“Democracy Dies in Broad Daylight.”
— Bill Kristol tweet 5/27/18
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (5/28/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
What each of us believes about Trump-Russia corruption is likely set in stone. Maybe there a few of us that are yet to be convinced in spite of a steady daily downpour.
Sometimes the noise is new information; sometimes the noise is hard to sort out – what actually happened, does it matter? Here’s an example where the FBI received requested wiretap transcripts from the Spanish police of Russian oligarch, NRA and Donnie Jr. friend Alexander Torshin. Torshin’s conversations were with a convicted Russian money launderer and the Spanish police were intent on arresting Torshin. For most it’s likely as interesting as shredded wheat without milk, but there is an entertaining gem offered, “Asked if he was concerned about Torshin’s meetings with Donald Trump Jr. and other American political figures, Grinda replied: “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.”
LieGate, SpyGate, Nunes Gets Paid
More often Trump-Russia corruption is ‘debated’ with back-and-forth accusations of fake news and alternative facts. Trump’s “SpyGate” is yet another example that ended with a whimper. Once again House Intelligence Chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) took a quiet nose-dive, making Nunes zero-for-four in his attempts to exonerate the president. The failure was in spite of Trump’s pleas to support SpyGate to change the dialog.
Reasonable minds might ask, why would Nunes keep trotting out failed distractions, when even Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) only took one swing before quietly leaving the field: Ivanka Trump to campaign for Devin Nunes in California.
There’s money to be had, even for a repeat-failure shill of Trump innocence like Devin Nunes. Money has been pouring into the Nunes reelection fund and now this:
“Oh yeah, we are excited,” Fresno GOP party chair Fred Vanderhoof told the news affiliate. “She’s popular, anybody from the Trump family is welcome, and we are honored and excited to see them.”
The Roger Ailes touch
Much of the dust-up is around LieGate/SpyGate. The technique is predictable to anyone that has ever watched anything created by Fox News creator Roger Ailes. Get a popular talking head who suspiciously acts like they are the beneficiary of performance enhancing drugs, bring an accomplice, throw out a list of questions/accusations and talk over the ‘guest’. Not original but apparently effective (read $’s).
Take just one question of many that isn’t afforded the time or space for an answer. “Why didn’t the FBI inform the Trump campaign in March that Russians might be infiltrating the campaign?” Oh my. The FBI, the DoJ, Obama, former Director National Intelligence James Clapper and others tried to warn the Trump campaign – but the clever dodge is about the timing, why not in March 2016?
Forget that so many in the Trump campaign came into the campaign with long-time Russian credentials – former Trump campaign manager facing countless charges Paul Manafort, or his former co-chair who plead guilty Rick Gates, or former Trump senior adviser who plead guilty Mike Flynn… to name a few. Or so many that sought and welcomed Russian contact like Donnie Jr., “Russian dirt on Clinton? I would love it”.
Yeah, Fox News tells its viewers: Forget all of that.
March 2016 is when former Trump foreign policy adviser — who also plead guilty — George Papadopoulos joined the Trump campaign. While there were early meetings with Russian cut-outs the infamous Papadopoulos meeting with the Australian diplomat where he drunkenly shared that the Trump campaign had damning information on Clinton didn’t happen until May 2016. After Australia alerted the FBI, based on this meeting, the FBI began investigating the Trump campaign in July 2016.
So why didn’t the FBI warn the Trump camp about the FBI? Given the very nature of Trumpland, the question makes no sense – now imagine trying to catch this single drop of rain in the deluge and respond reasonably.
How Will Trump-Russia Corruption Be Decided?
Jeannine Pirro and Devin Nunes compete for Trump’s attention because it is good theater for his base, it pays well and they know Trump-Russia corruption ultimately is decided in the court of public opinion.
Let’s take a look at how this might work; what are the many possible outcomes? But first, did anything happen with Trump-Russia corruption? You can scroll through the Committee to Investigate Russia timeline, here.
Or check out this 8-min video summary connecting every single dot between Trump and Russia — and the picture it paints is damning.
Consider the video, or the timeline. Imagine a summary so long it’s hard to hold interest through the presentation. Compare the video to the timeline and it’s obvious, the 8-minute video is a small part of the story.
Or you may have already decided.
So there are three options.
1. Trump did nothing wrong in spite of appearances.
2. Trump-Russia corruption, we’ll never know, but Russia did swing the election, or
3. Mueller completes his investigation and brings forward his conclusions.
The New York Times contains a troubling question: Did the F.B.I. Save Trump’s Presidency?
Bret Stephens presents Option 1.
“There has always been a relatively innocent and eminently plausible interpretation for why Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had so many suspicious ties to Russia.”
The explanation is that Trump’s love of Putin was (is?) naïve but not a crime. And even if Trump’s Russian business ties were criminals, maybe this doesn’t make Trump a criminal. And Trump ran a chaos-campaign that happened to attract a few political grifters that brought their own baggage into the mix. And last, too much trash talking like the Donnie Jr., “I love it”, example but so what?
In spite of the high-level math it takes to dismiss all of the above, and after his own damning summary of how Trump brought us to this moment, Stephens gets there:
“Trump is now taking his usual unbridled umbrage at comments by former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, which the president then misquoted, that he should be glad the F.B.I. was looking into potential Russian infiltration of his campaign. Of course he should be glad: The Bureau has now twice rescued him, first by reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails on the eve of the election, and then by clearing out the Russian stooges in his employ.”
“That Trump won’t acknowledge this means he’s either profoundly foolish or, in ways we don’t yet understand, dangerously complicit. I still lean toward the former interpretation — just.”
Here’s a second scenario where Trump is naïve but benefited from Russian hacking of the election.
We covered former Director National Intelligence James Clapper’s “informed opinion” that Putin swung the election for Trump. Here’s a thoughtful consideration of this by Greg Sargent for the Washington Post: James Clapper’s bombshell: Russia swung the election. What if he’s right?
Sargent repeats Clapper’s claim (the highlight is Sargent’s):
“As a private citizen, it’s what I would call my informed opinion that, given the massive effort the Russians made, and the number of citizens that they touched, and the variety and multi-dimensional aspects of what they did to influence opinion … and given the fact that it turned on less than 80,000 votes in three states, to me it exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election. And it’s my belief they actually turned it.”
Sargent gets to the point of our willingness to give Trump the benefit of the doubt by offering assertions of Clinton failures based on an “even flimsier basis” as the real determining factor in the outcome of the election:
“We probably will never know whether Russia’s interference — whose tip we only glimpsed in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s of 13 Russian nationals for their sabotage plot — was sufficient to swing the election. The result had . But allow me to point out that journalists regularly suggest, on an even flimsier basis, that this or that Hillary Clinton failing caused the outcome. Yet even asking whether Russian interference — or, say, James B. Comey’s 11th-hour intervention — might have been sufficient to swing a relative handful of votes is regularly greeted with knee-slapping ridicule, even though, , every journalist knows that it is absolutely plausible.”
For many paying attention to Trump-Russia corruption this might be the least satisfying outcome, well laid out by Sargent:
“Whether Clapper is right in claiming that the outcome was indeed altered will probably forever remain an open question. But his assertion does highlight the fact that Trump and his GOP allies are actively trying to prevent that full story from coming out — and aren’t troubled in the least by the possibility that he might be right.”
After Mueller, what?
Option 3 is well laid out by the New York Times. If Mueller completes his investigation, there are a number of options for what happens next: How the Mueller Investigation Could Play Out for Trump.
The article presents the possible answers to this question: “How will President Trump fare in the end?”
The presentation is in the form of a decision tree – Mueller finds wrongdoing by Trump – yes or no; ‘yes’ and Mueller proceeds in less or more aggressive path forward. And so forth.
If Mueller finds that Trump broke the law there is some good news amongst the options – we are likely to see the results. The least aggressive option open to Mueller is this:
“If he concludes that Mr. Trump has committed wrongdoing that Congress should know about, he can write a report. But under the law, Mr. Mueller cannot give it directly to Congress. Instead, he has to give it to the Justice Department official overseeing the investigation — Mr. Rosenstein.”
The most aggressive option for Mueller would be to indict Trump but, based on comments to date, that seems unlikely.
If a report by Mueller goes to Congress, is the report ignored or will there be impeachment proceedings?
Land of delusion
Given what we all know and the morphing of Trump-Russia corruption from news to debate to rally the Trump base, it seems like it’s time to start considering how this all ends. Long-time Republican strategist and vocal Trump critic Rick Wilson offers this “wheels are coming off” review of where Trump’s lies and bluffing are heading:
“Your rational mind knows why Trump is doing all of this, but the stress of seeing him lure 40% of the American people into a trap from which there is no escape is often painful to watch. As an anthropologist of Trump and Trumpism, sometimes I feel as if the best thing I do is to remind you that it’s all a lie.
“No matter how much he spins it, no matter how many cute brand names and catchphrases he tries to jam into the media flow, at his core, Donald Trump is a man in a rising sea of legal peril, political risk and catastrophic failures. This explains his increasingly erratic behavior and dangerous efforts to corrupt the special counsel process, the Justice Department, and American institutions more broadly.”
Trump supporters would rather cast aspersions on the FBI for not doing more to ‘help’ Trump while ignoring why they showed up at all. Wilson captures this, “There’s a line in the 1990s film “Grosse Point Blank” where John Cusack’s assassin character defends his line of work. He says, “If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there.””
As reported in The Guardian, even when Trump and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani clumsily tell everyone the truth about the latest diversion the Pirros and 40% trundle on unrestrained by inconvenient facts:
““Of course we have to do it to defend the president,” Trump’s lawyer told CNN State of the Union host Dana Bash, who accused him of being part of a campaign to undermine the Mueller investigation. …
““It is for public opinion,” Giuliani said of his public campaign of dissimulation. “Because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrats and , are going to be informed a lot by their constituents.”
Giuliani is exactly right. There is a very good chance Congress will have to decide how to proceed and it is us, the constituents, who might have a voice to decide.
How ‘might’ we have a voice? Win back Congress in the mid-term elections – VOTE. Demand that Mueller be given the chance to finish his report. Even if a decision is made against impeachment, demand any report see the light of day. Nixon was not impeached.
Trump lies, tells us he lied, tells us why we lied. Still some say, “but Clinton!”, or “why didn’t the FBI ‘stop’ him?”
The opening quote by Bill Kristol is a riff on the Washington Post slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness”.
Kristol is right – we may live with a crime conducted in the full light of day but never brought to trial.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) tweeted this:
It begins by seeding the ground with a falsehood: “They spied on the Trump campaign.” It’s then promoted by the President, who echoes the falsehood. Then his allies call to investigate the falsehood. This is how propaganda works. It is also how democracy dies, one lie at a time.
9:06 AM – 27 May 2018
“Democracy dies, one lie at a time.”
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )