[As Russia probe threatens to suffocate White House, GOP Tax plan threatens to suffocate American middle and working class]
— RECENT HEADLINES —
“President Pressured Senate Judiciary Cmte. Chair, Members to End Russia Investigation” (11/30/2017)
“Sessions Declines to Answer: ‘Did President Ever Ask You to Impede Russia Probe?’” (11/30/2017)
“Michael Flynn Pleads to Perjury, Will Cooperate; WH Noose Tightens; Stocks Plummet” (12/1/2017)
“Tax Overhaul Passes Senate With 1 GOP Holdout; Awaits Reconciliation With House” (12/1/2017)
“Trump Tweet Admits to Obstruction of Justice: Knew Flynn Had Lied to FBI When Fired” (12/2/2017)
“FBI Agent Peter Strzok Removed From Mueller’s Team in July Over Anti-Trump Texts” (12/2/2017)
“Trump Gives Full Support to Roy Moore; RNC Flips Back to Full Support” (12/4/2017)
“Prosecutors File to Revoke Paul Manafort’s Bail for Colluding With Russian Colleague” (12/4/2017)
“Trump Lawyers Go From ‘Pres. Didn’t Collude, Obstruct’ to ‘It’s Legal if Pres. Colluded, Obstructed’” (12/4/2017)
“Supreme Court Allows Latest Trump Travel Ban to Take Full Effect” (12/4/2017)
“Special Counsel Robert Mueller Subpoenas Trump Deutsche Bank Financial Records” (12/5/2017)
“Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) Resigns After Pressure From House Leadership” (12/5/2017)
“Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Against Advice; Violence Feared” (12/6/2017)
“House Votes to Allow Concealed Carry of Guns Across State Lines” (12/6/2017)
“Time Names ‘Me-Too’ Women Person(s) of the Year, Implicitly Slams Trump” (12/6/2017)
“Don Jr. Testifies at Closed House Intel. Cmte. Hearing for 8 Hrs.; Refuses to Discuss Post-June 9 Meeting Conversations With Dad Based on ‘Attorney-Client Privilege’” (12/6/2017)
“Flynn Texted Associate 11 Minutes After Inauguration: ‘Good to Go’ for Mid-East Nuclear Plants Project With Russian Players; Russian Sanctions Would Be ‘Ripped Up’” (12/6/2017)
“In Russia Probe, All Signs Point to Quid Pro Quo: Sanctions Relief for Election Help” (12/6/2017)
“Al Franken (D-MN) Resigns Senate Seat, Effective ‘Within Weeks’” (12/7/2017)
Jeb Bush said it best and first during the Republican presidential primaries: Donald Trump is a chaos candidate and, if elected, will give us a chaos presidency. Who knew Jeb was clairvoyant?
Well, it doesn’t take a weatherman to know which candidate will be the chaos president (— apologies to Bob Dylan). Virtually all of the 16 or 17 other GOP primary candidates on those early debate stages knew — they knew — Donald Trump was a walking disaster for their party.
In my book Barack vs. the Anti-PC: Laying the Groundwork for a 2016 Donald Trump Presidential Run I laid out how the Republican establishment made a deal with Beelzebub during the Obama years. They looked the other way and gave tacit approval to tea party racism, nativism, and xenophobia in return for obstructionist support. Ultimately, they lost control of their party. By the 2016 presidential primaries, it was already too late to stop The Donald, though the establishment candidates didn’t know it at the time.
Many Democrats and Independents knew, from the beginning of his candidacy, that if Trump were elected president, he would be a catastrophe for the country. In keeping with Donald’s love for superlatives, he has surprised even us never-Trumpers-from-the-beginning by being the worst, most dangerous, most corrupt, most democracy-damaging president our country has ever seen. He’s exceeded our wildest fears. Donald, you give chaos a bad name (Bon Jovi, pick up on that). A glance at the headlines that introduce each of my weekly articles tells the story in a nutshell. Television newsrooms across the country have gotten used to throwing out their prepared outlines because Trumpian outrages, atrocities, and other attention-seeking tantrums materialize so quickly.
“This Rusher Thing” — Evidence Is Piling Up
You might have heard of “this Rusher thing, with Trump, and Russia.” It’s been in the news. Donald is being investigated to see if he and/or his campaign partnered with Vladimir Putin and buds to cheat Hillary Clinton out of the presidency. And, like President Richard Nixon, he’s subsequently being investigated for possibly covering up the dirty deeds.
Unlike Nixon, Trump seems to have signaled many of his peccadilloes through public statements. He has been so brazen with these that a patina of legality lingers over the illegal acts.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; news conference, during 2016 [Fla.] Democratic convention; Doral, Fla.; 7/27/2016.)
At the time, many Democrats called this suborning espionage. GOP leaders scrambled to make sure the American people knew Republicans still viewed Russia as the bad guys.
Consider this one:
“And in fact, when I decided to just do it [fire FBI Director James Comey], I said to myself, I said, you know, this Rusher (sic) thing, with Trump, and Russia, is a made-up story.”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; White House interview conducted by Holt, Lester; NBC News; 5/11/2017.)
At the time, many Democrats, Republicans, and legal pundits called this an admission of obstruction of justice. Up until this interview, the White House’s stated reasons for firing Comey were Justice Department recommendations (from the attorney general and his deputy) based on Comey’s “mishandling” of the Clinton email probe.
Currently, many pundits still surmise that these two public statements (and others) by the president represent collusion with a foreign power to alter our election, and obstruction of justice to cover up that collusion. New timeline information pertaining to the Trump campaign, transition, and presidency further backs up these hypotheses. Hidden pieces of the puzzle are uncovered almost daily through persistent investigative reporting, special counsel indictments and charges, congressional committee hearings, and presidential tweets.
This past week alone has produced an avalanche of bad news for the president. Last Thursday it was uncovered that Trump had asked the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee to wrap up its Trump-Russia-collusion investigation quickly. After the chair responded that it will take as long as it needs to take, Donald then contacted several GOP committee members to ask them to pressure the chair to end the probe quickly.
Take a breath.
This development by itself would have had President Barack Obama’s head on a platter instantly — and most any other president’s. But President Trump, protected by congressional Republicans, continues to dodge bullets like this; and this is but one of a hail of bullets exposing Trump’s criminal liability. Most Republicans in Congress have sold their souls — tacitly condoning grounds-for-impeachment misconduct — to enact their plutocratic agenda.
It gets better. Also last Thursday, Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to answer when asked in closed hearings that day “whether he was ever instructed by the president to take any action that he believed would hinder the Russia investigation.” Declined to answer!
On Friday, former Trump National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to perjury concerning his false statements to the FBI in which he denied discussing sanctions relief with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. Note that Flynn also could be exposed to a boatload of other charges (illegally working with multiple foreign governments, kidnapping, bribery, etc.) along with his son. But in return for full and complete cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Flynn’s sentencing is delayed, additional charges are on hold, and Flynn’s son is uncharged for now.
In other words, if Michael Flynn gives prosecutors everything he has on the Trump campaign, transition, and administration — having been a very senior member of all three — prosecutors will wait and see about the perjury sentence and all other charges, including charges against the junior Flynn.
Where do you think Michael Flynn’s loyalties lie now? It’s important to note that Donald has shown no loyalty to anyone he has fired, ever, except Flynn. On the seventh day of the Trump administration, Sally Yates, acting attorney general, informed the White House that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and could be “compromised,” i.e., blackmailed, by Russia. The president kept his national security adviser on the job a full 18 days after that. Trump only relented when The Washington Post broke the story of Yates’ Jan. 26, 2017, White House meeting. Since then, Trump has continued to praise Flynn, speculated he might have erred in firing Flynn, has railed that Flynn received unfair treatment, and privately messaged Flynn to “stay strong.”
Now it starts to get good — and all this happened in one week.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Twitter post; 12/2/2017.)
You know that after the reports of General Flynn flipping Friday, President Trump’s lawyers demanded he not comment, anywhere, anyhow, on that development or the Russia investigation in general. Donald lasted about 24 hours. He couldn’t stop himself. This represents an especially dangerous time for America. If the president can’t stop himself from implicating himself in a criminal conspiracy and blowing up his presidency — and he refuses to listen to any of his lawyers or advisers — what’s to stop him from responding after Kim Jong Un announces: “Call me Little Rocket Man one more time, you presidential dotard, and I will launch our nukes.”?
Anyway, Why does the tweet about Flynn implicate the president in obstruction of justice? 1) Trump knew Flynn lied to Pence, but he was not supposed to have been aware that Flynn lied to the FBI — Sally Yates never told the White House about that; and 2) The day after Trump was forced by The Washington Post to fire Flynn, Trump cleared the room — of his attorney general, chief of staff, and others — and spoke with FBI Director James Comey alone. The president said to Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
OK, first, if President Trump found out that Flynn had lied to the FBI on the same day he found out Flynn had lied to VP Pence (Jan. 26, 2017), this is all the more reason to ask, Why did President Trump keep Michael Flynn on as national security adviser, attending high-level meetings with foreign governments, 18 more days? — and fired him only after the Yates-White House meeting was outed?
Second, if Donald knew Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI when Trump met with Director Comey, asking Comey to let the Flynn thing go seems to be a clear attempt to stop the investigation of a known crime, i.e., obstruction of justice.
Ultimately, the White House tried to say that just this one time — never before and never again — Trump personal Russia lawyer 76-year-old John Dowd dictated this tweet to a “staffer” who then posted it to the president’s Twitter account. Literally no one believes this. In any event, the tweet looks just as bad either way.
Team Trump is defecating in their tighty-whiteys after the Flynn plea and flip. It really looks like the end is near. All along they’ve been maintaining there was no collusion with Russia to effect a Trump electoral win, and there has been no obstruction of justice because there is nothing to cover up.
On Monday, the president’s legal team flipped their strategy. Now they’ve put out the word that, technically, there is no legal statute with the word collusion in it, therefore, collusion is not a crime. Moreover, they say, the president cannot obstruct justice because, as head of the entire U.S. legal system, if the president does it, it’s not illegal. Even Nixon didn’t say this aloud until after he was forced out of office.
First, collusion has been used in the media as shorthand for conspiracy to cooperate with a foreign government to alter a U.S. election. Clearly, that is illegal. Michael Flynn’s assurances to Russia that the Trump administration would reverse Obama’s Russian sanctions (implemented upon Russia’s annexation of part of Ukraine and U.S. election interference) after Donald gets into office might be treason.
Second, reportedly almost all constitutional and legal experts say the Trump administration’s new defense — that the president can’t obstruct justice — is dead wrong. It’s been tried before and has not worked.
Dec. 5, 2017, and the week is not over yet: Special Counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Donald Trump’s financial records from Deutsche Bank. There are three things to know about Deutsche Bank: 1) They have been fined $400 million-plus for Russian money-laundering; 2) The Trump administration has stifled a new Deutsche Bank investigation, initiated by the Obama administration, that could result in a fine of billions of dollars for additional Russian money-laundering; and 3) Deutsche Bank is the only large bank in the world that has continued to loan Mr. Trump money after his large bankruptcies and general refusals to repay other banks.
Donald Trump has criminal exposure on four massive fronts: Russian collusion, obstruction of justice, financial corruption, and heavy conflicts of interest as president. I believe Mr. Trump will face reckoning on all four fronts. As musicians and other artists like to say: You can die from exposure.
If it wasn’t bad enough for Michael Flynn, Dec. 6, 2017, produced another bombshell. At 12:11 p.m., Inauguration Day, 11 minutes after President Trump was sworn in, Flynn texted a former business associate. He told him their prospective partnership with Russian players to build nuclear power plants throughout the Middle East was “good to go” and the partners should “put things in place”; now that Trump was in office, the Russian sanctions precluding that deal would be “ripped up.”
Not a good look.
Apparently, the guy on the receiving end of that text told another friend he was with. That friend told authorities about this tweet. The information made its way to the House Oversight Committee. The committee agreed to hold off on releasing the news — at the request of Special Counsel Bob Mueller — until Michael Flynn was indicted or pleaded guilty.
Who Else Flipped
In the title of this week’s article, I said that Flake, Collins, McCain, and the RNC also flipped. Let me sum up.
Early Friday morning, the same day Michael Flynn officially entered his plea agreement to cooperate with prosecutors (aka flipping), the Senate passed their version of the tax overhaul bill. Republicans like to say it is tax reform, but most of the country realizes it is a transfer of wealth to the already rich from the working poor and the U.S. debt, with no real reform to the process of tax collection and administration. The debt will increase (over 10 years) at least $1.5 trillion, and that’s if all rosy GOP projections come to pass.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the only Republican holdout to stick to his no-debt-increase guns. Senators Jeff Flake (R- Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) all rolled over after previously indicating they would not vote to increase the debt. Sen. Collins also was against weakening the ACA; but the Senate version of the tax bill eliminates the individual mandate, one of three legs supporting the Obamacare stool (along with no pre-existing conditions and providing subsidies). She flipped on that.
Sen. McCain gave an impassioned Senate floor speech during the attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare about how harmful it was to government for one party to shove through legislation quickly with no serious hearings and no input from the opposition party. With his decision on tax cuts for the wealthy, he flipped and voted to do exactly that.
These three senators succumbed to the belief of their leaders that any tax bill — no matter how bad — was better than not passing something by the end of this year. If this didn’t fly, Republicans would be burdened with the fact that they went the entire first year of the Trump presidency without passing a single significant piece of legislation. They voted for a stinker bill to prop up the GOP congressional vote in 2018. They put party over country.
Speaking of putting party over country, the Republican National Committee decided to resume supporting and funding Roy Moore’s (R-Ala.) special election senatorial candidacy. This is significant because after nine women, including underage-teenagers-at-the-time, went public with accusations of sexual misconduct and assault against Mr. Moore, the RNC cut ties with his campaign. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged Moore to drop out of the race knowing that if he did, the Democrat, Doug Jones, would be elected. McConnell was praised by members of both parties.
Many other Republican leaders unendorsed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and called for his withdrawal from the election. Note that Moore was already kryptonite to many Republicans because of being twice removed from the bench for violating the Constitution, and because of his white nationalist, far-right-Christian beliefs.
Then a couple of weeks went by. Moore stayed in the race. The RNC wondered what got into them in the first place, flipped, and resumed supporting the many-times-alleged sexual assaulter Republican.
If this sounds like déjà vu all over again, you’re right: This is exactly what happened after the Access Hollywood tape came out exposing candidate Trump for the sexual assaulter of women and misogynist that he is. Billy Bush was fired from NBC for just listening to Trump, while Donald went on to be president.
And the GOP is the party of child molesters, sexual predators, justice obstructers, and colluders — and co-dependent congressional enablers. ■
Quotes of the Week
“[The Republican tax plan] is death to Democrats. They go after state and local taxes, which weakens public employee unions. They go after university endowments, and universities have become playpens of the left. And getting rid of the [individual] mandate is to eventually dismantle Obamacare.”
(Moore, Stephen, Heritage Foundation member, conservative economist, tax policy adviser to Trump presidential campaign; as cited in Kapur, Sahil; “’Death to Democrats’: How the GOP Tax Bill Whacks Liberal Tenets”; Bloomberg News; 12/5/2017.) (Stephen Moore, saying the quiet part loud)
“I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving [office] while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.”
(Franken, Al, D-Minn., U.S. senator; Senate floor speech; 12/7/2017.) (Al Franken, in his Senate resignation speech after multiple charges of sexual groping)