Thursday, April 19, 2018

IF IT'S CONCLUSIVELY DEMONSTRATED THAT TRUMP IS A CRIMINAL, REPUBLICANS WILL HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH IT

The Wall Street Journal quotes a Trump lawyer saying that Michael Cohen is likely to flip:
One of President Donald Trump’s longtime legal advisers said he warned the president in a phone call Friday that Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and close friend, would turn against the president and cooperate with federal prosecutors if faced with criminal charges.

Mr. Trump made the call seeking advice from Jay Goldberg, who represented Mr. Trump in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Goldberg said he cautioned the president not to trust Mr. Cohen. On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen “isn’t even a 1,” he said he told Mr. Trump....

Speaking from his experience as a prosecutor, he said even hardened organized-crime figures flip under pressure from the government. “The mob was broken by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence,” Mr. Goldberg said.
Jonathan Chait finds this curious.
... as a public-relations strategy, isn’t Trump’s lawyer supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees? He’s probably not supposed to casually liken the president of the United States to the boss of a criminal syndicate.
Chait has a similar response to a quote from voluble Trump loyalist Anthony Scaramucci:
Asked today by Katy Tur if “there’s any chance [Michael Cohen] would end up cooperating, flipping,” Anthony Scaramucci said no, because Cohen ‘is a very loyal person.”

You meant because Trump is innocent, right? Cohen is not going to testify against Trump because Trump did nothing wrong?
Chait is right -- in politics, if you're defending an officeholder under investigation, you're supposed to say that that officeholder wouldn't dream of violating the law. These guys have let the mask slip.

But for supporters of the contemporary Republican Party, I don't think that matters. Either they don't believe that their heroes are guilty or they believe that their heroes were found guilty through a "witch hunt" conducted by the liberal Deep State.

Look around. Don Blankenship, who spent a year in federal prison after an accident in one of his coal mines killed 29 miners, might win the Republican senatorial primary in West Virginia. Rick Scott, whose company oversaw what was at the time the largest Medicare fraud in history, has won two terms as Florida governor and could defeat an incumbent senator this year. Staten Island's Michael Grimm, a convicted felon, is running a credible race to unseat the Republican who took his old congressional seat. Missouri governor Eric Greitens, accused of rape, blackmail, and campaign fraud, still has a 41% approval rating in his state.

I think we're rapidly approaching the point at which being an accused criminal, or even a convicted one, will be a selling point in the eyes of the GOP electorate. Republicans will dine out on their convictions the way Jay-Z regularly invokes his drug-dealing past or Lenny Bruce boasted of his arrest record. The Deep State man can't bust our movement! MAGA!

Incontrovertible evidence of Trump's criminality may emerge soon. It might drive him from office. But I don't believe it will lower his poll numbers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

LET'S TURN THE WHOLE WORLD INTO A FREE-FIRE ZONE

The Washington Post reports that buying weapons in Europe is becoming easier:
... an international group of researchers is warning that the firearms trade that enabled militants to obtain ... assault rifles [for the 2015 Paris attacks] is, in fact, still expanding. Militants determined to strike European targets are among the groups and individuals benefiting the most from what the researchers are describing as an “arms race.”

The study, funded by the European Commission and due to be released Wednesday as part of the Studying the Acquisition of illicit Firearms by Terrorists in Europe (SAFTE) project, warns “the increased availability of firearms has contributed to arms races between criminal groups” across the European Union.

... Legal firearms sales are much more tightly regulated in Europe than in the United States, so weapons are often smuggled from the western Balkans into the borderless Schengen area that includes countries such as France, Germany and Italy.
And what's America doing as weapons become easier to obtain in Europe? This:
U.S. gunmakers are on the verge of getting something they’ve wanted for a very long time: a streamlined process for exporting their handguns and rifles, including AR-15 assault-style weapons that have been the focus of national debate.

Under a long-awaited rule the Trump administration is expected to propose within weeks, a large number of commercially available rifles and handguns would move off a munitions list controlled by the State Department and onto a different one at the business-friendly Commerce Department....

Opponents of relaxing the export rules argue that decision could come back to haunt the United States if the weapons end up in the wrong hands.
Ya think?

More:
The proposal under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has yet to be made public, but experts fear it will lead to less oversight of commercial sales of assault weapons like submachine guns and flame throwers to foreign buyers....
Oh, but ... but ... deregulation!
The State Department said it is shifting responsibility to Commerce for approving exports of nonmilitary firearms and ammunition that are already commercially available — those under Categories I, II and III on the U.S. Munitions List. The goal is to reduce regulatory burdens on manufacturers and exporters....

In shifting oversight, exporters and manufacturers, including small gunsmiths, would no longer have to register with the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls and pay the $2,250 annual registration fee.
Yes, gun crime in Europe may increase, as might the deadliest forms of terrorism -- but think of the poor small gunsmiths! What about their needs?

And if our firearms really do begin to saturate countries where guns used to be rare, every American right-winger will just say, "HAW HAW HAW I THOUGHT THEY HAD GUN CONTROL THERE!"

THE RUBES WON'T REALIZE THEY'RE GULLED ANYTIME SOON

Yastreblyansky agrees with The New Yorker's Adam Davidson that we're in the end stages of the Trump presidency. He doesn't think impeachment is coming any time soon, even after what he expects to be an "extremely damning" report from Robert Mueller on obstruction of justice. But he does expect there to be a steady decline in Tump voters' enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, the figure of Trump himself gets less and less impressive, as we've seen this week from the ridiculousness-cum-criminality of Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke and above all Cohen the feared gangster, with his implosion and defeat by Kimba Wood and WTF Hannity?!??!; after who knows what foreign policy failures, and no Wall, no Muslim Ban, no transgender ban, troops in Syria, the tax law incomprehensible but people notice they're not rich, and the coal industry dying, and NAFTA renegotiated in a way that nobody can differentiate from the way it used to be and talk about the TPP as well and we're talking 2006, the year after Katrina and the evident failure of the Iraq campaign to accomplish anything, and the clarity with which the entirely population was beginning to see the hollowness of W Bush. Trump's base still won't desert him, exactly, no doubt, but there will be discouragement in the ranks, diminished expectations, weeping Alex Joneses, fewer interviews with The New York Times, and their turnout will be very bad.
I don't see it -- not before the midterms, and probably not for a couple of years after that.

I've believed for a while that the deplorables will lose faith in Trump eventually, but it will take about as long as it took George W. Bush's voters to lose faith in him -- about six years. Yes, I know -- that means only after Trump is (God help us) reelected (something I still think is possible no matter what Mueller turns up). I certainly don't think disillusionment among Trump voters will settle in before this November.

The economy isn't weak. White kids from red America (mostly) aren't dying (or being humiliated) in a futile war. The coal industry isn't dying any faster than it was pre-Trump. There's been no effort (yet) to privatize Social Security and Medicare. The front-loaded tax cuts for the hoi polloi won't turn into tax increases for years.

Also, Trump hasn't run for reelection yet. Part of what makes right-wing voters rally around their heroes is the joy of elections -- they may think that what they want is a set of policies, but what they want even more is just to watch their heroes kick our asses at the ballot box, something they're certain Trump will do again. After the fall and capture of Saddam Hussein, there wasn't much that Bush could do for Republican voters except humiliate a Democrat in an election; following that, it was all downhill for him. No matter how disappointed the deplorables are with Trump, he still offers them the hope of another round of liberal tears in November 2020. Remember that they think no electoral victory ever induced more of those tears than Trump's win in 2016. They absolutely won't forgo the possibility of a repeat, even if Democrats rout Republicans this year. (If a rout happens, it'll be blamed on GOP candidates who are insufficiently Trumpesque -- the base will never believe it was Trump's fault.)

It's possible that a massive rout by the Democrats plus evidence of blatant criminality from Mueller will change the calculus. (This assumes that Mueller will get to finish his work, when it's not at all clear he'll even survive this week.) It could happen -- but it's not going to change the Trump diehards' minds. It might tell Republican officeholders that being a Trump end-timer is politically perilous. (Right now they think it's perilous for them not to be loyal to Trump.) But I believe Trump voters aren't going anywhere -- not until a second term, if there is one.

STOP TRYING TO MAKE A TRUMP PRIMARY CHALLENGE HAPPEN. IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

As you probably know, Nikki Haley won't take the blame.
President Trump was watching television on Sunday when he saw Nikki R. Haley, his ambassador to the United Nations, announce that he would impose fresh sanctions on Russia. The president grew angry, according to an official informed about the moment. As far as he was concerned, he had decided no such thing.

It was not the first time Mr. Trump has yelled at the television over something he saw Ms. Haley saying. This time, however, the divergence has spilled into public in a remarkable display of discord that stems not just from competing views of Russia but from larger questions of political ambition, jealousy, resentment and loyalty.

The rift erupted into open conflict on Tuesday when a White House official blamed Ms. Haley’s statement about sanctions on “momentary confusion.” That prompted her to fire back, saying that she did not “get confused.”
Anti-Trump GOP strategist Steve Schmidt responded by tweeting this:



Oh, please. Haley may have impressed some Trump critics, but the base isn't having it. Here's a sample of the response at Free Republic:
Neocon Nikki is going to show Trump who is the boss. And he can forget about pulling our troops out because the queen bee says we're not leaving Syria until the mission is complete and since she says the mission includes keeping an eye on Iran, that mission will never be complete.

****

There is our girl Ikki. The real arrogant, non team player knows all.

Bad pick POTUS. She thinks she runs all foreign policy. Does maddog answer to her?

****

FIRE HER!

****

Don’t get ahead of the boss, lest the boss fire your happy a$$.

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I read this article and I do not like this woman. She will be a problem. She was a #nevertrumper and picking her was a mistake.

****

Ikki is always confused. She has no respect for American history and culture.
Read that last one again if you think the Indian-American Haley has a chance of winning a Republican presidential primary.

She's defied the God Emperor. I don't know if she'll be fired, but the party's voter base will never respect her. Stop imaging an anti-Trump future for the GOP. It won't happen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

BARBARA BUSH IS DEAD, AND THE BREITBARTNIKS ARE APPROPRIATELY SOLEMN* (*just kidding)

Barbara Bush has died, and among Breitbart commenters, her passing has inspired a period of solemn reflection:
I was hoping she would outlive the Hillda-beast Clinton. Mrs. Bush had more class in her pinky toenail than Clinton and moochelle could have in a lifetime.

****

REPUBLICAN FIRST LADIES are nothing but class who know their place in History.

DONKEY First Ladies act like JackAsses consumed with HATE.

Yes, all the Bush's are still BITTER that Little Jeb didn't win.

****

Republicans know their place and ride off into the Sunset. Democrats have an ego that demands the never-ending spotlight. We'll never get rid of Bill, Obama, and their First Hags.

****

And then there's Al Gore and the Gaffe o' Matic Biden.

****

She loved Hillary you jack2$$.

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The Hillda-beast husband don't even love the Hillda-beast, I think Mrs. Bush was just being nice.

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Go blow the progressive Allah Obama's husband Mike

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The entire Bush family voted for Hillary.

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Yup, and why I no longer care for this family and any members. They are pretenders. They are supporters of the deep state that is crushing our country.

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They pretty much have said so. The Clintons and Bushes were very close. Why? How could anybody embrace Hillary or Bill? I figure we know nothing about the extent of the corruption with the Clintons. These families love to portray how much they love the US and how saintly they are. It simply is not true. I am sick of putting these families on pedestals.

****

I predict 2018 will claim Bush 1 and Carter, McCain most likely as well.

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The Reaper is right on McCain's trail.

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Nah...The Demons in Hell are working hard to keep the Reaper away from McCain.

After all, there is so much more Evil he can do if kept alive.

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Please let McCain be next.

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3 of the most destructive forces in U.S. history.

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Read"Trance-Formation of America" about the CIA mind control program, MK-Ultra to see what kind of scoundrel Bush Sr. is.

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He was accused of actually being a coward and there has been a great deal of suspicion around his service and his service, for one, She hated conservatives like the whole clan, and the whole family loves the Clinton's, they even voted for the witch, so stop with the load.

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Let us not forget the fathers very suspicious association with the Kennedy assassination and his CIA involvement.

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GHW was having breakfast with Senior bin Laden in NYC on 9/11. They watched the twin towers fall, while they were gnoshing on parboiled baby foreskins, then pulled off the greatest bond heist in history....

There is only the Color Purple Mil.Gov UniParty, a fraudulent arm of the criminal Fed Bank. Too late now. USA Inc no longer exists. We are dead busted hillbilly broke. By 2020 we will have gone the way of USSR.

And it all began with GHWs Gramm-Lurch-Bliley Bankster Bill, pushed through by Gingrich's Contract on American's.

Massive unmatched Fed financial crimes, and when this s'show blows, it will become the greatest Christian Holocaust in human history.

****

She was the matriarch of a family that gave us George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Jeb Bush. I'm not too fond of anybody with that track record. Since the Bush family is full of weak males who are easily pushed around, I understand why the left would have a certain affection.

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They were and are a open border family....F them!

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YOU MOM GAY
Yeah, they're just moved to tears right now.

LAWYERS ARE TRUMP'S SUBSTITUTE FOR COMPETENCE

The point Gwenda Blair is trying to make in this Politico piece is that Donald Trump has always relied on thuggish lawyers to strong-arm those who get in his way, which is obviously true. She thinks this M.O. isn't working for Trump in Washington:
... whenever Trump has seen anything that he thinks poses the slightest risk to his business or his reputation, he has sicced a lawyer on the offending party. Often such threats arrive in the form of a letter on heavy, cream-colored stationery, adorned with an embossed gold T and declaring that unless the addressee ceases and desists from all objectionable behavior, the Trump Organization intends to pursue said person to the full extent of the law, i.e., sue his or her pants off. I know. I got one of those missives when I published my book.

Sometimes, as in my case, the threat is all that happens. Other times, an actual lawsuit ensues.... According to an ongoing USA Today tally, as of April 2018, the Trump Organization has been involved in more than 4,000 lawsuits, far more than any other real estate developer—or any president, for that matter.

Apparently, after entering the White House, Trump felt entitled to the same robust legal protection that he enjoyed in his 26th floor office at Trump Tower. But things haven’t worked out that way.
But I think Trump has relied on lawyers for more than muscle. Alongside his older daughter and his adult sons, lawyers have functioned as Trump's brain. Blair writes:
Most business executives tend to be lawyer-dependent, but for the better part of 50 years, lawyers have done everything for Trump except have his children. They have finagled unprecedented tax abatements, kept him going through multiple corporate bankruptcies (and out of personal bankruptcy), protected his finances from public scrutiny. They are so entwined with every aspect of his public and private life, it is unimaginable that Trump could have gotten anywhere close to where he is today without them....

Sometimes things have gone badly for Trump—his football venture failed, and in an ensuing lawsuit, he received only a humiliating $3 in damages. But even when his ventures have tanked (Trump Air, Trump Vodka, Trump Mortgage, his casinos, the Plaza Hotel, Trump Soho Hotel, and a string of never-opened Trump-branded ventures in Argentina, Brazil and Canada, among other places), to all appearances, lawyers have kept him solvent.
What your Trump-loving relatives don't understand about Trump is that he has only the vaguest notion of how to do the things he wants done. His lawyers understand the details. He doesn't. Trump knows the victories he wants, and he expects his lawyers to wrest them from the other affected parties. They find a way (or fail to), and he looks like a killer (at least when he wins). But he has no idea how it happens. And now his job every day is to do things he understands even less than he understood the nuts and bolts of the real estate business. Aren't we lucky?

ATTENTION MUST ALWAYS BE PAID PRIMARILY TO REPUBLICANS

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but my takeaway from NPR's write-up of its latest poll is that NPR believes the opinions of Republicans matter more than what the rest of us think, or what the country overall thinks.



Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on how they see special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to President Trump's campaign, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

Overall, the former FBI director's favorability ratings have dropped over the past month as Trump and other Republicans have ratcheted up their attacks on Mueller and his ongoing probe. There's been a net-negative swing of 11 points over the past month, with 32 percent of all Americans holding a favorable view toward Mueller, 30 percent viewing him unfavorably, and a 38 percent plurality still not knowing enough to have an opinion.

Among Democrats, though, Mueller's favorability is at 56 percent, with just 19 percent viewing him unfavorably and a quarter unsure. But nearly half of all Republicans hold an unfavorable view of the Justice Department special counsel — up from 30 percent last month — with only 16 percent viewing him favorably and another 35 percent undecided.
But these numbers aren't a huge swing if you look back a few months. Right now, Mueller's favorable/unfavorable numbers are 32%-30%; in January, they were 29%/29%. So they've improved slightly since then. The numbers weren't very different in February (33%/27%). March's numbers seem anomalous (33%/20%). But in every poll, the largest group is respondents is the "unsure" group, and the disapprovers are very much in the minority.
A 45 percent plurality of all Americans believe Mueller's investigation is fair — a seven-point net drop from March — while 30 percent believe it is unfair and just over a quarter are undecided.

But again, the Mueller probe is being seen through an increasingly partisan lens by Americans. For the first time, a majority (55 percent) of Republicans say his investigation is unfair, with just 22 percent calling it fair — which is a 17 point swing since last month. Almost three-fourths of Democrats say Mueller's investigation is being handled fairly, a five-point net uptick since last month, along with almost half of independents — though there's a nine-point net drop.
But again, the Americans who think the probe is unfair are a minority -- 30%.
Even with GOP frustrations, a majority of Republicans (56 percent) say Mueller should be allowed to finish his investigation, while almost a quarter think he should be fired and 20 percent are undecided. Among all adults polled, 65 percent say Mueller should be retained, 15 percent want him terminated, and 20 percent aren't sure.
The key statistic here is that "let Mueller finish" beats "dump Mueller" by 50 points -- but to NPR the key question seems to be "What do Republicans think?" As it turns out, even they want Mueller to finish. So efforts by the White House and right-wing media to tarnish the investigation aren't really working. Why isn't that even part of NPR's lede?
There have also been big changes in how the public views the FBI — driven by a surge in Republican distrust, the poll shows....

Overall, there's been an 18-point increase in Americans who believe the FBI is biased against Trump in the past two months. This month, 61 percent said that the FBI was just trying to do its job while 31 percent said they believed the nation's chief law enforcement arm was biased against the Trump administration. Back in February, 71 percent of Americans polled said they believed the FBI was acting within its bounds, while 23 percent thought the agency was biased against the GOP White House.

That swing has been due to rising Republican anger. For the first time, a 56-percent majority of Republicans say the FBI is biased against the president, with just 34 percent saying it's only doing its job. That's a 16-point swing against the FBI among the GOP, when just fewer than half of Republicans said in February that the FBI was biased but 43 percent still thought it was doing its job.
Actually, there hasn't "been an 18-point increase in Americans who believe the FBI is biased against Trump' -- there's been an 18-point swing in net belief in NPR bias. And the important thing to note is that Americans overwhelmingly believe the FBI is doing the right thing.

There's still support for Mueller's work. That's the bottom line. There's fear of Russian interference in the 2018 elections -- we're told that "55 percent" of respondents "say Russian interference come November is likely or very likely," but "Republicans overwhelmingly don't believe that is a possibility." The message of the numbers is that the delegitimization of Mueller hasn't succeeded -- but that's not what NPR tells us.

Monday, April 16, 2018

IN TRUMP WORLD, IS THERE ANYONE LEFT UNCORRUPTED?

James Comey compares President Trump to a mobster, and Brian Beutler thinks it's an apt comparison.
“I sat there thinking, Holy crap, they are trying to make each of us ‘amica nostra’—friend of ours. To draw us in,” Comey writes. “As crazy as it sounds, I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye, the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family and that Team Trump had made it a ‘thing of ours.’”

... Comey’s epiphany is timely. Trump’s political method mixes mass tribalism with the kind of mob-like conscription of notionally ethical elite individuals that Comey describes in his book. He used this method to co-opt and compromise Republicans in Congress during the election, and has used it as president to avoid congressional oversight and to discredit law enforcement officers investigating him. Those who resist his recruitment efforts, like Comey and a handful of elected GOP officials, get fired, or attacked, or driven out of political life.
I'd say that Trump isn't exactly like a mobster -- mobsters compel loyalty by threatening physical violence, not loss of tribal membership. Trump won't have that anonymous congressman killed if he starts denouncing Trump publicly the way he did privately to Erick Erickson -- he'll just see to it that the GOP electorate withdraws its support and ruins the congressman's career, with a lot of help from the right-wing media.

Beutler believes that Trump could terrorize major figures in D.C. for years to come.
And with the rule of law closing in on him from multiple directions now, he will use the same method in an attempt to save his presidency, even if it means permanently corrupting the political system of the United States....

What we know to a near certainty is that as the heat increases, Trump will try to enlist more and more people into “this thing of his” as his only means of political survival—and perhaps as his only means of sparing those friends of his from justice.

He will extort support from the ranks of Republican officialdom, which may already be too tainted by allegiance to Trump to credibly sever ties with its criminal leader.

Most corrosively, he will conscript more and more of his supporters into the ethical netherworld of Trumpism, convincing millions of Americans to scoff at ethics and law, and serve instead as a human-political shield around him, so that he can’t be removed from office. This process would serve to normalize his gangster ethic across large swaths of the country, among a radicalized pro-Trump cohort that will be around to poison civic life in America long after Trump has exited the stage.
The only part of this I disagree with is the part about "conscript[ing] more and more of his supporters into the ethical netherworld of Trumpism." Who's left to conscript? Who hasn't been conscripted already? Haven't all his supporters, including the entire Republican congressional delegation, made it clear that, in their opinion, nothing Trump can do would cross an ethical red line? Isn't their terror at the possibility of losing the deplorables' support absolute and unwavering?

This is why, when I see McClatchy's claim that Robert Mueller has proof Michael Cohen went to Prague in 2016, I can't agree with BooMan:
If Michael Cohen went to Prague, then Donald Trump will be impeached, convicted, and removed from office, assuming he doesn’t resign.

... the central accusation of the Steele Dossier is that Cohen was the Trump’s campaign’s main contact with the Russians after Paul Manafort was fired, and that he went to Prague because Moscow would have been too obvious. While there, he colluded with the Russians on a host of issues, including on how to compensate Romanian hackers, how to manage the fallout from the Manafort flameout and how to explain Carter Page’s recent trip to Moscow....

If he was in Prague, he was there for the reasons the Steele dossier said he was there. And if that is the case, then the case for collusion is proven beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Yeah, and so? Why does that guarantee impeachment and conviction? Do you think even open-and-shut evidence of collusion will deter the Trump cult? Cohen went to Prague on his own volition. Evidence that Cohen went to Prague was falsely generated by the Deep State. What's wrong with Cohen talking to people? Define "hacker." And isn't that Seth Rich murder still unsolved? And hey, do we really want to undergo a painful constitutional crisis, a mere twenty or so years after the last impeachment?

There's no chance of 67 votes to convict an impeached Trump no matter what he's done, unless perhaps the Republicans have suffered a midterm blowout so overwhelming it exceeds their most pessimistic scenarios. The Republican survivors of 2018 will have to believe they can't possibly get through another election cycle if they stand by Trump -- that's the only way they'll have the courage to leave the Mob.

But GOP voters will never abandon Trump, and gerrymandering and clustering mean that Republicans will stick with what their voters want. So Beutler is right that Trumpist corruption is probably with us at least until 2020, because everyone Trump needs in his "ethical netherworld" is already there.

LIBERALS ARE DOING TO JAMES COMEY WHAT COMEY DID TO HILLARY CLINTON (updated)

Even before his interview with George Stephanopoulos aired, the knives were out for James Comey, and not just at the White House or the Republican National Committee. "James Comey Is No Hero," wrote Charlie Pierce. "James Comey Is No Hero," wrote Adam Serwer. Today, Ryan Cooper writes, "James Comey Is Not a Hero."

I get it. Nate Silver has long argued that Comey's announcement of another dive into the Hillary Clinton email muck in late October 2016 cost Clinton the election, and I find Silver's case persuasive. Comey had previously wagged a scolding finger at Clinton, while never breathing a word about investigations of possible treason in Trump World. Also, in the published excerpts from his book and his Stephanopoulos interview, Comey really does come off as self-regarding and overly impressed with his own integrity.

But I keep thinking about the aphorism made famous by James Carville: When your opponent is drowning, throw the son of a bitch an anvil. I don't know if President Trump is actually drowning, but he's in deep waters, and his swimming skills are doubtful. Here's James Comey with some sort of weighty object. Why try to prevent him from tossing it into the water? On Twitter yesterday, Trump referred to Comey's "badly reviewed book." I think he was referring to the criticism of Comey in the so-called liberal media.

I know how conservatives would respond if the parties were reversed. They wouldn't worry about the past. The enemy of their enemy would be their friend, even if they used to despise him. I remember how much the right used to hate Julian Assange, but all that was forgotten once he put a target on Hillary Clinton's back.

Is that good? Is it moral? No, but it's effective.

I acknowledge Comey's deep character flaws. I'm angry at him for tipping the election to Trump in the last days. But at this moment I'm inclined to cede him the floor, because of the damage he's doing to Trump.

I think some on the left look at Comey the way Comey (unforgivably) looked at Hillary Clinton during the campaign. He says now that he was certain she'd win, and after her victory he didn't want the public to believe the FBI had gone easy on her. Similarly, I suspect many liberals believe that Trump will inevitably be forced out of office -- the corruption is so obvious, impeachment or resignation so inevitable, that there's no harm in attacking someone who's now a Trump antagonist.

I don't believe Trump's downfall is inevitable. I still think it's quite possible that he'll serve two terms, like our last three presidents. So if Comey is hurling a heavy object into the water, I'm inclined to step back and let him get in a good throw.

****

UPDATE: This is on the front page at FoxNews.com right now:



Nice work, folks.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

WHY WE'RE NOT AT THE END STAGE OF THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY

The New Yorker's Adam Davidson reported from Iraq shortly after the U.S. military overthrew Saddam Hussein, and also covered the financial world as the 2008 crashed approached. He argues that the collapse of the Trump presidency is now as inevitable as those failures.
There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the endgame of this Presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded.

... I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud....
And on and on. Right now, the public may not understand how deep the rot goes, as most Americans didn't understand the impending calamities in Iraq and global finance, but Davidson is certain that will change.
It has become commonplace to say that enough was known about Trump’s shady business before he was elected; his followers voted for him precisely because they liked that he was someone willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and they also believe that all rich businesspeople have to do shady things from time to time....

I believe this assessment is wrong. Sure, many people have a vague sense of Trump’s shadiness, but once the full details are better known and digested, a fundamentally different narrative about Trump will become commonplace.... It took a long time for the nation to accept that [the problems in Iraq and the financial markets] were not minor aberrations but, rather, signs of fundamental crisis. Sadly, things had to get much worse before Americans came to see that our occupation of Iraq was disastrous and, a few years later, that our financial system was in tatters.
But here's the difference: The Iraq War and the financial meltdown affected rank-and-file Republican voters personally. In heartland red America from 2003 on, voters lost children and spouses in what they came to realize was a poorly run war premised on falsehoods. A few years later, the financial crisis cost many of them their jobs and their savings.

Liberals turned against the Iraq War early, some before it began, others as it became obvious that the war was started on false premises and conducted with more bluster than forethought. Liberals were also critical of the Bush administration's rejection of financial oversight long before that see-no-evil approach ended in calamity.

But that's liberals for you: We object to policy decisions that don't personally affect us (or at least haven't affected us yet). We worry about problems before they happen -- how long have we been talking about climate change? We care about the treatment of groups we don't belong to. We object to inequities even when we're on the more favored side.

Conservatives are different. They practice the politics of "what's in it for me?" and rarely game out the long-term consequences. They couldn't imagine how the Iraq War or lack of financial oversight could cause problems because the problems hadn't happened yet -- certainly not to themselves. (Similarly, they can't understand why it's a big deal that Russia interfered in our last presidential election -- their guy won, so what's the problem?)

Conservative voters are never going to care about Trump's corruption because it has no negative impact on them. They haven't lost any money as a result of his dealings in Brazil or Azerbaijan, so why does any of it matter?

It may not literally be true that Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes, but he could certainly fleece someone there, or be fleeced, and his voters wouldn't care, because it's irrelevant to them.

****

... And along comes Fox's Greg Gutfeld to confirm my thesis.



... Trump's like a Mafia boss? File that under "Duh." ... The fact is, he's a billionaire real estate developer in New York City. You think he never had to deal with actual Mafia bosses? Why do you think he's the way he is now? Sorry, when America hears Comey whine that Trump is like a Mafia boss, they go, "No shit, Sherlock. That's why we like him." ... He may be a Mafia boss, but he's our Mafia boss.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

THE DOG WON'T STAY WAGGED

President Trump is afraid to do more in response to the recent Syrian chemical weapons attack than give the Assad government and its allies a love tap:
Mr. Trump characterized it as the beginning of a sustained effort to force Mr. Assad to stop using banned weapons, but only ordered a limited, one-night operation that hit three targets.
Trump and his partners agree on this course of relative restraint:
After Trump finished his seven-minute address, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron made separate announcements of British and French participation, stressing that the strikes were limited to Syrian regime chemical facilities, and had no wider goals....

Highlighting the limited nature of the raids – and the desire to avoid a dangerous escalation – the US defence secretary, James Mattis, said: “Right now this is a one-time shot”. The French defence minister, Florence Parly, said Moscow had been warned by France and its allies about the strikes beforehand.
On the ground, despite reports of some civilian casulaties, it's clear that the attack could have been worse:
In Damascus, there was defiance and relief as residents jolted awake by explosions at around 4 a.m. realized the strikes would be limited....

The strikes had been flagged so far in advance that Syria and its allies had plenty of notice to evacuate the likely targets of civilians and assets, possibly also including key components of the chemical weapons program, leaving it unclear how much of an impact they would have.

“Thank God this was less than we had feared. We were scared of a bigger assault that could be devastating, but we are happy it was limited and less powerful,” said Mayda Kumejian, a Damascus resident contacted by telephone. She described being jolted awake by explosions and the sound of jets roaring overhead.

“This strike is only muscle flexing by Trump to show his power,” she said. “Assad’s regime is much stronger now.”
That's what's been set in motion overseas -- a limited response that has been carefully constructed not to be overly offensive to its targets, and that came and went in an eyeblink.

Now look at America. It's insane here. The news cycle churns several times a day. We never know when there'll be a surprising new development in Robert Mueller's investigation or when Trump will fire someone or insult someone or incriminate himself in a tweet or on-camera rant.

So if you think Trump is wagging the dog (or "wagging the Prague") in order to drive bad domestic news out of the headlines, remember that it can't work for very long. On one hand, he and his partners don't want an attack on Syria that's sustained, which means that a week from now much of America literally won't remember that these strikes happened. On the other hand, big news happens so fast here that there'll probably be a dozen or more extra-bold red-siren headlines over the next several days -- many of them the result of Trump banishing the memory of this bombardment with his own words and deeds. If he were smart, he'd make a concerted effort not to drive the Syria news off the front pages with his own actions. But he's not smart. He'll probably step on his own story by creating another story, and then another and another. And if he doesn't, someone else -- Mueller, James Comey, a mass shooter -- undoubtedly will.

Wag the dog? Maybe -- but if so, the dog won't stay wagged.

Friday, April 13, 2018

THE RIGHT TRIES TO EMASCULATE JAMES COMEY

Conservatives can't drown out James Comey, so a couple of them are trying to take his man card.

Here's Chris Wallace, allegedly one of the non-ideologues at Fox News:
Wallace opened by stating he “may be the only person in America who hasn’t” received a copy of the book — set to be released next week — before saying he is surprised at “how little new there is in the book.” ...

“The other thing that surprises me, frankly, is how bitchy the book is,” Wallace sassed. “Comey goes out of his way to say the president isn’t as tall as he thought he was. He checked out the size of his hands the first time they shook hands, that he noticed that the president seemed to have little white half moons under his eyes, maybe he had sun-tanning goggles that he wore.”

“One could argue that by getting into the kind of political food fight that James Comey has done more damage to his own reputation than he has to President Trump’s.”
And then there's PJ Media's Stephen Kruiser, who writes:
Depending on your feelings towards President Trump, the excerpts promise either a bombshell of a memoir that will cripple this presidency (just like Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" was supposed to four months ago) or a pettiness-filled journal that seems as if it were written by an adolescent who had just been turned down for prom.
I guess just calling Comey a fag is still considered a bridge too far for the right-wing commentariat, at least outside social media, though Kruiser adds:
Personally, I think Comey has morphed into a David Hogg for the older crowd -- perpetually emo and always ready with an essentially empty quip designed to stir up maximum liberal passion.
"Emo"? I guess Comey will be a "soy boy" next.

WHY DOES TRUMP BELIEVE HE COULD SURVIVE MURDER BUT NOT PEEING PROSTITUTES?

I understand why Donald Trump rails against the Robert Mueller investigation for examining possible collusion between his campaign and the Russians. I understand why Trump is upset about investigations into his business dealings and possible obstruction of justice. There are serious consequences for Trump, his family, and his associates if more wrongdoing is conclusively demonstrated.

But why is he so worked up about the pee tape?
The nation’s intelligence chiefs had just finished briefing Donald Trump on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election when FBI Director James B. Comey stayed behind to discuss some especially sensitive material: a “widely circulated” intelligence dossier containing unconfirmed allegations that Russians had filmed Trump interacting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013.

The president-elect quickly interrupted the FBI director. According to Comey’s account in a new memoir, Trump “strongly denied the allegations, asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

... Comey describes Trump as having been obsessed with the portion dealing with prostitutes in the infamous dossier compiled by British former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, raising it at least four times with the FBI director.
I'd be embarrassed if I were videotaped engaging in that kind of activity and the tape leaked. I assume you would, too.

But this is Donald Trump we're talking about. This is a guy who'd survived the Access Hollywood tape and won a presidential election shortly before he had all these fearful conversations with Comey about the pee tape. This is a guy who'd said that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes -- and he was probably right. So why doesn't he feel the same way about this tape?

If it emerges, can't he just claim it's a fake? Won't 40% of Americans, including a majority of whites, either believe him or think it doesn't matter?

Didn't Bill Clinton's reputation survive sexual scandals, at least until recently? Didn't David Vitter -- whose experiences with prostitutes were rumored to be similar to what's alleged about Trump -- win reelection after the scandal broke? (And now he may get to watch his extremist wife -- yes, they're still married -- join the federal bench.) Anthony Weiner briefly led in New York mayoral polls after his first of wave of sexual revelations. Missouri governor and alleged rapist and blackmailer Eric Greitens is embattled, but his poll numbers are slightly better than Trump's -- 40%/39% approval/disapproval according to Morning Consult, 41%/47% according to Mason-Dixon.

I think there's something beyond fear of prosecution here (could Trump even be prosecuted for the pee tape?). I think this taps into a visceral source of shame for Trump. Remember, this is a guy who changes his own bedsheets at the White House, according to Michael Wolff's book.

It's possible that Trump believes that the entire edifice of his corruption will come crashing down if the tape is unearthed. But although I think it's connected to his unsavory dealings, I don't think it's central. I think Trump just believes a revelation of this kind would be shameful. I think it reaches into an area of his psyche where his usual shamelessness fails him.