Can Trump Survive Taylor’s Testimony?

As part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry, Democrats heard testimony on Tuesday from Bill Taylor, a top US diplomat in Ukraine. According to Democrats, Taylor’s testimony paints a clear picture of the president using foreign aid as a mechanism for quid pro quo deals with foreign governments. For Trump’s impeachment inquiry, is this a smoking gun?

If Tuesday’s congressional testimony by William Taylor, the acting United States envoy to Ukraine, is to be taken at face value — and no one in the Trump administration has yet denied a word of it — then it is now beyond doubt: President Trump placed his personal political future above the national-security interests of the United States.

That [Trump] still has, as of today, the support of both his congressional sycophants as well as the enthusiastic admiration of his rank-and-file voters suggests that this country is much more vulnerable to a slow-motion authoritarian takeover than even the most alarmist critics suspected at the outset of this nightmare presidency.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said leaks that led to headlines about how the diplomat said President Trump tied security aid for Ukraine to investigations into the Biden family are misleading.

“The truth is, in two minutes, John Ratcliffe destroyed this witness. There is no quid pro quo,” Nunes told Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Is Tulsi Gabbard a “Foreign Asset?”

With a military background and somewhat isolationist ideas about U.S. foreign policy, Tulsi Gabbard stands out from other Democratic candidates. According to recent statements from Hillary Clinton, this makes her suspicious. Without using her name, Clinton implied that Gabbard is the “favorite of the Russians” and is possibly being “groomed” by them as a third-party candidate.

…it was typical Clinton. Paranoia about Russian influence has been ubiquitous among the Clinton set since 2016, in part because it helps to explain how the loss to Donald Trump wasn’t really Clinton’s fault.

While Gabbard has responded with claims that she is the subject of a coordinated smear campaign by Clinton, she has steadfastly refused to renounce any Russian support she may be receiving. As somebody who worked against Russian intelligence, I agree with Clinton’s assessment—Gabbard’s campaign and messaging are at risk of being weaponized to interfere with and manipulate our election.

To top off the crazy, Gabbard concluded, “It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me. Don’t cowardly hide behind your proxies. Join the race directly. Gabbard, it should be noted, is polling so badly that she hasn’t yet qualified for the November Democratic primary debate.

Can Benny Gantz Manage to Form a Government?

Unable to form a government in the allotted amount of time, Netanyahu has returned the mandate to President Reuven Rivlin who is giving it to Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party. Will Gantz be able to succeed where Bibi failed?

Gantz managed to do what much more experienced politicians than him – such as Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yacimovitch and Isaac Herzog – all failed to accomplish over the years. But his chances of forming a government in the coming 28 days are slim, perhaps even slimmer than those Netanyahu had.

Gantz need not surrender and need not give his mandate back for failing to establish a majority coalition. Instead, Blue and White’s leader must make a supreme effort to form a government and establish facts on the ground, even if he manages to assemble only a minority coalition.

…standing in the way are Mr. Gantz’s refusal to sit with Mr. Netanyahu while he faces corruption charges and his opposition to joining with religious parties that are a part of the Likud-led group. Mr. Netanyahu has denied the charges, and Likud is expected to stand by him.

Has Bibi Used or Abused the Free Press?

As the Attorney General weighs various corruption cases against Prime Minister Netanyahu, the question of his relationship with the media remains a matter of dispute. Bibi may have used his power as Prime Minister to influence the media, but isn’t that what all politicians do?

Even if proving criminality is stymied by “legal difficulties,” a term Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit loves to use to describe any complex matter, we’re talking about a complete undermining of the last remaining shred of public confidence in politicians and media outlets.

In Israel, and throughout the free world, all politicians and all media organs maintain ties with one another as a matter of course. If Mendelblit accepts the state prosecutor’s position and indicts Netanyahu, practically speaking, he will render all politicians and media outlets in Israel hostage to state prosecutors.

The prosecutor says it’s a crime to try to influence a free press to provide favorable coverage to a third party. This is a dangerous notion and a threat to freedom of the press, at least as it is understood throughout the world of advanced constitutional republics.

Has Boris Johnson Failed on Brexit?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came into office full of confidence that he could secure a Brexit deal. For a moment it appeared as if he was making progress when MPs supported his Withdrawal Agreement Bill. When those same MPs, moments later, rejected his timetable, things began to look shakier for Johnson. His solution? Hit the “pause button.”

The truth is, Johnson will never have a bigger vote for his deal in this House of Commons than the one he assembled tonight. It will only get smaller.

By blocking Mr. Johnson, Parliament has thrown the whole process into a legislative netherworld that could mean months of further delays to a process that the nation has long since wearied of and just wants to see end.

…the fight is far from settled. Brexit politics move quickly, even if Brexit itself doesn’t… The latest twist to the Brexit drama was not in Johnson’s script. But the drama is still being written. And it doesn’t yet look like any of the players know how it will end.

Clippers vs. Lakers: Which Is the Superior Team?

A highly anticipated match-up between the Lakers and the Clippers on Tuesday showed why, as reported by NBC, “the NBA universe now orbits around Los Angeles.” The Clippers won in a 112-102 victory with Kawhi Leonard scoring 30 points. Does this make them the superior LA team?

Finally, this season, both teams are at the top of the preseason NBA mountain. The Clippers are the Vegas favorite to the win the title. The Lakers are No. 2. Finally, this season, we can have a real Los Angeles rivalry… assuming, of course, both teams live up to their end of the bargains.

The Lakers owned most of the drama, LeBron James falling away, Anthony Davis spinning around, the beauty of the new duo both brilliant and breathtaking. The Lakers owned every inch of the glitz Tuesday during the ballyhooed opening night city feud at Staples Center.

The Clippers owned everything else.

Angelenos are notoriously late arrivers, but on Tuesday night, they filled the bowl at Staples Center early, as if they were concerned they might miss something. It was an entirely appropriate response now that four of the best 10 basketball players in the world — LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Paul George — compete in Los Angeles.

Today’s Hot Issues

Can Trump Survive Taylor’s Testimony? Is Tulsi Gabbard a “Foreign Asset?” Can Benny Gantz Manage to Form a Government? Has Bibi Used or Abused the Free Press? Has Boris Johnson Failed on Brexit? Clippers vs. Lakers: Which Is the Superior Team?