AuthorTopic: Trumpty-Dumpty POTUS Thread  (Read 114376 times)

Offline RE

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Few men can make a living consistently underestimating their women.

Even fewer men can retain their balls living with women. lol.


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Few men can make a living consistently underestimating their women.

Even fewer men can retain their balls living with women. lol.


Don't go there, you little capon.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline RE

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🏰 Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
« Reply #1127 on: February 18, 2018, 12:01:39 AM »

February 16, 2018
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don

by Paul Street

Photo by Financial Times | CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump’s dysfunctional, dangerous, and deeply unpopular presidency is one of the most bizarre chapters in United States history.  Imagine that a seasoned and clever journalist was given access to the inner workings of this wacky White House and permitted to observe its activities like “a fly on the wall,” with “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing.” Imagine further that this journalist was permitted to be “a constant interloper” who “accepted no rules nor…made any promises about what [he] might or might not write” (Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House [New York: Henry Holt and Company, January 5, 2018] p. xii).

As we found out when Michael Wolff’s instant bestseller Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House came out six weeks ago, all that happened last year. Wolff held down that spot for at least the first eight months of Trump’s insane presidency. Along the way, he interviewed hundreds of individuals familiar with Trump within and beyond the White House, including many senior administration staffers.

The result was a book that quickly became an historical event in and of itself – a volume that will certainly make its way into future American history textbooks.

Grounds for Impeachment

Packed with soul-numbing revelations on nearly every page, Fire and Fury is something of a Rorschach Test indicating what presidential (and not-so presidential) facts matter most (and least) to readers of different persuasions. Liberals and others hoping to find cause for impeachment have found much to their liking. Late in the book, for example, Wolff quotes Trump’s initial Chief Political Strategist, the wily white nationalist Steve Bannon, on how it was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr, and the presidential son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to take their infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian emissaries promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.  “The chance that Don, Jr. did not walk these [Russian] jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor,” Bannon says, “is zero” (Fire and Fury, p.255).

Daddy Trump knew about the meeting, contrary to White House denials. “The certainty among the White House staff that Trump himself would not only have been apprised of the meeting, but have met the principals,” Wolff writes, “meant that the president was caught out as a liar to those whose trust he most needed” (p. 256).

Wolff has Trump dead-to-rights on obstruction of justice. Fire and Fury reports that the president was directly responsible for the preposterous White Hose story claiming that the Trump Tower meeting had only been about U.S. adoption policy (pp. 258-259).

By Wolff’s account, Trump’s rash and idiotic May 2017 decision (“made by the president with almost no consultation except of his inner family circle”) to fire Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director James Comey was “arguably a plan to obstruct justice.  The president made it perfectly clear,” writes Wolff, “that he hadn’t fired the FBI Director because he had done Hillary wrong; he fired the FBI director because the FBI was too aggressively investigating him and his administration” (p. 220).

Also enticing for those who would like to see Trump impeached (in connection with Russia and/or obstruction and/or the Constitution’s emoluments clause), Wolff depicts the president’s hostility to the Robert-Mueller-headed federal investigation as arising from Trump’s fear that his slimy Russian and German business dealings and those of son-in-law’s family will be exposed. Here, as in much of Fire and Fury, the dodgy but perceptive Steve Bannon bears special witness:

    ‘You realize where this is going,’ Bannon [told a gathering of friends and associates in July of 2017] … ‘This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [accomplished financial investigator Andrew] Weissmann [to join Mueller’s team] first and he is a money laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through [former Trump campaign director] Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner…It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me’ (p. 278, emphasis added).

Fire and Fury reports that this – concern over “greasy” foreign business deals tied to Trump and Kushner – and NOT the charge of Trump-Kremlin collusion was the real factor behind the administration’s early attacks on the Russia investigation:

    … the worry in the White House was not about collusion – which seemed implausible if not farcical – but what, if the unraveling began, would likely lead to the messy Trump (and Kushner) business dealings…This was the peculiar and haunting consensus – not that that Trump was guilty of all that he was accused of, but that he was guilty of so much else. It was all too possible that the hardly plausible would lead to the totally credible (p. 102).

“Twenty-Fifth Amendment Bad”

Impeachment aside, there’s actually more material in Fire and Fury to please those who dream of seeing Trump removed via the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, on grounds of incompetence and unfitness. The book is laden with evidence that Trump is too stupid, ignorant, boorish, narcissistic, and absurdly prideful for the position he incredibly holds.  Here are some of the more remarkable passages on that score (feel free to skim – there’s a lot here):

From October of 2017:

    In early October, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s fate was sealed – if his obvious ambivalence toward the president had not already sealed it – by the revelation that he had called the president ‘a fucking moron’…Everyone, in his or her own way, struggled to express the baldly obvious fact that the president did not know enough, did not know what he didn’t know, did not particularly care, and, to boot, was confident if not serene in his unquestioned certitudes. There was now a fair amount of back-of-the classroom giggling about whom had called Trump what. For Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, he was an ‘idiot.’ For Gary Cohn, he was ‘dumb as shit.’ For H. R. McMaster he was a ‘dope.’ The list went on (p.304, emphasis added).

From the campaign period:

    To say that he knew nothing – nothing at all – about the basic intellectual foundations of the job was a comic understatement.  Early in the campaign… [Trump operative] Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate: ‘I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head’ (p. 16, emphasis added).

    ‘No one in the country, or on earth, has given less thought to health insurance than Donald,’ said [former Fox News chief] Roger Ailes (p.164).

From right after the 2016 election:

    What was, to many people who knew Trump well, much more confounding was that he had managed to win this election, and arrive at the ultimate accomplishment, wholly lacking what in some obvious sense must be the main requirement of the job, what neuroscientists call executive function.  He had somehow won the race, but his brain seemed incapable of performing what would be essential tasks in his new job.  He had no ability to plan and organize and pay attention and switch focus; he had never been able to tailor his behavior to what the goals at hand reasonably required.  On the most basic level, he simply could not link cause and effect (p. 24, emphasis added)

    ‘You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff…a son of a bitch who knows Washington,’ [Roger] Ailes told Trump not long after the election…Ailes had a suggestion: ‘Speaker Boehner’ (John Boehner had been Speaker of the House until he was forced out in a Tea Patty putsch in 2011).

    ‘Who’s that?’ asked Trump (p. 26).

    [Rupert] Murdoch suggested that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas might be hard to square with his immigration promises.  But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, ‘We’ll figure it out’ ‘What a fucking idiot,’ said Murdoch, shrugging as he got off the phone”(p. 36, emphasis added).

    …as Bannon emphasized, [Trump] was never going to get the facts right, nor was he ever going to acknowledge that he got them wrong… (p. 47).

From after the Inauguration:

    …within twenty-four hours of the inauguration, the president had invented a million or so [inauguration rally attendees] that did not exist.  He sent his new press secretary – whose personal mantra would shortly become ‘You can’t make this shit up’ – to argue his case in a media moment that turned Spicer…into a political joke….It was the first presidential instance of what the campaign regulars had learned over many months: on the most basic level, Trump just did not, as Spicer later put it, give a fuck.  You could tell him whatever you wanted, but he knew what he knew, and if what you said contradicted what he knew, he simply didn’t believe you (pp. 47-48, emphasis added).

    Trump himself you could see as …an energetic child, and whomever could placate or distract him became his favorite… His inspiration existed in the moment…From phone call to phone call – and his day, beyond organized meetings, was almost entirely phone calls – you could lose him…While he was often most influenced by the last person he spoke to, he did not actually listen to anyone.  So it was not so much the force of an individual argument or petition that moved him, but rather more just someone’s presence… (pp. 70-71, emphasis added).

    …the president, while proposing the most radical departure from governing and policy norms in several generations, had few specific ideas about how to turn his themes and vitriol into policy…. It was, said [Deputy Chief of Staff Karen] Walsh, ‘like trying to figure out what a child wants…’…And making suggestions to him was deeply complicated. Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-­literate…He was post-literate – total television…But not only didn’t he read, he didn’t listen…he trusted his own expertise ­— no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. What’s more, he had an extremely short attention span, even when he thought you were worthy of attention.”  He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do  (pp. 113-114, emphasis added)

    …he seemed to lack the ability to take in third-party information…’He’s a guy who really hated school,’ said Bannon. ‘And he’s not going to start liking it now’ (p. 115)

From May of 2017, after Trump fired Comey, predictably sparking widespread disgust and outrage (as Bannon predicted) and leading to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel to investigate Trump:

    Trump believed that firing Comey would make him a hero.  Over the next 48 hours he spun his side to various friends. It was simple: he had stood up to the FBI (p. 219).

    ‘He’s not only crazy,’ declared [longstanding close Trump associate and fellow real estate tycoon] Tim Barrack to a friend, ‘he’s stupid’ (p.233, emphasis added).

From June of 2017:

    “His was a zero-sum ecosystem.  In the world of Trump, anything that he deemed of value either accrued to him or had been robbed of him…His wounded feelings and incomprehension at the failure of people whose embrace he sought to, in return, embrace was ‘deep, crazy deep,’ said his former aide Sam Nunberg, who had run afoul of his need for 100 percent approbation and his bitter suspicion of being profited from” (p. 248, emphasis added).

From July of 2017:

    “That evening the president traveled to West Virginia to deliver a speech before the Boy Scouts of America.  Once more, his speech was tonally at odds with time, place, and good sense.  It prompted an immediate apology from the Boy Scouts to it members, their parents, and the country at large.  The quick trip did not improve Trump’s mood: the next morning, seething, the president again publicly attacked his attorney general and – for good measure and no evident reason – tweeted his [idiotic] ban of transgender people in the military” (p.284, emphasis added).

From August of 2017:

    “[Trump Chief of Staff John] Kelly’s success…depended on his rising to the central challenge…. how to manage Trump [, who] … was like a recalcitrant two-year-old.  If you tried to control him, it would only have the opposite effect” (pp. 289-290, emphasis added).

    “Sam Nunberg, the former Trump loyalist turned Bannon loyalist, believed that Bannon would stay in the White House for two years and then leave to run Trump’s reelection campaign. ‘If you can get this idiot elected twice,’ Nunberg marveled, ‘you would achieve something like immortality in politics’” (p. 291, emphasis added).

    “virtually the entire senior staff and cabinet of the Trump presidency had …to confront the very real likelihood that the president they worked for…didn’t have the wherewithal to adequately function in his job…The debate, as Bannon put it, was not about whether the president’s situation was bad. But whether it was Twenty-Fifth Amendment bad” (297).

On pages 49 through 51 of Fire and Fury, Wolff pastes in the mind-bogglingly moronic, delusional, and disjointed “speech” Trump gave at the CIA’s headquarters on the first day of his presidency – the one where one where the new president blustered that “we should have kept [Iraq’s] oil” and that “maybe you’ll have another chance” (to get “the oil”).  Reading this weird rant in its entirety is a disturbing experience.  It’s enough to make you cringe (as did most of the CIA agents and managers who heard it) again at the “holy shit!” realization that a man stupid enough to say such things sits in the world’s most powerful position. “In the seconds after [Trump’s CIA monologue] finished,” Wolff notes, “you could hear a pin drop” (p.51).

Incapable of Conspiracy

It isn’t just Trump himself that Fire and Fury portrays as hopelessly vile and incompetent.  The whole Trump White House is exposed as miserably dysfunctional, internally vicious, and absurdly leak-prone. Jared Kushner and the presidential daughter Ivanka are shown pushing Trump to foolishly fire Comey and to just-as-stupidly hire the malicious whack-job Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director – an appointment that lasted 10 days when “the Mooch” predictably imploded in late July.

Along the way, “Jarvanka” (Bannon’s term for the Jared and Ivanka team) run their own media and public relations network to influence the president and counter the media machinations of their arch-enemy Bannon. Trump got regular flattering media updates from his obsequiously deferential staffer Hope Hicks, his de facto daughter (Ivanka being de facto First Lady in the curious absence of Melania Trump). The laughably loyal lapdog Hicks succeeded “the Mooch” in the communications job at the age of 28.  (Hicks’s absurdity was recently exposed with news of her efforts to run cover for her boyfriend, wife-beater Rob Porter, who was forced to resign as Trump’s Staff Secretary when reports of his nasty penchant for domestic violence emerged last week).

By the late summer of 2017, Wolff notes, Bannon had “moved into a heightened state that allowed him to see just how ridiculous the White House had become” (p. 291) under the reign of “Jarvanka” (Jared and Ivanka), Hicks, and Trump himself.  Earlier in the year, Wolff reports, Bannon had “dismissed the Russia story” by observing that “the Trump wasn’t capable of conspiring about anything” (p. 97, emphasis added).

Here it is worth nothing that the Trump White House’s epic incompetence and disorganization is no small part why Wolff got to hide in plain sight in the West Wing in the first place.

Wealth and Power Elite Games

Power elite theorists and chroniclers (I am one) attuned to the dominance of business and military chieftains in the making of U.S. policy can also find grist for their mills in Fire and Fury. Somewhat inadvertently, the book portrays a first-year White House torn between establishment globalist Wall Street centrists on one hand and revanchist, hard-right renegade capitalists like the hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer and the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson on the other hand.  The Wall Street masters are represented by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, top economic advisor Gary Cohn, and National Security Council appointee Dina Powell, Goldman Sachs veterans all, along with Kushner (an acolyte of the blood-soaked globalist Henry Kissinger, curiously enough) and Ivanka.  The renegade capitalists provided backing for the China-hating Bannon and his team of proto-fascistic staffers including Stephen Miller, a 32-year old PR hack who became Trump’s “political strategist” after Bannon engineered his own removal (by leaking to the crusty liberal commentator and former Obama-worshipper Bob Kuttner) in August.

Trump is himself a billionaire. By Wolff’s account, he spends hours each day seeking advice from, and complaining to, a small “club” of other right-wing moguls. The president holds the opinions of the super-rich in special high regard, consistent with his belief that the possession of a fortune marks a man as “really smart.”

“And Yet OMG!!!”

Ultimately, though, the main thing portrayed in Fire and Fury is an off-the-rails Crazy Train administration driven by the image-, media,- and attention-addicted narcissism and relentless prideful stupidity of a man-child president whose sole allegiance is to himself and to the defeat of those who fail to understand how great he is. Wolff sounds concerned about the constant media spectacle that is the Insane Trump Clown Show:

    …contravening all cultural and media logic, Donald Trump produced on a daily basis and astonishing, can’t-stop-following it narrative. And this was not because he was changing or upsetting the fundamentals of American life.  In six months as president, failing to master almost any aspect of the bureaucratic process, he had, beyond placing his nominee on the Supreme Court, accomplished, practically speaking, nothing. And yet OMG!!!. There almost was no other story in America- and in much of the world.  That was the radical and transformational nature of the Trump presidency: it held everybody’s attention (251).

Ironically enough, however, Fire and Fury itself quickly became a major chapter in the seemingly interminable Trump freak-show.

“A Colorful Diversion”: Behind the Clown Show

Looking back on the period covered in Fire and Fury (mainly November 2016-October 2017) now seven weeks after Trump and the Republican Congress pleased his billionaire friends by passing an arch-regressive Christmas-season tax cut for the wealthy corporate and financial Few in a country where the top tenth of the upper 1 Percent already possessed as much net worth as the bottom 90 percent, it strikes me that Wolff missed the key point about the Trump circus. As the left commentator  Chris Hedges recently argued on Truthdig::

    The problem with Donald Trump is not that he is imbecilic and inept – it is that he has surrendered total power to the oligarchic and military elites. They get what they want. They do what they want…Trump, who has no inclination or ability to govern, has handed the machinery of government over to the bankers, corporate executives, right-wing think tanks, intelligence chiefs and generals. They are eradicating the few regulations and laws that inhibited a naked kleptocracy. They are dynamiting the institutions, including the State Department, that served interests other than corporate profit and are stacking the courts with right-wing, corporate-controlled ideologues. Trump provides the daily entertainment; the elites handle the business of looting, exploiting and destroying… He is useful to those who hold real power in the corporate state, however much they would like to domesticate him.

    Trump’s bizarre ramblings and behavior…serve a useful purpose. They are a colorful diversion from the razing of democratic institutions. As cable news networks feed us stories of his trysts with a porn actress and outlandish tweets, the real work of the elites is being carried out largely away from public view. The courts are stacked with Federalist Society judges, the fossil fuel industry is plundering public lands and the coastlines and ripping up regulations that protected us from its poisons, and the Pentagon, given carte blanche, is engaged in an orgy of militarism with a trillion-dollar-a-year budget and about 800 military bases in scores of countries around the world.

Yes, the “OMG Trump!” media (including Wolff’s publisher) has been consumed with its fixation on the orange-tinted beast in the White House.  But Wolff fails to note the ideological selectivity in its obsession.  The “liberal” corporate media – itself a key part of the nation’s business and military establishment – has focused especially on the president’s weird behavior and transgressions, and on the oversold and deeply conservative, diversionary, and imperialist Russiagate narrative. Lost in all this are the far more important problems that Hedges mentions: the accelerated plundering and spoliation of the common good, including above all livable ecology, the ramped-up plutocratic ruination of what’s left of democracy and popular sovereignty by the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of wealth and money.

(Speaking of environmental ruin, Wolff omits Trump’s supremely flawed, dysfunctional, and insultingly racist response to the climate change-driven hurricanes that ravaged Texas, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Island and Florida in August of 2017.  How those epic storms and Trump’s predictably botched reaction to them escaped attention in Fire and Fury is a bit of a mystery.)

“To Rationalize Why Someone Would be a Member of the KKK”

Let us not forget the revolting undercurrents of virulent sexism and racism that Trump embodies and channels. Wolff says far too little about the gender question, but here, on race, is a chilling passage from Wolff’s depressing account of how Trump was finally compelled to reluctantly denounce the vicious white-supremacist Nazi and Ku Klux Klan thugs who wreaked murderous havoc in Charlottesville, Virginia in early August of 2017:

    It was a reluctant mini-grovel…he looked like a kid called on the carpet. Resentful and petulant, he was clearly reading forced lines…As he got back on Marine One to head to Andrews Air Force base…his mood was dark and I-told-you-so.  Privately, he kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK – that is, they might not actually believe what the KKK believed, and the KKK probably does not believe what it used to believe, and, anyway, who really knows what the KKK believes now?  In fact, he said, his own father was accused of being involved with the KKK – not true (In fact, yes, true) (p. 295, emphasis added)

That is a remarkable paragraph.  I had to read it three times to believe it.

Mainstream media liberals and others seized with passion on every and any Wolff passage and finding that could be poured into the obsessive Russiagate frame but on the two hundred and ninety-fifth page of Fire and Fury you can read that a sitting President of the United States “kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK.”

I don’t recall anyone in the dominant corporate media jumping on that horrifying revelation when the book was pre-released.

The Danger of Despair

Besides the endless Trumpian distraction and diversion that Wolff seems almost to bemoan even as he advances it (Fire and Fury is the ultimate monument to the nauseating culture of “OMG Trump really did/said/Tweeted that?!), there is something else that Wolff doesn’t mention: the related danger of despair. Beyond the nonstop infantile titillation of the Brave New Trump World, the dreadfulness of the orange-tinted Awful One may also help foster and deepen public cynicism and apathy and a related forlorn sense that government and the nation’s political life are simply beyond redemption.  This promises to dangerously reduce citizen engagement by telling Americans that politics are hopelessly stupid and pointless.  Authoritarians love it when We the People turn away from public and political life.

Next Time We May Not Be So Lucky

Another danger with Fire and Fury is that the book’s shocking depiction of just how truly terrible Trump is tends to fuel the same lazy, Lesser-Evilist “Anyone but Trump” approach that helped Boss Tweet defeat the noxious neoliberal Hillary Clinton – and that encourages the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats to run yet another depressing Wall Street- and Pentagon-captive presidential candidate whose underlying loyalty to the nation’s economic and military rulers yields yet another terrible Republican presidency in, say, 2021 or 2025.

Reading Wolff’s book, I was left with the strange sense that America and the world may have dodged a bullet of sorts with the oafish and venal Trump. An oafish plutocrat desperate to be liked, Trump lacks the moral and intellectual rigor, self-control, and fierce ideological conviction required to be the charismatic and iron-willed fascist that the sinister Steve Bannon would like to have installed at the head of a New American Reich. Trump is too venal, cloddish, and childishly egoistic to play that role.

However terrible and right-wing the Trump presidency may have been so far, we can at least be thankful for that.  We may not be so lucky the next time the deplorable corporate and imperial Democrats – the nation’s Inauthentic Opposition Party – hands the White House over yet again to the ever more apocalyptic, eco-cidal, and openly racist white-nationalist Republican Party.

Never Forget How Deplorable the Democrats Are

Which reminds me of another juicy Fire and Fury passage that escaped mainstream “liberal” journalists’ and commentators’ attention after the historic volume was released and the meticulously examined by reporters and pundits looking for impeachable offenses:

    All things considered, [Trump] probably preferred the notion of more people having health insurance than fewer people having it…he probably favored government-funded health care more than any other Republican, ‘’Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?’ he had impatiently wondered aloud during one discussion with aides, all of whom were careful not to react to this heresy’” (p. 165, emphasis added).

    ‘Why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody?” A good question! Apparently, even the “fucking moron” Donald Trump could at least momentarily grasp the elementary obviousness of Single Payer as the basic health insurance solution.

    The Clintons and Obama, with their Ivy League law degrees, knew better. “David, tell me something interesting.” That was then First Lady Hillary Clinton’s weary and exasperated response – as head of the White House’s health reform initiative – to Harvard medical professor David Himmelstein in 1993. Himmelstein was head of Physicians for a National Health Program. He had just told her about the remarkable possibilities of a comprehensive, single-payer “Canadian style” health plan, supported by more than two-thirds of the U.S. public. Beyond backing by a citizen super-majority, Himmelstein noted, single-payer would provide comprehensive coverage to the nation’s 40 million uninsured while retaining free choice in doctor selection and being certified by the Congressional Budget Office as “the most cost-effective plan on offer.”

    There was no dishonesty in Hillary’s dismissive remark. Consistent with her elitist and arch-corporatist neoliberal world view, she really was bored and irritated by Himmelstein’s pitch. Along with the big insurance companies they deceptively railed against, the Clintons decided from the start to exclude the popular, social-democratic health insurance alternative (Single Payer) from the national health care “discussion.” Obama would do the same exact same thing in 2009, passing a complicated program that only the big insurance and drug companies could embrace.

What the First Lady advanced instead of the Canadian system that bored her was a hopelessly complex, secretly developed and corporatist system called “managed competition.” It was just another day at the class rule office with the Inauthentic Opposition Party, which always prefers to lose to the right than to lose to the left – even to the milquetoast left in its own party.  And it was no small indication of why she would lose to the “crazy” and “stupid” Trump – much to the gob-smacked amazement of Trump and most of this campaign staff (see Fire and Fury, pp. 11-18) – in 2016.

How and why Trump won, or perhaps more to the point, how Hillary and Democrats lost, is an absent topic in Fire and Fury – this, even though Wolff was on the Trump beat during the 2016 campaign.  Wolff’s book could (for reasons suggested above) ironically be part of how Trump or some other terrible and potentially worse Republican will win again – and the Democrats lose once more – in 2020 or 2024.

Never underestimate the right-wing evil and idiocy of the dismal and deplorable, dollar-drenched Democrats. Since Trump’s triumph, the Intercept  reports,  the party’s big money establishment has been systematically undercutting progressive Single-Payer Sanders-style office-seekers who would be likely to prevail by running (imagine) in accord with majority-progressive public opinion in 2018 and 2020. Along the way, Congressional Democrats can’t seem to stop voting to give more military and spying dollars and power to a president they criticize as corrupt, crazy, and incompetent, some citing Fire and Fury in their denunciations.

Postscript: Hey, Hey, NRA, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?

As I finished this essay, the U.S. experienced yet another tragic mass shooting committed by a deranged psychotic in possession of military-style assault weaponry – this one at a Florida high school. Please see my October 4, 2017 Counterpunch essay, “The NRA’s Latest Terrorist Attack on U.S. Soil.” It is a (still relevant, I think) reflection on how the National Rifle Association (the powerful gun lobby that is responsible for the United States’ saturation with high-kill assault weapons) is a terrorist organization – and on the neoliberal agenda that lurks behind the NRA’s project of arming everyone to the teeth. I guess we all know the standard drill by now: (1) some moderately sane liberal media and politics figures meekly bring up gun control; (2) vicious NRA-captive Republican authorities dodge the gun question and talk about mental health; (3) nothing happens to curb the gun madness and the clock is already ticking until the next mass shooting.  It’s just a matter of time. It’s formulaic at this stage; you can write the script in advance. It’s just another day at the mass-homicidal office in the “Armed Madhouse” (Greg Palast) that US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) once described – in a speech joining her with then Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in authorizing George W. Bush to criminally invade Iraq under false pretenses if he wanted to (he did) – as “the beacon the world of how life should be.”  A useful slogan, perhaps: “Hey, Hey, NRA, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”
« Last Edit: February 18, 2018, 12:37:37 AM by RE »

Offline azozeo

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Trumpty-Dumpty POTUS Thread - The WALL beginith....
« Reply #1128 on: February 23, 2018, 03:28:51 AM »

I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

Offline RE

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Witcover:Trump sinks to a new low in his response to the Florida school massacre
« Reply #1129 on: February 23, 2018, 10:13:51 AM »

Witcover: Trump sinks to a new low in his response to the Florida school massacre

by Jules Witcover

Donald Trump not only talks dirty; he also plays dirty, as seen in tweets over the weekend. On Saturday evening he tweeted that the FBI failed to act on information about the latest mass school murderer in Florida because the bureau was preoccupied investigating possible Russian collusion with his presidential campaign in 2016. The next morning he wrote that the Russians "are laughing their asses off" at the discord the probe has caused.

His crass and crude linking the two matters was his most insidious and self-serving example yet of a mind-set focused only protecting himself against real and imagined threats and his freedom to assert his will. On the heels of his visit to the victims, Mr. Trump swiftly pivoted to his fight with the FBI and the Justice Department he says are out to get him.

As the students of the attacked high school have taken to national television to rally fellow teenagers for a massive march on Washington on March 24, Mr. Trump has callously used the deplorable event that claimed 17 more victims in his latest all-about-me news-cycle strategy.

Meanwhile, among the most intriguing aspects of the Justice indictment of 13 Russians in the 2016 elections meddling was its labeling of certain Americans involved as "unwitting." Was it a deft way of the Robert Mueller investigative team to give them cover against disclosure and/or prosecution for collusion, and thus make them more cooperative?

At the heart of the inquiry, beyond the matter of interfering with our hallowed elections, has been pursuit of possible evidence that the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump or Mr. Trump himself may have colluded with Russians, which he stoutly denies. Doing so could be strong grounds for obstruction of justice in a House impeachment trial against him.

It seems logical now that the Mueller team is or will be going after any "witting" American collaborators in the meddling, pointedly revealed in the indictment as actively laboring to help elect Trump and defeat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The Mueller investigation appears now to be intensifying its quest for more actionable evidence with which to establish the collusion that Mr. Trump so determinedly rejects. The weekend brought new reports that the team has stepped up its questioning of Rick Gates, protégé of Paul Manafort, the indicted former Trump campaign manager, in the wake of the extraordinary breadth and detail of the latest indictment of multiple Russian players in the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg.

The scope of that published indictment, aired in rare press conference by Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, underscored the Justice Department's commitment to Special Counsel Mueller in the face of repeated speculation that Mr. Trump might fire both men in his fear of growing legal peril to his presidency.

Even as that speculation may have been cooled by Mr. Rosenstein's surprise appearance and new indictments, the president demonstrated particular irritation at the comment of his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, at a NATO conference in Munich that the new evidence of the Russian elections meddling was "incontrovertible."

It dealt a heavy blow to Mr. Trump's repeated allegations that the Mueller inquiry was "a hoax" and "a witch hunt" designed to discredit his legitimate 2016 election by virtue of winning the electoral college vote, despite losing the popular vote to rival Hillary Clinton.

It's clear now that Donald Trump is behaving like a man deeply insecure about his presidency, for all his transparent braggadocio. Most public-opinion polls give him no more than 40 percent approval ratings at the present time.

Still, he is the president, and the question now is what is he doing to cope with the interference in the American process of self-government? The answer apparently is absolutely nothing, not even imposing more economic sanctions against Russia. He continues to say he believes his good friend Vladimir Putin that the meddling doesn't exist, thus demeaning his own intelligence services and Mueller, who have now so persuasively demonstrated otherwise.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is

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Witcover: Trump sinks to a new low in his response to the Florida school massacre

It's clear now that Donald Trump is behaving like a man deeply insecure about his presidency, for all his transparent braggadocio. Most public-opinion polls give him no more than 40 percent approval ratings at the present time.

Trump remains President, for now. His approval vacillates between 35-40 per cent in most reputable polls. It is important to remember that when Nixon stepped on the helicopter for his flight into what should have been lasting disgrace, his approval stood at 28 per cent. And this was before the nexus of Fox News/hate radio created a right wing alternative universe divorced from reality. In fact,one of Roger Ailes's desiderata with Fox News was to insure that a republican President could never again be hounded into resignation, no matter how extensive his disgrace.

Not only is it true that Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still be elected President, he could have the bodies of fucked-then-executed teenage girls stacked like so much cordwood outside of Melania's bedroom, and the CPAC/evangelical/NRA crowd would find some way to excuse his behavior. These are not people recognizably of the same species.

Trump's behavior tells us all we need to know about him. He is incapable of thinking about anyone except himself and his immediate needs. We have all the proof that this assertion is demonstrable true, both from his many statements and tweets, but also from the visual evidence:

Not recognizably human.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Mueller probe: Manafort hit with new charges after Gates pleads guilty
« Reply #1131 on: February 23, 2018, 03:22:19 PM »
The Noose gets Tighter...

<a href="" target="_blank" class="new_win"></a>

Hang 'em High!


Mueller probe: Manafort hit with new charges after Gates pleads guilty

by Tracy Connor, Kenzi Abou-Sabe, Tom Winter and Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort was hit with new charges on Friday, including an allegation he secretly recruited and funded a group of former European politicians to lobby in the United States on behalf of Ukraine.

The superseding indictment was filed just a couple of hours after Manafort's business partner, former campaign aide Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to lying to investigators — even while he was negotiating a deal with Mueller.

Gates is now the third associate of President Donald Trump to strike a cooperation agreement with Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to the campaign.

The agreement, which requires Gates to cooperate on "all matters" prosecutors deem relevant, appears to be a good deal for both sides. Gates could get as little as probation if he keeps up his end of the bargain, and Mueller's case from Manafort morphs from one built on paper evidence to one where the star witness worked hand-in-hand with the defendant.
[Ex-Trump Campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty to conspiracy]
Ex-Trump Campaign aide Rick Gates pleads guilty to conspiracy 1:02

Gates and Manafort were indicted together in October in Washington on charges related to their lucrative lobbying work for pro-Russian Ukrainian political figures and then hit this week with a new 32-count indictment in Virginia that contained new charges of tax and bank fraud.

Further squeezing Manafort, Mueller lodged new accusations in a five-count superseding indictment Friday that charges him with conspiracy, money-laundering, being an unregistered agent for a foreign entity, and making false statements.

The most significant allegation is that Manafort assembled what he called a "Super VIP" group of highly influential Europeans who could push Ukraine's agenda "without any visible relationship" with the Ukrainian government, according to an email obtained by Mueller.

Manafort paid the politicians 2 million euros from offshore accounts in 2012 and 2013 to lobby members of Congress and other U.S. officials. It's illegal for Americans to direct foreigners to lobby the U.S. without informing the Justice Department.

The so-called "Hapsburg Group" was managed by a former European chancellor, who was not named in the indictment.

The term chancellor is used in only a small number of countries, including Germany and Austria. The Associated Press reported last year that Mercury LLC, which was involved in the Manafort lobbying effort, employed former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer as an expert. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Manafort said he has no plans to follow suit and make a deal with Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.

"I continue to maintain my innocence," Manafort said.

"I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me."
Image: Paul Manafort, Rick Gates
From left, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Alex Brandon / AP

Court documents reveal that a deal has been in the works since late January. Under the agreement, Gates could face up to 71 months on the two felony counts, but could also ask for probation without opposition if he "fully cooperates."

In a statement of offense attached to the plea agreement, he admits he conspired with Manafort "in a variety of criminal schemes," including moving millions from offshore accounts without paying taxes on the money, which was disguised as loans.

He also admits he helped Manafort avoid registering as a lobbyist for Ukrainian political figures and misleading two other firms, the Podesta Group and Mercury, on whether they had to register. The firms were paid through an advocacy group which employees knew was a "fig leaf" so they would not have register as agents of the Ukrainian regime, Mueller alleged.

One of the more surprising details in Friday's filings was the admission by Gates that even while he was negotiating a possible agreement with Mueller, he lied to investigators. He falsely claimed that Ukraine was not discussed at a March 19, 2013, meeting attended by Manafort, a lobbyist, and member of Congress and that a report about the meeting was not sent to clients in the Ukraine.

The lawmaker who attended was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, his office confirmed, His press secretary said it was a dinner with longtime acquaintances where "the three reminisced and talked mostly about politics."

"The subject of Ukraine came up in passing," the press secretary, Ken Grubbs, said in a statement.

"It is no secret that Manafort represented [former Ukraine president] Viktor Yanukovych’s interests, but as chairman of the relevant European subcommittee, the congressman has listened to all points of view on Ukraine. We may only speculate that Manafort needed to report back to his client that Ukraine was discussed."

Gates lied about the 2013 dinner during a Feb. 1 sitdown with Mueller's team for what's known as a proffer meeting, where details of an agreement are hashed out. That's the same day Gates' previous lawyers asked for permission to withdraw from the case, citing "irreconcilable differences."
Image: Former Trump Official Rick Gates To Plead Guilty In Charges Related To Mueller's Russia Investigation
Richard Gates arrives at federal court for a plea hearing. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Russia probe, which Mueller took over in May, has been intensifying since the fall and picked up even more momentum in the last two weeks.

In October, former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos secretly pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians — communications that Manafort was allegedly aware of.

In December, Trump's short-lived national security adviser Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to a charge of making false statements to the FBI about his communications with Russia after the election but before the inauguration. It was allegedly at the urging of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and Flynn's former deputy, K.T. McFarland.

Last week, Mueller unveiled the first charges directly tied to Russian meddling in the election: indictments against 13 Russian nationals accused of conducting "information warfare" through social media accounts that drummed up support for Trump and criticized Hillary Clinton. A California man, Richard Pinedo, pleaded guilty to selling bank account and other stolen information to those Russians
Image: Paul Manafort, Donald Trump
Donald Trump with then-campaign manager Paul Manafort at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call,Inc. file

Then earlier this week, Alex van der Zwaan, a former attorney for the blue-chip firm Skadden Arps who is the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch, pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller's team about his contacts with Gates.

In recent weeks, Mueller has also interviewed key figures, including former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and fired FBI Director James Comey.

Trump has called the investigation a "witch hunt" and insists there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians.

It's still not clear if Trump will submit to questioning by Mueller.

Andrea Mitchell, Pete Williams and Ken Dilanian reported from Washington, and Tracy Connor, Kenzi Abou-Sabe and Tom Winter from New York.

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I'll tell you what has come unmoored. Don Trumpsky's brain is unmoored.  He makes Obama-sama look like a genius, which is damn hard to do.  What an imbecile!  ::) Unbelievable.


Trump's shifts on trade, guns leave some wondering if White House has come unmoored

President Donald Trump at a meeting with bipartisan members of Congress to discuss gun control and school and community safety in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Feb. 28, 2018. (Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post)

Damian Paletta and Josh DawseyWashington Post

President Donald Trump whiplashed Washington through 24 hours of chaos and confusion, culminating Thursday with a surprise announcement that he will unilaterally impose steep tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports.

His own aides were stunned. The stock market plunged. It was the moment many of his advisers have long feared would occur when he grew tired of talking points and economic theory and decided to do things his way.

The comments came in the Cabinet Room, where one day earlier he had left Republicans slackjawed by appearing to embrace numerous liberal ideas on gun control, even proposing to seize firearms from people without a court order.

Trump often likes to sow misdirection, running the White House like a never-ending reality show where only he knows the plot. But even by his standards, the day-long period that ended Thursday left some senior aides and Republican lawmakers wondering whether the White House had finally come unmoored, detached from any type of methodology that past presidents have relied on to make decisions for leading largest economy in the world.

"There is no standard operating practice with this administration," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. "Every day is a new adventure for us."

The trade decision signaled the marginalization of White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who had argued against tariffs for months but was outmaneuvered by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and trade adviser Peter Navarro.

It also showed the growing absenteeism of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who was at a public event Thursday morning talking about homeland security when the White House was locked in frenetic infighting over what to do.
Trade war? Markets drop after Trump orders big tariffs on steel, aluminum

A number of senior administration officials believe one catalyst for the problems was the sudden departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, who left the White House several weeks ago amid allegations of abuse by his two ex-wives.

Porter was part of an exodus of advisers who had worked to try to keep Trump focused and away from his protectionist instincts. They had prevented him from ripping apart trade agreements and imposing major tariffs on other countries, even U.S. allies like Canada and Germany.

Porter tried to streamline decisions and corral divergent views into joint meetings, a challenge in a White House that has secret alliances and a flair for sensationalism. There was a weekly meeting on trade that included top advisers and tried to ensure there would not be surprises or brash decisions. Porter, these officials said, often presented the consensus views of the group or gave Trump recommendations.

When Porter left this process largely broke down, the officials said. Complicating matters, Porter had been dating White House communications director Hope Hicks, a longtime Trump aide who is one of the most influential members of the president's inner circle and who announced abruptly Wednesday that she would be leaving her job.
Trump surprises GOP lawmakers in backing some tougher gun controls

Porter's departure also weakened Kelly, who Trump has repeatedly complained about to friends. Kelly, a retired Marine general, had sought to instill order and process to a president who preferred to have neither.

"There's a lot of disarray," said Larry Kudlow, who was a top adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign.

"There may be a messaging and paperflow problem in the wake of the Rob Porter departure," he said. "I'm not defending what Rob did, but he was very good at what he did in the White House."

With Trump relying less on Kelly to manage his advisers in recent weeks, the White House has reverted somewhat to the free-for-all approach that dominated Trump's first few months in office.

Navarro, a White House adviser who believes foreign countries are stealing American jobs with cheap imports, had been marginalized within the West Wing by Kelly and Cohn. But with Kelly's diminished status and Trump looking to follow through on some of the trade threats he had made during the campaign, Navarro and Ross provided him with a perfect plan: impose tariffs on steel and aluminum in the name of national security.

Trump has also been keeping a close eye on the special election this month for U.S. House in western Pennsylvania, which he considers the heart of his political base. In recent weeks, he has been told by some associates that voters in places like Pennsylvania's 18th district are looking for more to be done by the administration, according to two people familiar with the discussions, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The president has noted that the Republican in the race is struggling in a district where he won by a large margin, these people said.

Navarro and Ross helped prepare the steel and aluminum tariff announcement, secretly inviting executives to the White House without notifying a number of other White House advisers. When The Washington Post reported about Trump's looming announcement Wednesday evening, many top White House officials were caught off guard, including the press office. Kelly told others in the White House that there was nothing for Trump to sign and nothing had been reviewed by lawyers, according to a senior administration official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

"Gary got rolled and was entirely kept in the dark," a person close to the White House said of Trump's top economic adviser.

On Thursday morning, Trump had a meeting with top economic advisers including Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Cohn warned against the tariffs, and a number of White House advisers came away from it believing that a decision had been postponed and that Trump's meeting would amount to little more than another CEO meeting at the White House, several people briefed on the planning said.

After all, they had persuaded Trump before, diverting him from withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement and a free-trade agreement with Korea.

But that all changed around noon, when Trump announced to press pool cameras that he was imposing the steep tariffs next week after all.

"What's been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful," Trump said.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 500 points within several hours. The move raised questions about whether Trump would try to break free of aides that had long tried to hem him in on NAFTA, South Korea and a number of other trade decisions.

When told of the tariff announcement, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah - whose powerful committee has jurisdiction over trade - responded: "Oh yeah? He did that? He's controversial."

"Well, I don't think that's a wise move," continued Hatch, who mirrored the view of many Senate Republicans.

For months, there had been weekly trade meetings on Tuesdays with Navarro, Ross, Cohn, U.S. Trade Representatives Robert Lighthizer and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. People had been given assignments to study and do analysis at their agencies and report back.

Cohn had told the president on a number of occasions that tariffs could spark a trade war. He and others had warned that other countries would retaliate, imposing tariffs on U.S. exports, damaging a U.S. economy that Trump was trying to build up through his tax cuts, people familiar with these talks said. They would remind Trump about how well the stock market was doing.

Cohn was the person arguing the most against it, but people took turns talking to the president and trying to talk him out of tariffs, trying to coordinate their messages.

But Trump was enamored with tariffs, convinced it was one of the only ways to punish other countries for practices he felt disadvantaged U.S. manufacturers. Domestic steel and aluminum production has plummeted in recent decades because of low prices offered by companies from China and other countries.

"We're getting screwed," Trump would tell advisers. "We need tariffs."

But they delayed decisions last year because they didn't want to splinter the GOP during the tax debate, which ended in December.

In February, Ross gave Trump an opening to act. Ross's team put together a report arguing that large amounts of cheap steel and aluminum posed a national security risk for the United States, giving Trump the impetus to act unilaterally.

Ross brought three recommendations to Trump, the most severe of which was a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum. Ross and Navarro favored the most extreme options, people briefed on the talks said, though Lighthizer was wary, worried about what it might mean for his efforts to renegotiate NAFTA. Canada is a large importer to the United States and had threatened to respond negatively if they were hit with new tariffs.

This week, Ross and Navarro prepared for the big announcement on Thursday but senior NEC officials were unaware that Trump was so close to making an announcement.

The announcement came just one day after Trump stunned many of the same Republicans from the same Cabinet Room by talking positively about ideas pushed by Democrats to limit access to certain guns.

White House advisers were planning to release a detailed plan to fix the government's background check system and offer new school grants as part of a response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida that killed 17 people. The meeting was supposed to be measured and cautious; the White House drafted a number of ideas to be released later this week, including changes to the FBI tip line. The ideas were seen internally as sensible and passable in Congress.

Trump has been telling people for several days that he wants to do more than his advisers believe can be done on guns, a person close to the discussions said. White House legislative affairs director Marc Short and others have told him the votes are not there for some of his proposals, White House officials say.

Trump latched on to almost every idea Democrats offered, mocking some Republicans for not going far enough. At one point during the meeting, Trump chastised Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., a major author of last year's tax law, for not pushing to ban access to semiautomatic weapons for people under the age of 21.

"You know why? Because you're afraid of the NRA," Trump said at the meeting, referring to the National Rifle Association that Trump himself had praised repeatedly just days earlier.

Then Trump went further, saying the government should be able to take guns away from people who might cause harm even if there isn't necessarily a court order - the type of step some gun owners have accused Democrats of favoring. He seemed to be ad-libbing as the meeting went on.

"The cameras came in, and he just did his whole thing like he always does," a senior White House official said.

Senior White House aides, including Short, have continued to tell Republican members to not overreact to Trump's comments, particularly on the assault rifle ban he seemed to support. One senior GOP aide said Trump's team was telling them to recall earlier meetings on immigration, where he seemed to side with Democrats before eventually changing his tune.

The Washington Post's Erica Werner, Robert Costa, David J. Lynch and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

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Will the Last Person to Leave the West Wing Please Turn Out the Lights?
« Reply #1133 on: March 03, 2018, 06:30:39 AM »
WTF would work for Trumpovetsky? ???  :icon_scratch:


Will the Last Person to Leave the West Wing Please Turn Out the Lights?

As the administration faces a spate of departures from its top ranks, filling their posts will be a major challenge.

Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster, Jared Kushner, and Gary Cohn Carlos Barria / Reuters

    David A. Graham Mar 2, 2018 Politics


Subscribe to The Atlantic’s Politics & Policy Daily, a roundup of ideas and events in American politics.

It’s looking like it might be spring-cleaning season at the White House.

Not only did Communications Director Hope Hicks announce her departure on Wednesday, ending her run as President Trump’s longest-tenured staffer, but a series of reports have suggested a number of other top-ranking officials might be clearing out their offices and desks soon. Those rumored to be considering exits include Jared Kushner, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn, and Jeff Sessions.
Related Story

The White House Melts Down Over Steel

One could be forgiven for treating these reports with some skepticism. Every one of them has been the subject of similar speculation in the past—which could indicate just how long the final departure has been coming, or could suggest the reports not be taken seriously. Yet there are also plenty of reasons why officials might be interested in leaving, many of them interwoven. It is common for administrations to see turnover in their second year. But there are also Trump-specific circumstances: It’s clear that working for this president is particularly trying; there remain serious disagreements about policy; and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation haunts the White House.

At the top of the card is Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Kushner, who quickly acquired a sprawling portfolio despite having no experience in government and diplomacy nor a permanent security clearance, has clashed with other administration officials at times, but he has appeared to be somewhat insulated by the fact that the president is his father-in-law. It’s no longer clear that’s enough protection. Last week, Kushner lost his clearance to see top-secret material, a change that Trump could have blocked but did not.

Since then, there’s been a remarkable flurry of stories about Kushner. The Washington Post reported that according to intelligence officials, at least four countries had contemplated ways to manipulate the U.S. government using Kushner’s business ties, one reason he hadn’t gotten a permanent clearance. The New York Times reported that Kushner’s family’s real-estate business, from which he separated but did not fully divest himself, had received large loans from Citigroup and Apollo, a private-equity firm, following meetings with Kushner at the White House. (All denied any connection between the meetings and the loans.) The Associated Press found that the Securities and Exchange Commission had dropped an inquiry into Apollo shortly after it made a loan to the Kushner Companies. The Intercept reported that the Kushner Companies sought and were denied a loan from the Qatari government, one month before the Trump administration sided against Qatar in a Persian Gulf dispute.

The Times suggested that even Trump would like to see Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump leave the West Wing: “Aides also noted that Mr. Trump has told the couple that they should keep serving in their roles, even as he has privately asked Mr. Kelly for his help in moving them out.” Getting rid of one’s own son-in-law and daughter is delicate business, though as I wrote in July 2017, Trump has not hesitated to turn on his own family members in the past.

If Kelly pushes Kushner out, it would be a remarkable turn of events. Although Kelly badly botched the White House’s handling of domestic-abuse allegations against then-Staff Secretary Rob Porter, he used the episode to tighten rules on clearances, which places Kushner on the ropes. Politico reported he had favored a Hicks departure, too.

Kelly might not stop there. NBC News reported Thursday that Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis are angling to depose National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, with an actual departure as soon as April. McMaster was a widely hailed successor to Michael Flynn, who was fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence and has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, too, but his personality clashed with Trump’s nearly from the start. In mid-February, after McMaster responded to Mueller’s indictments of Russians for interfering in the election by saying the evidence was “incontrovertible,” Trump dressed him down on Twitter.

Moving McMaster out is a delicate business. He entered the White House as a rising star in the military. (It’s intriguing to see two older, retired generals maneuvering to oust him.) The trick is to find a good landing spot for McMaster, rather than effectively end his career because he took a nearly impossible job. Doing so would not only be a bad break for McMaster, but it might make other people far less likely to take White House jobs, if they fear it will kill their own careers.

In any case, Kelly himself could still leave before too long. The chief of staff has been said to be clashing with Trump more or less since he took the job in August 2017, but repeated impending-departure stories have come to naught. He’s now lasted about as long in the job as Reince Priebus, and even in more conventional administrations, chiefs of staff have often stayed in the role for only a year or two. On Thursday, Kelly joked about how little fun he was having. “The last thing I wanted to do was walk away from one of the great honors of my life, being the secretary of homeland security, but I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess,” he said at an event celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security.

The reasons why Gary Cohn, who leads the National Economic Council, is said to be considering leaving are specific to this week. In a strange meltdown Wednesday night, the White House (or parts of it) announced that Trump would put forth new sanctions Thursday, taking other parts of the White House by surprise. Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs and Democrat who practically embodies the globalist free-trade establishment against which Trump ran, fiercely opposes this kind of protectionism, and Politico reported that Cohn was on the verge of leaving.

Yes, you’ve heard this before. Cohn was going to leave the White House after Trump offered kind words for white-supremacist marchers in Charlottesville in August; after he was passed over for chair of the Federal Reserve; and after the president’s tax plan was complete. Each moment passed, and Cohn remains. Perhaps this will really be the breaking point, but it’s hard to tell.

Trump also rekindled his feud with Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week, once again attacking him on Twitter. In this case, the president offered a factually challenged demand for Sessions to circumvent the investigative process at the Department of Justice. Faced with these attacks in the past, Sessions has taken a variety of approaches: He reportedly offered to resign, but was denied; he has sometimes simply ignored them. This time, he fired back, sort of. Sessions was seen at dinner with his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, and the solicitor general, Noel Francisco, in what looked like a united DOJ front. He also issued a statement:

    We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary. As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.

That reads almost like a dare to Trump: If you’re so unhappy, why don’t you fire me? But the president has proven extremely reluctant to actually terminate anyone, catchphrase notwithstanding. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s exit has been foretold so many times that it’s easy to forget he’s still at Foggy Bottom, though based on his influence in discussions like tariffs, perhaps he might as well not be.

The in-or-out dance for most of these figures is so well-rehearsed that it’s easy to just tune them out as more white noise. Even if current rumors don’t come to anything immediately, these staffers will leave at some point, and then they’ll have to be replaced. As in the case of McMaster, the question of who might fill those roles remains a barrier to the incumbents leaving in the first place. The Trump administration had trouble recruiting for many jobs when it began, and convincing qualified people to work there hasn’t gotten any easier. Prospective hires face the challenge of a president who will berate them publicly, the humiliation of colleagues who will leak damaging information about them to the press without a second thought, the danger of having to retain costly attorneys amid Mueller’s Russia probe, and the reputational risk of association with this administration. Who wants to come work for a president whose own officials describe his behavior this week as “unglued”?

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Re: Will the Last Person to Leave the West Wing Please Turn Out the Lights?
« Reply #1134 on: March 03, 2018, 07:40:01 AM »
WTF would work for Trumpovetsky? ???  :icon_scratch:


Will the Last Person to Leave the West Wing Please Turn Out the Lights?

This is a real probleem, not just for Trump, but for all of us.

MSNBC’s Donny Deutsch warns of what a “cornered” Trump might do
“What is he capable of doing at the expense of the world or the United States or the consumer to save himself?”

RACHEL LEAH03.02.20185:31 PM

It has been another dizzying week for the Donald Trump administration — from thedeparture of communications director Hope Hicks to Jared Kushner's loss of top security clearance and now to Trump's controversial announcement of new tariffs — and it feels as though the White House is unraveling at its seams. But MSNBC contributor and ad executive Donny Deutsch fears that Trump's chaotic week surpasses the president's usual antics.

"This week, if you were concerned about Donald Trump being our president, in certain ways, it was a good week, you really felt the noose tighten with Hope Hicks leaving and the Kushner story and the new conspiracy leading directly to Trump from [special counsel Robert] Mueller’s point of view," Deutsch said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "You really feel it, and the bad news, though, if you’re somebody that’s concerned about Trump, is you’re really starting to see the beginning of a cornered Donald Trump, and what is he capable of doing at the expense of the world or the United States or the consumer to save himself?"

Deutsch, who has known Trump for years, continued: "I’m concerned if this is a harbinger of things to come, in that will he do with North Korea at the expense of the rest of the world? What will he do in any scenario to do this kind of shiny toy thing?"

Hicks kept the White House partially sane, according to Deutsch, but with her gone, "this is a man with his hand at the controls," he said of Trump. "And yes, a trade war is very, very concerning, what are the other things he’s capable of doing at the expense of all of us to save or protect or deflect when it comes to his own hide?"

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Eddie

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Re: Trumpty-Dumpty POTUS Thread
« Reply #1135 on: March 03, 2018, 03:42:18 PM »
I have been watching this develop and intended to write about it myself. I do find it very concerning that the greedy rats who rushed to get on the Trump bandwagon are now deserting what might be a sinking ship.

I'm not sure what all the issues are. Hope Hicks probably hopes her stonewalling before Congress will keep her out of jail. I suspect she knows something(s) Mueller would be very interested in.

Gary Cohn is just not quite Bannonesqe enough to see eye to eye with Trump. He's obviously uncomfortable with the whole Trump Nazi base, and he sees the tariffs as what they are, an economic disaster in the making.

The generals probably get tired of Trump's narcissism and megalomania pretty quick, and see him for what he is, a blowhard without real substance who is willing to do anything to keep the rampant populism in play. They'd love to take away his cell phone.

Kushner I think is staying. The security clearance thing is bogus. He still knows and hears all. But he might be worried about jail too.

The tariffs are obviously something Carl Icahn (and maybe certain steel and aluminum CEO's) told Trump he needed to do. Then Icahn used his insider info to feather his own nest, using Trump like a patsy.

Curiouser and curiouser.

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

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Re: Trumpty-Dumpty POTUS Thread
« Reply #1136 on: March 03, 2018, 04:02:37 PM »
I have been watching this develop and intended to write about it myself. I do find it very concerning that the greedy rats who rushed to get on the Trump bandwagon are now deserting what might be a sinking ship.

I'm not sure what all the issues are. Hope Hicks probably hopes her stonewalling before Congress will keep her out of jail. I suspect she knows something(s) Mueller would be very interested in.

Gary Cohn is just not quite Bannonesqe enough to see eye to eye with Trump. He's obviously uncomfortable with the whole Trump Nazi base, and he sees the tariffs as what they are, an economic disaster in the making.

The generals probably get tired of Trump's narcissism and megalomania pretty quick, and see him for what he is, a blowhard without real substance who is willing to do anything to keep the rampant populism in play. They'd love to take away his cell phone.

Kushner I think is staying. The security clearance thing is bogus. He still knows and hears all. But he might be worried about jail too.

The tariffs are obviously something Carl Icahn (and maybe certain steel and aluminum CEO's) told Trump he needed to do. Then Icahn used his insider info to feather his own nest, using Trump like a patsy.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Write a Blog Article.  :icon_sunny:

This is definitely a case of Rats Jumping Off a Sinking Ship.


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The Mueller Investigation Guessing Game
« Reply #1137 on: March 05, 2018, 05:35:23 AM »

The Mueller Investigation Guessing Game
The special counsel provides so much information, yet we still understand so little, Benjamin Wittes says.

By Isaac Chotiner
March 05, 20187:30 AM

Benjamin Wittes speaks during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on July 17, 2008.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On this week’s episode of my podcast, I Have to Ask, I spoke to Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor in chief of Lawfare. Over the past year, Wittes has become one of the most prominent commentators on the Robert Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia, thanks in part to his friendship with James Comey and to his time reporting on Justice Department. He has also emerged as a strong critic of Trump and the Republican Party.

Below is an edited excerpt from the show. In it, we discuss how to read the tea leaves of the Mueller investigation, why people are too critical of Comey, and why even Trump hasn’t changed his positive opinion of the national security state.

You can find links to every episode here; the entire audio interview is below. Please subscribe to I Have to Ask wherever you get your podcasts.

Isaac Chotiner: Are you thinking about the Mueller investigation differently than you were several months ago?

Benjamin Wittes: I’m not sure that I am, except that it has definitely progressed. Mueller has played his cards very close to the vest. We know very little about what he is thinking or planning other than what he’s done. There have been more actions since a couple months ago, and therefore we have more data points to read, more tea leaves. But we still have essentially no information about his thinking, his plans, or his directional momentum, other than what we can read. So there’s definitely more information to play with, but it is still consistent, potentially, with a pretty wide range of possible theories of the case.
“They’re trying to say as little as possible, except when they say a lot.” — Benjamin Wittes

Do you see ways in which the Mueller team is trying to keep its hand hidden, and there are signs they’re not revealing things that they could be revealing, and there are strategic reasons for that? Or they’re just doing what they can, and it is what it is?

It’s a bit of both. The setting in which they’ve decided to be communicative is the indictment of the 13 Russians, where they gave a lot of information. And they really used that indictment to tell a story. In addition, with both the [George] Papadopoulos and [Michael] Flynn statements of offenses, they kind of judiciously let out information about subject matter about certain meetings and content and things that were said. Beyond that, they’ve said essentially nothing. And their other documents have been exceedingly spare in terms of the communicative nature of them. And I do think that’s on purpose, that they’re trying to say as little as possible, except when they say a lot.

And is the reason that you would try to say as little as possible that this is what prosecutors would do in any case? Or is this about the sensitivities here involved—the sense that Trump may try to further interfere with the investigation?

It’s a little of both. So No. 1, standard prosecutorial practice is to be quite judicious with investigative sensitive information. And yes, there are prosecutorial leaks in the federal system. They’re not especially common. And good prosecutors don’t do it very much. So that’s the baseline condition.

In addition, I think there are a number of other factors here that all kind of push in the same direction. One is that Mueller follows Comey, whom the president has been publicly tweeting about as a leaker. And though that’s actually quite untrue, it is something that would make you, if you were in Mueller’s shoes, very careful not to do anything that would give ammunition to the president to discredit the investigation.

Before Mueller was appointed, we saw incredible leaks from the bureaucracy. And I think the conventional wisdom about that has been that people in the bureaucracy were worried about what would happen to this investigation, so they were leaking the stuff. And then when Mueller was chosen, he took over and put a lid on that.

The corollary to that would be nothing about the indictment of these 13 Russians leaked, presumably because they do not have Washington defense lawyers who are talking to reporters. Is that your sense too, that the leaks have largely stopped because people have confidence in Mueller and that the leaks we see are largely from defense lawyers?

Defense lawyers are one of the frequent sources of information, but they’re not the only one. Broadly speaking, I think there are three, maybe four, groups of sources for the overwhelming majority of these stories. One is, as you say, the defense bar. The second is the witnesses themselves. Now, a lot of the witnesses are people who work in the White House, people who work in the campaign. And these people, for lots of other reasons, have independent relationships with a lot of the reporters in question. So they talk. Assuming the information’s not classified, there’s often not much ethical impediment to talking to a reporter about stuff that happened that you were involved in or stuff that you’ve heard around. No. 3 is Congress. There are multiple congressional investigations of many aspects of these things, and Congress is—this will be shocking—not the most leak-proof organization in the world.

And then the fourth element, where I think a certain amount of stuff is coming from, is other people who get wrapped up in stuff. So any investigation like this involved a number of ancillary witnesses who get pulled into things because they’re there, because they interacted with people. And these people have no obligations of confidentiality, and, by the way, the investigation can be quite disruptive to their lives. And they may have no particular reason to keep anybody’s confidence, and so they talk.

What about the bureaucracy leaking and now leaking less?

The question of whether the leaks in the bureaucracy have calmed down because of increased confidence as a result of Mueller is a complicated one because a lot of information that would previously have been available has kind of dried up at this point. So in the late months of the Obama administration and early months of the Trump administration, there was this flood of intelligence reporting about the Russia operation. And it shocked people. And a certain amount of that information leaked, most famously the Flynn-Kislyak conversation. One possibility is that your hypothesis is correct, and everybody’s like, “Bob Mueller will take care of it. I don’t need to leak this now.” But another possibility is that the shocking things that developed in that period kind of leaked in relatively early, and they have not been replaced by other streams of similarly shocking information because that is now being handled by the investigation. It’s not a sort of ongoing reporting stream that results from the intelligence community’s assessment that President Obama ordered late in 2016.

There have been news reports that the president would especially be set off by the Mueller team looking into his business and financial interests. Is there a conscious sense of that if we’re going to indict the president’s son-in-law or look into his businesses, you would wait until the end to do this, that we would pursue other lines of inquiry first, in case our investigation is shut down?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I am not in touch with anybody in the special counsel’s office.

I think there are two possible ways for the special counsel’s office to think about that question. One is to say our job is to be total straight shooters and do our job with no strategic calculation as to the nature of the people we’re dealing with. And the president has certain powers that no other subject of such an investigation would have, like the power to pardon everybody involved, or the power to fire us, or the power to obliterate the office that we work for. But we actually can’t control any of that, and it’s wrong for us to take any of that into account in the way we do our jobs. What our job is is to ignore that, treat all that as noise. And if he exercises those authorities, that’s the political system’s responsibility to respond to that, not ours. That would be one way to think about it.

The other way to think about it is to say that inherent in conducting an investigation like this is the task of protecting the investigation, given what Jim Comey called in his congressional testimony the “nature of the person”—you don’t want to forget who you’re dealing with. And you want to behave in a way that maximally protects the investigative equities and the structure and independence of the investigation from predations by the president and his people. And that means making certain strategic calculations.

There was an FBI investigation before Robert Mueller took over. Would it sort of automatically revert to being an FBI investigation again if Mueller was fired?

I think it would. … So it is at this point a series of indicted cases, among other things. If you fired Mueller but didn’t get rid of his office, there would still be an office of special counsel that would then lack a head, and somebody would presumably be sort of acting in that capacity, and maybe you’d have to appoint another one. That’s what happened to the special prosecutor’s office in Watergate. That’s how we got Leon Jaworski. That did not work out well for Richard Nixon. If, on the other hand, he sought to rescind the regulation, get rid of the office in its entirety, that would not cause the cases that the office has garnered pleas in or issues indictments in to disappear. They would revert to the Justice Department. So you would have to then figure out what bureaucratic part of the Justice Department would inherit the different parts of the investigation. That’s a mess, and I don’t think the FBI would just stop investigating it because the structure in which they were working had vanished. So I think it’s very much an open question, and again, it depends on the sort of mechanics by which you tried to effectuate this.

In hindsight, how do you think James Comey dealt with the investigation into Hillary Clinton and the emails, and the investigation that, I guess, had started by that point of Trump campaign associates and some connection to Russia?

These are matters that are currently before an inspector general, who has investigated a number of areas related to this energetically and is apparently nearing the end of his process and getting ready to release reports on it.

That said, I think the FBI was put in an impossible position in 2016. And I have never argued that there was no basis to fault decisions that were made in the bureau, including by Comey. And in fact, I was one of a relatively small number of people who raised public questions about the handling of the Clinton email matter back in July of 2016 when Comey released his statement. I, actually, at the time wrote a piece saying that I didn’t dissent from his decision to do it, but I was uncomfortable with it.

And all that said, I think he was in an impossible position and that there was no good way to handle it. And I think the way he chose to handle it backfired in a big way, whether or not, by the way, it actually contributed to the electoral outcome. The fact that large numbers of people think that it did is itself a problem. I also think, by the way, that the attorney general and the deputy attorney general deserve a lot of responsibility here that people don’t think about much. But the attorney general was the one who allowed the candidate’s husband to get on her plane and then did not recuse herself. And the deputy attorney general and the attorney general both were in a position to direct the FBI director not to make the public statement that he did. And they didn’t do it.

The basic problem here was that we had a grenade in the room, and we have one person who has, to a fault, a tendency to fall on every grenade and take responsibility for all kinds of things that are probably other people’s departments. And on the other hand we had a bunch of people who ran from the room. And that’s a toxic combination.

What about the Trump angle? There was infamously a piece in the New York Times, I believe, on Oct. 31, 2016, saying the FBI saw no link between Trump and Russia. Do you think that there was a mistake made there? Harry Reid, I believe, released a letter saying that Comey had a lot of information about this, that he was not talking about the way he was about the Clinton email investigation. Do you think that’s a fair critique, or are people misunderstanding that?

I think that critique is wrong. You say, “Why did you handle one one way, and why’d you handle one the other way?” That’s an error. And it’s an error for two reasons. One is that Comey announced the closing of the Clinton investigation in July, when he thought the investigation was finished.

The Trump investigation had just begun. You don’t talk about an investigation that is just starting, right? So they were in completely different places. Now, the wrinkle here, of course, was that the perception that the Clinton investigation was done turned out to be wrong because they ended up in October having new information that they felt they had to take steps on. But when they issued those statements and made the comments that they made, they did it because they thought they were done with the investigation. So if there’s an appropriate time to say what your investigative conclusions and actions are going to be, surely it is when you’re done.

The Trump investigation starts in July, according to Comey’s later testimony and a number of other documents. And generally speaking, when things are in an early, very preliminary stage, that’s precisely when you don’t talk about them. The second reason, and the most important reason, is that one of these investigations was a counterintelligence investigation. These are the most sensitive investigations in the United States government. The Trump investigation started with an allied foreign intelligence service giving us information about George Papadopoulos. The New York Times has since reported that it was the Australians. So when people, including Harry Reid, say that you should be going public with the material that you are working with, with respect to Trump, what they’re saying is that you should blow a FISA [warrant], which was the Carter Page FISA, and you should release information about an early phase counterintelligence investigation. And that is simply an unthinkable proposition—and, by the way, it remains unthinkable when Devin Nunes turned around and did it a year and a half later. So people like me who are really angry about what Devin Nunes did, I don’t think it would have been any more appropriate had Harry Reid done it.

You gave a quote for a New York magazine profile, where you said, “I don’t lead any kind of resistance. I keep warning all of our newfound admiring readers that I’m not part of that world. You know, the day we have sane government again, including, by the way, sane conservative government, I’m going to go back to being an apologist for the national-security state. And I won’t even have to go back to it! Because that’s actually what I am.”


Has Trump getting elected and ostensibly being in charge of the national security state made you think differently at all about the power it should have, knowing that this was possible?

That is an extremely complicated question. And the very short answer to that is no. I have been arguing for 10 years that the stakes associated with well-crafted, strong national security authorities, particularly in the counterterrorism and counterintelligence and espionage space, are much lower for a democratic society than people in the human rights and civil liberties communities and much of academia believe. In other words, you can have responsible detention regimes for al-Qaida figures. You can have strong NSA collection programs. You can have a drone strike program. And that the consequences for democratic government, of doing that, are actually not that we are on a slippery slope to 1984.

Now, we now have truly dangerous, menacing, presidential leadership. And I am one of the people—I think the record will reflect this—who most accurately predicted what Donald Trump would actually do in office using presidential authorities. And I did it during the campaign. And one of the things that he has not done is abused any of these authorities. We haven’t had any roundup of people for detention purposes under military authorities. We haven’t seen drone strikes or the use of terrible killer robots. We haven’t seen abusive surveillance authorities. The NSA isn’t part of any of Donald Trump’s abuses. What has Donald Trump abused? He has abused not the marginal coercive powers of the federal government that are well-regulated in statute and law, supervised by courts. He hasn’t abused any of those authorities.

He’s abused the core powers of the presidency, the basic discretionary judgments. I will hire this person and fire this person. I will or won’t allow my family to use the government as a nesting spot. I will or won’t allow the Justice Department to remain, for enforcement purposes, apolitical. I will or will not abuse the power of presidential speech. These are not at the margins of presidential authority. They’re the core powers of the president. And it’s interesting to me that in all the debates, all the debates we have about marginal counterterrorism authorities over the last post-9/11 era, they’re all about the marginal powers of the federal government. And we’ve lost sight of what a truly abusive human being does with the powers of the presidency, which is abuse the core discretionary authorities of it.

I guess the response would be, No. 1, we haven’t had a major terrorist attack. And No. 2, Trump is someone who is incompetent and has pettier grievances rather than large-scale grievances, and that if someone different were to take the oath of office, the things that we’re talking about could actually be more of a concern.

Let me turn the question around and say: When you look at the federal government today, what scares you more? The Justice Department or the NSA?

The Justice Department, but I would just add that could be my own biases, the person I am, and it could also be partially the fact that I think we’re dealing with a particular kind of authoritarian personality, rather than a different kind of authoritarian personality. But the point is to take—

I want to suggest that there’s another reason, which is that the NSA operates under a comprehensive statutory scheme with respect to its ability to interact with you. We have a lot of experience with the fact that those rules are basically complied with, kind of neurotically. And we have seen zero evidence that Donald Trump has tried to change those rules. And by the way, it would be a heavy lift for him to try to change those rules.

I think he has an instinct for the soft spot. And the soft spot, the place where you could actually do tyrannical stuff in the United States government, is actually not the intelligence community. It’s not an accident that the intelligence community has been something he has had to attack. And it’s because they live by rules, and he hates rules.

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🔫 Is Nunbug the "Smoking Gun"?
« Reply #1138 on: March 05, 2018, 08:19:52 PM »
Break out the Popcorn. :happy1:

“By admitting that Trump ‘may have done something’ and that he may have specific knowledge about that something, Nunberg may have provided a probable cause tipping point that would allow Mueller to obtain a search warrant for all the information—i.e., email content—that Nunberg is presently refusing to provide,” Dave Gomez, a former FBI agent and a fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, told me in an email.

Somebody is going to roll over and SING here to save their own ass.


What Is Sam Nunberg Doing?

The former Trump aide’s decision to announce that he was defying a subpoena from Robert Mueller is more likely to pique the special counsel’s interest than dispel it.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller Andrew Harnik / AP

    Adam Serwer 5:08 PM ET Politics

Subscribe to The Atlantic’s Politics & Policy Daily, a roundup of ideas and events in American politics.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

When former Trump aide Sam Nunberg called into MSNBC on Monday to declare his intention to defy a grand-jury subpoena in the Russia investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team was almost certainly watching with interest.

“I’m not going to cooperate! Why do I have to spend 80 hours going over my emails that I’ve had with Steve Bannon and with Roger Stone?” Nunberg asked NBC News reporter Katy Tur on Monday afternoon. “Why does Bob Mueller need to see my emails when I send Roger and Steve clips and we talk about how much we hate people?”

Nunberg, who was exiled from Trumpland early in the 2016 campaign, has been consistent in defending President Trump from allegations of collusion with what U.S. intelligence agencies have called a Russian campaign to swing the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. On MSNBC on Monday, Nunberg repeatedly called the special counsel’s investigation a “witch hunt” and said that there was “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia. Yet defying Mueller’s subpoena could lead to conviction on charges of civil contempt, and then imprisonment. Nunberg, an attorney, said he was willing to go to prison if necessary.

Rather than dissuading Mueller, though, Nunberg’s strange appearance on cable television may convince Mueller that Nunberg has a story to tell.

“That’s a pretty amazing interview, I have to say,” John Barrett, a former associate counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation and a law professor at St. Johns University, said of Nunberg’s appearance on MSNBC. “‘It’s hard to cooperate with law enforcement’ is just not a valid reason to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement.” Barrett points out that the the government could argue that, if gathering the relevant emails is too burdensome, prosecutors could take possession of the server and perform the search themselves.

Pressed by Tur about whether he believed Mueller “had something” on Trump, Nunberg said: “I think that he may have done something during the election. But I don’t know that for sure.”

That admission on its own may sabotage whatever chance Nunberg had of fighting the subpoena. “It’s the kind of statement that obviously must pique the interest of Mueller and his office, and it cries out for further questioning,” said Barrett.

Later, speaking to CNN’s Gloria Borger, Nunberg elaborated on the same sentiment—even confirming that the special counsel was now looking into Trump’s business deals. “The way they asked about his business dealings, the way they asked if you had heard anything even while I was fired, it just made me suspect that they suspect something about him,” Nunberg said. “He may very well not have done anything, but the other thing I will tell you, is regardless of whether or not he had money coming to him during the election, okay, during the general, he won that election. And he has to get credit for it.”

Later, Nunberg added, “Trump may have very well done something during the election with the Russians. If he did that, I don’t know. If he did that, it’s inexcusable if he did that.”

“By admitting that Trump ‘may have done something’ and that he may have specific knowledge about that something, Nunberg may have provided a probable cause tipping point that would allow Mueller to obtain a search warrant for all the information—i.e., email content—that Nunberg is presently refusing to provide,” Dave Gomez, a former FBI agent and a fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, told me in an email.

A grand-jury subpoena to turn over information can be fought—either by alleging an excessive burden, or invoking the Fifth Amendment, or seeking to narrow its scope. But a warrant based on probable cause would allow Mueller to seize the emails himself.

“A search warrant is for an involuntary seizure of property. It requires an affidavit presenting probable cause for the search and/or seizure, sworn to by the investigator, and approved by a judge,” Gomez said. “The phone company or email provider maintains copies of content, but requires a search warrant for access. Which is why Nunberg’s public comments are interesting. He clearly did not clear that statement with his attorneys.”

A later statement to CNN’s Jake Tapper may also raise eyebrows. Nunberg told Tapper that the president had been aware of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, set up by Donald Trump Jr., on the premise that Kremlin intermediaries would provide them with derogatory information on Hillary Clinton.

“Trump talked about it the week before. And I don’t know why he did this. All he had to say was, ‘Yeah, we met with the Russians. The Russians offered us something and we thought they had something and that was it.’ I don’t know why he went around trying to hide. He shouldn’t have,” Nunberg told Tapper. That meeting, and Trump Jr.’s misleading public statements about it, are already reportedly a focus of Mueller’s inquiry.

Barrett said that while Nunberg’s statements are certainly unusual, there may be an ulterior motive behind his appearance. Nunberg might be attempting to put his continuing loyalty to Trump on display, or encourage other potential witnesses to defy Mueller. He could be trying to goad the president into firing the special counsel by publicly announcing Mueller’s interest in Trump’s business practices. Or he may be auditioning for immunity, by convincing Mueller that he may possess information that the special counsel would find useful, and that he would cooperate if protected from legal exposure.

“I wouldn’t take his appearance at face value,” Barrett said.

If all Nunberg was trying to do is discredit the Mueller investigation, though, his choices of medium, method, and message seemed ill-advised. But there’s also the possibility that other factors were at play. By Monday night, Nunberg was telling the Associated Press that he would likely cooperate after all.

Several of Nunberg’s friends told The Daily Beast they worried he was under the influence of alcohol during the afternoon’s interviews. And later on Monday, after a full day of appearances on cable news, CNN’s Erin Burnett told Nunberg she smelled alcohol on his breath. Nunberg insisted she was wrong: “I have not had a drink.”

“Anything else?” Burnett asked later.

“No,” Nunberg said. “Besides my meds. Anti-depressants. Is that OK?”

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👨 Me Orange Hulk! On Managing a Child President
« Reply #1139 on: March 09, 2018, 01:41:28 AM »

March 9, 2018
Me Orange Hulk! On Managing a Child President

by Paul Street

El Presidente needs to feel strong and liked.  He wants to feel like a popular man of independent action. He doesn’t like feeling weak and hated, like a hemmed-in punk and loser. He doesn’t like being told what to think or do by fancy-shmancy know-it-all professor and lawyer types.

Boss Tweet is his own man. David Dennison (the president formerly known as Donald Trump) does things his own way.

He’s Dennison, I mean Trump, being Trump!

This is something that concentrated power structures have to manage.

After the latest National Rifle Association (NRA)-sponsored gun massacre to disgrace the nation – the terrible assault weapon assault on a high school in Parkland. Florida – support for gun control spiked to 68 percent,  its highest level in 25 years.

At a high-profile televised gun summit in the White House, the longstanding NRA ally El Donito was moved to sound like a leader of that sane super-majority.  In an hour-long televised gathering with Congresspersons, Trump freaked out Republicans by voicing openness to a variety of Democratic Party gun proposals. He appeared to embrace a reform package including a prohibition (supported by 77% of Americans) on the “bump-stock” devices that “turn legal weapons into machine guns” (Trump’s words), the raising of the minimum age for assault weapon purchase from 18 to 21 (supported by 81%), and a significantly improved system of background checks (supported by 88%).

It even sounded like Trump was ready to call for bringing back an assault weapon ban, which is backed by two-thirds (68%) of the populace.

“Take the guns first, then go to court,” Trump said on the topic of crazy people with deadly weapons.

What a man!

As chiefs of the nation’s most powerful fascist and white-supremacist organization, the NRA honchos knew what they had to do. Exerting “grassroots” pressure from outside, the NRA went on the public relations offensive to call Trump’s liberal gun moment “surreal” and an un-American – threat to “freedom” and “due process.”

Then the NRA went inside the White House to work on Trump himself. El Donito huddled in the Oval Office with NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox. LaPierre and Cox certainly reminded Trump of the significant backing the NRA gave Trump in 2016 – and of the remarkable passion with which its “fifteen million” members will resist even the slightest “socialist” abridgement of their cherished “right to bear arms.”

It worked. On Thursday night, NRA leaders triumphantly tweeted that “POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control.” By Friday, a White House official told reporters it was unlikely the president would push for raising the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons because of a “lack of support” for such a change – a curious reflection on the citizenry’s 81% support for precisely that reform. Trump’s scowling press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that “nothing had changed” in the President’s views on policy. Thrown into “full scramble mode” by Trump’s strange spasm of liberal-sounding comments, the White House failed to deliver on its promise of a comprehensive gun policy package by the end of the week.

Reporters were confused. “Nothing had changed” from what? A CNN report last Friday was titled “No One Knows Where Trump is on Guns – Perhaps Including Trump.”

Beneath Trump’s “mixed messages” and the by now standard, “new normal” White House dysfunction lay some harsh political realities. Given the intense personal, cultural, and political hold that guns possess for much of the Republican Party and Trump’s heartland, white-nationalist base, a drift “left” on gun policy could cost the president support from a significant component of the small but so far durable group of Americans (from 32 to 40% of the U.S. populace depending on which poll you consult) that has backed him no matter how idiotic, dangerous, and clueless he has shown himself to be. And, so, the orange beast reverted to quiet puppy mode as the NRA won its latest policy shootout at the right-wing Tombstone called Washington DC.

What a punk!

You could sense the sullen disgust among the two-thirds of the nation that wants some elementary gun control measures so that the country could be less of an armed madhouse.

The orange beast might have felt a little chastened and weakened (though who really  knows if or what it feels?) after all that – even if it did announce that it personally would charge a mass shooter even without a gun in its hands (a curious claim for a Vietnam-era draft-dodger who claimed that bone spurs kept it from wreaking havoc and dodging bullets in Southeast Asia).

With gray skin ominously encircling his beady eyes and itself surrounded by scary tangerine coloring beneath yellowish white super-freak hair, Agent Orange needed to feel strong and loved again.  “Hey,” he thought to himself, “didn’t I campaign as – what did Bannon call it? – an economic nationalist, telling all those forgotten white ‘heartland’ workers I was going to make America great again by bringing back the manufacturing jobs we lost to evil China with the help of bad Wall Street?”

The political policy course was clear. David Dennison could move the news cycle off the loser gun issue and reclaim proper action-hero manliness by slapping down some tariffs on steel and aluminum. “That’ll show all those fake news liberals who say I like Xi Jinping too much,” Trump blurted to (he thought) Hope Hicks (wait, she’s gone). “Plus, we can stop all that gun talk. Call in Peter Navarro [his special trade advisor] and build some tariff walls.”

Trump strangely announced new duties on imported steel (25%) and aluminum (10%) without even consulting with or telling numerous top White House staff.  The declaration came half way through a “listening session” with befuddled U.S. steel and aluminum executives.  It was bizarre.  By CNBC’s account:

    “On Thursday  morning [March 1st],  a White House official told CNBC the president would announce tariffs. The administration later backtracked, saying Trump would only hold a listening session with steel and aluminum executives, who support tariffs, without making an announcement. The delay came as the free trade wing of the White House, led by [now former top Trump economic adviser Gary] Cohn, disagreed with trade hawks in the administration on whether to impose tariffs. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, trade advisor Peter Navarro and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer all backed the measures. During the meeting with executives Thursday, Cohn argued against taking action, according to a person in the room. He warned about price increases for steel and aluminum products.”

    “Trump let Cohn have the floor, then rebutted him, the person said. ‘That’s not the real world,’ the president said, adding the cost increases were a ‘small price to pay.’”[Take that, Gary Cohn, you know-it-all punk!]

    “Ross also spoke during the meeting, but only when Trump addressed him…During the White House meeting, Trump said he had made his decision, but the paperwork to enact it was not finished. ‘We’re going to get those papers done, Don?’ he asked [White House chief counsel Don] McGahn.”

    “Halfway through the event, Trump told the attendees he would impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports, the person in the room said. The president left the event to attend a meeting on school safety for more than a half-hour. When Trump returned, the White House assembled reporters to film the conclusion of the meeting. The president prompted executives to explain why they supported the tariffs. When asked by reporters, Trump announced the 25 percent and 10 percent tariffs on the metals himself.”

    “Trade wars,” Boss Tweet added maniacally and for good and measure, “are good and easy to win.”

Inside his malignant “stable genius” brain, fading gray cells flashed “Me Orange Hulk! Me Strong! Me and Xi, presidents for life!” (Then came brief memories of “David Dennison”’s head buried in the ample bosom of Stephanie Clifford)

Some other presidential gray cells may have flickered with political calculation regarding next week’s special open-seat election in steel and aluminum country – Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, where Republican Rick Saccone faces Democrat Conor Lamb.  As Reuters reported four days ago:

    “If Saccone loses, it would be a blow to Trump, the first loss by Republicans of a seat in the House of Representatives since he took office in January 2017. …Trump has endorsed Saccone and is scheduled to visit the Pittsburgh area on Saturday for a campaign event. Saccone met Trump on arrival for a similar event in January…Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said Trump’s stance on steel and aluminum tariffs could help Republicans, not only in southwestern Pennsylvania, but across the industrial Midwest.”

Did the notion that trade toughness would help him politically in the Pennsylvania race influence his strange tariff announcement? We can reasonably surmise that the ascendant White “populist”-protectionist faction led by Navarro was sure to remind the Tangerine Caligula of the partisan and electoral logic.  Trump will certainly brandish his tariff package when he speaks in the heart of the long-faded U.S. steel industry this weekend.  (Just how far it will go in helping the Republicans and Trump is not clear given the fact the Western Pennsylvania Democrats have long championed steel protectionism.)

But, of course, the actual owners and masters of the United States, big multinational capital, are globalists and not nationalists.  They have no interest in sparking real or potential trade wars. Many of the goods imported into the U.S. are produced by American-owned corporations producing abroad. U.S. corporations both domestic and multinational sell goods and (especially) services to a global market in a world where the 95% of people live outside the U.S. The “American” capitalist class also invests heavily abroad.

Congressional “free-trade” Republicans have denounced Trump’s hastily and weirdly proclaimed tariff proposal.  Neoliberal economists went on cable news and spoke to reporters to observe that Trump’s “tariffs, if applied without exceptions, would harm allies like Canada, South Korea and the European Union (EU), which export more steel to the United States than China does” – and to warn that the EU was already working up retaliatory tariffs on (Make )America[n] (Great) products like Harley motorcycles, blue-jeans, whiskey, peanut butter, Wisconsin cranberries, and Florida orange juice. (The sanity of European gun laws mean that threatened duties on U.S. mass-manufactured rifles and pistols would not carry much weight.)

Joshua B. Bolten, the head of the Business Roundtable (a longstanding leading ruling-class policy formation group) and a former George W. Bush chief-of-staff, went on no less a white nationalist venue than FOX News to calls Trump’s tariff tantrum “a huge mistake.” Bolten observed that Trump tariffs would cause “huge damage across broad sectors of the economy” and provoke global trade retribution.

MSNBC and CNN rooted for great Goldman Sachs-minted people’s champions like Steve Mnuchin (Trump’s billionaire Treasury Secretary) and Gary Cohn (a Clinton globalist Democrat and Trump’s top economic adviser until two days ago) to set the Rodrigo Duterte Admirer-in-Chief straight on the need to dial down the dangerous duties and save the world from trade tribalism.

Cohn resigned on Wednesday, March 7th – a major story among the many late-breaking bulletins that kept cable news talking heads spinning even faster than usual this week. (Cohn helped get the arch-regressive, uber-plutocratic tax cut for the wealthy Few through last December.  It’s time for him to go cash-in back in “the private sector.”   He’s not going to hang around while protectionists seem to hold sway over the royal brute in the White House).

The trick was to find a “lane” for Hair Fuhrer to drive down the path of trade de-escalation while still looking like the big smart driver behind the wheel.

Trump’s Commerce Secretary knows the royal Romper Room rules. “Whatever his final decision is, is what will happen,” Ross proclaimed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday. “What he has said he has said. If he says something different, it’ll be something different. If he for some reason should change his mind, then it will change.”

El Presidente can change his mind anytime he wants! Capisce? The “globalists” could still win.   Who knows what the “fucking moron” might see on Fox & Friends tomorrow morning? Or what one of his billionaire buddies might tell him during an evening phone call from his lonely, no-Melania White House bedroom? (It appears, by the way, that one of those fellow oligarch pals, Carl Icahn, got an advance heads-up on the tariff announcement. Newsweek reported that Icahn “unloaded nearly $31.3 million in a steel-related stock company just days before President Donald Trump announced he would impose steep tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum—news that sent stock markets tumbling around the world.”)

By the evening of Wednesday, March 7th, it was clear that Trump would the following day roll out an adjusted tariff measure containing special exceptions for Canada and Mexico.  The New York Times reported late that:

    “More than 100 Republican lawmakers implored President Trump to drop plans for stiff and sweeping steel and aluminum tariffs as the White House prepared to formalize the measures on Thursday afternoon. Officials said late Wednesday that the plan would initially exempt Canada and Mexico and could ultimately exclude other allies.”

    “Peter Navarro, a top White House trade adviser, said on Wednesday night that the president would hold a signing ceremony on Thursday afternoon in the Oval Office. He said the tariffs would go into effect in 15 to 30 days”.

    “The proclamation will have a clause that does not impose these tariffs immediately on Canada and Mexico,” Mr. Navarro said in an interview on Fox Business Network. A permanent exclusion will hinge on those countries agreeing to a “great” trade deal in the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, he said [adding that] ‘We’re going to open this up for our allies to just see if we can work through this problem.’…”

    “Mr. Trump has said the tariffs would apply to countries across the board and that any exemptions could open a Pandora’s box of requests for special treatment.”

But who cares what David Dennison said?  Capital rules this world, not some senseless, orange-tinted porn star-banging reality television and real estate magnate who Hillary Clinton helped install atop the visible state while the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire coordinate the final ruination of the commons.

Meanwhile, off the media radar screen, the world continues to slide ever closer to environmental collapse thanks to the Great Global Crisis led by the capitalogenic climate catastrophe. That little crisis (the biggest issue of our or any time) is a non-topic in the commercial corporate media, whose Trump obsession does not extend to the most dangerous aspect of his administration – his geocidal determination to escalate the no-holds barred Greenhouse Gassing to Death of Life on Earth.

“In all fairness,” political consultant Jeff Upthregrove writes me, “producing aluminum is ridiculously high in carbon output and it really should be banned outright.”

But who can expect the so-called mainstream media (more on that flawed phrase in my next CounterPunch essay) to cover the ever more imminent carbon-capitalist extermination of our species (along with the remaining ones we haven’t already swept into the dustbin of evolutionary history) when there’s so much else going on?  Along with Russia-gate (including now a Russian “sex coach” imprisoned in Thailand), there’s Jared Kushner Security Clearance-gate, United Arab Emirates-gate, the latest salacious chapter in Stormy Daniels-gate, and Carl Icahn-tariff-gate.

These are Stormy Times! Who can keep up? The Parkland, Florida gun massacre already seems like ancient news cycle history.

Here’s another key point you won’t hear much about in “mainstream [corporate, commercial, and imperialist] media”: the main job-killer in the steel industry is automation, the profit system’s longstanding drive to replace living labor power with constant capital.  (I was reminded of this basic fact by a recent Caleb Martin segment on RT, which no doubt marks me to MSNBC-types as a Putin puppet)

A radically democratic 19th century German anti-political-economist and workers’ control advocate named Karl Marx wrote about that drive.  More on him and his ideas – supposedly (according to Wayne LaPierre) embraced by Obama-inspired “European-style socialists” like Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, Andrew Cuomo, and Cory Booker – in my next dispatch from Chicago.


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