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Today's News (2020/2/9)

Trump team is trying to bury the evidence against them
Opinion by David M. Perry
February 7, 2020

https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/07/opinions/trump-evidence-must-be-preserved-warren-plan-perry/index.html

Over the past few months, the Trump administration has done everything possible to obfuscate the facts of the misconduct with Ukraine. With the willing assistance of Republican Senators who refused to call witnesses, even those like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney with first-hand knowledge of the President's conduct, and likewise refused to subpoena the documents that the Trump administration has been withholding, Republicans are clearly hoping to sweep the detritus of impeachment behind them.

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Trump Withholding $823 Million for Clean Energy, Democrats Say
By Ari Natter
February 5, 2020, 9:23 AM PST

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-05/trump-withholding-823-million-for-clean-energy-democrats-say?sref=Vi7wu7Hv

The Trump administration is withholding nearly a billion dollars for a clean energy program it has unsuccessfully tried to cut, congressional Democrats said Wednesday, raising the specter of political interference.

The unspent funds now amount to $823 million in the Energy Department’s office that provides grants and other financial assistance for alternative energy, electric vehicles and energy efficiency, according to Democrats on the House Science Committee, which is holding a joint subcommittee hearing on the topic.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which has a $2.85 billion budget, was targeted for 80% cuts in the last White House budget request -- only to see Congress increase its funding instead. The office has also recently canceled funding of proposed projects and left scores of staffing positions unfilled, said Illinois Democrat Bill Foster.

“When Congress passes a budget, we expect that budget to be followed,” said Foster, chairman of the panel’s Investigations and Oversight subcommittee. “It’s unclear to many of us there has been a completely good-faith effort.”

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Trump slammed the phone down on Boris Johnson after an 'apoplectic' call with the prime minister

https://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-apoplectic-at-boris-johnson-phone-call-huawei-deal-2020-2

President Donald Trump reportedly hung up on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after what officials described as an "apoplectic" call last week.

Trump ended the call by "slamming the phone down," a source told the Evening Standard.

The call, which one source described to the Financial Times as "very difficult," came after Johnson defied Trump and gave the Chinese telecoms company Huawei the rights to develop the UK's 5G network.

Trump's fury was triggered by Johnson backing Huawei despite Trump and his allies' threats that the United States would withdraw security cooperation with the UK if the deal went ahead.

Trump's threats reportedly irritated the UK government, with Johnson frustrated at the president's failure to suggest any alternatives to the deal.

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Trump publicly admits he fired White House official as retaliation for impeachment testimony: ‘He was very insubordinate’

US president lashes out at Lt Col Alexander Vindman hours after Ukraine expert escorted from office

Tom Embury-Dennis
Phil Thomas
February 8, 2020

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-vindman-fired-white-house-impeachment-ukraine-twitter-a9324971.html

Donald Trump has appeared to admit he fired a senior White House official in part for the aide’s involvement in the impeachment inquiry.

Lt Col Alexander Vindman, a Russia and Ukraine expert on the National Security Council (NSC), was escorted from the White House on Friday after the US president ordered his removal.

He had given evidence to House committee hearings which led to Mr Trump being impeached on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress relating to a campaign by the president to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden, a political rival.

“Fake News @CNN & MSDNC keep talking about ‘Lt. Col.’ Vindman as though I should think only how wonderful he was,” the US president tweeted on Saturday morning.

“Actually, I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him (I don’t believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly, & was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, ‘OUT’.”

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Duncing About Architecture
The ignorance and racism behind the right-wing push for “classical” federal buildings.
By Kate Wagner
February 8, 2020

https://newrepublic.com/amp/article/156509/donald-trump-war-on-architecture

On February 4, 2020 the Architectural Record reported that it had obtained a draft copy of a proposed executive order titled “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” The order would, essentially, force a re-write of the 1962 Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture which mandated that “an official [architectural] style must be avoided” for Federal buildings and that new buildings should be exemplary of the time in which they are built. The proposition put forth by this new executive order—which is spearheaded by the National Civic Art Society, a conservative non-profit—would essentially scrap the old guidelines in favor of a mandate that establishes a “classical style” inspired by Greek and Roman architecture as the default.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA)—along with several other institutions, architecture critics, and publications—swiftly published vehement denunciations to this plan, on the grounds that it would stifle architecture and violate the free thought and artistic expression that are essential to a democracy. Comparisons have already been made to Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin. Everyone is very mad online, except for Ross Douthat, who loves the idea.

The abrupt aesthetic reversal heralded by this executive order has some obvious underpinnings, beginning with the fact that the reversion to a mandatory classical style reflects the architectural philosophies of online white supremacists online, as well as the doings of a developer-president and a right-wing thinktank making what is explicitly a political move. But this is also the inevitable result of an architectural faux-populism that has been sown in the conscience of American architecture since Postmodernism.

The effort to stifle aesthetic expression in public architecture by instating a mandatory style is wrong for all the reasons the AIA and the Chicago Sun Times editorial board lay out in opposition. The proposal would allow Trump to create a “President’s Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture” which would enforce this design mandate, and this panel would exclude “artists, architects, engineers, art or architecture critics, members of the building industry or any other members of the public that are affiliated with any interest group or organization” involved in architecture. Speaking as an architecture critic, this is insane and borderline-totalitarian. But as with all the insane and borderline-totalitarian things Trump does, it can be partially explained by the man himself.

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American democracy is dying
Ryan Cooper

https://theweek.com/articles/894120/american-democracy-dying

This past week was a litany of democratic disasters. First, on Monday, the Iowa Democratic Party catastrophically botched its caucus. Second, on Wednesday, President Donald Trump was acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial, after the Republican majority voted to hear no new witness testimony. Every Democrat voted to convict, and every Republican except Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah voted to acquit. What's more, we learned the attempt of a Wall Street billionaire, Mike Bloomberg, to straight-up buy the Democratic presidential nomination has a real possibility of success, as he rockets past Pete Buttigieg in national polls.

A nakedly corrupt president who blatantly tried to rig the 2020 election now has full license to try the same trick again, and the Democratic Party has proved itself incapable of carrying out elementary electoral procedures every democratic nation mastered decades (if not centuries) ago. And now a case of behind-the-scenes oligarchic corruption has metastasized into full-blown democracy for sale.

American democracy is cracking up.

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'Operation Chaos': Republican voters aim to skew South Carolina Democratic primary
Mike Ellis
The Greenville News

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/02/05/south-carolina-democratic-primary-date-february-29-republican-voters/4665916002/

GREENVILLE, S.C. – At least two Republican groups in South Carolina are organizing efforts to skew South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary to make a point and to help reelect President Donald Trump.

They are urging loyal Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary Feb. 29 for candidates perceived to be weak in opposition to Trump – for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in one case and for "the worst Democrat" in another, dubbed "Operation Chaos."

Since South Carolina has open primaries where voters do not have to register by political party, voters can cast ballots in either race.

Changing that to create closed primaries requiring party registration has been a goal of some conservatives. And since the state's Republican presidential primary was canceled this year with Trump running for reelection, this year's Democratic primary provides opportunity both to help Trump by influencing the choice of his opponent and to make the case for closing primaries by casting meddlesome ballots.

"Rules are rules, and fair is fair," said Karen Martin, a Spartanburg Tea Party official who helped set up a Facebook page promoting the effort for Republicans to vote for Sanders.

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Mike Bloomberg Is Paying ‘Influencers’ to Make Him Seem Cool
FOR THE ’GRAM

The Bloomberg campaign is trying an ad strategy familiar to every other startup with a ton of cash and a questionable business model: Paying influencers to make it seem cool.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/mike-bloomberg-is-paying-influencers-to-make-him-seem-cool-9

One day after the Iowa caucuses were effectively botched by the disastrous rollout of a new vote-counting app, billionaire Mike Bloomberg announced that he intended to capitalize on chaos from the Hawkeye State by doubling the advertising budget of his presidential campaign.

But in addition to a flood of traditional advertising on television, radio, and online outlets targeting Super Tuesday voters, the campaign’s advertising budget includes a strategy familiar to every other startup with a ton of cash and a questionable business model: paying influencers to make it seem cool.

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Here’s a new abuse of power by Trump that should alarm you
By Greg Sargent
Feb. 7, 2020 at 7:11 a.m. PST

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/07/heres-new-abuse-power-by-trump-that-should-alarm-you/

The big danger emerging from President Trump’s acquittal isn’t just that he has learned his whole party is unprepared to constrain any future abuse of power he undertakes. It’s that he has learned his party will, with a few stray exceptions, wholeheartedly support and even actively participate in it.

So what will this look like going forward?

In the immediate future, even if we don’t see a single, monstrous new scandal emerge, we might instead witness a slow accumulation and acceleration of insidiously incremental abuses of power that, taken together, continue to erode the rule of law.

Here’s a case in point, one that will take on increasing salience as the 2020 election churns forward: Trump’s abuse of the classification process.

...

“What we know is that the president sees classification as a way to advance his political interests,” Murphy told me in an interview. “He sees that he can use classification to keep embarrassing information from the public.”

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