As Mr. Donald J. Trump continues to work hard over the last week to cement his status as the Worst President Ever, there are numerous examples of his total failure as a leader and as a person. Whether it is continuing to espouse that COVID-19 will “sort of disappear”; promoting “white power”; holding thinly disguised rallies at national monuments; or running for president of the Confederacy, there are large numbers of occasions when one can only shake your head and hope that the election gets here soon.
And then it gets worse.
There may be no part of the job of President as important as that of Commander-in-Chief. People die when the president gets it wrong. For that matter, people sometimes die even when everything goes as planned. It is a tough world and it is part of the pact between the military and the American people that service men and women will go in harms way to protect and defend the Constitution and our way of life in exchange for the promise that their lives, talent and American treasure will not be wasted in futile exploits and that those in charge — all the way to the president — will do all that they can to keep them safe in an inherently dangerous profession. In the military it is known as force protection.
As a country, we can be reasonably certain that the recent revelations that Russian operatives worked with the Taliban in Afghanistan to put a bounty on the lives of US and coalition service members are true. The evidence is startlingly clear. The price for an American death was as much as 100,000 dollars.
Within a normal administration this would have caused one of several, or multiple, courses of action to kick in immediately upon learning of this threat. The Russians would be warned at the highest level of government that this was a dangerous game that must stop immediately. Likely, sanctions would be leveled against all involved. Probably, especially if further evidence was uncovered, those involved in Afghanistan would have been on the receiving end of a capture or kill operation.
As we know, sadly this is not a normal administration. The official announcement was that no action will be taken against Russia.
And then it gets worse.
Mr. Trump says, “I think it’s a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats.” These remarks came on 1 July after several days of credible reporting that Mr. Trump continuously decried and belittled.
The excuses for inaction have come fast and furious. Among those floated were the assertion that Mr. Trump was never briefed on the situation. When that was reported to be inaccurate, the excuse was that it may have been in a written intelligence document but no one verbally briefed him. When that did not quite pass the smell test, the reason given was that the intelligence reports were not “verifiable.” Well now. That is not an intelligence term. Most intelligence reports in this vein are not verifiable. The terms of art are “credible” or “not credible.” When there is credible evidence of a terrorist attack, it is not verified that an attack is actually going to happen until it does. The country does not — or at least did not — wait for an attack before acting. The killing of Osama bin Laden was based on credible intelligence — they did not know for sure that he was in that villa at that time — it was verified when they got a DNA match from the dead body. The terms that Mr. Trump and his enablers use are just gobbledygook designed to deflect from Mr. Trump’s dereliction of duty as Commander-in-Chief.
Rather than being bogged down in the weeds over who was briefed and to what level, etc. etc. etc. the real question should be what action would a president take once the story broke? The answer is easy. The president picks up the phone and calls for an immediate update and then works with his staff for appropriate responses to counter the Russians or to put out a credible explanation as to what actually happened should the facts have been misinterpreted.
So now we all know about it. Who knew about it when is not now important. What is Mr. Trump going to do? Apparently, whine about how it is unfair to him and that it is all designed to make him look bad and on and on with his usual “poor me” schtick. Despicable.
It seems that the lives of US service men and women fighting our nation’s wars are less valuable than whatever political ax Mr. Trump has to grind.
The signal to Mr. Putin? Do whatever you want Vlad because the USA is not going to hold you accountable. It is open season on Americans abroad and on our national security at home. Kill our folks. Interfere in our election. Conduct cyber attacks on our businesses and infrastructure. Do whatever you want because the stable genius in the White House will not do anything to upset his personal apple cart full of Russian money.
To me, that is the best and most plausible explanation as to why Mr. Trump refuses, time and time and time again, to do anything to upset his “friend” Vladimir Putin. My sense is not that Mr. Trump is protecting Mr. Putin. My strong belief is that Mr. Putin is protecting Mr. Trump’s secrets and Mr. Trump is afraid that if he says or does the wrong thing, the Russians will put it all out there. Putin is the name, blackmail the game.
No one with oversight responsibility has yet to see Mr. Trump’s taxes or the financial records of Trump, Inc. Mr. Trump has fought long and hard in court to keep those records secret. I am willing to bet that those records are full of illegal at the worst, unethical at the best, transactions. Mr. Trump and Trump, Inc. had multiple bankruptcies. US banks stopped lending him money for his far flung schemes. My bet is that Russian oligarchs, beholden to Mr. Putin, bailed him out and in return Mr. Trump and his businesses helped the Russian Mafia to launder money and to conduct other illegal schemes.
Have you ever seen the movie The Godfather? It’s all you need to know as to how Mr. Trump is entangled with the Russians. And believe me, Mr. Trump is not the Godfather. I don’t think he is even as smart or as skilled as Fredo.
We know that our values are totally corrupted when the Commander-in-Chief will take no action to protect our troops and the Party of Trump in the Congress stays silent. It is hard for me to decide which is more loathsome — a president that will not do his job or members of Congress that protect and defend a corrupt president rather than our troops.
The Impeachment Trial of Donald John Trump continues today. It is impossible to know exactly what will occur over the next 30 hours or so, but a betting person would place money on the increasing likelihood that the Senate will vote “no” on calling witnesses or documents during the trial and then proceed to acquit Mr. Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
And we will be the worse for it.
Politics aside, meaning whether or not you felt that Mr. Trump should be removed from office, all of us should be appalled that the Senate will conclude the trial without actually holding a trial as we all know it should be conducted. Indeed, in the latest Quinnipiac Poll — a source respected by all mainstream politicians — 75% of respondents stated that there should be witnesses questioned and documents reviewed during the Impeachment Trial. Only 20% said that they were not necessary. Those in favor included a majority of Republicans as well as overwhelming numbers of Democrats and Independents. The reasons for wanting them may vary — for proving either an acquittal or a conviction — but the fact remains that they are wanted. So much for elected officials listening to their constituents.
More shocking, more incredible, more dangerous than all of the preposterous arguments being put forward by the Trump cultists, is the one proffered by Professor Alan Dershowitz, one of the president’s defense lawyers. His twisted logic essentially says that a president can do anything that he wants. Period. He is totally in line with Mr. Trump’s declaration, “Then, I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
Specifically, Professor Dershowitz argued that if a president is running for re-election and believes that being re-elected is in the public interest, then that person can do whatever is necessary to get re-elected. After a long explanation, he summarized by saying, “If a president does something he believes will help him get elected is in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
Think about the ramifications of saying that a president can do anything to get elected and the Congress can do nothing about it. The imagination runs wild.
So for those keeping score at home, here is where we are:
- The president believes that he does not have to submit to oversight from the Congress and therefore refuses to turn over any documents or witnesses to help Congress do its Constitutionally mandated job.
- The entire membership of one political party in Congress supports that assertion and actively works to keep witnesses and documents from their oversight.
- The defense team of the president confirms that the president does not have to submit to Congressional oversight.
- The defense team then goes one step further by saying that if a president believes that his actions are in the “national interest” then he can do anything that he wants to do.
- The president believes, and now has had it affirmed, that he is the state. Whatever is good for him is good for the country.
- The Senate votes to affirm all of the above.
Put all the pieces together and we no longer have an accountable president. We have the equivalent of a divine king. (There are many evangelicals that believe that it is God’s will that Mr. Trump was elected.) Our very own Louis XIV! (Famous quote one: “It is legal because I wish it.” Famous quote two: “Has God forgotten all I have done for Him?”) I am not hyperventilating, or over-stating the case when I use that phrase because the arguments are in the same vein as those used for the divine right of kings. To continue in this direction puts the great American experiment on life support.
Rather than “king” maybe we should worry that we will soon have an “emperor.” Perhaps the best historical analogy is the end of the Roman Republic. After long and bitter political infighting, the Senate abdicated its responsibilities to an Emperor.
Is there any doubt that Mr. Trump, given his track record to date and proven propensity to do only what he thinks personally benefits him, will stop at nothing to win the next election? Then what?
The possible consequences are limited only by one’s own imagination. Consider this scenario as an example. Mr. Trump already believes that he lost the 2016 popular vote because three million people voted illegally. He formed a commission to “prove” it. (The commission disbanded without finding any evidence of such a thing.) Suppose the polls show that he will lose again in 2020 and decides that all of those illegal voters were in California and that they were all illegal immigrants (another theory he has espoused with no proof what-so-ever)? Suppose he then declares that it is in the national interest to prevent that from happening and shuts down polling places in California or, after the results are in, declares that it is in the national interest to nullify all votes in California? What mechanism exists to prevent that? Public outrage? A dysfunctional Congress? The press?
It is increasingly clear that our Founding Fathers assumed that at least a modicum of decency and fair play would exist in either the presidency or in the Congress in order to make the checks and balances actually work. We now clearly can see that an individual who knows no boundaries and bursts through any guardrails that may have existed, coupled to the lack of any will to stop him, means that anything goes.
Here’s the thing to remember. Whatever shenanigans happen in the next few days, whoever argues that the Trump cultists are on the wrong side of history, or that they are setting a terrible precedent for future presidents or even that our democracy may be in jeopardy, there is only one answer.
Repeat after me.
THEY. DON’T. CARE.
All that matters now is protecting Mr. Trump who in turn promises to protect them (Ha!) which allows them to retain power.
NOTHING. ELSE. MATTERS.
Is it too much to say that we now have a king rather than a president? Perhaps. Only the events over the next few months will let us know for sure. I for one am extremely nervous about what Mr. Trump thinks he can do now that he feels no consequences for his election dallying with Russia and his extortion attempts on Ukraine.
Everything seems to be fair game to him and he sees no problem with his immoral behavior. Our only recourse is to be vigilant, continue to cry “foul” while holding our Senators and Representatives accountable and turning out in record numbers in November to vote these people into obscurity.
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
—- Alice in Alice in Wonderland
To believe the ongoing defense arguments in the Impeachment Trial of Donald John Trump, it would help to be in Alice’s shoes. Although, with the information coming out over the weekend, I’m not sure that even that would help.
Two revelations in particular make the president’s defense increasingly difficult to believe. One is the roughly 80 minute long video and audio tape released by Mr. Lev Parnas — the “associate” of Mr. Rudy Giuliani in the Ukrainian shakedown scheme — where he discusses the firing of the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. The second, and most important, is the report detailing the interactions between the president and his National Security Adviser John Bolton concerning the shakedown of Ukraine.
In the audio tape, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Trump discuss Ambassador Yovanovitch and the president is told that she is “bad-mouthing” him. The response?
“Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it!”
In addition to sounding like a bad mob movie, this is troubling in at least two ways. While the president’s defense is true, that he can hire and fire whomever he wants as an Ambassador, it wasn’t what happened as much as how it happened.
Mr. Trump claims he doesn’t know Mr. Parnas. This is just another one of his over 16,200 documented lies to date in office. Listening to the tape, he clearly does know him. The context is a general discussion about Ukraine and U.S. support to that fledgling democracy locked in a hot war with Russia. Note that he doesn’t say “we need to look into that,” or tell an aide that he needs more information or talk to Secretary of State Pompeo about what to do. Instead, on the spot, he commands her immediate removal.
This happens for one of two reasons. It could be that there already had been long discussions about how the Ambassador refused to “play ball” in the scheme and in fact was acting to end corruption — by opposing the actions of Giuliani and Associates.
The other reflects the president’s decision making style. Assume he really did not know Mr. Parnas. Then that means anyone could walk into the president’s inner circle (the recording was made during an intimate sit down dinner of about ten people), say any old outrageous thing and the president would bring the most powerful office in the land to bear on the spur of the moment and act on it without study, knowledge, strategy or process. That may be the scarier of the two prospects.
But now, as Alice would say, the situation is getting “curiouser and curousier.”
Mr. Bolton apparently is ready and willing to testify to what is in the manuscript of his upcoming book. Specifically, that in mid-August, as all government agencies were pushing for the release of about $400 million in desperately needed assistance to Ukraine, the president told him that he would not do so until the Ukrainians provided information on the Bidens and on Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. These two conspiracy theories have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked by his own administration’s officials.
The manuscript puts the lie to everything that the president, his lawyers and his cult followers in Congress have claimed since the whole mess became public.
The manuscript also reportedly shows the full depth and breadth of the conspiracy to extort Ukraine by illuminating the involvement of the Secretary of State, Attorney General and the Acting Chief of Staff. The whole place seems to be rotting from within.
Here is the kicker. The draft book was given to the White House staff on 30 December 2019. That means that the president, his defense attorneys and others in the administration knew about the testimony Mr. Bolton was ready to give and therefore, not only did they continue to knowingly lie when they said no one could testify to the president’s direct involvement, they knew it when the Senate voted not to have any witnesses or documents produced at the trial.
Let that sink in.
I would postulate that as a minimum, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (TR-Ky) knew it too when he set the rules for the trial. Clearly, they were ready to jam through a vote to preclude witnesses knowing that there was at least one person that could provide exceedingly damaging testimony about the president’s real intentions.
A total sham and whitewash of a trial executed with malice of forethought.
My theory is that they knew the facts would come out eventually, but they did not care. The argument would be that the president was already acquitted and so, while “troubling”, too bad, so sad, we can’t do anything about it now. The House should have done their job (another canard among many), but they didn’t and so now we just have to live with it. Oh well. On to the election!
Only they got caught.
On Saturday I was convinced that the trial would end without any additional evidence or witnesses. They almost got away with it, but now I think that as many as eight or nine Republican Senators will vote for witnesses. What form that takes, and how many witnesses get called, I have no idea, but I would speculate that it is about a 60-40 chance that at least Mr. Bolton testifies. It is also possible, of course, that Mr. McConnell (aka Midnight Mitch, aka Moscow Mitch) might pull a legislative rabbit out of his hat to protect Mr. Trump, but there also may be enough pressure from his own caucus that he relents.
Much attention focused on four Republican Senators and how they might vote. In my view, and the view of several political analysts, there were never going to be four Senators joining the Democrats to vote for witnesses. There needed to be safety in numbers of at least six or seven in order that no one of them is accused of having “caved” to the Democrats and been the deciding vote. Otherwise, the Red Queen would have tweeted “Off with their heads!”
It is early in the proceedings, even if Mr. Trump and his accomplice in the Senate Mr. McConnell hoped to have it wrapped up by the end of this week. But as we have seen so often in these proceedings, even twenty-four hours is an eternity in the current political environment. Who knows what will happen?
I turn to Alice for one more parting piece of advice to the public and to those in Congress that may still care about holding this administration accountable.
“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to go someplace else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
The last few weeks produced a year’s worth of newsworthy events. Among other things was the Commander-in-Chief interfering with the effective application of good order and discipline in the military under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The president pardoned three men convicted or accused (and awaiting trial) for war crimes — two Army officers and one Navy Chief Petty Officer. In doing so he further demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the military by tweeting (of course) that he did so because “we train our boys to be killing machines and then prosecute them when they kill!” Such statements totally ignore the fact that what separates our military from most others is that in training to fight for our country, our military also learns to do so with discipline, under a code of conduct that prohibits indiscriminate killing, especially of civilians and works to protect the honor and dignity of our nation’s morals, espoused in a speech by General Douglas MacArthur, as “duty, honor, country.” Note that all three men were brought up on charges of crimes under the UCMJ by their own soldiers and Sailors, not by higher ranking officers trying to make some politically correct example of them, as the president implies.
Hanging over everything of course, is the impending impeachment of the President of the United States. In the course of events, three particularly troubling things are happening that in my opinion fundamentally threaten the nature of our democracy.
Very troubling is the conscious use of Russian propaganda on the part of Republican U.S. Senators to try and defend the president’s shakedown scheme against Ukraine to help his own reelection in 2020 using taxpayer money. Otherwise knowledgeable and intelligent Republican Senators such as John Neely Kennedy (LA) and Ted Cruz (TX) and others publicly say that we do not know whether the Russians meddled in the 2016 election, rather it was the Ukrainians. Such garbage could have been written by the former KGB officer Vladimir Putin himself. A unanimous intelligence community agrees it was the Russians. Period. They agree it was not Ukraine, a fact FBI Director Christopher Wray reiterated just last week. The alleged Ukrainian “meddling” is most often a reference to a single op-ed piece written by the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States criticizing then candidate Trump for saying that Crimea (stolen from Ukraine by force by Russia) “belongs” to Russia. Since Ukraine and Russia continue in a hot war, it might not be too far of a stretch to say that there were some hard feelings towards Mr. Trump saying, essentially, that Ukraine should be a part of Russia again. Another statement straight out of Putin’s talking points.
It is shameful that Republican Representatives and Senators perpetuate such lies on the citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.
But it get worse.
The long anticipated Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) report on the origins of the investigation into meddling in the 2016 election came out. This report, according to Mr. Trump and his supporters, would unmask the “deep state” and clearly show that the FBI and DOJ were out to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president through a vast “liberal” conspiracy. It did none of those things. None. On the contrary, while the IG’s report found some troubling procedural problems that need to be corrected or changed, it explicitly says that the basis of the investigation was solid, within DOJ guidelines, had no bias behind any of the decisions made and was fully appropriate.
The president’s reaction? He lashed out as usual. Among other things he referred to the people in the FBI as “scum.” Perhaps we as a country have come to expect that from a President of the United States, but I have not. But, I am no longer surprised. What deeply troubles me is that Attorney General William Barr, the DOJ and FBI boss, echoed the president’s remarks. Instead of supporting the FBI or the work of the independent IG, in an interview with NBC News he said about the report and investigation:
“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press. I think there were gross abuses and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI.”
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he said of the investigation “It was a travesty, and there were many abuses.” So much for the credibility of an independent IG and so much for the Attorney General working for the people of the United States rather than being the president’s personal shill, I mean attorney.
Deeply troubling. But it gets worse yet.
The president is about to be impeached (appropriately in my opinion, but that’s a post for another day). The Senate will then conduct a trial on the two Articles of Impeachment to either remove Mr. Trump from office, or acquit him.
All 100 of the sitting Senators act as jurors and take an oath. It is not the oath of office, but an oath as a juror. According to Rule XXV of the Senate Rules On Impeachment Trials the oath is:
“I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of ___, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”
The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went on TV and declared that he is “in total coordination with the White House counsel” on the rules and parameters of the trial — such as calling witnesses or not — and opined that the president would be acquitted and that all Republicans would so vote. Senator McConnell gets to set the rules of this trial and is also a juror. Fair and impartial? It is like the jury foreman in a case getting together with the defense attorney before the trial to determine how they will acquit the defendant.
Other Republican Senators have expressed similar opinions, most notably Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). On Sunday’s Face the Nation he said that he was going to vote to acquit the president and that “I don’t need any witnesses. I am ready to vote on the underlying articles.” Earlier last week he said that he did not even intend to review any of the facts raised before the House of Representatives during the investigation leading to the Articles of Impeachment. So much for following one’s oath.
Impeachment is a serious and sobering step. The Senate deserves to treat it as such. Instead we continue to hear Republicans moan and groan about “hoaxes” “witch hunts” “undermining the 2016 election” and other whiny defenses of the president. Please note that not one of them disputes the facts as presented in the House.
Our democracy is in trouble as the president continues to argue that he is above the law. He claims that he cannot be investigated by law enforcement or by the Congress. Nobody or no entity or no organization can do so. His lawyers have even argued in court that if the president actually did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York (as he famously said during his campaign) that he could not be prosecuted.
In recent days, Mr. Trump’s “personal lawyer” Rudy Guiliani, just back from a “fact finding” trip to Ukraine, is bragging to anyone that will listen that he “forced out” U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanavitch because she was getting in the way of his schemes.
The president is being impeached for Obstruction of Congress and Abuse of Power. It is clear that he did not just abuse power, rather that he continues abusing power today. Events are unfolding that impact our elections. Not the one in 2016, but the upcoming 2020 elections. We already know that Mr. Trump thinks his position is so weak that he must cheat to win. He took advantage of Russian meddling and he has often publicly stated that he will take help again from other nations if it will help him win.
The past is past. We need to protect our future.
Two significant events took place yesterday. In one, the Attorney General went before the good people of the United States, and to put it kindly, embarrassed himself when he uttered misleading and deceptive statements regarding the Mueller Report. The other event was the release of the 448 page redacted report itself. In reading the Report it became clear that Attorney General William Barr is a shill for the President of the United States and will act in a manner consistent with many in the Trump Administration as outlined in the Mueller Report. Lying and abuse of power are the norm as is so evidently clear in the Report. (I have not yet read all of it — a compelling read, by the way. You can find it here. It reads a lot like a mob crime novel.) There is so much detail in the Report that it is easy to get distracted or to just stop and shake one’s head at the immoral and unethical activity detailed in it. For now, let’s take a big picture view of what did and did not come out of the Report.
Not to put too fine of a point on it, but the Report most certainly does not exonerate the president. It does not recommend prosecution of the president, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller clearly lays out a road map for Congress to act if it so chooses. More on that below.
The Report comes in two volumes, one on Russian-Trump Campaign coordination and one on obstruction of justice efforts. It is significant to note that the Report does not contain any counter-intelligence information. In other words, it doesn’t answer the question if one or more of those involved in the Trump Campaign and Administration were involved with a foreign power (or powers) to act in a way that furthered the interests of those countries at the expense of our own. A very major hole in the entire Report. It is also pertinent to remember, that Mr. Mueller took a very narrow view of his charter and stuck mainly to investigating Russian interference and the president’s subsequent reaction to that investigation. There are numerous “spin-off” investigations taking place in New York, Virginia, Washington D.C. and elsewhere. Those are not impacted by this Report.
When reading Volume I, remember that “collusion” is not a legal term. (Which makes it even more embarrassing that A.G. Barr said at least five times in his press conference that there was “no collusion.” Of course there wasn’t. It’s not a legal term. He was clearly pandering to an audience of one. But I digress.) Mr. Mueller does not use the term collusion anywhere in the report. The correct terms are conspiracy and coordination. Mr. Mueller said that the Trump Campaign activities did not rise to the level of a crime provable beyond the shadow of a doubt, but that there were numerous contacts between the campaign and the Russians. More specifically he wrote in the Introduction to Volume I that:
As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents. The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
Russia interfered in the election. Russia actively worked to help Mr. Trump and damage Secretary Clinton. The Trump Campaign knew about it and expected to benefit from it.
In Volume II the Special Counsel lays out the reasoning behind not charging Mr. Trump with the crime of obstruction of justice. This section is, to me, quite interesting and exceedingly relevant. To the contrary of A.G. Barr’s assertion that Mr. Mueller could not make a determination, the Report clearly states why they did not recommend prosecution of the president for his actions. Mr. Mueller followed the existing policy of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that a sitting president cannot be indicted. However, he says, a president can be prosecuted after he leaves office. Therefore, the Report states in the introduction to Volume II, that in order to safeguard “the integrity of the criminal justice system, we conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.” A big hint that criminal prosecution may be advisable in the future or that the Congress can use the information in the near term.
Additionally the Report goes on to say that it would not be fair to accuse the president of a crime, even though he is not indicted, because without an indictment no trial could be held and if there was no trial, then the accused could not defend himself. In other words, under the rules we can’t indict a president, so we can’t bring him to trial, therefore we won’t say he broke the law, but we won’t say he did not either. A considerable difference from the way A.G. Barr depicted the situation. In fact, Mr. Mueller lays down a pretty compelling case that Mr. Trump probably did obstruct justice beyond a reasonable doubt.
Here is the kicker. In the introduction the Report says that:
If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.
In other words, we can’t say he committed a crime because then we would have to act, but we cannot act while he is in office, but (hint, hint) we do not exonerate him. In fact, the only reason that Mr. Trump did not further obstruct justice was because some of his staff would not lie or act illegally on his behalf. As the Report puts it, “The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”
Who can take action? The Congress. The Report also takes note of that fact. In a long discussion of the legal precedents and other factors governing presidential powers and Congressional powers as delineated in the Constitution, it states in part that,
Under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice through the use of his Article II powers. The separation-of-powers doctrine authorizes Congress to protect official proceedings, including those of courts and grand juries, from corrupt, obstructive acts regardless of their source.
The Report goes on to conclude that,
Finally, we concluded that in the rare case in which a criminal investigation of the President’s conduct is justified, inquiries to determine whether the President acted for a corrupt motive should not impermissibly chill his performance of his constitutionally assigned duties. The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.
In the context of the full report, it seems that Mr. Mueller is trying to lay out a road map for the Congress to take action.
The real question is whether or not the Congress will act on this extremely damaging delineation of the rampant corruption and flouting of the norms that used to govern our presidents. Mr. Trump clearly has no interest in upholding his oath to defend the Constitution. Will Congress?
Many political arguments are underway as to the pros and cons of initiating impeachment hearings. One could argue that there should be no political considerations to be had. Either the Congress has the duty to begin such proceedings given what we know (which is only the tip of the iceberg) or it doesn’t.
It most definitely is not time to “just move along.” We must hold our elected officials to account. As the true magnitude of this Report sinks in we as a nation must make considered decisions as to how to deal with it. We either have a country of laws where no one is above the law or we do not. So far, it appears we do not. Even as I write this the president is in his lair at Mar-a-Lago using his Twitter feed to send out expletive filled expressions of rage to denigrate the Report, those that did the investigation, and those that had the courage to stand up to the president and refuse to do his bidding and told the truth about what happened.
Worse yet is that regardless of how one feels about Mr. Trump and what action should or should not be taken to hold him accountable, the evidence that the Russian Federation interfered in our 2016 election is irrefutable. And yet, the president, who took an oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” still refuses to acknowledge the attack on the United States.
That alone should be an impeachable offense.
My biggest concern is that once again the president will take away the lesson that he can get away with anything and not be held to account. Given his past performance, I think we can expect him to further ignore the law and to act outrageously. There is no one to stop him and he now has an Attorney General that acts as his personal attorney ready to protect him.
Let us hope that the House of Representatives continues to exercise their Constitutional duty to provide over sight of the Executive Branch of government. Otherwise, it’s “Katie bar the door.” Hang on for a wild ride.
“The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt, will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls. There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!”
— Donald J. Trump 29 May 2018 on Twitter.
“Why aren’t the 13 Angry and heavily conflicted Democrats investigating the totally Crooked Campaign of totally Crooked Hillary Clinton. It’s a Rigged Witch Hunt, that’s why! Ask them if they enjoyed her after election celebration!”
— Donald J. Trump 29 May 2018 on Twitter.
“This whole Russia Probe is Rigged. Just an excuse as to why the Dems and Crooked Hillary lost the Election and States that haven’t been lost in decades. 13 Angry Democrats, and all Dems if you include the people who worked for Obama for 8 years. #SPYGATE & CONFLICTS OF INTEREST!”
— Donald J. Trump 27 May 2018 on Twitter.
I am very nervous about the future of our country. The president is deliberately undermining the institutions that help to keep us safe in the law enforcement and intelligence communities. In addition, he is already claiming that if Republicans lose control of the House or Senate it is because Special Counsel Robert Mueller “meddled” in the election. Preposterous!
Let’s face it. The president lies. It is deliberate and pre-meditated. All three quotes above are his attempt to change the narrative regarding the investigation underway by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. They were some of the thirteen Tweets put out by the president over the holiday weekend relating to the investigation of Russian efforts to disrupt our elections. These statements go far beyond opinion and land squarely in the realm of consciously lying. We can no longer — if we ever really could — trust the president on anything he says.
The average citizen is just trying to get by from day-to-day. Going to work, taking care of one’s family and dealing with the rigors of daily life make it difficult to keep up with the continual barrage of information deliberately designed to deflect and distract. The issues are complicated and cannot fully be understood through a Tweet or a fifteen second sound bite on television. Totally understandable. In fact, Mr. Trump and his abettors count on that as they throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. But it is important to try to ferret out the truth.
“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”
— Joseph Goebbels
For the moment, lets put policy changes aside. Many people support his efforts — although I am afraid he is going to destroy our economy through his capricious and erratic trade policies, which is why we should remember his multiple bankruptcies — and I can respect that, even if I disagree. I cannot ignore the daily character issues surrounding the president and his bullying and his attacks on institutions that keep America safe. Would you honestly look to Mr. Trump as an example for your children and grand children to emulate?
Here are the facts (but look them up for yourself, don’t rely on my word) as to what is going on most recently with the Russia investigation and thus the Tweets above:
- Last week Mr. Trump tried to get Congress to investigate the investigators investigating him by claiming that a “spy” was put into his campaign by the FBI. Despite originally saying that only Republicans would be briefed on the actual facts (no politicizing of intelligence in this case!), senior members of both parties (known as the Gang of Eight) were briefed. There was no there there. Nothing. Bumpkiss. Nada. Just one more in a long line of false accusations put out by the president. Claims of wiretapping of Trump Tower, an “unmasking scandal” of intelligence intercepts, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (with apologies to Yul Brynner in the King and I).
- The leadership of the Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI, and the Special Counsel are all Republicans and appointed by Republicans. Some by the president directly.
- The FBI actually helped Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. The FBI and DOJ received information from an allied intelligence source that three individuals with his campaign did or may have close ties to the Russians with the intent of interfering with the election. It was their duty to investigate a possible assault on our electoral system and indeed, that one or both of the campaigns were being disrupted. An informant met with the three to assess the depth of their knowledge and possible associations with known Russian operatives. By the way, the informant worked in the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. (Also all Democrats?!)
- FBI Director Comey publicly announced an investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton — twice — during the campaign. The investigation into the Trump campaign was kept secret so as not to disrupt his campaign or impugn anyone on his staff until the facts were known.
- The Mueller Team has approximately sixteen lawyers with experience in both Republican and Democrat administrations supported by roughly thirty-six staff, including investigators and non-attorneys.
- The “witch hunt,” after only a year, has already resulted in nineteen indictments including Mr. Trump’s National Security Adviser, former campaign manager and the assistant campaign manager.
- Mr. Mueller’s team does not leak information, which gives the field of public opinion completely to Mr. Trump and his abettors. That said, it is widely believed that Mr. Mueller is looking into the following crimes.
- Russian election interference.
- Links between Trump associates and Russian officials.
- Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
- Obstruction of Justice.
- Financial transactions including money laundering and tax evasion.
- Violations of federal campaign laws.
- I could fill pages more of facts directly countering the president’s pronouncements.
Look at how Mr. Trump says what he does. Very rarely does he dispute the facts. Rather he creates falsehoods and/or attacks individuals or institutions. There are no specifics, but only vague accusations. As a result, he can never be wrong and can, when that proves to be a dead end, he just comes up with the next wild and false thing.
Apparently, he wants to use the DOJ and FBI as a personal force, loyal to him rather than the nation and the rule of law. He will not stop until he gets what he wants and is willing to destroy anyone or any institution to protect himself and his self-interests. Obviously he is getting increasingly desperate as the investigators close in around him. We should all worry about just how desperate he may get. Mr. Trump will not go quietly into the night.
I fervently hope that our nation’s leaders, Democrats and Republicans, stand tall and remind the president that no American is above the law.
Vladimir Putin is thrilled. His efforts are paying off beyond his wildest hopes.
“Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.” — Lysander Spooner
Yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations as a result of the ongoing investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The indictment shows that the clear intent of their actions was to undermine the 2016 presidential election and to favor the election of Donald Trump. (Read the full 37 page indictment here.) The indictment details how the Russians conducted “information warfare against the United States of America.” This was no fly-by-night operation as the core entity, Internet Research Agency, had at least 80 full-time employees and a monthly budget of approximately 73 million Russian rubles a month (about 1.25 million dollars a month).
According to the indictment, the purpose of the covert Russian activity, which included putting undercover Russian operatives in the United States, was to engage “in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.” Once the nominees were selected, the operation focused solely on supporting Mr. Trump and denigrating Mrs. Clinton, including active efforts to discourage possible Clinton supporters from voting for her by spreading false and misleading information.
The Internet Research Agency had hundreds of additional support employees (trolls and other social media experts) beyond the core 80 and included a graphics department, a data analysis department, a search-engine optimization department, an IT department and a finance department. It was organized with branch heads and assigned duties. Very sophisticated.
Ultimately the operation’s interference in the 2016 election was not limited to social media or cyberspace. They also played “dirty tricks” at campaign rallies, organized their own rallies and otherwise put out derogatory and inflammatory information. For example, in the indictment it states that at one such event they tried to promote the idea that Mrs. Clinton was pro-Muslim by convincing an unaware American citizen to carry a sign “depicting Clinton and a quote attributed to her stating ‘I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of Freedom.'” They also bought ads on Facebook and other sources claiming that Mrs. Clinton committed “voter fraud” amplifying one of Mr. Trump’s constant refrains. And more.
But you can read the indictment for yourself.
Here’s the rub.
What is the President of the United States doing to protect our country from a sophisticated asymmetrical attack on our homeland? So far? Nothing.
As the NY Times says, Mr. Trump’s “conspicuous silence” is a clear lack of leadership. His only reaction as of this writing is to tweet that “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!” It’s only about him — not the nation or our security. Oh by the way, how do you think the Russians and other adversaries around the world view his response? One word. Weak.
There are many factual errors in his tweet, among them the fact that the indictment said nothing about whether there was or was not collusion — a totally separate issue from this one — and the start date also has nothing to do with the activities of the Russians or the fact that they favored Mr. Trump and actively worked to get him elected.
(As and aside, for all you conspiracy theorists out there, Mr. Trump visited Moscow in 2013. Is it not conceivable that he conspired with the Russians then to aid an upcoming presidential campaign? Even though he had not announced it publicly? Or maybe the Russians blackmailed him into running with the express purpose of undermining U.S. democracy and attempting to install him in the White House? The operatives arrived in 2014 because it takes time to set up an effective covert operation, integrate into the community, establish ties and learn the lay of the land before Mr. Trump announced his candidacy in 2015. But then, I am not a conspiracy theorist.)
Here’s my real point.
Where is the outrage? Where is the United States’ response to a clear and present danger? What are we doing to punish the Russians for this grievous attempt to undermine our democracy? No outrage from the administration. No warnings to Russia. Gosh, the president refuses to implement sanctions against Russia already overwhelmingly approved by bipartisan votes in both the House and the Senate last summer. What is wrong with him? Will he continue to call the Russian involvement a “hoax” perpetrated by the Democrats as he has consistently and constantly done? Apparently so, if the statements coming from his press office today are any indication.
Remember that this is only one area of the Special Counsel’s investigation. Still to come is the result of investigations into the hacking of the Democratic National Committee; the hacking of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails; a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower which Mr. Trump Jr. thought would deliver “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton; and the guilty pleas of Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, and another campaign adviser. Mr. Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates have been indicted. Not to mention possible obstruction of justice charges. There is a lot going on for a “hoax.” Additionally, just because there is no allegation made in one indictment does not mean that it won’t be made in other ones in the future. If one saw or reads Mr. Rosenstein’s announcement releasing the indictments, he was very, very careful in his wording. To me he seemed to be signalling that just because no campaign or other U.S. officials were named in this indictment, it does not mean that there will not be some in other indictments yet to come.
Again. Read the indictment. Decide for yourself. I find it to be dereliction of duty by the Commander-in-Chief if the United States does not respond to this attack by the Russians. I am trying to give the president the benefit of the doubt thinking that maybe a response is being planned even as I write this. I hope so. However, even if the administration is planning such a response, one would rightly expect a clear, precise and strongly worded statement from the president condemning the Russian activity by now. It is discouraging to note that this administration has yet to hold even one cabinet level meeting or even one inter-agency task force meeting to address the issue. Just this week, all of the heads of our intelligence agencies testified before Congress that the Russians were still trying to disrupt our democracy and would surely attempt to disrupt the 2018 and 2020 elections. And we do nothing.
Where is the outrage? More importantly, where is the action to combat an attack by the Russians?