Monday, March 19, 2018

Why we cannot count on the GOP to restrain King Trump

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) explains why This new report on Trump’s state of mind should alarm you.

From the very outset of his presidency, Trump has been testing what he can get away with in terms of hamstringing or derailing the [Russia-Trump campaign] probe. He has done this repeatedly.

Right after the election Sally Yates brought bad news to the White House and was fired for it. Trump tried to stop Sessions from recusing himself. FBI director James Comey was fired after Trump’s failed attempt at controlling Comey. The Russia probe probably figured into Trump’s firing of deputy director Andrew McCabe. Trump used the Nunes memo to try to go after deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Last June Trump tried to get the White House Counsel to fire Mueller.

Now Trump is at it again and there are no assurances that he will be restrained by his own advisors or Congress. Sargent cites a NY Times article which reports that Trump ‘decided to attack Mueller over the advice of his advisers because he “ultimately trusts only his own instincts,” with the result that Trump is “newly emboldened” to “ignore the cautions of those around him.” ’ The thing is that “Warnings of dire consequences from his critics have failed to materialize.”

This helps explain why Trump unleashed his fury on Mueller over the weekend. In a tweet storm that was full of lies — see Glenn Kessler’s takedown of the specifics — Trump claimed that law enforcement is riddled with corruption and that the Mueller probe itself is illegitimate. To make this latter claim, Trump floated the intertwined falsehoods that the Democratic-funded Steele dossier triggered the probe (a lie) and that there was no legit basis for its genesis (also a lie).

This has renewed pressure on Republicans to sound the alarm that they would view any effort to remove Mueller as intolerable. With a few exceptions, most of them did nothing of the kind. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (R-Wis.) declaration that Mueller should be left alone was conspicuously tepid. Senate GOP leaders and many top Republicans on the committees investigating the Russia affair remained silent.

To be sure, Sen. Lindsey Graham has told Trump that any attempt to fire Mueller would fail “catastrophically”.

But Trump has apparently concluded that those issuing warnings of such dire consequences are wrong and that his instincts are right. (As Jonathan Chait notes, those instincts are all pulling Trump toward an effort to try to remove Mueller.) And Republicans are saying little to nothing to disabuse him of that notion.

Sargent says “Don’t take my word for it. The White House has now basically affirmed this to be the case.” Sargent cites two reports from the White House: WHITE HOUSE ISN’T HEARING ‘OUTCRY’ OVER MUELLER, and TRUMP ‘DOESN’T NEED’ THE ADULTS IN THE ROOM. Cohn quit. Tillerson resigned. Chief of Staff Kelly’s tenure seems on-again, off-again as does that of National Security advisor McMaster. And the Republicans in Congress seem loathe to resist Trump.

And all that is why we cannot count on the GOP to restrain Trump. There is no light at the end of this tunnel and if there were, it would be a constitutional crisis the resolution of which may not favor our democracy.

Sessions is Royal Executioner for Mad King. Trump takes aim at Mueller.

Now with Sally Yates, James Comey and Andrew McCabe gone, and AG Jeff Sessions doing the King’s business, the next people in Trump’s crosshairs appear to be Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller. The Daily Kos reports tweets showing that Trump takes direct aim at Robert Mueller, using same tactic as he used on Comey and McCabe. (By Mark Sumner, 2018/03/18 · 08:20). Snippets follow.

Until this week, Donald Trump’s comments on the Trump–Russia investigation showed constraint on a single point. Trump has blamed the Obama administration for starting an investigation without evidence.

And he’s attacked both the FBI and Department of Justice as being instruments of the Democratic Party.

But he stopped short of directly attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller, insisting that he was fully cooperating with the investigation. That time is over.

Donald J. Trump
Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!
5:35 AM - Mar 18, 2018
109K people are talking about this

That’s just part of the barrage Trump launched this weekend, signaling that — having cleared Sally Yates, James Comey, and Andrew McCabe — Trump has a new target.

The absolute lie that Republican Robert Mueller’s team — which has over 40 members — is composed entirely of Democrats may seem ridiculous. But so was Trump’s contention that Republican James Comey and the heavily Republican leadership of the FBI was all in for Hillary.

A section of the book How Democracies Die addresses what Trump is doing directly. In increasing their power, autocrats look for something that an opponent has done wrong — even if what that person has done was beneficial to the autocrat — and then use it to define that person as a crook and a liar. Repetition of “crooked Hillary” or “leaking Comey” or “lying McCabe” is meant to not just demean an opponent, but make anything they say in response easy to dismiss. If all your opposition is fixed in the mind of the public, or even part of the public, as criminal liars, then they’re crippled in their ability to impact the autocrat.

And if the autocrat can’t find any point on which to directly attack an opponent, they can always attack them for associating with criminal liars. For example, why would Robert Mueller staff his investigation with “big crooked Hillary supporters” and “hardened Democrats?” That the accusations are untrue doesn’t matter. All of Trump’s accusations are untrue.

But the direct attack on Robert Mueller’s investigation shows that Trump has cleared away one target and is ready to move on to the big prize. Equipped with the Republican memo drafted by Devin Nunes and blessed by Paul Ryan, Trump has the assurance that he can take any actions without reprisals on the part of Congress.

At this point, he appears to be looking at two outcomes, he can fire Mueller and face whatever results from that action, or he can wait for Mueller to submit his report and then face the results. If Mueller submits his report, Trump can likely count on Jefferson Sessions to sit on it as hard as possible, and he can count on Paul Ryan to ignore anything that leaks through. But there’s always the chance that a massive list of serious charges might actually encourage a few Republicans to pull their heads from the orange ass.

At the very least, Trump wants to position himself to fire Mueller. Just in case. And he’s not being very subtle about lining up the crosshairs.

However, Trump cannot fire Mueller directly. He would have to go through Mueller’s boss, Rod Rosenstein, and likely to get Sessions to fire Rosenstein. It’s beginning to sound positively Shakespearean.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona takes note of an irony in The March Madness of King Donald. Sessions can lie to Congress about Russian contacts, but McCabe gets hit for “lack of candor”. Citing a NY Times report, “Lack of candor is a fireable offense at the F.B.I., but Mr. McCabe’s last-minute dismissal was carried out against a highly politicized backdrop.”

The irony here is clear: Jeff Sessions has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of candor (lied) in sworn testimony to Congress about his contacts with the Russians – the very reason for his recusal – and as of March 1, 2018, President Trump had made 2,436 false or misleading claims according to a running tally being kept by the Washington Post. Trump averages more than 5.6 false or misleading claims a day, so you can add at least another 100 lies to that tally as of today.

So why would anyone believe the Mad King about anything - at all - ever?

If we are not now in a constitutional crisis, I fear we soon will be. And what will Congress do then?

Correction to SkyIslandScriber post

Yesterday, March 19, I attributed the following quote to AZ Blue Meanie. Actually, one of his frequent commenters, For Sure Not Tom, wrote it.

Going to head over to Stormy Daniels crowdsourced legal fund now and donate 100 clams.

Trump has gotten away with criminal behavior for years because he has the resources to hire lawyers. Time to fight back against him and his kind.

Facebook data harvested private information from millions that was used to develop voter profiles

Those who want another special counsel should forget investigating the FBI and instead focus on How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions that arguably played a role in Trump’s election. That’s the report in the New York Times.

LONDON — As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

What did Cambridge do with the data? Here’s a sample.

Under the guidance of Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s digital director in 2016 and now the campaign manager for his 2020 re-election effort, Cambridge performed a variety of services, former campaign officials said. That included designing target audiences for digital ads and fund-raising appeals, modeling voter turnout, buying $5 million in television ads and determining where Mr. Trump should travel to best drum up support.

Lots more technical details are in the Times’ report. Beware Facebook.

Trump fires McCabe. Does Trump get McCabe's pension? That and more illustrated news.

Trump misses backchannel
You mean the one between Alfa Bank and Trump Tower?

Never ask a question if you don’t want the answer. In case you’ve forgotten it, I posted quite a bit on the backchannel.

Other good stuff in the Mournday Mourning illustrated news: Trump goes full bore ridiculous on the PA election abandoning Saccone and embracing Lamb. Is the NRA worried, finally, about the kids out to protect themselves from NRA policies? Andrew McCabe fired by non-recusionist (made up that word) AG Sessions. Tillerson fired by tweet. McCabe issues long rebuttal, Tillerson not so much. You thought McCabe was fired because of Russia probe? Naw. That was Trump in a snit waiting until 48 hours before McCabe’s pension kicks in. No class that. Speaking of no class - Stormy Daniels was heard channeling Marilyn Monroe in singing “Happy lawsuit, Mr. President …”

Help wanted
Help wanted - Trump uses McCabe as an example of
White House employment benefits

The illustrated news is courtesy of AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona. Speaking of Stormy, in another post the Blue Meanie writes:

Going to head over to Stormy Daniels crowdsourced legal fund now and donate 100 clams.

Trump has gotten away with criminal behavior for years because he has the resources to hire lawyers. Time to fight back against him and his kind.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

News Now - McCabe firing shows vindictive nature of Trump and his AG Sessions

Here is a pair of Daily Kos posts on the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (h/t Miriam Lindmeier). It sure does appear that the firing was timed to damage McCabe’s pension. And it’s believed that Trump pushed Sessions to fire McCabe - a plausible interpretation of the events given Trump’s public twitter war on the FBI. McCabe is but the most recent casualty of the Terrible Trump Tirades. There will be more.

Vindictive Trump fires FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe just two days before his retirement, reported by Jessica Sutherland at Daily Kos. 2018/03/16 · 19:18

Just Read FBI Deputy Director McCabe’s Statement Regarding His Firing By Trump… Just Read It. reported by Dartagnan ay Daily Kos. 2018/03/16 · 19:56

Will the NRA push for more guns in schools?

Disclosure: Of course, you, my readers know two things. First, if I cite “Scriber’s usually unreliable sources”, it’s satire. Second, if I cite the New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz, it’s even better satire. So here goes.


Based on reporting from Scriber’s usually unreliable sources, I thought that the next step in NRA’s suspected push to sell more guns to K–12 school districts would be supplying a hand gun to every student. But now, from the Borowitz Report in the New Yorker, we learn that the NRA backed off that proposal and instead Proposes Having Second Armed Teacher in Every Classroom to Stop First Armed Teacher from Misfiring.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Hours after an armed teacher in a Northern California classroom fired a gun and injured a student, the head of the National Rifle Association proposed placing a second armed teacher in every classroom, to shoot the first armed teacher before he or she can do harm.

“Had there been a second armed teacher in the classroom to shoot the first armed teacher, this regrettable incident would never have occurred,” Wayne LaPierre said. “The only thing that stops a bad teacher with a gun is a good teacher with a gun.”

The N.R.A. executive vice-president said, “In a perfect world, you would have a third armed teacher, in case the second one messes up, but right now I’d settle for two.”

He blamed anti-gun activists for blocking measures that would allow multiple teachers with guns to shoot at one another and thus keep the nation’s classrooms safe. “It’s time to stop the madness,” he said.


It’s hard to keep up with the breaking news in this Time of Trump, but Andy Borowitz manages - better than your Scriber does. You can find more archived episodes from Andy at the New Yorker, Satire from the Borowitz Report. Not the news.