The Banter Brief: Impeachment Apocalypse, Roger Stone Guilty, Buttigieg Surges

Your guide to the week that was.

Welcome to The Banter Brief, your weekly roundup of the biggest, most important news stories on the interwebs. We tell you what to pay attention to, what to watch on Netflix, and what to be hopeful about. If you aren’t subscribed to the Newsletter, you can do so by popping your email in below. The Banter Brief is free for all subscribers.

1. Most Important Story Of The Week

This week’s biggest story was day one of the impeachment hearings (and day two, currently underway). It was in short, devastating for Donald Trump. Two highly esteemed US diplomats, Bill Taylor and George Kent, took the stand and detailed Trump’s extraordinary efforts to force the Ukrainian President to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden in return for US military aid.

The Republicans attempted to turn the hearing into a circus, interrupting, shouting, and belittling the witnesses at every given opportunity. They also spent most of the time talking about the Bidens rather than defending Trump, a stark reminder that they have little interest in a fair and proper hearing. Incredibly, Republicans also claimed the hearings couldn’t be fair because the diplomats hadn’t met Trump in person or heard him committing impeachable offenses first hand (the charges are apparently “hearsay”). This despite the president admitting publicly that he attempted to extort Ukraine, and the transcript Trump himself released.

Today, Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, delivered equally devastating testimony detailing Trump’s wrecking ball approach to foreign policy and the fear he instills in the foreign service. Astonishingly, Trump began smearing Yovanovitch on Twitter while testimony was being delivered, a move so egregious Fox News anchor Brett Baier claimed Trump was “adding, essentially, an article of impeachment real-time”.

Go deeper: Banter Subscribers can read Bob Cesca’s take on the hearings here:

GOP's Impeachment 'Strategy' Was A Disaster For Trump

Bob Cesca: Republicans are trying to gaslight the public during the impeachment hearings, but they confused themselves and destroyed their credibility in the process.

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2. Poll Analysis

Trump approval: Trump’s approval ratings are not good and not good enough to get re-elected as it stands. FiveThirtyEight’s poll average has Trump’s approval rating at 41.3%:

Impeachment: Another poll average from FiveThirtyEight shows disapproval rating for impeachment slightly increasing from last week (45.7% don’t approve compared to 44.7 last week), but approval for impeachment increasing too (48.5% this week compared to 48.5% last week).

Democrats: Joe Biden is still leading by a significant margin in national polls (25% to Elizabeth Warren’s 19%), but all eyes are on Iowa, where Pete Buttigieg has surged into first place. What does this mean? The race is wide open.

Notably: All top Democrats lead Trump in swing state Pennsylvania

3. Quote Of The Week

“What we saw today is, it wasn’t enough that Ambassador Yovanovitch was smeared, it wasn’t enough that she was attacked, it wasn’t enough that she was recalled for no reason, at least no good reason … But we saw today, witness intimidation in real time by the President of the United States, once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chill her, but to chill others who may come forward. We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of inquiry very seriously.”

- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff on Trump’s Twitter activity during impeachment hearings

4. What to Watch

The impeachment hearings

There are heroes, villains and everything in between taking part in the most important political event of the year on live television. The testimony from key witnesses is not only compelling, but deeply revealing about the state of Trump’s America, and the Republican Party’s sociopathic indifference to the rule of law and common decency really is a sight to behold.

And also… ‘The Good Place’

This lighthearted, metaphysical comedy on Netflix starring Kristen Bell and Ted Dansen is a lot of fun to watch. Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) is a selfish, narcissistic mean girl who enters the afterlife and get accidentally sent to ‘The Good Place’ instead of the ‘Bad Place’. She has to work out why, and how she can avoid being sent to ‘The Bad Place’ by working on her flaws. It’s an intriguing premise, poignant in places, and very funny so definitely worth a watch.

5. Good News

Roger Stone is going to jail. Reported the New York Times:

Roger J. Stone Jr., a former aide and longtime friend of President Trump, was found guilty on Friday of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in what prosecutors said was an effort to protect Mr. Trump.

Mr. Stone, 67, was charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee, trying to block the testimony of another potential witness and concealing reams of evidence from investigators. Prosecutors claimed he tried to thwart the committee’s work because the truth would have “looked terrible” for both the president and his campaign. He was found guilty of all seven counts he was charged with.

This should serve as a sobering reminder to everyone close to Donald Trump that when all of this is over, they stand a very good chance of going to prison. You support, work and lie for Donald Trump at your peril.

Have a great weekend!

Read the latest for Banter Subscribers:

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GOP's Impeachment 'Strategy' Was A Disaster For Trump

Bob Cesca: Republicans are trying to gaslight the public during the impeachment hearings, but they confused themselves and destroyed their credibility in the process.

Don't Sleep On Pete Buttigieg. He Could Be The Perfect Antidote To Trump.

Ben Cohen: Pete Buttigieg has qualities other Democrats don't have when it comes to facing off against Donald Trump.

Fear Of Elizabeth Warren Is Why Michael Bloomberg Is Running

Just Rosario: Warren is well versed in how the rich have rigged the system. She understands how corporations manipulate the stock market. And she knows how to make them stop.