By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (4/25/19)
Dear Fellow Readers,
It turns out the preceding 2-3 years have been a warm up. Our latest marker in the ongoing saga, a print version of the Mueller Report published by the Washington Post is the current bestseller on Amazon.
We’ll do a quick review of the Trump administration actions post Mueller’s Trump-Russia report. Has it really only been just over a week?
MSNBC host Ari Melber was joined by Harvard constitutional law professor Lawrence Tribe who summarized as “overwhelming evidence of an endeavor to undermine an important legal enquiry into what the Russians did to our democracy and what role the Trump people had in it”, this is an “impeachable offense”. Tribe sees obstruction as an impeachable offense but also comments on collusion.
I stand by my verdict of Guilty of Obstruction, Guilty of Collusion. I’ll offer the same qualifiers, Trump was not convicted or even charged, that is up to Congress. And collusion is the phrase conveniently used by Trump’s AG Barr et al, it is not a legal term but the Mueller report lays out guilt of Trump-Russia collusion if not conspiracy.
I will add – based on the ongoing obstruction below — Trump may force the Dem House to impeach.
If you want to dig in to a bit of Mueller report analysis, Politico offers some interesting insights starting with “who didn’t get prosecuted”. I will offer added insight and perspective on what made the report and what is not part of the report over time.
But let’s step back and set context.
The Financial Times does with a provocatively titled story tucked behind its paywall: The Age Of The Elected Despot Is Here.
Martin Wolf is the chief economics commentator for the Financial Times. His view of the risk of Trump to democracy is clarified in the article subhead: “people want to believe a powerful and charismatic leader is on their side in an unjust world”.
That is a powerful statement about how we got here and how we should go forward.
Speaking loosely from Wolf’s comments, the charisma of despots is fueled by fear and rage and it operates within a framework of a global decline in democracy. Reaching back to Plato’s western political philosophy, the “protector” is a “tyrant”, a protector of “real people”.
But there is a necessary quality for a despot to be effective, something we’re seeing increasingly – “a populist demagogue has to project belief in himself as a man of destiny. Self-obsession and even megalomania help; they may well be essential”. We laugh when we hear Trump advise on raking forests but admirers of a despot do not. They may not believe everything said by the despot but they are ready to follow without question.
Trump references his party as the party of Lincoln, but Lincoln believed a successful democracy depended on “the better angels of our nature”.
That’s the context and conflict we face. Here follows a single day of reminders:
Trump Rebukes The Rule of Law As He Fights Oversight
The following is a quick round-up and you can feel free to link into and dig deeper in any specific example. We’ll do this with a handful of headlines grabbed from the current front page of the Washington Post but any mainstream outlet or anything further to the left will work equally well.
- Trump Says He Is Opposed To White House Aides Testifying To Congress, Deepening Power Struggle With Hill.
- White House Plans To Fight House Subpoena Of Former Counsel Donald McGahn For Testimony On Mueller Report.
- House Panel Moves To Hold Former White House Official In Contempt After He Obeys Trump Administration’s Instruction Not To Testify. Note, this article is about the secretive process and lies regarding the granting of Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and the refusal of White House personnel security director Carl Kline’s failure to appear for testimony.
- Justice Department Refuses To Comply With Congressional Subpoena For Testimony On Citizenship Question And 2020 Census.
- Trump Suggests Mueller ‘checked my taxes,’ Despite No Mention Of Them In Report. Note: Trump is fighting the release of his taxes to the House Oversight Committee, and this headline captures an example of his pattern of over-the-top, blatant lying.
Now mind you, all these were from a single day!
Here is a comparison of the risk to democracy-as-we-know-it versus a slouchy Trumpland shoulder shrug: Trump Plausibly Committed Impeachable Offenses. A Leading Expert Explains How.
Note, this article is about the secretive process and lies regarding the granting of Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and the refusal of White House personnel security director Carl Kline’s failure to appear for testimony.
Kushner’s remarkably unremarkable effort to downplay Russian interference
So many Russians.
Here is a direct rebuke to Kushner using the Maria Butina story to show how Russia works to undermine the US government. Kushner’s dismissal feeds into the risk assessed by federal prosecutor Robert Anderson Jr. in the filing:
“Allowing Russia to “bypass formal channels of diplomacy, win concessions, and exert influence within the United States” by entertaining backchannel lines of communication could result in “commensurate harm to the United States, including harm to the integrity of the United States’ political processes and internal government dealings, as well as to U.S. foreign policy interests and national security,” Anderson wrote.’
But if you think ‘that’s it, so what, Russia had an opinion and sought to influence US policy’ know it’s a small part of a much larger picture: The Growing Partnership Between Russia’s Government And Cybercriminals.
This is a scary-than-hell report of the ubiquitous penetration of all things United States by Russian cybercriminals. The subhead relates: “Increasingly, you cannot tell which is which when it comes to the criminal and the intelligence agency”.
Gap in the narrative
So some are saying: Trump-Russia, it happened, we’re investigating, we’ll get to the heart of what happened, people will be held accountable and it can’t happen again.
But know that everything after “it happened” could well be false. Obstruction, refusal to cooperate… and ongoing risk. Again, just a few headlines to end.
The first involves former Department of Homeland Security secretary Kerstjen Nielsen, whose expertise before she focused on locking up immigrant children was cybersecurity: In Push For 2020 Election Security, Top Official Was Warned: Don’t Tell Trump.
Then there is this, from Politico: Turmoil Consumes White House Team Guiding Feds’ Tech Strategy.
The subhead is a great summary: ‘This organization looks like it’s in free fall,’ one former senior federal official says.
There is no defense against foreign intrusion into our 2020 election because our despot leader views this as invalidating the results of the 2016 election.
When you are leader by destiny…