The Mueller Report is finally out and, even in redacted form, it provides a stark portrayal of a presidential administration immersed in chaos, lawlessness, unethical misconduct and the betrayal of America.
The most common responses we’ve had to our columns over the past two years involve readers expressing feelings of frustration and helplessness over how the political degeneration of America affects their lives and their future. America will die a slow death if our attitude is to wait for the other guy to fix it. Each of us can play an important role in the outcome, so today we give readers four key ways to personally make a real difference.Continue Reading >>
I don’t want to keep beating the children, but you are making me do it. I don’t want to refuse to give you the money you need to buy groceries and pay the rent. It’s a humanitarian crises, all because you won’t do what I tell you to do.
I know we once took an oath that all our decisions would require mutual agreement. I intend to live by that oath. That’s why I’ll keep beating the children until we both agree that you will do exactly what I tell you to do.Continue Reading >>
How much damage Trump will do to America, and to the world at large, as his presidency goes up in flames is an open issue, but as I’ve written in the past (See: Really Bad Things Are Going To Happen Now), this is going to be very, very bad, and quite possibly a very lengthy process as well.
Many disasters have impacted Trump and America this week. The utter fraud that was the Trump Foundation is being shut down. Trump is being investigated for the serious financial improprieties of the Trump inauguration committee. A Federal judge took former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn sternly to task for his betrayal of America. Trump attorney Michael Cohen has implicated Trump in multiple felonies designed to defraud America. Russian spy Maria Butina entered into a cooperation agreement with the US government. Paul Ryan spent the week living in an alternative reality while patting himself on the back for what a tremendous job he’d done the past two years helping Trump destroy America (See: The Self-Delusion of Paul Ryan). The stock market is in a free fall, with the NASDAQ today closing in its first bear market since the Great Recession, a drop of 21.9% from its peak on August 29, 2018. The Executive Branch is drowning in staff vacancies at the highest levels. But let’s just focus on some of what has happened over just the past couple of days:Continue Reading >>
With each snip of the hair stylist’s scissors, I yearn for the weight of the world to be lifted from my shoulders, but instead the burden just seems to get heavier and heavier, until finally I seem to have no choice left other than to shrug. By the time my haircut is done, I am forced to conclude that the gal who has been cutting my hair every two months or so for the past two-and-a-half years will no longer be getting my business. And that there are lessons to be learned from this experience that can help all of us take positive action to fight the darkness that pervades America today.
My hair stylist is a nice lady, probably in her early 70s, and I believe that she moved to America from Germany many years ago and became a US citizen. Her salon, which she owns, is quite convenient to me… within walking distance from my house. And I think that she does a pretty good job of cutting my hair.
From our past conversations, it has long been clear that her knowledge and awareness of political happenings in America is, like so many of our fellow citizens, extremely shallow and superficial. She is, for example, aware someone named Mueller is investigating Trump, and that Trump calls it a WITCH HUNT, but her insight into what all that involves, and what the issues are, does not go too much deeper than that.
Her opinions and lack of awareness seems to stem more from voluntary ignorance than from personal deplorableness. Kind of like what one would expect of a nice lady in her 70s who spends at best a few minutes a day watching “state television” via FOX News.
She knows I write about politics, and she knows I’m critical of Trump. So I was a bit surprised last week when, while she was cutting my hair, and without my bringing up politics at all, she blurts out “I really like Trump” in a manner far more definitive and self-assured than I have ever heard her express in the past.
To put this in context, it is important to remember that this is a woman who grew up in the shadow of the horror that Hitler unleashed on the German people and the world at large. And that in the two months since she had previously cut my hair, Trump has decried the American free press as “the enemy of the state,” he has torn children from their asylum seeking parents and put them into cages and cells with no intention of ever reuniting them, and he has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Vladamir Putin in a press conference of utterly treasonous nature.
So, instead of getting angry or trying to argue with her or expressing wonder about exactly what universe she is living in… I decide to turn the situation into a learning moment for myself, and I ask her “Why?” without giving her any overt negative reaction.
And she tells me there are two reasons.
He speaks what is on his mind, and really tells you what he is thinking, in an unvarnished way that is so much better and more refreshing than what the usual “politicians” do.
As she says this, I think silently to myself:
Yes, being candid and genuine can be refreshing and admirable in a politician, when they operate from a core base of honesty and integrity. Look, for example, at Congressman Adam Schiff. But Trump embraces neither honesty nor integrity. His statements seem to fall primarily into two basic categories… 1) expressions of his true nature, which show him to be a vile, racist, misogynistic, malignant narcissist whose priorities revolve strictly around enriching himself and his family; and 2) lies and more lies, aimed at conning and gaslighting the ignorant and unintelligent. These are not traits that any sane reasonable person would admire.Continue Reading >>
In a disaster entirely of his own making, the President of the United States stood alongside Vladamir Putin at a press conference in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018 and confirmed to the entire world what so many of us already knew: Donald John Trump has betrayed his duty to America, and acts as though he is beholden to and under undue influence of Putin in ways that constitute an extraordinary betrayal of his oath of office.
And that’s just what we know from Trump’s public statement with Putin. Because Trump has been silent on the matter, we still have virtually no specifics about what Trump discussed and promised to Putin in their private meeting. There are reports coming out of Russia that agreements were in fact reached, and given that Trump won’t say anything about them, it seems likely that they could very well constitute an even vastly greater betrayal of American interests. See: US offers no details as Russia claims Trump and Putin reached military agreements.
In addition to Trump’s apparent universal adulation of murderous dictators in general, Putin’s specific leverage and influence over Trump seems to also stem from a variety of financial, sexual, and criminal factors. My previous column: The Man in the High Castle: Trump has committed high treason provides elaboration on each of these issues. A new column in The New Yorker this week, A Theory of Trump Kompromat also provides further insight.
I’ve received considerable correspondence since Trump’s spectacle in Helsinki, all centered on three key questions:
How can anyone still support him?;
Given how apparent it is that Trump’s loyalties are to Russia, why won’t Congress do anything about it… RIGHT NOW?; and
What can each of us do about it… RIGHT NOW?
Why People Still Support Him
The entire spectacle of Trump’s capitulation to Putin in Helsinki made it essentially impossible for anyone to claim to be pro-Trump and to love America and the values for which it has historically stood, and not seem, in the very best possible light, a complete and utter fool, and in the very worst possible light, a traitor to America as well. As John Pavlovitz’s noted in Don’t Say You Love This President and America. One of Those Things Isn’t True:
“when you refuse to name it all as treasonous, when you choose to remain silent, when you pretend you don’t see it—you declare who you are. We see it. The world sees it.””
So one must face some grim realities to explain Trump’s continued support:
There really are Americans who truly want America to move away from democracy towards authoritarianism, particularly if an authoritarian leader pretends to support their political and social agenda and remove it from possible change via democratic processes.
There are Americans who support Trump because they profit greatly from his policies and agenda, and some of them are extremely wealthy… and their wealth can and does buy political influence.
There are Americans who truly want to see the subjugation of America to Russia.
There are Americans who simply don’t have the intelligence to understand the issues involved (remember, half the population has an IQ of under 100) — they are easily persuaded by the gaslighting distortions and distractions of Trump and his enablers, and/or they blindly support anyone who identifies as Republican because it is their cultural heritage to do so. The Dunning–Kruger effect is real.
There is also a considerable segment of Americans who are attached to Trump in such a cultish fashion that they essentially see him as being anointed by a higher power to lead us… these people don’t care if he is a traitor… they will follow him anywhere.
And there is a segment of Americans who will refuse to back away from Trump because it would mean admitting that they were wrong about something that they were once passionate about, so they will just keep digging in no matter what he does.
So in total, the evidence is that these factors combined explain the behavior of about 30% of the American electorate. We are forced to conclude that even if Trump should publicly come out and claim that he wants to make the United States a republic in the Russian Federation, a sizable portion of his supporters would applaud him for having another brilliant idea, while repeating the gaslighting distortions he manufactures to justify it. That’s the America we live in, and only by recognizing this scary reality can we find a constructive path to move forward.
Why Congress Won’t Do Anything RIGHT NOW
After the Helsinki summit, Former CIA Director John O. Brennan noted:
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
Donald Trump learned last week of indictments being handed down by the US Department of Justice confirming what he already knew, namely that Vladimir Putin’s military launched a coordinated cyber-attack on America in 2016. Some of these attacks appear to have taken place within hours of Trump’s direct request for Russia to undertake them.
Trump then stated this past week, publicly, “Putin’s not my enemy.”
Russia, and it’s murderous dictator, Vladimir Putin, are clearly the enemies of the United States. Yet, Trump says Putin isn’t his enemy. Why?
The answer now seems clear: it is because Trump is a Russian asset and the most perfidious traitor to America to have lived within our lifetimes.
“During a phone call with Mr. Putin in March, when the president was urged by aides not to congratulate the Russian president on his electoral victory, Mr. Trump did just that. He told Mr. Putin that Russia and the United States should get along better. And he described as ‘stupid people’ the unnamed Trump administration officials whom the Russian president said had tried to prevent the call from happening, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation.”Continue Reading >>
As we celebrate Independence Day, it is a good time to remember that we owe our heritage to those who had the courage to stand up to tyranny, and who fought for freedom and democracy. At no time, at least within my lifetime, has our country needed to remember this more than today.
Our President has declared war on Western democracy and on Western values, as he flirts with neo-fascist leaders around the world, and he gaslights to declare war on truth and the rule of law here at home.
Today is a good day to remember the evening that 20,000 Americans, waving American Flags, singing the Star-Spangled Banner, chanting the Pledge of Allegiance, and claiming to be “Patriots” gathered in Madison Square Garden in New York City on February 20, 1939. They were all American Nazis. Listen to their chilling words here:
At the same time, in Europe, Hitler was finishing construction of his sixth concentration camp. Seven months later, the Nazi army invaded Poland.
It seems more like an episode of The Twilight Zone than reality… but it really happened. And people seem emboldened to express similar value systems again today. Those who do not acknowledge the past are condemned to repeat it.
“patriotism cannot be surrendered to the right-wingers, the zealots, the jingoists and the racists. It is time for the rest of us — the vast majority, who support a pluralistic, forward-looking vision of America — to reclaim it.
“Flying the American flag upside down in protest on this Fourth of July holiday can also help to sustain and inspire other types of political behavior, including protests, strikes, voting, organizing and the day-to-day corporeal politics of resistance that are necessary to protect American democracy from Trump and his allies.Continue Reading >>
Social media provides a window into how our friends, neighbors and acquaintances view the world that wasn’t present when Hitler rose to power. One of the best, and, at the same time, most terrible things about the current political situation in America is that it provides a glimpse of our community that did not exist in times past. And while social media is often justifiably blamed for exacerbating how lies, distortions, and false narratives are shared and adopted in support of those promulgating nefarious agendas, it can also play a highly positive role in debunking falsehoods, in uniting people together in positive directions, and in understanding whom within our circle of friends and acquaintances does not support the basic democratic ideals that have traditionally united us as Americans.
As a 6th grade student nearly half a century ago, I remember learning lessons from World War II. The familiar adage that “all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent” became expressed through the ode written by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. He described the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group (See: ‘First They Came’: The Poem of the Protests):
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Our lesson also taught that what had happened in Germany could happen again, and that it could even happen in America. And my classroom lesson predicted that if another authoritarian rose to seek power by moving us from democracy towards fascism, 70%+ of the populace would not speak out and object, and a non-trivial segment of the population would actually actively support him (or her).
As a 12 year old in the early 1970s, I was incredulous to believe that people would remain silent and that such a thing could ever happen again, with the world having witnessed what happened during World War II in Europe. I was full of questions: Was this prediction really true? Who were those people who would be silent or would actively subvert democracy? Were some of them my friends and neighbors? How could we tell who those people were?
Today, because of social media, I finally have answers to many of those questions.
Is Trump like Hitler? How is America’s support of Trump like Germany’s support of Hitler?
While many similarities between Trump and Hitler can be drawn, what is happening today in America isn’t genocide and the aim isn’t extermination (See: It’s Not the Holocaust). Hitler’s objective was world domination and “purification.” Hitler was a mass murderer who aspired to take over the world for the glory of the Fatherland. Unlike today’s America, which has a reasonably strong economy and low unemployment, Hitler came to power in the wake of Germany’s loss during World War I. The Treaty of Versailles leveled reparations on Germany and the ensuing depression had caused incredible hardship throughout Europe. Hitler promoted established German values of hard work, honour, and a strong military.
Many of the Germans saw Hitler as a saviour and ignored his racist views. Hitler’s racism and persecution was focused primarily on “infestation” from Jews along with Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Afro-Germans, political dissidents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, people with disabilities, homosexuals, along with various other “asocials and non-conformists.” Trump’s animus seems to be primarily focused on Muslims, Mexicans and refugees who he claims are trying to “infest” America. In both cases, fear-mongering against minorities was/is used as a way to motivate followers.
“Alongside the viciousness of much of German politics in the Weimar years was an incongruous innocence: few people could imagine the worst possibilities. A civilized nation could not possibly vote for Hitler, some had thought. When he became chancellor nonetheless, millions expected his time in office to be short and ineffectual. Germany was a notoriously law-abiding as well as cultured land. How could a German government systematically brutalize its own people? German Jews were highly assimilated and patriotic. Many refused to leave their homeland, even as things got worse and worse. “I am German and am waiting for the Germans to come back; they have gone to ground somewhere,” Victor Klemberer worte in his diary – he was the son of a rabbi and a veteran of the First World War who chose to stay, and miraculously survived.Continue Reading >>
Today we celebrate President’s Day, a patriotic holiday that is normally a time when we commemorate our history and our democracy, and we honor those who have served to lead it. But this year is different… it comes as an opportunity to contemplate the horrific reality that We the People have created for ourselves, and to reflect upon how we might move forward as a nation to remedy the situation.
America had been comfortable for awhile. The country went through a golden age of sorts in the late 20th century, making significant improvements in terms of the health, education, and affluence of its citizens. That age has ended and those trends have seen dramatic reverses in recent years. Life expectancy is declining in America, and the American system of healthcare available to all but the wealthiest of Americans lags that of many other parts of the developed world. Much of America wallows in deep ignorance and embraces alternative facts and shuns science. (See: Let’s Make America SMART Again.) The income divide between the have’s and the have-not’s grows on an ongoing basis. The secular values of our founding fathers are under assault.
McCarthyism of the 1950s (“Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the communist party?”) deeply divided the nation, followed by the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War of the 60s and 70s. Nothing since then has quite split the nation in the way it has become divided in the first year of the Trump presidency. Once Trump won the presidency, this did not come as a surprise to anyone who was paying attention (see my article from November 2016: Amoral Imperative). And with the greatest of irony, we have come full circle from the largely imagined commie plots of the 1950s to the 2010s where the evidence is overwhelming that Russian schemes to harm our democracy are active on an ongoing basis, and large numbers of Americans, including our President, are presently aiding and abetting such schemes in both a witting and unwitting manner.
Divisions have occurred along the lines of liberal versus conservative, Democrat versus Republican, and among those who represent decency versus those who embrace values seen as deplorable by the vast majority. But as the events of the past few weeks have again brought into crystal clear focus, the divide is also, and perhaps most importantly, focused on the very essence of the differences between America and Russia, and on the very idea of whether truth, justice, and the American way will prevail in the future of our nation.
Events that transpire over the next year will set a course for determining if America returns to a path of being a country that imperfectly strives for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, fair elections, and the right of it’s citizen’s to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… or if America will continue on the downward spiral of the past year, on a collision course to become more Russia-esque, a mafia oligarchy, one nation under Trump (in parallel with Russia’s one nation under Putin).
While only the most preliminary results of Mueller’s investigation are now public, we now have some visibility into the “tip of the iceberg” of the evidence that Mueller has amassed. Sufficient detail has emerged to have a strong sense of where all of this is going. In the near term, we can expect to see a variety of additional criminal indictments handed down related to obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Mueller undoubtedly senses the importance of focusing on this aspect of the case, as it appears that criminal acts of obstruction are continuing to occur on an ongoing basis.
The two other primary areas of Mueller’s investigation may extend on for years: 1) criminal acts that may have been committed related to collusion with Russia (collusion is not, in itself, a criminal act); and 2) money laundering, other Russia-related business dealings, or other leverage Russia may have over Trump and his family leading to a situation where POTUS is clearly beholden to, and uncritical of, Putin, and where POTUS brazenly violates the very law he signed (under protest) to put sanctions on Russia for its role in election tampering. (See: Trump gives in to Putin, refuses to impose America’s sanctions on Russia.)
The fact that Congressman Devin Nunes, and other Trump surrogates, are going to such outrageous lengths to try to cast doubt on the Russia investigation is telling… it means that Trump knows he is cornered in a “deep shit” kind of way, and is acting like a wounded animal thrashing about in the midst of an inevitable death blow.
President Trump not a believer in the “never let them see you sweat” theory of crisis management
What is the basis for Russia’s leverage over Trump? That picture has become clearer and clearer over the past year. Some have speculated that they are blackmailing him over something of a sexual nature, but that seems less likely now, given what is already publicly known about him in terms of rape allegations and his affairs. Trump seems to have no sense of shame over what he has done extra-maritally, and such acts probably won’t land him in jail or affect him in a deep financial way, so it is questionable whether he can be blackmailed by them. But Russia knows the details of how Trump has possibly amassed much of his fortune through the laundering of Russian money, they know the details of how his campaign has possibly colluded with them, and they likely have insight into a variety of other crimes he and his family have committed in the course of their business transactions, including conspiracy to defraud the United States. Russian money (along with Chinese money) seems to be continuing to find its ways into Trump’s fortunes on an ongoing basis. These issues are likely the core explanation for Russia’s leverage over Trump. (See: Trump’s Russian Laundromat and Trump’s Biggest Potential Conflict Of Interest Is Hiding In Plain Sight.)
Today the Republican Party remains in power, but its prospects for the future lie in shambles:
A political party that once held itself as the champion of family values has become the defender of a man whose family values are exemplified by hush money payments to cover up his marital affairs; who is the subject of multiple, credible, rape allegations; and who, with his own statements, has boasted of his history as a sexual predator.
A political party that once held itself as the champion of fiscal conservatism is now led by man with a history of multiple bankruptcies who is focused on grossly exacerbating America’s already dire financial debt situation by vastly increasing government spending and cutting tax revenues at the same time; with a net increase to the deficit of trillions of dollars; at a time at which sound fiscal conservatism dictates exactly the opposite approach. (See: The Great American Tax Heist and With Budget Deal, the G.O.P. Tosses Out the Economics Textbooks.)
A political party that once, with considerable justification, decried the moral and ethical lapses of the Obama administration is now led by a man whose administration centers on corruption, ethics violations, and the President’s use of the Office of the President to enrich himself, his family, and his business associates in a manner that dwarfs anything America has ever seen in the past by orders of magnitude. (See: How the Swamp Drained Trump.)
Under the control and purchase of the gun lobby, the Republican Party has accepted as a matter of necessity the ongoing deaths of thousands of Americans, including American school children, as the price that they are prepared to pay for the fetishization of weapons. “The claim of this lobby’s complicity in murder is not exaggerated or hysterical but, by now, quite simple and precise: when you refuse to act to stop a social catastrophe from happening, you are responsible for the consequences of the social catastrophe.” (See: Four Truths About the Florida School Shooting.)
And perhaps the most perplexing aspect of it all is that instead of the vast majority of Republicans repudiating this conduct and calling for reform for their party to bring it back to the sound principles for which it once stood, so many instead continue to share Russian propaganda and repeat the gaslighting tactics promulgated by the President (see my earlier article: Narcissism, Codependency, Gaslighting, Reality Distortion Fields and The American Presidency) to try to defend and divert attention to what is utterly indefensible. And in the process, each and every one of them effectively becomes responsible for the sinking of their own ship. This is not only bad for the Republican Party, it is bad for America. As David Frum notes in An Exit From Trumpocracy: “The stability of American society depends on conservatives finding a way forward from the Trump dead end.”
We have to be very clear about what happened this morning: the president woke up, went on Twitter, and raved like a madman. No other description of what happened this morning will do.
While it would be easy to look at the Russian-sponsored disinformation campaigns and think it would be absurd to believe that anyone could be so naive to buy into any of it, the evidence is overwhelming that the combination of Russian disinformation coupled with Trump’s ongoing gaslighting distortion tactics (including but not limited to: diversion; whataboutism; belittling and dismissiveness; exaggeration; self-aggrandizement; self-victimization; projection; blatant lying; rewriting history and reality denial; normalization; blame reflection and deflection; deconstructive conditioning; idealization and devaluation; bullying, shaming, raging and threatening; fear mongering; isolationism; and false equivalency) have been highly effective, and are often repeated and broadly disseminated on social media by people who should know far better. (See, for example: The Russians pretended to be Texans — and the Texans believed them and A former Russian troll speaks: ‘It was like being in Orwell’s world’.)
Two Cautionary Tales
One could provide thousands of examples, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll just provide two examples that are painfully close to me, of how distortion leads good people down harmful paths.
Both the these examples come from the Facebook feeds of individuals who have been long time friends of mine… both of these individuals are well-educated, they are both very successful entrepreneurs and business owners, with employees whose lives they have enriched. They are both proud and loving parents and grandparents. One of them is a veteran of the American armed services who has served our country with distinction. I’m fairly certain that both of them fly the American flag proudly. Both of them would, and have, gone to extraordinary lengths to help a friend without hesitation, and they both have done so for me in the past. Yet both individuals use their Facebook feeds in very subtle and unsettling ways.
The first person was, like me, once a Democrat, then a Republican, and is now an Independent. He characterizes himself as a conservative who decries the divisiveness and corruption of both major political parties. He posts frequently about the importance of Americans to put America above the needs of partisan politics. We agree on all of these things.
His Facebook commentary during this year’s State of the Union speech was interesting and included: “Sad. Nancy Pelosi making an angry bitch face during the State of the Union, at least Schumer had the decency to applaud our leader.” and “Nice to see a few who put America above their Party on both sides of the aisle!” (He failed to also mention that John Boehner was noted for the grimaces he made during Obama’s 2014 and 2015 State of the Union speeches, but perhaps he was unaware.)
Yet, over a time period in which 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, Florida; in which the President has lied to the American people multiple times on a daily basis; in which the President has railed against the freedom of the press that calls him on his lies; in which the President has failed to follow the law and take action against Russian election tampering; in which Russian nationals were indicted for conspiracy against the United States; in which the President has been in the news for hush money payoffs to extramarital lovers; in which fiscal conservatism principles are being grossly ignored by the President to balloon an already grotesque and unhealthy national debt; in which the President has continued on an ongoing basis to use the Office of the Presidency to enrich himself and his family; in which the President has sought to undermine the independence of both the FBI and the Department of Justice, and to use them for his own personal purposes and to obstruct justice… my friend has failed to make a single Facebook post on any of these topics. What seems to make him most upset, at least as evidenced by his Facebook postings, is the angry bitch face Nancy Pelosi made during the State of the Union address.
Then he writes: “To all the Trump haters, I ask you; is DJT dividing our country, or is it partisan politicians? In my late 30’s I tore up my Democratic Party card. Ten years ago I tore up my Republican Party Card. They are one party who seeks to divide us. Don’t kid yourselves. Don’t put a Political party ahead of your friendships, your family, or your country.”
The answer, of course, is yes, partisan politics is dividing our country, but even more so, by orders of magnitude, so is Donald John Trump.
Having a two party system is actually inherently healthy for a democracy. It isn’t the fact that we have two parties that disagree that is the problem… it is having the two party system perverted by the ability of special interests to buy politician’s favors that is unhealthy. A two party system, when it operates as it should, provides checks and balances that encourage ethical conduct, ferret out corruption, and foster healthy debate leading to consensus that protects both majorities and minorities. As Jimmy Carter so aptly noted in 2015:
“It [unlimited money in politics] violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members.”Continue Reading >>
In case you were somehow off the grid for the last two weeks, let’s briefly recap just a few of the more salient and perfidious events of the past fortnight before we take a look at how the dominoes may fall in the near future.
On May 9, 2017, United States President Donald John Trump fired F.B.I. Director James Comey, who was also leading the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 US presidential election as well as the possibility of collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign and administration. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly urged Trump to take this action.
Then the following morning of May 10, 2017, Trump met in the White House Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In addition to being Russia’s ambassador, Kislyak is widely recognized as Russia’s #1 spy in the US. No US media photographers were allowed at the meeting, but thanks to the Russians taking and publishing them, we have photos of what appears to be a gleeful celebratory atmosphere at that meeting. We can’t recall ever seeing photos of Trump appearing to be as happy as he was to receive these two visitors.
During this meeting, Trump gave ISIS-related code level Top Secret information to the Russians that Israel had reportedly provided to the US on the strict condition that it not be shared with our allies, much less with our adversaries. Such disclosure may well cost the life of an Israeli intelligence source, or terminate the ability of that intelligence source to continue to provide the US with extraordinarily valuable intelligence information. It could also terminate Israel’s willingness to share intelligence information with the US. These factors could in turn cause the loss of American lives around the world.
But President Trump wasn’t finished betraying America at that meeting. Based on contemporaneous notes that were taken and then verbally relayed to the New York Times (and which have not been denied by the White House), Trump also told the Russians “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
So, in the space of one morning meeting, Trump apparently divulged Top Secret information he had no permission from Israel to divulge (quite possibly an act of treason), and he admitted to the obstruction of justice. He did this in the presence of one of the United States’ greatest adversaries, who had just engaged in tampering with our electoral process, very possibly giving Trump a victory he would not have otherwise have had. He also derided the reputation of a lifelong American patriot and public servant, and in the process besmirched the image of the United States, in an apparent act of celebration in front of these same Russian agents.
Whether Trump meets the grounds for criminal conviction for any or all of these offenses remains subject for debate… his position as President gives him some protections not available to the rest of us. But it is already abundantly clear that from a moral and ethical standpoint the President has betrayed America and his oath of office in a most profound and spectacular manner. And that alone provides clear and convincing evidence of the kind of “high crimes” needed to justify impeachment. (See: For Impeachment, It Doesn’t Matter Whether Trump Broke The LawandIf You Want to Prosecute a President, Impeach Him First.)
There is still more… It was also revealed on May 16, 2017 that Trump had reportedly asked Comey to drop his investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his ties with Russia. On May 17, 2017, in a move that surprised the White House, Justice Department deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, thereby removing direct oversight of such an investigation from the purview of the F.B.I.’s chain of command. Finally, on May 19, 2017, the Washington Post broke a story that the F.B.I. had identified “a significant person of interest” within the current Trump administration with regard to its ties to Russia. Subsequent rumors have indicated the likelihood that this person is no other than… Jared Kushner, and that White House lawyers had begun research in preparation for the possibility that Trump could face impeachment procedures.
Does this mean Trump will be impeached and then removed from office? Not necessarily. Just because there is overwhelming good and sound reason for impeachment doesn’t mean there will be one. Impeachment by the House requires a simple majority vote, but the Republicans hold a clear majority in the House over Democrats. Even if Trump is impeached in the House, his removal from office would then require conviction by a 2/3 majority of the Senate. And again, the Republican’s hold a majority in the Senate.
House and Senate Democrats will surely vote in favor of impeachment and conviction. What could cause enough Republicans to vote in favor impeachment and conviction to sway the decision? Well, there are two possible reasons.
Republicans could make a decision to fulfill their duty to the constitution and the American people, and remove Trump from office because he has committed “high crimes” and his actions make him a true danger to our country and our democracy. That’s how the system is supposed to work. But, unfortunately, it only rarely works that way in the current political climate.
The other possible reason is that Republicans might decide that their ability to further a Republican conservative agenda, and their ability to be reelected, would be better enabled by a Mike Pence presidency than by a Donald Trump presidency. This is by far the more likely reason that Republicans might vote for impeachment and then conviction. And this will only happen if the American people continue to put strong pressure on their Republican representatives to let them know that this is what they demand, and that there will be extreme repercussions come election time if they don’t follow through with impeachment and conviction.
The Democratic Response
Key members of the Democratic congressional leadership responded to all of this in a manner that was, at least at first, rather muted. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner were among many who called for restraint and a full investigation to take place before considering impeachment. By Friday, Pelosi had changed her message a bit, noting “I’m not feeding the flame of any impeachment talk, but members are going to do what they’re going to do, and their constituents think that the behavior of the president is appalling.”
The restraint behind Pelosi and Schumer’s messages was odd because all of what is written above is already publicly known, it provides more than sufficient grounds for impeachment, and the steps necessary to confirm the news reports conclusively should be relatively simple and straightforward. So the question is…. why isn’t the Democratic leadership being more active in “feeding the flame of impeachment?” Wouldn’t all of America, on both sides of the political aisle, be better served by removing a clearly corrupt and disturbed president from office and letting America get on with business?
Part of the reason may be simple “shell shock”… this presidency has unravelled so quickly and in such an astounding and unbelievable way that it is hard to come to grips with the magnitude and implications of what has transpired.
Part of the reason may also be recognizing the value of understatement. In this case, the President’s actions were so horrifically obvious in nature that they spoke for themselves without the need for party leadership to elaborate. Better to let the drive for impeachment come from a groundswell of public outcry than from proclamations from politicians.
But another reason might be more subtle, and this is where the Democrat’s game of dominoes comes into play. It is very possible that the Democratic leadership sees that an impeachment process is likely, but that they want it to play out relatively slowly. They might prefer more investigation, and more damaging revelations about the Trump administration to come to light in a lengthy process before the impeachment process begins. They might want Congress and the administration to be distracted by that process as much as possible and for as long as possible, thereby limiting the administration’s ability to further a conservative legislative agenda. Democrats might enjoy the fact that President Trump has likely lost virtually all of his political leverage over members of Congress at this point, with Republicans realizing that working with Trump is now going to be a far greater liability than in the past. Additionally, if Mike Pence assumes the presidency rather quickly and has time to “calm the political waters” before future elections, the damage Trump has done might be less damaging to the Republican Party in the longer term.
The logic in this is impeccable. There is only one problem, however, and it is a huge one… It puts the needs of the Democratic Party ahead of the needs of the American people. As long as Trump remains President, his ability to potentially involve the United States in an unnecessary war or conflict remains unabated. And, as we have already noted in earlier articles (See: The Trump Administration’s Next 1353 Days — What to Expect & How to Resist), it is not unlikely that Trump will try to leverage or manufacture a crisis to divert attention from his domestic troubles and to attempt to extend the unilateral powers of the presidency in ways that are unconstitutional. The less opportunity he has to do this, the better. (See this recent article in The Nation: Trump Is a Cornered Megalomaniac—and That’s a Grave Danger to the Country.)
If Americans want to see Trump out of office quickly, it is incumbent upon them to keep the pressure up on their representatives, from both parties, to move towards impeachment as expeditiously as possible. Regardless of how one feels about Mike Pence from a partisan perspective, he does not seem to be beholden to Russia, he does not seem to be mentally unwell, and he does not seem likely to use the office of the presidency to enrich himself. And most importantly, he doesn’t not seem likely to start a nuclear war to try to divert attention from the Russia investigation.
While the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel is a positive development to finding the truth, one must remember that the only obligation of Mueller’s investigation is to deliver to the Justice Department a “yes” or “no” determination as to whether there is clear probable cause for any potential criminal prosecution. If the American people are to learn the truth behind Russia’s meddling into the US election and any possible ties between the Trump administration and Russia, what is still needed is for Congress to appoint an independent congressional commission to address that topic. Americans need to continue to let their representatives of both political parties know that this is still strongly warranted and needed.
Finally, as this article goes to press, there appears to be a serious possibility that Trump will nominate Joe Leiberman to be the next F.B.I. Director, subject to confirmation by the US Senate. Leiberman has completely inappropriate ties to Trump that would make his independence problematic. It would also be an unprecedented move to put a politician in charge of the F.B.I. If Trump should make this nomination, be sure to read this article in The Nation: Joe Lieberman Is a Civil Libertarian’s Nightmareand then speak out and advise your Senators how you feel about his nomination.
We are not making this up. This is not normal. This is pure crazy. And this crazy will only continue to get worse unless you, dear reader, use your voice to bring it to an end. If you can’t be bothered to resist tyranny, then you don’t deserve to be saved from it. Democracy is not a spectator sport.
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