The road to Trumpcare with a stop at Conservative hypocrisy along the way

Prologue

As has been noted at this site more than once, conservatives spent the past eight years, damning Obamacare (ACA) and vowing to repeal and replace it. No one has been more vociferous in such pronouncements than Trump who even bragged that the repeal and replace would be “easy” and therefore, something done promptly. The lot of them were going to produce a piece of  legislation that would provide better and more affordable healthcare than Obamacare ever could. So, on its face, this wasn’t about ideology; it was  all about doing better for the American people. Congressional Republicans were going to prove that they could get things done and actually govern.

And so far?

To date, what we witnessed was a sharp division among House Republicans with ideology at the heart of the split: The ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus pushed hard to make the healthcare bill being drafted more conservative with deeper cuts to Medicare/Medicaid  and a repeal of capital gains taxes that were part of the ACA. Moderate Republicans were not inclined to go along with those types of changes. In the end, Speaker Ryan and the people tasked with preparing the bill for a vote, tried to appease both sides to the real satisfaction of no one. As a result, the House bill was eventually passed by a slim, one-vote margin. 45 praised this outcome, giving the bill his blessing before several days later describing it as “mean”, probably because it would have a negative impact on 23 million people.

On to the Senate

The legislation that passed out of the House then went to the Senate where it was initially labelled dead on arrival with some Republican senators declaring they would craft their own bill. Of course, they never really did that. What did happen was that the Senate made some relatively small changes in what came over from the House. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, believed he could get it passed with minimum debate and a quick, supportive vote.

That isn’t going to happen; at least not until after the coming July 4th holiday. Why? Because the same division present in the House (see above) surfaced in the Senate:  A group of four GOP senators were, like the members of the aforementioned Freedom Caucus, pushing to make the Senate’s bill more conservative. Moderates were having none of it with the result that even a simple 51-vote majority (1) was out of reach.

What was this all about, really?

To the extent that it is possible to validly infer motive from behavior, one could easily conclude that congressional Republicans, not to mention Trump, were hellbent on keeping their repeal/replace promise. If they had ever stopped to estimate how hard that was going to be, they might have issued fewer gilt-edged guarantees. Moreover, they would have sought to do the greatest good for the greatest number rather than placating their grass-roots base that represents about 38% of the total electorate, and who salivate over having every shred of Obama’s legacy erased from the record books.

And then there is this

Remember the “individual mandate” that was part of Obamacare? Conservatives turned this into an assault on individual freedom; i.e. the government was going to force you against your will to buy health insurance. Millions of people saw things that way, viewed it as terribly unamerican, and voted accordingly.

Of course, this line of thinking and acting works only if one disregards the fact that in state after state, citizens are compelled to buy car insurance under threat of being fined if they do not do so. Republican governors and state legislatures have lived with that law for years without a murmur of discontent or talk of robbing people of their right of choice. At the most basic and fundamental level, this is no different from the particulars in Obamacare’s individual mandate; i.e. it is all about taking personal responsibility for managing your own risks, whether they involve getting into an accident or getting sick and needing care (2). Look on this as conservative hypocrisy on full display.

Endnotes

With congressional Democrats sidelined because of their minority status, it’s going to remain for their Republican counterparts to thrash this out and come up with a bill that so effectively “threads the needle” that it can be reconciled to the satisfaction of both House and Senate Republicans, and gets sent to Trump for his signature.  If that doesn’t happen, 45 and the congressional GOP leadership may just elect to drop the matter, leave Obamacare in place and hope that it collapses which could indeed happen.

Do not expect to see the end of this any time soon; certainly not until well after July 4th. In the meantime, we have news about Russiagate to occupy us. To get back on that topic, watch for “Playing Nostradamus” to appear next at this site.

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  1. Since here are 100 seats in the US Senate, a majority can be attained with the vote of 51 senators, or in the case of a 50-50 tie, having that deadlock broken by the vote of the Vice President.
  2. My thanks to fellow traveler “Zeek” whose thinking and writing I have channeled here.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog extra: Trump’s misplaced loyalty

In the last 24+ hours, the Washington Post published an expose’ dealing with when the Obama Administration first learned of the Russian meddling in our election, the problems that information posed for the president, the divisions within his closest advisors (*) about what should be done, and what finally was done.

In August 2016, the Intelligence community sent Obama a top-secret (for your eyes only) document detailing Russian hacking and meddling in our forthcoming election, all with the intention of defeating HRC and electing Trump.  In possession of this knowledge, Obama faced a number of hard choices:  (1) respond with some sort of vigorous cyber attack aimed at Russia (+) or something more restrained; (2) how much to share with the public; and (3) how to go public without creating the impression that he was putting his “thumb on the scale” in favor of HRC in the forthcoming election.?

In the end, Obama chose to go with a muted response to the Russians while eventually publicly under-playing what was going on so as to avoid the aforementioned “thumb on the scale” problem. It could be likened to dancing on the head of a pin; Obama was boxed in.

The foregoing provides only the more relevant, basic essentials of what is a very complex matter. That said, we can now turn our attention to how 45 responded to all this.

Remember, once the story of Russian interference finally broke, Trump labelled it “a hoax (and) fake news”, a position he had maintained right up until the Washington Post’s expose’. But now, not only is he “all in” with the new revelations,  he wants the news media to abandon their coverage of what role he and/or his associates might have figured in the Russian meddling in favor of blaming Obama for his failure to stop the Russian activity.

How could 45 have responded? Here are his choices:  (1) remain silent; (2) acknowledge the tough choices that Obama had to make; (3) thank Obama for the care he exercised in not tilting the electoral playing field in HRC’s favor; (4) condemn Putin and the Russians; or (5) engage in a self-serving call for the media to lay off of him.

Anyone who has watched and listened to Trump over the last many months knows that choices #1 – 3 are all simply out of character for this man. He is incapable of remaining silent, empathizing, or expressing gratitude. As for #4, we continue to await 45 saying anything even mildly derogatory about Putin and the Russian meddling even as he finally admits that it actually happened and is not a “hoax”. That leaves choice #5 which is to say a no-brainer for 45.

What we have witnessed in Trump’s words, actions and inaction, is how misplaced his loyalties are and probably always have been. Self-absorption defines this individual far better than any of his other negative personal traits which have been the subject of earlier blogs posted at this site.  Trump’s loyalty is to Trump; nothing else really matters.

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*+ Among Obama’s closest advisors that wanted a robust response, one who was interviewed for the Post expose’ said “I think we sort of choked”. Other advisors who felt differently have thus far remained silent.

This and That

Prologue

Don’t be misled by the blog’s title. What will be dealt with here, is hardly trivial as in “this and that”. Rather, as “this and that” implies, a range of topics will be covered; all part of the mishegoss (1) that has become so much a part of our current national politics.

Trumpcare

Back in 2010, as the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA, also called Obamacare) was moving towards enactment,  Republicans vowed that if given control of the Congress, they would immediately repeal and replace it. At every election from that point forward, the same promise was repeated over and over again. As he campaigned for the presidency, Trump got into the same act. He was going to get rid of the ACA on “day-1” of his tenure. In its place, there would be a new healthcare law that provided better coverage and “at a fraction” (45’s words) of what people were paying then.

We are now more than six months removed from all that lofty rhetoric. Here’s what has happened in that interim:  The GOP-control House passed with not a single vote to spare, a repeal/replacement now identified as the American Healthcare Act (AHCA). As mandated by the Constitution, that bill got sent to the GOP-controlled Senate for anywhere from fine-tuning to major amendments to outright rejection.

What has just emerged from the Senate is a “draft” that is a “meaner” version of the House bill; that is to say, it makes deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, two programs whose benefits are enjoyed by millions of our citizens.; e.g. the disabled, children and women throughout their pregnancies culminating in delivery.

Because Republicans have only a 52 – 48 majority in the Senate, they cannot afford to lose the votes of three of their number. Yet, five GOP senators have now stated publicly they cannot support the bill in its present form. Another two have hedged a bit, saying that they had significant reservations about certain contents of the draft.

What all this amounts to is a giant headache for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. After eight years of promising to repeal and replace, he can’t afford to let this bill fail to pass. That means that he’s going to have to find ways to get at least three of the five dissenters on board. Expect that to involve some amendments to the present draft along with some very forceful arm-twisting. In the end, what may finally survive is a bill that has the short-term benefit of keeping the aforementioned promise, but is so toxic that it hurts GOP candidates over a longer term, i.e. at the time of the 2018 midterm election.

Trump’s tape bluff

Just prior to fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, 45 tweeted that the witness had better hope that there weren’t tapes of a previous conversation that he had with him. It was during that previous talk that Comey alleged that Trump had asked him for both a pledge of loyalty and a killing of the investigation into Michael Flynn, a request that Comey refused to meet, that leading to his being fired. By axing Comey, 45 invited the claim that he was obstructing justice; potentially, an impeachable offense. Eventually, that led to the appointment of Special Prosecutor (SP), Robert Mueller.

Harking back to the tapes that sank the Nixon presidency over the Watergate scandal, the possible existence of a surreptitious recording of the Comey/Trump exchange ignited a news media blitz; i.e. maybe there’s proof of who’s telling the truth. Congressional investigative committees and certainly the SP wanted those tapes, assuming they existed. Accordingly, Trump was told to produce any records he had of his meeting with Comey. The president asked for time to comply and was given until June 23rd to do so.

On June 22nd, Trump announced that he had made no recording of his tete a tete with Comey. Clearly then, his hint that he might have, was a bluff. As 45 later admitted, it was designed to affect Comey’s behavior. Turns out, this is no small matter as will be discussed next.

By definition, a bluff is a lie; a statement that hints or claims the existence of something that is, in reality, nonexistent. It is issued to shape the behavior of another person; in this case, Comey. Knowing that he had no tape, Trump could have promptly stepped forward and come clean. But, notice that by leaving the bluff out there for 41 days, 45 was able to use each one of them in his effort to impact Comey’s behavior.

Surprise, surprise, there is a law against doing this sort of thing. It goes hand-in-hand with obstruction of justice. In the case of Trump, it fits neatly within a larger pattern. Specifically, (1) he is alleged to have tried to get Comey to kill the Russia/Flynn investigation; and (2) it is now known that 45 made a similar “ask” of National Security Advisor Dan Coats and Director of National Security, Mike Rogers.

Do not expect this matter to just go away !!!

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  1. “Mishegoss” is a Yiddish word, most popularly defined as “crazy”.

 

 

State of Play: The plot thickens

Prologue

Last week’s blog (“The Plot thickens; 6-10-17) sketched out the battle lines that were then draw, pitting Trump and his administration against Special Prosecutor (SP) Robert Mueller. Today’s publication advances that narrative as more recent events begin to delineate what is at stake and who is at risk.

Trump vs. Mueller

What has started to emerge is a case for obstruction of justice with 45 at its’ center:  The allegation is that the president fired FBI Director James Comey in an effort to impede or effectively kill the investigation of collusion between Trump’s administration and Russia to affect our 2016 election. Various legal minds have opined that there is already  sufficient prima facie evidence to haul 45 before a grand jury on a charge of obstruction. But such a scenario becomes academic since no president can be charged with a crime. The point then, is that Mueller’s case has already gathered strength and may grow stronger.

For his part, 45 has declared that the investigation of collusion is over so how can there possibly be any obstructing of a concluded matter? Of course, the probe of a cozy relationship between Trump and/or members of his administration and Russia is far from over much as Trump would like it to be.

Team Trump and Russia

If there is one of 45’s associates that is key to the collusion story, it’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. He had at least two known meetings with Russian officials and money changed hands. Whether legally or illegally has yet to be publicly documented.

Another possible player in the collusion story is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He has already been caught lying under oath about contacts that he had with various Russians, and there is an emerging story that those sorts of contacts may have even more numerous than had previously been known. If SP Mueller’s focus expands to take in Sessions, it will be huge “tell” if the latter hires a criminal defense attorney.

Were all this not enough, there is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. He has now become a subject of interest to the SP because of business dealings with a Russian bank that Kushner never reported, a fact that poses a legal problem for the young man.

Pence “lawyers up”

VP Mike Pence has decided that he also needs legal representation and so has hired a criminal defense attorney. While there is no evidence that the Veep had anything to do with alleged collusion, he got himself “dirtied up” by not only failing to vet the tarred Michael Flynn, but by turning a blind eye on warnings from the FBI that Flynn was a high risk pick as National Security Advisor. The potential problem here is one of malfeasance.

Fraud and money laundering

In all probability, any such crimes will prove to be unrelated to collusion though they may well involve at least one person who was close to the Trump campaign; i.e. Paul Manafort. Manafort had some questionable dealings with at least one member of the Ukrainian kleptocracy that was closely linked to Putin and Moscow.

End notes

Not only has “the plot thickened”, it has substantially widened in its scope. Look at the progression:  what started out as an investigation into Russia’s meddling in our election has expanded to now involve collusion (Trump? Flynn? Sessions?), malfeasance (Pence?), illegal and unreported contacts (Kushner? Sessions?), fraud and money laundering (Manafort?). Mueller has the authority to dig into all of this much to the chagrin of 45 who has already shown signs that he may try to find some indirect means of deposing the SP (1).

If Trump were to act on that impulse, he would push this entire matter into what we can call “Watergate territory”. That scandal, that brought down the Nixon presidency and sent over a dozen of his cohorts to jail, involved obstruction of justice and the firing of a SP. Trump supporters in and out of government are warning 45 to not go there. Will he listen? Time will tell. But the prediction here is that as Mueller’s case gains still more strength and looks ever more likely to damage the Trump presidency, 45 will give in to his darker and irrational side and strike out against the SP. In that event, this whole mess will take on a distinctly more noxious odor.

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  1.  The president cannot act directly to fire Mueller. He will have to find someone in government to do that for him; possibly Deputy AG Ron Rosenstein or someone else in the Justice Department.

 

 

State of Play

Prologue

Yesterday in the Rose Garden, Trump made clear that he is willing to place his version of recent events up against the one set forth by former FBI Director James Comey in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. This sets up a “he said/he said” contest that pits a serial liar and adulterer against the word of a man whose entire career in government has been marked by moral rectitude, even though one can surely disagree with some decisions that Comey has made. But, those were judgment calls and conflating alleged lapses in judgment with dishonesty is deceitful.

Game on

What has now ensued is an intense back-and-forth between 45’s supporters and those arrayed against him. Conservatives, both in and out of government, have taken every opportunity to defame Comey and his character and thus paint him as an untruthful and unreliable witness. The former Director’s supporters have countered with reference to their man’s record of probity, the fact that he testified under oath, and is “guilty” of no worse than “leaking” his memo which was full of the recollections of a private citizen  that contained no classified information and that was not limited by any Trumpian claim of Executive Privilege. The goal of this game is to win for 45 (or Comey) a victory in the court of public opinion. That makes a certain amount of sense on one superficial level, but misses badly on a more fundamental one as will be described next.

All that’s really going to matter

When the dust settles all that will be significant is what House and Senate investigative committees and Special Prosecutor (SP) Robert Mueller find as they delve into this mess. Is there or is there not evidence of criminal behavior on the part of Trump and/or any number of his associates? Mueller in particular, will be guided by where the facts lead him and it won’t matter if 45 wins the fight in the court of public opinion by a score of 100 to nothing. Were laws broken? If the answer is “yes”, then by whom and what remedy is available? Since no president can be put on trial for criminal behavior, it is left to the House to draft bills of impeachment, pass them, and then send them on to the Senate. If someone other than 45 is involved, then a grand jury would be convened to judge the merit of the case against that individual.

Mueller as key figure

As the contents of the last section should have made clear, SP Mueller will play a pivotal role in what eventually transpires. He has already seen and learned enough to not only ramp up his investigation, he has made three critical hires:  James Quarles and Andrew Weisman, both lawyers will stellar reputations for their successfully pursuit of cases of fraud and money laundering, and Michael Dreeben who has a long and distinguished record of white-collar crime-busting. Their presence should send out a clear signal as to the directions that the SP thinks this case is headed.

End notes

We are in the earliest stage of what is likely to be a long and complicated process involving Mueller’s probing along with that of the House and Senate investigative committees as they all seek to help us all better understand Russia’s meddling in our election, and what role, if any, was played in that scheme by Trump and/or his associates. When Mueller makes his final decisions relative to whether to bring charges or not, we will all have to live with those outrcomes. Until that day dawns, a “cloud” will hang over 45’s presidency and it won’t be dispatched any time soon.

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Erratum

In the last blog posted here, there was an erroneous reference made to “Connor Page” an associate of 45’s. That man’s name is Carter Page. That unintended error was mine and mine alone.

 

This will be brief

As blogs at this site go, this one will be relatively brief. That is because what appears here now, is an elaboration on “Let us count the ways” that was published here on May 24th. Indeed, it is recommended that you use the archives window at the blog site and re-read that statement.

Apropos that blog from the recent past, today’s testimony by former FBI Director James Comey validated its contents; i.e. there are indeed, FIVE focuses of the investigation now being conducted by Special Prosecutor, Robert Mueller, and he has broad authority to delve into every one of them no matter where they lead and who they might involve.

Additionally, during the same session, Comey made it clear that one of the reasons that he felt compelled to make detailed, contemporaneous notes on his meetings with Trump was that he simply did not trust the president, worrying that 45 might well lie about what transpired during those talks. More on that next.

For the time being at least, we will have to deal with a “he said/he said” state of affairs; i.e. it will be Comey’s word against Trump’s. Based on the histories of the two men, that hardly seems a fair fight:  Comey has a long history of honesty and integrity (1); he is widely regarded by his associates in the Bureau as a “Boy Scout” and straight-shooter. In sharp contrast, 45 has a well-documented record of serial lying, adultery and short-changing people with whom he has done business. Detailed notes, indeed !!

End notes

What Special Prosecutor Mueller is dealing with is a many-headed legal and political mess. It is going to be a challenge for the media to sort out and explain to us, the significant complexities of all this. Over the months ahead, fatigue from our trying to process events and how they may be interconnected is bound to set in. The recommendation here is that from time to time, you step back, take a breather, don’t over-think this, but always stay connected to the “big picture”, even as you momentarily have it out at arm’s length. What is involved here is far too important to be permanently set aside.

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  1. Comey’s  detractors have been and remain hard at work trying to destroy his reputation as described above, citing his handling of the investigation into HRC’s e-mails. In that regard, the former Director may well have made errors in judgment, but he has never failed to try to do the right thing. That said,  it is always worth remembering that “judgment” and “honesty” are two different things. To conflate them is deceitful.

It’s a long story

Prologue

By the time you reach the end of this blog, you may be inclined to just blow its’ contents off as “a reach”. Contrariwise, the suggestion offered here is that you file all this away for later comparison to events that will be unfolding across the next many months as the investigations into the Trump/Russia connections proceed and their findings become public.

In the beginning

This long narrative actually has its origins way back in the 1980’s when Trump was making his move towards becoming a big-time real estate developer. He borrowed heavily in support of his plan to build casinos in Atlantic City NJ and turn it into a gambling mecca.

All this came a cropper when, in 1987, the stock market tanked and took real estate values down with it. Trump found himself near-broke and deeply in debt to his lenders. Salvation arrived in the form of a restructuring of his loans and the casinos were built and became part of Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc.

Over time, the casinos were mismanaged into insolvency and Trump Entertainment filed for bankruptcy in 2004, 2009 and 2011. As all this was playing out, Trump found himself a persona non grata with US banks. It was “Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me”. Trump, desperate for some working capital, simply couldn’t find any domestic lenders.

Loan-shopping

In 2008, Trump visited Moscow and began to get chummy with at least one member of the Kremlin’s inner circle. Coincidentally, he was received with open arms by the Deutsche Bank in Germany, an establishment that later ended up paying a $10 billion dollar fine for being complicit in helping Russian oligarchs launder illegally gained money.

This was a pivotal time for Trump who now found himself awash in funds, some supplied by Deutsche, and more alleged tossed in by Russian crime bosses. Donald Trump, Jr. even boasted publicly that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia”.

Miss Universe

By 2012, Trump had gained ownership of the Miss Universe Pageant. For reasons yet to be discovered, he decided to hold the 2013 event in Moscow. Accordingly, he was feted and shown every courtesy in the run-up to the contest, during it and thereafter. It was yet another step further into what was and remains at least a deep financial relationship with the former USSR, now Russia.

Innocent or something else?

Now, every bit of the foregoing can be written off as just so much international business. But, as we bring that history forward to current events, no such simple write-off is possible. As our intelligence specialists will tell you, Russians have a long history of trying to “work” foreign visitors into serving as witting or unwitting sources of what might prove to be useful information. At times, this can be accomplished by secretly collecting potentially damaging information on such folks and then blackmailing them. Could Trump, with his love of flattery and adulation have been played in that way?

To Russia with love

The question that ended the last section takes on special relevance when you look at how Trump has behaved vis a vis Russia for the past 18 months. His praise of Putin, suggestions that he could forge a better relationship with our Cold War adversary, that working together was possible, and then finally, his refusal to affirm what our entire intelligence community has concluded; i.e. that Russia meddled in our electoral process.

Were this not enough, look at the people among now-president Trump’s inner circle:  Michael Flynn, Paul Manaford, Roger Stone, Conner Page and Rex Tillerson, all with  some sort of connection to Russia, Russian money, and Russian power. Four of those five are now targets of one or another of the investigations into the Trump/Russia connection (1). And quite recently, we can add to those close to 45 who are persons of interest,  son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Epilogue

Given the cast of characters in this geopolitical drama and the various cross-currents of of their various interactions with Russia, do not expect all this to be unraveled in short order. The process for sorting things out is under way, meetings are being held, people and documents are being subpoenaed even as Trump and the White House seek and find ways to impeded this process. But those efforts will only slow the investigative momentum and contribute to the growing impression that 45 does indeed have something to hide.

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  1. See “Let us count the ways”, the last blog posted at this site on 5-24-17.

 

Let us count the ways

Prologue

With the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Prosecutor, we now have three major investigations in progress vis a vis Russia’s interference in our election and team Trump. While the probes by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are relatively narrow in their scope, Mueller is under no significant constraints. Rather, his appointment carries with it the freedom to follow all leads, no matter where they might take him. The remainder of this blog will be devoted to citing and discussing the investigative “avenues” that the Special Prosecutor has already started to travel.

I. Russia’s election meddling

This past January, our Intelligence Community made public its general finding having to do with the allegation that Russia interfered with our election. The consensus was that had indeed happened and that those activities were aimed at helping Trump and hurting Clinton. Mueller may have some tidying up to do here, but he is sure to segue to the next topic of intense interest.

II. Collusion between the Russian interference and the Trump administration

Did one or more associates of 45, or 45 himself, wittingly or unwittingly, provide any sort of help to Russia in the meddling process? If evidence points unambiguously to an affirmative answer, then whomever aided the Russians is in danger of being charged with treason, and Trump’s administration would be badly tarred in the process. Guilt by association with the culprit would be unavoidable.

III. Obstruction of justice

As the aforementioned investigations have edged closer to probing topic II above, Trump has apparently taken steps to impede their progress. Specifically, he is reported to have made requests to high-ranking officials like former FBI Director James Comey that seem aimed at either absolving him of guilt or turning attention away from one or more of his associates; e.g. Michael Flynn.

This effort to protect Flynn has not been confined to Trump. While largely unnoticed, it also seems that VP Mike Pence has made at least two and possibly three false statements, the intent of which was apparently to shield the Trump administration from any negative publicity associated with the choice of Flynn as Advisor on National Security.

IV. Treasonous behavior independent of election collusion

Up until very recently, the possibility of treasonous behavior occurring free of Russia’s election meddling has received scant attention. But, it is now known that in Virginia, a grand jury has been impaneled to examine the legality of financial dealings involving associates of 45 and the Russians. Even if nothing treasonous is eventually found here, one or more cases might be made for illegal financial dealings with Russians, a major topic we turn to last.

V. Financial illegalities

In theory, there are two possibilities here:  tax evasion, but more significantly, the laundering of money gained through criminal enterprise. Investigative work here is just getting started so there is little that can be said on this topic now.

End notes

Is it always true that “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”? No, because heat can cause smoldering and smoke without conflagration. Much remains to be discovered and made public before a step like impeachment can be given serious consideration. Right now, it seems best to stay attentive and to thank God that we have a free press that continues to do an outstanding job of keeping us abreast of the latest developments, try as 45 might to create an alternative, fact-free counter-narrative.

 

 

 

 

By the numbers

There are two numbers worth considering relative to what is happening politically in our country. Consider each with their attendant, respective analyses.

38%

Every three days, well-known pollster Gallup published the results of their sampling of public opinion vis a vis Trump’s job approval. Yesterday, the rolling average for the 13th, 14th and 15th showed 45 at an historic low of 38%, with disapproval standing at 57%. It is noteworthy that among the most ardent Trump supporters, his approval still registers in the 90’s! It is that group of voters that congressional Republicans fear should they ever turn on the bloc’s hero., something they have thus far shied away from doing.

78%

This number represents the clear majority of respondents to a CNN poll that want the Russia/Trump connection investigated by a special prosecutor. Unswayed by this strong showing, Republicans continue to maintain that existing, functioning congressional committees be allowed to do their job.

In response to that stance, one must ask “Do we or do we not have a representative form of government?” How do elected representatives turn their back on a signal from seventy-eight percent of the country? Here’s a plausible answer:  Because they control all of the aforementioned committees, Republicans can determine the pace at which their respective investigations move ahead, who gets called as witnesses and what documents are subject to subpoena. It is an advantageous position to be in if you are inclined to slow-walk the proceedings and control what news comes out of them. (1) In simple, direct terms, there is the opportunity to minimize the damage that would potentially be inflicted on Trump’s administration and his presidency. Think about that relative to the preceding section and how loathe congressional Republicans are to upset rabid 45 supporters.

End notes

While the foregoing two sections have some value in their own right, they are most assuredly subject to change when the next set of polling data becomes public. Those new results will take into account the public’s reactions to yesterday’s allegation that Trump tried to influence former FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation of 45 associate, Michael Flynn, and that 45 gave away classified intelligence to two Russian diplomats without following established protocol before doing so. (2)

Both of these very recent developments, especially the first of the two, have had a very unsettling effect on congressional Republicans who now have no choice but to interview Comey about the veracity of the story that Trump interceded in Flynn’s behalf. If it holds up, then talk about charging 45 with obstruction of justice will be more than whispered in the coat rooms on Capitol Hill.

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  1. Recall the last blog posted at this site; i.e. “Tick-tock”.
  2. Any president has the legal right to declassify whatever bits of intelligence he chooses, whenever he chooses. But, there is a protocol that must be followed before that information is shared with anyone. From all that has been gathered, Trump failed to do that.

Tick-Tock

“History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme” Ken Burns:  Historian and documentary film-maker.

Prologue

Forty-four years ago, the administration of Richard Nixon found itself caught in the vortex of the investigation into the Watergate scandal. On October 29, 1973, the president made the fatal decision to try to derail those proceedings, by ordering his Attorney General Eliot Richardson, to fire the inquiry’s Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox. Richardson refused and resigned in protest. Nixon then turned to William Ruckelshaus to undertake the axing. He followed Richardson’s lead and resigned in protest. It was left to Robert Bork who finally acceded to Nixon’s order and so, Cox was gone.

The series of events cited above famously became known as “The Saturday night massacre”. It ultimately led to the appointment of Leon Jaworski as Special Prosecutor who vigorously exercised his mandate to get to the truth. In the end, the accumulation of evidence against Nixon became so overwhelming that even members of his own party in Congress saw that his impeachment was inevitable. They so informed the president and, to avoid that stain on his record, Nixon came forward on August 8, 1994 to announce his resignation.

Is there a “rhyme” now?

Less than a week ago, on May 9th, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. This move was questioned,  for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that very different narratives surfaced regarding who was responsible:  The White House Communications Office contended that 45 acted on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Deputy Director of the Justice Department, Ron Rosenstein; whereas Trump claimed that it was he and he alone who came to the decision to remove Comey; what Sessions and/or Rosenstein said simply didn’t matter. He claimed that under Comey’s leadership, the FBI was “in turmoil” and that the Director “wasn’t up to the job” of leading anything or anyone .

But, it had already been well-established that Comey, as Director of the FBI, was heading up the Bureau’s counter-intelligence investigation that implicitly involved a number of Trump associates; i.e. Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Connor Page. Furthermore, it seemed clear that Comey was going to put himself beyond the reach of any interference by Trump. Investigative reporters and pundits with a grasp of Watergate history, justifiably became suspicious, their concerns reinforced by Comey’s temporary replacement Andrew McCabe, who flatly rejected Trump’s description of the FBI under Comey.

End notes

From the date of the Saturday Night massacre to that of Nixon’s resignation, 279 days passed. During that period, there were just two reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who were doggedly chasing down Watergate leads. There was neither the Internet, nor cable news political talks shows to keep the public apprised of what was going on.

Will investigations into Russia’s meddling in our 2016 election, and possible collusion between team Trump and the Russians proceed at the same or a different pace? These issues will move towards resolution at a rate that will be determined, to some extent at least, by the outcomes of several congressional investigations that are now running roughly in parallel with the FBI’s. It is no small matter that every one of the former is under the control of a Republican chairman. Given the extreme political polarization that exists today, these individuals have it in their power to slow-walk or otherwise impede the search for the truth. This state of affairs raises the question:  “Will they put country ahead of party as they should?”

We have entered an intensely important time so stay tuned and engaged. Tick-tock !!