By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (5/15/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
John McCain said this week, “…the Russian/election story is a centipede and (to) expect another shoe to drop every few days”.
As Colin Jost said on Saturday Night Live Weekend Update, “Well, I know most of us think this every week, but this week was crazy.”
It’s the clarity of the presentation and it’s well done. Trump fired FBI Director Comey and we know it took him only a matter of hours to undo the rationale cooked up for him by his Justice Department, most notably the memo put forward by Rod Rosenstein, on the job for two weeks as Deputy Attorney General, contending that Comey was fired for his poor handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation. Many Republicans and Trump’s corps of spinning spokespeople rushed to assure us this was an olive branch to Democrats, only to be undone by their boss.
Here’s Trump blowing up all the work of his administration with the now iconic interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt: President Asked Comey If He Was Under Investigation.
With these all events the story has slithered off track in a major way. But before we head down that dark alley, we’ve earned Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of White House spokesperson Sean Spicer’s quest to take back his job and save his soul: ‘Sarah is out! Spicy is in! Booya!’
Trump Takes a Knee in Deference to Putin
THIS is the news of the week that troubled me most. The day after Trump fired Comey he hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Kislyak at the White House.
This bears repeating – the day after Trump fires Comey he hosts the Russians at the White House. The US media was locked out of the Oval Office event but covered by Russian media (pause to let that sink in). And to top off such bizarre choices by Trump we are regaled with a joke by Lavrov about the firing of Comey (just before the end of the article).
But that’s not all, Trump TOOK THIS MEETING AT THE REQUEST OF PUTIN during their recent call; even more damning.
Putting all this into perspective can be a head-spinning task but in this interview Historian of Fascism: Why Trump Firing FBI Director Comey Amid Russia Probe is So Worrisome we can see things in a broader view. The most alarming part of this video is the second half where it builds to a point YOU WILL NOT LIKE. As historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat noted, “Being also a historian of propaganda, you cannot over estimate the impact of acquiescing to the request to have the foreign minister in there. …It sends the message that Russia has won and Trump is, indeed, willing to do what they say.”
This is both troubling and repugnant and an insult to us as Americans. This is a slap in the face to patriotism. How is anyone convinced we’ve not sold the soul of our democracy – consider how Trump treated the heads of state from Germany, Angela Merkel, or Great Britain, Theresa May – they were annoyances. Trump refused at one point to even shake Merkel’s hand at an Oval Office photo-op.
Instead, by comparison, at the suggestion of Putin, Trump happily hosts two senior Russians in the Oval Office, while barring the US media but covered by Russian media. Handshakes were gladly offered instead of asked for and ignored. Wow!
Dead Man Lying
We’ve reached a turning point; a fuse has been lit. There is a very different feel to this story now and I believe that somehow there will be charges brought against more than one person from the Trump campaign and very possibly even more serious steps taken.
What leads me to such a conclusion? This story is a marathon, not a sprint. John McCain says it better, “…the Russian/election story is a centipede and (to) expect another shoe to drop every few days”.
But the centipede did drop a big shoe with Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and Forbes explains why Comey had to go, Hidden Clues In The Trump-Comey Drama: It’s Worse Than You Think. The Trumpsters felt they could use and direct Comey to their advantage but he wouldn’t stay on the leash. This is bigger than Flynn calling Kislyak offering assurances for how we’ll walk back US sanctions against Russia.
The Trump populist regime follows the same playbook as Putin (Russia), Erdogan (Turkey) and others – endless drama, delay and diversion while steadily, methodically consolidating power.
Russiagate began with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee server in an attempt to gather intelligence on the Clinton presidential campaign. The Watergate investigation developed with a series of Nixon campaign workers being flipped over months before the investigation led to the White House and Nixon staff. Russiagate has Flynn, Page, Stone, Manafort, Sessions, Kushner and now Comey, but what else?
One version of the story has Comey asking the Justice Department, specifically Rosenstein, for added resources for the Trump-Russia investigation. Some versions of this request say the resources were for a broader scale investigation going beyond the campaign and focusing on the multiple Trump businesses.
Salon notes there are also persistent reports this week:
“…that subpoenas have been issued by grand juries sitting in Northern Virginia and the Eastern District of New York. There were also reports that sealed indictments are being held by a Federal Judge in Northern Virginia. Evidence of the underlying crimes is out there, and it’s not that far away. There is a noose around Trump’s neck and it is tightening and he knows it and he’s panicking and he’s trying to do the thing that has worked for him all of his life: he’s trying to lie his way out of it. But this time, Donald Trump is a dead man lying.”
There are now an increasing number and range of speculative articles about what a post-Trump White House looks like. Here’s one from the HuffPost that stays within the rails of conventional thought/speculation: The Republican Plan To Remove Trump.
The article offers a few things to watch as early indicators:
- Watch the polls – Trump holds ‘steady’ as a low favorability rating of roughly 40%.
- Watch the opinions and statement of Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham (“concerned” is fair) then Snow, Flake, Sasse and others.
- Watch the news and encourage and support investigative journalism.
A More Damning, More Alarming State of The White House
If you have the appetite for a less restrained and more damning version of the Trump campaign and White House check out another Salon piece: A Coup In Real time? Historian Timothy Snyder Says Comey Firing Is Trump’s “open admission of collusion with Russia”
It’s Not About the Campaign; It’s About the Trump Business Empire
This is a longer read but an excellent review of the Trump business and ties to Russia, relationships that have been forming over years. There is little or nothing new in this article but the storyline makes for a very interesting overview: Trump’s Business Network Reached Alleged Russian Mobsters.
Or Maybe A Coup Covered By A Manufactured Crisis?
Lest we rush too far, too fast fueled by optimism, there’s another range of scenarios based on Trump successfully undoing investigations or becoming untouchable with soaring popular opinion through a manufactured crisis. Yale historian Timothy Snyder says the risk of a manufactured crisis to trigger a coup are a real possibility we need to be ready for.
Pick Your Flavor? NO – PAY ATTENTION; DEMAND ANSWERS
Trump is possibly trying to close off all avenues of investigation for Russiagate. Of course it is possible that, as he contends, there is nothing to any of this; it’s merely a failure of Democrats to accept the outcome of the election. We don’t know where this will go, if anywhere, but there is a lot to what we’ve learned already and increasingly the White House acts guilty of something.
Again, this is not going away and as McCain says, “…the Russian/election story is a centipede and (to) expect another shoe to drop every few days”.
We’re looking at a wide range of paths forward, including seeing all investigative avenues shut down. We’re looking at a wide range of outcomes – certainly a bit early to place bets, but the field is expanding with new entrants by the day. Will we see subpoenas issued soon? Will we hear from Comey? Will we learn more through the various investigative committees? Will we see damning leaks? Will the media break open something significant? Will Trump blab something incriminating?
Or none of this.
A final note, maybe an encouraging one: “One thing I learned at DOJ about Comey: he leaves a protective paper trail whenever he deems something inappropriate happened,” former Obama Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller tweeted Thursday night about the White House dinner.
The safest prediction to end with is the one from John McCain, “…the Russian/election story is a centipede and (to) expect another shoe to drop every few days”.
And, before it is all over, probably boots, sneakers, slippers, golf shoes and flip-flops.
Here is an excellent Dutch documentary, ‘The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part 1: The Russians”.