Category Archives: Fog Of Scandal

Donald Trump Says The Darndest Things

There’s a theme to this week’s posts: mouthy septuagenarian tricks. Joe Biden seems determined to talk his way out of the Democratic nomination. And the Insult Comedian seems to determined to talk his way out of the White House and into federal prison. He has friends in jail, maybe he could bunk with Paul Manafort.

After reviving the your president* speaks feature, I eventually decided it was best to adhere to the informal Maddow Doctrine: Watch what they do, not what they say. There are exceptions to any rule and this one is no exception. I don’t want to be doctrinaire, after all.

The Kaiser of Chaos has been shooting off his big fat bazoo in a way that could come back to bite him in the ass. Twice this week, the president* has shot himself in the foot, then inserted said wounded foot in his mouth. (He did it more than twice but I don’t feel like writing a 1,500 word post. That’s what I do on Saturdays.)

We’ll take it in reverse order. Yesterday, ABC News released a Trump interview with my diminutive countryman, George Stephanopolous. The president* revived one of his greatest hits: “Russia, if you’re listening.”

I’ll let the good people at TPM do the heavy lifting:

In a new interview released this afternoon by ABC News, President Trump tells George Stephanopoulos that he’d take information from a foreign government if one offered dirt on his 2020 opponent. “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening.”

President Trump rejected the idea that such foreign government interventions amounted to election interference. “It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

When Stephanopoulos told Trump his own FBI Director, Christopher Wray, said he should contact the FBI if a foreign government approached him with information about a political opponent, Trump said Wray was wrong. “I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.”

This is Trump’s world view in a nut shell. If it’s good for Trump, it’s good; if it’s bad for Trump, it’s bad. I have a feeling that Rudy Giuliani would have torn his hair out if he still had that epic combover. He’s probably pulling Jay Sekulow’s hair out instead. He can always borrow one of the Insult Comedian’s extra weaves to cover up Rudy’s giant teeth marks. Did I say tear? I meant bite.

Not only is Donald Trump too dishonest to be president*, he’s too stupid; hence the Magritte dumbbell caveman featured image. After years of screaming “no collusion, no collusion,” he admits that he’d do it in a heartbeat. Make that do it again. It’s time for a musical interlude:

Word Of Mouth would also work as a post title but I wanted to connect Trump and Joey the Dinosaur. They have one important thing in common: a fatal inability to STFU.

The weirdest bit in the Stephanopoulos interview is when the Insult Comedian used Norway as an example of a country that might peddle dirt on one of his opponents. Give me a break: the Norwegians may be taller and whiter than the Russians, but they’re not known for their espionage exploits. I can feel my late mother rolling in her grave at the thought that her countrymen would collude with this president*. He should be sentenced to a steady diet of lutefisk as punishment.

The other Trumpian comment that obliged me to violate the Maddow Doctine was about his BFF, Kim Jong Un. The Insult Comedian received another “beautiful letter” from that bloodthirsty Communist dictator, then commented on reports that the diminutive dictator had his uncle murdered for spying. I’ll let Vanity Fair’s Tina Nguyen do the heavy lifting this time around:

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator once described by Donald Trump as “short and fat,”had a suspected traitor in his midst: Kim Jong Nam, Un’s half brother. Nam was considered by U.S. intelligence to have little insight into the inner workings of the Kim regime, according to former U.S. officials, but nonetheless was suspected by the Malaysian government to be a CIA source. In February 2017 he was killed in Kuala Lumpur when two women smeared a nerve agent on his face, causing his sudden death within an hour. Both later claimed that they had been recruited into participating in what they believed was a hidden-camera prank show.

Did Trump care, reporters asked the next day on the South Lawn? “I saw the information about the CIA,” he acknowledged, and “I would tell [Un] that that would not happen under my auspices.” In essence, Trump told a dictator that the agency would stop spying on him.

The typical “what if Obama had said this” trope is inadequate for this moment. Here’s my historical variation: what if JFK had banned spying on Cuba before, during, and after the Missile Crisis to make nice with Fidel? He would have faced withering criticism from both sides of the aisle and possible impeachment. Jack Kennedy, of course, could have charmed his way out of it but he would have been in a world of hurt.

I have an assignment for the MSM as well as constituents of Congressional Republicans. Every time you see a GOP senator or congresscritter, ask them if they would accept opposition research from a foreign power. There will be a chorus of noes. The follow-up question is obvious: if that’s  the case, why is it okay for president* Trump?

The last word goes to Joni Mitchell with a song in which she confesses that she talks too much.  I thought I should bring some class to this post.

Gangster Love

I’ve had a lot of fun during the Trump era comparing the Insult Comedian and his minions to a variety of gangster movies and teevee shows: from The Sopranos to The Untouchables to The Godfather. I’ve also written about Trump’s ties to the real Mafia in a post wherein I gave him his wise guy nickname, Don Donaldo, Il Comico Insulto.

It turns out that one of the most treacherous and blood-stained real life gangsters of all, Whitey Bulger, was an ardent Trump supporter. I’m not surprised: Tony Soprano and Paulie Walnuts dug W’s war on terror, after all.

NBC News got ahold of some prison era correspondence between Bulger and one of the jurors who convicted him. I am not making this up. Here are some Trump related passages:

In several handwritten letters shared with NBC News, Bulger expressed gushing praise for Trump, offering rave reviews of the president’s foreign policy and combative relationship with the media.

“Trump is tough and fights back instead of bowing down to pressure — and caving in to press!” Bulger wrote in August 2018. “U.S. agrees with him press attacking and his reaction increases his popularity — He has my vote so far.”

“History may show Trump was the man of the hour,” Bulger wrote in a different letter earlier that month. “Feel China respects him and hesitant to try to bully him.”

<SNIP>

The legendary gangster, who was beaten to death inside a West Virginia prison cell last fall, was an ardent Trump supporter and fan of conservative media figures such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, according to the letters shared with NBC News.

“I get some strange mail at times — a grandmother from Kansas — hates Trump wants him ‘impeached,'” Bulger wrote in one letter. “She assumes I hate him? Why Because I’m in prison?”

The missive goes on to reference the allegations that Trump paid off two women with whom he had extramarital affairs. The aging gangster wrote that he believed Trump was a changed man and would never, for instance, engage in a romantic encounter with an intern in the Oval Office.

“My bet is he’s happy with present wife and settled down,” Bulger says in the letter. “No way would he wind up in Oval Office with a Monica Lewinsky — That was a scandal! Same media that attacks Trump would cover up for Bill Clinton.”

Bulger also railed against former special counsel Robert Mueller. An assistant U.S. attorney in Boston in the 1980s, Mueller went on to lead the FBI at a time when it was grappling with a sensational scandal involving agents protecting mob leaders like Bulger.

“Sorry to hear Trump is being boxed in by so many,” Bulger wrote last August.

“Trump is experiencing what Mueller and company can orchestrate,” Bulger said in a different letter from September. “[Mueller] should observe biblical saying – ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'”

I’m not sure why anyone should be surprised that Bulger *hated* the FBI with whom he co-operated for years, then pursued him until his capture in 2011. In his lamster days, he spent some time hiding out in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I wondered if he pretended to be a Saints fan?

Like most modern gangsters, Whitey identified with the political right. The days of Democratic hoodlums like Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky are behind us and I’m fine with that. Why wouldn’t Whitey identify with his fellow gangster, Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto? They had a lot in common even if one of them was a Red Sox fan and the other a Yankee rooter.

It’s a pity that Bulger didn’t live to see this year’s Red Sox visiting the White House controversy. It’s obvious he would have been down with the white boys who went and hard on manager Alex Cora and those who stayed away. They didn’t call him Whitey for nothing.

I have a sudden urge to re-watch, The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s fictionalized version of part of the Whitey Bulger story. What dude wouldn’t love having Jack Nicholson play him? I could have called this post Life Imitates The Departed but chose not to because Whitey Bulger’s story is an epic tale of murder, mayhem, and mendacity. Even Black Mass doesn’t quite do him justice. It was one of the last good movies Johnny Depp made. I reviewed it as part of a genuinely epic 2015 Odds & Sods post. End of self-plug.

Like Speaker Pelosi, I would be thrilled if the Current Occupant emulated his devoted follower, Whitey Bulger, and died in prison. It’s a possibility if he isn’t re-elected in 2020. Let’s make it so.

The last word goes to Stephen Stills with the song that inspired this post title:

Courage

Speaker Pelosi has forgotten more about politics than most people will ever know. She’s right to think that impeachment is tricky. It’s unpopular now BUT, like everything else in this mercurial era, that’s subject to change. Public opinion is fluid, not static except for the hardcore rump of Trumpers, which is around 25% of the electorate. Speaker Pelosi is a political genius but even geniuses can be wrong. She *is* wrong about impeachment. It is not just a legal imperative, it is a political one. I think inaction will be more politically damaging in the long run than defending the rule of law against a lawless and illegitimate administration.

Yesterday’s statement by the ultimate G-Man, Robert Mueller, confirmed that the vast majority of the country, let alone members of Congress, have not, and will not, read the report. Despite attempts to make it user friendly, it’s long and detailed and chock full of legal phrases baffling to lay people. That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact. Most people need to see the teevee show, not read a 448 page book. Mueller’s statement was more in the nature of a preview of coming attractions, not the main event.

Mueller said yesterday that he would only testify publicly about the contents of the report itself. That’s fine. Repeat after me: most people have not and will never read the full report. Mueller doesn’t want to testify. Life is full of chores we’d rather not do: I could live without changing the cat box but I do it. I fear the wrath of Della Street and Paul Drake. Who wouldn’t?

If his appearance cannot be negotiated, Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff need to subpoena the  Special Counsel. Unlike the Insult Comedian’s lawless minions, he will comply. It’s time for Bobby Three Sticks to eat his veggies. He can have dessert later.

I disagree with those who say that political considerations should play no role in the impeachment decision. It is an inherently political process. Those calculations increasingly argue FOR, not against, impeachment. Yes, I know, the Senate will not convict as of this writing and the majority is threatening to go straight to a vote and not hold a trial. BUT Democrats are losing the messaging war to Republicans and, worse, look weak. Nancy Smash is not weak but perception is everything in politics. She cannot afford to look weak in these perilous times for our democracy. The president* is terrified of impeachment, when he’s scared, he makes mistakes.

The ground is shifting. The mere fact of Freedom Caucus member Justin Amash’s advocacy of impeachment has made House Democrats look feckless and I give a feck about that. Amash has made cogent arguments in favor of impeachment, which has made the Speaker’s temporizing look weak. He’s obviously read the full report, which is why he came out for impeachment; much like his political antonym, Elizabeth Warren. Repeat after me: most people have not and will never read the full report. They need the teevee show.

At the risk of being repetitive, Nancy Pelosi is not weak but perception is everything in politics. I agree that there are risks involved but life is full of risks and impeachment is the only option we have to establish that the Current Occupant is NOT above the law. If he’s impeached and acquitted by the Senate, he’ll brag about it but he’ll have the scarlet letter I seared on his orange forehead. If he’s not impeached, he’ll brag about winning a showdown with Speaker Pelosi. He’s going to brag either way but in one scenario, Democrats look weak,  in the other they’ve stood up for the rule of law.

Perilous times require courage from our leaders. We don’t elect them to do the easy things, we elect them to do the right thing. Trump cannot be allowed to get away with his crimes without facing the music. Nothing scares him more than the possibility of live, televised hearings into his brazen misconduct. Hence the massive resistance to all requests from Congress. If a formal impeachment inquiry is opened, the House will have more legal power to make the Trump regime comply. All it takes is courage. The future of the Republic not only requires courage, it demands it.

Courage.

The Crazy, It Burns

Yesterday was one of those days when the deadly absurdity of the Trump regime got to me. The president* had public meltdowns two days in a row. Speaker Pelosi knows what buttons to push and when to push them. She doesn’t do it so often that the first dolt will figure out what she’s up to, but his inability to deal with a powerful woman results in craziness. Bigly.

I sometimes wonder if we’re living in Freedonia, the fictional country of which Groucho Marx was the president in Duck Soup. Groucho was a benign, albeit lecherous, lunatic whereas the Insult Comedian is a malign lunatic with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. I guess I should resume calling him Trumpberius, which is a nod to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Life not only imitates Duck Soup, it imitates I Claudius as I wrote last August:

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.

Yesterday as the “extremely stable genius” made his aides publicly attest to his stability and all around awesomeness, I kept waiting for burly men in white to place this deranged narcissist in a strait-jacket. This insecure lunatic should be on Nurse Ratched’s ward, not in the White House. (That’s right, life also imitates One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.) Even for the Trump regime, it was a  bizarre spectacle to behold; with horror. Wednesday’s meltdown may have been calculated, this one was not.

Writing for First Draft is my therapy. The whole country is going to need therapy when this mishigas is finally over. The good news is that I believe that voters will vote to stop the madness next year. The bad news is that we have to put up with this insanity until January, 2021 since his cabinet is populated with non-entities and lackeys who cannot count to 25 as in the 25th Amendment. And impeachment is merely an invitation to remove an errant Oval One; only the voters can remove him since the senate obviously will not.

The last word goes to Rufus T. Firefly:

New Tea From The Tillerson

Image by Michael F.

Oil baron and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is back in the news. You didn’t really think I could pass this story up, did you? He was in Washington City to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I guess the president* didn’t try to block his appearance. Maybe he thought that the “affairs” refer to international nookie or some such shit. He approves of foreign nookie, after all.

Tillerson not only spilled some tea, he threw some shade the Insult Comedian’s way:

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared President Trump during a key meeting in Germany, putting the U.S. leader at a disadvantage during their first series of tête-à-têtes.

<SNIP>

Committee aides said that Tillerson refrained from openly disparaging the president but that his inability to answer certain questions was revealing.

In one exchange, Tillerson said he and the president “shared a common goal: to secure and advance America’s place in the world and to promote and protect American values.”

“Those American values — freedom, democracy, individual liberty and human dignity — are the North Star that guided every action I took at the State Department,” Tillerson said, according to a person in the room.

Upon questioning, Tillerson clarified that although he and the president shared the same goal, they did not share the same “value system.”

When asked to describe Trump’s values, Tillerson said, “I cannot,” the person said.

“Just as matter of fact, he stated that he couldn’t or wouldn’t unpack the president’s values for us,” a committee aide said.

It’s because Trump doesn’t have any values, silly rabbit.

The president* was not amused and took to the Tweeter Tube to rant:

And who appointed this “dumb as a rock” and “totally ill-prepared and ill-equipped” man Secretary of State, Donald? Look in the mirror, asswipe. It reflects badly on you. It’s more projection from the First Criminal.

We all know people who are incapable of seeing themselves as others do. The Insult Comedian, however, wins the booby prize (literally) as the least self-aware person on the planet. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have staged that fake tantrum when he met with Chuck and Nancy yesterday. Speaker Pelosi was having a tough week before that presidential* gaffe. She should write him a thank you note. “I don’t do cover-ups,” my ass. That will be the Trumpian equivalent of Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” Tricky was and Trumpy does.

That concludes this nostalgic look at the life and times of Rex Tillerson, tea and oil spiller. It finds the Trump regime miles from nowhere after the Kaiser of Chaos went out on strike yesterday. Do your job, dipshit.

The last word goes to (who else?) my countryman, Cat Stevens:

Case Closed?

The Turtle got up on his hind legs in the Senate yesterday and declared the Trump scandals over. He even had the gall to use the phrase “case closed” as if that would work. In 1993, Gerald Posner published a book about the Kennedy assassination. His theory was that the Warren Commission got it right and that Oswald acted alone. The title was Case Closed. If it was meant to cut-off discussion of that horrible day in Dallas, it did not work. We’re still arguing about it. McConnell’s statement will have the same effect or lack thereof.

Nixon tried the same gambit during Watergate. He declared the scandal over and done with multiple times. It did not work. Scandals have a life of their own and need to die of natural causes, pronouncements do not work.

The ineffectiveness of McConnell’s statement was shown by subsequent events of yesterday. The Michael Cohen-Jerry Fallwell Junior link resurfaced in a Reuters story. It implied that the former Fixer’s suppression of some “racy” Falwell Junior pictures *may* have had something to do with the second-generation bible-thumper’s endorsement of Trump. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to see are racy Fallwell Junior pictures. Ugh.

A more important, albeit less salacious, development was the latest story in the New York Times series that I call Donald Trump Is A Criminal. The Times obtained copies of Trump’s federal tax work sheets from 1985 to 1994. The Eighties were ostensibly the Insult Comedian’s glory days as a tycoon. One might instead call them his gory days as he suffered $1 billion in losses. Our friend Scout Prime immediately dubbed him the biggest loser. He’s either the worst businessman ever or a monumental tax cheat; perhaps even both.

I’m not going to publish the First Flim-Flam Man’s attempt to spin the story. Suffice it to say that it’s as credible as the rest of his twitter feed. If his story is true: why not publicly release the tax returns sought by the House?

It’s self-quote time:

I have a new Fog of Scandal meme, a Magritte-like image, The Man and the Sea by Giuseppe Maiorana, I love the image of umbrellas dropping in the fog. Substitute shoes for umbrellas, you can catch my drift if you can see it amid the fog of scandal.

The shoes keep dropping despite the Insult Comedian’s lame attempts to explain away everything. That’s why this case will never be closed.

The last word goes to Randy Newman with a song about the kind of glitzy Eighties capitalism that the Kaiser of Chaos claims to embody:

It’s Trump’s money that matters.  Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

Barr’s Testimony In A Wingnut Shell

I only watched bits and bobs of the Barr hearing. I have a hard time sitting through GOP crazy as expressed by old white dudes. Chuck Grassley is looking more like Abe Simpson every day.

Barr lied, dodged questions, and offered absurd defenses of his lord and master. I like what Comey said about Barr’s dignity wraith-hood in an op-ed written before the hearing:

But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.

I’m not sure if Barr ever had a soul but Comey has a way with language. It certainly explains how people pleaser Lindsey Graham went from McCain wingman to Trump toady.

TPM has the wall-to-wall coverage that I’m disinterested in providing. One more thing: the Mueller letter may be written in “snitty” legalese but it’s a big fucking deal. It probably was written by a staff member as Barr so dismissively stated BUT that’s SOP. I wonder if the first draft bore this salutation: Dear Fuckhead. I understand that Bobby Three Sticks is big on busting balls in private.

I originally planned for this post to be strictly a sight gag but I had a few jokes up my sleeve. Here’s Barr’s Testimony In A Wingnut Shell:

 

 

Massive Resistance

Massive resistance to desegregation was a thing after the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The Supremes erred by using Felix (The Hot Dog Man) Frankfurter’s phrase that desegregation should be implemented “with all deliberate speed.” What followed was deliberate delay, not speedy progress.

Team Trump is following its own path of massive resistance in regard to Congressional subpoenas. The Insult Comedian has bragged that he runs the “most transparent administration in history” when, as always, the opposite is true. Projection thy name is Trumpy.

The Trump regime specializes in lies, cover-ups, and delay. They’ve made an art of kicking the can down the road in an audacious attempt to delay the president’s* day of reckoning. I halfway expect Rudy to use the phrase “with all deliberate speed,” he’s surely heard of it. Trump just as surely has not. Nothing exists if it doesn’t involve him.

The law is on the side of the House oversight committees but not only is the law an ass, it’s a slow ass. It’s one of the few things Trump knows: litigation is tantamount to delay. It’s why he *always* threatens to sue whenever things go against him. The good news is that Congress has deep pockets but the process is inherently slow. In fact, it moves “with all deliberate speed.”

 

Quote Of The Day: Impeachment Edition

I’d like to thank Lawrence O’Donnell for reminding us of the eloquence of a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee who stood up for the rule of law and against a president of his own party in 1974. The father of the current Governor of Maryland, Lawrence Hogan Sr. was a FBI agent before entering politics. He was the only Republican to vote for *all* three articles of impeachment filed against Richard Nixon.

Here’s the QOTD:

Now, I`m a Republican. Party loyalty and personal affection and precedence of the past must fall, I think, before the arbiter of men`s action – the law itself. No man, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.

It isn`t easy for me to align myself against the president to whom I gave my enthusiastic support in three presidential campaigns, on whose side I`ve stood in many legislative battles, whose accomplishments in foreign and domestic affairs I`ve consistently applauded.

But it`s impossible for me to condone or ignore the long train of abuses to which he has subjected the presidency and the people of this country. The constitution and my own oath of office demand that I bear true faith and allegiance to the principles of law and justice upon which this nation was founded. And I cannot in good conscience turn away from the evidence of evil that is to me so clear and compelling.

My friend from New Jersey, Mr. Sandman, said last night he wants to see direct proof and some of my other friends on the side of the aisle said the same thing. But I submit what they`re looking for is an arrow to the heart. And we do not find any evidence an arrow to the heart. We find a virus that creeps up on you slowly and gradually until its obviousness is so overwhelming to you.

We have to step back and we have to look at the whole picture. And when you look at the whole mosaic of the evidence that`s come before us, to me, it`s overwhelming beyond a reasonable doubt.

<SNIP>

He consistently tried to cover up the evidence and obstruct justice, and as much as it pains me to say it, he should be impeached and removed from office.

It is, of course, difficult to imagine a current House or Senate Republican quoting Larry Hogan Sr. let alone matching his anguished eloquence. The rule of law *should* be more important than the Current Occupant of the White House whoever they may be. This president* is reckless and lawless and the 115th Congress needs to stand up and be counted like the 93rd Congress and members such as Larry Hogan the elder.

Impeachment is not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy.  It’s a political action that may be politically unwise. Many of the arguments against it are compelling, I find myself nodding in agreement when Josh Marshall argues against it, but then I recall my reaction to reading Volume 2 of the Mueller Road Map. We can’t let this president* get away with thumbing his nose at the constitution and the rule of law. The example that would set for the future is dire.

Not only has the MSM let the GOP off easy on impeachment, the “cult of the savvy” is calling Elizabeth Warren’s stand in favor of impeachment a gambit or a tactic. It was a sincere reaction to the disgusting details laid out in the Mueller Report. It was the same reaction I had. Sometimes you have to do the right thing regardless of whether or not it’s easy or expedient. As JFK said in his legendary 1962 Moon speech: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

The last word goes to the late Congressman Larry Hogan. The caption is wrong, it was a statement, not testimony but the words ring just as true in 2019 as they did in 1974:

The Mueller Roadmap: Volume 1 Notes

Team Trump let Rudy Giuliani off his chain to appear on the Sunday shows. Spittle, sweat, rage, and lies were involved on Rudy’s part. CNN’s Jake Tapper appeared tempted to offer the ex-mob buster a hankie to mop the flop sweat off his brow. The artist formerly known as Mayor Combover made at least one remarkable statement: “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.”

Really, Rudy? Do you really believe that or are you so blinded by the spotlight that you’ll say anything to help your client? And this guy wanted to be president. It’s a good thing his 2008 campaign flopped. A reminder to political junkies: Giuliani was the GOP front runner at this time in that cycle.

I promised some readers that I’d comment on Volume 1 of the Mueller Report. Before I do, here’s one of the money quotes from that part of the report:

“In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of “collusion.” In so doing, the Office recognized that the word “collud[ e ]” was used in communications with the Acting Attorney General confirming certain aspects of the investigation’s scope and that the term has frequently been invoked in public reporting about the investigation. But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law.”

I’ve been fighting a war of words over the word collusion so I’m pleased that Team Mueller joined the wordy war without colluding or conspiring with me.

Since I’m a bad lapsed lawyer, I took notes while reading Volume 1. They’re handwritten and hard to read but I needed them to jog my memory before running my mouth.

  • Volume 1 is seriously redacted. There are black blotches all over its pages. Most of them have to do with grand jury information as well as our old friend HOM: Harm to Ongoing Matter. That concludes this homily about redactions.
  • It’s unclear if Team Mueller were down with all the redactions but it’s certainly possible. We’ve all learned not to trust Bill Barr so I’m not taking his word on anything. It’s truly Trump’s DOJ now. You know things are bad when Jeff Beau looks good in contrast.
  • Some of the material about Russian operations during the campaign is familiar to those of us who waded through past court filings.
  • We learn that so-called free speech hero Julian Assange is an inveterate liar as well as the world’s worst house guest. WikiLeaks was in such constant cahoots with the Russian cohort that it might as well be an arm of the GRU. They should change their name to WikiLies or RuskieLeaks.
  • There’s confirmation that Trump Junior is an idiot. He seems to have avoided indictment thus far with a dumbass defense. Given the number of redactions in the sections mentioning him, his name *may* be one of those submitted for criminal referral. I can dream, can’t I?
  • One of the weirder sub-plots involves the “deleted Hillary emails hunt” engaged in by Iran-Contra spouse Barbara Ledeen, Peter Smith, and Mike Flynn. It’s a bit of comic relief amidst all the seaminess.
  • Team Mueller fills in the blanks about Paul Manafort’s contacts with the Russians as well as his reflexive mendacity. It’s something he and the Insult Comedian have in common.
  • Erik Prince is in deep shit and sinking fast.  His contacts with various Middle Eastern potentates have a potent whiff of criminality and he lied about them under oath. There are a lot of black redactions in the section about the Blackwater founder and Betsy Devos brother. We know what that means: I eagerly await this shitbird’s indictment.
  • Steve Bannon may be a fascist asshole but he’s a smart fascist asshole. He knew enough not to lie to Congress or Team Mueller.

There was some silly criticism of the Mueller Report after its release. Anyone who thought the Special Counsel was going to single-handedly change the no-indictment policy hasn’t been paying attention. That’s up to a future attorney general or Congress. Team Mueller’s job was to investigate crimes, not change the law. There was never going to be a Deus ex Mueller to rescue us.

A quick note on the way out of this mess. Athenae was right when she pointed out that the Dems Aren’t Solely Responsible For Fixing This. This shit is on the Republicans: they nominated, elected, and continue to defend a criminal. There have been hundreds of off-the-record stories of how appalled elected GOPers are by this president’s* words and deeds. I don’t see any of them stepping up and criticizing their criminal president* let alone actually doing anything about it. They’re too busy cowering at the prospect of being ousted from Congress by the red hat menace. They’re pussies, they should grab themselves.

I’ve come out for impeachment but I’m not an enthusiast. There is no easy way out of this mess. Given the no-indictment policy, Trump is going to run for re-election to avoid criminal charges. Let that sink in for a minute. One reason that the Nixon impeachment was easier for Republicans to eventually swallow is that Tricky was term-limited. The odds are that Trump will have to be defeated at the ballot box, which is, after all, the American way or what’s left of it.

I see a lot of hand wringing over the unholy mess that confronts the country. That’s how Team Trump wants its enemies to react. They won the electoral college by depressing Democratic turnout in 2016. If we get depressed, they win again. If we react with righteous indignation, they lose.  Few things in life are as simple as that.

My venture into bullet pointery has given me an earworm. Neil Young gets the last word:

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

The Mueller Road Map

Fog of Scandal meme

I’ve focused on Volume 2 of the Mueller Report thus far. As expected, it’s a road map for Congress and/or future prosecutors to Trump’s obstruction of justice crimes. Bill Barr has lied about pretty much everything in the report: Team Mueller’s decision NOT to charge is driven by the DOJ’s shitty policy that bars a sitting president from indictment. Barr said that it was not.

The evidence is even more overwhelming than expected but Bobby Three Sticks is a small c conservative prosecutor who was unlikely to go against the dreadful no indictment policy. Anyone else would have been indicted by now. Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

I have a few random observations. I’ll bite the bullet and use bullet points:

  • The report is well and clearly written. You don’t have to be a lapsed lawyer like me to understand it. There *is* legalese but you can skim through it.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the minimal redactions to Volume 2. Most of them involve our old pal Roger Stone who, absent a pardon, is royally fucked.
  • Most White House “insider” news stories have been accurate. Of course, given that Don McGahn was the source of many NYT stories as well as of the Report that’s no surprise.
  • Speaking of McGahn. It won’t be long until Trump starts calling him Traitor Don or better still McTraitor. He’s the source of many of the most damning stories about Trump’s misconduct in office. He also takes notes, which according to Trump good lawyers like Roy Cohn do not. Only mob lawyers do not take notes. That’s why they’re called mouthpieces.
  • Trump is convinced that the Attorney General is supposed to be a fixer for the president* He goes on and on about Bobby Kennedy and Eric Holder. While it’s true that RFK *was* JFK’s fixer, it’s simply not true about Holder. Obama didn’t need a fixer to get him out of tight legal scrapes: he’s an honest man. Trump cannot fathom such a person.
  • Trump’s attorney generals are reminiscent of Nixon’s first two, Mitchell and Kleindeinst; both of whom went to jail. Barr, however, is more dangerous than Sessions: he’s smart and competent whereas Jeff Beau is a dipshit and dumbass.
  • Like any good piece of narrative history, Team Mueller has woven together known facts into a compelling narrative. It’s all in one place now and the effect is devastating. Thanks. Bob.

I use the term road map quite deliberately. It’s what Team Jaworski gave Congress during Watergate. It’s the raw material to thoroughly investigate the Trump regime. It’s up to the House to decide what to do with it.

Impeachment is an unappetizing prospect. Barr’s version of the four corners basketball stall has delayed things considerably. It’s apparent that one reason Team Mueller did not try to subpoena testimony from the Insult Comedian is time. The clock is ticking as we approach election day.

There’s a defensible political argument to be made that the voters should decide Trump’s fate; impeachment is merely an invitation for the Senate to remove a president from office, which has never happened and is unlikely to occur this time around. BUT we can’t let this president* get away with his crimes, if we do we’re inviting future presidents to think that they’re above the law. The next criminal president might not be an incompetent fool. Impunity cannot be rewarded.

One more thing on the politics of impeachment. There’s a myth that Republicans suffered politically for the Clinton impeachment. They only suffered for one cycle: they elected a president in 2000 and re-took the Senate in 2002. That’s suffering?

There are no good options for House Democrats but they cannot let this evil fucker get away with the crimes he’s committed in office. Here’s my slogan for 2019: I is for Impeachment.

The 24 Minute Spin Cycle

The cover-up in plain sight continues. Bill Barr spun, equivocated, and explained away Trump’s conduct in a presser lasting from 9:32 to 9:56. He praised the regime’s “transparency” and threw a pity party for the president* Make that HIS president*

Rod Rosenstein stood behind Barr during the 24 minute spin cycle. He looked stiff and deadpan even for him. I’m not sure if it rose to the level of a hostage video but it was close. It’s hard to tell. Rosenstein is  one of those lawyers who looks as if he just stepped out of a coffin. I did, however, see him flinch a few times.

I’m not the only one saying this but Barr acted like Trump’s defense counsel today. He mentioned exonerating information and ducked questions as to what Mueller thought about his own report. He also parroted the Trump party line saying NO COLLUSION no fewer than 6 times. Repeat after me: collusion is a media/political word, not a legal term of art.

Nobody should be surprised that Barr has turned into Sarah Huckabee Sanders, only without the frock. Calling a press conference before the release of the redacted report is both unprecedented and sinister. I’m currently downloading a PDF, which is 139 MB. There are 20 minutes and counting until I get my hands (eyes) on it. I plan to read it before issuing my instant analysis here.

The last word goes to Scout Prime:

The Bland Bespectacled Bomb Thrower

Attorney General Bill Barr is so ordinary looking that he’d never stand out in a crowd. As a witness, he speaks softly and occasionally mumbles his responses. As a public speaker, he’s as charismatic as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher who looked as if he stepped out of a coffin.  Barr is as dull as a lawyer can be until you closely examine his words: then you realize that he’s a bland bespectacled bomb thrower.

In front of House Judiciary Committee, Barr stuck to the basics of his cover-up line, which involves deflection, misdirection, and kicking the can down the road for as long as possible. In the friendly confines of Lindsey Graham’s committee, Barr sounded like a spokesman for the Freedom Caucus. I almost expected him to morph into Jim Jordan just like Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk. Barr smash.

Given Barr’s background in intelligence, he knows how inflammatory the word spying is. He crawfished on the usage later but his work was done. The Attorney General of the United States has given the green light to wingnut conspiracy nuts everywhere. I think former Clinton-Gore-Biden-Obama aide Ron Klain put it best:

Klain is a Democratic utility infielder: he was also Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Attorney General Janet Reno’s Chief of Staff, so he knows the DOJ and how it’s supposed to work. This isn’t it.

Not only does Barr sound like a conspiracy buff, he sounds like a spokesman for the Trump re-election campaign. Their goal is to confuse the issues surrounding the Trump scandals and to discredit the Mueller Report when Barr finally gets around to releasing even a redacted version.

Barr’s testimony was all about placating the president* and the red hat set. There was no spying, only an authorized FBI counterintelligence probe.

The bland bespectacled bomb thrower is a throwback Attorney General. Before Watergate, it was not unusual for campaign managers to become Attorney Generals. On the good side, there were Robert Kennedy and Herbert Brownell who was Ike’s top legal eagle and the leading advocate of Civil Rights in that administration. On the dark side, there were Tricky Dick’s law partner John Mitchell and Harding’s venal AG, Harry Daugherty. That’s why I don’t want to hear that Barr’s conduct is unprecedented. It doesn’t make it any better but it’s not.

I like how never Trump Republican and all-around smart ass, Rick Wilson, described Barr:

William Barr’s tone was calm, but his agenda was clear: His job is to protect Donald Trump, no matter the prerogatives of Congress or any consideration of the rule of law. Bill Barr is not the attorney general of the United States. He is the Roy Cohn whom The Donald has craved since become president; an attorney general who sees his duty as serving Trump.

<SNIP>

Barr exudes just enough of the comforting style of the Washington insider to quiet the fears of many in the House and Senate. He comes across as pedestrian and legalistic, bordering on dull, but he’s the most dangerous man in America.

That’s why I called Barr a bland bespectacled bomb thrower. He’s there to help the Kaiser of Chaos foment, uh, chaos, not to the serve the public interest. Repeat after me: this is horrible but not unprecedented.

In other scandal news, the cover-up has spread to the Treasury Department. Mnuchin the Moocher is dragging his heels on turning over Trump’s taxes. He’s not supposed to have a role in this: it’s up to the IRS commissioner. The Moocher has tried kicking the can over to the DOJ but they don’t have a role in this either. The law is clear as it uses the mandatory shall, not might or maybe. The Moocher’s inaction could even put him in legal jeopardy. He should be careful: he’d look shitty in an orange jump suit.

I keep hoping that we’ll wake up and discover that the Trump regime was just a bad dream. Unfortunately, life isn’t like the series finale of St. Elsewhere. The nightmare is real.

Cover-Up In Plain Sight

We’ve entered a new phase in the war of the Trump scandals. Previously, it was like a series of air strikes. This week, it’s akin to hand-to-hand, house-by-house combat: think the Red Army in Berlin at the end of World War II. House committees have issued subpoenas for the Mueller Report, Trump’s taxes, and financial records. The House has not only crossed “the red line” they’ve hurdled it like Evel Knievel in his heyday. That may sound overly dramatic but I don’t think I jumped the shark. Team Trump, however, may have done so.

You know the worm has turned when the previously tight-lipped members of Team Mueller talk to the media. Both the WaPo and Failing New York Times have published reports of their consternation over the 4 page epistle from Trump’s handpicked Attorney General. They’re outraged that 22 months of hard work has been reduced to spin by Bill Barr. Here’s the lede of the NYT piece:

Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

The WaPo’s sources were less tentative but expressed the same frustration. It’s good to see that both papers have moved away from their initial acceptance of Barr’s “conclusions” but neither is willing to use the term cover-up. That’s what this is. It’s no less pernicious because it’s happening in plain sight. It’s worse.

Covering-up is what Bill Barr does. Beneath the owlish exterior and thick glasses, lurks a lawyer with extreme views on executive power. He’ll never be straightforward enough to quote Tricky Dick’s aphorism but he surely agrees with it:

This is not Bill Barr’s first cover-up rodeo. He was behind the mass Iran-Contra pardons issued in the waning days of Poppy Bush’s administration. It was so blatant that even former Nixon aide and conservative NYT columnist William Safire objected, calling Barr the “Cover-up General.” Safire, of course, moved on to the Clinton scandals and Barr returned to the private sector before emerging like a seedy Icarus to attempt to rescue the tawdry Trump regime.

Team Trump has vowed to fight against any and all encroachments on their executive powers. It will delay their day of reckoning but they’re more likely than not to lose court battles. Just wait until they claim that Trump’s tax forms and those of his nefarious web of LLCs are covered by executive privilege. That will get laughed out of any courtroom in the land.

The question that everyone should ask about the Mueller Report is a simple yet profound one. If it “totally exonerates” the Insult Comedian, why is he opposed to its release? To put it in terms that the president* would understand: no exoneration, no exoneration, no exoneration.

Saturday Odds & Sods: I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter

Sunrise by Roy Lichtenstein

I bet you thought I was done with the epistolary references but I’m made of sterner (sillier?) stuff than that. There’s even another Bill Barr reference coming up. Does that make this a red-letter day? Beats the hell outta me.

Since, unlike the first Barr letter, the post title is so damn long, the intro will be mercifully brief. I’m even skipping another epistle pun just to prove that I’m capable of restraint. Anyone buying it?

This week’s theme song, I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter, was written in 1935 by Fred E. Ahlert and Joe Young. It was introduced to the world by the great Fats Waller and has been recorded a zillion times over the years.

Since it’s one of my favorite tunes, we have a slew of versions for your listening pleasure.

Now that we’ve finished our correspondence, let’s put a stamp on it, mail it, then jump to the break. Continue reading

Adam Schiff Is Okay

Controlled public anger is the best kind of public anger. It connotes passion, principle, and, well, control. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is ordinarily a cool customer, which is what made yesterday’s display of controlled rage even more impressive.

Here’s why Schiff lost his shit: nine Republicans demanded Schiff resign as Chairman of a committee that Devin Nunes made a laughingstock during the last Congress. They were doing the Insult Comedian’s bidding, which inspired Schiff to launch into what will surely be known as the “You may think it’s okay but I don’t” speech:

Schiff’s controlled tirade will go down  as one of the great moments in Congressional hearing history in the “shame on you” category. It’s right up there with  Joseph Welch’s “Have you no sense of decency” moment during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954.

Adam Schiff is okay.

Quote Of The Day: Nancy Smash Edition

I’ve long been convinced that Speaker Pelosi is a pistol, She spoke out yesterday on the Barr epistle, you know the book report that the Insult Comedian calls “total exoneration.”

“We have to see the report. We cannot make a judgment on the basis of an interpretation by a man who was hired for his job because he believes the president is above the law and he wrote a 19-page memo to demonstrate that.”

The battle is joined; even most Republicans want to see the entire Mueller Report. Some wingnuts think it will discredit the “deep state” others think it will “totally exonerate” the Kaiser of Chaos. That’s a mighty big word for Donald to use. One of his lawyers may have steered him in that direction but the use of total is totally Trumpian.

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Yesterday’s headlines were appalling. To read them one might think that the full Mueller Report had been published instead of a letter by a partisan Attorney General determined to carry water for his president*. I don’t know about you but I feel like W.C, Fields in the poster above. The Barr letter felt like a brick to the head. Ouch.

For the moment, the MSM seems to have fallen for the Barr gambit. The Insult Comedian’s laughable claim  of “total exoneration” is being accepted at face value by a press corps that knows that he’s a liar. One would have hoped that they’d learned something after years of exposure to Trumpian mendacity but he’s an experienced flim-flam man.

Team Trump is engaged in its own version of March madness. They’re in a full-court press to suppress the publication of the full Mueller Report. If it “totally exonerates” Trump, what are they afraid of? The truth, that’s what they’re afraid of. Just because criminal conspiracy may not have been proven, that does not mean that ethical and political offenses were not committed. They clearly were. At the very least, Team Trump turned a blind eye to Russian interference in the 2016 election. They could have reported the approaches to the FBI but did not.

As to Barr’s decision to make a determination on the obstruction of justice issue, the MSM’s reaction has been simultaneously supine and confused. Just because a cover-up occurred in broad daylight does not make it less offensive. One would hope that the MSM’s herd instinct would not kick in at this crucial point but the best that can be hoped for is that an all out stampede can be averted.

Too many people placed too many eggs in the Mueller probe basket. I was guilty of it myself at times. Criminal conspiracy is damned difficult to prove. Last Sunday was easily the best day for Donald Trump in months. Now is not the time to give up, it’s time for the House to engage in its own full court press to obtain the full report. Stop the madness.

Team Trump’s spin is as predictable as it is dastardly. The bad news is that it’s working so far. The good news is that they’ve already overplayed their hand with threats of retaliation. It’s what they do. Nuance and subtlety are not characteristics of Trumpism.

The entire Trump regime is a shell game and Bill Barr is the latest in a long line of con artists. They’ve been down for a while but they’re pushing hard right now because they believe in the adage attributed to PT Barnum: never give a sucker an even break. They’ve played millions of voters for fools and now they’re working on the MSM, which should know better. But as long as people like Chuck Todd occupy positions of influence, the shell game will continue.

It’s time for the suckers to fight back and never give the Trumpers an even break. They confuse fairness with weakness. Don’t give them an opening. Be relentless.

Barr Letter Reading List

It’s peak pollen season in New Orleans. There was also a 5-alarm fire a few miles away. The result is horrible air quality, a death grip sinus headache and red, red eyes. I’ve already medicated, which is why I’m keeping this short.

I have a new Fog of Scandal meme, a Magritte-like image, The Man and the Sea by Giuseppe Maiorana, I love the image of umbrellas dropping in the fog. Substitute shoes for umbrellas, you can catch my drift if you can see it amid the fog of scandal.

I may not have words of wisdom for you but these folks do:

David Corn reminds us that even if there was no finding of criminal conspiracy there were many strands of co-operation between Team Trump and Russian intelligence.

Franklin Foer points out the accomplishments of  the Mueller probe.

Mark Joseph Stern says I told you so about Bill Barr.

Jed Shugerman wonders why the Barr letter quoted nary a complete sentence from the Mueller Report.

The man who wrote the DOJ special counsel guidelines, Neal Katyal, calls for the immediate release of the full report.

Former Obama White House counsel, Robert Bauer, is concerned that this result will make Trump even more brazen. Me too.

Bob Bauer gets the last word with this passage from his NYT piece:

But the Mueller report marked a low point for more substantive norms of presidential conduct. It shows that a demagogic president like Donald Trump can devalue or even depart radically from key norms, just short of committing chargeable crimes, so long as he operates mostly and brazenly in full public view. For a demagogue, shamelessness is its own reward.

Such a president can have openly, actively encouraged and welcomed foreign government support for his political campaigns, and his campaign can reinforce the point in direct communications with that government’s representatives.

Instant Analysis: The Barr Redaction Of The Mueller Report

Criminal investigations are a blunt instrument. Team Mueller was looking for a criminal conspiracy, not co-operation or collusion. There’s circumstantial evidence of the latter BUT proving criminal conspiracy is a bitch. In such an important case, federal prosecutors like to have enough evidence to convict before pressing charges. I think the case has been made politically but Mueller’s remit to was prove criminal conspiracy with the Russians, not collusion or co-operation. The evidentiary standard for criminal conspiracy is a high one: beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the defense lawyer’s mantra and credo.

As to the obstruction of justice investigation, this is where William Barr had his way There’s obviously more to the story since the AG waffled, hedged, or whatever the hell you want to call it. It’s time for Congress to focus on obtaining the unredacted Mueller report, which is manifestly in the public interest. They also need to hold hearings on the “sitting president can’t be indicted” doctrine, which is enforced only by a DOJ memo written in the 1970’s. Do we want ANY president to be above the law based only on a memo?

I’m not surprised by these results BUT I admit to having fantasies of a stronger conclusion. Trump will have to die a political death of a thousand cuts instead of by a single blow. Remember: there are 15+ ongoing investigations and Trump has already been an unindicted co-conspirator in the Michael Cohen hush money case. To quote  Keith Reid’s lyrics to an old Procol Harum song, STILL THERE’LL BE MORE.

The Barr Redaction of the Mueller Report is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. The Trumpers are already spinning the hell out of the Barr Letter. Let them prematurely spike the ball and overplay their hand. It’s what they do. This is a setback, not a disaster.

STILL THERE’LL BE MORE.

Procol Harum gets the last word with this savage ode to revenge: