The Two Unforgivable Sins Of Mitch McConnell

A couple of crooks—“true friends” one of them says—met in the Whites House today. For all I know, Tr-mp and Benjamin Netanyahu discussed legal strategies to fend off the law. Or discussed war strategy against Iran. Or simply discussed how messy democracy is and, gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to be rid of it.

In any case, whatever the two scoundrels talked about, we can rest assured that not much talk among the Washington press corps today will involve Mitch McConnell, a crook of a different sort. He is one scoundrel who never faces that much scrutiny, and certainly not much scrutiny proportional to the outrageousness of his transgressions.

When you do hear talk of McConnell in the non-opinion press, it usually begins, and often ends, like this: “McConnell is a master of the Senate, a real legislative genius.” Well, maybe he is. But if so he uses such mastery and genius in a corrupt fashion, as when he deprived Obama voters of the power of our vote by stealing from us a Supreme Court nomination and appointment in 2016. I repeat: he stole that nomination and appointment not just from Obama, but he stole it from We The People who voted for Obama. Our vote for the winning presidential candidate in 2012 entitled us to a justice chosen by the winner of that election, not one essentially chosen by Mitch McConnell a year later. That, admittedly, is a special kind of crookedness, Image result for mitch mcconnell and trumpbut in some ways it is a worse kind of crookedness than the corruption that most certainly is behind the crimes Tr-mp and Netanyahu are credibly accused of.

So, at the heart of McConnell’s theft of that Court seat was a disdain for democracy: Obama voters expected and were democratically entitled to one kind of justice and we ended up with a judicial monster, in terms of Neil Gorsuch’s zealous reactionary conservatism. McConnell’s anti-democratic deed was just part of his attempt to sabotage Obama’s presidency, of course. But that dirty deed was particularly prophetic, as we learned of what else McConnell did in 2016.

Although you wouldn’t know it from the press coverage it hasn’t much received, but we have known since December 9, 2016—just one month after the election—that Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders refused to join with Democrats and warn the public about Russian interference in the election while it could have possibly done some good. As The Washington Post reported at the time,

the White House wanted congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions…

In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.

And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”

The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

I remind you that we learned of McConnell’s non-action and subversive threat shortly after that fatal or near-fatal election. And from time to time, there have been a few straight news reports about it, mainly if someone like Joe Biden speaks up, as he did in January of this year, when he said McConnell “wanted no part of having a bipartisan commitment.” Mostly, though, the relatively small amount of noise made over this naked, anti-democratic partisanship has been made by opinionators like Brian Beutler at The New Republic, who tweeted last July:

McConnell ran interference for Tr-mp during the campaign to stop Obama from warning the country about things Tr-mp was lying publicly about.

Only one Republican that I know of has recently called into question McConnell’s behavior. John Weaver, who has worked as a top adviser to John McCain, as well as a chief strategist for Jon Huntsman and John Kasich, wrote just last month:

We need to revisit why refused to join in warning America the Russians had attacked us.

And the one time that I know of that McConnell was openly asked about this moral failure was, as Steve Benen noted, in July of 2017, right after the Junior Tr-mp meeting with the Russians was all the rage. NBC’s Kasie Hunt asked McConnell if he regretted his “course of action” of not warning the public before the 2016 election. McConnell, apparently a man without regrets of any kind, didn’t answer that question. Instead he said this:

What I have a lot of confidence in is the Intelligence Committee handling this whole investigation. Senator Burr and Senator Warner have ball control, and we’ll hear from them later.

Yeah, well.

The matter of McConnell’s crookedness came up again yesterday on Meet The Press, during an interview Chuck Todd did with Denis McDonough, who was Obama’s Chief of Staff for the entire second term. (McDonough also served as the Chief of Staff for Obama’s National Security Council and then Deputy National Security Advisor. So, this man has an understanding of the intelligence business.) Todd, playing into Tr-mp’s deflective accusations against President Obama, asked McDonough whether the Obama administration had done enough about the Russian interference by asking him,

Did you choke?

Now, that kind of provocative question is fine with me, so long as it goes both ways. Like, if Todd interviewed McConnell and he asked him, “Did you shit on our democratic values by depriving Obama of a Court pick and by using your Russia silence to aid the Russians who were aiding Tr-mp?” You know, that sort of evenhandedness I can stomach. But for some reason, it never quite comes out that way.

In any case, McDonough tried to defend what the Obama administration had done, including he claimed, getting Vladimir Putin to back away from actually tampering with voting mechanisms:

We had great fear that that was what they had in mind during the course of the summer of 2016. We had great fear that we needed to take significant steps to stop them from doing it: A direct confrontation with President Putin when they were both in China; we went to the bipartisan leadership of Congress to ask them to work with us to ensure that the states had what they needed—and by the way, Chuck, the lack of urgency that we saw from the Republican leadership in 2016, we continue to see to this day today. It’s beyond time for Congress to work with the administration, to work with the states, to ensure that our electoral systems are ready to go. This is not a game.

It’s not a game to some of us, but it is to Mitch McConnell. And he plays to win, no matter the cost of winning. I will here insert the back-and-forth between Todd and McDonough that leads directly to McConnell’s involvement. The exchange began after Todd played Joe Biden’s remarks from January, when he said that McConnell “wanted no part of having a bipartisan committment”:

mcdonough on meet the pressCHUCK TODD: Do you stand by what he said, that Mitch McConnell is the reason why everything was a lower grade, sort of everything that you did in ’16, that you couldn’t be as robust in a bipartisan sense because Mitch McConnell didn’t sign on?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: What I know is that the intelligence community approached the, the entire leadership of the Congress—

CHUCK TODD: So called Gang of Eight.

DENIS MCDONOUGH: —in the early August, 2016. Several members of that group did not take the briefing until early September, 2016, indication number one of a lack of urgency. Number two, the president asked the four leaders in a bipartisan meeting in the Oval Office to join him in asking the states to work with us on this question. It took over three weeks to get that statement worked out. It was dramatically watered down. You can ask Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, even the Speaker—

CHUCK TODD: And it was watered down on the insistence of Mitch McConnell?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Yes.

CHUCK TODD: And nobody else?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Yes.

CHUCK TODD: Okay. Do you have any understanding as to why?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: I don’t.

I do.

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You Can’t Fix “Partially Stupid,” But You Can Exploit It

I have heard several people say that the Russians, when they weren’t trying to make Tr-mp president, were “sowing” dissension and division and discord in the American electorate just to muck up the election process. Well, in most cases they were just fertilizing and watering the disunity that was already growing on fertile ground. One of their feeding methods, widely recognized now, was to push a lot of conspiracies through social media platforms (whose greed for advertising dollars is part of an ongoing problem)—and they’re still at it.

As you know, David Hogg and other students-survivors who have spoken up forcefully since the high school massacre in Parkland have been the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories—some promoted by Tr-mp’s friend Alex Jones—that the young people were “crisis actors” hired to agitate and not real students who witnessed the mass killing. This is an old, old tactic designed to discredit social movements, and the Russians, to no one’s surprise, are helping to amplify these conspiracies through a large network of social media bots. Their contribution began just an hour after the Parkland shooting made the news, when Russian-controlled Twitter accounts began flooding the platform with disinformation related to gun-grabbing paranoia. They have also posted countless times on Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook), often using videos to promote the conspiracy. Obviously, the Russians also used YouTube, which has done some, but not enough, work to rid the platform of the poison.

The sad and undeniable truth is that there is a relatively large mental market out there for such mindless, hate-fueling absurdities. Five years ago there were (and still remain) the Sandy Hook hoaxes, as well as all the hoaxes surrounding the Las Vegas massacre. I also should remind you of something from 2016 that you may have forgotten in all the tweetstorms we have so far endured since January of 2017:

Two-thirds of voters with a favorable opinion of Donald Trump  believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and a quarter of them believe that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered…

Two-thirds. Two out of three. Sixty-six percent. Tr-mp voters. These folks get to vote.

An even sadder truth is that many—if not most, if not all—of the pitiful people who fall for, as opposed to seek out, scurvy disinformation campaigns and bias-confirming lies either won’t admit to being duped, or simply don’t give a damn whether they were. And I have evidence to support my claim.

The Palm Beach Post published an article on Friday (“Local Tr-mp supporters shrug off being paid and played by Russians”) that is a must-read for those of you who, like me, wonder what makes Tr-mpers tick, or, more accurate, tick very slowly.

 Anne Marie Thomas and Greg R. North. (Photo by Harry Miller) photoThe article features an interview with two Floridians who were actually part of Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of 13 election-meddling influencing Russians. The two Tr-mpers, a “Leisureville retiree from Boynton Beach” named Harry Miller and a “choir singer from Jupiter” named Anne Marie Thomas, were recruited and paid by the Russians (via their Internet Research Agency, a troll farm that exists to vandalize democratic elections) to do the whole “Hillary for prison” schtick at a flash rally in Palm Beach County in August of 2016. The act came complete with a Russian-supplied script, a pickup truck bed that the retiree had converted into a jail cell, and, of course, the choir singer from Jupiter wearing a Hillary mask and prison garb (her boyfriend played the part of Bill and weirdly admitted, “I was supposed to try to grope all the attractive young ladies I could find”).

Now, as the headline of the article makes clear, these Americans—“unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign,” as Mueller’s indictment delicately phrased it—weren’t too upset about being duped by the Rooskies, since the Rooskies were duping them in service to Tr-mp. In fact, Thomas the choir singer was proud of her involvement and her clever improvisational skills:

They say I was “very unwitting.” But I was very witting. I am a creative person. I did things that weren’t in the script. I wore a shirt that had prison number 09112012 on it. That’s the date of Benghazi. That was my idea.

I’m pretty sure many of the 40 or 50 people in attendance at that rally (the dupes claim, of course, that there were 300 folks there) got Thomas’ Benghazi reference, since Republicans invested a lot of time and money into a dupe operation of their own by endlessly “investigating” the murder of four Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya, by Islamic militants. And I’m pretty sure most Tr-mpers at that rally and beyond would agree with Thomas that there isn’t anything to like about Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference. And I am absolutely sure most Tr-mpers today feel the same way Thomas said she felt after her encounter with Russian meddlers was revealed:

I don’t feel like the Russians used me. A week after that event I did another one myself at Harbourside Place in Jupiter.

Those damned Russians were so effective that their mark not only denied she was conned, but they got two Hillary-for-prison acts for the price of one!

In any case, the retired guy with the jail cell on the back of his truck—it cost him $800 to make but he only received $500 from the Russians—defended himself this way:

How would I know the guy was Russian? He had an accent, but I thought he was one of those Muslims, and I figured, he was a new immigrant and I’d work with him because he wants to be involved.

In Miller’s cloudy consciousness, that excuse undoubtably makes sense, as does his predictable lack of enthusiasm for Mueller’s effort to find the truth about Tr-mpski. He said:

They’re trying to connect Trump to Russia. But I was the guy dealing with the Russians, not Trump.

It likely never crossed Miller’s gullible mind that he and Tr-mp both could have been dealing with the Russians, one unwittingly and the other quite intentionally. But I do want to give the retiree credit for his gritty honesty about his encounter with the FBI and his mental acuity:

The FBI were here for five or six hours. They said I’m not in trouble, and I said, “How could I be in trouble? The guy told me to build a cage and I did it.” We’re not totally stupid. We’re partially stupid.

Well, okay then.

Now we see why “crisis actor” conspiracies proliferate, why people still believe Obama is a Muslim foreigner, and why we have a Tr-mp problem, Russians or no Russians.

_______________________________________________

[photo by Harry Miller, who says he is only “partially stupid.”]

 

News You Probably Haven’t Heard Yet.

Anyone reading this blog doesn’t need a detailed recap of the news lately. More apologies for Russia; yet another unreported meeting with a stadium full of Russians accompanied by an still-evolving set of lies about the meeting; Tr-mp publicly dope-slapping Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian thing; rumors are rampant that Tr-mp is considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller because Mueller is getting in his bidness; we know Tr-mp is thinking about pardoning everyone around him including himself, which I suppose we should call “masturpardonation”; an unpolished liar for Tr-mp named Spicer is gone and a slicker liar for Tr-mp named Scaramucci is on the scene—Scaramucci is a much better kisser; Tr-mp commissions a new Navy ship and essentially orders the sailors and naval officers to do his political bidding for him.

Just another bizarre week in a declining America.

And if you think all of that stuff is bad, here’s the latest:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democrats are furious over what they are saying is the latest outrage involving Donald Tr-mp. Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer are both demanding Republicans in Congress take quick action after Tr-mp fired Robert Moeller, had him arrested, ordered him to be pilloried on a site near the Lincoln Memorial early Sunday morning, then hours later allegedly had him decapitated with a dull steak knife from Mar-A-Lago. CNN cameras on the scene seem to have captured a golf-suited Tr-mp tee up Mr. Moeller’s bloody head and drive it an estimated 250 yards into the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Tr-mp then held what the administration said was a record-setting rally at the same site Sunday afternoon with derisive chants of “Fore! Fore! Fore!” echoing throughout the National Mall.

Witnesses initially arriving at the grisly scene earlier in the day say they overheard Tr-mp tell Vice President Mike Pence, “Off with his head!” just before Moeller was taken out of the stocks and placed on a large cutting board that, according to two White House sources, was supplied by one of Tr-mp’s hotel kitchens. Those same sources told the Associated Press that Tr-mp gave Pence a gold-plated steak knife believed to have come from Mar-A-Lago and that Mike Pence immediately agreed to the beheading, allegedly saying it was “an honor to serve the broad-shouldered” Tr-mp. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself and the entire Justice Department from the matter, saying, “We all serve at the pleasure of the president.” Speaker Paul Ryan was asked for a comment and he attributed the “mishap” to Tr-mp’s relative inexperience as a Washington politician. “If true, it’s just another rookie mistake,” he told a gathering of reporters at the Capitol. “You guys just don’t get it. This guy is new to all this. And he doesn’t play by Washington rules.” When asked if the incident would slow down legislative business in the House, Ryan said, “The American people sent us here to do a job on them and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not comment on the apparent murder and subsequent events, saying only that he and his Senate colleagues are continuing to work hard on “passing a healthcare bill that can get signed into law” and then “moving on to other parts of our aggressive agenda.” When asked if he thought the administration’s alleged beheading of Moeller might constitute obstruction of justice, if not murder, McConnell replied he had “no comment on pending investigations.” 

There was one critical voice coming from Capitol Hill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that if Tr-mp was involved in the firing, pilloring, and beheading of Special Counsel Moeller that his actions would be “inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, reporters from all the over the area flocked to Washington in order to interview Tr-mp supporters before they could leave the rally and return home to their economically-challenged rural communities. Many Tr-mp supporters openly doubted the reports of the beheading, one older man, wearing a Rush Limbaugh tee shirt, calling it, “another phony story planted by the drive-by media.” Still another rally attendee said he doubted the media reports because “everybody knows you can’t hit a human head 250 yards with a normal driver.” Then, after hesitating, said, “But if anyone could, Tr-mp could.”

Another woman attending the rally told a Washington Post reporter that the whole thing was a “Chinese hoax.” A man who left the rally early to get to his job at a fast-food restaurant he said is secretly frequented by Tr-mp, told the New York Times, “You know, it may have been Tr-mp. But it really could have been anybody. It could have been a 400-pound man who got tired of hearing all of the fake Russia-Tr-mp news coverage and just couldn’t take it anymore,” the man said, adding, “Whoever it was, though, it probably wasn’t Putin.”

White House spokesmen have issued no on- or off-camera comment, but Tr-mp tweeted just after his rally: So many people were asking why didn’t the Special Council [sic] look into the Hillary Clinton and Comey crimes? Well, maybe he WAS and THEY had him killed! Sad!”

 

Just Who Is Beneath Their Office?

Predictably, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski again got under Tr-mp’s toilet-paper skin. If you watched Morning Joe’s broadcast today, which was quite hard on Agent Orange, you could sort of feel it coming. It came in two Tr-mpian tweets:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…..to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Now, just as predictable as a Tr-mp hate tweet, was how The Woman Who Lost Her Soul To Donald Tr-mp, known as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, defended her master: “This is a President who fights fire with fire.” I suppose she had that one at the ready just in case Tr-mp really did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. Too bad she had to waste it on a tweet.

In any case, it was also predictable that some Republicans would, reluctantly in some cases, mildly condemn the sexist tweet. Senator Lindsey Graham said it was “beneath the office.” Senator Ben Sasse said it was “beneath the dignity” of the office. Such comments from Republican legislators are probably the best we’re going to get, considering that Tr-mp has said and done much worse, in terms of his interactions with women, and yet still most Republican lawmakers have stood beside him, grinning from ear to ear, through it all.

But such mild condemnation is just not good enough. It’s won’t do to merely label Tr-mp’s revealing tweets as beneath the office or beneath whatever dignity is left in the office, now that Tr-mp has been sitting in it for five months. Until congressional Republicans go mika tweetfurther, until they say out loud (as opposed to whispering it behind closed doors) that Tr-mp himself is beneath the office, that he is a mentally unstable man who is not up to the job, that he is a national embarrassment, then they are to blame for the likely irreparable damage he has done and will continue to do to the presidency. They are to blame for every unseemly utterance, every twisted tweet, every vulgar violation of the emoluments clauses, every audacious attempt to obstruct justice. If they do nothing but condemn a tweet or two, they are beneath the dignity of their offices.

And they are especially responsible for not holding Tr-mp accountable for doing absolutely nothing about a cyber attack on our democracy and sovereignty by a foreign adversary—an adversary he openly begged for help during his horrific campaign—and for not preparing the country for the inevitable cyber attacks to come during the election seasons of 2018 and 2020.

In short, Republicans own Tr-mp. They own every nasty and petty tweet, every stupid and demeaning and illegal thing he does. And when the Russians try to muck up our elections again—perhaps next time to help Democrats—they will own that, too.

What’s Going On With Oliver Stone? Heck, What’s Going On With America?

“The Russian people have never been better off.”

—Oliver Stone, in The Guardian, June 12, 2017

No matter what you think of some of his kooky views, or any of his movies that sprang from those views, the following 7-minute interview of Oliver Stone demonstrates that there is something weird going on in his head. But more than that, given what we have seen with Tr-mp and his strange affection for Vladimir Putin, and given how many conservatives and leftists are willing to openly embrace the Russian thug, this short interview demonstrates that a) there is something weird going on in the United States and b) we should be grateful that there are still Stephen Colberts around to point it out. Watch:

That Thing

Appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers embarrassed themselves. Now that’s not new for those who choose to associate or stay associated with Tr-mp, but it was at times cringeworthy. And kind of sad to watch.

There was one good thing about their ridiculous refusal to answer the questions of aggressive Democrats (including Angus King, who was great) about the report in The Washington Post that Tr-mp tried to get the two intelligence chiefs to interfere in the Russia investigations. That one good thing was that through their refusal to answer, rather than deny the essence of the story, they did confirm that the Post got it right. Tr-mp did try to interfere. And how Coats and Rogers felt about it, as Senator King made clear, had nothing to do with it. Either Tr-mp tried to interfere or he didn’t, and now we know, through inference, that he did.

That leads me to a quick take on former FBI Director James Comey’s “Statement for the Record” that he submitted to the same Senate committee we saw in action today, prior to his testimony tomorrow. Since the statement has been released, there has been plenty of analysis of it. It’s generally a fairly damning document (and its early release by the committee will give members time to obtain more details from Comey), in terms of how much interference, sometimes with a wink and a nod, Tr-mp tried to inflict on Comey. But I just want to look at one thing that hasn’t got much, if any, attention in the statement.

When I first read the document, I focused on something I found odd. It comes at the end, when Comey is describing the last time he talked with Tr-mp. Here is the relevant part:

On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

Now, first, it is obvious “the cloud” Tr-mp is speaking of is Tr-mp himself. He is the cloud that gets in the way of his ability to do his job. He simply doesn’t have the ability. But, second, my attention was directed at Comey’s lack of interest, or curiosity, in what Tr-mp meant by “that thing.” That lack of curiosity to find out what Tr-mp meant seems very odd to me, especially in the context of  Tr-mp’s “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal” preface. Comey says he “did not reply or ask him what he meant.” Why? Why wouldn’t the FBI Director, who clearly by the time of this call was worried about interference from Tr-mp, not want to know what “that thing” meant?

It appears to me Tr-mp was directly suggesting that he had some “understanding” with Comey or that he had been trying to obtain some understanding or that he wanted Comey to think he would tell others he in fact had such an understanding. In other words, Tr-mp may have been purposely suggesting that Comey had been compromised by all of their discussions or that he saw it that way and might tell others about it. So, why wouldn’t Comey, knowing he would document this very important conversation, want to get Tr-mp on the record about such a crucial matter? It could have been impeachment-worthy information. Wasn’t obstruction of justice ever on Comey’s mind?

I don’t know the answer to that question. But if I were on that committee tomorrow, I would ask him. It’s strange behavior to me. But I suppose, given what got us in this Tr-mpian nightmare, much of Comey’s behavior has been rather strange.

If It Were Only Chaos

Now we know why the Intelligence Community was so afraid of Agent Orange. And now we know why there have been so many leaks. These dedicated patriots, many of them conservatives by nature, are trying to save the country.

I’ve heard a lot of talk since yesterday about how much chaos surrounds the Tr-mp administration. Oh, if it were only that simple. Chaos can be fixed. Order can be restored. But there is nothing that can mend the mind of the man whom a minority of misguided Americans put in charge of the country. He is unfixable. There are no repairs available for what is wrong with Tr-mp. What is wrong with him was sold as a feature of his programming, not a bug.

I said last week that Tr-mp corrupts everything he touches. Up until yesterday, everyone who defended Tr-mp said Lt. General H.R. McMaster, the National Security Adviser, was one man Tr-mp could not corrupt. He would act as a check against the excesses and unstable nature of a seriously flawed chief executive. It didn’t turn out that way.

McMaster came out yesterday, after it was reported by the Washington Post that Tr-mp gave away top secrets to his Russian friends, and essentially covered for Agent Orange by shooting down a straw man, by denying something the Post article had not alleged. But the point of McMaster’s quickly arranged appearance was to get this on the record: “I was in the room,” McMaster said, “It didnt’ happen.” Well, “it” did happen. Just this morning, Tr-mp admitted as much in a tweet that he has “the absolute right” to share with the RImage result for trump meets with russiansussians whatever he wants. Sorry, General McMaster. Tr-mp corrupts everything and everyone. You’re just the latest. And, no, I don’t know where you go to get back your reputation. I guess you should have known better to start with.

The meeting in which Tr-mp gave away this Top Secret information to the Russians was, as Tr-mp tweeted this morning, “an openly scheduled W.H. meeting.” Openly scheduled, yes. But the meeting was supposed to be with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. It turned out Putin had asked Tr-mp to also meet with the controversial Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, the man at the center of the many Russian collusion investigations. And of course Tr-mp met with Kislyak, a fact we would not have known if it were not for a Russian-controlled news agency releasing photographs of the jovial meeting. American journalists were not allowed in. Go figure.

Essentially, as we have all learned, whoever happens to hold the office of the President of the United States is above the law. He can do anything he wants, including risking the lives of intelligence operatives by blabbing secrets to our enemies. The Founders’ assumed, as they put together the Constitution, that the impeachment option, a political remedy not a legal one, would be enough to hold the president, particularly one without integrity, accountable. But the Founders, as brilliant as some of them were, did not and could not imagine the Republican Party as it is now constituted. It is a party whose leadership knows Tr-mp is dangerous but also knows it needs his disturbed cult followers in order to hold on to power and pass an agenda that a majority of Americans do not want. Tr-mp represents their only chance to turn that agenda—an agenda of, by, and for the wealthy—into the law of the land. And they appear more than willing to risk the integrity of the country to get it done.

We have seen Tr-mp’s obscene coddling of despotic thugs, Russian and otherwise. We have heard him beg the Russians to help him get elected. We have heard him threaten to jail his political opponent. We have seen evidence of his campaign’s collusion with the Russian effort to destroy Hillary Clinton. We have seen Tr-mp flirt with obstruction of justice by firing the FBI director, the man who was investigating possible criminal conduct by the Tr-mp campaign, and then threatening him with “tapes” that may or may not exist. Through all that and more we have heard pundits talk about how we are on the “verge” of a constitutional crisis. “We’re not there yet,” some of these pundits say. “But we’re close.”

Hooey.

We are in a constitutional crisis. And we have been since January 20 at 12:01pm. Tr-mp may be above the law when it comes to all the things he has done, including this latest dangerous loose talk to the Russians. But he is not above the political constraints found in the Constitution, if Republicans, who control the Congress, will respect that old, deteriorating document. There is little hope they will use the remedy of the 25th Amendment—the “our president is nuts” remedy—because that would be too much to admit: Republican leadership aided and abetted a sick man. But there is another, simpler way.

Since he took office—forgetting everything else—Tr-mp has violated the Emoluments Clause. There is no question about that. With all the chaos and confusion, it is easy to forget that simple fact. This vulgarian is openly crapping on the Constitution by making money off foreign governments. And now it is time to remember that simple fact. Now it is time for all of us to put pressure on the only entity that can stop Tr-mp and save the integrity of our democracy: the Republican Party. We have to force Republicans to impeach and then convict this man for violating the Emoluments Clause, even if all the other terrible things he has done are perfectly legal.

I know it is a long shot at this point. I know there isn’t much hope in that possibility. But it is all we have.

Again, here you go:

A directory listing all House phone numbers: http://www.house.gov/representatives/

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

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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

Tr-mp. Russia. Scandal. Won’t Go Away.

A new Quinnipiac poll released yesterday found the following:

Voters disapprove 54 – 32 percent of the way President Donald Tr-mp is handling U.S. policy towards Russia…

American voters support 66 – 30 percent an “independent commission investigating potential links between some of Donald Tr-mp’s campaign advisors and the Russian government.” The only listed party, gender, age or racial group opposed is Republicans, opposed 64 – 30 percent.

A total of 61 percent are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about President Tr-mp’s relationship with Russia. A total of 62 percent of voters say alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election is a “very important” or “somewhat important” issue.

As the great Steve Benen pointed out this morning:

Health care and wiretap conspiracy theories have helped push the Russia scandal off front pages, but the controversy continues to move forward in a way the White House should find alarming.

The Russia scandal may be off the front pages, but it was front and center on the Rachel Maddow show last night. In case you missed it, watch and learn and then wait:

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