The Nunes Memo Doesn’t “Vindicate” Trump, but his Base Probably Believes Him

(If you have little idea of what the Nunes memo is, I suggest you look at this primer provided by the Washington Post.   The matter is too complicated for me to describe simply and shortly.  Or first read what I’ve written and go to the Post for details and clarifications.)

As you have probably noticed, the Nunes memo has been the foremost political story over the past few days, with Trump and his supporters claiming it proves FBI malfeasance in how it began to surveil the Trump team for possible collusion with Russia and for a cover up of that.  Trump’s claim that the memo “vindicates” him only may seem true if you abandon all logic, like Trump’s TV mouthpiece Sean “hysterical” Hannity, who claimed the memo makes Watergate look like stealing “a Snickers bar.”

The surest evidence that Trump is not vindicated is that Trey Gowdy, and three other Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee which Nunes Chairs, all asserted on Sunday talk news programs the memo had no bearing on the Mueller investigation.

Neither Trump nor Nunes could have been happy about that conclusion, but Gowdy is yet another Republican who has decided not run again in 2018, so I think he cares more about protecting his reputation as a lawyer than pleasing Trump.

Gowdy, who was a federal prosecutor, and who for years investigated the hell out of Hillary Clinton’s role in the Benghazi tragedy (discovering little, but doing great damage to her reputation) is the only one on that House committee to actually have seen the evidence given to the FISA court, selected to do so by Chairman Nunes because of his legal background.

Let me repeat.  Gowdy was the only one on the committee to be allowed to see the FISA warrant evidence, so his opinion should mean more that those both on the committee and elsewhere, especially when those opinions attack it like the plague.

And Gowdy concluded  “I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe.” 

Well it shouldn’t impact the probe, but Trump will continue to make the memo mean whatever he wants it to  (and his Greek chorus at Fox News and other conspiracy hot beds will amplify the nonsense).  Trump will certainly gather whatever alternative facts he can think up that maintain the illusion he is being unfairly prosecuted by those biased towards Democrats, while ignoring the inconvenient fact that all the top guys he has fired and/or criticized in the DOJ and the FBI are Republicans, most of whom he nominated.

However, this figures to muddy the waters enough to allow his base to support him whatever the conclusion of the Mueller probe.  It also might embolden Trump to find other ways to impede the that probe through additional firings, a topic I’ll save awaiting to see if it materializes.

Today the House Intelligence committee will vote on releasing the Democratic memo in response to the Republican one.  If released (which now seems likely), Trump will have five days to figure out what to do with it.  Who knows what he’ll dream up?

Meanwhile the government is scheduled to shut down again Thursday, which in reality is a more substantial topic, but more boring (kick the can a few more feet down the road anyone?), so the Nunes memo and its after effects seem likely to continue to get higher ratings.

CORRECTION:   When publishing this earlier today I mistakenly indicated Sally Yates, one of several high ranking staff in the FBI or DOJ who Trump fired or resigned, is a Republican as are the others.  No, she is a Democrat.   Sorry, but she is the exception.







A Recap of Trump’s State of the Disunion Speech and the Nunes Memo

Despite asserting in my previous post that I wouldn’t waste my time watching Trump  spew his twisted, vomitacious version of reality, I did against my better judgement.  I kept from upchucking by frequent surfing to college basketball games to regain my composure.  March Madness is coming up which I hope will be a refreshing, fun antidote for a few weeks to the daily craziness of Trumptopia.

The Washington Post fact checkers (There must be an army of them by now, one area of job growth the president can take credit for) describe about as much as you need to know when they say they “took a look at 18 of President Trump’s claims — job creation, wage growth, tax cuts and more — and found him stretching the truth, inflating the effects of his actions or taking credit for things that happened under his predecessor.”

In other words it was B. S. developed into an art form.  A story of how the Donald took what he called “carnage” in his first speech as president a year ago into the increasingly rich and vibrant society we live in now with the prospect of even more vibrance and riches in the years to come.

As long as we unite around him.  Applauding him and doing what he wants is his version of unity. I would add he emphasized unity at the beginning and then said all sorts of things to make those who dislike him already, dislike him even more, where that is possible.

For those who might want to look at one or more of those 18 claims dissected, go here.

The Nunes Memo basically asserts FBI partisan mishandling of its early investigation of wire taps tied to the Trump collusion investigation.  The Republicans act like they just want more “transparency” in the process, but since the Memo was developed over months by Republican Nunes it looks like a cherry picked version of the so-called truth.

Most importantly right now is the president wants to release it despite public warnings by the FBI.   “With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Trump must be furious with FBI Director Wray for publicly opposing his wishes.  He might release the memo today, which figures to prompt a showdown with the FBI.  Even if he doesn’t release it, it figures to remain a big, ongoing story.

Trump’s State of the Disunion Message Tonight

I’ve tried to begin various versions of this post, but have ground to a halt each time.  Why speculate on what he will say?  We never know what he really means.  He often doesn’t know what he really means but those gut instincts of his have served him well.  He remains afloat by playing upon the fears, the hunger for simplicity and the resentments of many Americans, like a music phenom plays a Strativarius.   Meanwhile he will talk about wanting to unify the country when he has done the exact opposite this past year.  I imagine even his supporters don’t see him as a unifier.  They just want to see him bully their imagined enemies in government.

In broad terms, whatever he says, the big news is how he and his minions in Congress and Trump TV (a.k.a.  Fox “News”, with a couple exceptions) are steadily creating the alternative reality to challenge what is likely to come out of the Mueller investigation, a combination of charges and actions worthy of impeachment.  When that time comes, the Trumpeteers want a well established narrative that undermines the credibility of Mueller and the FBI itself, so Trump can challenge the charges, maybe even plead the 5th Amendment. The latest attack comes from what is called the “Nunes” memo, which you can google and judge for yourself.  So bogus if you know the history.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to be nice to his Russian buddy Vlad by cancelling plans yesterday for additional sanctions on Russia for interfering with our elections, sanctions that were passed in Congress by near unanimous majorities last summer.  The White House has dragged its collective feet for months and finally, last night 10 minutes before the deadline, they cancelled them saying they didn’t seem necessary now.

Not necessary?   Trump appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo said earlier that day he expects Russia to try to interfere in our 2018 elections.  And then that night, the White House says no need for more sanctions?  It makes no sense but at this point lying has worked so well, who cares about contradictions, even when obvious. And so far Congress has barely raised a peep, as if they are all mesmerized.

I won’t watch the speech, but tomorrow I will be  curious to know if Trump brings up his plan for immigration reform.  Both the right and the left hate it, which says to me:  Hey, there might be a decent deal to be made.  If Trump actually could pull off a deal on immigration I might have to say something nice.  But my guess is he won’t even try.  He just wants to put the Dems in a position where they will have to refuse the deal.  He doesn’t have the courage to make his base angry.

Oh, by the way, tied to some DACA deal is the necessity to add another budget extension (our 5th I think since October) in nine days.

Our fly by night budget system suits our fly by night president.   It is only fitting that after Trump’s speech Jimmy Kimmel will host Stormy Daniels, called a porn star paramour of Trump who was allegedly paid off to keep silent prior to the election.  In the pre-Trump era that would be BIG NEWS – the president and the porn star…..

Now it is just another side show in Trump’s 23 ring circus.  Given all the geological layers of recently uncovered sleazy behavior by men in power, consensual sex, even while his wife was pregnant and a big payoff for silence was made, seems pretty tepid stuff.

Welcome to Trumptopia.


The U. S. Government Shutdown: Who will Win the Message Battle?

I don’t like the idea, but I think Trump will.  His message seems stronger, which is:  The Democrats are choosing to support illegals over protecting our borders and paying our troops and building our military.  They are holding the government hostage for their pet cause the DACA dreamers, which is a separate issue from funding the government and one that can wait for awhile as the executive order protecting them doesn’t expire until March.

The essential thinking goes:  Say what you will liberals, but those people are here illegally and while we may be sympathetic (except the immigration hawks), we do not want to close the government down over this issue.

Of course, Democrats counter with the fact Republicans control the presidency and Congress so if there is a shut down it is their fault.  Also, the Republicans have had months to resolve the DACA issue, and seemed close to doing so before that “holes” meeting in the oval office blew up the chances. The Republican need for Democratic votes to pass their bill in the Senate is the only way the Democrats have any leverage on their side.

Democrats and liberal commentators also often cite a poll that roughly 80% of the population are in favor of passing DACA, all the more reason for the Dems to dig in their heels here.

Less often they point to another poll where people were asked which was more important to them protecting the dreamers or keeping the government open, and the latter got 54% or so and the former 39% or so.  In short a majority may be sympathetic to the dreamers, but not at the cost of shutting down the government and not paying our troops and strengthening our military.  To them the dreamers can wait.

With that poll in mind, digging in on DACA is easy to sell as hostage taking and the longer the situation lasts, the more it it is going to be seen that way by a majority of Americans, especially as the Republicans will hammer that point deep into our psyches.  Right now they have ads on TV blaming the Democrat softness on immigration for murders committed by illegal immigrants.  (Which has nothing to do with the dreamers, but fosters subliminal guilt by association).  Since the message is so simple and negative, even Trump seems likely to stay on it.

I love being right, but in this case I would welcome being wrong.  I would be happy to be wrong.

P. S. – A pet peeve of mine is the tendency of commentators and politicians to indicate one party or the other has “control of the senate” because they have a simple majority.  A majority means control mostly in a negative sense.  You can stop things from happening, but because of Senate rules you need 60 votes on most important matters, like the budget extension, to make something happen, i.e. to pass it.   Obamacare was passed with 60 votes exactly.  The primary reason the ACA has so many flaws is it had to satisfy the concerns of so many different Senators to reach 60.  In short, while the Republicans manage the senate now, they don’t control it as illustrated by this impasse.  Of course, they could lower all decisions to a simple majority, as they have with selecting federal judges other than the Supreme Court, but that would make the opposition party totally impotent.  Not surprisingly, the authoritarian Trump is now trumpeting that “nuclear option” in tweets.

The Truth about the “Holes” Meeting and why Care?

Did Trump say “S…holes” or some variation (e.g “houses”) at that ….meeting?  We have two Republican Senators who now say he did not, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, after initially saying they couldn’t recall, and Republican Lindsay Graham and Democrat Dick Durbin saying he did say those things, so someone is clearly lying.

You may well be thinking what is one more lie among Trump’s ever growing galaxy of fabrications.  I say once in awhile we should pin one down for it will likely have future implications.  With a government shutdown pending and both parties blaming the other, it seems important to pin down what happened at that meeting and who is lying about it.

A New York Times piece today described that meeting well, so I ask you to go to that link to get a fuller picture, but not quite yet.

Here are two reasons to believe Graham and Durbin.  For one, Graham has tried hard to stay on Trump’s good side (including some games of golf) so they could work together, while maintaining some integrity in the process, meaning he will criticize Trump but he tries not to trash him.

That tight rope walking left him at first both supporting Durbin while not exactly accusing Trump of those words, until Perdue and Cotton suddenly located their memories in time for talk shows last Sunday where they were sure the “holes” word was not used.  Their lies were too much for Graham to take, so he came out with stronger words backing Durbin.

My point being, Graham didn’t want this to happen, but after working on a compromise with Durbin that Trump seemed to like, he just wasn’t going to roll over for the president and the party when it was so clear to him who was lying.

Here’s a second reason to believe Graham and Durbin:   At that Senate hearing Tuesday, homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen actually claimed she did not know whether Norway was predominantly white, in response to a question referring to Trump’s racial bias.  Huh?

That prompted another Senator to question Nielsen’s competence for the job and for Stephen Colbert to make a joke about it, her Nordic name making the ignorance particularly odd.  But I watched her prior to that and she looked quite capable to me until she started dodging questions as to what was said at that meeting which she attended (“I can’t recall….there was a lot of tough language used from both sides”….never giving exact words she heard).

I say she was in such a CYA mode trying to shield the president that she responded to the Norway question as if it were a trick.  So the safest answer that second was  “I don’t know”.  Dumb as it seems now and proof she was hiding her real knowledge of the meeting.

My point in all of this is the shut down we will soon face could have been avoided had this meeting not devolved into the sewer (to maintain a theme).  So, it matters who is telling the truth about the meeting when it comes to the blame game.

In a televised meeting of Congressional leaders the Tuesday before the “holes” meeting Trump acted as if he welcomed the idea of more money for border security in exchange for legalizing the “dreamers”  (so many warm feelings I was expecting hand holding and Kumbaya to burst forth), but by meeting time Thursday Trump’s mind frame totally changed, undoubtedly from negative reactions from his base.  Cotton and Perdue, hardliners on immigration, were obviously there to prevent Trump from flipping back to flop.

The seeds for a shut down were sewed in that meeting and Trump, Cotton and Perdue planted them.

P. S. NEWS FLASH:    Senate Minority Chuck Schumer is at the White House (10:35 a.m. Pacific Time) in what is reported as a one to one talk with Trump.  Could the two New Yorkers forge some kind of last minute deal to keep the government open?   It’s a matter of which Trump wants less, to have a government shut down marring  the celebration of his first year as president in Florida this weekend, or to have the base that he continuously courts unhappy with some kind of compromise.

Epilogue to Last Week’s “Holes” Post

In my previous post I tried to etch a rough line between the Trump TV show and the Trump presidency, while trying to make the point that the show has gotten most of the attention while Republican congressional actions have often been sidetracked or delayed by Trump speaking his mindless.

On the other hand, Trump’s outrageous speech and actions have drawn attention away from the right’s steady actions to dismantle the administrative state allowing them to progress steadily unnoticed like termites in your attic.  In short, it’s a twisted relationship.


What matters most is not achieving anything in particular but to hold our constant attention while appearing to win often while blaming anyone he can think of when he doesn’t.  This is most clear in situations like the attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, where he was obviously ready to sign anything and call it a great victory for the people with no clue of what impact any of it would have.

That Trump sees this all as a show was supported in a tweet by conservative talk show host Erick Erickson Saturday.  Referring to the now infamous “hole” comment, Erickson wrote:

“It’s weird that people in the room don’t remember Trump using that word when Trump himself was calling friends to brag about it afterwards.  I spoke to one of those friends.  The president thought it would play well to his base.”

Trump bragging about using the word.  (get that Paul Ryan? who called the comment “unfortunate and unhelpful” as if Trump had just misspoken with his 4th grade vocabulary.   No, he meant to say that.  He was proud of saying that.).  To be fair Erickson, formerly the editor of the conservative blog Red State has been a strong critic of Trump since the vulgarian described Megan Kelly’s bleeding from somewhere in that debate.  Because of that Erikson disinvited Trump from a Red State event.

I infer he disinvited Trump because of a sense of common decency which mattered more than whatever political overlap there was.  This is just a theory, but I think where there is decency, you’ll also find more honesty.

So, Erikson can’t stand the guy either, but he sure has a lot of conservative friends who would have connection to Trump and I believe his comments because he has shown decency and honesty in the past, qualities harder to detect in Trump than finding oxygen on the moon.

Today is Martin Luther King day, so many Republican politicians must feel those comments by Trump were particularly unfortunate and unhelpful, especially to their own political careers.  Trump doesn’t care.  MLK day only amplifies his “unfortunate” comments from last week assuring him the spotlight, which to him is fortunate.

Well, boys and girls that’s what comes of making a pact with the devil’s showman.

P. S. – There is a piece on Red State that discusses two problems of Trump’s “holes” comments in a thoughtful way.  I suggest you look at it as it seems the kind of piece that many could read and actually discuss without yelling at each other, such a novelty these days.