Category Archives: Fog Of Scandal

Life Imitates I, Claudius: Trump As Tiberius

There have been a spate of stories this week depicting the Trump White House as the court of a mad king/emperor. We’ve learned that many of Trump’s associates prepare CYA documents because of his slipperiness, mendacity, and disloyalty. The Insult Comedian expects absolute loyalty from his underlings but, as we’ve seen over and over again,Trump’s loyalty is a one way street.

Then there was this alarming report by Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman:

 Whether it’s confidence, bluster, or delusion, Trump is venting to advisers both inside and outside the White House that the Manafort trial proves Mueller has nothing on him and his family, because Manafort’s trial doesn’t involve Russia or the 2016 campaign. “The Manafort trial is spinning him into a frenzy,” one Republican in frequent contact with the president told me. Another Republican told me Trump thinks “the only thing the trial shows is that Manafort is a sleaze.”

It takes one to know one. Trump is also being fed patent nonsense by his lawyers:

Trump’s latest attacks on Mueller are partly being enabled by conversations with his attorney Emmet Flood, one source told me. “Emmet feels there’s nothing there with collusion, so it’s fine for Trump to comment and tweet,” the source explained. This person added that Trump appears to be in earnest about his desire for Sessions to end the Mueller probe, and spoke of a timeline of a couple of weeks. Otherwise, Trump has threatened to fire Rosenstein himself.

Sessions has recused himself from the investigation he CANNOT fire Rosenstein and/or Mueller. Ever since Trump’s disastrous performance in Helsinki, elected Republicans seem less inclined to further his “you’re fired” delusions. They’re not criticizing him but they’re showing more caution, especially since the Jordan-Meadows attempt to impeach Rosenstein fizzled. But the truth has no meaning for Trump, so who the hell knows what he’ll do next? I’m a pundit, not a prophet.

I’ve spent part of this week comparing historical characters and their fictionalized selves to the freak show that is the Trump administration. I’ve also dubbed Trump the Kaiser of Chaos because of his similarities to the infantile and petulant Kaiser Wilhelm II. BUT Kaiser Bill was never this crazy.

My friend Dakinikat of Sky Dancing fame calls Trump Kremlin Caligula. It’s a good one but Trump increasingly reminds me of another crazy Caesar who was also depicted in the classic teevee series, I Claudius: Caligula’s predecessor, Tiberius. In that great 1976 series, Tiberius was installed via the machinations of his mother Livia. That, in turn, left him dubious of his own legitimacy and led him to do crazy and extreme things. Sound familiar?

At the end of his life, Tiberius isolated himself from the court at Rome and spent most of time debauching at his version of Mar-a-Lago: his villa on the Isle of Capri. Neither golf nor cable teevee had been invented at that point but I’m sure Tiberius would have dug them.

It’s side-by-side picture time. On the left is Trump without his epic combover and orange spray tan. On the right is George Baker as Tiberius who is oranger than Trump in this shot.

The good news is that George Baker grew up to play nice Inspector Wexford in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. Trump will never grow up. He’ll always be Trumpberius.

Life Imitates The Untouchables: Scarface Paul Manafort?

The Kaiser of Chaos was a busy boy with an itchy twitter finger yesterday. The tweets dripped with flop sweat and palpable panic.  He “ordered” Jeff Beau to end the “rigged witch hunt” and praised Paul Manafort for his work for Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole. Those tweets arguably constitute witness tampering by tweet since Trumpy hands out pardons like Oprah doles out cars.

Ending the “rigged witch hunt” could bring the Manafort trial to a screeching halt, which would be a pity: I want the jury to hear more about Paulie’s lavish wardrobe. It’s also a pity that Judge Ellis has barred the use of the term oligarch. I believe in calling an oligarch an oligarch. Ole Garch sounds like a Swedish architect to me. I wonder if he had anything to do with the theft of the Swedish crown jewels? It could have been an angry Norwegian outraged over 91 years of Swedish domination of his homeland. If revenge is a dish best served cold, ain’t nothing colder than a Scandinavian winter or an angry and bitter Norwegian.

Enough of my weirdness, the weirdest of Trump’s recent tweets was this one:

Does this mean Manafort is a syphilitic murderer? He’s certainly a tax avoiding motherfucker like Scarface. Speaking of the gangster, the Insult Comedian misspelled his name: it’s Alphonse with a PH, not Alfonse with an F. That proves that Rudy Giuliani didn’t write this tweet: he’d spell a paisan’s name correctly. Remember when Rudy used to be anti-gangster? Now he’s a mob lawyer working for Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto. Many of us become what we hate.

I think Josh Marshall nailed *why* Trump used this seemingly bizarre analogy:

To Trump, Capone was a winner. He was rich. Everybody gave him respect. But he was brought down on BS charges, mundane financial crimes. He was treated very unfairly, to use the President’s signature phrase. This isn’t hyperbole or a mere attack. Over a forty-plus year career, Trump was deep in business with some of the most notorious and violent mobsters of the late 20th century. Trump managed not to get in to trouble first because he had the right friends but just as much because he kept the relationships largely passive. He laundered their money. His main overt act was willful obliviousness. Trump Tower itself was a notorious haven for all sorts of organized crime figures, mostly from other countries. Mostly from Russia and the former Soviet Union.

There have been many fine movies and teevee series over the years featuring Alphonse with a PH. I should thank the president* for giving me the latest in a series of Life Imitates post titles. First, there was The Sopranos, then The Americans, and now The Untouchables. Cue an extended version of the theme music, which was written by the great Nelson Riddle:

Now that I think of it, Ennio Morricone’s theme music for Brian DePalma’s 1987 film is pretty darn swell as well:

Al Capone *was* a fascinating character, which is why he remains such a famous gangster 71 years after his death. It is disturbing however that POTUS* identifies with him, not Eliot Ness. One would think he’d like comparisons to the best-known screen Nesses, Robert Stack and Kevin Costner. Hell,Costner is even a Republican; at least he used to be until the advent of the Trump regime. Good on ya, Kevin.

Enough Elliot Nessery. It’s time to post a rogue’s gallery of actors who played Alphonse with a PH. We begin with a two-fer: Ben Gazzara from a decent 1975 bio-pic, Capone, and Robert DeNiro in the DePalma/Mamet take on The Untouchables.

Next up from left to right: Neville Brand in teevee’s The Untouchables, Stephen Graham in Boardwalk Empire, and chewing a cigar as well as the scenery, Rod Steiger in 1959’s Al Capone. Steiger was a walking slab of prosciutto in this role. He’d be in the hammy actor hall of fame if such a thing existed.

There’s bound to be a white-collar gangster movie about Paul Manafort at some point in time. I’ve already made a casting suggestion in the form of a Separated at Birth segment:

Chazz Palminteri has played more than a few wise guys in his career including Big Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino family before he was whacked by John Gotti. The Trumps, of course, had ties to the Gambinos and Rudy is the one whose team brought them down. It’s a small fucking world, after all.

Tweet Of The Day: The Sound Of Mueller

The New Orleans Advocate’s Walt Handlesman is justifiably proud of his Walt Toons. This one is best described as Rodgers and Hammerstein meet Kremlingate. It’s so good that I set aside a lifetime of loathing The Sound of Music to post it.

If you enjoyed The Sound of Muller, please donate to First Draft’s annual fundraiser.

Paul Manafort Meets Dollar Bill Jefferson

I’ve been reluctant to write anything about the Manafort trial because I expect him to cop a plea before it starts. Why? The evidence against him is overwhelming and a guy who worked for foreign dictators is not the most sympathetic defendant imaginable. Additionally, his wing man Gary Gates is the prosecution’s star witness. Hopefully, I’m wrong because the trial is bound to be entertaining and informative.

The pre-trial period has gotten me thinking about my former Congressman, Dollar Bill Jefferson. The main thing Dollar Bill and Paul Manafort have in common is the most eccentric judge on the federal bench, TS Ellis. I followed the Jefferson trial closely and enjoyed Ellis’ judicial antics. He walked up to the boundary of reversible error in that case but never quite crossed it. Judge Ellis hasn’t changed, he’s as quirky as ever. Rachel Maddow has had a great time reading the pre-trial transcripts aloud on her show, which is another reason I hope the trial proceeds. I’d hate to deny Rachel that pleasure.

Superficially, Manafort and Jefferson have little in common. One is an Italian-American Republican, the other an African-American Democrat. In addition to Judge Ellis, they have three things in common: intelligence, greed and, most fatally, hubris. Dollar Bill was, perhaps, the smartest man in Gret Stet politics but greed led him to overreach, which, in turn, landed him in prison. At least he never worked for a foreign dictator, which makes Manafort far worse. I have also come to the conclusion that Manafort was planted on Team Trump by the Russians. Dollar Bill betrayed his constituents, Paul Manafort betrayed his country.

In a piece I wrote for the Bayou Brief last December, I described Dollar Bill as follows:

In 2017, Dollar Bill is a living, breathing cautionary tale.

<snip>

Dollar Bill’s political legacy was swept away in a tide of graft, greed, and corruption. He got away with it for so many years that he thought he was bulletproof. He was not. It’s a shame because he could have been a great man instead of what he is: a convicted felon who was so disgraced that he lost his final race in 2008 to a Vietnamese-American Republican who had never before held a political office, Joseph Cao.

Dollar Bill went to trial, the same path Manafort is on today. He should be a cautionary tale for Manafort as well: he was convicted and Judge Ellis threw the book at him. Ouch.

Finally, since it’s First Draft’s annual fundraiser and the Manafort-Jefferson connection is fueled by money, I thought I’d let Dollar Bill do some tin cup rattling on our behalf:

Click here to see Athenae’s fundraising post and please give until it hurts. Thanks, y’all.

The Fog Of Scandal: Liars Calling Other Liars Liars

This is the week Michael Cohen and Donald Trump finally broke up. Their relationship has been slipping away ever since the raid on the former Fixer’s office but this week divorce papers were filed in the form of leaks and tweets. It seems that Cohen has gone from a willingness to take a bullet for Trump to shooting at him. In the immortal words of Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gimme back my bullets.

The Cohen-Trump recording released at the beginning of the week offered more questions than answers. Other than proving that Trump lied about paying off Karen McDougal, its legal relevance is dubious.

Last night’s leak was a horse of a different color; not that either Trump or Cohen knows anything about horses. All I know is what I see during Carnival parades whereat I’m impressed that horses can shit and walk at the same time. Michael Cohen can barely walk and chew gum at the same time.

Back to last night’s breaking news. Cohen confirms what has been obvious to anyone without a pro-Trump bias: Trump knew in advance about the June, 2016 meeting between Manafort, Junior, Slumlord Jared and some connected Russian shitbirds:

According to sources with knowledge of the situation who spoke to CNN, Cohen claims he was present when Donald Trump Jr. told Donald Trump about the potential meeting with a Russian lawyer, promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, and Trump green-lit it. While he doesn’t have any evidence to validate his claims, Cohen is reportedly willing to share that information with special counsel Robert Mueller.

This, in turn, led liar Rudy to claim that liar Cohen was lying:

“I don’t see how he has any credibility,” he said. “There’s nobody that I know that knows him that hasn’t warned me that if he’s backed up against a wall he’ll lie like crazy, because he’s lied all his life.”

Projection thy name is Rudy.

The world knows that most of Cohen’s lying has been in service of  big fat liar Donald Trump.  Who believes any of these lying liars? Cohen’s yarn is plausible but needs corroboration. One reason I’m inclined to believe it was this morning’s Trump twitter meltdown. It’s what happens when he feels cornered.

The most alarming sub-plot of this story is the statement drafted for Junior when the first story about the meeting came out. Here’s Josh Marshall’s take:

Then there’s what happened in the aftermath of the Times stories breaking the news about the Trump Tower meeting that were published just over a year ago. Mueller’s investigators have focused closely on the fact that President Trump dictated a statement which was released in the name of his son Don Jr. about the meeting. It was a false cover story which quickly fell apart. He claimed it was about adoptions. How did he know about it? Well, it seems that he knew about it in advance. But there’s another thread to the story.

Trump dictated that false statement, with the cover story about adoptions only hours after he had a one on one meeting with Vladimir Putin (with no other US persons involved) which was apparently also about adoptions. As I explain here, if you put all this information together, there’s a pretty strong case to be made that not only did President Trump know about the Trump Tower meeting in advance but that he concocted his false cover story with the assistance of Vladimir Putin.

Was this discussed at the one-on-one Putin-Trump meeting? Enquiring minds want to know. Of course, if David Pecker had the story, he’d sell it to the Donald.

Speaking of peckers, a closing note about Junior’s new squeeze former Fox News bot, Kimberly Guilfoyle:

 Six sources said Guilfoyle’s behavior included showing personal photographs of male genitalia to colleagues (and identifying whose genitals they were), regularly discussing sexual matters at work and engaging in emotionally abusive behavior toward hair and makeup artists and support staff.

Was it Junior’s pecker? Eww, just, eww. It may be time to hurl, and I’m not lying about that.

Wingnuts Can’t Count

I hate what the Republicans have done to the House of Representatives. It was never a perfect institution (nothing human ever is) but, beginning with Newt Gingrich, they’ve transformed it into a theatre of the absurd. I almost called it a Kabuki theatre but I don’t want to confuse Jason Spencer into thinking that’s a Chinese, not Japanese thing. Kanichiwa, Sushi, Sony, Nissan. Sorry, I just can’t let go of Malaka Spencer a man who puts the dim in dim sum.

The latest empty GOP gesture comes in the form of articles of impeachment filed against Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. The so-called Freedom Caucus is the author of this idiot plot led by the Tar Heel twit, Mark Meadows, and the Buckeye rape enabler, Jim Jordan.

The charges are specious. Essentially, Rosenstein is accused of insufficient servility towards House GOPers and failure to aid and abet Trump’s Kremlingate cover up. The votes don’t appear to be there but the Insult Comedian is pleased: he likes others to do his dirty work for him. Jim Jordan seems to be his new fixer. He’s even dumber than Michael Cohen and that’s saying a lot.

Rod Rosenstein has turned out to be the unlikely hero of this sordid mess. He looks like the sort of guy who got stuffed into lockers in high school by louts such as Jim Jordan. Rosenstein turns out to have a steel spine and brass balls. He rarely lets House wingnuts see him sweat and he shouldn’t sweat this fakakta impeachment effort.

The House Wingnut Caucus does not appear to have the votes for this abuse of democracy. They don’t care. It’s all about publicity and sucking up to the Insult Comedian. It’s a sham and a shame, but one cannot shame the shameless or those who cannot count.

Here’s Jim Jordan trying to count:

He *may* be able to count to 20 by using all his fingers and toes but I have my doubts.

This preposterous impeachment is yet another reason that Democrats need to retake the House. Let’s put Jordan and Meadows out to pasture.

Life Imitates The Americans

There are, of course, substantial differences between Elizabeth Jennings of The Americans and Mariia Butina. Elizabeth operated in the shadows whereas Two-I Mariia was openly trying to influence the NRA while keeping her real motives under wraps.  Another difference is that Elizabeth got away with it whereas Two-I Mariia is in jail. What they have in common are guns and honey traps.

There was some derision among the dimmer twitter types when the Butina scandal turned to sex. There are too many people on both the left and right who react to news stories based on their ideological predilections. Butina’s honey trap exploits are not the most important part of the story but they’re integral to it.

The woman, Maria Butina, carried out her campaign through a series of deceptions that began in 2014, if not earlier, prosecutors said. She lied to obtain a student visa to pursue graduate work at American University in 2016. Apparently hoping for a work visa that would grant her a longer stay, she offered one American sex in exchange for a job. She moved in with a Republican political operative nearly twice her age, describing him as her boyfriend. But she privately expressed “disdain” for him and had him do her homework, prosecutors said.

Butina gets an A in honey trappery. The schmuck she conned is a GOPer named Paul Erickson. TPM has a hilarious piece about this malaka, which is must reading. Erickson’s strings were pulled by Two-I Mariia and her handlers for 5 years before her exposure. He was shocked, shocked that a Russian woman nearly thirty years his junior had ulterior motives. Erickson thought he was her dream man, instead he was her dream patsy.

Butina’s exploits have to give one pause. It looks as if Donald Trump isn’t the only American compromised by the Russians. The NRA seems to be too. They fell for Butina’s claim that a “gun rights” movement was starting in Russia supported by the Kremlin. They’re as gullible as the dipshits who fell for Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kinderguardian scam.

Elizabeth Jennings would be proud of Two-I Mariia’s exploits. She influenced US policy, infiltrated the NRA, asked the Insult Comedian a question at a public event, and made fools of a bunch of horny middle-aged men. The only thing she did wrong, Russian spywise, was to get caught. Federal prosecutors were right to hold Butina without bail, her picture is in the dictionary next to flight risk.

I’d like to thank the Russians for giving me a pretext to write about The Americans again. The Two-I Mariia scandal has temporarily put my Jennings withdrawal symptoms into remission. I cannot wait for the Free Mariia Butina movement to shift into high gear.

I wonder who the Russians are willing to trade for her: how about Philip and Elizabeth? The Trumpers could be fooled into believing that they’re real, not fictional. All it would take is a private meeting between Trump and Putin. Donald believes everything Vlad says, after all.

I considered posting a song used in The Americans BUT nobody does it better than Carly Simon or James Bond for that matter:

The Fog Of Scandal: The McFaul Guy Gambit

Wednesday is often referred to as Hump Day. Yesterday, Wednesday, July 18, 2018 will be remembered as a day that America was humped by its idiot president* and his criminal administration. Fuck it, strike the word humped, we were fucked. The only way the situation can be un-fucked is with massive turn out at the polls this fall. We seem to have finally hit the much ballyhooed constitutional crisis. Believe me.

The president* spent the day sowing confusion over his remarks at the infamous Helsinki presser. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos. He inches up to admitting that Russia interfered with the 2016 election but adds qualifying language because a full admission means that the Mueller probe is NOT a witch hunt. It’s why he cannot go there. His endless denials and denunciations of the investigation are signs of guilt. People with nothing to hide do not act like this.

The Failing New York Times broke a monster story on Hump Day eve. It shows why former CIA director John Brennan’s hair has been on fire. Make that would be on fire if he had hair. I still detect a faint whiff of burning edges…

Here’s the money quote:

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

By my estimation as a lapsed lawyer, this makes Trump an accessory after the fact to a criminal conspiracy. It’s time to ditch the word collusion. It’s not a legal term and it has been used to envelop the Mueller probe in the fog of uncertainty. C is for Conspiracy, not Collusion. C is also for Cover Up and Constitutional Crisis.

It’s been abundantly clear for quite some time that the president* has been compromised by the Russians. That view has finally gone mainstream after the Helsinki summit. Welcome to the fight, y’all. The acknowledgment that Trump is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vladimir Putin is more important than the details. We may not learn the nature of the kompromat for a while but once again: actions speak louder than words. I say money, you say pee tape. Let’s call the whole thing off. What would I do without Ira Gershwin?

There was a brief flurry of condemnation from GOPers after the “I don’t know why it would be Russia” outrage. Once again, it involved words, not action. Trump’s  follow-up statements were made to allow Republican office holders to crawl back under their beds and hide. There *is* political collusion between them and their dear leader. Republican Senators, even those not up for re-election, are terrified of their base, so they fall in line when they should heed Athenae’s advice and CAUCUS WITH THE DEMOCRATS.

Speaking of spineless Republicans. If former Indiana Senator and current Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coates, had any gumption he’d resign after months of disrespect from his boss. They seem to have banned gumption for the duration of the Trump era. Gumption is another word I’m trying to revive. Use it and pass it along.

One of the most sinister things to happen at the Helsinki summit was the private meeting between Trump and his spymaster. The Russian side are talking up various “agreements” between Putin and his puppet. We’ve already heard about the “incredible offer” to exchange law enforcement information. I call it the “let the fox investigate the chicken coop” offer. It’s truly an incredible offer per the second definition offered by Dictionary.com:

  1. so extraordinary as to seem impossible: incredible speed.
  2. not credible; hard to believe; unbelievable:The plot of the book is incredible.

This entire story is incredible. A book publisher would reject it out of hand as totally (another favorite Trump word) incredible.

Things got even more bizarre yesterday when Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to rule out allowing the Russians to interrogate American citizens such as former Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. Sanders declined the offer and gave her stock ignorant reply: “I’ll get back to you on that.”

The State Department later ruled it out BUT this was a no-brainer except for this brainless administration. We do not hand over our former officials to the Russian secret police just because Putin hates them and they did not vote for Trump. As of this writing it’s unclear what the Trump regime policy is.

Hopefully, they won’t make Michael the McFaul guy. You were probably wondering when I’d circle back to the post title. I like to keep y’all off balance.

Despite Putin’s McFaul guy gambit, the Ambassador is nobody’s patsy. He’s not going down without a fight:

Upon hearing of the McFaul guy gambit, I had a shot of bourbon and tweeted this out:

The Daily Beast’s crack national security reporter, Spencer Ackerman, surveyed past and present American diplomats about the McFaul atrocity. The last word went to a current US official who used what the Grey Lady would call undiplomatic language:

The current U.S. diplomat said the openness to turning over McFaul capped off a shocking week for U.S. geopolitics.

“The president has first and foremost his interests at the top of his mind, as opposed to the government’s. That’s very clear over the past week and a half, between shitting on our NATO allies and kissing Putin’s ass,” the diplomat said. “He cares more about himself than the nation and any of us who serve it.”

The diplomat continued: “Either he’s compromised by Putin or he’s a pussy, in which case he should grab himself.”

I wish I had thought of that.

My last word goes to my countryman, Toronto Star cartoonist Theo Moudakis, who is not a malaka unlike this organ grinder and his monkey:

Tweet Of The Day: PBJ Meets Mariia Butina

I keep waiting for former Gret Stet Goober Bobby Jindal aka PBJ to re-surface as a member of the Trump administration. I believe he’s already grovelled his way out of trouble for calling the Insult Comedian names when PBJ was a presidential candidate. PBJ is an expert brown noser when need be. It’s part of his kiss up, kick down persona.

Thanks to Shannon Watts, PBJ is back in the news after the indictment of Russian agent/NRA fan girl Mariia Butina. FYI, I conferred with a Russian speaker of my acquaintance and was informed that Butina is a 2-i Maria. You’re not seeing double, it’s spelled Mariia. That reminds me of the fine Louisiana name Couvillion. There are two-i and one-i Couvillions. My main man Eddie was a two-i Couvillion. The ayes apparently have it.

Ms. Watts is a pro-gun control/anti-NRA activist with 245K twitter followers. This week she posted a series of pictures of the Russian redhead with well-known wingnuts including the man who sacrificed the Gret Stet’s economy on the altar of his futile national ambitions.

One of the ginger influence peddler’s specialities is posing for pictures with defeated GOP presidential candidates. Here’s one with former Senator Man Dog Sex:

Rick Santorum is still a colossal dick as well as a Russian dupe.

Here’s Doc’s buddy Scott Walker with the gun nut femme fatale:

Finally, it’s the Grand Vizier of gun nuttery’s turn in the Butina barrel.

I’d like to thank Shannon Watts for posting this treasure trove of tweets. Keep up the good work.

I suspect PBJ may even be grateful for the attention. Unlike, Mariia Butina, he can’t even get arrested.

Straight To Helsinki

Donald Trump’s stock in trade as a political figure is confirming our worst fears. It happened again during that disgusting press conference at which he once again accepted Vladimir Putin’s word as to Russian non-involvement in the stealing the 2016 election. People need to stop calling it “meddling” when the operative word is stealing.

In his refusal to even hedge about Russian hacking, Trump verified that he is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence. He could have said something like “Russians did it but President Putin knew nothing about it.” Instead, Trump attacked Democrats, the “rigged Mueller witch hunt,” and all the usual Trumper suspects. He forgot, however, to call Mexicans rapists and to blame it all on MS-13.

There was even a public Trump meltdown after a question as to whether Russia had any compromising material on him. Putin issued a bland non-denial denial and Trumpy erupted into a tirade about witch hunts, Crooked Hillary, and Peter Strzok. He was half-right about Strzok, those hearings *were* a disgrace, but to the Party of Trump, not to the FBI agent.

I saw calls on twitter for mass resignations in protest from the Trump administration. There will be none. The Republican party is a wholly owned subsidiary of a president* who is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence.

I wish I could say I was shocked but I was not even if it was worse than expected. It’s time for the pundits to stop being mystified and tell it like it is. When someone acts *this* guilty it’s invariably because they are.

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dimming Of The Day

New Orleans Window by Lee Friedlander.

Happy Bastille Day. I’m not planning on storming anything, it’s too damn hot for that. I *am* spending some time in the heat by attending San Fermin New Orleans. It’s our zany version of the running of the bulls in which the bulls are rollergirls with plastic bats. I’m not running, I’m drinking mimosas, eating donuts, and hanging out with Dr. A, our friend Cait, the child army, and whoever else shows up. It’s a sweaty, fun, and deeply silly time.

I predicted that the president* would make an ass of himself in the UK and he has done so. He gave an inflammatory interview to the Murdoch owned Sun wherein he praised Boris Johnson, criticized Theresa May, bashed immigrants, and wished people would call the country England again. He apparently re-annexed Ireland while he was at it. The next day, he denied attacking May and called The Sun “fake news” even though it’s owned by his pal Rupert. It was just another day in Trump World.

The featured image is one of my favorite photographs from the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Lee Friedlander in Louisiana exhibit. The New York based photographer has a passion for New Orleans, which is on display at NOMA until August 12th.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for Pour Down Like Silver the third album he and then wife Linda recorded together. We have three versions for your listening pleasure. The original version followed by covers by the Neville Brothers and Bonnie Raitt. RT plays on the latter recording.

Now that we’re feeling a bit on the dim side,  let’s brighten things up by jumping to the break.

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The Strzok Hearing: Shitshow Or Kangaroo Court?

The post title is a rhetorical question: that fakakta hearing was both. It was inevitable in the Trump era that a joint hearing of two Congressional committees would be a shitshow.

I only watched a few hours of the Strzok hearing. In addition to having other shit to do, I found the posturing and Kangaroo Court antics of Congressional GOPers to be tiresome in the extreme. Perhaps that’s because they’re extremists as well as extremely stupid. I’m old enough to remember when *some* Congressional right-wingers were intelligent. The door slammed on that era in 2010 with the teabagger wave election.

As to the witness, he’s a badass with an awesome first name. Peter Strzok held up under withering fire and never called Louis Gohmert Piles and Jim Jordan stupid or Trey Gowdy a weasel. It must have been hard: Strzok is so much smarter than the Kangaroo Court critters who were grilling him. To use a grilled cheese analogy, he did Gouda…

Republicans tried to flip the old adage “actions speak louder than words” on its head. As far as they were concerned, Strzok’s texted words were more important than the fact that he never acted on them. The hearing could have been shut down after the witness pointed out that all he had to do to torpedo the Trump campaign would have been to leak word of the investigation. Instead it went on for 11+ hours of madness.

I learned this week that Peter Strzok was the counter-intelligence agent who cracked the case that inspired The Americans. I saw some members of the twitterazzi compare Strzok to Stan (The Man) Beeman when in fact (fiction?) Strzok is comparable to his first boss, Frank Gaad who was played by Richard Thomas. Good night, John Boy.

The Strzok shitshow won’t change any minds. It was a performance piece staged by House Republicans to support the Kaiser of Chaos by blowing enough smoke to cover the Capitol Dome. You cannot shame the shameless.

Let’s circle back to the post title.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Kangaroo Court as:

  1.  a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted
  2.  a court characterized by irresponsible, unauthorized, or irregular status or procedures

I first heard of Kangaroo Courts when I was a kid. It’s customary for baseball teams to hold them to boost morale and esprit de corps. The judge is usually a veteran player, the best player on the team, or the funniest guy in the locker room. Holy locker room talk, Batman.

Two of the greatest players of the Sixties, Bob Gibson and Frank Robinson, were the judges for the Cardinals and Orioles respectively. That was a long-winded way of posting a picture of Judge Robinson and teammate Davey Johnson both of whom were later managers:

Obligatory San Francisco Giants reference. Frank Robinson was not only the first African-American manager in baseball history, he managed the Giants from 1981-1984. F Robby could do it all: hit, run, field, manage, and judge.

Of Grifting, Lotion, & Ass Kissing

The almost comically corrupt Scott Pruitt was finally forced to resign by his fellow grifter, Donald Trump. Pruitt had hung on so long via a relentless campaign of flattery, brown-nosing, sucking up, and ass kissing. This president* is too stupid to realize when he’s being played. Besides, Pruitt was a fellow grifter so how could he fire him for being a crook? Grifters of a feather, flock together.

Pruitt’s resignation letter is a masterpiece of fulsome-n-obsequious praise:

My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.

Did anyone else know that Jesus was big on despoiling the environment? Ya learn something new every day.

My favorite passage in the letter is where Scottie threw a pity party for himself and invited Trumpy to join in:

It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.

Unprecedented personal attacks? I guess they’re nicer to grifters in Oklahoma than they are in the mean old Washington swamp. There was nothing unprecedented about the attacks and Scottie exposed his family to ridicule by trying to grift jobs for them. Holy self-inflicted wounds, Batman.

The bad news is that Pruitt’s deputy is equally committed to environmental destruction. Andrew Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist who loathes big guvmint and thinks climate change is for the birds. Dead, oily birds. He’s a much slicker version of Scottie, which is bad news for us doom and gloom tree hugger types.

I will miss watching Scottie grift but I’m glad that he’ll have more time to spend with his Ritz Hotel lotion. Besides, we’ll still have Ryan Zinke and Wilbur Ross to kick around.

I  hope the taxpayers get a refund on Scottie’s cone of silence. Maxwell Smart and the Chief want it back. A used mattress from the Trump Hotel simply will not do.

Kirstjen’s Katrina Connection

It had to happen. Some pundits are calling the caged children scandal “Trump’s Katrina.” First, former Failing NYT editor Jill Abramson in the former Manchester Guardian followed by New Yorker editor David Remnick. To be fair, Remnick acknowledges a crucial difference:

Some pundits have suggested that what is happening now in Texas will be “Trump’s Katrina.” But, without excusing the racism and the indifference shown by the authorities in that horrific episode, it ought to be pointed out that at least the federal government did not order the flooding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. What is happening now is purely gratuitous, a deliberate act of cruelty intended as leverage to build a “beautiful wall.” And it is a wall intended not only to block Mexicans and Central Americans from making their way into the United States but to divide the United States itself, in order to retain power.

Bush’s Katrina moment was based on incompetence and casual racism whereas the separated family scandal (I’m trying out different rubrics) is deliberate and based on incompetence as well as malicious racism. Shorter Adrastos: the shitheads want to keep out people from shithole countries. Team Trump *wanted* the outrage thinking it would gin up the baser elements of their base. This is what happens when Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller and the Insult Comedian are driving the train. Hopefully, it will cause a wreck in November.

There’s a more interesting direct link to Katrina involving the very white lady at DHS:

Nielsen moved over to the White House as special assistant to the president and senior director for prevention, preparedness and response. She had that job in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. Nielsen’s job didn’t involve coordinating storm response—she served more as an information conduit to the White House—but the George W. Bush administration’s botched response to Katrina reflected poorly on all involved.

A bipartisan report (pdf) prepared by the House of Representatives after Katrina specifically cites Nielsen for not recognizing the storm’s potential for destruction, although her office had received warnings. The Washington Post reported that “Nielsen was one of a handful of White House officials warned of the so-called ‘New Orleans scenario’: a hurricane rated Category 3 or higher hitting the city and bursting its aging levees.” Even after in the storm’s aftermath, with hundreds of people awaiting rescue, Nielsen’s office had trouble getting the attention of Bush, who went to California to give a speech. “It does not appear the president received adequate advice and counsel from a senior disaster professional,” according to the House report.

Nielsen is yet another example of upward mobility based on failure. She helped screw the Katrina pooch and ended up Homeland Security secretary.

I rarely watch Trump administration press briefings but I saw Nielsen the other day. It’s bad enough when the Press Secretary pleads ignorance, it’s infinitely worse when the person in charge of things does so. Nielsen made like Huck’s horrible spawn and said she hadn’t seen the images from South Texas or heard the heartbreaking recording of the weeping six-year-old Salvadoran girl. She told the assembled press corps that she’d look into it and get back to them. She’s done neither. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a shitty role model, y’all.

Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk saying “the buck stops here.” Team Trump is intent on passing the buck. Bigly. So much so that Dahlia Lithwick compiled a list of Trumper excuses, evasions, and downright lies in defense of this disgusting policy. Their spin doctors are so dizzy that *they* need a doctor. It’s a pity Ronnie Jackson is no longer there to minister to their needs.

Speaking of pointing the finger of blame, I recently read Bob Mann’s fabulous biography of Gret Stet Senator Russell Long. The events involving the very white lady at DHS put me in mind of Long’s legendary aphorism:

To say these are trying times is a grotesque understatement. We have a president* who tweets out shit like this:

Applying the word “infest” to human beings is straight out of the Goebbels playbook. The fucking moron president* may not know the history behind this but Stephen Miller does. Making matters even more grotesque is the fact that Miller is Jewish. Oy, just oy.

Back to the very white lady at DHS. I’d like to praise the folks who heckled her out of a Mexican restaurant in Washington City. And they say that irony is dead. Nielsen puts the tacky in taco.

I was tempted to call this post Kirstjen’s Katrina Konnection but decided that was a bit heavy-handed. I’m as fond of alliteration as anyone but it’s what the Ku Kluxers do, so include me out.

Finally, it may be a struggle in 2018 but I *still* try to be a glass half full person. That’s why Todd Rundgren gets the last word:

It’s Good To Be Kaiser

The Kaiser of Chaos was feeling feisty this morning. He tweeted out a preposterous assertion of executive authority:

So, why tweet this if you’re a not guilty man? (Like “collusion,” “innocent” is not a legal term of art: please substitute “conspiracy” and “not guilty.”) Something big is going on behind the scenes right now. This is the latest in a long line of panic tweets sent by the man who thinks he’s dictator. He’s a dictator in his mind only but the public needs to pay careful attention when he gets like this.

Trump’s plan is to live and die by the tweeter tube so it’s only fitting to post a twitter riposte to the president*:

I’ve complained before about amateur internet and cable teevee lawyers. Trumpy is by far the worst of the bunch. Frankly, his real lawyers aren’t much better after that fakakata memo they sent to team Mueller asserting that it’s legal for the president* to shit on the constitution and wipe his ass with the bill of rights. And of course Mayor Noun Verb 9/11 has been all over teevee belching and farting smoke. I’ve come to the conclusion that Rudy and Trumpy are the same dude. Heckuva job, Rudy.

Very few genuine legal eagles think that Team Trump’s claims hold any water. If they did, we’d already be living in a dictatorship instead of watching a pre-Great War style autocratic hereditary monarchy creep up on us. There are signs of it every day; particularly in the admonitions to exempt Trump’s family from criticism and scrutiny. His son-in-law and daughter are White House aides so they’re fair game. Junior and Eric have big mouths so they are too. I feel sorry for Melania and cannot blame her for disappearing. Lord, what a family.

Back to legal scholars. I’d like to direct your attention to two op-ed pieces in today’s Failing New York Times. The first by a Democrat: former Deputy Attorney General and US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Harry Litman. The second piece is by former Reagan and Poppy Bush White House counsel, Douglas Kmiec. who deftly lays out precedents on executive power. Holy bipartianship, Batman.

There are also some swell pieces at Slate. The first by Jed Shugerman posits that Trump’s lawyers seem to have admitted that he obstructed justice. It’s a detailed essay so you should read it for yourself but it’s as convincing as hell. We already knew that a legal team featuring Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani, and the departed John Dowd was not ready for prime time. The Shugerman piece confirms that belief.

Finally, the divine Dahlia Lithwick conducts an extended interview with Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe; known to our readers as Larrrr-eeee Tryyyyyy-buh. Tribe and Dahlia both urge Democrats to avoid “magical thinking” and understand the limits of what can be accomplished by Team Mueller, impeachment, and the 25th amendment.

These are perilous times. We have a petulant president* who believes that he is above the law. He’s surrounded by yes men and women who only tell him what he wants to hear. He conducts himself like a medeval monarch dispensing justice to his followers and denying it to his opponents. I’m fond of the Kaiser Wilhelm II analogy because *that* fucking moron was deposed at the end of the Great War. Like Trump, he was an arrested adolescent who fled to Holland to avoid being arrested. I wonder if they’d take Trumpy in? Not bloody likely.

One more tweet before we go. If only the Kaiser of Chaos would listen to Jerry Ford:

For the record, Ford’s Attorney General, Edward Levi, was the one who cleaned house at the Justice Department after Watergate. It’s his legacy of apolitical justice that’s under attack by the Kaiser of Chaos and the Duke of Deception, Rudy Giuliani.

The last word goes to the late Tom Petty. All you have to do is substitute Kaiser for King:

The Cheaper The Crook, The Gaudier The Patter

Thus spake Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon to the Fat Man’s gunsel Wilmer. Crime fiction buffs out there will recall that Wilmer was the patsy in that classic novel and movie.

I thought of Spade’s put down of Wilmer upon the release of one of what the media insists on calling THE COHEN TAPES. While I dig the way it evokes Watergate, we’re talking digital recordings, not tapes. It’s starting to bug the shit out of me so I thought I’d go on the record and I’m not talking 33’s or 45’s either.

The crook may be cheap and his patter *is* gaudy but there are NO tapes. Repeat after me: THE COHEN RECORDINGS.

That concludes this episode of How Life Imitates The Maltese Falcon.

Crossfire Hurricane: Deep State, Deep Doo Doo

I pinch myself almost every day that a minority of the voters (with help from Russian intelligence) elected an Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop his head to the highest office in the land. We’re bombarded with this fucking moron’s nonsense and stupidity on a daily basis. One of the things I find most disconcerting is Trump’s continuing reliance on bizarre conspiracy theories when, in theory, he should be the best informed person in the country. While it’s true that most of the conspiracy theories are self-serving, the dumb fucker believes them.

Things have gotten even weirder since the failing New York Times published its big story about the FBI counter-intelligence operation Crossfire Hurricane. Against all evidence. Team Trump insists it was an Obama administration operation aimed at undermining their campaign and/or overthrowing Trump in a Deep State coup. I guess that’s why it was secret until last week. #sarcasm. Instead, it was the least intrusive way to investigate some serious allegations. Of course, we know that the Trumpers are denizens of the Derp State, so why should anyone be surprised by this meshuga crapola.

I am mildly thrilled that the Feebs used the opening line of the Rolling Stones classic Jumpin’ Jack Flash as the code name for the investigation. That would never have happened in the Hoover era when rock and roll was considered subversive, especially the Stones who were bad boys then, plutocrats now. Jumpin’ Jack Flash it’s still a gas, gas, gas.

Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman has great sources in the alternate universe known, to me at least, as Trumpistan. He has a wild piece today at The Hive about the latest conspiracy theories and even got our old pal Roger Stone to go on the record:

According to people familiar with Trump’s thinking, his team is attempting to build the case that anti-Trump forces in the F.B.I. entrapped his advisers using informants to plant evidence about Russian collusion. The theory goes that the F.B.I. later used these contacts with the Russians to delegitimize his presidency. Trump’s advisers say the intelligence community believed Hillary Clinton would win the presidency, but in case she didn’t, they concocted this elaborate plot to remove Trump from office. “Just when you think it can’t get stranger, it does,” a Trump adviser told me. Stone claims the anti-Trump conspiracy includes senior intelligence officials from the Barack Obama administration. “The guy who will end up burning in all this is [former C.I.A. director] John Brennan,” Stone told me. “If I were him I’d break the capsule and swallow it now. That psychopath is going down.”

Brennan is a psychopath now? It takes one to know one, Rog. I’ll see you on the Dark Stone of the Moon, dude. The lunatic is now on the sinkhole laden White House grass. It’s time to revive this meme from the October 20, 2016 post referred to above:

I’m curious as to how the CIA director was pulling the strings at the FBI. The Feebs have always zealously protected their independence up to and including the Comey era. You don’t have to be Mark (Deep Throat) Felt to figure that one out. The only reality in the Derp State is what helps Trump save his worthless ass from prosecutors.

I’m back to pinching myself. What disturbs me is that there are people out there who believe that the so-called Deep State is why our country in trouble when it’s really the conspiracy theorist in the chief who put the derp in deep, which is why we’re all in deep doo doo. Hopefully, we won’t sink before the November election, which is when we’ll have a chance to elect a Congress that will do its job and rein in these crazies. But it will take years for the country to regain sanity after losing its mind on 11/8/2016.

The last word goes to the Stones and two of my favorite covers of Jumpin’ Jack Flash. It’s still a gas, gas, gas.

Stupid Watergate Goes Postal

I try not to write about the same things as Athenae BUT a bloggers gotta do what a bloggers gotta do. Besides, I’m coming at the fake billionaire president* versus real billionaire publisher smackdown from a different angle, and this post title was too good to waste. I, too, am a grudge-holder but I’d prefer a Coke Zero button on my desk to a Diet Coke one any day. That may be a distinction without a difference but there you have it. Btw, I still don’t think my favorite soda pop tastes different now that it’s been rebranded as Coke Zero Sugar. It’s soda spin as far as I’m concerned: pop goes the marketing weasel.

In case I’ve confused you more than usual, I’m talking about the Insult Comedian’s harebrained scheme to screw Amazon by changing their postal rates. He and Melania seem to have a reverse Ricky and Lucy thing going on. He has the crazy ideas, she has the thick accent. It’s unknown if she ever sings Babalu.

Trumpy even called in the Postmaster General who tried to explain that she doesn’t have the power to unilaterally change rates or cancel contracts:

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

This president* doesn’t do process. I suspect he recalls his father Fred talking about his dealings with the Post Office back when it was a patronage spigot under FDR’s man Jim Farley. That changed in the 1970’s. Trump is usually stuck in the Eighties so this is at least a slightly different form of malakatude. I imagine him straightening his weave and saying in his best Archie Bunker voice: “My foddah told me about dis here t’ing.”

Once again we’re in Stupid Watergate territory. Nixon infamously tried to use the IRS to screw his enemies. He had John Dean hand the enemies list to the IRS commissioner who proceeded to sit on it. Nixon was not a fucking moron so he acted through intermediaries instead of doing the dirty work himself. Trump is still worse than Nixon. He’s always been stupider.

I’m not sure where Trump fits on the George W. Bush bad president scale because he hasn’t started a war or crashed the economy yet. He has, however, politicized the Justice Department and CIA just like the president who many are trying to rehabilitate. Just say no to that, y’all, just say no.

The last word goes to Rachel Maddow with a brilliant segment from her May 18th show. Rachel may not call Trump’s latest fakakta idea Stupid Watergate, but she places it in the proper historical context.

 

The Fog Of Scandal: The Fixer Meets Spiro Agnew

We’ve finally learned why Team Trump freaked out over the Michael Cohen raid. It looks as if the Fixer has been a busy boy shaking down big corporations and getting paid off by a Russian oligarch. He’s been doing business as Essential Consultants: the business is selling access to the White House. Remember when the Insult Comedian went on about pay for play during the 2016 campaign? It was classic Trumpian projection. Anyone who found the Fixer’s services essential was paying to play and some of the action involved Russian money.

Kremlingate and the Stormy shitshow have publicly intersected for the first time. There’s bound to be more to come. There’s a lot of dirty Russian money out there that needs laundering and some of it may have landed in the president’s* greedy hands. It’s a small palm to grease but money may well have flowed from Cohen’s shell company to one of Trump’s shell companies. Does anyone still think Kremlingate is too complicated for people to understand? People understand pay-offs and bribes.

This is a good time for everyone to brush up on the Agnew resignation. Tricky’s Veep was caught taking bribes from contractors back home in Maryland. The graft continued *after* Agnew moved from Annapolis to Washington City. Since federal prosecutors were uncertain if a sitting Veep could be indicted, a plea bargain was struck in exchange for Agnew’s resignation from office. This is a scenario that should be added to impeachment and the 25th Amendment in 2018. The Agnew scenario may be what Michael Avenatti has in mind when he confidently asserts that Trump will not finish his term.

This is getting more entertaining every day. I guess I have to take back my criticisms of Avenatti’s camera hog ways. Unlike Rudy Giuliani, he’s a camera hog who delivers the goods.

I originally titled this post The Fixer On Shakedown Street, so the last word goes to the Grateful Dead.

 

Enquiring Minds Flip On The Fixer

If Fox News is state television for the Trump era, the National Enquirer is the state newspaper. That’s right, a sleazy supermarket tabloid is the Trumper’s Pravda. Trump is often called a reality teevee president* it is equally accurate to call him a tabloid president*.

Long before reality teevee became a thing, Trumpy was a tabloid tycoon. When Enquiring Minds go after one of the Insult Comedian’s former lackeys, that’s some serious shit. It’s the Fixer’s turn on the checkout aisle:

Much like articles in the  old Soviet press, *what* Pecker’s publication says is less important than the headlines.  Its stories are usually lies about secrets and lies. The import is that Trump’s inner circle expects Cohen to flip like a pancake now that he’s on Team Mueller’s flattop grill.  I  would share some lies about secrets and lies but the story isn’t online yet and I’m not shelling out money for Pecker’s putrid publication. It’s okay: hardcore Trumpers (hereinafter the 20%) would rather look at the pictures anyway. Why read when your hero is functionally illiterate?

The notion that Michael Cohen would make like Sopranos capo Big Pussy and rat the boss out is not exactly shocking.  It reminds me of a line Sam Spade threw at the Fat Man’s gunsel Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”

Gaudy patter is the Fixer’s speciality.

Since my Life Imitates The Sopranos pictures are so popular, here are side-by-side stoolies:

The guy with the pinky ring looks more like a law school graduate than the nitwit with the cell phone. So it goes.

Since Cohen is big in the taxi business, I’ve been meaning to post this pre-Uber Tull tune. There’s no time like the present: