Politics postsSunday May 19, 2019
And Then There Was One
“Staunch libertarian Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) on Saturday said — or rather, tweeted — what no other Republican member of Congress has yet had the nerve to utter: President Trump committed impeachable acts that Attorney General William P. Barr tried to downplay by misrepresenting the Mueller report, and Republicans are too partisan to do anything about it and too lazy to even read the report.”
Jennifer Rubin, in the lede to her Washington Post Op-Ed, “Why Justin Amash Stands Alone.” She breaks the GOP, who continue to support Trump despite impeachable offenses, into three groups: the cynics who want their judges and/or tax cuts; the scaredy cats who fear GOP ostracisism, not to mention being primaried; and the nuts who actually buy the extremism that Trump is selling. Rubin says this third group is unfortunately bigger than many Americans could ever have guessed.
The Biggest Loser
The big news yesterday was The New York Times story on Donald Trump's taxes and how he lost more than $1 billion between 1985 and 1994—the years for which they had info. It made yesterday evening more palatable. Even fun.
Mr. Trump was propelled to the presidency, in part, by a self-spun narrative of business success and of setbacks triumphantly overcome. He has attributed his first run of reversals and bankruptcies to the recession that took hold in 1990. But 10 years of tax information obtained by The New York Times paints a different, and far bleaker, picture of his deal-making abilities and financial condition.
The data — printouts from Mr. Trump's official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 — represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president's taxes, information he has kept from public view. Though the information does not cover the tax years at the center of an escalating battle between the Trump administration and Congress, it traces the most tumultuous chapter in a long business career — an era of fevered acquisition and spectacular collapse.
The numbers show that in 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses — largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.
In fact, year after year, Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer...
First pushback I saw actually came from Dems on social media, who kept bringing up how Hillary already mentioned much of this in the 2016 debates. Yes, but this is a news source and it's got numbers. C‘mon, folks, take a victory lap for once. Good god.
Best response was from Alexandrai Ocasio-Cortez:
Wouldn’t you think someone who personally lost over a BILLION dollars (“more than nearly any other taxpayer in America”) be vulnerable to shady activity to get out of that hole?— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 8, 2019
If they became the most powerful public servant in America, wouldn’t you want to see their taxes? 🤔 https://t.co/h22XNU1bl4
Of course, as big as the story was, and is, it wasn’t NPR's lead story this morning. They knocked it down to third or fourth and played it from both sides: Times says this, Trump says this. And the numbers, NPR? What do the numbers say?
Even so. Walls are closing.
He’s as worthless a witness as he is an attorney general. Subpoena his sorry ass, hold him in contempt when he’s a no-show, but don’t waste time over him. Call Mueller, McGahn, people who haven’t sold their souls and can help the nation get to the truth. https://t.co/Ke6TRqzrPa— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) May 1, 2019
I can't even with most of this.
'A Casual Disdain and Contempt'
It was a bad day for America.
From Greg Sargent of the Wasington Post on Bill Barr's testimony today before Congress today:
Throughout, there was a kind of casual disdain and contempt not just for the congressional proceedings but also for the very notion that any of his conduct thus far raises any legitimate concerns — let alone that he should have to waste his time addressing them — that was deeply disconcerting.
To take just a few examples, at one point Barr was pressed on the fact that he previously told Congress he didn’t have any idea what was behind the Mueller team’s leaks of frustration over Barr’s summary — even though we now know that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III explicitly laid out his concerns in a letter well in advance of that.
Barr dissembled in almost comical fashion, making an utterly absurd distinction between what the Mueller team members had leaked and what Mueller himself told Barr in that letter. It’s like the fellow wasn’t even trying, or didn’t even think he needed to try.
Here's a question to ask Barr: Do you think you could get away with this without right-wing propaganda from Fox News, Rush, Drudge, Alex, Breitbart, Sinclair, et al.?
Either way, it's time the rest of us realized we‘re dealing with entities that don’t give a shit, because they don't have to. That's the battle.
New York Times website, yesterday.
I celebrated when they arrested Michael Cohen last August. I went our for drinks with my friend David. We toasted. I thought walls were closing in on the sonuvabitch.
I didn't celebrate yesterday when a redacted version of the Mueller Report was finally released by Attorney General William Barr (whose name goes down in infamy for how he's played this), even though on the whole the report is damning, embarassing, pathetic, shameless.
Mueller begins this way—first page, second graf:
The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.
I'm old enough to remember when Trump's team denied this. They‘re probably still doing so on some level when it suits them.
Was the Russian government doing what it could to elect Donald Trump president of the United States? Obviously. Did the Trump campaign seek their help? Vocally. Did they then lie about their contacts with Russians and Wikileaks? Repeatedly.
Was it a conspiracy? Apparently not. Again, from the first few pages of the report:
As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents. The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
I expected this, though. I was hoping maybe for a smoking gun but assumed we wouldn't get it.
So onto the second part. Did Trump obstruct, impede and attempt to shut down the varous investigations (FBI, DOJ, Mueller) into potential collusion? Of course he did. He did it on national television. Beyond that, Mueller cites—is it 10 incidents?—in which Trump told subordinates to essentially engage in obstruction of justice. The subordinate didn't follow through, but that's still obstruction of justice. What finally brought down Nixon, George Conway reminds us in a Washington Post Op-Ed, was a recording of Nixon telling CIA director Richard Helms to urge the FBI away from the Watergate investigation. Helms didn't follow through, either, but it was still obstruction of justice. Back then, that was enough.
Trump did this x 10 and he's still in the Oval Office.
Here's NPR's political reporter Carrie Johnson on “Morning Edition” this morning:
It's hard to imagine—according to a lot of former prosecutors with whom I‘ve spoken—that if this involved any other person, that it would not have resulted in some criminal charge.
That’s a big reason why I'm not celebrating. I was counting on the rule of law to come to our aid. And it didn‘t. It hasn’t. Maybe someday, but not today.
I'm also not celebrating because the Trumpers will continue to lie about it. And Fox News will repeat their lies as truth and add their own; and so will Rush and Matt and Alex and Breitbart and Sinclair and the GOP. There are no honorable Republicans anymore because they don't have to be. They can lie and Fox will call it truth. They can be corrupt and dishonorable and Fox will call them honorable. They can be racist and Fox will say it's the other side that's racist. World without end.
Many people are celebrating this line from the report. It's Trump's reaction when he learned that Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel back in May 2017—a week after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey:
This is the end of my presidency. I'm fucked.
I'm not celebrating that, either. He wasn't fucked. It wasn't the end of his presidency. That line just makes me sadder.
You know who's celebrating? One of the report's more chilling lines is what one Russian texted another on Nov. 8, 2016:
Putin has won.
That's who's celebrating: Putin. Putin and Fox News.