Friday Reads: Fucked is Coming

It’s another whirlwind of a Friday and I’m just going to put some odds and ends up before we get started on the Penultimate Mueller Friday

HBO and The Game of Thrones folks told Preziditz Kkkremlin Caligulia to stop using GOT memes (via The Verge).

I have an apt one for him

Fucked is coming.

HBO is asking President Donald Trump, again, to not use Game of Thrones memes on Twitter as a way of sending political messages.

Trump tweeted a meme about the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. The main font featured in the image below is lifted directly from HBO’s most popular series. This isn’t the first time Trump has used a Game of Thrones meme to address a controversy he’s involved in, but HBO has issued a statement essentially asking the president to stop.

“Though we can understand the enthusiasm for Game of Thrones now that the final season has arrived, we still prefer our intellectual property not be used for political purposes,” an HBO spokesperson told Bloomberg.

Some brief good news from the roof top of Notre Dame de Paris:“Bees Kept on Notre Dame’s Roof Have SURVIVED The Fire!”  This is from Bee Keeping Basics.

200.000 bees that were living on the roof of Notre Dame have survived the fire blaze! These three hives were put on the cathedral’s rooftop in 2013 for a biodiversity project by Nicolas Géant. He said that the bees were going in and out of their homes this morning. Each hive produces approximately 25 kg of honey each year which is sold to the Notre Dame staff.

Nicolas Géant was extremely happy to announce that his bees have survived the fire that was raging for over 12 hours on Monday. The fire destroyed the spire and almost all of the ornate centuries-old roof of Notre Dame.

He says: ‘Until this morning, I had had no news,’.

‘At first, I thought that the three hives had burned but I had no information after Monday’s fire. Then I saw from satellite images that this was not the case and then the cathedral spokesman told me that they were going in and out of the hives.’ – he adds.

Well, the Conway family are at it again:

George Conway: Trump is a cancer on the presidency. Congress should remove him. (An Op Ed at WAPO)

I feel sorry for their kids. Dinner time conversations must be their own private hell realm.

So it turns out that, indeed, President Trump was not exonerated at all, and certainly not “totally” or “completely,” as he claimed. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III didn’t reach a conclusion about whether Trump committed crimes of obstruction of justice — in part because, while a sitting president, Trump can’t be prosecuted under long-standing Justice Department directives, and in part because of “difficult issues” raised by “the President’s actions and intent.” Those difficult issues involve, among other things, the potentially tricky interplay between the criminal obstruction laws and the president’s constitutional authority, and the difficulty in proving criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt.

Still, the special counsel’s report is damning. Mueller couldn’t say, with any “confidence,” that the president of the United States is not a criminal. He said, stunningly, that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” Mueller did not so state.

That’s especially damning because the ultimate issue shouldn’t be — and isn’t — whether the president committed a criminal act. As I wrote not long ago, Americans should expect far more than merely that their president not be provably a criminal. In fact, the Constitution demands it.

The Constitution commands the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” It requires him to affirm that he will “faithfully execute the Office of President” and to promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” And as a result, by taking the presidential oath of office, a president assumes the duty not simply to obey the laws, civil and criminal, that all citizens must obey, but also to be subjected to higher duties — what some excellent recent legal scholarship has termed the “fiduciary obligations of the president.”

I’m not exactly sure what to say about the entire thing other than the Mueller Report appears to be a roadmap to Impeachment just like the report on Nixon. Will we make it there?

I do know there are always fascinating morality plays and narratives that come out of the inner turmoil that comes from being around a boss that knows nothing but personal ambition at any cost.  Sean Spicer and the Huckabeast come off as individuals of bad moral character who lie for whatever purpose whenever asked.  Don McGahn comes off as one of the most conflicted yet personally sure of where he has placed his boundaries.  There are different narratives today about his role as White House Counsel with a POTUS demanding he behave like a consigliare and fixer.  From CNN: “Don McGahn may have single-handedly saved Donald Trump’s presidency”.  Trigger Warning: This is Chris Cillizza who frequently has specious opinions.

Here’s the delicious irony of Trump attacking his former top lawyer: McGahn’s refusal to heed the President’s directive to fire Mueller — or to tell the deputy attorney general to fire Mueller — very well may have saved Trump’s presidency.
And, no, I am not exaggerating.
Let’s go through this step-by-step — starting with how Mueller described Trump’s interaction with McGahn over the special counsel. Here’s the relevant passage (bolding is mine):
“On June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre.
The “Saturday Night Massacre” refers to then-President Richard Nixon’s order — in October 1973 amid the Watergate probe — that Attorney General Elliot Richardson fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order, as did deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Solicitor General Robert Bork, yes, that Robert Bork, then fired Cox.
That moment was seen as the beginning of the end for Nixon — a sign that as the walls of the Watergate investigation were closing in, he was panicking. (The spark for Cox’s removal was that he had requested Nixon turn over tapes of private White House conversations — and Nixon refused.)
Later in the Mueller report comes this episode when, following The New York Times report in January 2018 that Trump had ordered McGahn to remove Mueller, the President tries to force McGahn into a denial. Here’s that (and again boding is mine):
“The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports. In the same meeting, the President also asked McGahn why he had told the Special Counsel about the President’s effort to remove the Special Counsel and why McGahn took notes of his conversations with the President. McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.”
McGahn’s two moments of refusal to accede to Trump’s wishes are massive pivot points in the presidency. If McGahn had made different decisions than he did — especially on that day in June 2017 –Trump’s time in the White House might be looking very, very different today.
That’s a stretch to me.  From Axios and Jonathan Swan: “The other Don: McGahn is one of the Mueller report’s biggest stars”.  Trigger Warnng: Hyperbole.

Late in Don McGahn’s tenure as White House counsel, President Trump became so suspicious that he wondered aloud whether McGahn was wearing a wire, a source familiar with the president’s private conversations told Axios.

Why it matters: We have no evidence that Trump’s suspicions have any basis in reality. But they reveal the depth of his paranoia about his former counsel, who sat for many hours with Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors.

Anger at McGahn after the report came out was shared among a number of Trump allies, both inside the White House and close to the president.

  • Defenders of the former counsel said he just did what he had to do: Answer questions under oath.
  • “Don had an unenviable job of trying to school the first outsider president in the legal ways of Washington,” a source close to McGahn told me.

The big picture: McGahn, as the N.Y. Times foreshadowed in great detail last summer, plays a starring role in the Mueller report.

  • Going by the details McGahn provided to the special counsel’s team, the president badly wanted to obstruct justice.
  • And it may have only been because McGahn refused to obey presidential orders that Trump wasn’t charged with obstructing justice.
  • McGahn appears on 66 pages of the 448-page report.

Mueller’s cinematic detail (page 298):

  • “When the President called McGahn a second time to follow up on the order to call the Department of Justice, McGahn recalled that the President was more direct, saying something like, ‘Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel.’ McGahn recalled the President telling him ‘Mueller has to go’ and ‘Call me back when you do it.'”
  • “McGahn understood the President to be saying that the Special Counsel had to be removed by [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein. To end the conversation with the President, McGahn left the President with the impression that McGahn would call Rosenstein.”
  • “McGahn recalled that he had already said no to the President’s request and he was worn down, so he just wanted to get off the phone.”
  • “McGahn recalled feeling trapped because he did not plan to follow the President’s directive but did not know what he would say the next time the President called.”

“McGahn decided he had to resign,” the report continues. “He called his personal lawyer and then called his chief of staff, Annie Donaldson, to inform her of his decision. He then drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter.”

  • “Donaldson recalled that McGahn told her the President had called and demanded he contact the Department of Justice and that the President wanted him to do something that McGahn did not want to do. McGahn told Donaldson that the President had called at least twice and in one of the calls asked ‘have you done it?'”
  • “That evening, McGahn called both [chief of staff Reince] Priebus and [Steve] Bannon and told them that he intended to resign.”
  • “Priebus recalled that McGahn said that the President had asked him to ‘do crazy [sh#$],’ but he thought McGahn did not tell him the specifics of the President’s request because McGahn was trying to protect Priebus from what he did not need to know.”
  • “Priebus and Bannon both urged McGahn not to quit, and McGahn ultimately returned to work that Monday and remained in his position.”
  • “He had not told the President directly that he planned to resign, and when they next saw each other the President did not ask McGahn whether he had followed through with calling Rosenstein.”

Behind the scenes: Going by the rich scenes recorded in the Mueller report, McGahn apparently took extensive notes of his conversations with the president.

  • In one scene that McGahn recounted to the Mueller team, Trump takes issue with McGahn’s note-taking: “The President then asked, ‘What-about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes.'”
  • “McGahn responded that he keeps notes because he is a ‘real lawyer’ and explained that notes create a record and are not a bad thing.”
  • “The President said, ‘I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes.'”

The backstory: Roy Cohn, a Mafia lawyer and political fixer, was a mentor and personal lawyer to Trump during his early career. Trump often privately laments that his current lawyers don’t measure up to Cohn.

My last offering is from Bob Bauer at NYT.  Yes, it’s a bit sycophantic.  “Don McGahn Served the White House, Not Trump. We should be grateful for his resistance to wrongdoing while working with a fundamentally dishonest president.”  My guess is all of this will wash out in US History and appears to be a function of a press that still can’t deal with anything out of DC norms.

The episode raises the question of the obligations of a White House counsel when he realizes that he is the lawyer for a fundamentally dishonest president who is ready to violate the criminal law to achieve self-interested or political ends. The counsel in these circumstances may have to consider what it means for him to remain in this post for a president who considers him a “lying bastard” for refusing to follow an unlawful order.

Mr. McGahn perhaps stayed on in the belief that the larger objectives of the administration, like moving judicial nominations and achieving deregulation, were well worth pursuing. But that is a judgment more about the administration’s policy imperatives than the working conditions required for the maintenance of the rule of law in the presidency.

The choice Mr. McGahn faced was unprecedented. He was not, for example, in the position of John Dean, White House counsel to Richard Nixon, who did testify against the president in the Watergate affair but who was an original party to the wrongdoing that ended that presidency. There has never been a suggestion that Mr. McGahn ever encouraged or participated in unlawful activities.

In fact, Mr. McGahn acted appropriately and admirably to resist involvement in the president’s scheme to commit obstruction and cooperated truthfully and at length with Mr. Mueller’s investigation. The special counsel declared him a “credible” witness with no discernible motive to lie or exaggerate, and accepted his account over the president’s denials.

But should a future White House counsel have a clear obligation to alert the Department of Justice when the president attempts to obstruct justice? Federal law mandates that department and agency employees alert the attorney general to “any information” that relates to “violations of federal criminal law” involving government officers and employees. The code of ethics for government service requires reporting of “corruption” to the authorities. The application of these requirements to the president’s White House counsel poses unique and difficult issues, but they need to be confronted.

So, we will be talking about this a long time.    You may want to read this thread from Norm Ornstein on his thoughts about what the Dems need to do next.

I wonder how much time we will have before this all continues to escalate beyond how status quo works in a not the least bit status quo presidency.  When I say Fucked is Coming I somewhat worry that it while be the country.  Interviews today on TV and crazy friends from high school dropping shitbombs on Facebook convince me that Trump’s cult is unmoved by any of this.  And, the Election is Coming with the news that Biden is entering the race. If Biden and Sanders are the front runners and are careening towards the Trump Cult, then, we are fucked.  Remember, Dems can always snatch defeat from the jaws of  victory.

However, those hives of bees survived that catastrophic fire … so maybe that’s a lesson in there some where.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


20 Comments on “Friday Reads: Fucked is Coming”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Jonathan Swift? I guess you’re still exhausted from grading. I’m not even going to fix it. I like it. LOL!

  2. dakinikat says:

    There’s no bottom on the lack of morality in the modern republican party …

  3. RonStill4Hills says:

    I haven’t read a thing, I have only seen the picture of Barr the frog, but that by itself deserves a shout out!

  4. NW Luna says:

    Biden is entering the race.

    Shit.

  5. NW Luna says:

  6. NW Luna says:

  7. dakinikat says: