Remarks And Asides, 5/18/2017

I just heard Tr-mp say, during a tiny press conference, that “We don’t have healthcare in this country.” Damn. We’re going down faster than even I thought we would. All the doctors and nurses have fled the country!

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Trump also said there was no collusion with the Russians, but that he could only speak for himself. Since he has a spotless record of speaking for himself so truthfully, why don’t we just drop the whole thing and move on? Tax cuts for the rich, anyone?

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Roger Ailes is dead. May he rest in fair and balanced peace, much like the fair and balanced journalism and sexual assault he oversaw at Fox. In other words, he’d better hope there is no hell.

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Now we finally have a special counsel appointed who will, hopefully, figure out how many Tr-mpers were involved, besides Tr-mp himself, with the Russians during last year’s election. Tr-mp, on cue, tweeted: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” During his short press conference today, he reiterated that claim. I never really thought about it in those terms, but it could be Tr-mp is a witch, since he cast a strange spell over 46% of the electorate and has given Republican Party leadership magical herbs and potions such that they don’t care how his dark arts are darkening our democracy. In any case, here’s to Robert Mueller exposing the Russian-friendly coven and the big, bad Orange Witch that leads it!

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Oh, for the record. The theme on cable news yesterday seemed to be that Democrats were “over their skis” on impeachment talk. Even many Democrats said there is not enough evidence yet to speculate about that. I continue to remind you that the Emoluments Clause is being violated every single day and Tr-mp should be impeached for that. I don’t know why Democrats refuse to talk about emoluments anymore, but then they are Democrats. They seem to only be able to juggle one ball at a time. But not me. Emoluments! (There is even a twist to the story; he may be violating “a different emoluments clause, one that specifically bars him from receiving money or gifts above and beyond his mandated salary from governments right here at home.”)

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Speaking of the coven, how ’bout this:

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

If you remember, and it is hard to keep track, the folks at the White’s House denied there were any contacts at all with the Ruskies during the campaign, let alone 18 of them from April through November. Now, why would patriotic Americans like those associated with Tr-mp want to spend so much time talking to our nasty adversaries? Stay tuned. When the witches involved get tied to the special counsel’s stake, they may start talking.

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Image result for pillow fightOh, speaking of Michael Flynn, he is so far refusing to comply with a subpoena for documents issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. But don’t worry. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is all over this. He might seek a contempt of Congress vote against Flynn or he might hit him with a feather pillow. My money is on the pillow-slap.

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In case you missed it, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on tape (those damned tapes!) just a month before Agent Orange cast his final spell on the Republican electorate during the primary last year and clinched the nomination. McCarthy said:

There’s two people I think Putin pays. Rohrabacher and Tr-mp.

Dana Rohrabacher is a congressman from California who thinks his district extends all the way to Moscow. He’s a very Putin and Russia friendly guy. Tr-mp, of course, is the guy whose unseemly-shaped mouth is, according to at least one pundit, a holster for Putin’s pocket rocket. McCarthy didn’t say exactly why Putin would pay Tr-mp for such services, since, obviously, Tr-mp would gladly perform them for free.

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Image result for toby keithSpeaking of performing for free, the godawful Toby Keith will hook up with Tr-mp in Saudi Arabia and perform a men-only concert for those dangerous Muslims who abide by strict Islamic law. Apparently, the Tr-mp team doesn’t think American prestige around the world has suffered enough, so, since Ted Nugent was busy molesting a 13-year-old assault rifle, they got the next best act available that could embarrass the country abroad. No word in yet on whether the godawful Keith will do his great American classic, “I Like Girls That Drink Beer.” One thing we know for sure: there will be no pussy grabbing at that concert. Tr-mp will have to wait for the post-performance party.

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Speaking of people who embarrass the country, there is a report out there that we will see less of Sean Spicer. And just when he was getting the hang of lying and whining in a more friendly manner. Darn.

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Speaking of lying and whining, Tr-mp said yesterday to a group of Coast Guard graduates:

Image result for abraham lincoln shotLook at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.

Abraham Lincoln could not be reached for comment.

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In the I’m-just-trying-to-cheer-you-up category, I offer the musings of Tony Schwartz, who actually wrote The Art of the Deal and helped make Tr-mp infamous. Schwartz thinks Tr-mp is “in a pretty significant meltdown” right now and will not go through any impeachment process. “I surely believe that at some point over the next period of time he’s going to have to figure out a way to resign,” he said. Okay. Now back to the bad news.

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Joe Lieberman is, according to CNN, the “front-runner for FBI director.” Oh, my. The former Democratic senator from Connecticut (he had to run as an independent to keep his senate seat in 2006) once was the party’s nominee for Vice President way back in 2000, the year the Supreme Court was handing the presidency to another guy who lost the popular vote. Then Lieberman fell in love with John McCain and backed him against the Scary Negro in 2008. Then he helped ruin the construction of Obamacare. Then he retired to make a lot of money in the private sector. Now, he is back and, apparently, ready to keep the Orange Witch from being burned at the stake.

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Finally, there is “first I heard of it” Mike Pence. You may remember him. He was the white-haired guy running with the broad-shouldered guy for high office last year. Oh, and he lied a lot just like his running mate did. Well, those two “won.” And they hired a guy named Michael Flynn, who had been chanting “lock her up” at Tr-mp campaign rallies, to be our National Security Adviser. A real class act. Anyway, people keep saying Michael Flynn was eventually fired for “lying” to Pence about Flynn’s ties to Turkey and other sins. People keep saying that but those people don’t have any evidence for it other than Pence’s word that he knew nothing and that Flynn lied to him. But as head of Tr-mp’s transition team, Pence had to know something. Why assume Pence wasn’t lying when he vouched for Flynn?

Then there were the multiple lies Pence told about why Tr-mp fired FBI Director Comey. It was because of the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Pence said over and over and over. Then Tr-mp contradicted him and said he would have fired Comey no matter what anyone, even God, said about it. Uh-oh. I don’t think Pence has Image result for mike pence and trumpbeen seen since.

Now we find out that Michael Flynn told the Tr-mp transition team—more than two weeks before Tr-mp’s tiny inauguration—that he was under federal investigation for his duties as a lobbyist for Turkey, duties that paid him around $500,000 and which caused him to reject an anti-ISIS plan that was opposed by Turkey. The transition team made Flynn our National Security Adviser anyway, and now we are supposed to believe that Pence didn’t know anything about that federal investigation. So, we are forced to believe Pence is the dumbest guy this side of Tr-mp, or he is a liar.

In any case, it doesn’t much matter to me either way. Mike Pence is just as illegitimate as Tr-mp. And should Tr-mp get tossed out of office or quit and open up a “Brazilian wax” shop in Moscow, I will dedicate this blog to unpresidenting Pence. Nothing about this administration is legitimate and I won’t accept any of it as normal.

 

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Tr-mp Is Dismembering Democracy. What Are You Going To Do About It?

“The Russia-Tr-mp collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

—Donald J. T-mp, May 8, 2017

Most of us wouldn’t have the power to fire the person who is investigating us or our friends for wrongdoing. In fact, there is only one person in our system of justice who has that power. Normally he goes by the name of POTUS. In Tr-mp’s case, he holds that title illegitimately, but the power behind that title remains. Thus, Americans are waking up today to the fact that the checks and balances on executive power they always believed were part of our system are mostly not formal checks and balances. They are discovering that many meaningful restraints on such power are found in the personal intImage result for trump and comeyegrity of the person who holds, legitimately or not, the office of the President of the United States. And that is the problem.

Tr-mp, as has been obvious for years and years, has no personal integrity. He is a fraud. He is a low-class grifter who may have collaborated, either directly or through his aides or advisors, with a foreign adversary to achieve an office for which he is patently and painfully unfit. We know that last summer he begged the Russians for help. He is corrupt, but unfortunately his corruption does not end with himself. He corrupts what he touches. And since he has no regard for the integrity of the presidency or our democratic institutions, he has, to no one’s surprise, corrupted the office and is trying like hell to corrupt our justice system and the democracy dependent on it.

This morning I heard Condoleezza Rice, promoting her new book on democracy, say the following about the Comey firing—which, according to reports, happened just days after he “requested more money and personnel for the bureau’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election”:

I would caution everybody to step back, let our institutions work…I have confidence that we’re going to get to the bottom of whatever happened…

“Let our institutions work,” said the prominent Republican who refuses to admit that Russian interference had an effect on the outcome of the election. Well, okay. Let’s look at some of those institutions. At least one of them is working pretty well through this latest crisis. The press has done a decent job of not just reporting the facts behind the firing, but has featured a lot of outrage over what has happened. Such reporting and commentary, though, is necessary but not sufficient to save ourselves. Thus, let’s look at another one of Rice’s institutions, the Congress, especially the two parties that run it.

Let’s start with her Republican Party. If that institution is the only thing standing between our experiment with self-government and a rather rapid descent into the abyss of crippling cynicism regarding our political system, then we are the most miserable of people. So far, Tr-mp’s unseemly and classless and self-serving firing of FBI Director James Comey has been greeted with mostly mild criticism by mostly a handful of Republicans. GOP leadership seems to be just fine with it, no matter what message it sends to the country and the world. Republicans simply have too much invested in Tr-mp to place the country’s fortunes over their own. So, with all due respect to Ms. Rice, one institution that will not come to our rescue in these perilous times is her Republican Party.

Now on to the Democrats. In the House, they are mostly powerless. The House is not an institution that values the role of the minority, therefore Democrats can make a lot of noise but can’t make much happen. The Senate is different. The minority can play a role there, especially with 48 reliable votes and a handful of courageous Republicans. A good start would be to insist on, as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer diDems threaten to bring Senate to a crawl over FBI firingd today, some kind of special prosecutor to take over the Tr-mp-Russian investigation. But that’s not enough. Democrats should not do any legislative business, on any issue except Russian involvement in our last election, with Republicans until an independent investigator, with full powers to prosecute if necessary, is in place. Period. Nothing. Democrats can vote to keep the government lights on and continue to be part of investigations into Russian interference in our election process, but that’s it. Everyone should stop pretending that there isn’t a very dark cloud, that got darker with the Comey firing, hanging over this administration. The fact that the Russian foreign minister and Henry Kissinger both visited the White’s House today, of all days, is the perfect illustration of how dark the cloud is.

But, let’s be realistic. Democrats aren’t going to stop working with Republicans, at least they won’t stop doing it for long (they are using special Senate rules today to shut down committee meetings, but aren’t saying if they will continue to do so or employ other slow-walking tactics until Republicans relent). They will likely consider that to be too risky politically. But they will continue to try to use social media and television appearances to publicly pressure Republicans and the Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department to do the right thing. Will that work? If it does, it will take some time. That’s where one other institution comes in. We The People, with the help of the press, will have to save our democracy.

Kellyanne Conway came out of hiding this morning and appeared on CNN. She told Chris Cuomo:

I don’t know why people are so surprised when Donald Tr-mp…who…has been a disruptor all of his life, when he comes to Washington and does the same, people express shock and awe.

A lot of folks voted for Tr-mp because they wanted him to blow up the system. With the Comey firing, no matter what you thought of Comey’s actions over the last year, Tr-mp has now blown a large hole in the confidence most of us had, such as it was, in our justice process. Tr-mp is a political system terrorist and he has a lot of people, jihadist-like cult followers, who are pleased with his work. In fact, some of them want more of it. More IED tweets. More rhetorical pipe bombs. More firings and bad hirings. More creation of destructive distrust of critical institutions. If they succeed, America, as we knew it just a year ago, will be a distant vision. If the people who want Tr-mp’s America are indeed a majority, are really a majority of We The People, then we are doomed and America, as an “idea” that the Condoleezza Rices rightly promote in books about our democracy, is a failed experiment in self-government.

But as we saw on election night last November, as we see in polling today, Tr-mp’s terrorists are not a majority. They act like it, but they’re not. And, like their leader, they specialize in bullying. They talk tough. They act like they’re in power to stay. And they will be in power to stay if the rest of us throw up our hands and give up. It’s up to us to fight back, and there has been, over the last several months, good signs that we are fighting back. Let’s keep it up. Contact Democrats in Congress, especially in the Senate, even if they don’t represent your district or state, and tell them not to do business with Republicans until a special prosecutor is in place with full decision-making powers. I once argued for a 9/11-like commission to look into all this. Not now. Tr-mp has shown, through his urgent eagerness to fire Comey, that he has something serious, and I mean serious, to hide. We don’t have time for what may be a years-long commission. We need an expedited, yet thorough and fair, investigation by someone Tr-mp can’t touch.

And we need it today.

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Here is a directory listing all House phone numbers:http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Here is a directory listing all Senate phone numbers:https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Agent Orange: Putin’s Greatest Weapon

CNN’s big story yesterday (“US officials: Info suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russians“) began this way:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Tr-mp communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Tr-mp campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.

The story made clear the obvious: “The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.” It is obvious the FBI cannot yet prove such collusion, because if it could, charges would be recommended. But something else is obvious to me. Look at this paragraph from the story, referencing FBI Director James Comey’s appearance before Congress earlier this week:

In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Tr-mp campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered “a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

What is obvious here is that we already know at least one American who has acted as “an agent of a foreign power.” His name is Donald J. Tr-mp. The foreign power is Russia. The leader of Russia is Vladimir Putin. Tr-mp has said quite a lot about both Putin and Russia. Here are some examples:

“Look at Putin—what he’s doing with Russia—I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done—whether you like him or don’t like him—he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period. Forget about image.” (October 15, 2007)

“Putin has big plans for Russia. He wants to edge out its neighbors so that Russia can dominate oil supplies to all of Europe. Putin has also announced his grand vision: the creation of a ‘Eurasian Union’ made up of former Soviet nations that can dominate the region. I respect Putin and the Russians but cannot believe our leader allows them to get away with so much…Hats off to the Russians…”(December, 2011)

“I do have a relationship [with Putin], and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today. He’s probably very interested in what you and I am saying today, and I’m sure he’s going to be seeing it in some form.” (November, 2013)

“I believe Putin will continue to re-build the Russian Empire. He has zero respect for Obama or the U.S.!” (March 21, 2014, three days after Putin annexed Crimea)

“Well, he’s done an amazing job of taking the mantle. And he’s taken it away from the president, and you look at what he’s doing. And so smart. When you see the riots in a country because they’re hurting the Russians, okay, ‘We’ll go and take it over.’ And he really goes step by step by step, and you have to give him a lot of credit. Interestingly, I own the Miss Universe pageant. We just left Moscow. He could not have been nicer. He was so nice and so everything. But you have to give him credit that what he’s doing for that country in terms of their world prestige is very strong.” (April 12, 2014, less than a month after Putin annexed Crimea)

“They say it wasn’t them. It may have been their weapon, but they didn’t use it, they didn’t fire it, they even said the other side fired it to blame them. I mean to be honest with you, you’ll probably never know for sure.” (October 14, 2015, responding to U.S. intelligence assertions “with confidence” that pro-Russian separatists shot down a commercial airliner over Ukraine, killing 298 people)

“I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, [Putin’s] getting an ‘A’ and our president is not doing so well.” (September 29, 2015)

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” (December 17, 2015)

“If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, ‘Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing’ — the man has very strong control over a country.” (September 7, 2016)

This next one deserves a video clip. It has to do with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer in Russia who turned on his superiors because he found links between Russian government officials and Russian mafia groups. After he fled to London and obtained asylum, he worked as a consultant for British intelligence. He also wrote about how the FSB used murder and mayhem in Moscow to make Vladimir Putin more popular, after Putin was corruptly handed power by a corrupt Boris Yeltsin. In November of 2006, Litvinenko was almost certainly poisoned to death by the FSB, on the orders of Putin, according to an official British inquiry. Technically, and gruesomely, he suffered cardiac arrest resulting from acute radiation syndrome, which he got from ingesting a fatal dose of polonium 210. Here’s how Tr-mp responded to that British inquiry in January of 2016:

“I don’t know if he did it,” said Tr-mp. “The fact is he hasn’t been convicted of anything,” said Tr-mp. “Many people say it wasn’t him,” said Tr-mp. “So who knows who did it?” asked Tr-mp. This man, so willing to give a killer named Putin the benefit of every doubt, is the same man who viciously and publicly demanded the execution of five teenagers, four black and one Hispanic, who were accused of raping a jogger in New York’s Central Park in April of 1989. The five kids were convicted. But it turns out they were falsely convicted, as DNA evidence later showed. They spent more than ten years in prison for a crime they did not commit. Less than a month after the alleged rape, and more than a year before the trials, Tr-mp paid for a full-page advertisement in all four major New York newspapers: “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” shouted the headline on the now infamous ad in 1989.  As Jamil Smith wrote:

Image result for BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!Rather than call for civic healing, Trump’s ad called for blood. Indulging in a classic myth about law enforcement and ignoring the more systemic causes of crime, Trump wrote that “if the punishment is strong, the attacks on innocent people will stop.” Calling for enhanced police powers, he then scoffed at the idea that compassion should be shown toward youth in urban areas who commit offenses. “I no longer want to understand their anger,” his ad reads. “I want them to understand our anger. I want them to be afraid.”

You can see how Tr-mp has a Putinesque affection for the use of fear as a means of manipulating and controlling the population. After all, it is partly how he managed to sneak into the White’s House. Even after the Central Park Five were exonerated, even after the city of New York reached a $41 million settlement with them, Tr-mp would not budge from his original, fact-free, authoritarian position:

They admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original investigation say they were guilty. The fact that that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous. And the woman, so badly injured, will never be the same.

Even in the face of absolutely contrary evidence Tr-mp continued slandering these men. Yet, he will not speak ill of a real killer, Vladimir Putin. That makes it easy to see why people like Slate’s William Saletan calls Tr-mp “Russia’s press secretary.” About Tr-mp’s peculiar affection for all things Russian, Saletan wrote:

Tr-mp has engaged in this behavior all along. He has exploited the material Russia hacked and leaked. He has minimized Russia’s misconduct. He has disputed, and often scorned, evidence of its guilt. He has ignored U.S. intelligence. He has bragged about Putin’s admiration of him. He has mocked Democrats and Republicans who side with U.S. intelligence against Russia.

All of this, and much more, can plausibly be related to what the Russians are doing here and elsewhere around the world. They are weaponizing information, particularly false information. And they are using weaponized information to muck up politics in democratic countries. It is political warfare. And it is quite obvious that Tr-mp has been their best asset, their most effective information weapon. He has praised Wikileaks (“I love Wikileaks,” he said in October of 2016 and at other times), which Russia successfully used as an information weapon against Hillary Clinton. According to ThinkProgress, Tr-mp entioned Wikileaks 164 times during the last month of the election. On October 12 he said:

And one of the big advantages of me having a rather large microphone, and meaning a lot of people are listening, is that I can talk about Wikileaks and we are live, it’s amazing. Boom boom boom.

Boom boom boom. Those are Putin’s information bombs going off, detonated by Donald Tr-mp, who a few weeks later bombed his followers’ faith in our democratic experiment:

The Wikileaks revelations have exposed criminal corruption at the highest levels of our government.

All of this is bad enough, all of this unpresidents Tr-mp, all of this makes him illegitimate. But I still can’t get over what he said on July 27 of last year, which I will publish again:

I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him. I know nothing about him other than he will respect me. He doesn’t respect our president. If it is Russia, which it probably is not, nobody knows who it is.

But if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason. Because it shows how little respect they have for our country when they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see — I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That will be next.

Somewhere around the time Tr-mp spoke these quasi-treasonous words, the FBI began its investigation into possible ties between the Tr-mp campaign and Russia. You can talk about Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and anyone else you want to in connection with this distressing and dangerous affair. But at the center of it all is Donald J. Tr-mp, the man who attacks anyone and anything with little or no evidence, but cannot find it within his disordered brain to call Vladimir Putin what he is: an authoritarian killer who is doing his best to undermine democratic governance in order to revive a Russian Empire. And the reason Tr-mp won’t call out Putin is because the ruthless Russian killer helped make Donald Tr-mp president and Donald Tr-mp knows it.

As usual, the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, put all this in its proper context:

Many of the Tr-mp campaign’s personnel, including the President himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Tr-mp campaign or anyone associated with it aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of democracy in history.

As far as I’m concerned, Tr-mp has aided and abetted the Russians. The moral record is clear, even as the legal record remains in doubt. All you have to do is open your mind to the stunning fact that we have a man in the White’s House who has acted, deliberately or due to a defect in his mental health, “as an agent of a foreign power”—Agent Orange.

Agent Orange.jpg

We Need An 11/8 Commission Before Obama Leaves Office—But Don’t Hold Your Breath

Late in November of 2002, George W. Bush signed into existence what was officially called The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. We, of course, know it as the 9/11 Commission. Created by Congress, the commission was officially “chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding Image result for 9/11 commission reportthe September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks.” It was “also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.” 

Last week, Democrats introduced a bill in both the House and Senate that would establish a 9/11-like commission, bipartisan and with subpoena power, to examine the 2016 election and Russia’s role in it. So far, though, no Republicans have signed on. It is imperative they do so before next Friday—January 20—and it is imperative that President Obama sign such a commission into existence. We need an 11/8 commission. But I wouldn’t bet any money on getting one.

News related to the 2016 election is coming out fast and furious. On Friday, FBI Director James Comey and other intelligence officials gave Congress a classified briefing on Russian cyberattacks and election interference. But the issue quickly became, for Democrats at least, Comey’s own strange election interference, especially his inexplicable and unprecedented eagerness to publicly discuss and criticize Hillary Clinton’s email-server missteps, while refusing to say whether the FBI was, simultaneously or subsequently, also looking into allegations that members of Trump’s election team were in contact with and colluding with the Russians to sabotage Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Democrats were, after the briefing, visibly upset.

Evidence is piling up that the FBI director and his agency did not properly handle either of the election-sensitive issues involving Clinton and Trump. As far as the former, the Justice Department’s inspector general has opened up aRelated imagen investigation into Comey and his handling of the Clinton email issue, which caused The Wall Street Journal and others to call for his resignation.  As for the latter, just this morning, the left-leaning British online newspaper, The Independent, published a depressing story: “Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s frustration as FBI sat on Donald Trump Russia file for months.” The story tells us that Mr. Steele, who is considered a reliable source by intelligence officials and who put together the now famous dossier that suggests Donald Trump has been compromised by the Russians,

became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Steele and a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, who both worked for a firm hired by Republican opponents of Mr. Trump to do opposition research, were so concerned that no action was being taken that they “continued with the Trump case without being paid.” According to The Independent, the concern was that in July of 2016,

Mr Steele produced a memo, which went to the  FBI, stating that Mr Trump’s campaign team had agreed to a Russian request to dilute attention on Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine. Four days later Mr Trump stated that he would recognise Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. A month later officials involved in his campaign asked the Republican party’s election platform to remove a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government against separatist rebels in the east of the country.

Mr Steele claimed that the Trump campaign was taking this path because it was aware that the Russians were hacking Democratic Party emails. No evidence of this has been made public, but the same day that Mr Trump spoke about Crimea he called on the Kremlin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

By late July and early August MI6 was also receiving information about Mr Trump. By September, information to the FBI began to grow in volume: Mr Steele compiled a set of his memos into one document and passed it to his contacts at the FBI. But there seemed to be little progress in a proper inquiry into Mr Trump. The Bureau, instead, seemed to be devoting their resources in the pursuit of Hillary Clinton’s email transgressions.

It’s important to note that it was on July 5 that Director Comey announced the results of his Clinton email investigation and offered rather scathing commentary along with his recommendation not to prosecute her. It was around this time, The Independent story says, that Christopher Steele’s memo—a collection of which at some point turned into that dossier published by BuzzFeed—was in the hands of the FBI. If this is true, it is more than a little disturbing.

The Independent story goes on in detail about the New York field office of the FBI, which “appeared to be on a crusade against Ms Clinton.” Rudy Giuliani, a close friend of Trump’s and a member of his campaign, “had a long working relationship” with the New York office, and Giuliani seemed to have insider information that, he bragged, “should turn things around.” At that time—late October—Trump’s campaign was trending rather poorly in the polls. Two days after Giuliani’s curious cheeriness about Trump’s future electoral prospects, Comey sent his now infamous letter to Congress saying he was reopening his probe into Clinton because of some potential new evidence found, as we now know, on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. And, as we now know, and as many predicted at the time, there was no new evidence. Again, it is disturbing that not only did Giuliani appear to know what the FBI director was doing, but the director was doing it while pretty obviously knowing what people like Christopher Steele were saying about the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians.

Although the Obama administration, on October 7, formally and publicly accused Russia of interfering in our election, the story never caught fire. Many people now blame President Obama for not responding to the story more forcefully. Obviously, looking back now, he should have. But that wasn’t an easy call at the time. Clinton was leading in the polls and most of the experts and pundits expected her to win. A strong and loud reaction by Obama would have been greeted with charges that he was attempting to hack the election, especially if he publicly suggested a Russian-Trump alliance. Obama would likely have become the story, whether Clinton went on to win or lose.

In any case, according to The Independent, Steele became “frustrated and demoralised” at the lack of FBI action. While in New York in October, he reluctantly spilled the beans to David Corn, of Mother Jones. Corn published a story on Monday, October 31, eight days before the election. According to Corn’s subsequent account of his meeting with Steele, the former British spy said the FBI’s response to the information he provided them on Trump and the Russians was “shock and horror.” Despite that, there wasn’t any public comments by Comey at any time, which, you may remember, triggered a response from now-former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. On October 30, Reid wrote to Comey, accusing him of “a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information” and suggesting through his “partisan actions” that Comey “may have broken the law.” Reid continued:

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it  has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public…and yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

Like the October 7 story announcing the Obama administration’s accusations against Russia, Reid’s written outburst on October 30 and Corn’s October 31 story didn’t receive a sufficiently serious reaction from the wider press. Why? The biggest reason was because Comey’s reopening of the Clinton email probe, which was revealed on Friday, October 28, was dominating all the headlines. The press had always seen Clinton’s email-server story as the biggest of the campaign and would not let it go, even for much more serious allegations that the Russians were openly trying to get Trump elected, and Trump, on July 27, had openly asked them for help. Thus it is that the national press, especially cable news—which enjoyed record ratings and profits by promoting Trump almost endlessly—must share in the blame for what happened on November 8 and for what happens after January 20. And perhaps that is why, now that it is much too late, the national press is aggressively pursuing the Putin-Trump story. Maybe there is some collective guilt at work.

But despite an aggressive, if tardy, press, the only way this whole disgusting issue—Russian influence, Trump’s and his campaign’s level of collusion with the Russians, and the FBI’s handling of all of it—can be resolved for all time is via an independent, bipartisan commission. But, I hate to admit, it is fairly clear that this almost certainly will not happen before the inauguration next Friday, and it is even more certain it won’t happen after Trump is in control. He obviously has a lot to hide since he is not shy about hiding it.

We know, through stories featuring revelations from Christopher Steele, as well as through some earlier reporting, that the FBI has actually been investigating the Russian-Trump election issue for some time. And we know, by reading between the lines of Comey’s appearance before Congress last week and through other revelations, that the FBI has some classified information that would help Americans understand more of what happened during our election. Atop-secrett the very least, as Democrats have formally requested, President Obama should declassify some of this information. Short of a bipartisan commission, it would be our best chance to see for ourselves just what the Russians, with or without Trump’s collusion, did to us and what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

Did Hillary Clinton Kill Someone Yesterday?

She must have. She must have killed a lot of people. Perhaps she perpetrated a mass shooting or blew up a school building full of children. Maybe she set a nursing home on fire and laughed while it burned. Something like that must have happened for there to be such Hillary-hating hysteria on television, the Internet, social media, and in print since yesterday.

It’s everywhere, this hysteria. Coming from the right and the left. I have seen it on Fox. I have seen it on CNN—which is subsidizing Trump’s campaign by paying so many of his surrogates for their on-air appearances and broadcasting his rallies endlessly—and, regrettably, I have seen it on MSNBC, starting last night when liberal journalist Chris Hayes invited Clinton-hating Glenn Greenwald on to have a go at Hillary. MSNBC this morning was even worse, as the crew at Morning Joe lost their minds over the FBI’s failure to recommend indictment of an obviously guilty Hillary Clinton.

morning joe and hillary emailYou see, Hillary’s guilt is determined not by a court, not by people in the law business, but by people in the Clinton-hating business. And as we can now see, that’s a big business. Joe Scarborough, a long-time Clinton hater, said this morning, “Anybody else would have gone to jail.” Scarborough, a Republican with a TV show, gets to play judge and jury when it comes to Hillary Clinton. She has no rights a cable pundit is bound to respect.

Try to keep all this hate and hysteria in context. And by context I mean Donald Trump. As Huffpo puts at the end of every story on the GOP nominee:

Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

That factual addendum leaves out one important fact: the man is clearly mentally unstable and in no way can be trusted with any intelligence information, let alone trusted with putting his tiny, insecure fingers on the nuclear trigger. Yet, this morning I heard the Morning Joe panel giggle over Trump’s unhinged speech last night at his rally in North Carolina, a speech that CNN carried in full and which featured this:

Trump Praises Saddam Hussein Again — This Time For Killing Terrorists ‘So Good’

Yes, Trump really praised a brutal dictator. He has never met an authoritarian he didn’t like. And his followers, who shower him with adoration, have apparently never met a lover of authoritarians they didn’t love. And journalists, on television and elsewere, apparently find Trump not dangerous or disturbed, but entertaining.

Also for context keep in mind the David Petraeus controversy scandal, which comes up during almost any discussion of Clinton’s email practices. What exactly did he do? As the L.A. Times put it in an excellent article:

In the Petraeus case, which came to light in 2012, the CIA director was found to have shared highly classified documents with his biographer, Patricia Broadwell, during the course of their affair. Investigators found more than 100 photographs from notebooks Petraeus had given her, as well as secret PowerPoint briefings on the war in Afghanistan. The Justice Department threatened to charge him with three felonies, which could have landed him in prison for years. They eventually settled on a misdemeanor plea deal, where Petraeus pleaded guilty to giving false statements to the FBI, paid a $100,000 fine and was sentenced to two years’ probation. Petraeus, regarded as one of the military’s most skillful commanders by Democrats and Republicans alike, resigned in shame.

Let me summarize that for you: The good, family-values General was banging someone-not-his-wife, and he knowingly gave that someone-not-his-wife classified information that he knew would be made public because that someone-not-his-wife was a journalist writing a book about him, and then, just for grins and giggles, he lied to the FBI about it. Yeah, that’s pretty close to what Hillary Clinton allegedly did, right? Jesus, people.

Oh, I almost forgot. Remember that George W. Bush email controversy in 2007? You don’t? Haven’t heard the hysterical talking heads mention that one when discussing Hillary?  Here’s a summary from PBS’s Washington Week:

In 2007, when Congress asked the Bush administration for emails surrounding the firing of eights U.S. attorneys, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales revealed that many of the emails requested could not be produced because they were sent on a non-government email server.  The officials had used the private domain gwb43.com, a server run by the Republican National Committee. Two years later, it was revealed that potentially 22 million emails were deleted, which was considered by some to be a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

Who went to jail over that? Huh? Karl Rove, who used that private server for most of his emailing while in the White House, is enjoying life on Fox “News” and still working to undermine Democrats everywhere. And Rove never suffered for his part in the public outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Oh, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, knee-deep in that 2007 scandal, was on television this morning criticizing FBI Director James Comey!

What a country.

If I sound angry it is because I am. If you watched and appreciated President Obama yesterday, as he endorsed Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and gave a great speech extolling her virtues, obama and clinton.jpgthen you’d be angry too. That unprecedented event pretty much got lost in all the hate coming from, as I said, both the right and the left. We live in sick times.

If I were Mrs. Clinton, I would tell all the haters out there—especially those Bernie-bots who hate her more than most conservatives do—to go straight to hell. I would tell them they can have Donald Trump if they want him. I would say good luck getting, from a Trump administration, free college and decent healthcare for all and the other things you say you want. I would tell all those young people out there, those who hate Hillary’s guts so much they would prefer a global warming denier as their president, have at it. He’s all yours. I’ll be long dead before the worst of it hits the planet.

I would tell all those working stiffs—including some union folks—who prefer Trump, to enjoy the mess he makes of the economy and the world. Enjoy your lower wages, if you still have a bleeping job. And, finally, I would tell all those journalists, those who are making it safe for Trump to broadcast his bigotry and ignorance and racism and hatred for a free press, I’m outta here. You think it is more interesting to cover someone like Trump? You’ll find out what interesting is. You like the ratings he brings? You’ll be the ones who pay. You think he’s funny? Laugh until you cry.

I would tell them all that I’m going home to play with my grandkids. And when things get really bad, I can move. Can you?

__________________________

Not that it matters much to anyone it seems, but here is an excerpt from President Obama’s speech yesterday:

Now, let me tell you, North Carolina, my faith in Hillary Clinton has always been rewarded. I have had a front-row seat to her judgment and her toughness and her commitment to diplomacy. And I witnessed it in the Situation Room where she argued in favor of the mission to get Bin Laden.

I saw how — I saw how — how as a former senator from New York, she knew, she understood because she had seen it, she had witnessed it, what this would mean for the thousands who had lost loved ones when the Twin Towers fell.

I benefited from her savvy and her skill in foreign capitals where her pursuit to diplomacy led to new partnerships, opened up new nations to democracy, helped to reduce the nuclear threat. We’ve all witnessed the work she’s done to advance the lives of women and girls around the globe.

She has been working on this since she was a young woman working at the Children’s Defense Fund. She’s not late to the game at this; she’s been going door to door to make sure kids got a fair share, making sure kids with disabilities could get a quality education.

She’s been fighting those fights, and she’s got the scars to prove it….

But you know, it — it wasn’t just what happened in the lime light that made me grow more and more to admire and respect Hillary. It was how she acted when the cameras weren’t on. It was knowing how she did her homework. It was knowing how many miles she put in traveling to make sure that America was effectively represented in corners of the globe that people don’t even know about. There wasn’t any — any — any political points to be had, but she knew that it was important.

I saw how she treated everybody with respect, even the folks who aren’t quote/unquote “important.” That’s how you judge somebody is how do they treat somebody when the cameras are off and they can’t do anything for you. Do you still treat them right? Do you still treat them with respect? Do you still listen to them? Are you still fighting for them?

I saw how deeply she believes in the things she fights for. And I saw how you can count on her and how she won’t waver and she won’t back down. And she will not quit, no matter how difficult the challenge and no matter how fierce the opposition.

And — and if there’s one thing I can tell you, Charlotte, is those things matter. Those — those — those things matter. I am here to tell you that the truth is nobody fully understands the challenges of the job of president until you’ve actually sat at that desk.

Everybody’s got an opinion, but nobody actually knows the job until you’re sitting behind the desk. Everybody can tweet, but nobody actually knows what it takes to do the job until you’ve sat behind the desk.

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