Bribery is the Word for This

Forget quid pro quo. It misses the point. Donald Trump was engaged in bribery, the impeachable offense detailed in Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.

Bribery: “the act of persuading (someone) to act in one’s favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement”

Quid pro quo: “a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something” literally “something for something.”

Testimony in the House impeachment hearing is clear (unless you listen exclusively to the ever more shrill Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh). Donald Trump in his July 25th call with Zelensky wants “a favor.” [Read the rough transcript.] Like any seasoned mobster, Trump hints at what he is offering in return for the “favor” he asks. Funds already approved by Congress and essential to Ukraine’s ongoing effort to stop Russian aggression in its eastern provinces have been held up by Trump’s order. Trump knows this. Zelensky knows this. Giuliani and Sondland know this. It doesn’t need to be spelled out in a single phone call. That is not the way these things work. (Here’s the timeline.) Toward the end of the call Trump offers something else Zelensky wants, an honored visit to the White House to burnish Zelensky’s image back home. Trump offers this right after he re-iterates that the contact people for the deal are “Rudy and Attorney General Barr.” Such offers, “I will do x and y if you do z” are never quite explicit.

The inducement in return for the political “favor” Trump wants is two-fold, final release of the funds Trump has specifically held up and a White House visit. This is bribery. Call it what it is.

We learn in other testimony something I find in some ways more damning. Trump isn’t so much interested in the performance of or even the result of an investigation. He is most interested in the Ukrainian government making an announcement that it is opening an investigation. It is the public doubt engendered by the announcement of an investigation that Trump really wants–a purely personal political maneuver. An actual investigation is immaterial to his purpose.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Some may wonder why not “extortion”? It is a term very closely allied with bribery, but not specified in the Constitution. Trump functions as a gangster. He is making a threat to withhold vital funds unless Ukraine offers him the “favor” of announcing an investigation of Trump’s political rival.

Extortion: “the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats”

The difference is linguistic, a matter of nuance. Bribery is specified in the Constitution.

P.P.S. I watched Sean Hannity on Fox “News” last Wednesday evening (almost by accident). It was instructive of desperate Republican tactics. Besides the loaded wording and belligerent Republican Congressperson interviewees, he even went to the trouble of showing a video of Adam Schiff reading a Republican screed against impeachment, a video carefully edited to make it look as though Schiff were damning himself. I’ve never seen purer, shriller, partisan propaganda.

The “Evangelicals”

Eighty-one percent of Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. We read that most Evangelicals support Trump in similar numbers today. I first met this Evangelical devotion to Mr. Trump (and wrote about it, Trump as Christian) in a conversation with a former neighbor. The primary reason she knew Mr. Trump was on her side was that he had “moved the Embassy to Jerusalem.”

Religious beliefs are complex. It is tricky business to attribute specific religious ideas to a particular person. That said, there is good evidence that Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-Congressional District 5) is an Evangelical in the sense I’m about to discuss. Mike Pompeo, our current Secretary of State and formerly a U.S. Representative from Kansas, also holds an Evangelical worldview. One’s worldview, particularly one’s view of the future, has consequences.

So what does an “Evangelical” believe? I take my cues here from a lecture given August 20 at the South Hill Library by Matthew Sutton, professor of history at WSU in Pullman. Professor Sutton grew up and was educated in the Evangelical tradition before pursuing a doctorate in history at UC Santa Barbara. He is the author of several books on protestant religious movements, books often received well both from within and outside modern Evangelicalism.

I grew up in the United Methodist tradition. I remember sermons discussing the term “evangelical” that emphasized its etymology from the Greek words meaning “good news.” For me the word was originally infused with a nebulous idea of “spreading the Good News,” that is, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Words evolve. Modern “Evangelicalism” with a capital “E,” according to Professor Sutton, has taken on additional meaning. It is the modern label (preferred by those who espouse it), for what has been called FundamentalismDispensationalism, and Premillennialism. (You can look up these words in Wikipedia. Without a background in Protestant theology you may find yourself in the theological weeds.)

At the core of Evangelicalism is confidence that the future of mankind is predicted in detail by the Bible, specifically, the Bible as interpreted by certain writers and preachers beginning in the early 1800’s. The ideas spread into the popular consciousness through tent revivals and charismatic preachers; more recently, by indoctrination at religious schools like Bob Jones University, Liberty University, and the Moody Bible Institute; and, in the last twenty years or so, spread by electronic media like Youtube and Facebook. The ideas around the End Times prophecies of Evangelicalism are also spread into the popular consciousness as the popular fiction of the “Left Behind” series of books and movies and by the best-selling book, movie, and prime time TV presentation “The Late Great Planet Earth.” The core predictions of the End Times as understood in Evangelicalism and now, increasingly, in the popular consciousness, come mostly from Revelation in the New Testament and Daniel and Ezekiel in the Old Testament.

Central to humanity is a desire to predict the future, to understand it, to have a level of control over it. Religion tries to satisfy this desire by supplying a narrative.

For modern day Protestant Christianity there are basically two narratives: millennialism and premillennialism. I was brought up in United Methodism primarily as a millennialist (although, until recently, I had little understanding of that word). The predominant thought in my upbringing was that Christ would return (the Second Coming) after we diligent Protestants helped set the stage for it, helping to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. In this context the “millennium” refers to a thousand years of the Kingdom of God, NOT the turn of the millennium at the arbitrarily numbered years 1000 and 2000 on the calendar (as I once thought).

In contrast, in the premillennialist belief system which predominates among Evangelicals today, a series of dire events are prophesied to occur before the 1000 years of the Kingdom of God. The intellectual project is to comb current local and world events for the biblically prophesied signs of the End Times: moral decline, religious apostasy, the return of the Jews to Israel (hence, my neighbor’s enthusiasm for Trump’s moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem), wars and rumors of wars, the rise of powerful empires in Rome, Russia, and the Far East, and the rise of the Anti-Christ. This may sound preposterous to those of us outside the Evangelical system of belief, but it is a comforting system of prediction for folks within it. Evangelicals are engaging in intellectual endeavor. They expend an enormous amount of brain power on the interpretation of biblical passages and their application to “signs of the times.” (For one sample, click here.) Each time a prediction fails more effort must be spent to analyze the failure and recalibrate the prediction.

Thanks to Professor Sutton’s lecture, I also recognize that during my upbringing I was buffeted by premillennialist ideas: talk of “The Beast,” the significance of the number “666” in the Book of Revelation, even vague references to something I now recognize as a precursor to “The Rapture.” As a mainline United Methodist these were intriguing ideas, a whole way of viewing the future. I understand the allure. These end times ideas seeped into my consciousness even as the mainstream Methodism in which I was brought up mostly centered on building the Kingdom of God on earth, building it through good works underpinned with what we understood as Christian values: tolerance, forbearance, respect for my fellow man, justice, charity, non-violence, stewardship of God’s creation.

People with a predominantly premillennial, Evangelical worldview see personal and world events through that elaborate system of belief. Surely many self-labelled Evangelical Christians have never stood back and contemplated the system as a whole. Most (including my neighbor) have only a scant notion of the history of the end times belief system that underlies the understanding of the world preached from Evangelical pulpits.

I urge you to explore this system of belief. Learn the words. Get an idea of what the words convey to attuned listeners. The Evangelical end times belief system colors current local and national politics. “Prophecy Conferences” are presented at venues in Spokane Valley at intervals. Pre-millennialist End Times ideas are central to Matt Shea’s 51st State theology and the Redoubter movement in the Inland Northwest.

Consider the likely belief system of candidates and elected officials. Matt Shea is a glaring example, but what of Nadine Woodward? She cannily responds to the WeBeleiveWeVote survey: “As a candidate in the nonpartisan race for Spokane Mayor, I will only focus on local issues that pertain to city government and not national issues. Thank you for the chance to respond to those questions that impact the Mayor’s office,”? Woodward ducks the questions that might have labelled her an Evangelical. She calculates the Evangelical community will vote for her anyway–and she knew she could not afford to turn off swing voters in a city where hard right Evangelicalism might be looked at askance. And who is she kidding when she says the mayoral race is “non-partisan?”

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. The label “Fundamentalism” deserves mention. Between 1910 and 1915 a series of ninety essays were published and called The FundamentalsThe money for the publication came from Lyman Stewart, the founder of Union Oil. (click the book name for the detail of its intent). The Fundamentals is widely considered as the foundation of Christian Fundamentalism. Very gradually the label became pejorative. According to Professor Sutton, the preferred term today among most of the groups that follow fundamentalist precepts as set forth in The Fundamentals is Evangelical.

Elections: We’re Not Done

Several municipal election contests are headed for a recount. Read the details in this Saturday, November 10, Spokesman article or look at the daily (weekday, non-holiday) update on your smartphone app (Election Results, State of Washington Secretary of State) or see them here at the Spokane County elections website.

Breean Beggs candidacy for Spokane City Council is the biggest squeaker. Out of roughly 61,000 votes cast he trails by only 145, a gap that has narrowed with each day of ballot counting.

ACTION ITEM: If you voted for Breean Beggs, before you go on with your day, go to and look up your ballot. Click on My Ballot and then, in the dropdown menu that appears, click Ballot Status. There check to make sure your ballot was received and accepted. If it wasn’t accepted (or received) call the County Elections Office at 509-477-2320. The most likely issue is a problem with your signature and could be resolved. Every vote could be the deciding vote in this race (and some others).

Whatever you find at about your own ballot, contact like-minded voters you know and encourage them to check on their ballots, too.

If you find a problem, please let me know via a Reply to this email. I think I can help to save the effort of others trying to contact you.

Counting will resume tomorrow, Tuesday, since today is a holiday. There are an estimated 9,600 ballots still to be counted in all of Spokane County, some part of which will apply to these close races.

Other (but less close) local squeakers are Karen Stratton in Northwest Spokane (City Council, so the total votes counted are around a third of the City Council President race) and Brandi Peetz in the City of Spokane Valley City Council election.

This is a good lesson for all: When you cast a vote you cannot know if the results will be so close that your vote will be the deciding one.

Keep to the high ground,

The Local Republican Cancer

ACTION ITEM (after you’ve read what’s below): Go to Cancel Matt Shea and use the tools there to urge Shea’s corporate donors to pay attention. They need to understand the toxicity of this man before they give him more money.

Matt Shea is the most visible symptom of a malignancy growing in the Spokane Republican Party. For years Spokane County Sherrif Ozzie Knezovich has been calling out Matt Shea, but if conscientious voters and the Spokane Republican Party are even listening, they don’t seem to be paying much attention. Shea has been re-elected six times as one of the two State Representatives from Legislative District 4, Spokane Valley north to Mount Spokane, re-elected in spite of a growing and richly documented catalogue of his far right activities, paranoia, and hints of violence available to read here. The Spokane Republican Party (SpokaneGOP) not only tolerates Shea, but prominent local Republicans, like McMorris Rodgers, accept Shea’s endorsement, tacitly accepting the support of Shea’s far right Christian Identity, assault-weapon-waving, conspiracy-minded, followers.

There are two factions of local Republicans, the Republicans of Spokane County, who host gatherings where Sherriff Knezovich and others call out the Matt Shea malignancy, and the Spokane GOP, the larger organization, that backs Matt Shea. The Republicans of Spokane County, under the chairmanship of Beva Miles, makes a show of solidarity with the Spokane GOP at each of the RSC meetings. The Republicans of Spokane County seem conflicted, aware of the malignancy (at least its most visible manifestation as Matt Shea), but unwilling to risk alienating the white supremacist/separatist faction on whose votes Republicans increasingly depend. The other, larger group, the Spokane GOP, looks away from the infiltration of its ranks, except when a media spotlight is shown on the activities of someone like their former chairwoman, Cecily Wright, infamous for hosting and honoring James Allsup. (WSU student who marched at Charlotteville, at Ms. Wright’s and her husband’s Northwest Grassroots gathering, at 48:00 in this Youtube video.)

When a local Rush Limbaugh Republican and prominent supporter of the local Spokane GOP is asked what he knows about Matt Shea the answer is “Just what I read in the papers. I think a lot of our county sheriff and he has a very low regard for Shea which puts me in guard about Shea. I would not vote for him.” Like many insiders, he remains unaware of the extent of the rot.

Past and present local office holders who endorse Shea:

[Former] Spokane County Treasurer Rob Chase
[Former] Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan
Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins (current)
Spokane Valley Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard (re-elected in November, 2019)
[Former] Spokane Valley City Councilman Ed Pace
Spokane Valley City Councilman Sam Wood (current)
Fmr. Spokane Valley Councilwoman Brenda Grassel

Shea is the visible manifestation of the malignancy spreading in the SpokaneGOP (and the national party). He needs to lose his corporate sponsors because being associated with him isn’t worth his business friendly voting record. He needs to be ejected from the WA State House of Representatives (click here) or voted out of office in 2020. The Republicans aren’t going to do it on their own. They are too afraid of losing Shea’s far right voters…

If you have any doubts about Shea’s unfitness for office please read the richly referenced article I’ve pasted below from the September 3 Seattle Times. Even this article only scratches at the surface of the movement Shea leads…

Keep to the high ground,

Some corporate donors turn away from Washington Rep. Matt Shea after controversies

Sep. 3, 2019 at 6:00 am Updated Sep. 3, 2019 at 9:09 am

State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, has spent campaign money for mileage traveling across Eastern Washington to promote his plan to create a 51st state from counties east of the Cascade Mountains. (Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press)
State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, has spent campaign money for mileage traveling across Eastern Washington to promote his plan to create a 51st state from counties east of the Cascade Mountains. (Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press) Less 

Joseph O’Sullivan

Seattle Times staff reporter

OLYMPIA — In recent years, political-action committees and large corporations have funded the bulk of Washington state Rep. Matt Shea’s reelection campaigns.

Perhaps unwittingly, those donors have bankrolled a campaign operation used by Shea, a Republican from Spokane Valley, to air his far-right views on a regular radio program, advance plans to secede from Washington by forming a 51st state, even travel to “anti-terrorism” training.

Since 2011, Shea’s campaign has paid at least $68,000 — roughly 13% of all contributions he has raised — to American Christian Network, a for-profit broadcasting company based in Spokane, according to a review of a decade of state campaign-finance records.

The money has been paid largely in monthly invoices to American Christian Network, which for years has hosted Shea’s show, Patriot Radio, according to Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) records.

A review of some of the hourlong broadcasts finds Shea, who was first elected in 2008, railing against Muslims, Marxists and other perceived enemies, espousing his strident brand of Christianity and press for his proposed state of Liberty.

In an early August episode, Shea discussed a theory that conservatives are possibly being conditioned to be hunted down and killed by elites. To bolster his case, Shea cited unspecified threats made against him and others by anti-fascists.

“This is here, now, in our generation,” Shea said. “And we need to stand up, we need to stand up and fight back. And we need to do it according to the pattern Jesus Christ has left us.”

Shea, a 45-year-old attorney, has also spent campaign money for mileage traveling across Eastern Washington to promote his plan to create a 51st state from counties east of the Cascade Mountains.

And reports show donors in 2018 funded more than $700 of unspecified “security” purchases by Shea, as well as plane tickets to travel to “anti-terrorism training.”

Washington law requires that campaign donations in most cases not go to personal use, but spent on items or activities directly related to the campaign.


Thus, the airfare, mileage and purchases of security items would be considered legal provided they’re directly related to campaign activities, according to PDC spokeswoman Kim Bradford.

The PDC, which enforces campaign-finance laws, does not have guidelines on the use of radio broadcasts, so Shea’s election spending with American Christian Network may well be allowed, Bradford said.

First elected in 2008, Shea is now subject of a House-commissioned investigation to determine whether he planned or promoted political violence and the extent of his association with those involved in such activities.

The investigation comes after a year of news reports — including in Rolling Stone and the Bundyville story series and podcast, published by Longreads and Oregon Public Broadcasting — documenting Shea’s associations with anti-government extremists.

The Guardian, a British publication, reported Shea was included in group chats discussing violence and surveillance against political opponents, and wrote about Shea’s ties to a group of young men training with firearms in Eastern Washington to prepare for biblical warfare.

In Spokane, The Spokesman-Review recently reported that Shea allegedly discussed tracking political opponents with methods such as GPS devices, and purportedly has a list of every law-enforcement officer in Washington.

Last year, the publication reported on a document Shea acknowledged distributing titled “Biblical Basis for War” that provides guidelines for conducting holy war.

After the biblical war revelations — which Shea defended as a historical summary of sermons — several big contributors, including AT&T, BNSF, Avista and the Washington Association of Realtors asked for their money back.

The lawmaker — who raised $111,145 during the 2018 election cycle — has no legal obligation to do so. Spokespeople for most of those donors recently told The Seattle Times that Shea did not return the contributions, and that some of them don’t plan to donate again.

Shea, who rarely answers questions from news organizations, did not respond to emails or calls seeking comment for this story.

Now, four other big-name donors — Allstate, Boeing, the Washington Health Care Association and Weyerhaeuser — say they’ll no longer contribute to Shea.

In an email, Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman wrote that “Diversity and inclusion are core Boeing values.”

“Boeing PAC contributed to Rep. Shea’s 2018 reelection campaign prior to disturbing news reports of his activities,” wrote Bergman, whose company gave Shea $2,000 last year. “Boeing PAC has not donated to him since then and will not do so in the future.”

Patriot Radio

Shea’s campaign has since 2011 directly paid American Christian Network more than $68,000. Records show that payment in recent years has come in monthly installments of $1,250.

According to Shea’s campaign website, the show is played throughout Eastern Washington on a variety of AM and FM stations.

Shea doesn’t necessarily focus on his campaign or legislative duties on Patriot Radio.

For instance, in an hourlong late October 2018 program — which took place after ballots had been mailed out for the Nov. 6 general election — Shea spent about three minutes on the election.

In that time, Shea didn’t mention his own campaign, or ask listeners to vote for him. Instead, he told listeners about his preferred choices in local races and statewide ballot measures.

The lawmaker spent much of that show espousing his thoughts on Christianity, talking against Muslims and Marxists, comparing the attack of police officers in America to political instability in Iraq, and interviewing a guest about anti-fascist demonstrators in Seattle and Portland.

Shea’s next radio program that year, in early November, came shortly after news reports about the biblical-war document. He responded by denying being a racist or anti-Semite, and touted unsuccessful measures he’d sponsored in Olympia in support of Israel.

Other than mentioning people who have prayed for his campaign and exhorting people to vote up and down the ballot in the election, Shea made no mention of his candidacy or campaign.

Shea is now under investigation by the PDC into a complaint that he improperly gave campaign-surplus money to American Christian Network.

Surplus money consists of unspent funds left over from candidate campaigns and is governed by different requirements than direct campaign spending. PDC records show Shea used surplus dollars to pay American Christian Network monthly installments totaling at least $8,500 during a period when he didn’t use direct campaign money for radio spending.

Emails seeking comment from American Christian Network were not returned.

Shea has also spent thousands of campaign dollars on audio and visual gear, including paying American Christian Network $1,800 in 2014 for audio equipment, according to records. Reports show Shea this year bought a podcast console ($677).

In 2018 he reported spending $368 on airfare to attend anti-terrorism training, though did not include where he went or who conducted the training.

Shea in 2018 spent at least $586 on mileage for travel outside his district to promote the 51st state, which he’s sponsored as legislation.

The lawmaker in 2017 spent at least $649 in campaign-surplus funds on mileage for similar presentations, according to records.

Shea in 2018 also spent a combined $728 for three different unspecified purchases of “security” products from Amazon.

Concerns over “values”

Those companies and organizations that asked Shea for a refund after the biblical-war-document revelation included AT&T, Avista, BNSF, Puget Sound Energy, the Washington Realtors Association and the Credit Union Legislative Action Fund.

Spokespersons with those organizations said they didn’t get their money back, except for BNSF.

BNSF spokeswoman Courtney Wallace wouldn’t say whether the company got its $2,000 in contributions returned from last election cycle.

But, “BNSF is not and will not be supporting Rep. Matt Shea,” Wallace wrote in an email. “We strongly condemn the views expressed as they are in direct contrast to our values of diversity and inclusion.”

Spokespersons for Phillips 66 and the Washington State Hospital Association — which each gave Shea $1,000 in 2018 — declined to comment.

Other companies that contributed to Shea during the 2018 campaign cycle — including Geico, Anheuser-Busch and Monsanto, which each chipped in $1,000 — didn’t return emails seeking comment.

The Washington Hospitality Association — which last year gave Shea $1,000 — isn’t scheduled to discuss its 2020 candidate endorsements until June, according to spokeswoman Nicole Vukonich.

“These recent developments will definitely be a part of any future conversations with our members,” Vukonich wrote in an email, adding later: “His words and actions are inconsistent and contrary to the values of the Washington Hospitality Association and those of our members.”

Joseph O’Sullivan: 360-236-8268 or; on Twitter: @OlympiaJoe. Seattle Times staff reporter Joseph O’Sullivan covers state government and the Legislature.

Why Impeachment is Necessary

Transcript? Investigation? The words matter. It is not a “transcript,” it is a “MEMORANDUM OF TELEPHONE CONVERSATION” written by “Notetakers: The White House Situation·Room.” To call what the White House released a “transcript” is to incorrectly offer it the dignity of a recording.  Whatever actually was said rang alarm bells for many who listened to the call, so much so that attempts were made to squirrel it away on a top secret server. Be not lulled into believing that what the White House released was a verbatim “transcript.” The MEMORANDUM is damning enough on its own. Trump is openly using the power of his office to extort a promise from a dependent foreign government that it will investigate Trump’s political rival.

In the “MEMORANDUM” Trump says, “I would like you to do us a favor though…I would like you to find out what happened…” concerning “Crowdstrike…Biden’s son, and Biden.” He goes on to explicitly establish a back channel through Rudy Giuliani and Bill Barr where the specifics of his requested “favor” would be revealed. For Trump the important point is not that a careful investigation be performed, but rather that an announcement be made that an investigation is going to occur. That is all he needs to serve his personal political gain. The truth matters no more than in Trump’s conspiracy theory over Barrack Obama’s citizenship, the conspiracy theory that in many ways marked the beginning of Trump’s run for the presidency. The point of Trump’s requested “favor” is to generate news that instills doubt.

McMorris Rodgers writes to me in an October 11th email: “With the information we have today, I do not find the July 25th call to be an impeachable offense.” In a October 31 email she goes directly to impugning the impeachment process to explain why she voting against opening an inquiry. She needs to hear more from us.

Spokane Office       (509) 353-2374
Colville Office         (509) 684-3481
Walla Walla Office  (509) 529-9358
D.C. Office              (202) 225-2006
or lodge your opinion on her “Contact” page.

Once again I defer to Doug Muder’s writing (and I recommend signing up for his Monday email here). What follows is The Weekly Sift entry for Monday, November 4.

New post on The Weekly Sift

Why Impeachment is Necessary

by weeklysift

If receiving government money means you owe the President a personal favor, we’ve become a different kind of country.

As the House formalized its impeachment inquiry this week, many voices raised a legitimate question: Why put the country through this? Impeachments are divisive, and given Republican control of the Senate (and the proven willingness of Republicans to choose party over country) removing Trump from office seems unlikely, no matter what he may have done.

That question has an answer: If the direct evidence of corruption we’ve seen in the Ukraine case doesn’t produce any response, then as a country we’re saying that we view this kind of presidential behavior as normal and acceptable. Going forward, that collective shrug will make the United States a very different kind of country than it has been before.

Conservatives often raged about Barack Obama’s pledge to “fundamentally transform the United States of America”. (And just as often, liberals have expressed their disappointment at his inability to fulfill that pledge.) But if there are no consequences for his abuses of power, Trump will have succeeded in fundamentally transforming America —  into something much more like a banana republic than the nation the Founders envisioned.

“Do us a favor”. With all the damaging witnesses who have testified to the House Intelligence Committee these past two weeks, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the most incriminating words so far came from President Trump himself and were released by the White House. In the rough transcript of his call with President Zelensky of Ukraine, Zelensky asks about buying more anti-tank Javelin missiles, and Trump responds, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”

The favor is to launch investigations into two matters: “Crowdstrike”, which started “that whole nonsense [that] ended with a very poor performance by Robert Mueller” the previous day, and “The other thing, there’s a lot talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.”

In other words, in order for Trump to stop blocking the military aid that Congress had already appropriated, Ukraine had to do two things to benefit not the United States, but Trump’s re-election campaign: undermine the basis of the Mueller investigation and tear down the Democrat that the polls have been saying is most likely to defeat Trump in 2020. [1]

Even baseless investigations can be effective. Presuming that these Ukrainian investigations were performed honestly, they would turn up nothing, because their subject matter consists of two conspiracy theories that can’t even be told coherently in any detail. The Wikipedia article on the Crowdstrike theory characterizes it as “multiple disjointed threads of unfounded allegations”. And the reporter who wrote the first Biden-Ukraine story in 2015 describes the Trump version as “upside-down“.

But the ultimate result of these probes doesn’t matter: The investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails ultimately turned up nothing (beyond the kind of corner-cutting that happened under previous administrations and is also common among Trump’s top advisors, including Jared and Ivanka). But just the fact that Clinton was being investigated lent credibility to Trump’s smears against her and justified the chants of “Lock her up!”

Trump could get similar value out of an investigation of Biden, even if we later discovered it had found nothing. [2]

Beyond Ukraine. So Trump, by his own words, has been caught red-handed in an abuse of power — using his official powers for personal gain. The way we found out — a whistleblower inside the administration had the courage and the patriotism to write up a complaint — seems so fortuitous that it’s easy to imagine that many similar abuses of power have gone unnoticed. [3] Think how easy it would have been to miss this one: Ukraine announces a corruption investigation into the Bidens, and crowds chant “Lock him up!” without realizing that Trump himself started that investigation.

Lots of circumstantial evidence points to the conclusion that this isn’t a unique situation: Trump continues to insist that his side of the Zelensky call is “perfect” and “I did nothing wrong”. So why wouldn’t he do the same thing somewhere else? Plus, his zeal to unmask (and presumably punish) the whistleblower only makes sense as a tactic to intimidate officials who might blow the whistle on other abuses of power. We fortuitously caught him once, demanding a personal favor for a public action. How many other examples are there?

And what if, now that Congress and the public know about this, there is no consequence? No removal from office, no impeachment, no censure, no need for a humiliating public apology? Trump insists that “I did nothing wrong”, and Congress validates that opinion. [4]

Well, then we’ve established that this kind of behavior is OK. There’s no need even to hide it any more, or to limit the occasions for it: If you want Trump to perform his public duty, you need to do him a favor.

So if the State of New York wants the highway funds Congress has appropriated, maybe it should drop its investigation of the Trump Foundation. If Jeff Bezos wants Amazon to compete for a big Pentagon contract, maybe he should rein in The Washington Post, which he also owns. It’s no big deal; Trump just wants a favor. [5]

Lots of countries work this way: Russia under Trump’s role model Vladimir Putin, for example. One thing we can learn from looking at those countries is that corruption tends to trickle down. If Trump can ask for favors before doing his duty, so can officials of lesser power. In a few years, the clerk at your local DMV may expect a tip before processing your driver’s license renewal. That also happens in lots of countries.

Do we want to be one of those countries or not? Underneath all the arguments about process and quid pro quo and so on, that’s the issue Congress will be debating these next few months.

[1] The country/president distinction is one that Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney tried to skate over in the quid-pro-quo confession he later walked back:

We do that all the time with foreign policy. We were holding money at the same time for — what was it? The Northern Triangle countries. We were holding up aid at the Northern Triangle countries so that they would change their policies on immigration.

Unlike Ukraine, the Northern Triangle example was about trying to mitigate a problem for the country; it wasn’t a favor for Trump himself.

[2] Bill Barr’s investigation — recently upgraded to a “criminal” investigation — into the origins of the Mueller investigation serves a similar purpose. All Barr has to do is keep the investigation going through the 2020 campaign. That will allow Trump to make outrageous claims about what the investigation is finding, which Barr will be duty-bound not to comment on.

Remember the detectives Trump claimed he sent to Hawaii to investigate Barack Obama’s birth certificate? “They cannot believe what they’re finding,” he told NBC. But for some reason he never told us what those unbelievable findings were. I have to wonder if there ever were any detectives.

[3] Josh Marshall makes that case here. In brief: We’ve known for some time — there are several examples in the Mueller Report, just to name one source — that Trump frequently orders his people to break the law. In most of the stories that have reached the public, those people pushed back and refused.

In the Ukraine scheme, though, numerous people realize something is going on that is at best unethical and at worst illegal. And yet the scheme perks along until one guy — one of many, remember — reports it to Congress. Marshall wonders what has been happening in parts of the world where corruption is taken for granted, like Saudi Arabia or the Arab Emirates.

Trump’s willingness has always been a given. That of crooked oligarchies looking for advantage is equally so. The question has been the acquiescence, if not necessarily the connivance, of high level advisors. That is clear now too.

In other words, there is every reason to think, the very strong likelihood that Donald Trump’s corruption and lawlessness has already infected relationships with numerous countries abroad. It’s now just a matter of finding out the details.

[4] That’s why even an impeachment that fails to remove Trump from office will be worth doing, especially if a few Republican senators vote against him. Such a process would show that there is a line somewhere, even if this case didn’t result in punishment.

Behind the scenes, some Republican senators are rumored to be looking for a middle position: coming out against what Trump did, but holding that it’s not an impeachable offense. That’s not an impossible position to defend, but this question needs to be put to them: If not impeachment, what is the proper way to hold Trump accountable? Because doing nothing just says it’s OK.

If Trump were a different kind of person, I could imagine an outcome similar to the Clinton impeachment: He admits to doing wrong, apologizes to the country, and pledges never to do anything like that again. But Trump doesn’t even ask God for forgiveness; he’s not going to ask the country.

[5] You can see this kind of thinking in Trump’s war on California. The state has been a thorn in Trump’s side, participating in as many as 60 lawsuits against his administration’s actions. Trump, in turn, has used the federal government’s regulatory power to target California in numerous ways. The particular issues are often ones that Trump has otherwise shown no interest in, like the environment or homelessness. But he can make California pay a price for opposing him, so he does.

For now, all of this is done in a deniable way. But if the Ukraine scheme is acceptable, then there’s no reason not to be open about the quid pro quos Trump is demanding.

weeklysift | November 4, 2019 at 8:40 am | Tags: impeachment | Categories: Articles | URL:

Keep to the high ground,

Voter Tools and References

Vote! Talk it up today with your co-workers, friends, and family. The deadline to turn in your ballot in Washington is tomorrow, Tuesday, November 5, at 8PM.

As the ballot counting is done follow the results on your smartphone on the free app, “WA State Election Results” that you can download at your app store. (Also available online in your computer’s browser by clicking here.) That app and website offer a useful resource you can use up until the next election.

Check out The Progressive Voters Guide and, for reference,

I like maps. In the References section (scroll down beyond the end of the letter) you’ll find links to Congressional, State, Municipal, Fire District, and School District maps. Using them it is possible to orient yourself in your landscape of elected offices.

Since we’ve been immersed in municipal (and some statewide) issues and elections today I encourage you to visit the interactive Spokane City map at and check out its features. The map you see at that link offers the council district boundaries, but there is a whole lot more if you click on “View Full Map” in the lower left of the screen. Once that screen opens, click on the small box with three horizontal lines in the upper left corner of the screen.  That will show the “Contents” of the interactive map. Click the “Boundaries” menu in the Contents. use the plus and minus buttons to zoom in and out. There is a wealth of information about the whole of Spokane County right there at your fingertips.

A modest example of what one can learn from this map: Parts of what I have always imagined to be the City of Spokane are not part of the City. Adjust the map to focus on the upper South Hill east of Hatch and south of 53rd Avenue. (For easier viewing, click “Basemap” in the upper right and select “Aerial” and try clicking the “Show Labels” box.) This area is part of Spokane County, not part of any municipal government. For the purposes of the current municipal elections, voters in this areas have no say. Explore. There are other insights at your fingertips…

The overlapping boundaries you see on these maps, school districts, fire districts, municipal boundaries, each must have a story. The municipal boundaries relate to development and annexation, the historic details of which escape most of us. Explore. Get to know your governmental landscape.


Keep to the high ground,

Initiative 976

When business and labor speak with one voice we ought to pay attention. “I-976 bad news all around” appeared on the Spokesman’s opinion page Tuesday, October 29. (In the paper version it was “I-976 big roadblock to travel, commerce.”) Two names appear as the authors of the piece, Timm Ormsby and Alisha Benson. It has become my habit, a habit I recommend to everyone, to check out the authors before I read any opinion expressed. Here’s what the article said: “Timm Ormsby is the president of the Spokane Regional Labor Council. Alisha Benson is the chief executive officer of Greater Spokane Incorporated.”

I-976, $30 car tabs redux, is Tim Eyman’s latest destructive initiative. Eyman’s original version, I-695 which passed in Washington State in 2000, so impressed the anti-government/anti-tax Republicans of the time that Eyman was recognized nationally at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for his effort. Recognition as a political activist by the American Conservative Union at CPAC  clearly establishes one’s right wing credentials.

Greater Spokane Incorporated (GSI) says on it’s website, “We represent 925+ businesses and organizations employing more than 120,000 individuals who live, work and do business in the greater-Spokane region.” It wishes to appear non-partisan, but saying that it leans right is probably an understatement. This is the organization that co-sponsored, along with the very right wing Washington Policy Center, the appearance of Scott Walker, the stridently anti-labor former governor of Wisconsin, as an honored speaker at the Washington Policy Center’s “Solutions Summit” in May of 2019. The co-sponsorship caused quite a stir. and, for me, labelled GSI as far more Republican partisan than it would like to appear.

So with that background, I was surprised to see the executive director of GSI, Alisha Benson, writing for Greater Spokane Incorporated, come out against I-976. Ms. Benson and Mr. Ormsby argue that, if passed, I-976 would rob Washington State of funds necessary to maintain and improve our transportation infrastructure, that it will cost us all more in the long run trying to find the money elsewhere to accomplish the necessary work. That’s notable…but is it enough to ? Does the electorate still read newspapers or will it be swayed by the drumbeat of anti-government, anti-tax fervor hyped on electronic media? I guess we’ll see when the ballots are counted next week…

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. I don’t want to get too excited about GSI wading in on this issue. The argument Alisha Benson and Timm Ormsby make is that I-976 would badly disrupt the funds currently used to fund transportation, all the way from potholes to the North South Freeway and public transportation. That is a fair piece removed from the greater question of who it is that bears the overall tax burden in this State. Why is the tax system so regressive that state government has to look to incrementally raising taxes and fees on individual vehicle ownership to build the highways from which we all benefit–but from which commerce and industry benefit disproportionately?