[MUELLER]: “Did you order the code red (and the Russia collusion)?”
[TRUMP]: “I did the job …”
[MUELLER]: “Did you order the code red!? (and the Russia collusion)!?”
[TRUMP]: “You’re GODDAMN RIGHT I DID!”
[MUELLER]: “If it please the court, I suggest the grand jury be dismissed so that we can move to an immediate article of impeachment. The president has rights.”
(— apologies to Aaron Sorkin, writer, A Few Good Men)
I will take no joy in the fact that we came to this point. But I will celebrate Donald’s downfall as evidence that our government could withstand the pernicious forces of Trumpism and complicit Republicans.
— RECENT HEADLINES —
“FL High School Shooting Survivors Get National Coverage of Their Gun Control Activism” (2/15/2018)
“1-Year Anniversary of Trump Signing Bill Easing Mental Health Restrictions on Gun Buyers” (2/15/2018)
“Steve Bannon Spends 20 Hours Interviewing With Mueller Team Over Past Week” (2/15/2018)
“13 Russians, 3 Russian Companies Indicted for Election Fraud to Support Trump Campaign” (2/16/2018)
“Trump Concedes Russian Election Meddling, Laughably Denies Ever Disbelieving It” (2/16/2018)
“Mueller Plea Deal Announced for Richard Pinedo, Guilty of Selling Stolen IDs to Russians” (2/16/2018)
“Former Manafort Protégé Rick Gates Very Close to Plea Deal, Cooperating With Mueller” (2/20/2018)
“Mueller Probes Kushner’s Family Business Pitches for Foreign Loans in Transition Mtgs.” (2/19/2018)
“Lawyer Alex van der Zwaan (Connected to Rick Gates), Son-in-Law of Russian Oligarch, Formerly With Prestigious NY Law Firm, Pleads Guilty to Mueller Perjury Charges; Bad for Manafort” (2/20/2018)
“KY Dem. Flips State Seat 68%-32% in Wild Swing From District Won by Trump 72%-23%” (2/20/2018)
“Kelly and Kushner in WH Power Struggle Over Kushner Losing Interim Security Clearance” (2/20/2018)
“Shooting Survivors and Victims’ Family Members Speak With President, Legislators” (2/21/2018)
“Twitter Suspends 1,000s of Bot Accounts; Right-Wingers Upset Over Losing Followers” (2/21/2018)
“Paul Manafort Suspected of Trying to Sell WH Job in Exchange for $16M in Home Loans” (2/21/2018)
“Mueller Grand Jury Files New 32-Count Indictment Against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates” (2/22/2018)
Last week I received feedback from a reader named JWnTX in response to my article stating the Russia-Trump-collusion scandal is shaping up to be this century’s U.S. constitutional stress test:
“So the six FBI officials who’ve been fired, reassigned, or forced to retire, the judge who has been replaced in the Flynn case, and the rest of the politically inspired skullduggery by government officials shouldn’t concern anyone? … The weaponizing of the bureaucracy by Obama’s political appointments is a FAR greater threat to our Democracy than even a President you don’t care for and should concern Americans on both sides. But of course, rule of law, like everything else for leftists, is a relative thing that should apply, or not, based on whether it fits your agenda.”
(JWnTX; reader response to Ersin, Tom; “Constitutional Stress Test”; GraniteWord.com; 2/18/2018.)
Here is my response:
“I have neither the time nor the inclination (– thanks to Col. Nathan R. Jessup) to address every fallacious talking point you have regurgitated from Fox/Breitbart-type ‘news’ sources. But to your point about ‘not caring for’ a president: I ‘didn’t care for’ George W. Bush and his policies, but (unlike President Trump) I never feared him starting a nuclear war through adolescent Twitter-like communications. Additionally (unlike President Trump), I never thought W. was: 1) incompetent, incapable of assembling a competent Cabinet and staff that works for the people; 2) morally bankrupt and racist; 3) financially corrupt, using the presidency to enrich himself; 4) authoritarian; 5) childishly unfit for office; 6) woefully uninformed about the world, government, and life (while considering his ignorance a badge of honor); 7) guilty of conspiring with a foreign power to alter our elections (as virtually proved by Trump’s obsequious capitulation to and appeasement of Putin); and finally, 8) using the power of the presidency criminally to cover up his crimes. There is a difference between ‘not caring for’ a president and wanting to rid our country of an actual criminal.
“To your last points: You’re engaging in pure Hannity-like projection, with no foundation in fact or reality. …
“[PS]: JWnTX, I do appreciate you reading the article, though. Obviously, we have widely disparate views on this subject, and the fact that you continued reading well after your disagreement must have been evident is commendable.”
(Ersin, Tom; writer response to JWnTX’s reader response to Ersin, Tom; “Constitutional Stress Test”; GraniteWord.com; 2/18/2018.)
Guess I told JWnTX. And wasn’t I gracious at the end of my response?
I am sick of Trump supporters consistently ignoring facts. And there are a lot of facts to ignore — we know the Trump-Russia-corruption affair is complicated. Moreover, every time new damaging information comes out against their president — no matter how reliable or even incontrovertible it is — they dig in deeper and ignore the new facts. This is a well-known logical fallacy identified within the ancient Greek study of rhetoric: ignorantum verbosium (— writer’s embellishment).
Lies of Omission
Take JWnTX’s first declaration, with her (or his) lies of omission and vague implications:
“So the six FBI officials who’ve been fired, reassigned, or forced to retire, the judge who has been replaced in the Flynn case, and the rest of the politically inspired skullduggery by government officials shouldn’t concern anyone?”
(I now have “the time” and “the inclination” to address these fallacious talking points.) Most of the FBI personnel she refers to A) were fired or pressured out by Trump himself, and B) happened to be witnesses to former Director James Comey’s contemporaneous confirmations of likely presidential crimes. Each of the other two (who exchanged texts critical of the current — as well as the former — president) either already had quit or was taken off the Russia probe as soon as Bob Mueller found out about the (completely legal) messages, which were exposed as the result of a special counsel review. That changes the perspective of JWnTX’s allegations, now doesn’t it?
As for the judge who recused himself from General Michael Flynn’s plea bargain, cooperation, and sentencing agreement? Recusals are not unusual, and in this case standing judicial guidelines precluded releasing the reason. Nothing to see here. Furthermore, recusals are part of the ethical underpinnings of our judicial system: If a judge believes he (or she) has any connection to the case that might create an appearance of bias, he defers to another judge. One right-wing website speculated the original Flynn judge could have been involved in FISA warrants surrounding the Russia probe (as if this were fishy). If so, his recusal was a good thing for Flynn. His Honor might know secret bad stuff about the defendant that we don’t know. And we certainly want Michael Flynn to get the fairest sentencing treatment to which he is entitled.
More JWnTX: “And the rest of the politically inspired skullduggery by government officials shouldn’t concern anyone?” Vague, don’t you think?
Hard-core Trump supporters want to play down every sign of Donald’s criminality and unethical behavior. As I’ve said many times, however, the proof of their dissemblance is demonstrated clearly through the thought experiment of substituting the name Obama for Trump in all these reports and imagining how Donald’s supporters would react. They would be blowing gaskets and exploding heads left and right.
JWnTX’s sentiments are typical of Trump supporters, though JWnTX writes better than most. Her views are also represented by (and derived from) national pundits — some of whom are not even on Fox News. It boggles my mind to ponder how these guys can justify twisting truth and reality so violently for partisan political purposes.
Marc A. Thiessen, The Washington Post
Take this guy, for example:
“[Russian meddling in our elections] is a grave threat. Republicans and Democrats should be working together in [a] bipartisan way to confront it. So why is this not happening? Because Democrats have politicized the issue, weaponizing the Russia inquiry in an effort to delegitimize Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton with these unfounded collusion charges. They have put their partisan goal of bringing down President Trump ahead of what should be a national goal that unites both parties — uncovering and stopping Russia’s attack on our democracy.”
(Thiessen, Marc A.; “Democrats Are Crippling America’s Response to Russian Interference”; The Washington Post; 2/21/2018.)
The Post should receive credit for this: They give voice to writers like Mr. Thiessen and run a share of prevaricacious opinion pieces like his in the name of balanced editorial output.
But come on. “Democrats have politicized the issue, weaponizing the Russia inquiry … with these unfounded collusion charges.” Marc Thiessen, do you know what unfounded means? It does not mean not proved beyond a reasonable doubt. There is more than enough founded information, even within the public domain, to warrant aggressive, vigorous investigation into possible collusion and conspiracy. Consider the Don Jr. meeting in Trump Tower (along with Daddy’s efforts to cover it up); the Comey firing; the Mueller near-firing; the Sessions near-firing; the Rosenstein threatening; asking DNI Coats and NSA Director Rogers to push back against the FBI Russia probe after Comey made it public; Michael Flynn’s plea-bargained admission of guilt; secret meetings galore between Russians and campaign/transition principals that the administration has desperately tried to cover up; and more. Granted, these do not necessarily constitute proof of collusion (yet), but they certainly comprise a legitimate, founded suite of reasons to investigate further.
Thiessen goes on to perpetuate already worn out tropes about how the indictment of the 13 Russians “vindicates” President Trump from any possible collusion because 1) they got started in 2014 (before Trump announced his candidacy) and 2) the indictments show no knowing American involvement.
This is another glaring example of lying by omission. First, the Russians did start in 2014, but they are smart enough to call an audible when conditions on the field change: Donald Trump announces in 2015? Offensive coordinator Putin directs quarterback to change the play and order all linemen, receivers, and running backs to line up behind Trump (and Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein) and against GOP primary candidates and Clinton.
Second, this indictment specifies that no Americans knowingly dealt with Russians. But there are many other plea bargains and indictments, already announced and yet to come — not to mention Mueller’s final report to the Department of Justice. Mr. Thiessen then goes further, boldly misrepresenting the facts even more: “The indictment shows evidence of a lack of collusion.” It shows no such damn thing. This willingness to lie blatantly and consistently, to keep supporters in line, is thoroughly unethical and un-American, notwithstanding his First Amendment rights.
Another one? Thiessen also is perpetuating this oft-debunked myth: “The only evidence so far of any cooperation between a hired operative of a 2016 campaign and Russian officials is when the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee paid Christopher Steele to collect dirt on Trump from Russian officials.”
For the hundredth time, the Clinton campaign took over basic opposition research from anti-Trump conservatives, which ultimately turned so dark that Christopher Steele felt ethically obligated to inform the FBI of his findings. (Read the Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS congressional testimony for more on this.) Steele’s information did not help the Clinton campaign. The FBI took over these findings and corroborated many of them through independent sources. If the underlying structure of this Trumpist argument were solid, why didn’t Clinton World ever use this damning information? Most everyone in the real world considers Christopher Steele a British patriot, great friend of America, and hero.
One more. “President Barack Obama did virtually nothing in response to this attack on America.” Another flat-out Thiessen whopper. He makes no mention of Obama implementing Russian sanctions, expelling 35 Russian diplomats, seizing Russian properties and diplomatic compounds in the U.S., and having a personal confrontation with Putin.
Additionally, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security issued a joint statement in October 2016 warning of Russia’s role in hacked DNC emails and the probing of state election systems. This story was partially buried for two reasons: 1) it was about the eighth-most important story during the circus known as the Trump presidential campaign; and 2) the Obama administration was probably too cautious in not wanting to be seen as biased toward Hillary.
One could speculate that Obama didn’t do enough. But one cannot say truthfully that Obama, for all practical purposes, did nothing.
Most importantly, Mr. Thiessen makes no mention of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) refusal to participate in a bipartisan warning to Americans. McConnell told President Obama that any mention of Russian Interference would be characterized by Mitch as partisan Democratic propaganda. This latter point has additional significance now that we’re finding out Mitch had more access to classified information — and a better understanding of the Russian cyberattacks — at the time than was originally thought.
Leader McConnell refused President Obama’s request to issue a bipartisan warning because he saw that Russian efforts were helping his GOP candidate, Trump. So long, Democrat suckers.
Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times
Now here’s a thinker we can all get behind. Journalist, author, historian, and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Friedman is admired as a measured academic who does not make grave claims lightly:
“Our democracy is in serious danger. President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy. …
“In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. … Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system [is] a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history.”
(Friedman, Thomas L.; “Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now”; The New York Times; 2/18/2018.)
To no thinking person’s surprise, Donald Trump is desperate. Former allies are dropping (or plea dealing) (or leaking) like flies. He’s paralyzed with paranoia, anger, and resentment. He’s tweeting addictively and compulsively, even by his own standards. The Donald is becoming deranged. No sharp knives for you, Buddy. He’s done things many pundits on both sides thought he would never do because doing them would make him look guilty. But as Donald has shown, looking guilty is way better than a special counsel determination of being guilty and the loss of his presidency — and possibly his freedom.
The president is even running out of adolescent put-down nicknames. He’s repeating himself. We had “Little Marco” (Rubio) in the primaries. Then we had “Little Rocket Man” (Kim Jong Un). Donald liked the concept of little so much that he varied the spelling to “Liddle Bob Corker.” Finally, Adam Schiff got under his skin, but the president was out of new ideas so he did two obvious reruns: “Little Adam Schiff” and “Liddle Adam Schiff” in just the past few weeks.
Nicknames and put-downs are all Trump has. You know the end is near when he’s running out of those.
Once again, Mr. Friedman:
“Trump is either trying so hard to hide [whatever kompromat Russians have on him] or is so naïve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the FBI and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.
“That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.”
President Trump must go down. I will take no joy in the fact that we came to this point. But I will celebrate his downfall as evidence that our government could withstand the pernicious forces of Trumpism and complicit Republicans. I will celebrate the return of decency and truth in the White House. ■