Tempting as it is to weigh in on Wednesday’s Rachel Maddow’s interview with indicted Rudy Giuliani bagman Lev Parnas (Part 1), let’s put it off until after the second installment airs tonight. It’s raining shoes just now. Waiting for a break in the weather before stepping out into it seems prudent.
Marcy Wheeler issued a similar caution after the show about greeting Parnas statements with too much enthusiasm:
Remember: Last night’s polite-and-contrite Lev Parnas is the same as (alleged) gun-to-your-head Lev Parnas, the man from whom Florida police in 2008 confiscated “a .38 revolver, a 9mm pistol, an automatic pistol, and a .40-caliber Glock pistol” after a dispute with his landlord.
In Washington, the Senate prepares to hold some kind on trial (in quotes?) to determine whether despot-curious Donald Trump will serve out the rest of his corrupt presidential term. But we’ll come back to that.
Meanwhile, in Moscow
Russia’s “entire government” resigned Wednesday, CNN reported, after President Vladimir Putin announced reforms to make his successor less powerful. (Republican-controlled state legislatures have already tried that after losing governorships.)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, 67, has given the clearest signal yet of how he plans to navigate term limits and join China’s Xi Jinping, 66, as a possible leader for life.
Why it matters: Several of the world’s most powerful leaders have recently shifted the rules in order to keep power past normal transitions.
It was not clear whether Putin — scheduled to step down in 2024 — “intends to become prime minister again or carve out another powerful position,” Axios adds. Whatever. Putin wants no rivals, even if he leaves the presidency.
“This is not about a succession plan,” Brookings’ Alina Polyakova said. “This is about consolidating power.”
Putin might have extended or removed term limits, maneuvers recently popular in other countries, including China, Venezuela, and assorted African countries. Axios notes “all 20 of the world’s longest-serving non-royal leaders, are men.”
Back in Washington
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts today will administer a special oath to senators that they will do “impartial justice” in the impeachment trial. Afterwards, they will sign a book attesting to those oaths. How many will violate theirs as swiftly as Trump violated the oath he took three years ago is to be determined.
Parnas Wednesday night confirmed what ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified to in November: there was a quid pro quo for release of military aid to Ukraine and “everyone was in the loop.” Including the vice president, the secretary of state, the White House acting chief of staff, and, Parnas added, Attorney General Bill Barr.
Should the Senate acquit him, expect Trump to behave as he did the day after special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. July 24th effectively ended the investigation into Trump. July 25 was the day of Trump’s infamous Ukraine “shakedown” call that finally precipitated impeachment. A Senate acquittal will make Trump-the-Unrepentant feel bulletproof. He will want revenge “strongly.” He will still have his loop in place to help get it.
But revenge is not all he will want. Trump collects sycophants because he is one himself — to more powerful men. The blood-squeamish, insecure Trump wants to join Putin in the strong-man club with Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte, and others.
Putin may be signaling real despots are leaders for life. Trump already jokes at rallies about extending his stay beyond eight years. With Putin making moves in that direction, given the chance by Senate supplicants, Trump may want to emulate him to gain his approval. And to avoid future prosecution once he leaves office.
Trumpism ending the United States as we know it may be unlikely. Still, it is something else Republican senators might consider before handing their dear leader a chance at being Dear Leader.
Update: Marcy has more analysis just now.
Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.
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