“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad sh*t, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
— Steve Bannon referring to Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2106 meeting with Russians in Trump Tower. (From Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury”.)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (1/8/8)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Oh my! It’s the family gathering where everything comes out by way of yelling, screaming and finger pointing. All the slights, hurts and disagreements that have been collected, held onto and nurtured for years come pouring out. Trump can’t pay attention through a basic tutoring session on the Constitution and bails during the Fourth Amendment. Ivanka has aspirations to be the first woman president but she may have hurt her chances after sharing the real story behind Trump’s hair.
It’s horrible but you can’t look away. It’s the worst truth about us that is the success of reality television. Is this a surprise to anyone after we’ve put a reality TV personality in the White House? Can’t look away, won’t look at it, all true, all made up – like most things about this administration, most of us are likely hardened in our views but now find new talking points to bring to the debate … and the fight.
In his book “Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House” author Michael Wolff also provides revelations that fit into our overarching Trump-Russia theme of Trump’s abhorrence for the rule of law.
Maybe the best insight to date, Trump’s former legal team spokesperson, Mark Corallo, resigned over fear of obstruction of justice linked to the statement of defense issued by Donnie Trump Jr. (Trump son and Trump Corp executive officer) following disclosures of Donnie’s meeting with Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016. Donnie’s statement was drafted on Air Force One and Trump’s personal role has been debated for months:
“Mark Corallo was instructed not to speak to the press, indeed not to even answer his phone. Later that week, Corallo, seeing no good outcome-and privately confiding that he believed the meeting on Air Force One represented a likely obstruction of justice-quit. (The Jarvanka side would put it out that Corallo was fired.)”
This is a big deal. Trump makes sure his fingerprints aren’t at the crime scene. He works behind people like Hope Hicks, Trump’s White House communications director, and Donnie Jr. Trump doesn’t use email. In Trump’s view, if he wasn’t there, he’s not complicit; it didn’t happen. And if he was, he’ll just lie about it.
And Trump demands absolute loyalty; that those around him Defend Him. That is now the role of the GOP. You may not want Trump as a friend, but you do not want him as an enemy and with former chief adviser Steve Bannon now out of the way, there is more clarity of who is the head of the GOP – it’s Trump. After the Alabama senate race debacle and Wolff’s book, Bannon is on the outside and without the financial backing of Rebekah Mercer (daughter of wealthy hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, financial backer of Breitbart News).
Trump does us all a great service; he makes it clear to us what is important. He fills the air with distractions, Wolff wrote an entire book about some of them. Many people stop paying attention as a result of exhaustion. But what Trump says is not important, what the GOP says is not important, it’s noise and deflection.
The rule of law is important. And it’s under attack.
Paper Of Record For Trumpenstan: Image from a strange upside-down alternative universe…
Over at The New Yorker, CNN legal analyst Jeffery Toobin does a good job of explaining the significance of a news story that the New York Times broke earlier in the week adding weight to a discussion of whether Trump obstructed justice: Donald Trump And The Rule of Law.
President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: Stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.
The New Yorker sweeps this news into broader commentary about Trump’s contempt for the rule of law:
“There’s been a bomb cyclone of revelations from and about the White House since New Year’s Day. But there’s a pattern. It all stems from President Trump’s contempt for the rule of law.”
In keeping with staying focused on what is most important and not following all the distractions, here’s what Trump does for us fairly consistently: he tells us exactly what we should pay attention to:
“The Times’ revelation makes an obstruction case stronger. Trump asked for loyalty from James Comey, the F.B.I. director, who was supervising the investigation. When Comey equivocated, , then put out a false story for why he did so, which he promptly undermined by . And when e-mails emerged over the summer showing that Donald Trump, Jr., had met during the campaign with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, the President participated in concocting a bogus story to explain them. (An especially incriminating version of Trump’s role in the e-mail cover story appears in “,” Michael Wolff’s explosive new book.)”
There’s a bit more to this story that further demonstrates Trump’s disregard for the rule of law and the GOP willingness to do anything to enable and protect Trump. In this case, it is Sessions himself seeking dirt on former FBI Director James Comey to justify Trump’s firing of Comey in advance of the firing:
“A Sessions aide reportedly went looking for dirt on Comey, going to a congressional office for evidence several days before Comey was fired. Sessions apparently wanted one negative story a day on Comey in the media.”
This could be a serious problem for Sessions, “If Sessions was looking for dirt on Comey, that makes him a thug and an unfit character to be attorney general. If he did that knowing the real reason Trump wanted to get rid of Comey, it’s a potential obstruction-of-justice problem.”
Thanks to The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin ties together the Mark Carallo resignation and Trump’s efforts to keep Sessions from recusing himself and adds these to the growing case for Trump obstruction of justice. Toobin does well, but the real credit goes to Trump. And The New Yorker picture of Trump and Sessions together is priceless.
Paul Ryan assisting Republican kneecapping
Sessions may have disappointed Trump with his decision to recuse himself from Trump-Russia investigation, but, as Mother Jones reported Saturday, the entire GOP is doing their best to not disappoint Trump: The GOP’s New Year’s Resolution: Make Russia Go Away.
The congressional inquiries are limping to an end as Republicans target the Justice Department.
There are a lot of players and committees covered here but there is a common connection:
“With the new year, Republicans are eager to shut down probes of what President Trump has called “this Russia thing.” They are pressing to rapidly complete congressional inquiries into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia while working to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation.
“For months, Republicans have pursued a strategy that boils down to: obstruct, divert, and undercut. They have stymied Democratic efforts to probe various Russia threads, mounted diversionary inquiries related to Hillary Clinton, and sought to kneecap the special counsel investigation by launching an attack on the credibility of the Justice Department itself. On Friday, two Republican Senators, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Justice Department to investigate whether former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele, the author of a series of memos allegations regarding Trump and Russia, broke the law by lying to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding his findings. The request the first known congressional criminal referral related to the Trump-Russia scandal, and it targeted a figure known for exposing Trump’s Russia ties.”
While the Senate committees are covered, it is the House Intelligence Committee that gets more attention, deservedly so.
“Democratic criticism has focused particularly on efforts by House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to impede the probe. Nunes stepped aside from his committee’s Russia investigation last April amid an ethics investigation into allegations he released classified information, but the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, says the California Republican continued in the probe, blocking interview and document requests. The ethics committee Nunes last month. But Democrats say he is not the whole problem. They argue that the Republicans who took charge of the investigation in his stead, Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), and Thomas Rooney (R-Fla.), face pressure from Ryan to quickly end the inquiry.”
Nunes cannot be criticized enough for his partisanship steering of his committee. So much so that he runs some personal risk of obstructing justice.
But Nunes could not get away with his antics if House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) wasn’t flying cover for him; if partisanship was a race Ryan is hugely ahead. Ryan’s cover is offered as, “the need for the panel to finalize its work quickly enough to issue recommendations well before this year’s midterm elections”. Which can be interpreted as, get the partisan committee findings ahead of mid-term elections so we can do nothing while limiting negative political impact.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) consistently gets a good amount of attention based on the certainty with which he says inane things. Yes, Gowdy argued, Benghazi somehow warranted two and a-half years of committee time and attention but the risk of Russian interference in our election(s) needs to wrap up and how can so many obscure Russian names be of any importance, anyhow?
Gowdy says that Ryan has asked him about the “time frame” for completing the probe. But he insists that he did not feel pressured by Ryan. “Paul has never once asked me to shut down an investigation,” Gowdy says, noting that he considered the end of 2017 “a natural boundary.” He says that Democrats hope to drag out the probe, which he claims has failed to reveal evidence of Trump campaign collusion with Russia. (Gowdy more than two-and-a-half years investigating Benghazi as the chair of a House select committee scrutinizing this supposed Hillary Clinton-related controversy.)
“If Adam had his way, you and I would be having this conversation a year from now,” Gowdy says. Schiff’s list of witnesses is jammed with obscure Russian names, Gowdy claims. “Nobody knows what the hell he’s talking about,” he adds dismissively.
Through all the noise, we have significant points adding to the Trump-Russia case.
Obstruction of Justice. We have the news of Carallo resigning over his fears of obstruction of justice with Trump’s personal involvement in drafting Donnie Jr. denials. We have Trump sending White House lawyer McGahn on a mission to keep Sessions from recusing himself so he could protect Trump. We have Sessions searching for dirt on Comey to make a case for firing him. And Trump tells us in his own words exactly why he fired Comey:
“When I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”
Treason. We have Steve Bannon telling us the Donnie Jr. meeting was potentially treasonous. But Bannon also directly implicates Trump:
“The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these Jumos up to his father’s office on he 26th floor is zero,” Bannon told Michael Wolff in an interview for Wolff’s new book.
According to Bannon, Trump knew about the meeting and that’s of no surprise to any of us.
GOP complicity. Trump is an open secret. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY; Senate majority leader), Ryan and the Republican Congress know. Many of these same people impeached Bill Clinton for reasons a fraction of the importance for the risks and crisis we now face. Some say encouraging things, the supposed moderates like Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) or Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) but all of them, when it comes down to taking a stand or doing anything – they don’t.
Trump-Russia is one thing, what did really happen and what does it mean? But Trump puts us all at risk daily, while Trump tweets:
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
“Much bigger & more powerful.”
“My Button works.”
Mark Carallo deserves credit, he chose not to be one of the many blindly doing the bidding of Trump. Carallo quit on principal.
Meanwhile, the GOP fiddles while our form of government burns and we are all put at risk.
(Commoner Call cartoon and photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )