Thursday, May 23, 2019

"And Then He Had The Meeting After"

In a "conversation" published by Salon on May 22, Malcolm Nance suggested "it turned out that (Special Counsel Robert) Mueller was an institutionalist. He literally tuck to every guideline that was given to him in the face of all the evidence. Then Mueller pulled every punch that was thrown." (He then speculated whether Rosenstein or Barr instead was to blame.)

On that very day, President Trump held a news conference in the Rose Garden in which he famously claimed "I don't do cover-ups"- and in which he appeared to verify that he does participate in cover-ups, and confirming Nance's suspicion about Mueller.

This is not about the payoff Trump ordered shortly before the presidential election, made to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about their brief affair. It goes to the very heart of the collaboration between Russia and the Trump campaign, even Donald Trump himself. It involves the June 9, 2016 get-together at Trump Tower, about which Philip Bump recently recalled

In his written testimony for Mueller, Trump said he didn’t remember whether he knew about the meeting in advance. In attendance at the meeting were several key members of his campaign team: Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

“I have no recollection of learning at the time that Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, or Jared Kushner was considering participating in a meeting in June 2016 concerning potentially negative information about Hillary Clinton,” Trump’s response to Mueller reads. “Nor do I recall learning during the campaign that the June 9, 2016 meeting had taken place, that the referenced emails existed. or that Donald J. Trump, Jr., had other communications with Emin Agalarov or Robert Goldstone between June 3, 2016 and June 9, 2016.”

The suspicion that Trump knew beforehand of the meeting had been "stoked," The New York Times snarked four months ago, by Democrats "pointing to phone calls that Donald Trump Jr. received from a blocked number around the time of the meeting." However

investigators have phone records showing that Donald Trump Jr. spoke with two family friends who used blocked numbers — Brian France, the chief executive of NASCAR, and the investor Howard Lorber — as the meeting was being set up, according to the people.

Mr. Lorber had significant investments in Russia and traveled to Moscow in 1996 with President Trump as they considered building a Trump Tower there.

For the younger Mr. Trump, the revelation that he had not called his father was seen among Trump allies as a victory over Democrats at a crucial moment in the investigation, according to people close to the White House.

In the same vein, Mueller wrote in the Special Counsel's report

According to written answers submitted by President Trump, he has no recollection of learning of the meeting at this time, and the Office found no documentary evidence showing that he was made aware of the meeting or of its Russian connection- before it occurred.

However, we now should be grateful to the President for demonstrating the worthlessness of a written interview, for on May 22 his memory appeared to clear up in the Rose Garden. Trump admitted

The bottom line is they say there's no collusion- no collusion with Russia. You heard so much talk about phone calls that my son made to me from this meeting that was set up by GPS Fusion, it looks like, which was the other side, for those who don't know.

And for a year I heard about phone calls went to a special number, unauthorized, and it would have been my son Don, who is a good young man, who's gone through hell. And they were calls that must have been made by him before and after the meetings- three calls. After massive study and work, they finally found who made the calls. One was a friend of ours, a real estate developer, great guy, most of you know him, a nice guy, loves our country. And the other one was the had of NASCAR, two of them.

So of the three calls that were so horrible, he had a meeting and he called me and then he had the meeting after and he made three calls and they were written about like this little little line, a couple of lines, no one wanted to admit it....

In this Twitter thread, MSNBC legal analyst Katie Phang argues "It appears to be obstruction of justice, a lie, it’s perjury and [Trump] obstructed the Mueller investigation by lying to the Special Counsel." Others disagree, believing that Trump was stating that one call involved the real estate developer and two, the head of NASCAR.

That's interesting, but not nearly dispositive. The conventional and prevailing wisdom has been that only two calls were made. Moreover, he had a meeting and he called me and then he had the meeting after suggests that candidate Trump himself was called by his son- both before and after the infamous meeting.

Give Donald Trump credit, however, for pointing out during the news conference that the Special Counsel's investigation was expensive, though it cost only $15 million gross, not the $25 million he claimed, and with the dough ordered recouped from Paul Manafort, should be a net plus for taxpayers. It nonetheless cost millions of dollars (gross) and Robert Mueller, maintaining he found "no documentary evidence" that Trump knew about the meeting beforehand, could not find what the President now has admitted to, in full view of the nation.

Trump was surprisingly candid on another matter. "So here's the bottom line," the President began at 5:47 , "there was no collusion, no obstruction. We've been doing this since I've been President." Yes, that's right- he has been obstructing and colluding since he has been President.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Fully And In Plain View

CNN's Chris Cuomo on Tuesday evening

said Democrats need to look at the political reality of launching impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

“It’s an unknown, alright,” said the host of “Cuomo Prime Time” on Tuesday. “And there is a real risk of making the bully in this so far, this president, look like a victim if you overreach in the name of oversight, like he keeps saying.”

Cuomo also suggested special counsel Robert Mueller should testify before Congress about his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion.

“If you get Mr. Mueller on the stand and he says what he found, how he found it, and why he explained it the way he did, the path forward from there will be clear,” Cuomo said.

That would be great, as would the 2020 Lexus with a red bow awaiting you in your driveway on Christmas morning. And about as likely. On Tuesday morning The Washington Post had reported

Robert S. Mueller III and House Democrats have been unable to reach an agreement on how much of the special counsel’s expected congressional testimony would be public, and how much would take place in private, according to people familiar with the matter.

The special counsel’s office, along with senior Justice Department officials, has been quietly negotiating with the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), has been eager to have Mueller testify as soon as possible.

Later that day, Glen Kirschner, who served under Robert Mueller in the US Attorney's office, told (at 3:02 of video below) MSNBC's Ari Melber

Bob Mueller could take the principled position "look, folks, it's all there, 448 pages of it. And look at the way he concluded, Ari, Volume 2. Could it be any more transparent or any more powerful and frankly if I could just read it briefly.

This is how Bob ended Volume 2, which was chock full of obstruction of justice by the President. He said "the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person, including the President, accords with the fundamental principle of our government that no person in this country is so high that he is above the law. Period.

I could see Mueller taking the principled position that folks, it's all there and to have regurgitate what I've put in writing or testify to hearsay about what the witnesses said that led me to this conclusion is not what you need. What you need is the witnesses.

Please regurgitate. Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) has stated that he believes most members of Congress have not read the SpecialCounsel's report, and it's unlikely more than two or three percent of the American people have done so.

The Special Counsel's office wrote “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. We are unable to reach such a judgment.” But the President's false claim of "a complete and total exoneration" has been read by far more Americans than Mueller's strong inference(s) that Trump committed obstruction of justice.

And not only read, but more importantly, seen. The President is seen- transparently, powerfully, and completely dishonestly- maintaining that he has been cleared by the investigation. He put his face to the argument.

That is what is missing as long as Mueller does not testify completely, with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  He could do so without  repercussion. He is 74 years old and sufficiently economically secure to retire and if choosing not to do so, could write his ticket at any one of hundreds (thousands?) of law firms across the country.

This invulnerability to retaliation is not as clear in the case of Hope Hicks, Annie Donaldson, Felix Sater, or any of the other witnesses whom Glenn Kirschner presumably would like to testify.  Nor does any of them have the credibility or stature of the former US Attorney, FBI director, and decorated Marine from the Vietnam War.

Robert Mueller has one more responsibility to his country. Having put his foot into the water, he needs to put a face to the report and tell under oath, in public, all he knows. Although it now appears very unlikely, he must say, as Cuomo states, "what he found, how he found it, and why he explained it the way he did." If he does anything else, he damages the constitutional principle of checks and balance between the executive and legislative branches of government, the rule of law, and the integrity of the criminal justice system Glen Kirschner believes Mueller is dedicated to.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

About That Epiphany, Joe

It failed to capture my attention when on April 22 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

vowed to be the "Grim Reaper" for progressive policies if Republicans hold on to the Senate in 2020.

"If I'm still the majority leader in the Senate think of me as the Grim Reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass," McConnell said while speaking to community leaders in Owensboro, Ky.

McConnell noted that if Republicans win back the House or President Trump wins reelection "that takes care of it." But he pledged that even if Republicans lose the White House, he would use his position as majority leader to block progressive proposals like the Green New Deal.

"I guarantee you that if I'm the last man standing and I'm still the majority leader, it ain't happening. I can promise you," McConnell added.

That probably did not escape the attention of the the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for President, who 3-4 weeks later remarkably predicted

that Republicans will have an "epiphany" and start working with Democrats once President Donald Trump is out of office.

"The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke," Biden told reporters at a diner in Concord, New Hampshire. "You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends."

Biden's echoed his dreams of epiphany when four days later he would approvingly tell a campaign rally

Some say Democrats don't want to hear about unity, That what they are saying you to have to do to win the Democratic nomination. Well, I don't believe it. I believe Democrats want to unify this nation.

Mitch McConnell had enough influence and power to tell President Barack Obama: no, not on my watch, there will be no Justice Merrick Garland. He now is telling Democrats that if Republicans win back the House, progressive legislation will fail because "if I'm the last man standing and I'm still the majority leader, it ain't happening. I can promise you."

This is the unity that presidential candidate Joe Biden aspires to, and which President Joe Biden would embrace.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Not An Idiot, Part Infinity

Merriam-Webster defines "idiot" as "a foolish or stupid person."  Donald Trump is no idiot, although the former mayor and cabinet secretary from Texas evidently believes he is, given that


Democratic presidential hopeful Juli├ín Castro heard about President Trump’s rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Wednesday night—and he’s not having it. 

“The president,” he said in an interview with Mother Jones on Thursday, “is being a grade-A idiot.”

Trump was speaking about the tens of thousands of migrants at the US-Mexico border when he started talking about Border Patrol agents using deadly force. “And don’t forget—we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons,” Trump said. “We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people? You can’t. There’s—”
From the crowd, a woman reportedly yelled out, “Shoot them!”

The president paused before deadpanning, “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff. Only in the Panhandle!

People love being name-checked, even if it's in apparent ridicule. Evangelical Christians adore Donald Trump not only because he supports forced-birth and puts right-wing judges onto the US Supreme Court, but also because he mentions them, directly or indirectly.   It's why the Christian right loved him his flippant remark "That's my second favorite book of all time. You know what my favorite is?" The Bible! Nothing beats the Bible, not even The Art of the Deal. Not even close." (Of course, Trump wrote about as much of "The Art of the Deal" as he did of the Bible.)  

It's why he came out unscathed- arguably even more popular- when he demeaned, by misrepresenting, the sacrament of communion by stating "When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink — and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness, and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed. I think in terms of ‘let’s go on and let’s make it right.'”

And it's one of the reasons the crowd roared it's approval when Trump,with  a "boy are these people off the wall" look,  said "it's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff."

Mother Jones added

In an exclusive interview in San Antonio, Castro slammed Trump, calling his behavior “unbecoming of a president.”

“I mean, the president is being a grade-A idiot,” he said. “Entertaining the idea that you would shoot a human being just because they’re looking for a better life. You know, somebody can think that that’s all fun and games, but we’ve already seen during this administration the level of hate crimes increase. We’ve seen so many white supremacists go out there and say that they’re inspired by President Trump and shoot people. And so he’s being a grade-A idiot.

The President is no grade-A idiot, or any kind of idiot. Journalist Greg Sargent and another tweeter recognize:

Trump is skillfully trying to have it both ways, yet either approach satisfies the longing of Trump's base supporters for the red meat it wants served up to them. It is an effective strategy which belies the argument that the President is an idiot or his remarks idiotic.  And each time Julian Castro or another political opponent mistakes evil for idiocy, it reinforces the impression that Donald J. Trump as merely another flawed politician, but one devoted to the interests of his supporters and of the country

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Bolstering Trump

In a truly insightful piece, Politico editor-in-chief Peter Canellos argues that the depiction by Saturday Night Live's Alec Baldwin of Donald Trump has inadvertently reinforced a favorable impression of the President.  Baldwin very much dislikes Trump, but the attacks on his "intelligence and competence," Canellos understands, have had the perverse effect of humanizing the President and

What appears to be authenticity is one of Trump’s greatest electoral calling cards, and Republicans tend to take it at face value. He’s an amateur in a professional game, and that explains why he sometimes breaks the rules. There’s a kind of everyman logic behind his actions, and his supporters want him to shake up the system. Despite their antipathy toward him, there are many Democrats who assess him on similar terms.

Typically, Democrats believe Trump is "dangerously unqualified for the presidency but that he’s not fundamentally ill-intentioned." It's a misconception which runs counter to

other, much harsher assessments of Trump. One, suggested by the Mueller report, is of a man who willfully used the tools of his office for his personal benefit, who demanded illegal and unethical acts from his subordinates, threatened them and tried to replace them when they refused to go along and shredded legal and political norms in the process. In trying to save himself, that version of Trump isn’t some rogue elephant acting on instinct, but a narcissist who puts his own interests ahead of the country’s. There is, presumably, no twinkle in Trump’s eye when he orders his Treasury secretary to refuse a congressional subpoena of his tax records, no sharp intake of breath when he invokes executive privilege to shield an investigation into his own campaign. His mouth doesn’t twist into a petrified O when he maligns Robert Mueller or calls on Republican appointees of the Supreme Court to protect him.

And so Canellos concludes

This Trump isn’t the stuff of caricature, or the hapless figure of fun portrayed on “SNL.” He’s the one who shows up on TV nearly every day, president of the United States despite the disdain of all those knowing elites, bending Washington to his will.

That has been the fundamental character of the Trump Administration, one in which the elites excoriated by the President bend to his will. That includes not only Trump TV (formerly GOP TV, sometimes known as "Fox News"), GOP members of the House and the Senate, and House Democrats, terrified of the I (impeachment) word. It extends even to Democratic presidential candidates, only four of whom (Warren, Moulton, Massam, and Harris) have called for impeachment.

And then there is William Barr, whose obsequiousness to the President is brazenly unprofessional, unpatriotic, and dangerous. 

Midway through is article, Canellos asks "Is Trump calculating, or is he improvising?" From tweet to tweet, the President may be impulsive. However, the rhetoric and actions are less accidental than cunning, undertaken by a canny President empowered by an unparalleled ability to fake authenticity.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

Slightly Trumpesque

It was the day before the Super Bowl in February, 2017, when dedication to self over country  was a little less clear that

President Donald Trump appeared to equate US actions with the authoritarian regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin in an interview released Saturday, saying, "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?"

Trump made the remark during an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, saying he respected his Russian counterpart.

"But he's a killer," O'Reilly said to Trump.

"There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Trump replied.

A clip of the exchange was released Saturday and the full interview aired Sunday before the Super Bowl.

It was an unusual assertion coming from the President of the United States. Trump himself, however, has made similar points before.

"He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country," Trump told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" in December 2015.

He continued, "I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There's a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing, a lot of stupidity," Trump said.

Moral equivalence can be result from being compromised by a foreign power, as likely in the case of Trump, or instead merely ignorant, naive, or wrong-headed. Campaigning in the first primary state

You say that anything has to be owned 50 percent by Chinese to invest in China, guess what? bears an eerie similarity to "our country does plenty of killing also, Joe." Biden probably is referring to regulations which went into effect last October which require foreign investors to notify the Treasury Department that they are trying to obtain a stake in an American company. The Department then could review the deal if it determined the investment a national security threat.

Be wary of a presidential candidate who compares American concern over national security with appropriation by the Chinese government of intellectual property by forcedtechnology transfers, espionage and theft. The source of Trump's benevolence toward the Russian government may be family business ventures in Russia, while Biden may be simply wrong. However

Hunter Biden’s investment company in China, known as Bohai Harvest RST, has pooled money, largely from state-owned venture capital, to buy or invest in a range of industries in the U.S. and China. Bohai Harvest has put money into an automotive firm, mining companies, and technology ventures, such as Didi Chuxing Technology, one of the largest ride-hailing companies in the world after Uber....

Bohai Harvest operates and works with a number of funds to make its various investments, a tangled business structure that has brought Hunter Biden into close proximity to influential Chinese government and business figures, according to a review of Chinese business filings by The Intercept.

This is not enough to conclude that the former vice-president is compromised with Xi's mainland China to nearly the extent that President Trump is with Putin's Russia.   But Donald J. Trump has set the bar very low, and raising it a little with Joseph R. Biden is insufficient.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

That Notorious Justice

There was a time when nominees for the United States Supreme Court did not routinely lie, mislead, or fail to answer the questions upon testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And so it was that when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was tapped by President Barack Obama for a seat on the United States Supreme Court, she stated

The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.

That might not have seemed a revolutionary statement at the time. But it is now that

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, setting up a court fight that Republicans hope will end with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,” Ivey said in a statement.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved the legislation, which prohibits abortion at any point during pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest. The bill, which was easily approved by the Republican-dominated House last month, does make an exception if the pregnancy poses a health risk to the mother.

Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, earlier Thursday vowed a legal challenge, saying the law violates the landmark 1973 Roe ruling guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion until a fetus is viable.

The Republicans who pushed for and passed the legislation are hoping for just that. They believe the Supreme Court's new conservative majority offers the anti-abortion movement its best chance in a generation to overturn Roe.

Just this year, four states, including Georgia last week, banned abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected — about six weeks into a pregnancy. But Alabama’s law goes even further. This measure prohibits abortion at any point during the pregnancy and while a woman can’t be prosecuted, a person who performs the abortion can be convicted of a Class A felony and be imprisoned for up to 99 years in prison — essentially a life sentence.

Of course he- or she- can.  Activists and their allies want to threaten only the doctor with prison because it is relatively safe politically.  They realize that were the individual (woman) who wants, seeks, obtains, and pays for an abortion to be held accountable for what they consider "murder," there would be public revulsion.

Moreover, they want to threaten only the doctor with prison because in so doing they remove from the woman all agency.   They deny her the ability to consider herself a fully adult human responsible for her own choices. And that is a very, very good day for the forced-birth movement.

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"And Then He Had The Meeting After"

In a " conversation " published by Salon on May 22, Malcolm Nance suggested "it turned out that (Special Counsel Robert)...