Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Eugene Robinson: A quick and dirty coverup will not get endangered GOP senators past the election

Now that we know John Bolton’s version of events, if the Senate does not allow him to testify, we will see one thing with crystal clarity: President Trump’s impeachment trial will not be a trial at all. It will be a blatant, shameless, unprecedented coverup that will go down in history as an unforgivable disgrace.

Senate Republicans reportedly complained they were blindsided by news reports, first in the New York Times, that Bolton’s impending memoir of his time as national security adviser will say Trump explicitly conditioned release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine on the announcement of “investigations,” including one designed to smear former vice president Joe Biden. Blindsided? Really? Did they wear noise-canceling ear buds all last week while the House impeachment managers presented their case?

GOP senators know the truth of what happened. If they are indeed angry, the reason can only be that they believed direct evidence of the president’s guilt could be suppressed long enough for them to vote against witness testimony and give Trump the acquittal he demands in time for the Super Bowl.

Catherine Rampell: Our expectations for Republican senators are so low it’s astonishing

For President Trump’s impeachment hearings to be anything other than a show trial at this point, four brave Republican senators need to break ranks and vote to hear new evidence and witnesses.

After former national security adviser John Bolton’s manuscript leaked, three GOP lawmakers now appear willing to do so: On Monday, Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) suggested their votes were in play. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said more definitively that he wants to hear from Bolton and that it’s “increasingly likely” other colleagues will support calling witnesses as well.

That juicy prediction has every pundit asking who else might join these three martyrs. Maybe Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) or some other dark horse? Who could that elusive fourth Republican senator possibly be?

To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question. But I know what the answer should be: All of them.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Doomsday Clock ticks closer to midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — founded by Manhattan Project scientists who invented the nuclear bomb, with 13 Nobel laureates on its executive board — has just moved its Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds before midnight. This marks the most severe security threat in its history.

The scientists are sounding the alarm not due to subjective fears caused by a mercurial and uninformed president with his finger on the nuclear trigger, but from a dispassionate assessment of terrifying realities. “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers — nuclear war and climate change — that are compounded by … cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond,” reports the Bulletin. These dangers have become dire not simply because they are getting worse, but because “world leaders have allowed the international political infrastructure for managing them to erode.” [..]

The Bulletin’s warning got far too little attention. There was no 24-7 coverage or analysis. Few politicians bothered to respond. But don’t be misled: This is the real deal, the true catastrophe. When history writes about the Trump administration, his tantrums and insults, his tweets and rallies, his ignorance and temper will no doubt be mentioned, but historians will surely focus on the lost years when this president didn’t just ignore these existential threats, but actively exacerbated them.

George T. Conway III: Bolton’s testimony would be devastating. Not even Republicans could look away.

Search the transcript of Saturday’s impeachment trial, as President Trump’s lawyers began their opening arguments, and you’ll see there’s a name nowhere to be found: John Bolton, the former national security adviser.

The president’s lawyers made no mention of him. And now there’s no need to speculate why. Because the news about what’s in Bolton’s forthcoming book is out — and it shows that his testimony would be devastating to Trump.

The New York Times reported Sunday night that Bolton submitted his manuscript to the White House for pre-publication review four weeks ago. Which means, in all likelihood, that at least some members of the president’s defense team have known exactly what Bolton would say if called to the stand. Trump’s own lawyers have framed the removal question as turning on proof of the president’s true motives. Well, here’s a witness who can tell us what the president, in a face-to-face conversation, said he wanted. [..]

Trump’s lawyers complain that no witness talked to Trump about the linkage between the aid and the investigation. Well, here’s Bolton, ready, willing, and able to testify.

Trump himself claims that Bolton is lying. Well, there’s a tried-and-true way to find out if he is or is not.

Mr. Bolton, please raise your right hand.

Amanda Marcotte: Fox News and Trump’s defense team: Twin arms of the same propaganda outfit

Trump’s team isn’t focused on a legal defense of their client so much as creating viral content for Fox News

On Sunday, the New York Times released leaked revelations from John Bolton’s upcoming book about his stint as national security adviser to Donald Trump, which in a different world would have upended the president’s impeachment trial in the Senate. Bolton reportedly affirms in the book that Trump personally told him military aid was being withheld from Ukraine in an effort to force the Ukrainian president to announce investigations meant to bolster Trump’s conspiracy theories about Democrats. This revelation was received in the media as a big deal, because Trump’s defense team has been trying, laughably, to argue that Trump withheld the aid for some purpose other than cheating in an election. Bolton’s eyewitness account would seem to blow a hole through those efforts. [..]

In her 30-minute presentation Monday, former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi dug into the repeatedly debunked conspiracy theory that Joe Biden got a Ukrainian prosecutor fired in order to stop investigations into Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden as a board member. Another Trump attorney, Eric Herschmann, also went on at length about the Bidens and Burisma.

By legal standards, this was an odd choice. The accusations of corruption against the Bidens have been debunked, over and over and over and over. Moreover, the entire reason Trump is getting impeached is because he tried to blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into backing these false accusations, something Zelensky clearly didn’t want to do, likely because he knew they were false.

Instead of defending their client, in other words, Trump’s attorneys were perpetuating the very scheme that got their client into legal trouble to begin with.

This bizarre gambit makes more sense, however, if one understands what Trump’s team is actually doing. They’re not there to mount a legal defense of their client, who everyone knows is guilty anyway. What they’re doing is producing content for Fox News.