Saturday, October 27, 2018

Don't Call Him Stupid

Thirteen months ago, respondents in an ABC News/Washington Post poll were asked an open-ended question of what one word best describes Donald Trump. The most common adjectives or nouns were
"incompetent," "arrogant," "strong," "idiot," "egotistical," "ignorant," "great," "racist" "a------" and "narcissistic."

Respectively: somewhat, yes, no, no, yes, yes, no, probably, yes, and yes.

The one "no" I attributed to a positive characteristic was "idiot" because President Trump is no idiot.

President Trump was at his dumbest when he admitted to NBC News' Lester Holt that he fired James Comey as FBI director because of "this Russia thing." At worst (for him), the act may have set in motion events that will bring down his presidency and/or lead to his indictment. At best, however, Trump may skate on the whole thing, even on any charge that he obstructed justice by eliminating Comey.

But look at what- or who- he ended up with.   When the President announced his nomination of Christopher Wray to replace Comey, he stated that Wray "will again serve his country as a  fierce guardian of the law and model of integrity..."

Given that Donald Trump sees himself as synonymous with the country, this seems to have come to pass. 

On Friday morning prior to the arrest of apparent Trump Bomber Cesar Sayoc Jr., the President tweeted "Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this “Bomb” stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows - news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!" 

Nonetheless, this exchange (at 20:40 of the video below) between a reporter and FBI director Wray took place at a news conference following the vote:

"When did you first brief the President that you had a suspect in custody and what was his reaction?"

"I'm not going to get into our discussions with the President. I will say I received a very nice congratulatory call from the President shortly before heading over here and saw the remarks he made at the White House...."

The Intercept's Cody Fenwick remarks

... it’s deeply concerning that the president may have been actively stoking suspicions about the reality of the attacks even as the United States’ own law enforcement agencies were in direct pursuit of a serious suspect in the matter. If he was fully aware of the FBI’s progress in this case and the seriousness of the matter, then it is condemnable behavior. It would mean he has a lack of genuine concern for the safety and security of those who he deems political enemies and is willing to disregard violence as long as it can serve his political aims.

Either Donald Trump knew about the situation or the FBI director avoided telling him, which would be extraordinary- or it withheld from the President of the United States of America significant intelligence, itself remarkable behavior.

Yet, this is less serious than the action taken by the FBI to facilitate Senate approval of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court.  An FBI investigation was commenced in late September to allay concerns of senators Flake and Collins after the Judiciary Committee's vote to send the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Senate floor. The New York Times, though, reported that

Democrats were to some degree in the dark about the inquiry’s parameters. In a letter to Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, and Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee asked for a copy of the directive sent by the White House to the bureau laying out the scope of the investigation.

“If the F.B.I. requests any expansion beyond the initial directive, please provide the names of any additional witnesses or evidence,” the Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, wrote in the letter.

It is not unusual for the White House to specify the scope of a request for additional background information on a nominee. No evidence has emerged that the White House has forbidden any investigative steps, and President Trump has said he wants agents “to interview whoever they deem appropriate, at their discretion.”

The White House did not need to tell Christopher Wray whom he could not interview. He knew to restrict the probe because he knew his place.  

"The rules for background checks," the Times added, "require that agents ask the White House if they want to expand the scope of their investigation or interview other witnesses." The agents themselves undoubtedly would have had to get approval from the Director of the FBI, and they're well aware of who nominates the director and who can fire him.

The FBI interviewed stunningly few individuals and its feeble inquiry was designed to avoid uncovering any facts which would jeopardize Senate approval of Judge Kavanaugh. It was a farce and worse, undertaken in the manner that White House Counsel Don McGahn, arguably the pivotal player in the nomination, was intent upon. Kavanaugh was McGahn's boy, and the White House counsel was determined he would be approved, facts be damned.

 "I am proud to announce Christopher as my choice as the Director of the FBI," President Trump noted in his statement a year ago June.  Donald Trump knows a partisan hack when he sees one.  He may be ignorant, arrogant, racist, egotistical, and narcissistic. But an idiot, he's not.

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