Journal During the Trump Regime

Continuing from the last thread. 

GOP Getting More Conspiratorial and It’s Kinda Scary

Sen Ron Johnson claims "informant" who has news about the FBI "Secret Society" working to overthrow President Trump. pic.twitter.com/QzGhXBEUYD

— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) January 24, 2018

Good Lord. Latest from Fox/GOP is claims there's an FBI "Secret Society" working to overthrow President Trump. pic.twitter.com/62Lh62xtjP

— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) January 24, 2018

These are some serious charges, and if they have good evidence then we should know, but it’s hard not to be skeptical given the track record from the GOP (e.g., Devin Nunes taking information from the WH and claiming there was improper unmasking of Trump officials.) and Trump himself (e.g., Obama ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower).

Besides the lengths the GOP is going through to protect Trump, what bothers me here is that there doesn’t seem to be any consequence, no loss of social censure or loss of credibility for the individuals who make irresponsible claims.

111 thoughts on “Journal During the Trump Regime

  1. There Should Be Consequences for Making Irresponsible Accusations

    Three government conspiracies the GOP have been pushing relating to the Mueller investigation:

    Here’s Sen. Johnson talking about the “secret society:”

    What bugs me is that there doesn’t seem to appropriate consequences for the people making these irresponsible accusation, not only are they either baseless or nutty, but they undermine the public trust in the FBI. If a person did something equivalent in another sphere, like the workplace or a personal relationship, I would expect them to become pariahs. But that doesn’t seem to be happening to these politicians and pundits. There’s something wrong, something broken about our politics.

    Edit

    I think this is going too far, but I sympathize with the sentiment behind this proposal (which I’d guess Scarborough meant facetiously):

    Edit: Johnson now admitting that the “secret society” could have been said in jest

    Not to state the obvious, but he shouldn’t have been so emphatic about this claim initially; it was reckless and irresponsible.

    Edit

    Edit (1/31/2018)

    Here’s a snippet about the seriousness of Nunes’s memo–not in a good way, but in terms of the damage it will do. If the memo turns out to be baseless, then it will look like Trump just approved of this in order to undermine the investigation, regardless if this released classified information or damages the trust between Congress and the intelligence community and the public’s trust of the latter.

    Edit (2/1/2018)

    Clint Watts, former FBI agent, describing how the memo could have deleterious effects on national security in the future:

    Edit (2/7/2018)

    Essay from a former FBI Agent, Frank Montoya Jr., who apparently has first hand knowledge of Clinton email and Russia-Trump investigations.

  2. Are Congressional Republicans Really Doing Nothing to Protect the Upcoming Elections?

    I saw the first tweet below, in response to the tweet I posted after it:

    Can Eoyang be right? It’s one of the many things that leaves me flabbergasted these days. I’m hoping they’re not acting yet because there’s really a lot of time, or there really isn’t much that can be done (and I just don’t realize that). Because if there is something that can be done, and they’re not doing it, wouldn’t be reasonable to conclude that they’re failing to protect our country? And why are they failing? Are they doing this so as not to offend Trump, which would be putting their political party and personal careers over protecting the country?

  3. Speaker Ryan Going All In

    If there isn’t substance to back up saying this, Ryan is being incredibly irresponsible and reckless. If there is, the Democrats should be condemned. That is, if people in DOJ/FBI behaved so improperly that a purge should occur, and the Democrats weren’t forthcoming about this, then that is damning of them.

    (This is where the scorecard thing would come in handy. It would help to show who is more credible at this point. Personally, I think the Democrats are way more credible, but I’m more sympathetic to them.)

  4. “I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity.”

    That quote comes from Trump in a PBS Newshour report . It’s a ridiculous statement that has zero credibility in my opinion. A person selecting Steve Bannon as his chief strategist is really serious about uniting the country. And I’m not even mentioning the racially controversial things he’s said. One who really cares about uniting the country wouldn’t do any of this. They’d apologize at the very least.

    And there’s something else that he said that is noteworthy:

    “Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing.”

    Before this Trump also said that Americans usually come together during times of suffering. I can’t help but read this as he’s itching for some bad thing to happen, and not to unite the country, but to consolidate power. (It reminds me of several comments that made it sound like he was pleading for Chicago to ask him to solve the crime problem.)

  5. These Anti-DACA People Seem Cruel

    I’m kinda ambivalent about the set-up, here–as it seems a bit unfair and manipulative. On the other hand, if Kimmel found really hard-core anti-immigration people, and gave them a sense of what they were about to face, (e.g., “We’re going to introduce you to a DACA family, are you up for that?”) then I think this is fair.

    But I honestly do have some difficulty why these individuals are so hardline, and rigidly so. I do not buy the simple explanation that opposition is based on the fact that they have violated the law….Well, I guess there are people who actually have this kind of position, but I tend to think they are a small minority, especially with regard to sending back DACA people, telling them they should reapply. To me, I can’t see how this is not unreasonable and cruel.

  6. Trump Supporters Who Think Everyone’s Out to Get Trump Need to Ask Themselves One Question

    Has Trump done anything to warrant really negative coverage by the press, opposition by federal employees, and American citizens? To put it another way, would a reasonable person have to struggle and strain to find evidence that suggests the negative reaction to Trump is reasonable and justified? I think any reasonable, fair-minded person could come up with a long list. Indeed, the amount is so large that one can feel overwhelmed and even paralyzed when making a list. Where should one start? His bragging about being able to kiss women and grab them by p***y? Using what Speaker Ryan deemed “textbook racism” when speaking about Trump’s remarks about Judge Curiel; verbally going after two(!) Gold Star families; saying he would release his tax forms, not doing so, giving bogus reason; saying he would divest his business, but failing to do so; giving away highly classified intelligence, originating from Israel, to the Russians; calling the press “the enemy of the people;” appointing Steve Bannon, self-professed online promoter of the alt-right, to chief strategist; referring to the U.S intelligence community to Nazis; asking FBI director, DAG for loyalty; making baseless accusations that Obama wiretapped Trump tower. There’s a lot more, some of them over-the-top bad.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but many things Trump says and does can be labeled racist, autocratic, and kleptocratic. If this is accurate, all of this would justify really negative coverage from the press. It would be reasonable to expect mistruct and pushback from federal employees, especially those in the DOJ/FBI and IC because they all swear an oath to the Constitution, and Trump seems to think they owe their loyalty to him first. This is about as un-American as you can get for a POTUS.

    From The Atlantic: American Carnage

    In his inaugural address, Donald Trump declared, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” He knew it would not. We know it did not.

    “I’ll be able to make sure that when you walk down the street in your inner city, or wherever you are, you’re not going to be shot,” he declared during the campaign. “Your child isn’t going to be shot.”

  7. Trump is Giving the Country the Highest Examples of Tragi-Comedy

    I couldn’t help myself, and cracked up reading the tweet, but it’s also worth clicking on the tweet it references.

    I seriously think that moments like this are about the highest levels of tragi-comedy I’ve seen. Looking at it primarily from an artistic vantage point, it’s amazing. At the same time, it’s scary too–but I think that’s what makes it terrific (in an artistic/entertainment sort of way). It reminds of something that I attribute to Sid Caesar, who I believe said that the apex of comedy occurred when one evoked laughter and crying at the same time.

  8. Gullibility Isn’t the Biggest Problem

    Partisanship is really a big problem. To wit, people who will either believe or reject Nunes’s claims based on party (tribal) affiliation. If that’s what Sargent means, then OK.

    But a bigger problem might point back to information glut and a lack of effective filters. I say this because I suspect if asked ten people that weren’t partisan, six out of the ten wouldn’t know what to think. That is, they’re consuming enough news or getting the right information to be confident about their opinion. Therefore, either too many people are too apathetic and lazy, or our democracy is failing in terms of getting the key information that citizens need. To be fair, I guess one could argue that Nunes’s credibility isn’t a critical question to answer. In any event, I still don’t think gullibility is the problem. Confusion and uncertainty is a bigger problem in my view.

    Edit

    Actually, I think Nunes’s credibility fits into a larger issue that is important–namely, the credibility of Trump supporters and Trump opponents. Who is more credible? Are they equally credible? If one group is far more credible then the other, that’s really important in my view–more important than the credibility of Nunes (although he does chair the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence).

  9. Rachel Brand, No. 3 Official at DOJ, Resigns

    From the New York Times. I feel a little nervous about this. (In case others didn’t know, if Trump fires Rosenstein, Brand would have been the one in charge of the Mueller investigation. Who fills this role is going to be potentially crucial. I believe a permanent person needs Senate confirmation. Will Trump try to put in a loyal person and then try to fire Rosenstein?

  10. Mueller Won’t Save Us

    I think this is good advice–and likely to be the case. The welfare of the country depends on the 2018 election, wiping out Republicans, or “fumigating” the party as Tom Nichols writes here. If this doesn’t happen, I think Trumpism will take root in the party, and GOP will protect Trump, almost no matter what.

  11. Another School Shooting

    Edit

    Edit (2/15/2018)

    (Made in 2015)

    (Made in 2016)

    Some describe this as Trump blaming students. I don’t think he’s doing that–or he means to do that, but I can see why people think that. He’s mishandling, mispeaking, bungling the situation. Speaking as a political leader requires skill and deftness, and he really doesn’t have it–especially in situations like this.

    Correction re: number of shootings:

    Lead on, children!

  12. Let’s Track Trump’s Actions to Unify and Push Back Against Russian Interference

    These tweets acknowledge, at least tacitly, that a) unifying the country is important; b) Russian is trying to sow discord. If true, then we should watch the Trump’s actions and words–with regard to his attempts to unify the country, and avoid doing things to divide us. (So far, in my opinion, he’s been diving the country.)

    Edit

    White House spokesperson being tweeted by Russian propaganda outlet.

  13. How do you feel about Romney’s response to Trump’s endorsement?

    Trump tweeted this:

    Romney’s response:

    Even though Romney said some really bad things about Trump, I didn’t really react too negatively to this response. In the age of Trump, Romney seemed like a Republican the country could use. But that feeling started evaporating when I saw this tweet:

    If I read or re-watched Romney’s speech attacking Trump–saying things that I thought were accurate–I’d probably feel even more disturbed, maybe even disgusted. It was naked political expediency–and in one swift move wiped out a lot of his moral authority and trustworthiness for me.

    For whatever reason I thought of Hillary Clinton. I’m not sure if she do exactly the same thing, but I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. Still, does this make Romney or Clinton a bad politician? My first inclination is to say no, but in the case with Romney, I’m a my confidence is a little more shaken. The flip-flop and compromise for him just seems too jarring.

  14. I’m a little confused about what’s disturbing you. I know you were on board with the 2016 tweet. Is it the change in tone between 2016 and 2018? I read the 2018 tweet as being cautiously diplomatic, something he’ll likely be in the Senate when (not if) he gets elected. Do you see it as foretelling a Paul Ryan type of selling his soul?

    I like Romney for Utah. He should win his party’s nomination in a landslide.

  15. Brazen, naked political expediency–that’s probably what’s bothering me. In 2016, he’s saying he would never have accepted Trump’s endorsement (in 2012) had Trump said and done things during the 2016 campaign. Now, in 2018, he seems to be accepting Trump’s endorsement. It negates the authenticity and moral force of the 2016 claim, as well as Romney’s harsh denunciation of Trump.

    I understand that politicians have to be diplomatic, and they have to do and say things that are hypocritical. Generally, I accept this. I think Hillary and Bill Clinton have been like this. But this just seems to be worse. Actually, with both Clintons and Romney, I have serious questions about their fitness for office. I’m wondering if I’m wrong to accept politicians like this, if I should expect something more.

    In the end, I think Romney would be acceptable politician, maybe even better than that. But the flip-flop exposed a level of hypocrisy and political expediency that jarred me. Does Romney deserve the public’s trust?

  16. Okay, thanks for clarifying. I disagree with the “brazen, naked political expediencey” thing, and I don’t see a flip-flop, but I don’t blame you for reading it that way. It would probably have been better for him not to say anything in response, but ah well.

    Hillary Clinton not being fit for office is kind of an outrageous suspicion. She’s one of the most qualified and fittest candidates we’ve had.

  17. Are you mostly disagreeing with the “brazen, naked” part, or do you also disagree that Romney’s recent tweet reveal a distasteful and objectionable hypocrisy?

    Hillary Clinton not being fit for office is kind of an outrageous suspicion. She’s one of the most qualified and fittest candidates we’ve had.

    In terms of experience, I agree, but what about in terms of character–being honest, disciplined, using sound judgment. Same with her husband.

  18. I don’t know. If someone compliments me on some work that I think is terrible, I say thank you. I don’t stand there and argue what was wrong with it. Saying thank you doesn’t mean agreement. It’s a social nicety.

  19. no, but we effectively have david duke in the white house, and maybe if the president of the country says something directly to you, you have to respond politely.

  20. I don’t understand what you’re saying.

    a.) If you wouldn’t thank David Duke for supporting your campaign, and
    b.) You equate Trump with Duke, then;

    c.) why you don’t see a problem with Romney thanking Trump for his support?

    (You do at least see the difference between the example you gave and the situation between Romney and Trump, right?)

  21. Romney likely has to work with the White House. Saying thank you isn’t the same thing as saying “I accept your endorsement of me.” I understand why you see it the way you do; why is it hard for you to understand my seeing it the way I do?

    He’s going to be a United States Senator, which means he’s going to have to work with others. You can say a professional thank you without lining yourself up with the person you’re thanking. I say thank you all the time for professional courtesies I don’t agree with.

    When John Edwards and Dick Cheney were debating on TV several years ago, and the question of same-sex marriage came up, Edwards said nice things about Cheney because he understood that it was a tricky question for him to answer, as the parent of a lesbian. I don’t remember the exact words, but Cheney recognized that even in their differences, Edwards was offering a kind word. He just said thank you and the question ended right there. It’s just professionals being professional.

  22. I didn’t answer your question because I see how convoluted my response was. So I’ll answer it now: if David Duke were president and if I were running for Senate and if Duke endorsed me, I would just ignore him, which is what I wish Romney had done. But ignoring him wouldn’t be the only way not to accept an endorsement. I could also mutter a terse thank-you and let it drop there. I wouldn’t, but then I’m not a career politician who has to find a way to work not only with him, but with the other leaders of his party.

  23. I understand that you have to work with someone you disagree with–and thanking them for someone for their support is a way to do this. But isn’t this a blatant example of political expediency, given Romney’s 2016 tweet and speech? If so, that’s the main problem I have with this.

  24. if David Duke were president and if I were running for Senate and if Duke endorsed me, I would just ignore him, which is what I wish Romney had done.

    I wish he did that, too.

  25. Some thoughts supporting Mitchell’s position:

  26. Trump Suggest Arming Teachers

    Frankly, the idea is an insane one to me. It’s disturbing to actually hear Trump articulate his thinking on this.

    3/1/2018

    I take this as a sign that arming teachers is a bad idea.

  27. Profile of Mueller and Trump Feels like Something From a Movie

    Like much of Trump’s campaign and presidency, this WaPo profile feels like something from a novel or movie. Indeed, I’m a little wary of the writers succumbing to an irresistible narrative. Specifically, we have two opposite, powerful individuals on a path toward a showdown between them. There must be at least some temptation to gussy up the differences between them and to build up each one as towering figures.
    I admit, I find the dramatic profiling and story line to be fairly compelling.

    One thing I’ll say. If Mueller’s profile is accurate, Trump’s attack on him is despicable.Again, if the report is accurate, Mueller comes across as a real-life Jimmy Stewart character out of a Capra movie.

  28. Trump Wants to Arm Some Teachers

    I wasn’t going to create a post for Trump’s comments on this, but some of them have been remarkable, in a bad way. Here’s a recent one I saw:

    About the recent school shooting, Trump said this:

    Edit: Maybe this time will be different (2/27/2018)

    Two things stand out from the article below: 1) The students in the AP Government class recently studied lobbying groups, including the NRA, specifically, around the time of the shooting; 2) Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS seems like a really good public school, almost a private school, where the students come from homes that are well off and/or highly-educated. (The teacher featured in the article taught AP Government exclusively.) Both of these points explain why some of these student protesters have been articulate and savvy. That shooting occurred at this school, when some of the students were studying the NRA, might actually lead to meaningful changes, reducing mass shootings and gun deaths. At least I hope it does.

  29. Several comments:

    1. One takeaway from this is that this reinforces the impression that Trump really has no real commitment or conviction to a political philosophy, a part of feels like this is partly due to Trump being shallow, intellectually and in terms of character. When it comes to political ideology or policy, he’s almost like a leaf blowing in the wind. To add more evidence, Trump changed political parties five times since the 80s (including joining the Independence Party), according to this Washington Times article.

    2. I’ve been using a hypothesis to help me understand Trump–namely, Trump believes anything that favors himself is true, good and anything that doesn’t is dishonest and bad. Similarly, Trump will use words, concepts, and principles in whatever way that puts him in a favorable light or gives him the advantage. One day he can use a principle to defend himself or someone in his camp, and the next day he can decry that same principle.

    3. Both points seem like exaggerations, the product of someone so biased against Trump that they are incapable of objective, rational assessment. Even if there is a lot of evidence for the first two points, holding those views just seems extreme and irrational. A reasonable person will likely feel uncomfortable holding those views. This is a big problem, and it also provides protection for Trump.

    4. Based on the #1 and #2, I actually don’t put much stock in what Trump said–in the sense that Trump will actually act upon what he said. My sense is that nothing will come of this–it’s all just hot air. What he said is still bad–it shows he doesn’t understand or believe in fundamental principles of our system of government AND he’s oblivious that he’s revealing to this to everyone. But in a few days, if he recants or says the opposite, I won’t be surprised, and, again, I doubt this has any substantive impact on legislation.

    3/1/2018

    Follow-up:

    3/3/2018

  30. Trump Announces Implementing Steel Tariffs

    3/2/2018

    Edit: “You don’t typically hear a president argue for raising tariffs by announcing that he’s starting a trade war and then trying to spin his trade war as a good thing for the country.”

    This hadn’t occurred to me initially, but the point is a good one. It’s also insane.

    3/8/2018: Update on Status of Steel Tariffs

    1. Harley-Davidson also announced that it’s planning to move a bunch of its manufacturing off shore in order to remain competitive in Europe. The tarrifs will add more than $2000 to the cost of each motorcycle in Europe, and rather than raise prices that much, the company’s going to absorb the cost, which a healthy company like Harley can probably handle for a while. But that’s 40,000 bikes per year, and what they say will cost the company tens of millions of dollars over the next year. It’s going to take 9 to 18 months to complete the offshore move. Harley’s stock dropped 5% the day after the announcement.

    2. Interesting and entertaining Planet Money podcast on tariffs–specifically, the Smoot-Hawley Bill, which imposed many (100s) tariffs on imported foreign goods. (20 minutes)

      Couple things that stood out:

      1. About a thousand economists at the time warned that this was a bad idea;
      2. Almost everything they predicted came true;
      3. It took decades to undue the mess (to global and domestic economy, I assume).

  31. Good point.

  32. Why Failing to Divest From Businesses is a Big Deal

    I know someone who doesn’t really care if Trump and his family use the presidency to personally enrich themselves, as long as they serve the country well. On some level, I think this isn’t unreasonable. But if you’re not bothered by corruption, there’s another problem, which this tweet succinctly explains:

    Here are the specifics:

    Jared Kushner’s father made a direct pitch to the Qatari government in an attempt to secure an investment in a Kushner Companies asset in April 2017—just weeks before his son is said to have backed a Saudi blockade of Qatar, according to a report in The Intercept. Kushner’s father, Charles, who heads up the real-estate company, is reported to have met Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif in New York last year to discuss financing the company’s troubled 666 Fifth Ave. office tower. A month after the failed negotiations, Jared Kushner reportedly advised President Trump to back a blockade against Qatar, with Trump later tweeting in June that the country funded “radical ideology.”

    That property has significant debt, and they’ve been trying to get investment in it. (Some Chinese group was set to invest, but then pulled out. ) Did Kushner and Trump support the blockade because the Qatari finance minister didn’t help the Kushner’s family? The fact that we can’t answer that clearly is a big, big problem. I believe Trump has businesses in the Phillipines (and the U.S. Ambassador is Trump’s business partner), Turkey, India, and other countries. How can we know if his foreign policies is in the best interests in the U.S. or himself?

    Edit:

    More from NBC News: Mueller Team Asking If Kushner Foreign Business Ties Influenced Trump Policy

    Mueller not only looking into interactions with Qatar, but Turkey, China, and Russia as well.

    Debt on Kushner’s 666 5th Avenue property is “roughly $1.4 billion…due in 2019.”

    Kushner’s divestment from his family’s company before taking a job in the White House was limited. He allowed his brother to oversee his assets and transferred a trust to his mother, rather than removing his financial interests from his family. According to government ethics filings, he still holds as much as $761 million in real estate and other investments.

    Under U.S. law, it is illegal to for any government employee, including someone being considered for an advisory role, to render advice based on financial interest.

  33. I Wonder if Democrats Would Lose Interest in Impeaching Trump if This Happened

    That is, let’s say Trump start implementing a lot of policies the Democrats favored–maybe even including appointing judges the Democrats favored. I doubt this would happen, but for argument’s sake, if it did, would Democrats lose interest in impeachment? Would they lose interest in Russian interference/conspiracy? I’d like to think not, but I’m not 100% sure, either.

  34. I try to follow a wide range of people on twitter, especially in terms of politics–including people I don’t really agree with. One of them is the conservative talk show host, Hugh Hewitt. While I want opinions from people I don’t agree with, sometimes what they say makes me question if they’re worth following. Here’s an example:

    The two things that stand out for me:

    1. “He still is” (Trump is better than Hillary)
    2. The implication would be more receptive to Never Trump conservatives if they weren’t so strongly against him and
    3. The idea that Trump, himself, didn’t do things to deserve strong opposition from Never Trump conservatives.

    Two other tweets, especially the second one, by two other people provide an important context for point #1:

    The possibility that Trump, on a whim, out of anger–without due dilligence, ignoring advisers–could order an attack on North Korea is not a far-fetched notion in my opinion. Senator Corker said publicly that he was worried Trump could accidently start World War III. And yet, Trump is still better than Clinton. And I could list many, many other things. How can we see things so differently?

    As for #2 and #3, I guess it goes to show that we just have really different perceptions and understanding of Trump; and maybe my understanding/perception is the wrong one.

  35. The Thinking Behind This Drives Me Crazy

    The premise here seems to be: Since the coverage and reaction to Trump is so negative, the coverage and reaction is unfair and inappropriate. It’s often used as proof that the media has it in for Trump. What’s not asked is if Trump has done anything to warrant the negative coverage/reaction. Here’s a simple test. What kind of coverage/reaction would you expect if a president did the following:

    • Refused to release tax forms and divest businesses, while promoting family business in a variety of ways
    • Publicly argue with two(!) goldstar families
    • Appoint a white nationalist to your administration
    • Call press “enemy of the people,” denigrate intelligence community by comparing them to Nazis, firing FBI director for investigating your administration

    And I could go on. I’d expect the coverage and reaction to be really negative. Many Americans would be highly critical, and that would be justified and appropriate in my view.

  36. Identity and Group Affiliation Trumps Political Principles and Ideology

    I’m reading a poli-sci book, with the premise that group identity, based on things like culture and ethnicity drive a person’s politics far more than political principles and ideology. I feel like Trump’s presidency really reveals this. If we broke down the ratio of those driven by principle and those driven by political tribalism, what would that figure be? 4/6? 3/7? 2/8? I’d guess something like 3/7 or maybe 4/6, which might not be all that bad.

    In a way, the tribal approach isn’t so unreasonable. The issues are complex. The information needed to evaluate politicians is limited. The time and energy to become informed about all of these matters is unreasonably high, and the value of doing so seems very limited. A tribal approach is a short-cut that makes some sense. Still, it’s not a good way to participate in politics, even if it may be largely inevitable for many people.

    One of my hopes has been to find ways to make political participation based more on good information, quality discussion, and, yes, conviction in principles. But I also realize that this is limited, maybe to a degree that can be demoralizing.

  37. America Needs Congressional Republicans to be Patriotic and Heroic

    Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy and our nation–and likely the entire world. We are under attack by Russian and other authoritarian regimes are on the rise. The two things are linked because Trump is acting more like an authoritarian than a POTUS. He’s doing little to push back against Russia or protect the upcoming elections.

    The group of Americans that the country needs right now are the congressional Republicans (and conservative media). If they stay true to their conservative principles and put country before party, they would speak out and even push back against Trump (e.g., hold public hearings about his finances, start considering impeachment, etc.) This would signal to moderates and Americans who don’t pay close attention to politics that Trump’s problems aren’t simply a product of partisanship. That is, there is something really wrong with Trump. These Americans can become open to impeachment and it can mitigate the chaos that an impeachment would cause. Additionally, it would signal to the world that Republicans and Democrats stand united against authoritarianism, not to mention populism and ethno-nationalism; that we have a system that built on the rule of law, separation of powers, democratic institutions like the free press, and respect for all people.

    We could take on the challenges above, if we had a handful of congressional Republicans doing this. But we don’t. What we have is something like this:

    Let me say one last thing. I believe now is the time, before midterm elections are completed, for a handful of them to take a stand and start speaking out and opposing Trump. I’m worried that huge divisions can occur during and after the midterms, and it might be too later or too difficult for congressional Republicans to do much at that point.

  38. One Shouldn’t be Shocked, but Sometimes it Happens

    Because I trust Haberman’s read on Trump, the following was jarring:

    One reaction from me seeing this: “We’re screwed.” He’s delusional.

    Here’s the positive take: Trump is getting really confident and is finally forming a team around him that he’s comfortable with and that can implement his vision. If you’re confident that Trump knows what he’s doing, these actions may be a good thing. I think there’s very little evidence that he knows what he’s doing, though. But I’m open to hearing a case for this.

  39. We’ve been screwed for 14 months.

    As for this being the time for Congressional Republicans to take a stand, I think I also disagree with this. The time was a year ago, or more. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t welcome something like what you’re suggesting right now, but geez. What makes now more critical than any time in the past year?

    I’m really tempted to say the actual time is when this thing comes to trial, if it ever does. Impeach the guy and make that your time to do the right thing. As long as it comes to that (and doesn’t take 3 more years), I have very little hope for any kind of “courage.”

  40. What makes now more critical than any time in the past year?

    This is a legitimate question. Here’s my answer.

    1. I’m really worried about Trump agreeing to meet with Kim Jong Un, not just the fact that he agreed to this, but the way this decision was made, including the way Trump either didn’t have input from experts or ignored them. Reading comments from experts about this decision–that it’s something the Kim regime has always wanted and the significance of that; the way Trump is being played; and the enormous amount of planning that takes place for these type of meetings–knowing that Trump either won’t do this or will botch it up, especially since we have no ambassador to South Korea, and a long time expert recently resigned. Add to this the fact that what could result if the talks fail–if Kim doesn’t denuclearize, which is almost guaranteed–this could precipitate into war. This impression is further strengthened by reports that Trump may choose John Bolton as the next National Security Adviser (replacing McMaster); specifically, Bolton has reportedly acknowledged that the talks will likely fail and that will provide the justification for a military strike. For me, this is one of the most dispiriting points in the administration, which is saying something because there were many opportunities for that. I almost want to close my eyes, and just lose myself in some other distraction.

    2. One effort to reassure people has been that the people around Trump would prevent him from doing something foolish. Those people seem to be leaving the administration. I’m not sure if you saw my post of Maggie Haberman’s tweet today, but in her view Trump becoming “unglued” is happening because Trump now feels confident that he knows what he’s doing, whereas in the first six months he was unsure and even afraid. If all of this is true, this is scary. If the people who have held Trump in check are leaving, then I think the congressional Republicans have to step up to the plate.

    3. Congressional Republicans have to stand up now to Trump–to not only safeguard the upcoming elections, but they can lay the groundwork to mitigate against Trump’s likely attacks on the elections, press, and other government institutions. I’m saying this because I’m anticipating close elections with either actual or perceived election interference, and Trump politicizing this. My sense is that if a handful of Republicans stand up and oppose Trump now, they can do things like protect the elections or expose or lay the ground work for Trump’s removal. (For example, if they agree to look at his tax forms–and there are damning revelations, etc.)

    If Trump starts a war or if he really undermines the elections, I think both situations could lead to a point where he can secure his power. A Democratic wave is the biggest threat to that power. I’m worried he’s not doing anything about securing the elections as a way to help him thwart that.

    The one thing I agree with you: Republicans should have stood up a long time ago. But there are critical points, ones that might be last opportunities. I’m not 100% sure we’re at that point now, but it sure feels like it

    What do you think?

  41. I sympathize with your point of view, but honestly, I don’t know how alarmed to be by anything. Where we’re at now doesn’t feel more urgent to me than at any other point in the past year. Plus, feeling like something must be done is futile, because there’s nothing to be done by me. You can fly to purple states and campaign if you want, but I’d rather try to do something that makes a difference in people’s lives. Like provide comfort when things really go kablooie.

  42. You could be right–maybe the difference between now and other situations in the past year or so aren’t really that different. It feels different to me, though, and I’ve been following this pretty closely.

  43. Here’s another way of saying #2 above. Trump is putting in place people who agree with him, including in a sycophantic way. In a way, that’s reasonable, because a president should choose people he trusts and that shares his vision. But since I don’t think Trump really knows what he’s doing, that he puts himself far above the country, and that he’s running the presidency like a reality TV show, I’m worried about these new changes.

  44. This is one of the changes that unnerves me

    Also, the idea that Trump didn’t like Bolton because of his mustache–that it will be a serious issue–just goes to show how nuts everything is.

  45. Here’s how I think we should fight Trump and authoritarian threat in the rest of the world

    I’ve written about this idea before, but I’ve been thinking about this more, especially when the never-ending deluge of bad things by the Trump administration hits me on a daily basis. When you stop to express concern or outrage about one specific incident, you’re hit by several others, and this happens constantly! It’s overwhelming, and I’m beginning to think that commenting on these things, as a way to oppose Trump, is futile.

    I have another approach to suggest. Instead of focusing on all the bad things Trump has done, I would recommend we focus on aspects of our government and country, drawing from history, that make America great–things like the rule of law, the separation of powers and the respect for inalienable rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. These are ideas we take for granted, and I suspect many Americans don’t know the historical context of the founding of our government, or if we know them, we should revisit and seek to understand them more deeply. Part of this should also involve looking at individual Americans who best exemplify these ideals, who have done the most to build, strengthen and perpetuate our political system and ideals. We should find the stories of these Americans that stir our sense of pride and patriotism. The general idea is this: Let’s a big campaign to not only reacquaint Americans to our political ideals, but let’s create a massive level of enthusiasm and excitement over them. Some examples could include, outdoor concerts featuring music and speeches, with participants representing red and blue America; TV shows about American history; the former US presidents and politicians, both Democrat and Republican, could go around promoting this campaign. To me, this would be a better way to oppose Trump–and not only him but help us deal with authoritarians like Putin. Let me provide some specifics:

    • Help unify the country. We are so divided now. We need something to bring us together. Our system of government and the principles behind them is something that can bring all Americans together, and this can happen if we can find the best anecdotes that showcase these ideals.
    • Create a contrast between Trump administration. I believe doing this will provide a strong contrast between the Trump and his administration and the values and ideals Americans strongly value. If many Americans–from the left and right, Republicans and Democrats–are focusing and celebrating these ideals and values, that will indirectly pressure Trump and his followers to do the same. The contrast might even make shame congressional Republicans and conservative pundits who support Trump. And if it doesn’t, every actions and word that stands in contrast with American ideals and value will stand out more starkly.
    • Prepare US to lead the world and fight against authoritarianism. If many Americans are rooted and excited about these political ideals, that can inspire our politicians to fight against authoritarianism in other parts of the world. If the world sees Americans, red and blue, coming together and celebrating these ideals, that can brighten the light we’re suppose to be shining to them.
    1. What I think won’t reach enough people–especially those not really into politics–but should: This is another in a long list of indicators that the President is dangerously incompetent and unfit to govern.

      Hardcore supporters of Trump will say this is proof that people are out to get Trump. I would note first that Trump appointed Rosenstein, who also happens to be a registered Republican. Second, the key question that should be asked is, is there credible evidence and compelling reasons that members of the administration would seriously considering wearing a wire when speaking to the President, and that they considered invoking the 25th Amendment? This may not mean much, but the evidence is overwhelming or at least far from scarce.

  46. Sessions Fires McCabe Two Days Before McCabe’s Retirement

    My firing is based on recommendations from the Inspector General in the Department of Justice (?) and the Office of Professional Responsibility (from FBI?). I assume the former is tasked with investigating any individual or person that may involving wrong-doing, while the latter sounds like a entity that does something similar.

    What I’m hearing is that even with this recommendation, it’s highly unusual to fire an FBI agent under these circumstance (which I assume involves the proximity to retirement). Therefore, the reasons for the recommendation should be really compelling, to an extraordinary degree, to justify the firing. Right now, we don’t know what’s in the report.

    However, this is what the Trump tweeted after the decision:

    My understanding is that Trump tweeted negative comments or threats to McCabe prior to this. Here’s one from last December:

    The point is, if the recommendation to fire McCabe was done independently, for reasons that don’t involve politics, Trump creating the opposite impression. That’s obviously bad. How do we know the Trump DOJ/FBI will act and behave in an independent, trustworthy fashion?

    Thread:

    3/17/2018

    Read this from a former Inspector General at DOJ, Michael Bromwich:

    Trump tweeted again:

    Trump’s lawyer joins in:

    “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier,” Dowd then wrote.

    Rosenstein five days ago:

    Rosenstein, who is overseeing the probe because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from matters related to the 2016 campaign, has publicly defended and praised Mueller’s work. Five days ago, he told USA Today, “The special counsel is not an unguided missile… I don’t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel.”

    Interesting insights into process of FBI agents being examined by FBI’s Office of Personal Responsibility from a former FBI special agent.

  47. Trump on a Path to Fire Mueller

    At least the trajectory clearly points in that direction to me. In addition to the comments by Trump and his attorney in the previous post, Trump had another tweet today:

    I think firing Mueller (or Rosenstein and Sessions) is poses a huge threat to our democracy.

    ***

    Important context for Trump’s tweets today:

    3/19/2018

    A tweet from yesterday:

    Former Under Secretary of State in Obama administration:

    I agree with him, and I’m nervous about this.

    Today:

    Thread from Darmouth Poli-sci prof (See retweets as well.)

    Edit

    Senators Hatch and Cornyn are fooling themselves if they think that just because a move is stupid, Trump won’t do it. Trump has already done foolish things, many of which have been against the advice of people around him. There’s already reports that Trump tried to fire Mueller last year, but his staff had to push back hard against this. Congressional Republicans can’t claim to not have known, not had any idea, that Trump would fire Mueller (or Rosenstein or Sessions)–if Trump does do any of this (which I hope he doesn’t).

    3/20/2018

  48. Fox News Commentator Excoriates Fox News

    Colonel Ralph Peters, a commentator on Fox News, has written a damning letter, explaining why he will no longer be working at the outlet. I highly recommend reading it.

    Some excerpts:

    In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller–all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations– I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.

    As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin’s agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign. Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the “nothing-burger” has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true–that’s how the Russians do things. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.

    (emphasis added)

    The country needs more conservatives like this, willing to speak out.

  49. Read this is in the context of Maggie Haberman’s comments in the 3/13 post above–namely, that Trump is feeling more confident, that he believes he’s finding his groove. On TV I heard Haberman say that there were actually people who would tell Trump “no” (e.g. Cohn, McMaster, Tillerson, etc.) and now Trump is removing them and replacing them with people who will acquiesce to him. To make matters worse, Bolton is ultra-hawkish–expressing this specifically in relation to North Korea and Iran. My understanding is that he’s advocated for war for both.

    My knee-jerk reaction to hearing about Bolton replacing McMaster:

    1. The chances of war just went up dramatically.
    2. The chances of a wag-the-dog situation just went up. I can’t put it past Trump to start a war or do something similar as a way to distract and get out of Mueller closing in.

    3. One crazy silver lining: Iran and North Korea may be drawing similar conclusions. They may begin to think Trump is unhinged. This could lead to bigger compromises on their part. In a way, we might see just how crazy Kim Jung-un actually is. If he’s rational, we might see attempts for him to compromise or find some way to prevent an attack (Rather than ratchet up and welcome something it). This “Mad Bomber” theory can work, but it’s a dangerous game. And it’s going to hurt, if not end, our credibility as a world leader.

    Also:

    Edit

    Thread from someone who worked for four National Security Advisers, in two presidential administrations, regarding John Bolton as National Security Adviser.

    “Make no mistake: this is the makings of a war cabinet.”

    Edit

    More on John Bolton. (Note: I’m unfamiliar with the person tweeting this, so keep that in mind.)

    More,

    3/23/2018

  50. Wiping Out Republicans in the Next Elections is Vital to the Health of our Democracy

    I saw the tweet below, and thought of this post:

    I didn’t read the article, but if the tweet accurately captures what happened, it’s indicative of what the GOP has been turning into. Specifically, Republicans care about power above almost all else. Democrats care about power and crushing Republicans, too, but they have maintained a healthier balance between obtaining power and standing by principles and doing what’s best for the country. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but that’s my impression.

    If I were wrong about the Republicans, I think there would be more investigations into Trump, and a path to impeachment would be clearer, maybe imminent at this point.

    I fear they will not change unless they suffer massive electoral losses. I think we need this to bring in conservatives who will compromise and make deals and not just try to win at the expense of the country. Our government can get back on track if this happens (so long as the results of election are honored and not attacked).

  51. I’m interested in hearing what you guys thought of the article linked in this tweet–especially the script news anchors were required to read. I’m disturbed by some aspects of the article, but what’s in the script and requiring anchors to read it isn’t one of them. It seem like the policy of the news outlet, and the policy seems appropriate, if not commendable, to me. I’m wondering if you guys agree or disagree with that. (Now if they’re producing and requiring local stations to air pro-Trump segments, it would violate what was said in the script, and I’d object to that.)

    4/4/2018

    In a resignation letter he shared with CNNMoney, Simmons wrote that he has been required to air “several segments that have made me uncomfortable.” He cited “the news media bashing promo our local anchors have been required to read” as the most recent example.

    I didn’t take interpret the script as bashing news media, but I’m wondering if I’m being clueless. At the very least, if the statements below are accurate, then interpreting the script as bashing the news media is far more understandable:

    In late 2016, he became a producer on the morning show. He noticed requirements from corporate becoming more and more common. These are known as “must-runs:” National segments that local producers are told to air during their newscasts.

    One of the “must-runs,” the “Terrorism Alert Desk,” is a recurring segment about security threats. Critics call the segments alarmist and full of fear-mongering.

    Pro-Trump commentaries by former Trump campaign adviser Boris Epshteyn are another “must-run” feature.

    Simmons asserted that there isn’t a hunger for Epshteyn’s boosterish videos.

    “On YouTube, he only has a couple hundred views for some of his videos,” Simmons said. “On Facebook he’s not that popular either. To me that’s also a concern because Sinclair is forcing us to air these.”

    Simmons echoed what staffers at other stations have described: Top-down mandates to take up local news time with national stories that sometimes have a conservative bent.

  52. Can You Imagine a Good Leader Doing This?

    Think of a CEO, a general, a head coach, a principal, or anyone in charge of a large institution. If one of their sections in their organization wasn’t performing well, would any of them publicly criticize them like this? What I’d expect from a good leader is for that leader to address the problem internally and really not say anything publicly, unless they were forced to; and in the event of the latter, a good leader would be far more diplomatic.

    I’ve heard others say that Trump is trying to undermine the faith in the FBI and DOJ, and he’s doing this to de-legitimize any revelations that hurt Trump. This may sound like a partisan accusation, but is there another explanation?

    On a side note, if there isn’t another reasonable explanation, I can’t help feel frustrated that the mainstream media seems to treat this rhetoric from Trump as if they’re relatively normal and acceptable. If Trump is acting more like an authoritarian, attempting to undermine the institutions that can hold him accountable, it seems wrong for the mainstream press to be treating this as something relatively normal.

  53. This Seems Like a Good Development

    What’s a bit of a mystery is why the Trump administration does this, while Trump, himself, doesn’t really say anything negative or critical about Russia.

  54. Totally Predictable

    Or at least we should have been expecting this:

    Where’s the Tea Party?

  55. This Seems Like a Big Deal

    My understanding is that Southern District of New York is the one that raided Michael Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room, not Muller’s team. However, it sounds like Mueller passed on information to the SDNY.

    Also, from what I understand, because of attorney-client privileges, the process for obtaining a warrant is more stringent, so the fact that SDNY got a warrant for this is a big deal.

    Information on Stormy Daniels is only one part of this investigation.

    I’m wondering if this could tip Trump to do something more drastic to stop the investigation or cause a huge diversion (e.g., launch a military strike).

    Also:

    and

    Edit

    Trump equating this raid with an “attack on our country in a true sense.”
    Trump repeatedly calling the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.”
    Trump saying this is really unfair, citing that this is spurred by Democrats (and a few Republicans)–Comey, Mueller–Republicans. Trump appointed Rosenstein and Sessions (obviously). The Attorney in the SDNY also was appointed by Trump (and Trump broke protocol by interviewing him).

    Time to ask Congressional Republicans what they will do if Trump fires Mueller or Rosenstein.

    I didn’t realize the following:

    Could there be wrongdoing/illegality relating to the RNC?

    Edit

    As I think Haberman has a good feel of the pulse of Trump and his staff, I think this is worth paying attention to:

    4/26/2018

    Trump trying to distance himself from Michael Cohen. To me, he’s flailing in a ridiculous way.

  56. Testing Credibility of the Claim

    “headed by Democratic loyalists”

    Also, Trump appointed Rosenstein as DAG. Rosenstein selected Mueller as Special Counsel. Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey precipitated the appointment of the Special Counsel.

    “Fake and corrupt Russian investigation”

    I have a hard time remembering the number of indictments on Trump campaign officials and/or those cooperating with Mueller via plea deal. Public knowledge about backgrounds of Michael Flynn (whom Trump chose as National Security Adviser, who lied about talking to Russian ambasssador), Paul Manafort, Carter Page all raise red flags with regard to ties to Russia. There have been many lies about contacts with Russians from Trump campaign. Donald Trump Jr. met with Russians to get dirt on Hillary Clinton…Jr. also discussed campaign tactics with wikileaks…There’s enough to weaken credibility of claim that Russia investigation “fake and corrupt.”

    “Mueller is most conflicted of all”

    Not sure what he’s talking about, but Mueller widely respected on both sides of the aisle. Look what Newt Gingrich, who has reputation for saying outrageous, partisan claims, said when Mueller was appointed:

    Similar summary:

  57. Why Firing Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General, Should Alarm Us

    From The Atlantic:

    The notion of independent law enforcement is an attempt to prevent the coercive powers of the state from being deployed as the playthings of those in power—to advantage and protect friends (and themselves) and to punish enemies. If the president can, with impunity, remove the deputy attorney general because he refuses to go after Clinton on the basis of the manufactured nonsense that litters Fox News and because he insists on allowing serious investigators to do serious work on serious criminal matters involving the president and his coterie, the very notion that law enforcement has a higher function than serving power becomes a lie.

    Also, Why It’s Far Worse for Trump to Fire Rosenstein Than to Fire Mueller. The whole thing is worth reading, but here’s an excerpt:

    Removing Rosenstein and replacing him with a DAG who is at the very least more sympathetic to Trump could have drastic repercussions on the investigation. The new DAG could burden the Special Counsel with a requirement to provide an explanation for every move he makes, and then decide that they aren’t necessary or appropriate. In fact, since Mueller is required to provide the DAG with at least three days’ notice in advance of any “significant event” in the investigation, she would have plenty of time to intervene and challenge Mueller’s actions (and a less scrupulous DAG could even leak Mueller’s plans to the White House or others). A new DAG would even have the ultimate—er, trump card: she could decide at some point that the investigation should not even continue at all.

    Edit

  58. Rosenstein Firing Watch

    From the NBC report above:

    The level of concern about Rosenstein’s fate is so significant that, within the past 24 hours, a group of more than 100 former Department of Justice career officials organized a statement telling Congress to be ready to take action.

    The officials, who’ve served under both Republicans and Democrats, include former U.S. attorneys John McKay of Washington and Kevin Techau of Iowa.

    “Many of us served with Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein,” says the statement, obtained by NBC News.

    “We know the people who serve at the Department will bravely weather these attacks and continue to uphold their oaths by doing only what the law dictates,” it says.

    “But it is up to the rest of us, and especially our elected representatives, to come to their defense and oppose any attempt by the President or others to improperly interfere in the Department’s work, including by firing either Mr. Mueller, Mr. Rosenstein or other Department leadership or officials for the purpose of interfering in their investigations,” the officials say.

    “Should the President take such a step, we call on Congress to swiftly and forcefully respond to protect the founding principles of our Republic and the rule of law,” the letter says.

  59. Has There Ever Been a Time When Discerning Satire From Real Life Was So Difficult?

    I really can’t tell if this is an actual excerpt from Comey’s new book:

    I’m also not sure what to feel if it is real. On one level, it’s hilarious. Still, if it’s real, I question Comey’s approach here, as his style amps up snark and facetiousness up to 11….On some level, I think it would weaken his credibility; the approach makes it harder to take him seriously.

  60. Trump Orders Airstrikes in Syria

    No way. I go a little crazy when I hear information like this.

  61. Micheal Cohen Raid the Beginning of the End of Trump Presidency?

    Adam Davidson makes the case in the article below. He sets his claim in an interesting way, comparing it to situations after 2004 Iraq invasion and the time before 2008 financial crisis. In both situations, Davidson argues that people closely studying the situation knew that something bad was going to happen. He feels the same about the Trump Presidency now–namely , that he feels strongly the Presidency is basically finished.

    Where I’m less certain than Davidson is how Trump supporters, GOP Congress, and conservative media will respond, when the nation gets a clearer picture of Donald Trump, business, and ties to shady characters, including Russians.

  62. Man, if this is true. I don’t watch Hannity, but my understanding is that he has pushed Kremlin narratives, defended Assange. This sounds very close to Fox News pundits coordinating with Russian intelligence. Again, if the above is correct.

    Edit

    Also, this:

  63. Until “non-zero” becomes zero — or 100 percent —(of Russians having influence over Trump)–there is an obligation on the part of the media and government investigators to figure out what in the world is going on here.

    I totally agree with these points.

    Another way to look at this. If the next POTUS is in a similar set of circumstances with regard to a country like Russia, should the press and government vigorously and urgently get to the bottom of the matter? I think everyone would say yes. We have very good reasons to believe that Russia has significant influence over Trump–that is, they can pressure and control his actions based on some compromising information or some possibility for future reward (as in business deal or monetary payment). We need to clear this matter up–investigate until we know this is not the case or that it is. Congress could start by looking at Trump’s taxes. They could hold public hearings, calling in witnesses. The press also needs to vigorously pursue this, as well.

  64. Interviews with James Comey

    Here’s Jake Tapper’s interview:

    A few comments.

    1. I agree with Jake about Comey’s use of “possibility” with regard to Russia having compromising material on Trump. Jake suggests that this is not really fair to Trump–as it seems rather unfounded and glib. Comey using the word does seem inappropriate–or at least very odd. However, my sense is that what Comey is saying, ultimately, is that he has what he feels are good reasons–but not necessarily hard evidence–that Russians might have compromising information on Trump (and he mentions some of the reasons in the interview). Hence, he’s not using the word without any compelling reason–it’s not the same as saying it’s possible that green aliens are on other planets. I don’t think Comey really does a great job of explaining this, though.

    2. Comey seems really credible and candid and fairly open–or at least not really evasive or disingenuous. Specifically, I think he’s credible with regard to being someone who has done his job in a non-partisan way. I hear former FBI and CIA personnel speak about approaching their work in this way, and I believe that Comey did his job like this, for the most part–including his time when Trump was the president. And if I’m wrong, I think he’s really good at creating that impression (and he should consider running for politics). I’m probably too biased at this point, but I have a hard time believing that people can believe that Trump is actually more believable and credible than Comey.

    3. I’ve heard others remark that Tapper was fairly tough on Comey, and I tend to agree with that. It was tough in a way that showed sympathy with Trump, and I also think this was appropriate and fair. If Tapper and CNN was out to get Trump, this interview doesn’t really back up that claim.

    4. Tapper asks would America be better off if Clinton won, and Comey says he doesn’t really know or can’t answer that. Maybe he was being evasive here, although if that’s the case, he has a good way of doing this. If he was being evasive, a part of me wonders if he things that the country might be in the same position–if not worse–because he doesn’t think very well of Clinton. (Comey is, or was, until recently, a Republican.) This could very well be the case. For me, I think America could actually be in worse shape if Clinton won–but that’s primarily because of how I expect the Republicans, conservative media, and Trump to behave if Clinton won.

  65. DNC Lawsuit Alleges Conspiracy Between Trump Campaign and Russia

    I didn’t read the article–I didn’t want to. My reaction to hearing this action was a bit of ambivalence, but more on the negative side. But then I saw this tweet:

    <

  66. He’s testing the waters, prepping the guillotine

  67. If Some Catastrophe Occurs, We Can’t Claim There Were No Warning Signs

    For example,

    I’m not sure if you guys have been following the coverage that presents the type of information above, but there is a lot of it. Maybe it’s just me, but the comments above, especially the details about what must be to done to get Trump to read intelligence reports, seem insane to me. This is the POTUS we’re talking about here. Maybe details like this wouldn’t matter if everything was going smoothly, if Trump demonstrated competence, but the opposite is the case. There’s so much out there that Trump is unfit, incompetent, a danger, someone who doesn’t respect the rule of law, our system of government. No one can credibly claim that there was no way of knowing this.

  68. This Doesn’t Seem Fair

    Nyhan seems to be a voice of reason and moderation on twitter, eschewing outlandish statements. The above isn’t outlandish, but I feel like it’s a bit unfair. Here’s what he was responding to:

    Not to state the obvious, but I don’t think any Trump supporter had this in mind when Trump said he would “drain the swamp.” One might argue that one could or should have known that draining the swamp would never happen. I think you could make a strong case for this, but saying that Trump supporters couldn’t expect that Trump would clean up Washington goes too far in my view.

    Finally, voting for a politician doesn’t mean supporting everything about the politician. I would say that almost never happens. Indeed, I’m pretty sure we vote for politicians that have qualities or support policies that we don’t like. To point out the flaws or bad policies or actions and then claim that supporters wanted this seems unfair and silly.

  69. Really Disturbing Stuff

    I watched some of Trump’s phone interview on Fox and Friends. Not only does he sound unhinged, but he’s showing once again that he believes it’s OK to interfere in the DOJ/FBI investigation that involves his campaign, and possibly himself–and he’s sending very strong signals that he may step in and somehow interfere or even stop the investigation. Trump seems to think since he believes the investigation is unfair and unfounded–a “witch hunt”–he would be justified in putting a stop to it. That would make him above the law. He’s totally unfit to be POTUS by this alone.

    See quotes below from a Politico article about the interview.

    Because of the fact that they have this witch hunt going on with people in the Justice Department that shouldn’t be there, they have a witch hunt against the president of the United States going on, I‘ve taken the position, and I don’t have to take this position, and maybe I’ll change, that I will not be involved with the Justice Department,” Trump said in a wide-ranging interview with “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning.

    “I will wait until this is over. It is a total, it is all lies and it is a horrible thing that is going on, a horrible thing,” the president continued.

    Later,

    “It is a total, it is all lies and it is a horrible thing that is going on, a horrible thing,” he said of the Mueller probe. “And yet I have accomplished, with all of this going on, more than any president in the first year in our history. Everybody, even the enemies and haters admit that.“

    During Trump’s attack on the Justice Department, “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy challenged Trump over his attack on the DOJ.

    “It is your Justice Department, Mr. President, you’re the Republican in charge of, you got a Republican running it,” Doocy said.

    The comment didn’t stop Trump from continuing to express his disappointment with the department and doubling down that he may get involved with the DOJ’s probe.

    “I have decided I won’t be involved,” he said. “I may change my mind at some point because what is going on is a disgrace.”

    and

    “You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it’s a disgrace,“ he said. “And our Justice Department, which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won’t, our Justice Department should be looking at that kind of stuff, not the nonsense of collusion with Russia. There is no collusion with me and Russia. And everyone knows it.“

    If you have the stomach for it, or you’re interested in seeing for yourself if he’s unhinged, here’s the interview:

    If Hillary Clinton or a Democrat behaved this way, GOP and Fox News would be going nuts. The impeachment process might have already begun at this point.

  70. DAG Rod Rosenstein Responds to Some Republicans Threatening to Impeach Him

    At about the 1:40 mark, Rosenstein says some important things about our system of government–something I that I consider a critical part of our American identity. It’s something Trump has been actively undermining, with either assistance or failure to push back from Republicans.

    I applaud Rosenstein for saying this, and I will admire him as an American if he is able to stick by what he says.

  71. Hot take

    Well, I don’t know if it is, but I’ll let others decide. I’ll write the take after the quotes.

    While I don’t support the dismantling of the departments, in general, as long as Trump didn’t violate laws or ethics, I feel like attempting to dismantle the departments or just drastically cut back on regulations is his prerogative. If a POTUS believes that is the best thing for the government and the nation, I think that would fall in the range of acceptable positions. Departments may become unnecessary or not worth having. Regulations may be too plentiful or onerous. People can have legitimate disagreements about this. However, Trump has to follow the laws and appropriate procedures for achieving this.

    To be clear, many people may strongly disagree with this step, but that doesn’t mean Trump should be removed from office because of this. In contrast, not revealing his tax forms, failing to divest his business, attacking the press and DOJ, FBI, and CIA, reckless handling of national security–these kinds of things, especially taken together–do warrant impeachment–or at least serious consideration of impeachment. But I see them in a different category as trying to drastically cut back regulations or even dismantle a department.

    Now, if he just appointed people who are grossly incompetent, that’s another issue. While that, by itself may not be impeachable, it could be something that seems like Congress could legitimately include as justification. At the very least, Trump would deserve harsh criticism for this.

  72. Pithy, Droll, and Spot on?

    I think this could be correct. Actually, if Trump had huge debts that would tie things together even more.

  73. Interesting thread on Trump Supporters

  74. Case in Point–Why Trump Failing to Divest His Business is a Big Deal

    If you don’t want to read the article, here’s a summary of the situation. The Chinese government gave a big loan to develop a big resort in Indonesia. A Trump hotel and golf course will be on that property–and Trump himself will personally profit from that.

    Trump recently announced that he’s going to help a Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE. They’ve been sanctioned by the Commerce Department for doing business with countries like North Korea–and those sanctions have really hurt them. Additionally, there are reports that ZTE poses a national security threat to the U.S., as the Chinese can use products to spy no Americans (or something to that effect).

    At the very least, this creates an appearance of conflict of interests. Is Trump helping ZTE because China will put money in Trump’s pockets? Or are there more legitimate reasons for this (e.g., getting cooperation from China to address problems with North Korea)? I don’t trust Trump at all, but even if you did, the problem is that the question is hard to answer. In other words, the American public will be left wondering if Trump really is acting in the best interests of the U.S. This is an awful situation–and has little to do with political ideology. No president, Democrat or Republican, should allow a situation like this. And this is only one of several ongoing examples. It’s outrageous! And the congressional GOP continue to give tacit approval of this.

  75. How Long Do We Have to Put Up With This?

    As far as I know, Trump hasn’t provided any evidence or reason to justify this. Indeed, given his track record, I’d assume he doesn’t have any justification–he’s just trying to undermine the investigation. This is similar to his accusation that Obama ordered wiretapping for the Trump Tower, and that the British intelligence assisted him. (Trump cited a report from Fox News regarding the latter.); or that there were improper unmasking of Trump officials from the Obama administration. None of this has been proven true. Trump has so little credibility–he’s also promised to have information about Obama not being born in the U.S. or that the US intelligence was wrong about Russian interference in the election. Of course, he didn’t provide any evidence. How long do we have to live with this? How long will Congress allow him to make baseless claims or interfere with the Russian investigation? It’s sickening.

    5/21/2018

    Soufan, a former FBI special agent, gives short explanation of the importance of independence of DOJ/FBI from White House, how policies and norms help ensure that.

    Edit

    Sen. Blumenthal is a Democrat, but I think he’s still right about the points he makes:

    5/23/2018

    Thread of some of the baseless accusations/conspiracies by Trump and Rep. Devin Nunes.

    5/29/2018

  76. Economic and Political Ramifications of Trump’s Attack on Amazon

    If you’re not bothered by authoritarian nature of Trump’s attack on Amazon, here are some economic and political reasons to be concerned:

  77. Trump Reveals Reason for Attacking the Press

    Some have compared Trump’s attacks on the press to dictators. If a dictator can successfully do this (or if they can take control over the press), discrediting the press so that people won’t believe or trust them, the holding the dictator accountable becomes very difficult. It seems a little nutty to suggest Trump is doing that. Personally, I think you can make a credible case for this. The clips below is one of the bits of evidence I’d use.

  78. Why the Media Needs to Talk About Norms Less

    Josh Marshall, from Talking Points Memo makes a compelling case in my opinion.

    Here’s his description of norms:

    They are like bumpers on the roads of our civic and political life which are there to keep people of basically good faith from crossing lines they shouldn’t cross. They can also be warning posts so others can see when someone is either going down a bad path or needs to be brought back into line.

    and why the press should talk about it less:

    But the problem with almost everything President Trump is doing today is not that he’s violating norms. The problem is that he is abusing his presidential powers to cover up his crimes and his associates’ crimes. Full stop. That’s the problem. The norms are just the orange rubber cones he knocked over when he drove out of his lane and headed for the crowded sidewalk.

    In other words, violating norms is not really conveying Trump’s behavior, which is much worse than simply violating norms.

    Here’s another problem:

    The other problem with “norms” – perhaps the really critical one – is that they can easily sound like some precious bureaucratic niceties which simply aren’t that important. I was listening to the aforementioned CNN segment and it started to sound like that to me – ornate concepts from a world of foreign or elusive proprieties. Who before Trump talked so much about “norms”? It can all sound frivolous and precious. Maybe you need a President who will upset the apple cart a bit and try new things?

  79. If you’re confused about who to believe, this might help

    Senator Jeff Flake is a Republican Senator. He’s not running again for office. Other Republicans who aren’t running seem to possess a liberty to speak negatively about Trump, and I think they’re worth listening to. Here’s a thread of some of things Flake said to Harvard law graduates.

  80. Memorial Day Tweets

    Amazing how Trump can turn a day like this and make it all about him.

    In contrast,

  81. Some important things for Americans to know about this:

    Before the election was over, Trump claimed it was “rigged” against him. He also wouldn’t say if he’d accept election results. If Obama put more emphasis on warning the American public about Russian interference, you can’t blame him for thinking that Trump would make a big stink about this.

    Obama approached Republican and Democratic leaders, with the CIA director, about standing together in a bipartisan way to speak out against Russian interference. Senator McConnell refused, saying he’d accuse Obama of trying to tip the scales.

    Consider the likely reaction from Fox News and people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter respond if Obama made a bigger deal of Russian interference.

    Take all of this together and many Trump supporters and Republicans in general might believe the election is rigged. Had Hillary won this could tear the country apart, as large numbers of Americans may not believe she won legitimately. Even if she lost, if the same numbers thought Obama was trying to tip the scales for Hillary, many might begin to think the government was out to get Trump–as many seem to now.

    I can’t read Obama’s mind, but it makes sense to me that he didn’t make a bigger deal of Russian interference during the election. What is clear, though, is that Republicans like McConnell and Trump have put their own interests ahead of the country’s.

  82. Serious Gaslighting or Delusion

    Even Brit Hume from Fox News, who has been a defender of Trump, is flabbergasted:

    People may laugh, but I think this is serious. I think there are people out there who believe Trump’s lies and many others who don’t know he’s saying these things or don’t fully know the significance. If Republicans and the press were more outraged that would signal that something was seriously wrong, and maybe more people would be upset….This tweet above made me think of that psychology experiment where they show a subject a picture of two lines one shorter than the other, and ask the person which one is longer. The person answers, but there are other people who are asked the question and they say the lines are the same size. After a while the first person begins to doubt his own eyes. I think Trump may be having this effect.

  83. I haven’t read the memo, but if the descriptions are accurate, I agree:

    I could tolerate Yglesias’s snark for once:

  84. Interesting thread on Trump’s approach to negotiations

    Parts of this sound right, but I’m not sure it gets everything right. Still, it’s interesting perspective, and it could be accurate.

  85. Sounds Like Trump Preparing Public to Pardon Himself

    If my reading is correct, this is outrageous–both the notion of pardoning himself and calling the investigation a “witch hunt.”

    I’ll leave with this:

  86. I found Giuliani unusually reasonable about this when he was on Meet the Press and This Week. He was still all over the place, as he tends to be lately, but at least he gave answers more like a lawyer and less like a politician. He said the officeholder would not pardon himself because (a) he hasn’t committed any crimes, and (b) it would mean impeachment, but he did seem to agree that it was in the power of the office to do so.

    My favorite moment was when Giuliani called Chuck Todd “Todd,” and then corrected himself, calling him, “Chris.”

    1. I found Giuliani unusually reasonable about this when he was on Meet the Press and This Week.

      You mean, enough to dispel or counter the impression that Trump believes he’s above the rule of law? If so, I’ll seek out those interviews.

  87. Uh, no. Just that as his lawyer, Giuliani has a debatable but sound legal perspective on all of this. He didn’t sound nearly as unhinged as he usually does.

    1. Sound legal perspective regarding a president’s ability to pardon himself? If so, I find it really hard to believe that the Constitution allows for this, and if it does, this is a massive flaw.

      1. No. He didn’t offer any rationale for it. Only that he thought the officeholder could “probably” pardon himself, but that he wouldn’t because (a) he hasn’t committed any crime and (b) it would mean impeachment.

        However, there is some stuff in the Post today about how lawyers have debated this questions as a thought experiment for a long time. They aren’t in completely agreement one way or the other.

        1. Only that he thought the officeholder could “probably” pardon himself,…

          I can’t help but feel that saying this at least implicitly suggests the act would be acceptable. Legal scholars may say that it is, but I find the idea absurd and appalling.

          I think Giuliani shouldn’t have even said the above. Even if he a reporter asked him directly for his opinion, he could have said something like, “It doesn’t matter what I think because the issue is moot–the President didn’t do anything wrong, and so he wouldn’t need to pardon himself.” The fact that Trump and his team are openly saying pardoning himself is OK is another strong indication that he and his supporters are unfit.

          1. Interesting. You know, I never understood the linguistic roots of the phrase “in good faith,” and I never made the connection between this phrase and “I will faithfully execute the duties…” but this writer clearly indicates that this is the meaning of “faithfully execute.” I’ve been wondering why people have been quoting that phrase all weekend in response to the presidential pardon question.

  88. Paul Ryan’s and Mitch McConnell’s response to whether Trump can pardon himself is the right one

    Ryan:

    “I don’t know the technical answer to that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn’t,” Mr. Ryan told reporters. “And no one is above the law.”

    McConnell:

    “He obviously knows that would not be something that he would or should do,” Mr. McConnell said.

    Ryan also pours cold water on the Trump’s “spygate” conspiracy theory, backing on Rep. Gowdy. These are two important things Ryan has said.

    For those not keeping score at home, this another false accusation made by Trump and Republicans like Rep. Devin Nunes that have seems to be false. In my eyes, they not only have zero credibility, but there is overwhelming evidence that they’re both acting in bad faith.

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