Patterico's Pontifications


Trump Announces US Troop Pullout In Northern Syria Ahead Of Turkish Military Offensive

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:01 pm

[guest post by Dana]

This happened last night:

The White House said that United States forces in northern Syria would move aside in advance of a planned Turkish military offensive.

The move marks a major shift in US foreign policy and effectively gives Turkey the green light to attack US-backed Kurdish forces. The group, long considered as among Washington’s most reliable partners in Syria, has played a key strategic role in the campaign against ISIS in the region.

Following a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said that Turkey would soon begin a military offensive and US forces would not be involved in the operation.

“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” a statement said. “The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”

The White House added Turkey would now be responsible for all captured ISIS fighters who are currently being held by US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

It is unclear whether this decision will impact all of the nearly 1,000 troops currently operating in the area.

Republican reaction to the news has not been positive:

Republican lawmakers on Monday panned President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria ahead of a planned Turkish invasion, marking the latest break within the party over foreign policy.

…Republicans are warning that the decision will bolster U.S. adversaries, including ISIS, and put the lives of Kurdish allies in the region at risk.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)…”I urge the President to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners…”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)…”It would confirm #Iran’s view of this administration & embolden then to escalate hostile attacks which in turn could trigger much broader & more dangerous regional war,” Rubio added.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)…”The President’s decision to abandon our Kurd allies in the face of an assault by Turkey is a betrayal. It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster,” Romney tweeted.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)…added…that it was a “terribly unwise decision by the President to abandon our Kurdish allies.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)…“He needs to know that this bad decision will likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children. I hope the President will listen to his generals and reconsider. And before Turkey butchers innocent Kurds, Erdogan should carefully consider his privileged status as a NATO member. The American people don’t partner with genocidal regimes”.

Unexpected pushback to the decision came from Trump-supporter Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.):

I don’t believe it is a good idea to outsource the fight against ISIS to Russia, Iran, and Turkey. They don’t have America’s best interests at heart.

The most probable outcome of this impulsive decision is to ensure Iran’s domination of Syria.

The U.S. now has no leverage and Syria will eventually become a nightmare for Israel.

I feel very bad for the Americans and allies who have sacrificed to destroy the ISIS Caliphate because this decision virtually reassures the reemergence of ISIS. So sad. So dangerous.

President Trump may be tired of fighting radical Islam. They are NOT tired of fighting us.

Finally, this decision makes it difficult for the U.S. to recruit allies against radical Islam.By abandoning the Kurds we have sent the most dangerous signal possible – America is an unreliable ally and it’s just a matter of time before China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea act out in dangerous ways.

Graham said he will take additional steps when, and if necessary:

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday he and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if it crosses the Syrian border and attacks Kurdish forces, after President Donald Trump said late Sunday that he was withdrawing U.S. troops from the border region.

“I hope and expect sanctions against Turkey — if necessary — would be veto-proof,” Graham said.

“This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys,” Graham tweeted.

Also breaking with the President is ardent Trump-supporter, Mike Huckabee:

I generally support @POTUS on foreign policy & don’t want our troops fighting other nations’ wars, but a HUGE mistake to abandon Kurds. They’ve never asked us to do THEIR fighting-just give them tools to defend themselves. They have been faithful allies. We CANNOT abandon them.

House members voicing disapproval include Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), and Pete King (R-N.Y.). Nikki Haley also condemned the decision, saying that leaving the Kurds to die would be a big mistake.

However, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) came out in support of Trump’s decision: “I stand with@realDonaldTrump today as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy”.

This morning President Trump defended his decision on Twitter:

“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for … almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump tweeted.


He also addressed concerns about the captured ISIS fighters:

Moreover, he claims that he is not taking sides in the matter:

Meanwhile, Charles C.W. Cooke slaps us with the most shameful reality of all with regard to U.S. foreign policy:

This morning’s revelation that President Trump intends to permit a Turkish military operation that would destroy the American-backed Kurds near the border in Syria has prompted a parade of arguments over the merits and demerits of the decision, yielded a good amount of enfeebled pleading, and allowed for hours and hours of cable news discussion, but, notably, has generated absolutely nothing of actual consequence from those in positions of power. As has become customary, we are watching explosions from the peanut gallery.

Donald Trump may be an unusually ignorant and capricious president, but he is by no means alone in enjoying an almost completely free hand in the realm of foreign policy. For decades now — under both Democrats and Republicans — we have been moving toward a settlement that permits the executive branch to decide, on a whim, where, when, and how we are at war — and even what constitutes “war” per se. Today, we can see why that is a bad idea. Today, by the same token, we can see why that settlement persists. What, exactly, are the parameters by which President Trump is supposed to make his decisions? Congress has not declared war in, or with, Syria, and it has not voted to end a declaration of war in, or with, Syria. It has not made it clear whether it considers that the situation in Syria falls neatly under its previous authorizations of force, or whether it believes that the president is in violation of them. Those who favor a more aggressive foreign policy have not made their case in debate, nor have those who disagree sought in any arena to rebut them. There has been no push for a clarifying statute, no attempt to increase or withdraw funding, and no talk of commendation or impeachment. Instead, those who were elected to make exactly these decisions have, as a class, happily consented to their own impotence. Congress, to borrow a phrase, has become a seraglio of eunuchs, which, terrified of weighing in on matters of life and death, prefers to gripe on TV, to complain on Twitter, and to beseech the executive from the safety of the stump, while doing nothing of any consequence in either direction.

Why is our policy a mess? Our policy is a mess because we do not have one. Instead, we have an oft-changing emperor who makes it up as he goes along while everyone else gripes. Eight years ago, President Obama involved the United States in removing the government of Libya, without ever going to Congress. He faced no consequences for this in either direction. Why would President Trump expect to rely on the advice or direction of the legislature? Why would anyone?

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


NBA General Manager’s Support For Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters Sets Off Firestorm

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:37 am

[guest post by Dana]

To its shame, the NBA has chosen profit over moral rightness by kowtowing to the Chinese government with expressed regret for the Houston Rocket’s GM’s public support for Hong Kong protesters. Daryl Morey’s now-deleted tweet read, simply: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

One expects this reaction from China when publicly – and rightfully – shamed:

The Houston Rockets suddenly find themselves in the middle of a geopolitical controversy that could put their chief front-office executive’s job in jeopardy. After general manager Daryl Morey expressed support in a since-deleted tweet for pro-democracy efforts in Hong Kong, the Chinese government, the Chinese Basketball Association, and various Chinese businesses quickly denounced Morey and moved to sever ties with the Rockets. As a consequence, league sources told The Ringer that Rockets ownership has debated Morey’s employment status and whether to replace him.

On Sunday, the Chinese Basketball Association issued a statement on Weibo—a Chinese social media platform akin to Twitter—and expressed its “strong opposition” to what it called Morey’s “improper remarks regarding Hong Kong.” As a result, the CBA said it was suspending “exchanges and cooperation” with the Rockets. The Chinese Consulate in Houston also issued a statement saying it was “deeply shocked” by Morey’s “erroneous comments” and expressed “strong dissatisfaction.” The consulate also urged the Rockets to “correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact.”

As Morey and the Rockets are currently in Tokyo to take part in the NBA’s preseason games in Asia, Morey clarified his original post:

I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives. I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them wasn’t my intention.

Because mitigating the impact of a huge financial backlash and maintaining the lucrative business relationship with China remains the priority, one would be foolish to believe that the NBA would react in any way other than to assume a submissive position before China :

We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.

By focusing on the financial bottom line, it’s easy for the NBA to reduce the laundry list of humanitarian abuses by the Chinese government to little more than a “cultural divide”. But in what world is the amoral detention of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighers and the harvesting of human organs simply a “cultural divide,” and one that can be “bridged” by playing basketball and making money? Financial wealth does not beget a functioning moral compass. Sadly, with profits being the deciding factor, financial interests and interactions with China will remain business as usual :

One of the most inflammatory developments in America’s ongoing cultural conflict has been the decision of so-called “woke capital” to use its considerable commercial power to threaten or impose economic sanctions on American states that implement public policies it doesn’t like. We’ve seen this play out many, many times — from boycotts against Indiana when it had the audacity to expand religious-liberty protections in the state, to punitive measures against North Carolina after it passed its so-called “bathroom bill,” and to threats against Georgia in opposition to its own religious-liberty bill and then its abortion restrictions. Progressive corporate America has made its position clear. It will take a moral stand, even if that stand potentially hurts the bottom line.

It’s always been hard to take that position seriously, however, when many of the same companies happily do immense amounts of business in the People’s Republic of China, a regime that systematically and ruthlessly crushes dissent. In China, the boycotts and bold stands are few and far between. Instead, there are glittering movie premieres, gleaming new factories, and intense marketing campaigns — all aimed at opening up one of the world’s most lucrative markets.

But are there limits? As we watch Hong Kong police beat pro-democracy protesters and as Twitter fills with images of police and military force massing near the border, will corporate America remember its morals? Will it use its commercial and cultural power to punish China if the government intervenes? Or will it be business as usual for America’s woke corporate giants?

While Morey waits to hear whether he will be replaced, the owner of the Houston Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, wants you to know that the team is not a political organization:

Finally, in what shouldn’t be a surprise but is, the actions of NBA are being rightfully condemned by both side of the political aisle.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


Federal Judge: Trump Will Have to Disclose His Tax Returns to Manhattan D.A.

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:54 am

The New York Times reports:

A federal judge on Monday rejected a bold argument from President Trump that sitting presidents are immune from criminal investigations, a ruling that allowed the Manhattan district attorney’s office to move forward with a subpoena seeking eight years of the president’s personal and corporate tax returns.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump quickly told the court they would appeal the ruling from Judge Victor Marrero of Manhattan federal court. An appeal is likely to mean further delays.

In a 75-page ruling, Judge Marrero called the president’s argument “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.” Presidents, their families and businesses are not above the law, the judge wrote.

The office is investigating the Stormy Daniels payoff. According to the court, if Trump’s assertion of privilege were accepted, it would mean that as President, he and all his business affiliates, associates, and relatives would be immune from the application of any kind of criminal investigative tool looking into private as well as personal matters, before and during his tenure in office. Oddly, the Southern District of New York had weighed in to request that the judge delay his decision to allow them to give their view, saying that the stay would “prevent irreparable harm to the President’s asserted constitutional interest in not having his records subjected to state criminal compulsory process in these circumstances, while the District Attorney has identified no prejudice from a short delay to this discrete portion of the grand jury investigation at issue.”

Oh, Bill Barr. You have taken the SDNY’s collective testicles and placed them in a drawer in your desk. Well done, sir, well done.

“Irreparable harm” how, by the way? Releasing the tax records while they are (supposedly) under the audit that will apparently last the rest of Trump’s natural life? Have we forgotten that he promised to release them to the public (not a secret grand jury as here) once the phantom audits were done?

Anyway. The judge’s ruling is here. I found this part eye-opening:

Trump Lengthy Incarceration

The judge’s hypothetical reference to the President’s potential “lengthy incarceration” amused me. I couldn’t help but picture Marco Rubio standing in the well of the U.S. Senate deliberating whether to remove Trump from office as Trump serves a “lengthy incarceration” for New York State criminal offenses. After quoting Josh Hawley’s and Ted Cruz’s fiery speeches supporting Trump, Liddle’ Marco then meekly quotes the Constitution, grimaces, and turns to an aide. The hot mic captures his whispered question: “Does Trump still have his smartphone in prison? The one with the Twitter app?”

After being told guards can be bribed to allow such devices, Marco is a nay on removal.

There will still be litigation to come, but the judge’s ruling is pretty convincing. This is not the kind of thing federal courts get involved with. It will be fascinating to see what position Bill Barr’s SDNY takes on appeal.

UPDATE: The order has been stayed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which has set a very expedited briefing schedule. A stay is perfectly normal, by the way, and does not mean the Second Circuit plans to reverse.

I should add, to make Popehat happy on Twitter, that technically it’s not “Trump” who has to turn over the tax returns. It’s the accounting firm to which the subpoena was directed. I don’t think the headline is really that far off, though, as a practical matter.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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