21 thoughts on “Journal During the Trump Regime (6)

  1. Journal During the Trump Regime (5)“>Thread on Mueller Report.

    Also, a twitter threa from Garry Kasaparov:

    The private-state nature of corrupt criminal dictatorships like Putin’s Russia confounds law enforcement the way hybrid war confounds traditional military response.

    Putin uses his oligarchs as emissaries to corrupt, cultivate, and compromise foreign business people and politicians. But they aren’t officially state actors. It’s a mafia using a nation for cover.

    So Trump’s campaign manager sharing data with a Ukrainian loyal to the Kremlin or a billionaire crony of Putin isn’t “conspiring with Russia” only in the most technical, least accurate sense.

    This pattern has repeated all over. Loans to Western politicians & parties with Russian backing, millions in donations from private citizens. Technically very little of it is “Russia,” but it’s always Putin.

    Defending will require transparency, unity, and a commitment to strengthening the institutions Putin exploits so easily. It will also require fighting back on terms a mafia responds to.

    As with Trump’s power grabs post-election, there is a lot of work to do so that the letter of the law matches the spirit of the law. If winning an election after asking for and receiving the aid of a hostile foreign power isn’t illegal, it sure as hell should be.

    Campaign finance reform, full financial disclosure, eliminating potential conflicts of interest. Running for office or running a country for personal gain must be proscribed if real democracy is to survive.

  2. Maybe I’ve become completely irrational, but I don’t really agree with Brooks. I wouldn’t use “traitor,” but the information we know now seems awfully close to justifying the use of the word betrayal. For example, he not only sought dirt on his political opponent, but he publicly encouraged Russia to intervene in the election to politically; and then he cast doubt on Russian acts of information warfare, and continued to do so in opposition to the consensus from the U.S. IC. Later he gave highly classified intelligence (that came from the Israelis) to the Russians, and no one, including in his administration, seems to know why.

    If this doesn’t constitute a kind of betrayal, we do have information that leaves the question open. To wit, Trump sought to build a hotel in Russia during the campaign, and he was not upfront about this. Later, he admitted that he wouldn’t want to give up a business opportunity in the event that he lost the election. This leaves open the possibility that Trump has taken a favorable treatment and policy position on Russia because of his business interests. (This would be less of an issue if he divested his business, as he claimed to, and released his tax forms, as he said he would.) I think one could argue that allowing for the situation above signifies putting his interests above the country’s. That seems to move us closer to the word “betrayal.”

    The question of whether Russia has compromising information on Trump is still open as well. Suppose Trump borrowed or received lots of money from Russian oligarchs or organized criminals in the past. Or let’s say he laundered money for either. That would constitute information that could be used as blackmail. We don’t know if any of this is true, but there is good reasons not to dismiss it.

    To say that individuals should apologize for calling Trump a traitor seems premature.

  3. I recommend watching this (Note: I’m posting a different clip which has a little more comments, which I think is pertinent)

    3/29)

    The first minute provides important context to Rep. Schiff’s remarks. Basically, a member of the GOP started the hearing by calling for Schiff to resign. Rep. Schiff seemed clearly ready for some stunt like this.

  4. Worst member of the cabinet: a bracketology.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/04/01/worst-member-trumps-cabinet-bracketology

    This is pretty well done (and well written), a Twitter poll in bracket form to declare this year’s worst member of the cabinet.

    I feel the masses are getting something wrong, though. Although I don’t know anything about this year’s winner as an administrator, the public presentation looks to me like someone playing the good soldier, doing as her boss asks, kind of like the White House press secretary.

    On the other hand, most of the other nominees are clearly inept, corrupt, or possibly bad people. I would have voted for the #1 seed or possibly the #4.

    1. Although I don’t know anything about this year’s winner as an administrator, the public presentation looks to me like someone playing the good soldier, doing as her boss asks, kind of like the White House press secretary.

      Just want to be clear–the boss can request something that crosses a line, and the claim that one was just following orders won’t really fly, right? I understand that reasonable can disagree about where that line is drawn, though.

      With Nielsen, here’s my understanding: She is overseeing a policy that essentially involved creating cruel conditions (e.g., prosecuting all illegal immigrants, which lead to separating children from those who brought them) as a form of deterring immigration. She has publicly denied that, but there are also public statements by others (like John Kelly) that go against that. (I can’t remember if she made those claims.)

      Additionally, her department has done a shoddy job of tracking children who have been separated. According to Juliette Kayyem, a former Homeland Security administrator (can’t remember her title, but it’s fairly high up, I believe), this is inexcusable and there is not good reason for this. Bureaucracies can be bad at such things, but Kayyem’s comments suggests DHS could have tracked the separated children. In a Congressional hearing, Nielsen was asked how many people died while in their custody:

      In my view, the administration’s policy leading to separation of parents and children, whether as a deterrent or not, is one of the most abhorrent policies by this administration. My understanding is it’s possible some of these children may never be reunited with their parents. To me, the policy definitely crosses a line.

    2. Good points, but I notice you don’t have a vote. Of the six candidates, would she be your choice? Assuming you’re forced to vote.

      1. Not sure, but she wouldn’t be a bad choice. Ineptitude and corruption are really bad, but the immigration policy is so over-the-top cruel and even immoral–so I guess I’d choose her.

  5. This is the impression I get as well.

    Edit

    Apropos of the tweet above:

    Taylor bought CBI in 2003 alongside his business partner Boris Bolshakov, a former KGB agent and Supreme Soviet deputy who is listed as the bank’s second-largest shareholder.

    Red flag.

    If I were the POTUS, I would be starting a national discussion about this. Current and former politicians, business people, academics, etc. have to be very cautious about where they’re getting their money from and who they’re partnering with. If my understanding of the Kremlin and its relationship to Russian businesses, organized crime, media, banking, any citizen from the U.S. and any liberal democracy should be really, really careful.

    edit

    The following is an excerpt from Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev. The person speaking is Jamison Firestone, a partner in the law firm that Sergey Magnitsky worked for. Magnitsky uncovered corruption in Russia and the Russian government imprisoned, and one could argue killing him. Here, Firestone is talking about the way Russian oligarchs have infiltrated London, buying up a lot of property, etc.

    “London shocked me. The whole system is built around wanting that (Russian) money to come here. We want their money. We want their trade. And now you’ve got former German chancellor Schroeder and Lord Mandelson and Lord So-and-So working for these Russian state companies, and you know I think they should just be honest and say ‘some Kremlin company offered me 500,000 to sit on their board and I don’t do anything and I don’t know anything about how the company is run but sometimes they ask me to open some doors.’ And the argument I hear from everyone is ‘well if the money doesn’t go here it will go somewhere else.’: well here (UK/the West) ain’t going to be here if you take that attitude, here is going to be there (Russia). We used to have this self-centered idea that Western democracies were the end point of evolution, and we’re dealing from a position of strength, and teh people are becoming like us. It’s not that way. Because if you think thsi thing we have here isn’t fragile you are kidding yourself. This,” and here Jamison takes a breath and waves his hand to denote Maida Vale, London, and the whole Western civilization,” this is fragile.”

    (emphasis added)

    1. Something to be concerned about?

      The article notes that Deripaska’s control and influence over Rusal is a lot less now–and that’s the rationale Sen. McConnell used to take them off the sanctions list (among other things). But the key question involves the extent to which Rusal is under the control and influence of the Kremlin. If it is, Deripaska’s control doesn’t matter as much to me. If I were from Kentucky, I’d be concerned about this. Resisting this investment is difficult, but if the money and people behind this are dirty and malicious, taking the money isn’t worth it. It’s a deal with the devil.

  6. I wonder if casual news viewers believe that a) Trump did more than any other administration in his first two years; b) the press is fighting against power of the phrase (not entirely sure what that means) because Trump has been so successful, and c) the press is the enemy of the people. Putting aside die-hard Trump supporters, who believes any of this? Who doesn’t think this weakens Trump’s credibility? (I guess some people might dismiss this away as crazy uncle talk, while assuming he’s otherwise an OK guy.)

  7. I didn’t read the article, and I’m just reacting to the tweet. Trump still hasn’t appointed a Secretary of Defense.

    My response: Frick GOP! Do something! They’re letting Trump run government this way. They would be going bonkers if Hillary Clinton, as POTUS, did half these things–and they would be justified. It’s so exasperating.

    Edit

    Another example of the behavior the GOP ignoring and enabling:

    It’s so wrong to just let these comments go.

    1. I finally go to read the entire CNN article, and it is infuriating. If accurate Trump is not only behaving like an authoritarian, but a very reckless and very cruel one. Here are some quotes from the article that show what I mean:

      Senior administration officials say that Trump then ordered Nielsen and Pompeo to shut down the port of El Paso the next day, Friday, March 22, at noon. The plan was that in subsequent days the Trump administration would shut down other ports.

      Nielsen told Trump that would be a bad and even dangerous idea,…

      She proposed an alternative plan that would slow down entries at legal ports. She argued that if you close all the ports of entry all you would be doing is ending legal trade and travel, but migrants will just go between ports.

      According to two people in the room, the President said: “I don’t care.”

      and

      Trump, however, was insistent that his administration begin taking another action — denying asylum seekers entry. Nielsen tried to explain to the President that the asylum laws allow migrants from Central America to come to the US and gain entry. She talked to the White House counsel to see if there were any exceptions, but he told her that her reading of the law was correct.

      and

      According to multiple sources, the President wanted families separated even if they came in at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers. The President wanted families separated even if they were apprehended within the US. He thinks the separations work to deter migrants from coming.

      Sources told CNN that Nielsen tried to explain they could not bring the policy back because of court challenges, and White House staffers tried to explain it would be an unmitigated PR disaster.

      “He just wants to separate families,” said a senior administration official.

      So dang un-American and wrong.

    2. It keeps getting worse

      I agree with this:

  8. The public, especially casual news consumers, needs to know if this is a reasonable question, or politically motivated. Either would be a really big deal. I’m not sure if the media has done this, but I’d like them do a show laying out evidence on both sides, making it easier to evaluate both possibilities. If this reached the casual news consumer, I would feel comfortable with whatever they concluded.

    (Note: I’m reacting to the tweet, not the article.)

    And now this:

    I didn’t read the article, but these NYT headlines seem really irresponsible–unless there’s substance to the claim that unauthorized surveillance on Trump campaign occurred. It sounds like Barr wants to investigate if this happened. But the headlines makes it seem like unauthorized surveillance or “spying” actually did occur. I’m guessing the Times is simply quoting the AG. “Well, we don’t know if the statement is factual, but we do know Barr said this.” That’s not good enough.

  9. Wrong, sickening,…I’m running out of words:

    Assist from Ms. Cordero:

    4/12/2019

    I haven’t heard Trump say this or seen the full context, but if the quote is accurate,…

    Ah, here we go:

    4/13/2019

    This seems to corroborate the Times and once again reinforces the impression that Trump is unreliable and untrustworthy, not the press.

  10. Not really about the Trump administration per se, but more poli science/public administration thread about the the way Presidential power is more limited than people realize, and the types of skill needed to maximize her power. Recommended.

  11. I find this all reprehensible:

    Here’s one impression I have of Sanders and some other Republicans like her. My sense is that they’re viewing criticism and investigation in Trump from through a perspective of political warfare. That is, partisanship drives the attacks on Trump–whether Trump has behaved irresponsibly, unpatriotically, unethically, or even illegally, is secondary and maybe not relevant. The other side is fighting for power and will do whatever it takes to obtain that.

    I have no doubt that some Democrats are operating like this. But I also think that for Republicans and Trump supporters to operate from this perspective has a self-serving aspect as well. Namely, by seeing everything through this lens, they can ignore Trump’s wrongdoing and inappropriate behavior. They can also justify their own bad behavior. In the Mueller report, Sanders acknowledged that her comments about Comey were not founded on anything. This sounds like she made it up. What did she make up? She basically smeared FBI Director, and also helped hide the reason for firing Comey, which Trump publicly alluded to the Russia investigation. And then she goes on ABC and basically doubles-down. This is all reprehensible. (To be clear, Sanders is far from the only one, but watching these clips above upset me.)

    Here’s a good thread touching on this:

    One interesting aspect of the Mueller Report is not what’s in it, but how Trump’s shills have reacted to it. They have taken two positions. 1. The report says exactly the opposite of what it says 2. The media totally screwed up this story. Both are worth a moment here. /1

    The first strategy is pure gaslighting, like Kellyanne demanding apologies. She’s like the person who backs into you in the parking lot, gets out, and and demands your insurance info and says you’ll be hearing from her lawyers while her BMW is lodged in the side of your Camry. /2

    This is the strategy taken by people who know only the strategy of doubling down, of reacting with aggression, and who understand just how bad the news really is. They go on offense because…well, why the hell not? Bang the table. Might work. Rube Nation loves that stuff. /3

    The other is a spate of tweets and articles about what “the media” got wrong, mostly focused on talking heads who (admittedly) went too far in believing the myth that Trump would be led across the South Lawn in handcuffs. But these stories, too, are a panic reaction. /4

    They’re from conservatives who really, really wanted to invalidate the entire MSM – as conservatives, who see themselves as anti-MSM insurgents, always do – and they thought the Report was their silver bullet. It wasn’t In fact, it validated almost all of the MSM reporting. /5

    Sure, there were clinkers, like McClatchy’s “trip to Prague.” But when your case against “the media” is something you pulled off a panel from CNN or MSNBC (and notice “the media” is never “Fox”), then you’re admitting that you’d rather talk about anything but what happened. /6

    The Russians attacked the election. The Trump campaign, right up to the top, thought that was awesome. They greeted it with “how can we work this” instead of “call the FBI.” They lied, and lied, and lied some more. Amazing that the media got *any* of it right faced with that. /7

    Why are they freaking out? As @TheRickWilson said: “The most striking part of the last two days is how Donald Trump and his allies are acting like losers, more aggrieved, bitchy, and petulant than ever.” It’s because they know. They always knew. And now it’s in the open. /8x

  12. I totally agree with Senator Warren. Members of the House and Senate should vote on whether they think Trump’s conduct is acceptable or not.

  13. The bit about the WH Chief of Staff saying that Trump equated public discussion about malign Russian interference with questions about the legitimacy of his electoral victory really stands out. It’s not new, but confirmation from the Chief of Staff reinforces this point–a point that is really bad. To wit, Trump’s vanity and ego is preventing him from dealing with a threat to the elections and our country.

    In the excerpt below, an impeachment scholar argues that warrants impeachment:

  14. Thoughts about what the 2020 Campaign Should be About

    I just had a thought about one issue the Democratic nominee should make the campaign about–namely, an understanding and commitment to the rule of law and our system of government. And maybe I’m thinking more about what journalists should ask the candidates, especially in the debate. For example, in a debate they could ask, “Why is the rule of law and democracy important to you? And what will you do to strengthen both?” This could be prefaced by saying how authoritarians seem to be on the rise…Or, “What are some examples from your past that demonstrate a commitment to the rule of law an democracy?” Or, “Name some important presidential norms and explain why they are important?” Or, “Do you think Congress has ceded too much of their authority under Article I of the Constitution and that Executives have gained too much power? Why or why not? If you think the executive has too much power, what will you do to change this?” Or, “Do you think a free press is important to a democracy and if so, please explain why and what you will to ensure a strong free press?”

    If the Democratic candidate and Trump have to have discussions about this, I think it could show how little Trump knows or values the rule of law and a Constitutional system of governance. Here’s another: “Name a few things from your past that demonstra

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