Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) Tweet, 7:50 PM April 3, 2018
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (4/5/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Even though the last few days has rained Trump-Putin and Trump news, Gov. Scott Walker gets top billing for his astute political assessment with his typical, cynical, overstatement of liberals as boogeymen. The above tweet was issued shortly after the election for Wisconsin Supreme Court was called in favor of Rebecca Dallet. Congratulations to all the winners at the municipal, county and state level – it was a good evening for liberals. Walker and Trump are suffering from similar cases of the ‘emperor’s new clothes’.
Trump makes his own solid case forC Jumping right in…
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster … strongly denounced Russia …: “We have failed to impose sufficient costs.”
Here’s the full paragraph from the Washington Post article; this from outgoing national security advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.
“Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, in his last public remarks as President Trump’s national security adviser, strongly denounced Russia for its increased aggression around the world and declared: “We have failed to impose sufficient costs.””
Trumpsters love to talk about all the things Trump is doing to stand up to Putin:
“McMaster noted the against Russia: the expulsion of 60 diplomats last week, calling out of the Russian government for malicious cyber-intrusions that targeted U.S. critical infrastructure and increasing funding for the European Defense Initiative, which finances U.S. and allied military forces in Europe, to deter Russian aggression and prevent conflict.”
But as with all things Trump-Putin you have to wonder what is true and what is a lie – the lie is the safer bet. Did the U.S. State Department really expel 60 Russian diplomats?: State Department: Expelled Diplomats Can Be Replaced.
Did we or didn’t we, you decide. It looks more like a shift change than an expulsion.
“The State Department says that a number of Russian diplomats expelled from a Russian consulate in Washington state could be replaced by other Russian officials….”
Trump stands up to Putin for the nerve agent attack against Sergei Skripal by expelling 60 Russian diplomats… or not. Trump stands up to Putin over fake Russian elections by… congratulating Putin and considering inviting him to the White House (). Note, we often now get our Trump-Putin news via Russian state news first:
“ sought to move beyond last week’s diplomatic confrontation with the West on Monday by pressing President Trump for a White House meeting with President that would undercut the perception that the angry reaction to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain has left it isolated from the international community.
The Kremlin foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said in Moscow that Mr. Trump, in a telephone call with Mr. Putin on March 20, proposed that the two leaders meet at the White House in the near future.”
We can’t have the world thinking Russia stands alone for Putin’s actions.
Raining and rudderless
In the constant downpour of Trump imposed chaos, his torrent of personal grievance – staff turnover, Stormy Daniels, immigration, trade wars, tanking equity markets, daily Syria policies, domestic terrorism, Trump administration corruption, Trump’s legal team… Is it raining harder? In response, are there fewer media punches pulled?
Frank Bruni writing for the New York Times offers a critical review of the lack of leadership from Trump, though even this seems tame: President Trump’s Perversion of Leadership.
“No president in my lifetime has made me think as much about leadership as Donald Trump has. That’s because no president in my lifetime has embodied the ideal of leadership as completely as he embodies its antonym.
“A leader articulates a clear vision and set of principles, which become a well-lighted path that well-intentioned people can tread. Trump bellows, babbles and contradicts himself, achieving an incoherence that no level-headed person can follow.”
But if the Trump chaos downpour is more intense, why is that? And what about Trump-Putin?: Mueller Told Trump’s Attorneys The President Remains Under Investigation But Is Not Currently A Criminal Target.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller says Trump is not currently a criminal target. So is Trump off the hook? Simple answer – not at all.
“In private negotiations in early March about a possible presidential interview, Mueller described Trump as a subject of his investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors view someone as a subject when that person has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges.
“The special counsel also told Trump’s lawyers that he is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations.
“Mueller reiterated the need to interview Trump — both to understand whether he had any corrupt intent to thwart the Russia investigation and to complete this portion of his probe, the people said.”
There is both a technical and process explanation for what this means. But before we jump into this…
The conversation between Mueller’s team and Trump’s lawyers has been ongoing. Let’s tie in some of the related news. As the New York Times reported, n the middle of this, Trump’s lead lawyer resigned:
“John Dowd resigned on Thursday as President Trump’s lead lawyer for the special counsel investigation as Mr. Trump signaled that he was prepared to ignore his advice and wanted a sit-down with investigators.”
Seen in the context of ongoing deliberations between Mueller and Trump’s legal team — which is in disarray over process decisions — the Washington Post article is a major development. Journalistic practice would have the WaPo team reach out to Trump’s lawyers for comment prior to release of the story. Here’s the process part:
““Thank you, but I don’t discuss communications with the president or with the Office of Special Counsel,” Cobb said Tuesday.”
Here’s the part that Dowd and others want Trump to avoid, while Trump seems to want to ‘help’:
“Mueller’s investigators have indicated to the president’s legal team that they are considering writing reports on their findings in stages — with the first report focused on the obstruction issue, according to two people briefed on the discussions.
“Under special counsel regulations, Mueller is required to report his conclusions confidentially to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has the authority to decide whether to release the information publicly.
““They’ve said they want to write a report on this — to answer the public’s questions — and they need the president’s interview as the last step,” one person familiar with the discussions said of Mueller’s team.”
Here’s a summary of the process: We will issue special counsel findings in a series of confidential reports to the Deputy Attorney General, a report on possible obstruction is nearing completion, the president’s input is needed to wrap this up.
Wow! Trump – damned if you do, damned if you don’t? Not in Trump’s view, he has “has privately expressed relief at the description of his legal status, which has increased his determination to agree to a special counsel interview”.
So what about the technical part; what does, “not currently a criminal target” mean?
To tie this together, note the Washington Post is owned by Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, and happens to be one of the current targets of Trump tweets.
Mueller’s team ‘negotiates’ with Trump’s lawyers, the Washington Post breaks the news after reaching out for comment, Trump is between a testify-or-not rock-and-a-hard-place, Trump attacks Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos and Amazon.
“I’d wet my pants.”
Or maybe this is a mole-hill-mountain? Or maybe not: ‘I’d wet my pants’: Ex-CIA Officer Nails The Significance Of Trump’s Status As A ‘subject’ Of Mueller’s Probe.
Former CIA counterintelligence official Phil Mudd offered this view:
“I think we’re too soft on this,” Mudd told his CNN colleagues on Tuesday. “If someone walked in my room—in particular, FBI investigators—I‘ve been questioned as a witness, not a subject. If someone walked in my office and said I was a subject of a multi-year criminal investigation led by a former FBI director, Robert Mueller, I’d wet my pants.”
“I mean this is significant,” he continued. “The president is the subject of a criminal investigation. If he goes into questioning in a room and he lies about what he’s done or said over the course of time, he could transition from a subject to a target.”
Trump-Putin leadership – tired of winning yet?
A good related question, how broad is Mueller’s authorization to investigate Trump-Putin? This was put to a test by indicted former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort: Mueller Authorized By DOJ To Investigate Alleged Manafort Collusion With Russian Government.
Manafort has claimed, “the charges he faces in federal court in DC and Virginia have nothing to do with his work on the Trump campaign in 2016”. But in new news to Manafort, Mueller’s 45-page legal brief disclosed more about his scope as authorized by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told special counsel Robert Mueller in a classified August 2, 2017, memo that he should investigate allegations that President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was “colluding with Russian government officials” to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, prosecutors in the Russia probe revealed late Monday night.
“Mueller was also empowered by Rosenstein to investigate Manafort’s payments from Ukrainian politicians, a cornerstone of the Trump adviser’s decades-long lobbying career that has resulted in several financial criminal charges so far.”
That’s not the only discouraging news for Manafort as the first Trump-Putin corruption jail sentence has just been imposed: “Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, 33, was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lying to investigators about contacts with ex-Trump aide (and Manafort business partner) Rick Gates”. () Remember how incredibly tight is the Trump-Putin corruption world, “Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest men”.
Van der Zwaan’s father-in-law is the owner of Alfa Bank where servers communicated with servers in Trump Tower and DeVos owned Spectrum Health servers (related: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; her brother, Blackwater founder and subject of Trump-Putin investigation Erik Prince):
“German Khan controls Alfa Group, one of Russia’s largest investment groups. Alfa Bank,
which he co-founded, is the largest non-state owned bank in Russia, according to Forbes.”
Big hole in naysayer argument
Trump-Putin corruption naysayers have a list of dismissals; one is that Russian involvement in the U.S. election did not sway the outcome. Of course most Trumpsters also believe Trump won the popular vote. Russpublicans have demonstrated they will do anything to preserve the perception of the legitimacy of the election. But maybe the convenient ‘truths’ is not so truthy. As reported in the Washington Post: A New Study Suggests Fake News Might Have Won Donald Trump The 2016 Election.
Aaron Blake, writing for the Washington Post, says, “Trump won’t like this new study one bit”.
“The finds that fake news probably played a significant role in depressing Hillary Clinton’s support on Election Day. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed but which may be the first look at how fake news affected voter choices, suggests that about 4 percent of President Barack Obama’s 2012 supporters were dissuaded from voting for Clinton in 2016 by belief in fake news stories.”
The Washington Post took the findings of the Ohio State study and considered the impact on the 2016 election:
“…The Washington Post’s polling director, Scott Clement, ran a predictive probability analysis using the OSU team’s data and compared the existing 2016 election to a hypothetical election in which these fake news stories didn’t exist. The result: Clinton lost 4.2 percent more of Obama’s votes in the race with fake news vs. the hypothetical race without it.
“If we multiply that 4.2 percent drop-off by Obama’s 2012 vote share in the three key states that delivered the presidency to Trump, it suggests that fake news cost Clinton about 2.2 or 2.3 points apiece in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And Clinton lost Michigan by just 0.2 points and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by 0.72 and 0.76 points, respectively.”
So many people are hardened in their opinions – one way to assess ‘hardening’ might be the veracity of the rejection of the idea put forward here.
Speaking of which, maybe this WaPo article is yet another reason for Trump’s attacks on Bezos and Amazon.
Leadership by the young
We opened with Walker’s swipe at and whiff over liberal boogeymen. Who gets the nod for inspiring political leadership in closing?
Trump feints reprisal for Putin’s nerve agent attack on former Russian agent Sergei Skripal. Trump doesn’t even feint disapproval of Putin’s fake election and rushes to breathlessly congratulates him and is open to Russian suggestions for a White House meeting between the two.
Mueller creates a political dilemma for Trump by suggesting he can bring closure to obstruction — a first leg of his investigation — after a meeting with Trump. Charles Pierce, writing for Esquire, offers, “The president*, because he doesn’t understand anything, apparently is treating this as a kind of vindication”.
A Commoner Call reader highlighted Jill McCabe and her public defense of her reputation and that of her husband and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe after his firing by the Justice Department.
But the nod goes to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and their reaction to their ‘$1.05’ clear backpacks. Notable comments include this tweet from Sam Fuentes who took shrapnel to the face, ““Sorry for the inconvenience. I’m just just trying to change the world. Don’t piss on my bonfire. ””.
Miami Herald reporter Fabiola Santiago suggests the clear backpacks are newly created “3,000 plus mini walking billboards” as she adds, “if you wanted to fuel these kids’ commitment to change, congratulations”.
These students are fearless and courageous, an inspiration. Fabiola closes, and so will we, with the students’ latest hashtag: