As I have mentioned more than a few times here, my favorite daily reading is Teresa Hanafin’s “Fast Forward” in the Boston Globe. She always begins with some kernel of wisdom from the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Today, she says that the Almanac has a children’s edition every other year and she includes sample pages that show kids how to whistle. Very important information. She updates Boston sports news, then offers nuggets on the latest madness from Trumplandia. More obstruction of justice. Plus, the Supreme Court will hear a case on whether it is okay to fire someone because they are LBGT. The Trump administration, despite his many claims to the contrary, is siding with the anti-gay side of the argument. Are you surprised? He has to keep his evangelical base happy.



Breaking: In my great and unmatched wisdom, I was shocked (shocked!) that the coverup cowards in the Trump administration were going to let Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, testify before Congress this morning, given their panicked efforts to hide everything they can from the American public.

Never mind! Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pulled the plug on Sondland’s deposition at the last minute this morning. Of course he did.

Sondland is a pretty critical witness in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. He’s the guy who told Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson that nearly $400 million in US military aid came with a quid pro quo: Ukraine’s willingness to dig up dirt on Trump’s top political rival, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.

Johnson, upset by the information, asked Trump about it, and then actually believed him when he denied it. Or at least he says he believes him. Who knows what these Republicans are really thinking as they lay awake at night watching their souls slowly seep out and puddle on the floor.

Sondland, a businessman with no diplomatic experience, got his gig as ambassador to the EU because he donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. How he came to oversee the US relationship with Ukraine is murkier, given that Ukraine is not a member of the EU.

Actually, maybe it isn’t murky: Sondland led the effort to pressure the Ukrainian president to publicly announce that he’d investigate the Bidens, even going so far as to write a statement for him to read (which he never did). Sondland also wrote in a text messagethat Trump expected “the deliverable” from the Ukrainians, and tried to ward off objections to the dirty deal from Bill Taylor, the Ukraine embassy charge d’affaires.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor texted Sondland Sept. 1. (Translation: “We’re committing a crime, right?”) “Call me,” Sondland responded. (Translation: “We can’t leave a paper trail on this stuff.”)

About a week later, Taylor, an experienced career diplomat, again tried to get things on the record, texting Sondland, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” That really scared Sondland, because he called Trump, worked out a response, then texted Taylor back five hours later with what read like an official White House CYA formal statement:

“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign. I suggest we stop the back and forth by text. If you still have concerns, I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.” (Translation: Um, none needed.)

Meanwhile, in his press conference response to Sondland’s failure to appear, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiffsaid that Sondland has unreleased text messages on a personal device that are “deeply relevant.”

So look for subpoenas, look for Trump and his minions to continue to hide as much as they can, and look for House Democrats to bundle all of these coverups into obstruction articles of impeachment.

So is Trump about to hand his BFF Putie a lovely birthday present? (The Russian strongman turned 67 yesterday.) The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee says Trump is planning to pull the US out of the Open Skies Treaty, and if true, then Putin will be dancing the barynya at his dacha on the Black Sea.

The treaty is a critical one: It allows the signatories — 34 countries have signed on — to fly unarmed surveillance planes and dronesover each other’s territory as a way to keep an eye on military activity and weapons development and keep everyone in check. Russia is one of the countries because it wants to send surveillance flights over Europe, but it doesn’t like that Ukraine can fly over its territory.

Current and past diplomats are horrified at the prospect, but the White House is silent. Let’s see if Trump goes through with it.

But it does raise the issue of how much Trump has helped Russia. No wonder Putin tried to interfere in the US election in 2016 to get Trump elected.

Take that meeting at the United Nations in New York last month between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. The Washington Post points out that while everyone has focused on their July phone call, in their NY talk, Trump told Zelensky that he should patch things up with Russia and accept a deal that Russia favors.

Yes, Russia, the country that invaded and took over Crimea, part of Ukraine, and has gradually moved into the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donbas and Luhansk. In case you forgot, the US is supposed to be protecting Ukraine from Russia’s aggression.

Trump’s withdrawal from northern Syria is also seen as benefiting Russia (as well as Turkey; see below), and he harangued former British PM Theresa May over her government’s claim that Russia poisoned one of its former spies on British soil. (My Putie? Nah.)

Speaking of northern Syria, Trump has another reason for letting Turkey have its way there: In my great and unmatched wisdom, I read that he has a big conflict of interest in Istanbul,where his name adorns two massive residential/office towers, a licensing deal that has paid him up to $5 million a year since 2015.

During the 2016 campaign, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan easily manipulated the candidate by threatening to have Trump’s name removed from the towers, endangering that revenue stream. Wouldn’t you know it, Trump soon was praising the strongman.

He found nothing wrong with Erdoğan’s brutal crackdown after a failed military coup (that some think was staged), imprisoning political opponents, jailing journalists, stripping Parliament of most of its duties, and increasing his power and iron grip on the country. “I do give great credit to him for turning it around,” Trump said. Isn’t that sweet.

The Supreme Court hears arguments in another controversial case today, this one about LGBTQ rights: Trump is claiming that federal employment law that bars discrimination based on sex does NOT include sexual orientation and gender identity, because he wants his conservative supporters to be able to harass or fire gay and transgender workers at will. So the next time he brags about how much he protects LGBTQ people … well, you know the drill.