Category Archives: Fog Of Scandal

The Week In Stupid Trumper Tricks

President* Trump is on a roll. He’s done a lot of stupid shit this week even for him. He was the one who tweeted the Pelosi picture with the caption “Nervous Nancy’s Unhinged Meltdown,” when he was the one who had the meltdown. What a lame decision, lame nickname, lame everything. Like Tom Cruise’s character in A Few Good Men, the Insult Comedian cannot handle the truth. Apologies to Jack Nicholson.

The meltdown occurred when the Speaker, quite correctly, pointed out that the Putin regime is the beneficiary of the impulsive and stupid policy shift in North Syria:

Today’s stupid Trumper trick was the announcement by acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, that the G-7 *will* be held at Trump Doral in Miami. Are they that stupid? Is Trump that greedy? Those were rhetorical questions, of course they are.

One more thing. Why the hell is Mulvaney still acting Chief of Staff? The position doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Is he acting out or acting up?

This week’s final stupid Trumper trick was the release of the letter Trump sent to Turkish President Erdogan. It was so OTT nutty and semi-literate that reporters were skeptical that it was real. The White House confirmed its authenticity. Dipshits.

One wonders what Erdogan thought of this incoherent epistle. It was probably some Turkish variation on, “I’m gonna get you, sucka.”

The last word goes to the Kaiser of Chaos with the last two sentences of the Erdogan letter: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool.”

An exclamation point was withheld to protect the guilty.

John Bolton Is An Honest Asshole, Not A Hero

Who among us didn’t enjoy this quote from the NYT’s coverage of Fiona Hill’s testimony?

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.)

It was not the first time Mr. Bolton expressed grave concerns to Ms. Hill about the campaign being run by Mr. Giuliani. “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Ms. Hill quoted Mr. Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.

Some people have gotten carried away. I’ve heard Bolton called an unlikely hero. I’m unlikely to ever agree with that characterization. Bolton is an ideologue who is obsessed with regime change in Iran. Ideologues are often honest and straight-forward. Just because he’s relatively honest does not make John Bolton heroic: he’s still a war mongering asshole, not a hero.

A reminder of who John Bolton is:

 

Lock Them Up?

During a crisis there’s always the temptation to fight fire with fire, especially when the executive branch is trying to burn the government down. It’s tempting to say “lock them up” when an executive branch official under “orders” defies a congressional subpoena. But however appealing the idea is, it’s always wise to look before leaping into what could turn out to be a ring of fire.

I pride myself on my knowledge of Congress and its history. That’s why I’ve been telling people that Congress lacks the power to arrest contemnors and must rely on referrals to the Justice Department to enforce contempt citations. We all know how that would go with Bill Barr in charge. Those contempt citations would disappear into a black hole and become part of Barr’s contemptible cover-up.

It turns out I was wrong about the whole arrest power thing. Here’s how Cornell Law professor Josh Chafetz explains it in a New York Times op-ed:

The House should instead put back on the table the option of using its sergeant-at-arms to arrest contemnors — as the person in violation of the order is called — especially when an individual, like Rudy Giuliani, is not an executive branch official. Neither house of Congress has arrested anyone since 1935, but it was not uncommon before that point (and was blessed by the Supreme Court in 1927).

There are some major problems with the superficially appealing notion of Congress resorting to its power of inherent contempt. Let me list the defects:

First, any power that has not been exercised in 84 years is suspect. It opens the door to valid-sounding criticism of the majority. Just because Congress has this power doesn’t mean they should set the dial on the Wayback Machine to 1935 and dust it off. The mere thought makes me sneeze. Achoo.

Second, they do not have facilities to house contemnors (my new favorite word) and the US Marshal Service is unlikely to be willing to transport people to the nearest federal slammer. Their big boss is the Attorney General who is the Contemnor-in-Chief’s henchman.

That means that contemnors would have to be held in empty offices, the mail room, or subway tunnels. This would look ad-hoc and improvised as well as opening the door to valid-sounding criticism of the majority that could undermine the growing popularity of the impeachment inquiry. Why create martyrs? Especially when the other side is adept at playing the victim card. It’s one of the few things they do well.

Third, invoking inherent contempt gets us bogged down in another procedural argument that will lead to litigation. Political junkies, lawyers, and Senators may like procedural arguments but the public hates them. Procedural arguments are not only boring, they’re losers. We should stick to the substantive arguments in favor of impeachment and removal instead of discussing process. Hell, I’m a political junkie and my eyes glaze over when process is the subject of the day.

As emotionally satisfying as it would be to see Don McGahn, Rudy Giuliani, Hope Hicks, and other miscreants frogmarched to the pokey, it’s a loser in the court of public opinion and impeachment is a political process. Just because the Insult Comedian lacks impulse control does not mean his opponents should follow suit.

Adam Schiff’s big picture strategy of folding contempt of Congress into the articles of impeachment is a wise one. We already have the smoking gun: the White House memo describing the Trump-Zelensky call. Getting bogged down in procedural arguments will slow things down and make the fog of scandal even denser. There’s already too much denseness in Washington as is.

My answer to the rhetorical question posed in the title is a resounding NO. Democrats should be the smart party, let the Republicans be the stupid party. They’ve earned the title.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

 

Adventures In Trumper Lawyering

I started this post earlier this week but there’s a new example of crazy Trumper lawyering every day. I gotta give them credit for creativity as well as chutzpah for making some uh, inventive, arguments. The client is driving the train and it’s Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train; either that Casey Jones is at the wheel. Driving that train, high on cocaine…

ALL ABOARD THE LEGAL CRAZY TRAIN.

The Trump v. Vance case led off the week. The Insult Comedian’s lawyers were suing to prevent Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. from obtaining the holy grail of Trumpistan: the tax returns. The case should have been filed in state court since it involved an issue of state law, which is where the judge tried to bounce it back to before Team Trump appealed in federal court. I had a great conflicts of law professor, that’s why I remember this stuff. Hats off to the late Luther Love McDougal.

The craziest argument in this case is that a sitting president CANNOT BE INVESTIGATED. Judge Victor Marrero (not to be confused with the Louisiana town) wrote an opinion that was a giant fuck you to Team Trump:

The president asserts an extraordinary claim in the dispute now before this court.  He contends that the person who serves as president while in office enjoys absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind.

Bared to its core, the proposition the president advances reduces to the very notion that the founders rejected at the inception of the republic and that the Supreme Court has since unequivocally repudiated that a constitutional domain exists in this country in which not only the president, but derivatively, relatives, and persons and business entities associated with him are in fact above the law.  This court finds aspects of such a doctrine repugnant to the nation`s governmental structure and constitutional values.

Repugnant? That’s some strong stuff for a federal judge. Repugnant arguments result in indignant opinions.

You’ve all heard about the White House counsel Pat Cipollone’s nutty letter to the House leadership denouncing the impeachment inquiry. It read more like a campaign screed than a legal opinion. The effective bottom line of this remarkable document is that the constitution is unconstitutional. I shit you not: the impeachment inquiry is unconstitutional even though it’s in the document itself. So much for originalism.

The next lunatic argument comes from the Department of Justice. You know, the place where Bill Barr orchestrates the Trump cover up. DOJ lawyers argued that the 1974 Watergate grand jury case was wrongly decided. They did everything but invoke the Nixon-Barr doctrine:

On Thursday, two of Rudy Giuliani’s criminal associates were indicted by the Southern District of New York. The crazy came from one of their lawyers: former Trump mouthpiece, John Dowd. He claimed executive privilege before Congress because of their work with Rudy in Ukraine. Seriously?

You cannot make this shit up:

Only days ago Dowd told congressional investigators that his clients would not cooperate in their impeachment inquiry. But beyond that blanket resistance he said that there were specific issues which would make any discussion of cooperation take a long time untangle. The key one was attorney/client privilege. With the client being the President of the United States.

<SNIP>

Dowd explained that Parnas and Fruman worked with Rudy Giuliani on his representation of President Trump and thus were shielded (at least on some topics) by the Attorney/Client privilege between Giuliani (Attorney) and Donald Trump (client).

Oops, it wasn’t executive privilege, it was derivative attorney-client privilege. Is this like when Paul Drake (not the cat) worked as a shamus for Perry Mason? Does Hamilton Burger know about this? How about Lieutenants Tragg, Anderson, or Drumm?

My mind is still reeling from the legal crazy of the week. I mentioned two rock songs at the top of the post: Ozzy Osbourne and Warren Zevon & David Lindley get the last word.

 

New Tea About The Tillerson

Image by Michael F.

Texas oil tycoon and former Trump Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is back in the news. I’ve missed Rex and was thrilled to see this bombshell story about another potential impeachable offense:

President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office.

Tillerson refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab, according to the people. They said other participants in the Oval Office were shocked by the request.

Tillerson immediately repeated his objections to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly in a hallway conversation just outside the Oval Office, emphasizing that the request would be illegal. Neither episode has been previously reported, and all of the people spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the conversations.

You know something is sleazy when the former CEO of Exxon-Mobil refused to follow presidential* orders. It’s scary when a story makes one nostalgic for the Tillerson-Mattis-McMaster-Kelly era. They all had lines they wouldn’t cross. There’s nobody like that at the White House right now, which is why Trump’s poorly coiffed head finds itself in the impeachment guillotine.

It’s time for the fearful foursome to break their silence about the perfidious conduct they witnessed in their time in the administration. Their reputations have already been damaged, it’s time to retrieve some respectability from the mire of the Trump regime.

The last word goes to Cat Stevens with a song from Catch Bull At Four:

Mandate Of Heaven? Regicide?

Trump’s supporters are becoming as unhinged as their dear leader. They’re having a hard time dealing with impeachment of the man who would be king. They’re increasingly incoherent as one of them shows signs of defecting from the MAGA cult. Can one undrink the Kool-Aid? That’s an existential question best left for another day.

We begin with teevee evangelist Pat Robertson. He’s distressed over the betrayal of the Kurds. He described his distress in rather colorful terms:

“I believe … the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen,”

Mandate of heaven? Is Trump the emperor of China now? They need to make up their minds as to whether Trump is Pu Yi or George III. They both had swell movies made about them: The Last Emperor and The Madness of King George. Life under Trump is truly stranger than fact-based fiction. As far as I’m concerned, he’ll always be the Kaiser of Chaos:

Speaking of kings, one of Trump’s nuttier fans, lawyer Joseph DeGenova was on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show and defended his demented liege:

“What you’re seeing is regicide. This is regicide by another name, fake impeachment. The Democrats in the House want to destroy the President.”

Impeachment is real, only your king is fake, Joey, baby. Given that you’re up to your eyeballs in the Ukraine mess, you might want to STFU. Silly me: that’s as impossible for Trump apologists as it is for Trumpberius himself.

Speaking of deranged Roman emperors, veteran biblebanger Ralph Reed has a new book in which he makes the case for the religious right’s continued obeisance to the Insult Comedian.  The original title is what Archie Bunker would have called a Real Pip:

According to the book’s description, obtained by POLITICO, the original title for the book was “Render to God and Trump,” a reference to the well-known biblical verse, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” The message from Jesus in Matthew 22, has been used in contemporary politics to justify obedience to government — or in the case of Reed’s book, to Trump.

Blind obedience is just as dangerous as blind ambition. Ralph Reed has exhibited signs of both pathologies in his long career as a wingnut.

What’s next? Will they call Trump a Pharaoh? His border wall is a monument to himself much like the pyramids, after all.

The last word goes to Richard Thompson:

 

Larry Tribe On Impeachment

It may sound presumptuous to call the distinguished Harvard Law professor by his nickname but, as I explained in 2017, I cannot help myself. It’s down to one of my law school professors who was one of Tribe’s greatest admirers. I called him Con Law:

One of the names Con Law dropped was Laurence Tribe. He never called him by either his full name or title and surname, he was always Larry Tribe. Con Law turned both names into a multi-syllabic pronunciation extravaganza. There would come a point in most classes that I’d nudge a friend and whisper, “here IT comes.” The IT in question was a Larry Tribe name drop; usually about how they’d discussed an issue and agreed on it. It was Con Law and Larry Tribe against the world, y’all.

Now that I’ve made this about myself, it’s time to get to the point of this exercise. Larry Tribe has written a typically elegant and persuasive op-ed about impeachment for USA Today.

Tribe’s core argument is that, given Trump regime stonewalling, the House should move quickly to write and vote on articles of impeachment. He concludes the piece thusly:

The impeachment power was envisioned by the Founders as an emergency mechanism, one to be deployed in the event of grievous and continuing harm to the nation caused by an abuse of the power entrusted by voters to a high officer of the republic. Donald J. Trump is Exhibit A of what those who designed our Constitution had in mind. They believed they had provided the device we might one day need to preserve constitutional democracy. Yet with each day’s passing, as the walls close in ever more tightly, Trump grows ever more desperate and dangerous.

His more than shameful capitulation to Turkey and abandonment of our Kurdish allies is a case in point. Indefensible on its own terms even though not in itself impeachable, it illustrates what this cornered man might do to distract as the constitutional system blocks his every available exit. Every day he’s allowed to stall, evade justice and remain in power, the country is in still graver danger.

The House must move expeditiously to vote for articles of impeachment based on President Trump’s already evident “high crimes,” including abuse of power and obstruction of justice, even as it pursues the truth through relentless investigation that resorts as needed to the still independent judiciary.

Make sure that you read the whole piece.

A quick addendum. Cracks are appearing in the once solid wall of Republican support for Trump in the Senate, so the House should send over multiple articles to give wavering GOPers the chance to vote for at least one.

The Fall Guy?

It was a busy weekend on the fog of scandal front. The Insult Comedian is flailing, looking for a phone call fall guy. His minions leaked a story to Axios blaming a cabinet secretary who has been largely out of the spotlight: Rick Perry.  The former Texas Governor has not been an overly energetic energy secretary, which is something we can all be grateful for.

Back to the Axios story on Rick Perry:

President Trump told House Republicans that he made his now infamous phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the urging of Energy Secretary Rick Perry — a call Trump claimed he didn’t even want to make.

Trump made these comments during a conference call with House members on Friday, according to 3 sources on the call.

Per the sources, Trump rattled off the same things he has been saying publicly — that his call with Zelensky was “perfect”and he did nothing wrong.

But he then threw Perry into the mix and said something to the effect of: “Not a lot of people know this but, I didn’t even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquefied natural gas] plant,” one source said, recalling the president’s comments. 2 other sources confirmed the first source’s recollection.

It’s as if they looked for someone as dumb as Trump to blame for the “perfect call.”

It doesn’t appear that Perry is ready to jump back on the bus after being thrown under it: he’s planning to leave the cabinet and may be willing to talk to House investigators. Does anyone really think that this guy could talk President* Pennywise into doing something he didn’t want to do?

The ceiling appears to be caving in on the administration. People who are not in elected office have come to the realization that Trump has ZERO loyalty to his underlings and will throw them in a pond full of piranhas to save his ass. Exhibit One is Michael Cohen who once said he’d take a bullet for his dear leader. That misguided loyalty landed the former fixer in a fix and behind bars.

The notion of Rick Perry as Trump’s patsy evokes images of the old Lee Majors TV series: The Fall Guy. Majors played Colt Seavers, a movie stunt man who had a side hustle as a bounty hunter.

In this instance, the bounty appears to be on Rick Perry’s head. He should lawyer up and decline to take the fall for Trump. That would be the smart move. It’s unclear if the twice failed presidential candidate is capable of doing the smart thing. He does, however, look pretty good in a cowboy hat side-by-side with Lee Majors:

The Lee Majors character who could really help Perry is the Six Million Dollar Man:

Where have you gone, Steve Austin?

INSTANT UPDATE: My suspicions that Rick Perry is incapable of doing the smart thing have been confirmed. He says he’s not resigning. Way to mess up my post, Rick.

Text Me Text Me, Why Don’t You Arrest Me?

You’ve surely noticed my new Fog Of Scandal meme image; if not, you need an eye exam. It’s the flags of Ukraine and Russia side-by-side. It strikes me as fitting since the Ukrainian and Russian scandals have converged and become a two-headed monster. Holy Polycephaly, Batman.

The release of the Volker texts has shifted the Ukraine-Russia scandal into hyperdrive. The contents of the texts are, at times, inadvertently hilarious. As if to prove they’re bad actors, they’re over-reliant on Satan’s punctuation: the exclamation point. Ain’t nothing more sinister than an overabundance of them.

The MSM is focusing on the Biden aspect of the scandal and that’s important. BUT I agree with Josh Marshall who posted this earlier this morning:

It’s hard to keep track of the gross abuse of power. But here’s the critical thing to keep an eye on through this. We know about election interference of targeting the Biden’s. What was even clearer in those texts is demand that Ukraine “get to the bottom of” collusion between the DNC and Ukraine in the 2016 election. That is code for the conspiracy theory that Russia was framed for the DNC hack and actually didn’t interfere in the 2016 election at all. The “real collusion” was between Ukraine and the Democrats. The big aim here – right in front of our faces, right in the texts and transcripts – is to clear Russia of the crime.

One of the theories expounded in Crazy Rudy’s Daffy Dossier is that the DNC hack was done by Seth Rich. He was the young DNC employee who was murdered in a street crime, but many wingnuts claim that he was killed on the orders of the Email Lady. That’s right, it’s a rehashing of the Vince Foster conspiracy theory. It’s equally baseless and Rich’s family has been tormented in the same manner as the Foster family. It’s even worse now because of bots and social media trolls.

The Volker testimony shows why Porky Pig Pompeo does not want to co-operate with the impeachment inquiry. He’s got a lot to hide. It’s time to place him in the impeachment queue along with the Insult Comedian and Barr.

The post title is a paraphrase of a Robert Hunter lyric from Bertha, which is one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs. They get the last word:

One more version since I gave the late Robert Hunter a shout-out. Jerry butchers/forgets some of the lyrics. The audience helps:

Crazy Rudy’s Daffy Dossier

Rudy Giuliani has always been an asshole but not long ago he was a well-respected asshole. He was US Attorney for the Southern District of New York when the office decimated the top ranks of the Five Families. He was a two-term NYC Mayor who was dubbed “America’s Mayor” after 9/11. He was even the pre-season frontrunner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. In 2019, he’s become a punchline even in his hometown:

New York is a tough town even if it’s “the town so nice, they named it twice.”

I’m uncertain if it’s the Trump effect, lingering bitterness over Hillary Clinton winning the Senate seat that he coveted in 2000, or if he’s simply gone bat shit crazy. The result is the same: Rudolph Giuliani has become a laughingstock except in those quarters where “owning the libs” is as important as life itself. He’s become the Pagliacci of our national politics, a sad clown beating on a drum for the Insult Comedian.

That brings us to Rudy’s latest misadventure. There was a whole lotta hype on Tuesday and Wednesday about the State Department Inspector General’s request for an urgent meeting with relevant Congressional committees. It was widely speculated that the IG had gone rogue.

Instead, the IG turned over what is best described as a propaganda dossier in support of the discredited notion that the real 2016 scandal was Ukraine helping the Democrats. The mystery of where the hell this fakakta thing came from was solved when the artist formerly known as Mayor Combover took “credit.” Crazy Rudy strikes again.

I must give Team Trump credit for originality. They’ve spread the fog of scandal to Foggy Bottom. Watergate never touched Nixon’s national security team because he kept them away from the White House Horrors. President* Pennywise lacks Tricky’s gift for deviousness: he’s a spoiled brat used to getting his own way. Just ask the President of Finland.

In recent days, the Insult Comedian seems bound and determined to take his obsequious Veep, Mike Liar Liar Pence On Fire, down with him. Publicly criticizing and implicating the man who can pardon you strikes me as stupid even for Donald Trump. It’s what happens when you lack either long-term plans or impulse control.

Back to Rudy Giuliani. I enjoy kicking him around, but I feel sorry for him. He used to be a man to be reckoned with instead of a national joke. He’s lawyered up but I still expect him to testify on Capitol Hill. Rudy never met a camera or microphone he didn’t love. He’s never turned down a chance to be on teevee and he’s not about to start now.

I referred to the packet in question as a daffy dossier for a reason. Both Trump and Giuliani are Toons. The problem is that they’re both Daffy Duck when one of them needs to be Bugs Bunny. Someone needs to stay in control of their emotions, especially when Porky Pig Pompeo is in charge at Foggy Bottom. Bill Barr probably thinks he’s Bugs when instead he’s Elmer Fudd hunting for wascally wabbits in Italy. Suffering succotash, what a mess.

I resisted the temptation to post a clown song as the last word. Instead, a song that’s about who Rudy used to be before he threw it all away to become Donald Trump’s patsy:

Turtle Watch

Image by Michael F.

Mitch McConnell is the most cynical and ruthless politician in the country. In fact, he’s the most cynical and ruthless American politician since Tricky Dick. The latter has been on everyone’s mind as the impeachment process explodes. Me, I’m on Turtle watch.

McConnell has been taciturn the last week. He’s popped his head out of his shell on procedural matters but has yet to defend the content of the Trump-Zelensky phone call.

Trump is in full panic mode. The Turtle never panics. He’s a cold-blooded reptile. Unlike his president* he looks before he leaps. He’s staring into the abyss right now, which is why he’s been quiet.

When impeachment was brought up after the Mueller Report was released, the Turtle implied that a trial wasn’t mandatory if the matter landed in his lap. Do Turtles have laps? That’s an existential question for which we don’t have time.

The other day, McConnell said that the Senate would have to hold a trial. Coming from another politician, it would have struck me as a gratuitous comment. Unlike his president* the Turtle speaks when it’s in his self-interest. He doesn’t just talk to talk.

In addition to being cynical and ruthless, the Turtle is patient. He likes to assess the landscape before making a move. It’s what he’s doing right now. His time as an ugly reptilian Tammy Wynette appears to be at an end. He’s not going to stand by his man forever, not if it bites him in the ass.

There are cracks in the wall of GOP senate support for the Kaiser of Chaos. They like being in the majority. The Turtle is the most powerful Majority Leader since Lyndon Johnson. He likes power and will do whatever it takes to protect it. He also does not want to have his finances and those of his wife investigated. If he loses his majority or his seat, that will likely happen.

I hesitate to predict anything in such a fluid political environment, but Mitch McConnell does not want to lose his majority. If he thinks President* Pennywise could cost him his majority, he’ll knife him in a heartbeat.

As of this writing, the Senate will not vote to remove Trump BUT the situation is fluid and subject to change. That’s why I’m on Turtle watch.

Whither Deep State Throat?

Until my memory was refreshed by a piece in the WaPo by Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks, I had almost forgotten about Deep State Throat. That was the nickname I gave the person who wrote the anonymous NYT op-ed piece: I Am Part of the Resistance.

The piece was published September 5, 2018. It has not aged well. If anything, the Insult Comedian is twice as unhinged as he was a year ago. I am fast losing patience with Republicans who are willing to grumble off but not on the record. Surely Rex Tillerson isn’t afraid of a mean tweet from his former boss and he doesn’t have the military/salute the flag excuse of McMaster and Mattis. It’s time for all of them to speak out. Loud and clear.

The so-called internal resistance has failed. The latest impeachable offense proves that. Since my prime Deep State Throat suspects were former DNI Dan Coates and/or his deputy Sue Gordon, it’s time for them to speak out. John Bolton and his mustache of war too. Loud and clear.

The Ukraine scam distills everything that is wrong about Trump’s national security policy. It’s really an international protection racket: he shook down a weak foreign leader and tried to make Ukraine take the fall for 2016. He even tried to get Kiev to exonerate Paul Fucking Manafort, the man who gave their former president corruption lessons.

It’s time for Kurt Volker who resigned as a special envoy to Kiev to speak out. Loud and clear. He’s the head of the McCain Institute, it’s time for him to act like McCain, not Lindsey Graham. McCain would speak out. Loud and clear.

In other cowardly Republican news, Jeff Flake also has an op-ed in the WaPo. It should be titled Do As I Say, Not As I Do. He urges GOPers to break with their lord and master when all he was willing to do was make fine speeches while voting with the administration time and time again. If Republicans turn on Trump, it won’t be to save their souls, but their asses.

Jeff Flake is a pussy. He should grab himself.

Whistleblowin’ In The Wind

It strikes me as a good time to quote John Fogerty quoting Yogi Berra, “it’s like deja vu all over again.” Fogerty was referring to the Iraq War. I’m referring to Kremlingate: The Sequel aka Donald & Rudy’s Excellent Ukrainian Adventure. Duuuuuuude.

I grew up during the Cold War; like Vladimir Putin, I didn’t expect the Soviet Union to disintegrate so rapidly. Unlike Putin, I don’t have any nostalgia for the USSR. Putin is a KGB man at heart who pines for the glory days of the Soviet Union and wants to reassemble its lost empire. This irredentist stance led to the invasion of the Crimea and the pollution of the American political system by Putin and his little buddy Donald Trump. Every ventriloquist needs a dummy.

We returned to the scene of the Crimea this week with the release of the damning phone call memorandum and whistleblower report. This blew up in the Trump regime’s face leading to a formal impeachment inquiry focusing on the latest and most understandable scandal.

One reason Donald & Rudy’s Excellent Ukrainian Adventure is more understandable than Kremlingate is the brevity of the whistleblower’s charges as opposed to the 448-page Mueller Report. Additionally, this was not perpetrated in the shadows by underlings such as Page and Papadopoulous. It involves the actions of POTUS* and his current fixer, the artist formerly known as America’s Mayor. You know, this bozo:

Team Trump’s defense is different as well. Instead of “no collusion, no collusion” their current line is the less adamant, “we did it, so what?” They appear to believe that it’s no big whoop because he’s the president* and the Nixon-Barr doctrine applies:

Team Trump’s game plan is “same as it ever was, same as it ever was” ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK. The Insult Comedian trotted out another old favorite yesterday: witness intimidation. He made not so veiled threats about stringing up the whistleblower and others in the White House who helped him reveal this staggering abuse of power.

This is some serious shit, y’all. The staffers who enabled this scandal by “overclassifying” Trump’s call with the hapless Ukrainian president may face criminal liability. They’ve apparently done the same thing with other calls. What other White House Horrors are they hiding?

The term White House Horrors brings us full circle to Watergate. It was coined by Nixon AG/campaign manager/convicted felon John Mitchell. Another popular term in the Watergate lexicon was smoking gun. We interrupt this paragraph with a pertinent (impertinent?) musical interlude:

The so-called smoking gun tape was not released until August 5, 1974. We already have the Ukraine scandal’s smoking gun embedded in the whistleblower’s complaint.

We end the post, as we started, with a quote. In this instance, it’s a paraphrase of Bob Dylan: the answer, my friend, is whistleblowin’ in the wind.

The last word goes to a musical odd couple (trio?) Sam Cooke and Flatt & Scruggs:

 

The Latest Trump Dignity Wraith

I watched the first 2 1/2 hours of Admiral Maguire’s testimony. It was a sad spectacle to watch a man with such a distinguished service record jump on hand grenades to protect a president* who would stab him in the back without any hesitation.

Like so many others in this administration, Maguire confuses his oath to protect the constitution with an oath to protect President* Pennywise. Maguire is just the latest in a long line of Trump dignity wraiths. His testimony was not only cringe inducing, it was in clear violation of the first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.

The notion that you should clear a complaint with persons mentioned in it defies logic. Trump and Barr are discussed in the whistleblower’s complaint yet they had a say in its release. Unbe-fucking-lievable. Why didn’t Maguire run it by Rudy Giuliani while he was at it?

The high point of the hearing was when Illinois Democrat Mike Quiqley set up a devastating inquiry about Rudy by discussing how arduous the security clearance process is. The artist formerly known as Mayor Combover does not have a security clearance but seems privy to all sorts of secrets, which he, in turn, blabs about on television.

I must admit that the Republicans on this committee are not as stupid as House Judiciary Committee GOPers. There’s no Gym Jordan or Louis Gohmert Piles on the Intelligence Committee. Of course, Devin Nunes claimed that Democrats are hunting for “nude pictures” of Trump. Nobody other than the Insult Comedian himself wants to see such pictures. I’m certain he would find them “perfect and beautiful” like his phone conversation with the hapless Ukrainian president.

Finally, committee Republicans made a big deal over Democrats “destroying” Maguire’s reputation. If that happened this morning, it was political suicide, not murder. Anyone who gets involved with Trump gets slimed; even retired Navy Seals with impeccable records. Maguire is just the latest Trump dignity wraith. He won’t be the last.

If the Admiral wishes to escape the well-deserved obloquy heaped on past Trump dignity wraiths, I have some unsolicited advice: Retire, Maguire.

Impeachment: Where Are We Going, Where Have We Been?

The post title is a paraphrase of a short story title. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? was written by Joyce Carol Oates in 1966 and tells the story of a young woman who is seduced and devastated by the devil incarnate, Arnold Friend. Sound familiar? Arnold Friend is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is Arnold Friend. Believe me.

The situation is as fluid as mercury in an outmoded thermometer and may have shifted as I wrote this post. It’s what happens when you have a president* who changes his story every few hours. It’s why nothing he says should ever be believed. If he says it’s raining, you need to step outside and splash about in a puddle.

Here’s how I summed up the state of play yesterday afternoon:

As First Draft readers know, I’ve been for impeachment forever BUT I’m aware of the perils and pitfalls of the path we find ourselves on. It’s not a time for high-fiving and spiking the ball. This is some serious, solemn shit, y’all.

Nancy Smash’s announcement is the culmination of months of investigation that was thwarted by Trump regime stonewalling. The process was already under way but the dam broke this week and it’s another self-inflicted wound by an incompetent and idiotic president*. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

I have thought all along that if we reached this point the House leadership wanted to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Speaker Pelosi has been leery of risking the majority on impeachment as she was willing to do to pass the ACA in 2010. While I’ve disagreed, I understand her motives: this will not result in the removal of President* Pennywise. I’m alarmed that many people do not seem to understand this.

WaPo foreign policy columnist David Ignatius has a succinct explanation for why this move was imperative:

Why is this more than just another Trump vs. Democrats mud fight? Because the Ukraine issue is about compromising U.S. national security — and direct pledges to allies — for the president’s personal political gain. That’s what’s so outrageous about Trump’s alleged push to get dirt on his potential 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden, in a July 25 phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Not for the first time, Trump was putting himself above his country.

Trump isn’t even bothering to deny the basics. He confirmed Tuesday that he had held up delivery of a promised $391 million in military aid for the Ukrainians in mid-July, before his call to Zelensky. Trump claimed he wanted to pressure “Europe and other nations to contribute to Ukraine.” Trump had suggested Sunday that in the July call he had urged Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son’s work for a Ukrainian gas company.

The call was made the day after Robert Mueller’s public testimony before Congress dampened enthusiasm for impeachment. Trump felt bulletproof so he overplayed his hand. It’s what he’s done his entire life. That coupled with his fatal inability to STFU made impeachment inevitable.

Impeachment was at death’s door until Trump reanimated it like a bizarro world Victor Frankenstein. It’s called pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. Thanks, Donald.

The administration is making a show of turning over documents to the intelligence committees. Does anyone trust this White House to turn over an honest transcript of the call? I would hope not. Besides, according to the whistleblower, the call is not the only reason for this crisis.

I think the process will move faster than most others do. The articles of impeachment almost write themselves. It will be interesting to see if cracks develop among Republican members of Congress. At some point, the politician’s instinct for self-preservation is bound to kick in. Of course, I’ve been saying that for years. Stay tuned.

Finally, there is no legal requirement for the House to send impeachment to the Senate, which will not remove Trump from office. I’d let it sit there like a loaded gun without a Senate trial or vote. Ending the process in the House would have the virtue of denying the Insult Comedian a victory lap. That would drive Trump nuts; make that nuttier.

Quote Of The Day: TPM’s Josh Kovensky On Ukraine

Talking Points Memo is the first political news source I check every morning. They’ve been all over the Trump-Ukraine-Rudy-Biden story for months. One reason is Josh Kovensky who worked at the Kyiv Post in Ukraine. That’s right, unlike the NYT’s Ken Vogel, he speaks the language. Imagine that.

This quote comes from a May 20, 2019 article:

It seems to me that their strategy with respect to Biden is less about “getting” him on some specific allegation. Rather, they seem to want to muddy the waters enough so that the constant patter of allegations of Emolument Clause violations and foreign influence over the Trump White House become indistinguishable from a similar cacophony around Biden. The activities of Biden’s son Hunter certainly aren’t doing him any favors. The Trump administration may hope that, for many news consumers, the two candidates will blend into one swampy allegation, diluting the force of any political campaign that presents itself as a real alternative.

Muddying the waters is the only thing Team Trump is good at. Hold on, they’re also good at blowing smoke. Unfortunately, Timesman Ken Vogel seems intent on making the already debunked Ukraine story the “Hillary’s emails” of the next election cycle. He’s not alone in this both-sideristic quest but he has the biggest megaphone.

Have the MSM learned nothing? Anyone with a lick of sense knows where to find the black hole of corruption in 2019. It’s located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a house first occupied by John Adams. Adams had many faults but he was as honest as the day is long. The Current Occupant is the polar opposite. He’s a blackguard with the soul of a mountebank.

The Kovensky article I linked to is for TPM prime members but his work can be found at this link. He’s a jewel. He’s the one to watch as this story unfolds. Ken Vogel and his large bat-like ears can go fuck themselves.

Just Another Whistle Stop

The whistleblower story is unspooling like a horror movie replete with twists, turns, and drama. I was involved in a social media discussion wherein we speculated which country President* Pennywise had been indiscreet with. The answer was depressing: there are a wide range of plausible possibilities from Russia to Saudi Arabia to Israel to North Korea to Pakistan and on and on and on.

Ukraine seems to be top of the pops BUT it appears inappropriate promises were made to other leaders. None of this is surprising because of the transactional nature of the Trump regime. While we’re not surprised, we should never lose our capacity for horror and outrage. This administration is like a dead teenager/slasher movie: the bodies just keep on dropping.

Somehow Bill Barr and the DOJ are in the mix despite the fact that they have no legal role in the whistleblower process whatsoever. Barr seems to regard himself as a human shield to protect the Insult Comedian. It’s not his actual job but he’s moonlighting as Trump’s personal lawyer. Repeat after me: While we’re not surprised, we should never lose our capacity for horror and outrage.

The problem with dealing with the Trump scandals is that there are so many of them. It makes it hard to focus on any of them although threatening a foreign head of state to benefit your campaign ranks up there with Kremlingate.

The manifold scandals and their amorphous nature is why I adopted the rubric: The Fog Of Scandal. The chaotic nature of this presidency* is why one of my nicknames for Trump is the Kaiser of Chaos. Chaos and anarchy are spreading like a particularly virulent disease in our body politic. The only way to excise them is at the ballot box. His wings could be clipped by impeachment but amputation by Moscow Mitch’s senate is never gonna happen.

Trump’s lackeys have followed his lifelong pattern of delay by litigation and stonewalling. They’re experts at kicking the can down the road, which is why each scandal is just another whistle stop.

The last word goes to The Band:

The Return Of The Kavanaugh Mess

Last fall, I devoted much of my blog-tention to the Kavanaugh Mess. I wrote some 20 posts about it and even created a category devoted to all things Justice Bro. I’d effectively retired the category until today when it roared back to life like the monster in Son Of Frankenstein.

The New York Times broke the latest Kavanaugh story in an op-ed which is an offhand way to do it. The headline was on the squishy side, but the story was not:

There was additional agita about the story but I’d rather beat up on Republicans than the NYT today so read this TPM piece to be fully informed on the latest mishigas.

The details of the correction and tweet deletion aren’t important. What’s important is that this story reaffirms that Kavanaugh committed perjury during his confirmation testimony. Josh Marshall re-posted this tweet from last year to reinforce the point:

Lying may be commonplace in the Trump era, but it shouldn’t be rewarded with a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. The Republican response contains no surprises. It’s best summed up by this meme:

Where do we go from here? We know that Justice Bro will not resign and that his colleagues are unlikely to pressure him to do so. Justice Thomas lied at his confirmation hearing as well and he’s been a Supreme for 28 years.

Impeachment is popular in many quarters including among Democratic presidential candidates. While I’m favor of impeaching the president* in what would be a symbolic act, I’m not inclined to support a move against Kavanaugh when there is NO CHANCE of his removal from office. 17 members of the current Senate are unlikely to admit they screwed the pooch on the Kavanaugh confirmation and vote to remove him.

Impeachment is an arrow that should be kept in the quiver until the Democrats control the Senate and White House along with the House. It may happen sooner than many think.

Sometime soon, I’ll share my 1980 In 2019 theory but right now it’s underbaked and I don’t want to post it until there’s the possibility of a Hollywood handshake. That’s Paul Hollywood of Great British Baking Show fame, not the town in Southern California. Who wants to hear the dread phrase soggy bottom?

I agree with everyone who is outraged by the return of the Kavanaugh Mess. BUT I think we should resist smart and focus like a laser beam on ousting the Kaiser of Chaos and Moscow Mitch. As much as Kavanaugh deserves to be impeached, it should wait until there’s a chance for removal or perjury charges to be filed. The earliest possible date is January 2021. Mark your calendars.

Repeat after me: revenge is a dish best served cold.

Finally, please support annual fundraiser to keep the stuff and nonsense flowing. Click here for the details from the Boss Lady.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dark Star

Flying Eyeball by Rick Griffin.

Dr. A and I went to the batshit crazy Saints season opener against the Houston Texans. The game had everything: bad calls, great plays, and a crazy ending. Most importantly, the Saints won with a 58 yard field goal by Will Lutz. It was his career long. The crowd was stunned in a good way. My personal streak of the Saints always winning when I sit in our friend Fred’s end zone seats was imperiled but it’s intact. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter in 1968. The music of Dark Star is often credited to the entire band, which seems only fair as it’s the ultimate jam band song.

We have two versions of the Dead’s Dark Star for your listening pleasure. First, the single version, which clocks in at a modest 2:44. It’s followed by a more typical second set medley that commences with Dark Star. It comes from the 12/31/78 closing of Winterland show that my younger self attended.

It’s time for a visit to Dismbiguation City with a swell song written by Stephen Stills and recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1977.

Now that we’ve bathed in the glow of the Dark Star, let’s jump to the break before the Dead go into The Other One. “Coming, coming, coming around.”

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