew about 400.  Steyer is on a national tour, including about 30 such Town Hall events.

This article from the Des Moines Register is an example of local coverage of Tom Steyer's NeedToImpeach Town Hall campaign.

The Washington Free Beacon offers up one of many reports on a new ad -- "Mother's Day" -- from NextGen America, an PAC organization founded by Tom Steyer.   This came to the editor's attention via the National Review article on a Town Hall Steyer held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa – (see above).   On careful analysis, it appears this ad can’t possibly be anything but some kind of parody of multiple genres -- from “be good/got Milk?” to “remorseful/guilty/helicopter parent” themes.  It almost defies description… but we'll try... The ad is in the form of a “Mom's monologue” in her living room -- thinking back over the years on her child… the narrative is aided by cuts to framed “family pictures.”  Here's an example… for this quote: "The stealing started out small... a few dollars here and there... not from me oddly enough, but from less fortunate kids" the visual is a pan of a “family photo" of her "son" – displayed in the room -- who appears to be in the act of physically shaking down... literally robbing... some "less fortunate kid" in what looks like a school hallway.  Of course… one wonders… what parent, or family, would have a framed "family photo" in their living room of their teen aged family member in the act of robbing someone?  Where would they even get such a photo?  Do you call security at the junior high school and ask: “could you e-mail me a still photo from the security video you used to arrest our son… we’d like it for our family album?  Or do we need to do a Freedom-of-Information filing?”  The photo-montage-and-narrative continues -- getting steadily weirder and weirder.  The commercial ends with “Mom” saying "only a Mother can catch the signs early.  This Mother's Day talk to your child about the GOP" -- she chug-a-lugs a cocktail in one gulp and then concludes: "I wish I had."  If you devote minutes of your life to playing it over, be sure to notice that the fireplace appears to contain large rolls of paper – presumably the better to efficiently produce and disperse hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.  Readers are invited to simply watch it... or warned not to… or something… By The Way... right wing media appears to have picked up on this ad big time... whether they “get it” or not – and “them-not-getting-it” appears to be a big part of the overall joke – judging from the comments they're having some kind of a field day... on Monday afternoon (5/14) there were 176,000 views, and the thumbs-up/thumbs-down count was running about twelve thumbs down for every thumbs up.  You be the judge dear reader -- it was published on May 9th. 

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