With the cascade of stupid, immoral, illegal, subversive, un-American, and possibly treasonous things emitted by der Sturmtrumper, his pet Congress, his supporters, and his administration reaching levels that make it nearly impossible for any sane person to keep up with, I’ve started just keeping a running list of observations on the matter. Every time the list reaches critical mass, I suppose I’ll post it and start a new one. Can’t hurt; might help. Here’s the most recent list:
1. So apparently the guy der Sturmtrumper chose specifically to suppress the Mueller report, the guy who is on record as saying that he does not believe that a president can obstruct justice because if the president does it then it’s not obstruction, has done his job well. He took a 300-page prosecutor’s report summarizing 22 months of investigations – investigations which produced more than two dozen indictments and about half a dozen convictions among der Sturmtrumper’s inner circle – and spent less than 48 hours turning that into a 4-page letter that said exactly what der Sturmtrumper wanted it to say, a compression rate and a turnaround time that suggests that much or all of the letter was written ahead of time.
It is, of course, theoretically possible, that the Mueller report says what Barr says it says, but until the full report is released we have only the word of one compromised source, and you’ll excuse me if I don’t find that credible.
2. Bear in mind, though. I trust Mueller. If we do get the full report and it does say what Barr says it says, then the matter is closed. But I’ll believe that when I see it and until I see it I see no reason to believe it.
3. It’s notable, for example, that in a letter as brief as the one Barr wrote, a letter that cherry-picked the data to support his boss’ claims and included a grand total of four quotes from the report itself, he still couldn’t avoid a quote that explicitly said that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Why is that, do you suppose? That’s the best he could do?
4. Pay attention to how Barr spun this. He notes that the report “did not establish” that der Sturmtrumper committed crimes. Both Barr and Mueller were prosecutors, and both know very well that “did not establish” is a long, long way from saying that there was no crime or that the target of the investigation didn’t commit the crimes that happened. It simply means that there was not enough proof to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt – the standard for criminal offenses, but not for civil offenses or (dare one note) impeachment. Unless and until the full report is released, it will be unclear how to interpret that.
5. Parsing through the letter, a number of other observers have noted several rather disturbing things that I collect here for your edification:
First, based on what Barr said, the full report apparently went into detail about Russian interference in the 2016 election. It is notable that the GOP has fanatically resisted any attempt to strengthen American defenses against such interference in 2020. The conclusion is left as an exercise for the reader.
Second, the simple fact is that Mueller is not willing to clear der Sturmtrumper of criminal wrongdoing. If that’s the bar for presidential behavior these days you can kiss the republic goodbye and thank the GOP for it.
Third, Barr reached his conclusion so quickly that it calls into question whether he bothered to read the report at all. This is a whitewash, and nothing more. Any GOP resistance to releasing the full report – any resistance whatsoever – is a sure sign that the actual conclusions and evidence are far more damning than anything the GOP would have you believe about their rogue leader. And the fact that such resistance has been immediate and thorough says all you need to know.
Fourth, Barr’s stated conclusion that somehow der Sturmtrumper has not obstructed justice conflicts with facts we already know – that he has “suborn[ed] perjury” (Barr’s words) by instructing his underlings to lie for him. Michael Cohen is going to jail for doing just that, after all. That der Sturmtrumper has dangled pardons to his accused insiders as a way to get them to be quiet about his crimes – Paul Manafort is sitting in jail now in part because of this, after all.
Fifth, Barr’s conclusions do not preclude quid pro quo arrangements made by der Sturmtrumper with a hostile power. We know that the Russian intelligence services worked very hard to make sure der Sturmtrumper was elected. We know that der Sturmtrumper has made a mockery of American sovereignty by his toadying sycophantism toward Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, up to and including working to relieve sanctions against Russia for its crimes.
Sixth, as Marcy Wheeler notes, Barr’s tortured language misses the point. “In giving Trump the all-clear on obstruction charges, Barr appears not to have considered whether Trump obstructed the actual crime in question. He instead considered whether the president obstructed a different crime. This is the legal sleight of hand that has allowed Barr to proclaim that Trump will not be charged.”
7. Representative Adam Schiff probably had the best summary of the surrender of the GOP to Russia, and it’s worth quoting in full.
“My colleagues may think it’s OK that the Russians offered ‘dirt’ on a Democratic candidate for president as part of what was described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that’s OK. My colleagues might think it’s OK that when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead that son said that he would ‘love’ the help of the Russians.
“You might think it’s OK that he took that meeting. You might think it’s OK that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience at running campaigns, took that meeting. You might think it’s OK that the president’s son-in-law also took that meeting. You might think it’s OK that they concealed it from the public.
"You might think it’s OK that their only disappointment from that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think it’s OK that when it was discovered, a year later, they then lied about that meeting and said that it was about adoptions. You might think that it’s OK that it was reported that the president helped dictate that lie. You might think that’s OK. I don’t.
“You might think it’s OK that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s OK, I don’t.
"You might think it’s OK that that campaign chairman offered polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s OK.
"You might think it’s OK that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, if they were listening. You might think it’s OK that later that day the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s OK.
"You might think it’s OK that the president's son-in-law attempted to establish a secret back channel of communication with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s OK.
"You might think it’s OK that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU [Russian military intelligence], through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it’s OK that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.
“You might think it’s OK that the national security adviser designate secretly conferred with the Russian ambassador, undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s OK that he lied about it to the FBI. You might say that’s all OK, that’s what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s OK.”
I don’t either. No American patriot can possibly think this is okay. Keep that in mind when dealing with people who think this is okay.
8. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) rather pointedly noted, in calling for the full report to be released, that “The American people deserve to know whether Donald Trump is either a) a legitimate president, b) a Russian asset, c) the functional equivalent of an organized crime boss, or d) just a useful idiot who happens to have been victimized by the greatest collection of coincidences in the history of the republic.” Yes, yes we do.
10. The interesting part of this is that if what Barr says is true, then Manafort and the rest of them got
involved in a criminal conspiracy all by themselves and lied to conceal … um … nothing? Kind of odd, really. I’ll bet they feel downright foolish now.
11. One other odd thing about this is the simple fact that Barr had any role to play in the decision of whether to charge der Sturmtrumper at all. As Barbara McQuade, a former US attorney now teaching law at the University of Michigan noted, “The whole reason to have a special counsel is to insulate the decision maker from the executive chain of command. By making the decision himself, Barr feeds into the cynical narrative that President Trump appointed an AG who would protect him.” So let the narrative commence, I suppose.
12. I suppose it’s just icing on the cake that Barr has announced that the main subject of Mueller’s investigations will be permitted to edit them to his satisfaction before the rest of us get to see them. Do you think they could possibly make this coverup more obvious? Seriously – they’re just trolling us now.
13. Now that the GOP no longer controls the House of Representatives, it looks like Congress may actually start to act like a co-equal branch of constitutional government the way the Founders intended. The chairs of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight Committees issued a joint statement condemning the obvious whitewash job perpetrated by Barr. “It is unacceptable that, after Special Counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the president in under 48 hours,” they said. Well, it’s unacceptable to anyone who respects the law, I suppose. There are a lot of people out there who don’t, after all. Now to see if they follow this up with any concrete action.
14. Of course, even if the GOP does manage to bury the Mueller report under a mountain of bullshit the way they’re trying to do now, that doesn’t mean that der Sturmtrumper’s legal troubles are over. He still has to face legal jeopardy for:
a. Campaign hush money payments. Those porn stars aren’t cheap, and we have der Sturmtrumper’s signature on the checks!
b. A defamation lawsuit from a woman who has accused der Sturmtrumper of sexual misconduct. What’s fascinating here is that a court has already ruled that der Sturmtrumper will have to face lawyers in a deposition, which is something that didn’t happen with Mueller. Lying under oath in a deposition over sexual matters was what the GOP impeached Bill Clinton over, after all.
c. The emoluments lawsuits. Der Sturmtrumper has been unconstitutionally profiting from his businesses since day one and should have been impeached on that basis alone by the end of January 2017.
d. The documented financial improprieties of his inauguration, which are now metastasizing across any number of jurisdictions. Seriously – the New York Times published a detailed expose of der Sturmtrumper’s financial crimes last summer that would have had any normal politician in jail by now, but what can you do when you’re dealing with a cult leader?
e. The “persistently illegal conduct” of the Trump Organization being investigated by New York State – something der Sturmtrumper can’t pardon his way out of.
f. The use of illegal immigrant labor at der Sturmtrumper’s properties, which is kind of ironic from a guy who wants to steal money from the military to build his catastrophically stupid wall under a fake state of emergency.
g. The fallout from Roger Stone’s trial, which will be the most popcorn-worthy legal proceeding since the aftermath of the Beer Hall Putsch.
15. Again, just for those who are slow on the uptake, nobody outside of the Mueller team and a small handful of Sturmtrumper loyalists has actually seen the completed Mueller report. The public – which financed it, after all – has not seen it. Congress has not seen it. Only Barr and perhaps a crony or two have seen it. And given that this is, according to several reports, a document that runs over 300 pages, and further given the paucity of quotes from it in the Barr letter, the sheer math says we’ve seen roughly 0.07% of the Mueller Report. So until the full report is made completely public, nobody in their right mind will accept any of the spin those loyalists have put on it (and those who have accepted it, well, draw your own conclusions). Der Sturmtrumper’s regime is built on a mountain of lies and to think that their words are somehow the exception to the larger pattern here is simply foolish.
17. In the run-up to the release of Barr’s version of events, it was noteworthy how full-on authoritarian der Sturmtrumper got. He actually got to the point of threatening the lives and safety of American citizens who disagreed with him – the true mark of a tyrant and precisely the sort of thug that the Founding Fathers built the Constitution to prevent from taking office. “You know, the left plays a tougher game. It’s very funny,” he told the right-wing extremist website Breitbart. “I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. OK? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” So listen up all you Americans who think the President is not above criticism – you better toe the line for the new dictatorial future or you’ll get your head knocked in by the 21st-century Brownshirts. Is American great again yet?
18. You know things are bad when you're getting trolled by North Korean social media.
19. Isn’t it amazing that counties that hosted a 2016 campaign rally by der Sturmtrumper saw a 226% increase in hate crimes since then, compared to counties that didn’t host such rallies? The FBI says hate crimes have increased by 17% overall under der Sturmtrumper’s careful nurturing of extremism, mostly driven by the rising extremism of those who support this rogue regime. Color me shocked, just shocked.
20. Just in case you don’t see the pattern, consider Dunning Krueger Poster Child Steve King (R-IA), who recently decided that a meme celebrating a second civil war in this country would be just the perfect thing for a sitting Representative in Congress to post on his social media outlet. “Folks keep talking about another civil war,” the meme said, over a picture of two fighting humanish figures composed of blue states and red states, “one side has about 8 trillion bullets, while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use.” Now, perhaps this was meant as a warning of tragedy to come rather than a bellicose celebration of partisan violence, in which case it failed miserably. On the other hand, though, it is notable that King’s own meme has his home state of Iowa in the blue figure. So there’s that.
21. In point of fact, most of the terrorism and political violence in this country today comes from the right wing, and the numbers are there to prove it. Murders by white supremacists doubled in 2017 and went up by another 182% in 2018. Most of the politically motivated violence over the last several decades – over 90% of it, according to one study funded by conservatives – comes from the right wing. At least 50 right-wing extremist murders happened in 2018 alone, according to the ADL. Even der Sturmtrumper’s own report, “National Strategy for Counterterrorism” acknowledged that “domestic terrorism in the United States is on the rise” and cited “racially motivated extremism” – white supremacists, for those of you unwilling to do the translating – as the source of much of it. You want to reduce violence in this country? Start focusing on the source. And if you don’t want to reduce that violence? You are the source.
22. If Jim Wright isn’t on your daily reading list, he should be.
23. Der Sturmtrumper is truly on the warpath now that his pet Attorney General has succeeded in whitewashing the Mueller Report and Mitch McConnell – The Most Corrupt Man In Washington – has successfully (twice!) blocked it from release to the public where it belongs. So now Tim Murtaugh – the “Director of Communications” for der Sturmtrumper’s re-election campaign – is pressuring news agencies to keep Democrats off the air because they hurt der Sturmtrumper’s feelings by daring to criticize him. That this is a clear violation of the First Amendment – Murtaugh, as an employee of a sitting president, is acting as an agent of the federal government and this is just as clearly an attempt to use the power of government to intimidate the free press into acquiescence in censorship – is just par for the course with this petit-Fascist regime.
24. Meanwhile in Wisconsin, it looks like there are signs of emerging American democracy again. Back in December the GOP-throttled legislature held an extraordinary session designed to gut the incoming Democratic administration of Governor Tony Evers. They confirmed 82 Walker appointees – many without a single hearing (they’re Republicans! That’s good enough!), and they passed a right-wing extremist wish list of laws from blocking the state’s withdrawal from the lawsuit attacking health care to limiting voting rights. This has been the GOP strategy whenever they’ve been faced with the failure of their gerrymandering and intimidation strategies across the United States (hello, North Carolina!). But a federal court found that the voting rights assault was illegal back in January, and now another judge has ruled that since the Wisconsin Constitution doesn’t actually allow any extraordinary sessions none of the laws or appointments that came out of it were lawful.
“There can be no justification for enforcement of the unconstitutional legislative actions emanating from the December 2018 ‘extraordinary session’ that is consistent with the rule of law,” wrote Judge Richard Niess.
The Wisconsin GOP has already declared that they will appeal this to their pet Supreme Court rather than accede to the Wisconsin Constitution. All those surprised by this, raise your hand and explain why you haven’t been paying attention these last nine years.
25. Actually the Wisconsin GOP – a group that reacts extraordinarily poorly to any challenge to its absolute grip on power (which is how we got here in the first place, after all) – has already succeeded in getting a different judge to lift the stay, though not to overturn the decision entirely. But the lame-duck power grab remains unenforceable because yet another judge – for completely different reasons – has rejected it. So there’s that.
26. Der Sturmtrumper continues to spiral downward in an increasingly obvious mental decline. If you don’t see grandpa sundowning in a hail of Twitter nonsense you’re not paying attention. After one recent binge MSNBC analyst Matthew Miller asked “There has to be something coming, right? Trump is incredibly unhinged today even for him, and with no apparent prompting.” Though Miller later observed that der Sturmtrumper is “crazy and doesn’t need any particular prompting to show it.” Even conservatives are starting to notice. “Averting your eyes is refusing to come to grips with Trump’s mental condition and psychological state. It’s avoiding reality,” said Bill Kristol, and George Conway – the husband of der Sturmtrumper’s own Kelly Conway – quietly observed, “His condition is getting worse.”
27. Amid all the distraction, it should not be forgotten that der Sturmtrumper has dropped another budget turd into the punchbowl of American life. Bearing in mind the fact that all of this could have been avoided if the GOP hadn’t given more than a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the already wealthy while raising taxes on many of the rest of us, here are a few highlights:
Increased spending for a military that already spends more money than the next nine nations combined. We could cut our military spending by 2/3 and still be the biggest military spender on earth.
Almost $9,000,000,000 for his catastrophically stupid border wall that the Mexicans were supposed to pay for in the first place, ammiright? This after losing the battle in Congress and declaring a fake state of emergency to steal money from other things to pay for it, and then going golfing because golfing is just what one does in a national emergency.
Cutting $1,500,000,000,000 long term from Medicaid in an effort to destroy the program completely, because affordable healthcare only encourages the non-wealthy to breed after all.
Cutting another $500,000,000,000 from Medicare because fuck you that’s why.
Cutting $220,000,000,000 from food assistance for the poor, despite the fact that when the poor have nothing left to eat they will eat the rich.
Cutting $25,000,000,000 from Social Security – that’s money that you have already paid for your own retirement being diverted into the pockets of the already wealthy because they’re more important than you, citizen, and watch your damned mouth or you’ll get cuffed next time.
Slashing the EPA budget by 31%, the National Science Foundation by 9%, and similarly deep cuts in education funding at all levels because education only makes the peasants uppity.
Also, just for shits and giggles, demanding an $18,000,000 cut from the Special Olympics, because there isn’t an asshole move that these people won’t try.
This isn’t a budget. It’s a declaration of war on America.
29. One of the more fascinating articles I’ve read recently was written by Roxanne Roberts and published in the Washington Post. “Why does everybody suddenly hate billionaires?” asks the headline. “Because they’ve made it easy,” is the reply.
“When did “billionaire” become a dirty word?
Maybe it was when former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz dismissed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for higher taxes on fortunes of $50 million or higher as “ridiculous.”
Or when an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, laughed out loud at the suggestion that the super-rich should contribute more.
Or perhaps it was during the government shutdown, when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was baffled when federal workers went to food banks to feed their families. “I know they are, and I don’t understand why,” he said in a CNBC interview. Ross, a self-proclaimed billionaire and buddy of President Trump, suggested furloughed workers take out short-term loans instead.
Or maybe it was when Dan Riffle, an aide to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, coined a new progressive slogan: “Every billionaire is a policy failure.”
At Davos, Michael Dell – worth an estimated $26,000,000,000 – was asked about Congressional Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s idea of a 70% tax on any income over $10,000,000. “I’m not supportive of that,” Dell replied. And I don’t think it will help the growth of the US economy. Name a country where that’s worked. EVER.”
To which the obvious answer is: the United States, between 1938 and 1981 – the period of this country’s greatest economic prosperity, the period where we built the strongest economy the world had ever seen, the interstate highway system, and a higher education system unparalleled in history, reduced poverty, sent men to the moon, and still maintained the strongest military in the world.
When did it become “patriotic” to be a hoarder? To shirk your obligations to your country? And why do so many people think such shirkers should be in charge of the country?
31. Did der Sturmtrumper really offer NATO membership to Brazil or is that just something that we should ignore from the sundowning moron representing us on the world stage?
32. Did you know that der Sturmtrumper has lost 63 federal cases over the last two years – “an extraordinary record of legal defeat” according to the Washington Post. “In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, were required, public input.” More than forty of those losses come from violating the Administrative Procedure Act, one of the key laws this country has designed to protect against arbitrary governance and strongman dictatorship. Most administrations have a 70% win rate when challenged on APA grounds – der Sturmtrumper is running around 6%. Judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats have struck down der Sturmtrumper’s shoddy attempts at short-circuiting the rule of law, and yet the administration refuses to learn. I guess that’s what happens when arbitrary governance and strongman dictatorship is the point.
33. Apparently Barbara Bush was so disgusted and upset by der Sturmtrumper’s victory in 2016 that she kept a timer that counted down the seconds of his administration. The clock stayed on her bedside table or next to whatever chair she was sitting in until the day she died. I can sympathize, truly I can.
34. Keep an eye on the Deutsche Bank story, as financial impropriety committed by der Sturmtrumper in the billions of dollars is slowly coming to light. Gonna be an interesting couple of years.
35. Is it any wonder, given the all-out assault on decency, morals, law, and Constitution that is the daily bread and butter of this administration that Americans in general are less happy than they’ve been in more than forty years? Can’t say I’m surprised. Additionally, a new Pew Research Center study sees an America broadly pessimistic about its own future. Three quarters of Americans think that the gap between rich and poor will get worse, and two thirds say that political polarization will as well. Most Americans say that the environment will continue to degrade and that they expect to face financial hardship in their old age. Nearly half say that average standards of living will decline. 9 out of 10 – a figure that crosses party lines, you’ll note – say that government involvement in health care is important to quality of life, a policy position that clearly does not cross party lines. Gonna be a REALLY interesting couple of years.
36. “Never in my life did I think I would like to see a dictator, but if there’s gonna be one, I want it to be Trump” said the woman at the microphone. And the crowd cheered. This is what we’re up against, America. It can happen here. It is happening here. And der Sturmtrumper and his petit-Fascist minions, enablers, and supporters are making it happen.