Politics postsTuesday August 28, 2018
“'Trump is nuts,' said one former West Wing official. ‘This time really feels different.’ Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine has privately expressed concern, a source said, telling a friend that Trump's emotional state is ‘very tender.’ Even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are unsettled that Trump is so gleefully acting on his most self-destructive impulses as his legal peril grows. According to a source, Jared and Ivanka told Trump that stripping security clearances from former intelligence officials would backfire, but Trump ignored them. Kushner later told a friend Trump ‘got joy’ out of taking away John Brennan's clearance. His reaction to the death of John McCain—quashing a White House statement in praise of the senator, and restoring White House flags to full staff—falls into the same self-indulgent category.
”The news of Cohen's plea and Paul Manafort's conviction, which were followed by revelations that Trump Organization C.F.O. Allen Weisselberg and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker are cooperating with federal prosecutors, have rattled Trump like few other turns in the investigation have, sources said. ... 'He spent the weekend calling people and screaming,' one former White House official said.“
from Gabriel Sherman's Vanity Fair piece, ”Trump Goes It Alone." Read the whole thing.
John McCain (1936-2018)
I began this blog in February 2008 so a lot of my posts about John McCain were partisan backbiting during the 2008 election. Some of the backbiting he deserved. Not just in choosing Sarah Palin but in the way he attempted to use civil rights legend John Lewis in the final debate. A lot of it the press deserved, too. My complaints then are my complaints now. If they’d been taken seriously, we wouldn’t have Trump.
But John McCain also did this.
That scene showed up in the 2012 HBO film about the 2008 election, “Game Change,” which I rewatched in January 2016. Ed Harris, as McCain, refuses to go low in the way the GOP does, and says this to a campaign adviser:
There's a dark side to the American populace. Some people win elections by tapping into it. I'm not one of those people.
I doubt John McCain actually said that but he often acted as if he thought it. He had honor. Many of the encomia I’m seeing today, the day after he died of brain cancer at the age of 81, are coming from Democrats and liberals. We already miss him, an honorable Republican, who tried to remove dark money from politics. Sadly, he ran into Mitch McConnell and the modern GOP, who need dark money, and who need to tap into the dark side of the American populace. They want dark side and dark money to prevent dark people from voting. That’s who they are. McCain was much, much better.
In 2010, Patricia I went to Hanoi, Vietnam, and on one of our first days we visited Hoa Lo Prison, or the “Hanoi Hilton,” where McCain was imprisoned for five years.
McCain, a Navy pilot, was shot down in Oct. 1967, parachuted into Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi, was pulled to shore and beaten by a crowd and then taken to a hospital, or “hospital,” for six weeks, before beginning two years of solitary confinement. Patricia and I took a taxi. The place cost John McCain five years of his life. It cost us 10,000 dong—or about 50 cents each. One feels guilty before even entering. One feels how time reveals the absurdity of the borders we construct.
I look back on the GOP presidential nominees of my lifetime and think: Who would’ve made a better president than McCain? Goldwater and his anti-civil rights stances? Nah. Nixon? Please. Reagan? Idiot. Bush I or II? Dole or Romney? None of them. It’s a shame McCain got the nomination when he did. It’s a shame Karl Rove and George W. push-polled him out of the 2000 race. Imagine McCain in charge during 9/11 rather than W. What we wouldn’t have wasted our time on.
Godspeed. God bless. If there’s anything to know, now he knows.
Q&A: NPR's David Greene Interviews ... Me
Wednesday morning, the morning after Pres. Trump's former campaign chair was convicted on eight counts of fraud, and his personal lawyer pled guilty to eight counts of violating federal election laws, which implicated Trump, I listened, in disbelief, to NPR's “Morning Edition” as David Greene asked the following questions to Sen. Richard Blumental (D-CT). Here are my answers to those questions.
GREENE: Two significant moments in the Trump presidency came at about the same time yesterday in courtrooms a few hundred miles apart. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted of multiple federal crimes. And the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including violating campaign finance law by paying for the silence of two women. Both women said they had affairs with Trump. And Cohen said he was acting on Trump's direction. For more, we spoke a bit earlier this morning with [some schmo with a blog]. Good morning, [schmo].
ME: Yeah, fuck you, too.
GREENE: So I saw a tweet from you yesterday after Michael Cohen pleaded guilty, saying President Trump is an unindicted criminal co-conspirator. And I just wonder, after months of seeming not to believe Michael Cohen when he denied wrongdoing himself, why are you ready to take his word now?
ME: Really? That's what you lead with? Are you running out of oxygen in this rarefied “objective” air you think you have to breathe? Have you leaned so far right in your attempt to objectify or legitimize a monster that you have BPV? But OK, I‘ll bite. Why didn’t I believe Cohen then? Because all the circumstantial evidence pointed toward wrongdoing. Why do I believe him now? Because all the circumstantial evidence points toward wrongdoing. It's not Cohen I believe or disbelieve, it‘s the evidence. We also know law officials have gathered more evidence, presented it to him, and he and his lawyer thought this was the best course of action. It used to be called “coming clean,” but I doubt this stain will ever be washed away. By the way: You’re part of that stain, David. You helped elect him. If Donald Trump were anyone but the president of the United States, he'd be behind bars.
GREENE: Are you saying that he's being treated differently because he's president because of Department of Justice rules that they cannot indict a sitting president? Because that certainly seems like it could be at play, but couldn't it also be that they just don't have evidence of President Trump doing clear wrongdoing yet?
ME: Let's try and be adults for a second. You‘ve got two main possibilities right now. The possibility that Michael Cohen acted on his own without checking with his boss first; and the fact that he checked with his boss. What do you know about Michael Cohen? Is he the type of person to just take charge? With the presidency on the line? The idea that little Michael Cohen did this all on his own is like claiming Watergate was the responsibility of little Don Segretti.
GREENE: I want to talk to you about the potential role of Congress because the question of impeachment has started to come up if Democrats were to take control of the House this fall. Given how many Democrats defended Bill Clinton and said lying about a relationship was not something that should be impeachable, would your party be in a pretty tough spot if the party tried this?
ME: Jesus, you suck. Clinton lied about a relationship. Did Trump lie about a relationship? Apparently yes. Did he offer hush money to keep that story from breaking before the election? Apparently yes. Did this violate federal election laws? Yes. That’s the difference. That's the immediate difference. And it doesn't even get into all of the other allegations brought by dozens of women of relationships and/or sexual harassment—which, by the way, correspond exactly with his own attitude about fame and sex and women. Do you remember that, David? “I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn't get there. And she was married.” Or more infamously: “I'm automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you‘re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.” You‘ve got to put it all together, David. You’re like a man staring at a grease stain, wondering if it's big enough, not realizing you‘re standing in the middle of a vast cesspool.
GREENE: But if you don’t mind addressing my political question, I guess I wonder if the focus of this investigation and if the conversation starts to be these alleged affairs—I guess I just wonder if your party might risk hypocrisy, given what we saw during the Bill Clinton years.
ME: This is why we are where we are. Questions like this. This is how a man who ran for president for a mean-spirited joke won. Because you guys aren't doing your jobs. You‘ve been so conditioned by the right-wing in this country, who keep accusing you of being liberal, that you strive for an idiot “balance” rather than attempt to dig out the truth. That’s all you have to do, David. Dig out the truth and report it. That's it. That's why it's called “reporting.”
GREENE: You keep using the term Watergate moment.
GREENE: I wonder if we‘re going to be hearing more and more of that type of language from the party heading into the fall. And are you convinced that that’s what American voters want to hear about as they consider who to vote for, or might there be other issues they want to be talking about and hearing from your party?
ME: Do the American people need to hear that their president is corrupt? Yes. Do they want to talk about other issues? Of course. And we‘ll talk about those issues. We’ll talk about how the right-wing is using deep pockets, dark money and incessant propaganda in order to take a bigger portion of their already huge piece or the American pie. They‘re ruthless, greedy sons of bitches, who don’t want you to have health care, who don't want you to make a decent wage, who don't want you to have safe working conditions. They‘ll attack anyone and anything that gets in the way of this. And you’ve helped them, David. Over the years, you and this program have helped the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. You listen to the noise and miss the signal. You've done such a poor job that democracy itself has been subverted.
GREENE: [Erik Lundegaard], [some schmo with a blog], we always appreciate you giving us the time. Thanks so much.
ME: Yeah, fuck you, too.
GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY
That's one guilty each for:
- Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, on eight counts of financial fraud in federal court today; the judge declared the other 10 counts to be a mistrial
- Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal attorney, on breaking campaign finance laws and other charges “at the direction of the candidate.”
- The candidate.
And that noise? It's the sound of the other shoe finally fucking dropping. Five to 10 Trump doesn't hear it.
Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn't they be a crime for Donald Trump?— Lanny Davis (@LannyDavis) August 21, 2018
The Trump Tapes, Part I
The big story of the day was this one from The New York Times, although its headline was a bit misleading:
At least it misled me. I thought this meant Cohen taped Trump talking to the model. Nope. Cohen taped him and Trump talking about the model. Specifically how to keep her quiet in the months leading up to the election. Money was apparently involved. That's all we know so far.
The Playboy model in question is Karen McDougal who says she had an affair with Trump in 2007 or so. She eventually sold her story to The National Enquirer, but they squelched it. They paid $150k not to run it. As a favor to Trump.
Of course, Trump's current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, jumped in today with a topnotch defense:
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that Mr. Trump had directed Mr. Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, write a check, rather than sending cash, so it could be properly documented.
“In the big scheme of things, it's powerful exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Giuliani.
Right. It's exculpatory because a man running for president directed his lawyer that if they had to pay off a woman who said she'd had an affair with him, probably in violation of election laws, please use one of your own checks.
There's more tapes, btw, and all of this will eventually come out. But the fact that it's taken so long—a year a half into Trump's presidency—even though it's about a president makes me wonder what CEOs and other titans invariably get away with on a daily basis.