Trump condemns ‘witch-hunt’ as special counsel appointed in Russia inquiry – live

5.20pm BST

Apparently Jason Chaffetz isn’t the only legislator having a hard time finding James Comey. Senator Lindsey Graham who has also publicly advocated Comey testify before congress says he hasn’t heard from the former FBI director either.

Officially noticed a hearing for next Wed at 9:30am ET with former FBI Dir Comey. But I still need to speak with him…evidently has a new #

.@LindseyGrahamSC hasn’t heard from Comey on potential testimony before Judiciary: “We’re gonna have to put him on a milk carton.”

4.56pm BST

House Speaker Paul Ryan doesn’t bite when reporters raise the possibility of Trump’s impeachment during his weekly press conference.

“I’m not even going to comment on that,” Speaker Ryan says about the prospect of VP Pence moving into the Oval Office.

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After Latest Bombshells, Only Michel Temer’s Removal and New Elections Can Save Brazil’s Democracy

When Michel Temer was permanently installed as President less than one year ago after the impeachment of elected President Dilma Rousseff, the primary justification offered by Brazilian media figures was that he would bring stability and unity to a country beset by political and economic crisis. From the start, the opposite has been true: Temer and his closest allies were a vessel for far more corruption, controversy, instability and shame than anything that preceded them. His approval ratings have literally collapsed to single-digits.

But yesterday’s emergence of proof showing just how dirty and corrupt Temer is makes the situation utterly unsustainable. Leaks from the ongoing corruption investigation reveal that Temer was caught on tape in March endorsing an executive’s ongoing payment of bribes to maintain the silence of Eduardo Cunha, the formerly omnipotent, now-imprisoned House Speaker, Eduardo Cunha, who presided over Dilma’s impeachment and who belongs to Temer’s party. Temer had already faced allegations of deep involvement in bribes and illegal contributions, but that could be overlooked because – unlike now – no smoking gun proof existed.

Meanwhile, Dilma’s 2014 opponent in the presidential campaign – conservative Senator Aécio Neves (shown above with Temer at the latter’s inauguration), whose party led Dilma’s impeachment and now dominates Temer’s government –  was caught on tape requesting R$ 2 million from a businessman, was removed this morning from his seat by a Supreme Court ruling, had his office raided, and now faces immediate imprisonment. Aécio’s sister was imprisoned this morning as part of the corruption investigation.

In sum, the two key figures driving Dilma’s impeachment were just revealed to be hardened criminals, with documentary evidence – audio recordings, videos and online chats – which all Brazilians will soon see, hear and read. The exact type of smoking gun evidence that Brazil’s notoriously biased corporate media searched for with futility for years against Dilma was just discovered against the two key figures that drove her impeachment, one of whom they installed as President.

To say that this situation – Temer’s ongoing presidency – is unsustainable is an understatement. How can a major country possibly be governed by someone who everyone knows just months ago encouraged the payment of bribes to keep key witnesses silenced in a corruption investigation? The sole rationale for Temer’s presidency – he will bring stability and signal to markets that Brazil is again open for business – has just collapsed in a heap of humiliation and destruction.

At this point, Temer’s removal – one way or the other – seems inevitable. Although he is momentarily refusing to resign, his key allies are starting to abandon him. The media stars who installed him are now trashing him. There is open discussion everywhere about the mechanisms that will be used to remove and replace him.

Even for the sleazy power brokers of Brasília, getting caught on tape directly participating in blatant criminality is disqualifying: not to stay in the House or Senate, but to serve as the symbolic face of the country to the world and, more importantly, to capital markets. What’s new is not that Temer is corrupt: everyone knew that, including those who installed him. What’s new is that the evidence is now too embarrassing – too sabotaging of their project – to allow him to stay.

 

This always was the towering irony at the heart of Dilma’s impeachment. As those of us who argued against impeachment repeatedly pointed out, removing the democratically elected president in the name of battling criminality was such a farce precisely because her removal would elevate and empower the most corrupt factions, the darkest criminals and bandits, and enable them to rule the country without having won an election.

Indeed, the empowerment of the country’s most corrupt factions was a key goal of Dilma’s impeachment. As shown by yet another secret recording – one revealed last year that captured the plotting of Temer’s key ally, Romero Jucá – the real goal of impeachment (aside from austerity and privatization) was to enable those politicians most endangered by criminal proceedings to use their new, unearned political power to kill the ongoing investigation (“stop the bleeding”) and thus protect themselves from accountability and punishment. The empowerment of the nation’s most corrupt politicians was a key feature, not a bug, of Dilma’s impeachment.

The key question now – as it was then –  is what comes next? Those of us who argued against impeachment repeatedly urged that if Dilma were really going to be impeached, only new elections – whereby the citizenry, rather than the band of criminals in the halls of power, chose their new president. – could protect Brazilian democracy. The absolute worst option was to allow the corrupt line of succession in Brasília to elevate itself and then choose its own successors. That would ensure that political criminality became further entrenched. As David Miranda and I wrote in a Folha Op-Ed in April of last year:

If, despite all this, the country is truly determined to remove Dilma, the worst alternative is to permit the corrupt line of succession to ascend to power.

The principles of democracy demand that Dilma Rousseff complete her term in office. If that is not an option, and if she is going to be impeached, the best alternative is new elections. That way, the population would assume its proper place as provided by the Constitution: all power emanates from the people.

Yet that’s exactly what took place. What Brazilian elites fear and hate most is democracy. The last thing they wanted was to allow Brazil’s population to once again choose their own leaders. So they foisted on them a corrupt, hated mediocrity – who could never have been elected on his own, who indeed is now banned from running for any office due to election law violations – and he was tasked with imposing an agenda the country hated.

Brazil’s elite media and political class are now openly plotting the same scam. Many are suggesting that Temer’s replacement should be chosen not by the Brazilian people but by its Congress: 1/3 of whom are the targets of formal criminal investigations, most of whose major parties are rife with corruption. As we saw with Temer’s installation, allowing corrupt institutions to choose a country’s leaders is the antithesis of democracy and anti-corruption crusades. It ensures that criminality and corruption reign. The only debate should be whether direct elections should include not only Temer’s successor but also a new Congress.

Brazil’s democracy, and its political stability, has already been crippled by the traumatic removal of the person who was actually elected to lead the country. That her successor has been exposed as a criminal exacerbates the tragedy. But it is not an overstatement to say that allowing the same corrupt factions to choose one of their own to replace Temer – once again denying the right of the people to pick their President and instead imposing on them a leader who emerges from the sleaziest precincts of Brasília’s sewer   – would be its death blow.

Top photo: Michel Temer (C) greets with senator Aecio Neves following his swear-in ceremony as President of Brazil in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 31, 2016.

The post After Latest Bombshells, Only Michel Temer’s Removal and New Elections Can Save Brazil’s Democracy appeared first on The Intercept.

Activist Accepts Sen. Joe Manchin’s Challenge to “Find Somebody Who Can Beat Me“

West Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin used a conference call with local activists in February to tell them to stop complaining about his pro-corporate voting record.

“What you ought to do is vote me out. Vote me out! I’m not changing. Find somebody else who can beat me and vote me out,” he dared the activists.

Paula Jean Swearengin, an environmental activist descended from generations of coal miners, has accepted that challenge, announcing earlier this month that she will be challenging Manchin for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

She is one of the first candidates endorsed by Brand New Congress, a new effort spawned by former Bernie Sanders staffers who want to recruit both Democrats and Republicans who have never held office before to run for Congress.

Swearengin’s grandfather died of black lung disease and she has had multiple family members who have suffered from illnesses related to working in the coal mines.

That’s an industry Manchin has been allied to since his days as governor. “Governor Manchin gets it!” exclaimed Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, following his election to the Senate in 2010. Since then, Manchin has not disappointed Big Coal. He has fought the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate coal pollution and was one of two Democrats who voted to support President Trump’s appointment of climate denier Scott Pruitt as EPA chief.

In an interview with The Intercept, Swearengin described the impact coal and environmental pollution have had on her own life.

“I was born a coal miner’s daughter, granddaughter,” she explained. But the industry that employed her family also battered its health. “I have watched several of my family members suffer with … cancer, black lung, suffer from heart disease.”

Pollution from coal mining impacted every area of her life. “When I was a little girl, our water was orange with a blue and purple film. And we drank that water,” she lamented.

To Swearengin, West Virginia’s historic dependence on the coal industry has created an impossible choice for the people of the state. “We’ve been bid against each other for basic human rights,” she explained. “There’s no reason that people should have to worry about putting food on the table for their children and clean water. Appalachians are strong. We’re better than that. So my path to primary Joe Manchin is to fight back. Fight back for my community. Fight back for my neighbors, my family, my friends.”

She confronted Manchin over water pollution at a town hall last March, earning applause when she denounced the fossil fuel industry.

paula-Swearengin-joe-manchin-west-virginia-1495054775

Paula Swearengin speaks to Sen. Joe Manchin during the People’s Town Hall in South Charleston, W.Va., in March 2017.

Photo: Brand New Congress

Her platform is built around offering West Virginians an alternative to the coal industry’s stranglehold over the state’s economy, framing this as delivering”economic freedom.” It includes support for tuition-free college, Medicare for All, and investment in infrastructure.

West Virginia went to President Trump by over 40 points in November, making it one of his strongest states in the nation, leading some political commentators to believe that the state is deeply supportive of right-wing Republicans and that it is impossible for a progressive Democrat to win. Swearengin doesn’t see it that way.

“The reason that people ended up voting for Donald Trump is because they’re desperate,” she said. “When they don’t have any other options and somebody’s sitting there saying, ‘Well, let’s give you jobs,’ those were false promises but when somebody is desperate to feed their children, they make poor choices.”

Swearengin views Trump’s election as part of a larger problem in politics in her state: that Democrats and Republicans have converged in ideology and are no longer offering meaningful choices. “The thing that aggravates me the most about the Republicans and the Democrats in this state, they’re all the same. One of the biggest polluting coal barons in West Virginia, Jim Justice, is my Democratic governor,” she explained. “That’s another reason that I decided to run for office. Because he’s my governor, he’s blowing silica dust three miles from my house into my children’s lungs. But he’s a Democrat. He’s a Democrat. But he’s basically a Republican.”

Although there has not yet been any polling produced on the race, there is some evidence that Swearengin’s campaign may not be quixotic. A little over a year ago, Bernie Sanders won every single county in the state in the Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton, a sign that whatever advantages Manchin has as the incumbent senator, there appears to be more anti-establishment feeling on the ground than he is anticipating.

Top photo: Sen. Joe Manchin speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 16, 2017.

The post Activist Accepts Sen. Joe Manchin’s Challenge to “Find Somebody Who Can Beat Me“ appeared first on The Intercept.