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This Week in GOP Politics

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

The bad news is that the right-wing noise machine is still spouting propaganda for their “perfect” leader. In fact, Donald Trump himself has averaged almost 22 lies a day in the last two months. The result? A stunning 84% of Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing.


Five Reporters!

This has been a very significant week in the “war on Trump” (hey, I can get away with saying “war on Trump” since Donald Trump accused a completely constitutional impeachment inquiry of being a “coup”).

So many important things happened this week, you may have been a bit overwhelmed and become insensitive to their significance. So Politico asked five reporters to say what stood out as “the biggest development of a crazy week”. Interestingly, they came up with five different things. Here they are (with my commentary):

Natasha Bertrand, national security reporter: Definitely that two associates of Rudy Giuliani who are in many ways at the heart of this Ukraine scandal — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — were indicted on campaign finance charges. The indictment could shed more light on the pair’s campaign, alongside Giuliani, to discredit former Vice President Joe Biden and remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Masha Yovanovitch. It also signals an intensifying crackdown on illicit campaign contributions, at a moment when Trump’s inaugural committee is under criminal investigation for potentially receiving donations from illegal foreign sources. Parnas and Fruman, born outside the U.S., are alleged to have funneled up to a million dollars in foreign cash into political action committees and campaigns, including Trump’s.

I really wish people would stop referring to their crimes as “campaign finance violations”. I don’t care if that is the technical name for it. What these two foreign nationals did, with the knowledge of Rudy Giuliani and the involvement of Donald Trump, was funnel around a million dollars from a Ukrainian government official and a Russian businessman into Republican political action committees (PACs) and directly into a Republican congressman’s campaign (both are illegal) in order to buy political influence (which is corruption).

UPDATE: Note that accepting money (or soliciting campaign dirt) from a foreign entity is illegal, so if a politician does it and the foreign entity asks for a favor, the foreign entity could blackmail the politician if they don’t deliver. So the politician is in serious debt to a foreign entity, when the politician’s allegiance should be to their country. So the politician isn’t just violating some obscure campaign rule, they have become a security risk in order to win an election that they don’t believe they could win fairly.

These two also ran a successful campaign (under Giuliani’s direction) to get Trump to remove the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, because (according to her sworn testimony) she was trying to stop their corrupt activities. In an ironic twist, this campaign seems to have been started by the corrupt prosecutor that Joe Biden got removed (with the support of our European allies). Oh, and these two were also working with Giuliani to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden (also illegal).

One tries to avoid the word “treason” but what else can this be called?

Darren Samuelsohn, senior White House reporter: The news about the Giuliani associates was definitely big. But I’ll throw a curveball here and go with someone we hadn’t been thinking much about of late: Robert Mueller. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s questions and commentary during a hearing Tuesday suggested she’s leaning toward ordering the release of the special counsel’s grand jury materials. If that happens, she’d be handing House Democrats a bounty of new information in their impeachment inquiry — the kind of stuff that would become ammunition in an expanding probe beyond Ukraine. The Justice Department would also be all but certain to appeal a ruling from Howell that goes against them, thereby setting up a much bigger fight that seems headed to the Supreme Court.

Robert Mueller declined to indict a sitting president, but he also made it clear that the proper alternative to indictment of a president was impeachment. Therefore, his grand jury materials should be handed over to the impeachment inquiry. I hope this happens.

Andrew Desiderio, congressional reporter: The biggest development of the week, in my book, came at the tail end when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld House Democrats’ subpoena for eight years of Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm, Mazars. It’s a huge loss for the president, after having lost a bid to quash the subpoena in a lower court. Trump has done everything he possibly can to avoid his financial records and tax returns from getting into the hands of his political enemies — and he may have no further recourse this time. But even beyond this specific battle, Friday’s ruling from a three-judge panel gives a big boost to congressional oversight authority. “Contrary to the president’s arguments, the committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena,” one of the judges wrote.

I would vote for this one to be the most significant of the week, for two reasons. First, the appeals court reached their decision in just a few days (the lower court ruling happened earlier this week!). That kind of blazing judicial speed can happen only when when a decision is pretty obvious. As I have already pointed out, Trump is claiming that he is above the law and cannot be even investigated, let alone indicted or impeached.

Second, if they appeal this to the Supreme Court, it will be very interesting to see what happens. Trump has been able to stack the Supreme Court in his favor, and my guess is that he will pressure them to rule in his favor (which would move our country from a constitutional democracy toward a dictatorship). That will definitely be a constitutional crisis.

Consequently, SCOTUS will likely decline to take the case, which means that Trump’s financial records will be released to Congress. At that point, Trump will become even more unhinged and will probably try to discredit the courts, including his own stacked Supreme Court. Which itself is something of a constitutional crisis.

Kyle Cheney, congressional reporter: In a week of big developments, the one I think will be most consequential is former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s decision to defy the State Department to testify in the House’s impeachment investigation. With her decision, she set a template for other witnesses to come forward even if they’ve been ordered not to — and already a second State Department ambassador, Gordon Sondland, is preparing to follow suit. Yovanovitch’s testimony itself was significant, too. She obliterated some of the conspiracy theories that led Trump to oust her and revealed that she was given a word of support from John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, even as Trump pulled her from her post in Ukraine.

There are reports that other whistleblowers are starting to come forward (with at least one confirmed). With any luck, this will become an avalanche that sweeps Trump away. Remember that Nixon’s fall and resignation happened over the course of only a few weeks when everyone, including his Republican allies, deserted him.

In addition, the testimony of Yovanovitch to congress was pretty devastating.

Josh Gerstein, legal affairs reporter: I’m going to go off the board (is that allowed?) and say that the most significant impeachment development of the week was Trump’s decision to have U.S. troops stand aside as Turkey invades Syria. Of course, it has nothing directly to do with the current grounds Democrats have asserted for impeachment, but the move shook many of Trump’s key supporters to their core.

People who have stridently defended Trump at some cost to their own reputations, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), were caught completely off guard by the president’s decision to abandon the Kurds — longtime U.S. allies. Other Trump backers even popped up in unexpected places like MSNBC to denounce the move. Why anyone in the political fight of his life would piss off his closest friends is hard to fathom. The impulsive, widely criticized move and the scramble to clean it up also undercuts arguments from Trump that that his unorthodox telephone diplomacy is as consistently “perfect” as he maintains.

This item seems very significant, because if there is anything that unites Republican politicians it is support for our military. Trump’s former Defense Secretary James Mattis says that Trump has guaranteed that “ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.” Will more Republicans turn against Trump because of this?

Unfortunately, I do have some doubts. After all, Republicans have totally abandoned fiscal responsibility (and their claimed hatred of deficit spending, which they were only too happy to use repeatedly as a weapon against Barack Obama). They also seem to have abandoned their religious morals when they embraced a liar, cheat, and philanderer as their president. Indeed, some conservatives believe that the Republicans have abandoned conservatism. Will abandonment of the Constitution be that difficult for them?

The point of this post is that in just under a week, there have been (at least) five things, any one of which could bring down the Trump crime syndicate administration.

What will next week bring? The same article asked the same reporters this question as well (along with others), and the reporters had some interesting answers. It is worth a read.

And finally, a humorous look at this:

© Ruben Bolling

George Will wants Trump Impeached

Or at the very least, defeated in the next election. And if the GOP senators don’t stand up to Trump, they should be replaced in the next election as well.

Here’s the opinion piece in the Washington Post. It also has a video of him talking about this, that goes a bit further than the article. Here’s one salient quote from the article:

If Trump gets away with his blanket noncompliance, the Constitution’s impeachment provision, as it concerns presidents, will be effectively repealed, and future presidential corruption will be largely immunized against punishment.

And here’s the video (plus an extra bonus video from the same interview), in case you can’t access WaPo.


The Don

© Tom Tomorrow

What’s really frightening about this comic is that the artist didn’t have to change much of the language to show how much Donald Trump is acting like a mafia boss. Trump totally acts and talks like he is totally above the law. Yesterday’s letter from the White House to Congress basically asserted the laughable premise that impeaching Trump is illegal. Trump seems to have succeeded in surrounding himself with lawyers who are as dumb and full of bluster as he is.


Turkey and Syria Explained

Trevor Noah explains what happened last night at 11pm when Donald Trump suddenly announced that he was betraying our closest ally in the fight against ISIS. Even though Noah’s show is comedy and his explanation has its share of jokes, he does a better job than most news sources.

The takeaway point is that Trump is doing what he always does, just trying to distract everyone from his latest crisis, in this case the impeachment investigation. But he is doing it in a way that will cost many lives and permanently damage the security of our country. Even Republicans are realizing that Trump is now totally unhinged. Never Forget.


Twilight Zone


Trump Humor

“Donald Trump is so privileged that the first job he ever had to apply for was president of the United States.” — Stephen Colbert

“You don’t argue with a toddler if you want to win; don’t amplify the toddler’s voice, because you’ll just get trapped in the toddler’s world. Rather, just keep asking the toddler to elaborate, because logic is the downfall of every toddler.” — “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah on handling Donald Trump

“But, you know, Trump voters—really? Not even the guy who says he wants to fuck his daughter? This is not a deal-breaker for you? I mean, what does it take? A racist, a liar, a tax cheat, a draft-dodger, a deadbeat, a Russian agent, and a rapist. You know we’re a nuclear power, right? These are red flags.” — Bill Maher

“A 12-year-old boy is actually running one of Trump’s
campaign offices in Colorado. When asked how an inexperienced child could be running things, the boy said, ‘Look, he’s the nominee and we’re stuck with him.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“So enjoy your victory, Trump voters! Because when you’re dying because you don’t have health insurance to treat the infection you got from a back alley abortion you had to get because of fetal lead poisoning, you can say to yourself, ‘At least I didn’t vote for someone with a private email server.'” — Bill Maher


This is what “spine” looks like

Will Wilkinson has written a devastatingly fantastic opinion piece in the New York Times titled “Trump Has Disqualified Himself From Running in 2020“. It is short, to the point, and incredibly well written. I’m going to quote the first few paragraphs, but it gets even better after that. Go read it!

“I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020,” Beto O’Rourke said in March, neatly expressing prevailing Democratic opinion on the question of impeaching President Trump, “and perhaps that’s the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions.”

This is no longer a tenable position. The president’s bungled bid to coerce Ukraine’s leader into helping the Trump 2020 re-election campaign smear a rival struck “decide it at the ballot box” off the menu of reasonable opinion forever. Mr. Trump’s brazen attempt to cheat his way into a second term stands so scandalously exposed that there can be no assurance of a fair election if he’s allowed to stay in office. Resolving the question of the president’s fitness at the ballot box isn’t really an option, much less the best option, when the question boils down to whether the ballot box will be stuffed.

Impeachment is therefore imperative, not only to protect the integrity of next year’s elections but to secure America’s continued democratic existence. If the House does its job, it will fall to Senate Republicans to reveal, in their decision to convict (or not), their preferred flavor of republic: constitutional or banana.

On a related note, I want to point out that if impeachment is going to succeed the Democrats are going to have to educate and inform the American public so that they know what is going on. As one pointed example, a new poll done by Monmouth shows that only 40% of Republicans believe that Donald Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden. This is astounding considering that Trump publicly admitted that he did just that, and the transcript released by the White House quotes Trump doing it.

Republicans seem to have taken the phrase “Who are you going to believe, Trump or your own lying ears?” one step further. They don’t believe Trump himself when admits doing something.


Traitor Trump

When Donald Trump feels threatened, he attacks. And if he doesn’t have anything real to attack about, he just makes shit up.

Last Thursday, Trump compared the whistleblower and anyone in the White House who might have given information to that person to spies and that what they had done was treason, and suggested that they be punished the old fashioned way (by which he means executed).

However, whistleblowers are protected by law, so there is no way this is treason. But that doesn’t stop Trump from making threats that endanger the whistleblower’s safety.

Next, Trump demanded that he be able to meet the whistleblower in person, tweeting “Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called ‘Whistleblower,’ represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way.” Trump (and other Republicans) have also complained that the complaint contained only second-hand information, so it is “fake news”. First of all, the White House has verified every major point in the whistleblower’s complaint, so Trump is lying (big surprise!).

Second of all, an impeachment is specifically not a criminal investigation. The Constitution says “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” This right only applies to criminal prosecutions, not civil cases or other proceedings. But if Trump wants to admit that what he is accused of is a crime, so be it.

Not satisfied with threatening the whistleblower and other potential witnesses, Trump then threatened … everybody. He tweeted the following quote from an evangelical pastor (and contributor to Fox News):

If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” Pastor Robert Jeffress, @FoxNews

I believe he got it backwards. The thing from which we may never recover is if we don’t remove the President from office as soon as possible.

Worst of all, the president of the US proposed that Adam Schiff should be arrested for treason. At a congressional hearing last week, Schiff paraphrased the phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. The point was to make it clear how Zelensky would naturally have interpreted the conversation. Schiff even specifically said “In not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates.”

Trump responded with an angry tweet:

Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?

Schiff never pretended that he was speaking Trump’s exact words. He specifically said that this was the essence of what Trump was communicating to Zelensky. Let’s put what Trump said (according to the transcript memo provided by the White house) side-by-side with what Schiff said in his version:

“I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are.”“We have been very good to your country, very good. No other country has done as much as we have.”
“I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine.”“But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here.”
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.”“I have a favor I want from you though.”
“There’s a lot of 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.”“I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent. Lots of it. … I’m going to put you in touch with people, not just any people, I am going to put you in touch with the attorney general, my attorney general Bill Barr.”
“I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call, and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it.”“I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy. You are going to love him. Trust me. You know what I’m asking. So I’m only going to say this a few more times. In a few more ways.”

Remember that Trump said that Schiff’s version “bore NO relationship to what I said on the call.” In fact, Schiff didn’t need to embellish that much to make his point — which was that Donald Trump acts like a mobster. And two Ukrainians — who are both named in the whistleblower report — verified that Rudy Giuliani made it very clear to them that he wanted Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son. There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Joe or Hunter Biden.

Furthermore, even if Schiff had completely misquoted Trump, that is not treason. If it was, Trump would likely have been convicted of treason long ago for all the nasty (and false) things he has said about lots of people. In fact, what Schiff did isn’t even slander, because the Constitution specifically exempts things that congresspeople say in Congress.

Bottom line? Just in the way that Trump is acting now proves that he is dangerously unfit to be president, and should be removed from office. He is abusing the presidency for craven political purposes. And this is on top of how he has sold out our country for his own gain over and over again.


The Narcissist King

© Jack Ohman

Louis XIV of France supposedly said “L’État, c’est moi” (“The state, it is I” or “I am the state”). That is likely apocryphal, but it certainly seems to be the motivating sentiment of Donald Trump. Or as the Washington Post put it:

As Trump tells it, he is a hard-working and honorable president whose conduct has been ‘perfect’ but who is being harassed and tormented by ‘Do Nothing Democrat Savages’ and a corrupt intelligence community resolved to perpetuate a hoax, defraud the public and, ultimately, undo the 2016 election.

“There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have,” Trump tweeted Wednesday, some 13 hours after Pelosi’s announcement.

Victimization always has been core to Trump’s identity, both as a politician and as a real estate promoter and reality-television star. It is the emotional glue that yokes Trump to the grievance politics of the right. Many of Trump’s grass-roots followers have said they feel protective of the president in part because they also feel oppressed and ostracized by elites.

Trump feels that anytime someone says something negative about him, they are being a traitor to the US. In this context, saying “Make America Great Again” means “Make Trump Great”.


The Crime and the Coverup

Direct quotes from the whistleblower memo:

I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. The interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.

The White House officials who told me this information were deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call. They told me that there was already a ‘discussion ongoing’ with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain. In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced—as is customary—by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.

White House officials told me that they were ‘directed’ by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level officials. Instead, the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.


The Cookie Crumbles

© Ruben Bolling

This comic is spot on. As detailed in this article published by NPR, Donald Trump first claimed that the reason he blocked critical aid to Ukraine was because of concerns over corruption in that country. However, the Department of Defense back in May (before Trump blocked the aid in July) “certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability.”

Trump then changed his tune, and claimed that he was concerned that the US was the only country contributing aid to Ukraine, saying “Europe and other nations [must] contribute to Ukraine. Because they’re not doing it. Just the United States. We’re putting up the bulk of the money.” This (of course) is a pure fabrication.

Trump has never asked European countries to increase their aid to Ukraine. And you know why? Because Europe is already contributing more money to the Ukraine than the US is.

So why did Trump withhold the critical aid to Ukraine? Remember that Trump asked the new president of Ukraine eight times to investigate Biden and his son Hunter. After initially denying this, Trump later admitted that he had asked them to investigate the Bidens, but said that there was nothing wrong with doing that. When then led to the string of excuses that Trump has made up about this.

Also remember that the Bidens had already been investigated about their activities in Ukraine, and cleared of any wrongdoing. And Trump (or anyone else) has never presented any evidence to the contrary. So this was purely political. Trump was asking a foreign government to interfere in a US election. That is against the law. At least one Republican is calling it treason.


Impeachment on the Table

First of all, if you want (or need) a good summary of the current state of the Trump-Ukraine situation, Electoral Vote has a good one today that can bring you up to speed.

Of course, things are moving quickly so that article is already out of date. In particular, Nancy Pelosi is about to announce a formal impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.

And you know what? I totally agree. I think it is time to impeach. What convinced me was this article by Zack Beauchamp in Vox. It is a good article and you should read it, but the main point is this:

Impeaching Trump over Robert Mueller’s findings in the Russia investigation would have been an attempt to address past offenses; impeaching Trump over these calls would be an attempt to halt what sure looks like an ongoing attempt to hijack American foreign policy in service of the president’s reelection. Democrats have an obligation to try to stop this before it gets any further.

Trump believes he can get away with anything (including shooting someone in downtown NYC). If we don’t stand up to him when we catch him doing something, (as David Frum points out) he will just get worse and worse. He thinks he can sweep this scandal under the table like he has before, but most of those scandals were in the past. He is doing this one now, and we have an obligation to stop him.

Even if the Senate doesn’t convict him. At the very least, it will put all the spineless Republican enablers of Trump into the awkward position of saying that the president of the US is above the law.


Reddit /r/PoliticalHumor

A few things from Reddit’s political humor channel:

Of course, now even Trump admits that he talked to the president of the Ukraine about investigating Biden. But the White House continues to claim that a sitting president not only cannot be prosecuted, they cannot even be investigated.

If the president is completely above the law, how is that different from being a dictator? If he can pressure a foreign country to interfere in a US election, why can’t he just throw his political opponents in jail like other dictators do?


Convict the Don

Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison. We do not investigate Biden in Ukraine, since we have not received a single official request to do so.

Anton Geraschenko, the Ukrainian government official who would oversee such an investigation.

President Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, urging Volodymyr Zelensky about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, on a probe.

The Wall Street Journal

Much as he did three years ago — when he asked Russia to hack the emails of his Democratic rival — President Trump on Friday seemed to make a similar request of Ukraine, all but urging the Eastern European nation to investigate Joe Biden, his potential Democratic opponent.

For Trump, controversial public disclosures have became almost routine, with the president saying the potentially scandalous part aloud. It is a form of shamelessness worn as a badge of protection — on the implicit theory that the president’s alleged offenses can’t be that serious if he commits them in full public view.

The Washington Post

The president asked a foreign power to help him win an election. Again.

Hillary Clinton

The disclosure comes amid new details about the White House’s role in preventing Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire from complying with Congressional demands for the material in the complaint.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has been engaged in the matter since shortly after the whistleblower action surfaced, officials said, helping to identify legal obstacles to the sharing of information that could be politically damaging to Trump.

The Washington Post

I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents. A president should be indicted, if he’s committed a wrongdoing — any president. There is nothing anyplace that says the president should not be indicted. That’s something cooked up by the president’s lawyers. That’s what that is. But so that people will feel “OK, well, if he — if he does something wrong, he should be able to be indicted.”

Nancy Pelosi

A president is sitting in the Oval Office, right now, who continues to commit crimes. He continues because he knows his Justice Department won’t act and believes Congress won’t either. Today’s news confirmed he thinks he’s above the law. If we do nothing, he’ll be right.

Elizabeth Warren

It is high time for Congress to do its duty, in the manner the framers intended. Given how Trump seems ever bent on putting himself above the law, something like what might have happened between him and Ukraine — abusing presidential authority for personal benefit — was almost inevitable. Yet if that is what occurred, part of the responsibility lies with Congress, which has failed to act on the blatant obstruction that Mueller detailed months ago.

Congressional procrastination has probably emboldened Trump, and it risks emboldening future presidents who might turn out to be of his sorry ilk. To borrow John Dean’s haunting Watergate-era metaphor once again, there is a cancer on the presidency, and cancers, if not removed, only grow. Congress bears the duty to use the tools provided by the Constitution to remove that cancer now, before it’s too late. As Elbridge Gerry put it at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, “A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.” By now, Congress should know which one Trump is.

George Conway and Neil Katyal