Monday Reads: This is Crazy! This is Crazy!

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I give you exhibit one (see the twitter below) demonstrating that White Nationalist Christianity is a threat to this country.  There is absolutely nothing normal, usual, or whatever about this suggestion or response given by the Russian Potted Plant occupying the White House.  Jerry Falwell Jr. is a monster.  Read on.

How do we explain all this?  White Nationalist Christians want to revive the same brutality they inflicted on Black Americans and Indigenous Americans and Trump is their vehicle. They want him in office for as long as possible and the Wisdom Beings know he wants to be there until death sweeps him into the darkness.

This is from Gideon Rachman writing for the Financial Times:  Donald Trump is updating America’s historic ruthlessness. Promising US voters ‘greatness’ has led the president to celebrate a brutal past”

 

Donald Trump says so many strange and outrageous things that it is impossible to remember them all. But one Trumpian remark that has stuck with me is the US president’s repeated insistence that, after conquering Iraq, “we should have kept the oil”. To the ears of the Washington establishment, this was yet another Trump gaffe. Even Dick Cheney, the former vice-president and most hawkish of hawks, had never portrayed Iraq as a war of conquest. But Mr Trump’s deliberately provocative remark was an insight into both his philosophy and his appeal to voters. When many Americans feel frightened that both US power and their own living standards are in decline, Mr Trump is making an appeal to American ruthlessness. The US president says to voters that the country cannot afford to be “politically correct” any more. The way to Make America Great Again, in the words of his slogan, is to rediscover the ruthless instincts that made America great in the first place. In a nod to past American ruthlessness, Mr Trump has hung the portrait of Andrew Jackson, US president from 1829-1837, on the wall of the Oval Office. Jackson was once seen as one of the great builders of the American nation and his statue stands in Lafayette Square, opposite the White House. But a more recent generation of historians has accused Jackson of complicity in genocide for ordering the forced removal of Native Americans from their land — a policy that led to the “trail of tears” in which thousands died. By honouring Jackson, whom he praised as a “very tough person”, Mr Trump is honouring the brutal policies that allowed the US to conquer the west.

This is completely insane and ignores the rule of law and our constitutionally defined government institutions. I think Nancy Pelosi is right …. if he’s thrown out of office he will not leave either by ballot or impeachment. From WAPO this morning: “Claiming two years of his presidency were ‘stolen,’ Trump suggests he’s owed overtime”.

President Trump on Sunday seemed to warm to the idea of reparations — for himself, and in the form of an unconstitutional, two-year addition to his first term in the White House.

He retweeted a proposal offered by Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, that he be granted another two years in office as recompense for time lost to the Russia investigation. Half of his first term, Trump wrote in a Twitter dispatch of his own, had been “stolen.”

The argument was perhaps tongue-in-cheek, leading some legal experts to dismiss the comments as bravado. Others, however, saw the president’s apparent longing to overstay his four-year term in office as an assault on the rule of law. That it was raised playfully, they said, was small comfort, especially given Trump’s playful refusal, in the fall of 2016, to say that he would accept the outcome of an election that polling suggested he was destined to lose.

“I will keep you in suspense,” he said at the time.

None of this is normal. All of this is crazy.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said they will vote Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress after Barr missed a deadline to produce a complete version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.

The panel had set a deadline of 9 a.m. Monday for Barr to provide the unredacted version of Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. It announced the planned vote in a statement Monday.

“Although the Committee has attempted to engage in accommodations with Attorney General Barr for several months, it can no longer afford to delay, and must resort to contempt proceedings,” reads the text of a contempt report released by Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). “The Committee urgently requires access to the full, unredacted Mueller Report and to the investigatory and evidentiary materials cited in the Report.”

The only good news is that Mueller has firmed up his commitment to address a hearing.  In response, we have a Trumpf Twitter Meltdown:. This is via TBogg at Raw Story.

Reacting to news that special counsel Robert Mueller has made “tentative” plans to appear before a House Committee, President Donald Trump went on a furious Twitter rampage demanding Mueller not show up.

On Twitter, Trump ranted, “After spending more than $35,000,000 over a two year period, interviewing 500 people, using 18 Trump Hating Angry Democrats & 49 FBI Agents – all culminating in a more than 400 page Report showing NO COLLUSION – why would the Democrats in Congress now need Robert Mueller” before adding, …”to testify. Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion? There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!”

And to that we remind Trumpf and all his minions of a simple definition that bit Nixon in the ass too. Barr can read up on Nixon’s jailed and disgraced AG John Mitchell.

I doubt any one as old as me will forget the day they actually arrested a US AG.

I was dreaming of my first year in college and just trying to wait out high school during this.  Now, we’re living the nightmare again.

On March 2, 1974, a federal grand jury indicted Mitchell on six counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, false statements to the F.B.I., false statements to the grand jury and perjury. The charges stem from testimony in which he denied having any knowledge of Nixon’s efforts to spy on his Democratic political rivals.

Eleven months later, Mitchell was convicted on five counts and received sentences “from 20 months to five years on the conspiracy and obstruction counts, to run concurrently; to be followed by three concurrent terms of 10 months to three years for the three counts of lying under oath, for a total of 30 months as a minimum, after which Mr. Mitchell would be eligible for parole, and eight years as a maximum,” the New York Times reported at the time.

Mitchell was also slapped with a $10,000 fine.

Barr may face a similar fate. Democrats in Congress have begun demanding that Barr resign or face impeachment after a letter from Mueller to Barr was released on Tuesday.

In it, Mueller “expressed a frustration over the lack of context” in Barr’s summary of Russian election interference, contacts between Russians and members of Trump’s campaign, and Trump’s efforts to sabotage the investigation.

Barr’s four-page memo to Congress was fuzzy, Mueller wrote, because it downplayed the significance of the evidence Mueller collected, specifically on whether Trump obstructed justice.

“The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,” Mueller said.

Barr took it upon himself to clear Trump of any wrongdoing, however, Mueller was clear in his report that Trump is not innocent and that he can and should face impeachment and/or criminal charges upon leaving office.

“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 wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Instead, Barr made a surprising excuse for Trump. The president, he said, was upset about the investigation, and his alleged attempts to thwart the probe should be viewed as emotional and without criminal intent.

“There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,” he said.

But the fact that Mueller had informed Barr of his misgivings about how the report was presented to the public conflicts with testimony Barr gave to the Senate last month.

During a hearing on April 10, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked Barr if Mueller “supported his conclusion” about Trump’s criminal culpability.

“I don’t know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion,” Barr replied.

Mueller’s letter is proof that Barr was not being truthful, and Beschloss’s hat tip to the past has struck a nerve.

I’m going back to the beginning of the year and an article from The New Yorker that might put some perspective on this creature who is determined to out-Nixon Nixon.  This is from Sarah Larson: “Slow Burn”: What Can Watergate Teach Us?  You should read it.  I may have to strart listening to podcasts more and “Slow Burn” seems like a good place to start.

“I’m going to start with a story that you’ve probably never heard,” Neyfakh says at the beginning of the first episode. It’s the story of “the mouth of the South,” Martha Mitchell, whose husband, John Mitchell, is a former U.S. Attorney General and, at the time of the Watergate break-in, in charge of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. Martha Mitchell, Neyfakh says, enjoyed snooping on her husband and talking to the press, and was “treated by Nixon’s men as someone who knew too much.” First, Neyfakh says, “she was kept against her will in a California hotel for days. Then she was forcibly tranquilized while being held down in her bed. Later, when she went public, Nixon loyalists tried to discredit her in the press as an unreliable alcoholic.” She was called crazy; she seemed crazy. “But it turned out that she was onto something.”

Imagine John Mitchell’s conundrum, Neyfakh says: “You’re the President’s closest confidant, and you’re in charge of all kinds of political skullduggery. Meanwhile, your wife is famous for listening in on your meetings, getting hammered on whiskey, and blabbing to reporters.“ When John Mitchell heard of the break-in arrests, he and Martha were in California. He didn’t want Martha to learn the identity of one of the burglars, because she knew him: James W. McCord, a former C.I.A. officer who had worked in security for the Mitchells. “So when he left for D.C., Mitchell put a former F.B.I. agent named Steve King in charge of Martha, and he told him to keep her away from newspapers, TV, news, any coverage of the burglary,” Neyfakh says. She was “literally held a prisoner within four walls,” we hear Martha telling David Frost, in her languid Southern accent. She managed to get a copy of the L.A. Timesand call her friend Helen Thomas, the longtime White House correspondent; midway through the call, Thomas says, she heard Mitchell say “Get away! Get away!” We hear Mitchell say that King “rushes in and jerked out the telephone”—tore the cord out of the wall. Later, Neyfakh says, Martha and King got in a scuffle and she put her hand through a plate-glass door. King, now the Ambassador to the Czech Republic, appointed by Donald Trump, did not respond to Neyfakh’s request for comments.

Everybody knew about Martha Mitchell at the time, but if you weren’t of news-consuming age in the early seventies, it’s fascinating to meet her now. Remembering such figures and anecdotes, Neyfakh says on the show, helps us get a feel for the moment to moment, life in the time as it was lived. Martha Mitchell reminds him of Anthony Scaramucci: they are florid, larger-than-life characters who reveal much about the political moment and then are quickly forgotten. Watergate, he says, has “dozens of Scaramucci-level stories.” He goes on, “I think that’s why hearing Martha Mitchell’s story gives me such a vivid sense of what it was like to live through Watergate. It lets me inhabit that moment when no one knew what was going to happen, when the people involved didn’t know, the reporters covering it didn’t know. Nixon himself certainly had no idea.” Most of us listening are hoping that our unknowns will be resolved as definitively as Watergate’s did.

These days, “We’re living through this crazy time when we wake up in the morning dreading the alerts on our phones, and we have no idea how this is going to end,” Neyfakh told me. “And the last time we can remember it happening on this scale was during Watergate. Did it feel the way we feel now?” In some ways, yes; in others, no. A significant difference, I pointed out, was that the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the Russia scandal, while gravely serious, are also seen as a possible savior from the greater disaster of Trump himself, whereas Nixon, while loathed by seventies liberals, was a more run-of-the-mill politician, feared by few. The stakes are higher now. Considering that idea, Neyfakh stuck up for the craziness of Nixon. “I have the impression that people didn’t quite realize the depth of Richard Nixon’s paranoia, emotional instability, anger, and taste for vengeance until after the tapes came out publicly,” he said. In public, “he was very practiced, and he presented as a President in a way that Trump has no interest in doing.” People were more unnerved about Nixon when they learned what he was really like—a problem we really don’t have. He mentioned a moment that I had found chilling in the episode, in which Feldbaum describes watching Nixon’s post-Saturday Night Massacre speech on TV and thinking, This guy is not well. At that moment, he feared where Presidential emotional instability would lead: What might an unstable Commander-in-Chief do? We’ve all wondered that, too. But Trump, in his hubris, often goofs up, and so did Nixon. Nixon’s particular portfolio of eccentricities, of course, included recording himself, not managing to avoid surrendering the tapes to the authorities, and incriminating himself. Neyfakh and I laughed about this, in amazement.

“It’s truly, in the language of the modern Internet, a great self-own,” Neyfakh said.

All of this is rolling on in front of us in one media platform after another.  If Nixon’s tremendous hubris and personality disorders brought him down, I cannot help but believe the same will be done for Trump. It’s just watching this all reach new levels of craziness and lawlessness is not easy.  It’s good to remember that we have been through some of these feelings before.   It’s just that omnipresent media coverage amps up the assaults and insults.

It’s exhausting. Isn’t it?  It is also important to remind ourselves that eventually, Trump never had the support Nixon had at one time. He may fall quicker than we think. However, Nixon loved just enough of the country to leave peacefully when the writing was on the wall.  I worry about this with Trump

Remember Martha?  She was the woman nobody believed.  I don’t believe that Robert Mueller’s appearance before Congress or the folks that worked for him or any other number of Trump whistle blowers that were sent to Martha Land will be silenced by history. That is why Congressional hearings on all of this need to speak louder than the evil likes of Jerry Falwell, Jr. We need to up the volume.  

We have to move public opinion. The only way to do that is with the same kinds of hearings we had with Watergate.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Smoking Canons

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

This promises to be another of those weeks where we breach the outer limits of Republican tolerance of presidential criminality. We have yet more evidence and smoking guns combined with the cunning of a very wise Amy Klobucher who  got the incoming AG to admit that a president that suborns perjury is a president that commits high crimes and misdemeanors. But then we knew that. It is exactly what finally got Nixon out of the Oval Office way back when I was busy graduating from high school.

Not only do we know that Michael Cohen can testify to these acts but it’s corraborated by hard evidence. He admitted to his complicity after he was shown hard evidence.  This Buzz Feed article that dropped late last night may be the signal of the end of the Trump Family Crime Syndicate. 

Here’s the Headline and lede: “President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project. Trump received 10 personal updates from Michael Cohen and encouraged a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin.”

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

But Cohen’s testimony marks a significant new frontier: It is the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia.

On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.

As Jonathan Chait writes at NY Mag, “Trump Ordered Michael Cohen to Perjure Himself. It’s Even Worse Than It Sounds.”  Remember Senator Amy Klobucher’s questions for William Barr?  Yup, she trapped him into going on record on this very behavior.

1. Attorney General William Barr has already defined this behavior as obstruction of justice. In the secret memo Barr wrote to the Department of Justice questioning Robert Mueller’s obstruction inquiry, Barr allowed that of course it was possible the president could obstruct justice if he did something incredibly obvious, such as instruct people to lie in sworn testimony:

At his Senate confirmation hearings, Barr reiterated that suborning perjury would obviously constitute obstruction.

So whatever legal shield Trump believes he is getting in Barr will not help him escape this allegation.

Yes, all those folks saying Senator Klobuchar was a little relaxed with her questions can now go eat shit.  She was laying a nice little trap there and he walked straight into it.  It makes me wonder if it was women’s intution, the skill of a seasoned prosecutor or student of political history, or a bit of the old insider information.  Any which way, it was a brilliant snap of a trap!

Adam Sewer–writing for The Atlantic–believes this is a “straightforwardly impeachable offense”.  If only the Republicans will act.  It is probably a matter of getting the insane base off of their Fox News habit.  Fox News lies are the addiction that is killing our democracy and rule of law.

While evidence that the Trump campaign sought to assist the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 election, and that the president then sought to hamper the federal investigation into that effort, has been in public view for some time, evidence that the president directed Cohen to lie to Congress would be something different entirely, a claim that the president conspired to commit a crime in pursuit of personal financial gain. Republicans have tried their best to set expectations so that only the clearest and most shocking of acts would qualify as criminal—and Trump’s reported actions not only meet but exceed them.

The report, if verified, provides a potentially simple narrative for a story that has often seemed complicated: Trump sought to profit from a real-estate deal in Moscow, and so defended Russia against accusations of interference, and then directed his personal attorney to commit perjury to cover up what he had done.

Obstruction of justice and perjury are crimes that turn on state of mind, but the details in the BuzzFeed News report would leave Trump with few defenses. “If President Trump instructed Michael Cohen to testify to Congress, giving an account of the Russia project that Trump knew to be false, that’s obstruction of justice,” said Bruce Green, a law professor at Fordham and a former associate counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation. “It’s hard to imagine that Trump would have had an innocent ‘state of mind.’ The only viable legal defense would be ‘It didn’t happen.’”

During the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence agencies have said, the Russian government ordered a campaign of disinformation and hacking designed to hamper the candidacy of Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, and to help put Trump in the White House. The theft and release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and from the Clinton adviser John Podesta were major factors in the election—damaging Clinton’s reputation and altering the news cycle during periods in which the Trump campaign was dealing with negative coverage, and ultimately affecting what turned out to be a startlingly close election in which Trump failed to win the popular vote. Throughout the election, and even his presidency, Trump has used his influence to dismiss the conclusion of American intelligence agencies that the Russian government was responsible for the hacking.

Shortly after becoming president, Trump pressured then–FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into Trump’s former campaign surrogate and national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had lied to federal investigators about his contacts with Russian officials. Comey refused and was later fired by Trump. Although the Trump administration initially said Comey was fired for improperly disclosing information about the federal investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified emails, he later told Russian officials in the Oval Office and an NBC reporter in a televised interview that he had done so because of the Russia investigation. Trump publicly fumed that his choice for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had recused himself from that investigation after misleading Congress about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, rather than protecting Trump.

Republicans have been deaf dumb and blind to the orange pinball.  Congressional Democrats are preparing an investigation (via AP).

The Democratic chairmen of two House committees pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.” He said the allegation that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress “in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date.”

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

“The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,” Nadler tweeted.

It will be interesting to watch the minority members response as the committee hearings unfold.

Susan Glasser’s thought piece in The  New Yorker Is worth a read. “Are We Really Where We Are?”: Trump, Putin, and Washington’s Unbelievable New Normal. Regardless of whether Trump ends up making a speech on Capitol Hill on January 29th, the state of the union is not strong, and everyone knows it.”

Sunday will mark the second anniversary of Donald Trump’s Presidency. The U.S. government has been partially shut down for weeks, with no end in sight. The White House is on its third chief of staff, nearly a half-dozen Cabinet seats are empty, and the First Daughter Ivanka, previously known for her fashionable yet affordable line of high heels, appears to be in charge of picking the new head of the World Bank. Since the Defense Secretary quit, in protest over Trump’s withdrawal from Syria, the President has been reported to be unilaterally considering pulling out of Afghanistan and the nato alliance, as well. Congressional Democrats, days into their new House majority, are talking about impeachment, and their leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, effectively disinvited Trump from giving the annual State of the Union address, citing the shutdown. This past Friday, we learned, via the Times, that the F.B.I. opened a counterintelligence investigation of Trump to determine whether he was a Russian intelligence asset.

On Monday, which marked a year and three hundred and fifty-nine days since his Inauguration, President Trump had his “I am not a crook” moment. All weekend, he had avoided giving even a simple denial of what, for any other American President, would have been an unimaginable revelation. Now, on the snow-covered White House drive, after discoursing on the fast-food hamburgers he planned to serve the Clemson University football team that night, Trump told reporters, “I never worked for Russia.” He added, “Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it’s a disgrace that you even asked that question because it’s a whole big fat hoax.”

Regardless of whether Trump ends up making his speech on Capitol Hill, which is scheduled for January 29th, the state of the union is not strong, and everyone knows it. Almost every day since Trump was elected, someone, somewhere, has asked if this is the constitutional crisis we have been waiting for. Was his firing of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, in what seemed to be an effort to stop the investigation into his campaign, the constitutional crisis? Or his continual talk of firing the special counsel, or his actual firing of the attorney general? Days before the midterm elections, when Trump deployed thousands of U.S. troops to the border, to combat a nonexistent “invasion” by a caravan of poor Central American migrants, I thought that might finally be the crisis. But, of course, every day of the last two years has brought something that would have previously been unthinkable. When will we finally learn that just because it is unthinkable doesn’t mean it can’t happen?

It’s really difficult to believe there isn’t enough evidence out there to end all of this and it’s really difficult to quietly sit and wait for a Mueller report that may or may not come depending on the whims of an Trump appointed AG.  However, it appears Trump’s due diligence on finding his own Roy Cohn may not have given him peace this time out.  From CNN: “Trump startled by cozy Barr-Mueller relationship”.

President Donald Trump was startled Tuesday as he watched television coverage of his nominee for attorney general describing a warm relationship with the special counsel Robert Mueller in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to three people familiar with the matter.

During the first day of his confirmation hearing, William Barr described telling the President the first time he met him in June 2017 that he was friends with Mueller, referring to him on a first name basis.

“I told him how well I knew Bob Mueller and that the Barrs and Muellers were good friends and would be good friends when this was all over,” Barr said. “Bob is a straight-shooter and should be dealt with as such.”

While Barr said during his hearing that Trump “was interested” in hearing about the friendship, the details that emerged this week caught the President off guard, the three sources said. He bristled at Barr’s description of the close relationship, complaining to aides he didn’t realize how much their work overlapped or that they were so close.

There is no indication Trump’s surprise will jeopardize the nomination, however.

Later, Trump privately rationalized the relationship between Barr and Mueller as stemming from both having worked in the Washington legal establishment for years, according to one of the people.

“I have known Bob Mueller for 30 years,” Barr said Tuesday. “We worked closely together throughout my previous tenure at the Department of Justice under President Bush. We’ve been friends since. And I have the utmost respect for Bob and his distinguished record of public service. And when he was named special counsel, I said his selection was ‘good news’ and that, knowing him, I had confidence he would handle the matter properly. And I still have that confidence today.”

On Tuesday, Barr repeatedly sought to reassure senators that he would not interfere with Mueller’s investigation, claiming he wouldn’t be “bullied” into doing anything he deemed improper.

“I am not going to do anything that I think is wrong, and I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong,” Barr told the panel. “By anybody. Whether it be editorial boards, or Congress or the President. I’m going to do what I think is right.”

That doesn’t give me much peace given all the pardons doled out on his recommendations on the Iran Contra Scandal startng with Caspar Weinberger. I’m closing with this quote via NPR with the man who was charged with the prosecution.

To the man who led the Iran-Contra investigation, however, the pardons represented a miscarriage of justice.

“It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” said Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in the case, at the time of the pardons.

Will any of this history repeat on us and will it be the good outcomes instead of those miscarriages of justice?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Countdown to Impeachment

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

We learned yesterday that we might have been closer to a repeat Saturday Night Massacre than we thought.  KKKremlin Caligula tried to fire Robert Mueller only to back off when the White House Council threatened to resign.  We have entered the Nixon Zone.

Here’s some analysis of the NYT investigative piece by Lawfare.

The  reported Thursday evening that President Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June and was only dissuaded when White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign rather than transmit the order to the Justice Department. Mueller has reportedly become aware of the attempt to dismiss him in the course of investigating possible obstruction of justice by Trump and his associates.

According to the Times, Trump claimed that multiple conflicts of interests disqualified Mueller from overseeing the Russia investigation—including a fee dispute with a Trump golf club, his prior firm’s representation of Jared Kushner, and the fact that Trump had interviewed Mueller to potentially again become FBI director the day before he was appointed as special counsel. In May, career Justice Department ethics officials  Mueller to lead the probe, determining that he did not have disqualifying conflicts. In a follow-up story, the Washington Post  that McGahn “did not deliver his resignation threat directly to Trump, but was serious about his threat to leave.”

The Times also noted that Trump considered firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, in order to place Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand in charge of the investigation.

At the time Trump ordered Mueller’s firing, he was still represented by his longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who took an adversarial approach to the Russia investigation. Reportedly, Trump’s new counsel, Ty Cobb, has convinced the president that “the quickest way to clear the cloud of suspicion was to cooperation with Mr. Mueller, not to fire him.” Nevertheless, the Times reports that Trump has wavered in the intervening months over the decision to fire Mueller and that in his public comments on the subject Trump has kept open the possibility of dismissing Mueller.

A few observations:

First, the Times’s reporting demonstrates just how out of control the president had become in June, less than a month after firing James Comey as FBI director. A few of his tweets from that time offer a stark reminder that the special counsel’s investigation—and Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller—weighed heavily even in his public statements …

Here’s the highpoints from Axios:

  • “Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials.” (Including the counsel who threatened to resign, Don McGahn!)

  • Key point: McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency.”

  • “McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.”

  • “Amid the first wave of news media reports that Mr. Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him.”

  • “First, [Trump] claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.”

  • Why it matters: “The White House has denied nearly a dozen times since June that Mr. Trump was considering firing Mr. Mueller.”

Be smart: As we told you Wednesday in our piece about Mueller following Trump like a dark cloud: These actions were taken in office knowing the whole world is watching for a cover-up. It’s the ultimate unforced error — and reason many around Trump fear him testifying.

P.S. CNN’s Groundhog Day headline this morning: “TRUMP TRIP OVERSHADOWED BY CONTROVERSY.”

Julian Zelzer of The Atlantic has the Nixonian take calling the Drumpf regime “The runaway President.”

The reason that so many Americans react badly to the news about Trump is similar to what drove the outrage about President Richard Nixon’s famous Saturday Night Massacre, as the Washington Post reporter David Broder named it, in October of 1973. The path to that scandal started when Alexander Butterfield, a former aide to H.R. Haldeman, revealed to the Watergate congressional committee that the president had recorded secret Oval Office conversations. Archibald Cox, the Harvard professor who had been appointed as an independent special prosecutor in May to investigate Watergate, wanted those tapes. He wanted to know just what they revealed about the June 1972 break in to the Democratic National Headquarters. On October 12, a U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Nixon to comply. Nixon tried to broker an agreement with Cox to release a small portion of the tapes, but the negotiations broke down.

Nixon was livid when he heard that Cox was demanding that the White House release all the recordings. It was bad enough that the Ivy-League professor was being so aggressive with him, but now Cox seemed to be taking the investigation to a new level that could be extremely damaging. Nixon, who believed that his office gave him the power to do almost anything, ordered that Attorney General Eliot Richardson fire Cox. The problem was that Richardson refused. “Let it be on your head,” the president angrily told the attorney general when they met. Soon after, Nixon turned to the next person in command, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who also refused to carry out the order. “I am, of course, sorry that my conscience will not permit me to carry out your instruction to discharge Archibald Cox,” he wrote in his resignation letter. It wasn’t until Solicitor General Robert Bork said yes that Nixon found someone to do what he wanted. “I am, as instructed by the President, discharging you, effective at once, from your position as Special Prosecutor, Watergate Special Prosecution Force,” Bork wrote in a letter. Cox’s staff of 38 lawyers and 50 staff was immediately dismantled.

The response was sheer outrage all over the country. “It was a terrifying night. It felt like we were in a banana republic,” the journalist Elizabeth Drew later recounted in an interview. The fact that the president took it upon himself to try to kill the investigation by getting rid of the investigator was evidence that Nixon was out of control. NBC Newscaster John Chancellor told his viewers: “The country tonight is in the midst of what may be the most serious constitutional crisis in its history.”

Here’s some other news. From WAPO, we learned the Guggenheim trolled the White House with total finesse. “The White House asked to borrow a van Gogh. The Guggenheim offered a gold toilet instead.”  The  artist “Cattelan has also suggested that he had in mind the wealth that permeates aspects of society, describing the golden toilet “as 1 percent art for the 99 percent.”

The emailed response from the Guggenheim’s chief curator to the White House was polite but firm: The museum could not accommodate a request to borrow a painting by Vincent van Gogh for President and Melania Trump’s private living quarters.

Instead, wrote the curator, Nancy Spector, another piece was available, one that was nothing like “Landscape With Snow,” the 1888 van Gogh rendering of a man in a black hat walking along a path in Arles, France, with his dog.

The curator’s alternative: an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet — an interactive work titled “America” that critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country.

For a year, the Guggenheim had exhibited “America” — the creation of contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan — in a public restroom on the museum’s fifth floor for visitors to use.

But the exhibit was over and the toilet was available “should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House,” Spector wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post.

The artist “would like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan,” wrote Spector, who has been critical of Trump. “It is, of course, extremely valuable and somewhat fragile, but we would provide all the instructions for its installation and care.”

You’ll have to get this Dutch article translated but it has a particularly interesting bit of news exposing Dutch intelligence on the “cozy bear” hackers and the Russian hacking of our 2016 election.

Hackers from the Dutch intelligence service AIVD have provided the FBI with crucial information about Russian interference with the American elections. For years, AIVD had access to the infamous Russian hacker group Cozy Bear. That’s what de Volkskrant and Nieuwsuur have uncovered in their investigation.

It’s a fascinating read worthy of a Le Carre novel.  It actually begins around 2014.

The Dutch access to the Russian hackers’ network soon pays off. In November, the Russians prepare for an attack on one of their prime targets: the American State Department. By now, they’ve obtained e-mail addresses and the login credentials of several civil servants. They manage to enter the non-classified part of the computer network.

The AIVD and her military counterpart MIVD inform the NSA-liaison at the American embassy in The Hague. He immediately alerts the different American intelligence services.

What follows is a rare battle between the attackers, who are attempting to further infiltrate the State Department, and its defenders, FBI and NSA teams – with clues and intelligence provided by the Dutch. This battle lasts 24 hours, according to American media.

The Russians are extremely aggressive but do not know they’re being spied on. Thanks to the Dutch spies, the NSA and FBI are able to counter the enemy with enormous speed. The Dutch intel is so crucial that the NSA opens a direct line with Zoetermeer, to get the information to the United States as soon as possible.

Finally, Phillip Bump  looks at and talks with Hillary voters.  Finally!  We get our due!!

And then, there’s this one too:

No, life on these blocks centers around a joint on Carpenter Lane called Weavers Way, the venerable corner food co-op that launched in the twilight of the hippie era in 1972, where today senior citizens and young social workers wander down from rambling old-stone houses with their reusable canvas bags to load up on bulk spices, home-baked muffins, or maybe a treat like pumpkin gingersnap ice cream.

It’s the kind of place where the regulars pause on the front steps to check out ads for dog walkers or fiddle lessons, then trade friendly banter with familiar neighbors in the narrow aisles. And so Brittany Barbato, a 29-year-old writer and photographer for mission-driven publications who lives nearby, was when she strolled into Weavers Way on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016 — just hours after Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.

“Usually there’s a buzz — you can hear people chatting, the bulk canisters flowing with what people are buying — and the cashiers are all chipper and friendly,” said Barbato, standing outside the food co-op in the January chill. “That’s why we love living here, the community. But I remember coming into the store and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so eerie, so quiet.’ It did feel as if something had died. And I remember thinking, ‘This is how I feel, too.’ ”

More than a year after that funereal morning in Mount Airy, the neighborhood has a bit of a feel of an occupied territory. Behind ancient stone walls, on the narrow, sloping yards, stand the signs of resistance at home after home: “Impeach Trump,” or “Black Lives Matter/Philly Children’s March,” with more than a smattering of “Hillary” yard signs that owners refuse to take down, and one that declares: “In This House, We Believe: Black Lives Matter/Women’s Rights Are Human Rights/No Human Is Illegal/Science Is Real/Love Is Love/No Matter Your Faith Or Ability/Kindness Is Everything.”

Boston Boomer will undoubtedly have a lot to say on Tuesday on why we will not be live blogging the SOTU address.  This is something we have done for years but not this one. I, for one, can’t bear to hear or watch him mangle the English language and our American values.   However, we might give some consideration to listening to Representative Joseph Kennedy’s response.  Let us know how you feel.

Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, one of the Democratic Party’s rising political stars, has been tapped by top party leaders to deliver the official Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address next week.

The choice thrusts the 37-year-old, three-term congressman from Brookline into the national spotlight more squarely than he has ever been before. The job will put him on national television as the face of the Democratic Party and the voice of chief Trump critic at an extraordinary moment in the country’s politics. For many Americans, it will be their first introduction to the latest Kennedy on the political scene.

“Congressman Kennedy is a relentless fighter for working Americans,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a press release announcing the move. “While President Trump has consistently broken his promises to the middle class, Congressman Kennedy profoundly understands the challenges facing hard-working men and women across the country.”

The Republicans and Drumpf continue their assault on the FBI. Slate’s Impeach-O-meter is going off once more but stuck at 45% after the probing of Andrew McCabe’s 2016 voting records. He definitely is stuck on finding all of his men.

Not that I really care about what Bob Woodward thinks but in a recent interview with Poynter he says we’re still not reaching peak Watergate.

Bob Woodward would know better than most of us if Donald Trump was the new Richard Nixon.

But he’s not, said the reporting icon responsible for breaking the Watergate scandal during a talk at the Mahaffey Theater on Wednesday night. At least, it’s too early to tell.

“We talk about maybe what Russia did or the extent to which they did — it’s not clear — meddle in our election,” he said to a predominantly older audience of several hundred people. “But in 1972 we had the real thing: the inside destruction of our electoral system, funded, organized, championed, led by Richard Nixon.”

Woodward insists we still don’t know where it’s going. I think we’re inching closer to definite ‘Obstruction of justice’ charges.  We’ll be in a better place after a Blue Wave to take this menace out of office and his little dog Pence too.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 

 

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Positively Nixonian

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend Sky Dancers!

As usual, we have no respite from the news and it looks like we get to kick Dick Nixon’s dead body some.  Every where you turn you hear the word “Nixonian”.  BB managed to find a lot of Trump/Nixon mash ups in political cartoons.  I thought it completely symbolic to see a picture of Kremlin Caligula with Kissinger in the White House this week.  I was just wondering if Kissinger was asked once more to pray.  I actually bought and read Woodward and Bernstein’s ‘The Final Days’ just to read that entire scene.  It still sits on my book shelf like a monument to the death of my belief in American Exceptionalism.

I probably could imagine a similar conversation taking place between Bannon and President Swiss Cheese for Brains. (My apologies for the ‘k” word,)  The cut away would probably be to discuss the escalation in Syria/Afghanistan instead.

APRIL 22, 1973: THE PRESIDENT, H.R. “BOB” HALDEMAN, AND HENRY KISSINGER, 9:50–10:50 A.M., OVAL OFFICE.
PRESIDENT NIXON: Where is…where is that kike, Kissinger?

KISSINGER: I’m right here, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT NIXON: Oh…uh, Henry, good, I’m glad you’re here…I want you to get down on your knees, Henry, and pray for me…I’m up shit creek without a paddle. I’ve got the damn Jew press on me like a “kick me” sign taped to my ass.

KISSINGER: Of course, Mr. President.

HALDEMAN: You can kneel over here, Henry.

PRESIDENT NIXON: Never mind that…just get me some support from those sons-of-bitches in the cabinet. Tell them I’ve got stuff on them…pictures.

KISSINGER: But, Mr. President, you have these things?

PRESIDENT NIXON: We’ve got tons of stuff…tons…

KISSINGER: All right, Mr. President, but it would help me if I could…see the pictures.

HALDEMAN: We’ll get some for you, Henry.

KISSINGER: Good. Now, sir, I want to discuss the latest operation in Camb—(cuts off)

Well, some folks just have a lot of nerve and they think we’re such fools. They just want to be on the side that’s winning.

So, it will get worse if the Ryan/Trump economic plan gets passed.  We know this.  It’s nice to hear it from an esteemed Nobel prize winning economist though.  Can we stop pretending the people that voted him found him the source of relief for economic distress? They’re about to get a shitload of it.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic policies risk creating growth that mostly benefits the rich and aggravates income inequality in the United States, Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton said.

Trump was swept to power on promises of help for poorer Americans but Deaton said his proposals to roll back regulations on finance and industry and cut healthcare benefits would mostly help corporate groups with political influence.

Trump’s plans to cut taxes and raise trade barriers, if enacted, might give a short-term income boost to some workers but would not deliver the long-term growth that is essential for mitigating the effects of inequality, he said in an interview.

“I don’t think any of it is good” for addressing income inequality, said Deaton, a Princeton University professor, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2015 for his work on poverty, welfare and consumption.

He was speaking on Friday after addressing a meeting in Italy of finance ministers and central bankers from rich nations at which inequality topped the official agenda.

The political shocks in 2016 of Trump’s U.S. presidential election victory and Britain’s Brexit vote have been linked to widespread dissatisfaction with stagnant living standards for many workers, forcing policymakers in many countries to grapple with ways to narrow the gap between the rich and poor.

Income inequality has grown sharply in the United States over recent decades and the World Bank says that at a global level the gap has widened too since the 1990s, despite progress recently in some countries.

The Trump administration says it will lift U.S. economic growth to more than 3 percent a year and bring more manufacturing jobs back to U.S. shores, helping workers.

But many economists say growth like that will be hard to achieve with employment already high and the baby boom generation retiring in large numbers too.

Deaton said restoring stronger economic growth, preferably through encouraging more innovation, would help reduce the anger among many people who feel they have been left behind.

“A rising inequality that probably wouldn’t have bothered people before does become really salient and troublesome to them (during periods of low growth). It poisons politics too because when there are no spoils to hand out it becomes a very sharp conflict,” he said.

Deaton said he did not think inequality was inherently bad as long as everyone felt some benefit from growth.

“But I do care about people getting rich at public expense,” he said, referring to political lobbying by business groups.

So onto the the criminal and traitorous group known as the Trump family syndicate and friends connected to all things Russian. The Senate is starting to follow the money and the bodies.

This robust compliance was not happening at the Taj Mahal. The Treasury Department found that the casino didn’t monitor or report suspicious activity. About half the time that Treasury investigators identified suspect behavior, the Taj Mahal had not reported it to authorities. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors,” Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the FinCEN director, said in a statement at the time of the settlement. “Far from meeting these expectations, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”

The Trump Organization is not known for its careful due diligence. As I wrote in the magazine earlier this year, Ivanka Trump oversaw a residence and hotel project in Azerbaijan. The project was run in partnership with the family of one of that country’s leading oligarchs, and while there is no proof that the Trumps were themselves involved in money laundering, the project had many of the hallmarks of such an operation. There was no public accounting of the hundreds of millions of dollars that flowed through the project to countries around the world, millions of dollars were paid in cash, and the Azerbaijani developers were believed to be partners, at the same time, with a company that appears to be a front for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is known as one of the world’s leading practitioners of money laundering. Trump’s Azerbaijani partners are known to have close ties to Russia, as do his partners in other projects in Georgia, Canada, Panama, and other nations.

A former high-ranking official at the Treasury Department explained to me that FinCEN could have collected what are known as Suspicious Activity Reports from banks, casinos, and other places, about transactions involving any Trump projects. These reports could be used to create a detailed map of relationships and money flows involving the Trump Organization.

The Senate committee headed by Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, and Warner has been ratcheting up the pressure on Trump’s associates in the course of investigating Russian meddling in the Presidential campaign. On Thursday, the committee sent a subpoena to Michael Flynn, the short-lived national-security adviser, demanding documents that he didn’t turn over voluntarily. By asking the Treasury Department for more details about Trump and his associates, the Senate Intelligence Committee seems to be signalling a widening of its interest from the narrow question of collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign staff. (My calls to Warner’s office about this weren’t answered.) If the committee does begin to seriously consider the Trump Organization’s business practices and any connections those show to figures in Russia and other sensitive countries, it would suggest what prosecutors call a “target rich” environment. Rather than focussing on a handful of recent arrivals to Trump’s inner circle—Mike Flynn and Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser—it could open up his core circle of children and longtime associates.

The WSJ is on the forefront of this story and the Manafort probe.   It’s nice to know that even papers known to be ‘captured’ by an agenda can still do straight up news.

The Justice Department last month requested banking records of Paul Manafort as part of a widening of probes related to President Donald Trump’s former campaign associates and whether they colluded with Russia in interfering with the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.

In mid-April, federal investigators requested Mr. Manafort’s banking records from Citizens Financial Group Inc., the people said.

It isn’t clear whether Citizens is the only bank that received such a request or whether it came in the form of a subpoena. Federal law generally requires that a bank receive a subpoena to turn over customer records, lawyers not connected to the investigation said.

Citizens gave Mr. Manafort a $2.7 million loan last year to refinance debt on a Manhattan condominium and borrow additional cash, New York City real-estate records show. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t ascertain if the Justice Department request is related to that transaction or whether the bank has turned over Mr. Manafort’s records.

I think the WSJ is getting less strict on its paywall practices for these items because you can go read the rest of it.

Comey to Trump:

Go ‘way from my window
Leave at your own chosen speed
I’m not the one you want, babe
I’m not the one you need
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’s never weak but always strong
To protect you an’ defend you
Whether you are right or wrong
Someone to open each and every door
But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe

The FBI is not happy with the President and what he did to Director Comey. They’ve evidently not signed on to participate in some twisted version of The Apprentice.  Trump has made quite a few institutional enemies from Park Rangers to the scientists in the EPA and HHS. The weirdish thing about all this is that he’s just made an enemy of the one institution he could ill afford to put off and was most likely to support his thuggish brand of justice.

Clearly, Comey underestimated Trump’s impatience—as well as the president’s pathological inability to allow anyone to question the legitimacy of his election, let alone keep pressing the investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia. Comey is now puttering in his yard in Northern Virginia. But the political and legal whirlwind that his firing has set in motion is just beginning to spin, with the White House and the F.B.I. subject to the greatest damage. Even pro-Trump agents are horrified and furious at how Comey was treated. “It shows us, the career people who care only about justice, that there is no justice at the top,” one agent says.

There were agents who found Comey priggish; within the bureau’s New York office, there was a faction that thought he’d soft-peddled the investigation of the Clinton Foundation. But those complaints have now been dwarfed by shock and revulsion at how Comey was fired—and how it reflects on them. “The statements from the White House that he’d lost the faith of the rank and file—they’re making that up,” says Jeff Ringel, a 21-year F.B.I. veteran who retired in May 2016 and is now director of the Soufan Group. “Agents may not have agreed with everything he did. I was one of the people who thought the director shouldn’t have stepped up and made those public statements about Hillary Clinton. But Director Comey was one of the last honest brokers in D.C. Agents are pissed off at the way he was fired, the total disrespect with which it was handled. It was a slap in the face to the F.B.I., to everybody in the F.B.I. The director being treated terribly, being called incompetent, is a signal that Trump has disdain for the bureau.”

Oops. Yet we still have slutty Republicans bending over backwards for the mad king.

Elected Republican officials are publicly defending Trump but privately are dumbfounded, disgusted and demoralized by this turn of events.

We haven’t had a single conversation with a top Republican that doesn’t reflect this. The worries are manifold

  • This kills momentum on legislating, and unifies Democrats in opposition to everything they want to do.
  • This makes it easier for Democrats to recruit quality candidates and raise money for the off-year elections.
  • It sours swing voters.
  • It puts them on the defensive at home. They want to talk tax reform and deregulation — not secret tapes and Russian intrigue.
  • But mainly it reinforces their greatest fear: Trump will never change. They keep praying he’ll discipline himself enough to get some big things done. Yet they brace for more of this.

And of course, Trump voters could care less. The most immoral of them is the Evangelical base.  At least the NAZIs are upfront about being deplorable.

But just like with the “Access Hollywood” tape, the vast majority of Republicans — and especially the Trump base — seem unfazed. For all the media/Democrat/Twitter histrionics, consider:

  • The Gallup daily tracking poll shows Trump’s approval has held steady (40% the day of the firing, 41% two days later).
  • Polls show two countries: In NBC News/Survey Monkey, 79% of Rs thought Trump acted appropriately, and 13% of Dems.
  • Most elected Republicans are backing Trump or staying silent. AP reports that at the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting out in Coronado, Calif., party leaders defended the president’s actions and insisted that they would have little political impact.
  • The Comey topic is hot in traditional media, but cold on Facebook: Seven other events of the Trump presidency trended harder.

Be smart: Don’t underestimate how much wiggle room Trump bought himself with his voters and conservatives by putting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, enforcing the red line in Syria, and muscling a partial repeal of Obamacare through the House. He has a long leash with Trump Country.

So, like many folks my age, my head is spinning because we’ve seen this before. The only difference is that Nixon never basically admitted to a journalist that he obstructed justice. But then, Nixon did not have Swiss Cheese for brains.

One of my favorites quotes today comes from Watergate’s John Dean. “President Trump is an ‘authoritarian klutz’ — just like Nixon.”

In an interview with New York Magazine‘s The Daily Intelligencer, John Dean, the former advisor to President Richard Nixon whose call-recording testimony made the Watergate case, told reporter Olivia Nuzzi that both Nixon and President Donald Trump share alarming tendencies.

“I think they’re both authoritarian personalities,” Dean told The Daily Intelligencer. “We only know of Nixon’s full personality because of his taping system. But Trump just doesn’t try to hide anything, he’s just out there.”

Dean also said that both Trump and Nixon are “klutzy” when it comes to electronics, and that Trump’s apparently Luddite approach to technology may have made any recordings he’d made as apparent as Nixon’s were to Dean.

“I’m told he’s not very mechanical. He’s kind of like Nixon in that regard,” Dean said. “In other words, he’d have trouble surreptitiously recording somebody, you know, starting the machine, if it wasn’t going and what have you.”

On comparisons between Trump’s surprise firing of former FBI Director James Comey and Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”, Dean told Nuzzi that there are some parallels, but they aren’t exact.

“There were some echoes, but not much more. Echoes being the brutal way it was handled, and so unnecessary,” Dean said. “But not quite the same stage, where Comey wasn’t defying Trump, whereas Archibald Cox clearly was, and both of them had the power to do what they did, but it wasn’t very wise to do.”

In the fallout from firing former FBI James Comey, Trump may have implicated himself in his own conversation-recording scheme. Trump also allegedly has a history of recording phone calls.

So, we’re once again about to see how well the checks and balances work. We seem reliant on the Senate and is there a Sam Ervin out there? It’s hard to see that Ervin’s neighboring state of South Carolina’s Lady Lindsey will go for the truth the way Ervin did. I remember coming home from high school with my hippy jeans, my books overflowing in my boy scout back pack, and undoing the tie backs that kept those jeans from getting caught in my 12 speed’s derailleur to my mother with the TV blaring. She never watched daytime TV because it was banal game shows and soaps. But there she was–frequently with our cleaning lady from maid service boston of like 15+ years–watching from the door way. Mildred–the big German woman who my mother called a good ol’ gal–was usually shaking her head like she’d seen the Third Reich all over again. She was really good at her job, so we knew that in the case we didn’t need her anymore she can get another job, Maid Zone is hiring or maybe any other house cleaning company.  The networks had interrupted everything once again to show case Sam Ervin and his Watergate hearings. It seems like a galaxy far far away to me but yet every time I turn on the TV news, it comes back to me.

More extraordinary than Ervin’s sense of humor is his uncompromising belief in the Constitution as a basis of government. A “strict constructionist,” presumably after Mr. Nixon’s heart, he has phrased his passionate Constitutionalism in resounding measures that owe much to Shakespeare and the Bible, but surely as much to the great jurists of Anglo-American common law.

“I don’t think we have any such thing as royalty or nobility that exempts them,” says Ervin of the White House, and one realizes how much the issues of the American Revolution are living ones to him and not eighth-grade clichés. He has been a consistent and eloquent enemy of such ominous inspirations as no-knock laws and military surveillance of civilians.

Ervin is a States’ Rights man on Constitutional grounds. Ironically, he is vilified by rightists who just a year ago were complacent “strict constructionists”: Jim Fuller of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reports his newspaper gets calls at all hours of the day and night, some from as far away as Houston, demanding that “that fat, senile old man” lay off the President. “The most common threat,” Fuller says, “is castration.” Ervin doesn’t look worried.

Maybe you’ll remember reading or hearing these words in that ol’ Southern Good Ol’ boy drawl.

We are beginning these hearings today in an atmosphere of utmost gravity. The questions, that have been raised in the wake of the June 17th break-in, strike at the very undergirding of our democracy. If the many allegations made to this date are true, then the burglars who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate were in effect breaking into the home of every citizen of the United States.

If these allegations prove to be true, what they were seeking to steal was not the jewels, money or other property of American citizens, but something much more valuable—their most precious heritage, the right to vote in a free election. Since that day, a mood of incredulity has prevailed among our populace, and it is the constitutional duty of this committee to allay the fears being expressed by the citizenry, and to establish the factual bases upon which these fears have been founded.

The Founding Fathers, having participated in the struggle against arbitrary power, comprehended some eternal truths respecting men and government. They knew that those who are entrusted with power are susceptible to the disease of tyrants, which George Washington rightly described as “love of power and the proneness to abuse it.” For that reason, they realized that the power of public officers should be defined by laws which they, as well as the people, are obligated to obey.

The Constitution, later adopted amendments and, more specifically, statutory law provide that the electoral processes shall be conducted by the people, outside the confines of the formal branches of government, and through a political process that must operate under the strictures of law and ethical guidelines, but independent of the overwhelming power of the government itself. Only then can we be sure that each electoral process cannot be made to serve as the mere handmaiden of a particular Administration in power.

The accusations that have been leveled and the evidence of wrongdoing that has surfaced has cast a black cloud of distrust over our entire society. Our citizens do not know whom to believe, and many of them have concluded that all the processes of government have become so compromised that honest governance has been rendered impossible. We believe that the health, if not the survival, of our social structure and of our form of government requires the most candid and public investigation of all the evidence…. As the elected representatives of the people, we would be derelict in our duty to them if we failed to pursue our mission expeditiously, fully, and with the utmost fairness. The nation and history itself are watching us. We cannot fail our mission.

Preach it sir!  Here’s to a system that values truth, justice and the rule of law.  May it totally crush this Administration under the heels of history.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads: America’s Greatest Mystery

JFK Assassination

Good Morning!!

In less than two weeks, our nation will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently reading books and articles about the assassination and it’s aftermath. I have wanted to write a post about it, but I just haven’t been able to do it. For me, the JFK assassination is still a very painful issue–in fact, it has become more and more painful for me over the years as I’ve grown older and wiser and more knowledgeable about politics and history. Anyway, I thought I’d take a shot at writing about it this morning. I may have more to say, as we approach the anniversary. I’m going to focus on the role of the media in defending the conclusions of the Warren Commission.

I think most people who have read my posts in the past probably know that I think the JFK assassination was a coup, and that we haven’t really had more than a very limited form of democracy in this country since that day. We probably will never know who the men were who shot at Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, but anyone who has watched the Zapruder film with anything resembling an open mind, has to know that there was more than one shooter; because Kennedy was shot from both the front and back.

The reasons Kennedy died are varied and complex. He had angered a number of powerful groups inside as well as outside the government.

– Powerful members of the mafia had relationships with JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy, and at his behest had helped carry Illinois–and perhaps West Virginia–for his son. These mafia chiefs expected payback, but instead, they got Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General on a crusade to destroy organized crime. In the 1960s both the CIA and FBI had used the mafia to carry out operations.

– FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover hated Bobby Kennedy for “interfering” with the FBI by ordering Hoover to hire more minorities and generally undercutting Hoover’s absolute control of the organization.

– Elements within the CIA hated Kennedy for his refusal to provide air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion (which had been planned by Vice President Nixon well before the 1960 election), and for firing CIA head Allen Dulles.

– Texas oil men like H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison hated Kennedy for pushing for repeal of the oil depletion allowance.

– The military hated Kennedy because of the Bay of Pigs, his decision to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis by pulling U.S. missiles out of Turkey in return for removal of the missiles from Cuba instead of responding with a nuclear attack, his efforts to reach out to both the Nikita Krushchev of the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro of Cuba, his firing of General Edward Walker, and his decision to pull the military “advisers” out of Vietnam.

– Vice President Lyndon Johnson hated both Kennedys, and he knew he was on the verge of being dropped from the presidential ticket in 1964. In addition, scandals involving his corrupt financial dealings were coming to a head, and the Kennedys were pushing the stories about Johnson cronies Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes in the media.

What I know for sure is that after what happened to Kennedy (and to Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy), there is no way any president would dare to really challenge the military and intelligence infrastructure within the government. Richard Nixon found that out when a number of the same people who were involved in the Kennedy assassination helped to bring him down.

To long-term government bureaucracies, the POTUS is just passing through the government that they essentially control. Any POTUS who crosses them too often is asking for trouble. People who think President Obama should simply force the CIA, NSA, FBI and the military to respect the rights of American citizens should think about that for a minute. Can we as a nation survive the assassination of another president?
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Thursday: Bob Woodward’s Non-Scoop, and Some Interesting Long Reads

coffee break

Good Morning!!

Poor Bob Woodward! The only way he can get attention nowadays is by whining and crying and generally creating a tempest in a teapot.

Yesterday Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen posted one of their patented “Behind the Curtain” pieces: Woodward at War, in which they dramatically revealed the inside story of Woodward’s little spat with the White House. This is the sort of story only the Villagers really care about, but when they care about something, they insist on forcing their opinions about it on the rest of us. It was the subject of the first hour of Morning Joe for yesterday and today, and the focus of countless media reports and blog posts throughout the day yesterday. Woodward must be in heaven with all this attention. From Politico:

Bob Woodward called a senior White House official last week to tell him that in a piece in that weekend’s Washington Post, he was going to question President Barack Obama’s account of how sequestration came about — and got a major-league brushback. The Obama aide “yelled at me for about a half-hour,” Woodward told us in an hourlong interview yesterday around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets.

Digging into one of his famous folders, Woodward said the tirade was followed by a page-long email from the aide, one of the four or five administration officials most closely involved in the fiscal negotiations with the Hill. “I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today,” the official typed. “You’re focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. … I think you will regret staking out that claim.”

Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. “ ‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’”

bob_cat

Horrors! “I think you will regret staking out that claim” is a “major league brushback?” Either Nixon and his men were quite a bit wimpier than we all thought, or Woodward is a lot touchier now than he was in the Watergate days.

In an update, Vandehei and Allen revealed that the White House adviser who supposedly yelled at Woodward over the phone and then “threatened” him was Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council. This morning they published the actual e-mails between Sperling and Woodward. Frankly, I was underwhelmed. Follow me below the fold to read them.
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Tuesday Reads: Daniel Inouye, Richard Engel, and Fiscal Slope Trial Balloons and Lead Balloons

Sen. Dan Inouye reads with children

Sen. Dan Inouye reads with children

Good Morning!!

Senator Dan Inouye, who died yesterday at age 88 was a Japanese American who fought for the U.S. in World War II. From Time Magazine:

On Dec. 7, 1941, high school senior Daniel Inouye knew he and other Japanese-Americans would face trouble when he saw Japanese dive bombers, torpedo planes and fighters on their way to bomb Pearl Harbor and other Oahu military bases.

He and other Japanese-Americans had wanted desperately to be accepted, he said, and that meant going to war.

“I felt that there was a need for us to demonstrate that we’re just as good as anybody else,” Inouye, who eventually went on to serve 50 years as a U.S. Senate from Hawaii, once said. “The price was bloody and expensive, but I felt we succeeded.”

Inouye had wanted to become a surgeon, but he lost his right arm in a firefight during the war. He was elected to the House in 1959 after Hawaii became a state. Inouye became well known nationally as a member of the Senate Watergate Committee and later as chairman of the Congressional committee that investigated the Iran Contra scandal.

In one of the most memorable exchanges of the Watergate proceedings, an attorney for two of Nixon’s closest advisers, John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman, referred to Inouye as a “little Jap.”

The attorney, John J. Wilson, later apologized. Inouye accepted the apology, noting that the slur came after he had muttered “what a liar” into a microphone that he thought had been turned off following Ehrlichman’s testimony.

Inouye achieved celebrity status when he served as chairman of the congressional panel investigating the Iran-Contra affair in 1987. That committee held lengthy hearings into allegations that top Reagan administration officials had facilitated the sale of weapons to Iran, in violation of a congressional arms embargo, in hopes of winning the release of American hostages in Iran and to raise money to help support anti-communist fighters in Nicaragua….

The panel sharply criticized Reagan for what it considered laxity in handling his duties as president. “We were fair,” Inouye said. “Not because we wanted to be fair but because we had to be fair.”

NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his production team have been released after five days in captivity in Syria. The Guardian reports:

The group disappeared shortly after crossing into north-west Syria from Turkey last Thursday (13 December). NBC had no contact with the kidnappers and asked for a news blackout about the incident, which was observed by mainstream news outlets.

There was no request for a ransom during the time Engel and his crew were missing.

After being abducted they were put into the back of a truck and blindfolded before being transported to an unknown location, believed to be near the small town of Ma’arrat Misrin.

Throughout their captivity they were blindfolded and bound, but otherwise not physically harmed, said the network.

Read more at the link.

According to Beltway Bob (AKA Ezra Klein), a deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner is in the offing, and it isn’t a good deal for old ladies who are trying to survive on Social Security.

Boehner offered to let tax rates rise for income over $1 million. The White House wanted to let tax rates rise for income over $250,000. The compromise will likely be somewhere in between. More revenue will come from limiting deductions, likely using some variant of the White House’s oft-proposed, oft-rejected idea for limiting itemized deductions to 28 percent. The total revenue raised by the two policies will likely be a bit north of $1 trillion. Congress will get instructions to use this new baseline to embark on tax reform next year. Importantly, if tax reform never happens, the revenue will already be locked in.

On the spending side, the Democrats’ headline concession will be accepting chained-CPI, which is to say, accepting a cut to Social Security benefits. Beyond that, the negotiators will agree to targets for spending cuts. Expect the final number here, too, to be in the neighborhood of $1 trillion, but also expect it to lack many specifics. Whether the cuts come from Medicare or Medicaid, whether they include raising the Medicare age, and many of the other contentious issues in the talks will be left up to Congress.

Now how is that a win for Democrats? If we go over the cliff, Republicans are going to be blamed, and taxes will go up on everyone until Republicans give in to public outcry in early January. But Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid cuts will inevitably be blamed on Democrats, who are supposed to fight for the social safety net. Then in 2014, Republicans will attack them for those cuts, and it will work–just as it did when Romney and Ryan falsely accused Obama of cutting Medicare benefits in the recent presidential campaign. Back to Beltway Bob:

The deal will lift the spending sequester, but it will be backed up by, yes, another sequester-like policy. I’m told that the details on this next sequester haven’t been worked out yet, but the governing theory is that it should be more reasonable than the current sequester. That is to say, if the two parties can’t agree on something better, then this should be a policy they’re willing to live with.

On stimulus, unemployment insurance will be extended, as will the refundable tax credits. Some amount of infrastructure spending is likely. Perversely, the payroll tax cut, one of the most stimulative policies in the fiscal cliff, will likely be allowed to lapse, which will deal a big blow to the economy.

Again, that doesn’t sound like a win for Obama at all. Let’s hope Beltway Bob is wrong again.

Dean Baker on the chained CPI: He argues that the chained CPI is not really applicable to seniors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has constructed an experimental elderly index (CPI-E) which reflects the consumption patterns of people over age 62. This index has shown a rate of inflation that averages 0.2-0.3 percentage points higher than the CPI-W.

The main reason for the higher rate of inflation is that the elderly devote a larger share of their income to health care, which has generally risen more rapidly in price than other items. It is also likely that the elderly are less able to substitute between goods, both due to the nature of the items they consume and their limited mobility, so the substitutions assumed in the chained CPI might be especially inappropriate for the elderly population.

Baker explains for the umpteenth time that it is wrong to use Social Security cuts to lower the deficit.

It is important to remember that under the law Social Security is supposed to be treated as a separate program that is financed by its own stream of designated revenue. This means that it cannot contribute to the budget deficit under the law, because it is only allowed to spend money from the Social Security trust fund.

This is not just a rhetorical point. There is no commitment to finance Social Security out of general revenue. The projections from the Social Security trustees show the program first facing a shortfall in 2033 after which point it will only be able to pay a bit more than 75 percent of scheduled benefits. While this date is still fairly far in the future, at some point it will likely be necessary to address a shortfall.

It is reasonable to expect that the changes needed to keep the program fully funded will involve some mix of revenue increases and benefit cuts. However if the chained CPI is adopted as part of a budget deal unconnected to any larger plan for Social Security then it effectively means that there will have been a substantial cut to Social Security benefits without any quid pro quo in terms of increased revenue. This hardly seems like a good negotiating move from the standpoint of those looking to preserve and strengthen the program.

There is much much more at the link. Digby has been writing about this issue for months, and she had another good post on it yesterday.

There has always been some fantasy, mostly held by people who are about to be fleeced by Wall Street sharpies, that this country should be run like a cash business. It cannot and should not be done that way. (Ask Mitt Romney about the role of debt in a modern economy.) The problem is that this focus on debt is making it impossible to do the things we need to do to spur economic growth in the short term, which would close the deficit, and apparently the only way anyone in Washington can see to get around that is to sell off the future security of American citizens as some sort of human sacrifice for no good reason. It simply is not necessary, as Krugman shows.

John Boehner came up with a new “offer” this week-end to raise the rates on those who make a million or more each year and also agreed to take the debt ceiling off the table for the next year. Krugman thinks this is a bad deal which Obama has no good reason to take — and I would agree with him if I didn’t still see a very dangerous possibility that the administration wants to pursue some unacceptable spending cuts in order to deliver on that “balanced approach.” A looming debt ceiling fight is a very good excuse for them to do that. If kicking the can down the road another year will stop them from cutting more spending, then I’m inclined to say take the deal.

Obviously, this whole thing is ridiculous. They should get rid of this idiotic debt ceiling vote altogether: after all once they appropriate the funds they’ve agreed to pay for them whether through taxation or borrowing. This yearly vote allows them to get credit for the goodies and then later refuse to pick up the tab. But unless they are willing to give it up completely, I’d be glad to at least see it be delayed until the White House stops talking about cutting vital programs.

And yes, the taxes should go up for all income over $250,000. They can afford it. But not if the price is changing to the Chained CPI which will take the food out of the mouths of 90 year old women and squeeze veterans and disabled people who can’t afford it. In other words, the devil is in the details. If Obama hangs tough as Krugman prescribes and wins on all these points without giving up the store (also known as “making tough choices ” his own base “won’t like”) then I say go for it. I’m just not sure I have much faith that’s the game plan. If it isn’t, then maybe he should take Boehner’s offer, repeal the sequester and put this to bed for the time being. There’s been more than enough cutting already to drag this economy down. Let’s see what happens if we stop the austerity insanity for a while.

Dr. Dakinikat would probably agree with that.

Meanwhile, most Americans disapprove of the the proposed cuts to safety net programs, so maybe this will turn out to be another trial balloon that goes over like a lead balloon.

Most Americans want President Obama and congressional Republicans to compromise on a budget agreement, though they, too, are unhappy about the options that would avert the “fiscal cliff,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The strong support for compromise belies widespread public opposition to big spending cuts that are likely to be part of any deal.

Most Americans oppose slashing spending on Medicaid and the military, as well as raising the age for Medicare eligibility and slowing the increase of Social Security benefits, all of which appear to be on the table in negotiations. Majorities call each of these items “unacceptable.”

Wow. I’m running out of space already? Suddenly, a week before Xmas there’s more happening in the news. We’ll have to discuss other items in in the comments. So what’s on your reading list today?