A Preface to the Upcoming Mueller Report

Amidst the usual Trump provoked Loonie Tune “news”,  the Mueller report will finally be made public some time next week according to Bill Barr, Trump’s recently appointed Attorney General.   Barr was Attorney General for the first Bush administration, and has had a sterling legal reputation, so he’s not simply a Trump lackey.  However,  he has voiced and written opinions that favor Trump’s view of presidential power and he has done enough as AG for Trump to make Democrats suspicious of his intentions.

First he put out four pages of what he calls a “bottom line” result of the investigation.  It high lights the fact the report does not announce any new indictments.  Music to Trump’s ears no doubt, fitting well with his long time mantra “no collusion” and “no obstruction”.

However, the “obstruction” issue isn’t as clear cut as that of “collusion”, as Barr indicates by quoting Mueller:  “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’ ”  There was evidence on both sides.

Since Mueller did not take a stand on the obstruction issue, Barr stepped in and concluded no charges were warranted.  Whether Barr had a right to do that is an open question.

Bottom line Trump can claim to be innocent, by legal standards.  But that does not mean he did not do many bad things, just not bad enough to meet our high standards for a crime.   Even in terms of collusion, it may be that the Trump team is revealed to be a collection of clowns, made unwitting tools by the Russians.

Not guilty of conspiracy but of being arrogant fools who endangered our national safety and weakened our position as a nation of laws not individual whims. These possibilities are what prompt the Democrats to press for a full release to Congress.

The report will be redacted for at least four legitimate reasons, like national security. The big question is how big that redacted portion will be.  The Democrats think it will be too much, information held back because it will be embarrassing to the president rather than for one of the stated reasons.

In addition to that four page report and a couple of letters added for clarification, Barr has made statements at two congressional hearings that indicate he also intends to take a look at the origins of the Mueller report, because he believes some “spying” had taken place.  Barr also used the term “unauthorized surveillance,” but he held on to the term “spying” when pressed  by a committee member.

It is possible that Barr’s “look” at the origins of the investigation will exonerate the FBI, but at the moment he seems to be offering more support for Trump’s witch hunt accusations.

So, now we wait until the report is released next week.  I hope the above helps you better understand the fireworks likely to erupt.


P. S.  –– If you want to become an expert for yourself on Barr’s four page summary you can find it here.

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Sick and Tired of Trump, Trump, Trump

You may have noticed I don’t post often these days.  It’s been over six weeks since the last one.  However, I still pay attention to the loonyness spawned by Trump’s fabrications, that world he has created of “alternative facts”,  as accidentally coined by Kellyanne Conway, his number one whirling dervish of spin.

Despite still paying attention, I’m trying to lessen my addiction because so much of it is a waste of time.  They keep flashing “breaking news” and it is seldom real news.   It usually has already been broken earlier, or wasn’t of much value anyway.

To sum up the obvious.   Over the last two years of Trump’s mucking things up and muddling our once generally shared sense of reality with his fabrications and lies, while showing few signs of basic human decency, he has produced a favorable rating on his presidency from 46% of us, according to a recent poll.  An even more recent poll shows 50% of the country believe Trump’s mantra of “witch hunt.”

His propaganda campaign has worked.   If you keep saying “no collusion” and “witch hunt” and “fake news” incessantly it can sink in, especially when you stress that the press is the “enemy of the people”.   At one point, he told one of his throngs of the mesmerized:   “Believe me, not what you read or see.”  The approach of a budding dictator.

It was estimated the other day that the next election will come down to some six per cent of those who will tip the scale.   That seems a decent guess.  I just don’t know who those six percent are and what will actually tip the scales for them, and neither does anyone else.  So what’s all the chatter about, other than to give news pundits well paying jobs.

This morning I watched a group of MSNBC usuals actually spending time dissecting Trump’s twitter rant this weekend, as if it meant anything other that he is losing it more and more each day.

Sooooooo………  I’m not going to say much more until I start seeing things substantial materialize as opposed to the glut of speculation mostly based on unnamed sources.  I want to see results from the Mueller probe, and the Southern District of New York, and that state’s attorney general, and the multiple House committees who are trying to make up for the lack of oversight of the president and his administration by the previously Republican controlled House.

Sounds like a witch hunt, doesn’t it.   But I’m guessing that these many investigations will eventually reveal Trump for what he is and always has been, a con artist, a snake oil salesman, a bully who has always been only concerned about what’s good for him and his family and not what is good for anyone else.  Certainly not about our country as a whole.

A witch hunt isn’t always a bad thing.   Sometimes it actually causes the demise of a real witch, like in the Wizzard of Oz.


P. S. – One Trump related thing I do want to write about is the strange situation known as Kellyanne Conway’s marriage to George Conway, who has become one of Trump’s most scathing critics.   If you are not aware of this curious situation, no worries, I will illuminate it for you over the next week.

 

 

Theatre of the Absurd: The Trumped Up Border Crisis

It’s a new year but the only thing new about the president is his willingness to place even more weight on the phony facts he and his rabid right wing cohorts, like Anne Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, have made up.

Some of these “alternative facts” support the idea that we now need a southern border wall so much that Trump has been willing to shut down much of the federal government for weeks, displacing hundreds of thousands of workers and weakening key services in hopes the Democrats will submit to his demands for wall funding.

That’s Trump’s idea of deal making:  You succumb to his demands or get blamed for an unwillingness to negotiate.

Trump hasn’t acted like the wall was an emergency through his first two years in office.  It’s an emergency now because the likes of Limbaugh and Coulter are calling him a phony for failing to act.  Since he can’t get his way with Congress,  calling the building of a wall an emergency may be his only way to escape the box he has placed himself in.

The matter would likely head straight to the courts, the government could be reopened and Trump can tell Rush and Anne and his base in general he really tried.

We don’t need a southern wall.  Trump needs one to quiet his critical supporters.  The Democrats are right to refuse to succumb, for the wall makes no sense.

Here are a few of facts from government sources that undermine his arguments for a wall:

1)  The overwhelming quantity of drugs come across the border at points of entry not through the wilderness that Trump wants to fence off.  Better search methods are needed, not a fence.

2)   Despite Trump’s claim of thousands of terrorist suspects coming across the southern border, federal government reports suggest it was more like six in the first half of 2018.  Yes, six.  Forty-some came across the northern border that nobody talks about.   Should we build a wall there, too?  And first?

3)  Most foreign terrorist suspects come into the country legally and then just overstay their visas.

4)  Since 9/11, the large majority of terrorists attacks in the U. S. have come from home grown types who have become radicalized not from foreigners infiltrating our borders.

Certainly we could use better border security, not to mention a more humane way of treating  the large increase of those simply seeking political asylum, but Trump’s wall seems to address none of these issues.  It is a fake answer to our real border problems, not only a wasted effort but one that distracts from real needs to be addressed.

The five billion or so dollars he is demanding to start the wall is really, just a start.  Estimates from 40 to 80 billion or more have been made for the total cost.  So, this fake answer to a phony problem is also going to cost us a fortune.

By the way, I watched a clip of Trump at the border being given a briefing by border security.  The officer was showing slides of a tunnel they recently discovered under a section of the wall already built.  Trump just sat there nodding as if unaware the border agent had just provided one more tunnel undermining his argument for a wall.

No matter to him.  It is all a Trump fabrication to shore up his base with a false solution to a mischaracterized problem.

 

 

Overwhelmed by Trump’s Unfettered Lying and Worried About the Election

“People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; repeat it frequently enough people will believe it.”

Adolph Hitler

Yes, it is time to bring out the risky Hitler card.  No.  I don’t see Trump as a budding mass murderer, but when it comes to unfettered lying the comparison seems more than fair, especially in recent days.   Trump is in overdrive to produce that big lie by election day.

I haven’t written since my failed judgement that Judge Kavanaugh would lose his battle for confirmation, not because that devastated me – I figured my prediction was chancy – but because I have been overwhelmed by the wave of subsequent events and Trump’s misleading statements and lies about them.

The issue these days is often not really what occurred, but the ability of one side or the other to shape the narrative.   In the Kavanaugh hearing the Democrats saw Blasey Ford as the victim, and her testimony was very convincing, but by the end Republicans had made Kavanaugh the victim of a sneaky last minute attack.   The odd situation made it seem like a trial of Kavanaugh, and as such one is innocent until proven guilty.

That wins the narrative battle, as indicated by Trump often sighting Kavanaugh and the Democrats not mentioning Blasey Ford.  That event seems to have revved up more Republicans and those “tweeners” than those of us who are already never Trumpers.  We just became sicker and angrier.

But what is most striking at the moment is the untethered flourish of hyperbole, fabrications and distortions – yes, even more than usual – that Trump is churning out now.  He just makes things up by the hour, such as the middle class tax cut his team is hoping to pass before the election, with no evidence of that, perhaps because there are not enough days before the election to pass anything.  It just sounds good.

The lie provides one more mental sugar plum for voters heading to the poles.  There is no stated progress with North Korea on denuclearization, either, but he keeps acting as if there were and its better than his ranting.   So, one more sugar plum….

Trump creates problems and then boasts about fixing them.  But it is the image of his fixing the problem that sticks in our minds.  He says we should pull out of a missile deal we have with Russia, so now his Security Adviser Bolton is there talking with them.  My guess is he’ll come back with good news, promises of working together.  Another sugar plum.

It is the latest flurry of outright lies that is most Hitleresque, though, such as the image he has created of the caravan of refugees heading here from Central America, an image of terrorists and MS13  and rapists (and lions and tiger and bears, oh my!).  No matter he has no evidence for any of this according to several sources, including Fox News.

Shepard Smith, the director of news there (real news as opposed to the opinion misshapers headed up by Hannity) examined the situation and reported:  “Fox News knows of no evidence to suggest the president is accurate on that matter.”

In doing so, he contradicted the theory of the evil invasion cooked up on Fox and Friends that morning, which quite likely was Trump’s “news source”.   (Read this for some details.)  In case you don’t know, Trump calls the Friends often giving the impression many of his spur of the moment  “insights” originate there.

Over the next two weeks or so Trump will say and do anything to make his administration look good, including more baseless promises and warrant-less accusations.  A recent poll shows Trump with a 47% approval rating and reports of early voting suggest Republicans are off to a better start.

So frankly I am scared that too much of the big lie will be bought by too many.

Kavanaugh and His Accuser: Add Another Ring to the Circus

Permit me to use that tired saw:  You can’t make these things up.   I’d say that fits the whole Trump presidency, but there’s something extra juicy about this.   Two people of sterling reputations (well, at least until they are totally slimed by the opposite side this week), on course to call each other liars face to face under oath in a Senate hearing next Monday.

At stake is whether Judge Kavanaugh will be named to the Supreme Court or not, since only a handful of senators who would otherwise back him, may not now, depending on who they believe once the gun smoke settles.

As you probably know, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor and research psychologist, has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when both were in high school decades ago.  She raised this issue in letters to Senators which she hoped would remain confidential, but once leaked, she decided to go all in and here we are.

I believe Ford’s recollection over Kavanaugh’s, first because she is inviting hell into her life by stepping forward, so she must believe deeply in the righteousness of her stand.   And second because Kavanaugh was quite a drinker in high school and college as well, something that has failed to draw attention until now.

To whatever extent he was an eagle scout, he was also a party guy.  According to a friend with him that night, Mark Judge, such drunken escapades were not rare for him and his friends.

When hearing of the accusations against his friend, Judge called them “absolutely nuts”.   But this is from a pal who wrote a book titled:  Wasted:  Tales of a Gen X Drunk, in which he talks about being “wild drunk” with girls along with his friends.  (Go here to read more.)

Judge has confessed to “bouts of dehumanizing lust.”  I imagine Kavanaugh has some confessing to do as well.  I’ll be curious to see if he tries to maintain his complete innocence as a youth or come clean.

Blasey Ford’s lawyer went too far in indicating in a TV interview that her client would probably have been raped had the boys not been too drunk to pull it off.  How about the possibility that the boys would not have acted quite so badly had they not been so drunk?  Still, acting like asses, still guilty of molestation, but that is not rape even if Blasey Ford feared that would happen.

Whatever happened that night, Blasey Ford clearly feels she was assaulted and Kavenaugh would do well to deal with that in a humane way instead of insisting “it” never happened and acting as if he were some kind of choir boy back then.

Humpty Trumpty Sat on a Wall. Humpty Trumpty……………..

All these things pushing Trumpty to the ledge.  Like Omarosa and her book and a few tapes and then this past week Bob Woodward’s book Fear, both supporting frequent reporting of a witless president in a wacky White House.  Of course, the account of Watergate press hero Woodward is to be much more respected, but Omarosa’s credibility could be bolstered by more tapes.

Either way it is all grease for Trumpty’s slippery slope.   The plea deals of former fixer/sort-of-personal lawyer Michael Cohen and, just a few days ago, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort seem likely to generate numerous revelations that will push Trump over the edge.

Some time ago Cohen offered all sorts of info to the feds in hopes of preventing a prison cell from becoming a permanent home.  And now  Trump campaign manager (for a crucial five months) Paul Manafort has decided to take his chances with clemency in a similar fashion.

Talk about knowing where all the bodies are buried.  These guys have run the cemetery.

I have assumed Manafort was gambling on a pardon.   Why else would he deny everything in his first court case that led to several convictions?  But the odds seem to have changed in his mind.  Trusting Trump on anything is iffy (unless what is good for you is great for him), but there is an additional consideration now.

This plea shows Manafort placing his chips on some clemency from Mueller if he comes clean rather than a pardon from Trump if he doesn’t.

Perhaps he has concluded Trump might not be around to grant him that pardon.

Trump vs. Stormy Daniels: Who Do You Believe More?

Full disclosure, I think the evidence, for those who still care about such things, clearly points to Daniels (a.k.a. Stephanie Clifford) as more believable.  So, I was surprised to see the results of a study this morning that asked people the question in my title.   What surprises me is that Daniels only got a 4% advantage over Trump, 34% to 30%, while another 30% indicated they didn’t believe either one.

Add Trump’s 30% to the 30% that don’t believe either one, and you’ve got 60% who do not believe Daniels when, from my point of view, her story is far more compelling.  Think about her “colored” past anyway you want to, but there is no talk of her molesting anyone and bragging about it on Access Hollywood like there is with Trump.  Nor a string of 15 or so accusers of molestation coming forth.

But let’s just get to the heart of the issue:  Compare Trump, who has been proven to lie several times a day about all sorts of things, with Daniels who has stuck with the same story right along.  I have not seen proof she has lied about her relation with Trump.  The media calls it an “affair,” which I think over blows a one night stand.

Daniels has simply stated she slept with Trump once and it was consensual.  That was it.  She has been suing him because he has lied about it happening and her receiving a payoff to keep quiet.

I think she is a tough woman who doesn’t like being pushed around and wants vindication, which is not to say the money and attention she has garnered has not added fuel to her motivation.   I’m not arguing for her sainthood, just that her story is more believable than Trump’s, which to me is a low bar to hurdle.  The question isn’t motives but who has been more truthful.

To all those who don’t believe her, are you saying Daniels did not receive a payoff from Michael Cohen acting on behalf of Trump (do you think he forked out that 200 grand on his own?).  If you think so, I’d say just wait and see how the Cohen trial pans out.

My intention here is not to launch a full blown defense of Stormy Daniels, but to initiate possible conversations on the question of whose story is more truthful.  If we are ever going to bridge our political chasm, we have to find some topics that we can investigate together.  If we can’t come to terms on the truth of this situation, what can we agree upon?   To bridge both sides of the chasm requires something to talk about that it is simple enough to come up with a yes or no answer.

“Who do you believe” and why?    …….. is a place to start.


P. S. –  The study also shows that 72% of the Republicans questioned believed Trump. My theory is fewer than that believe him, but given our current tribalism, they answer as if they did.   I think there are plenty of Republicans who don’t like the man but like his policies enough to ignore their own feelings.  I imagine they think of the poll less as a matter of truth, but as a matter of whom they support.