Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In a 'remarkably weak position' Trump, aided by the GOP, is poised to commit more crimes

Yesterday, Ahead of the State of the Union, Trump is in ‘a remarkably weak position’ wrote Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog). In brief:

Trump heads to Capitol Hill as a president burdened by scandal, division, accusations of corruption, broken promises, and months of breathtaking dishonesty. He’s unpopular and distrusted the world over. His agenda – to the extent that he has one – faces poor legislative prospects, and his party is deeply concerned about this year’s midterm elections.

Then, last night, I watched some of the televised State of the Union addressed (or State of the Uniom printed on the tickets). My bad. My iconic takeaway visual was Trump clapping for himself - repeatedly - and turning around, I guess, to see that Ryan and Pence were doing the same. That’s what other authoritarians do in communist countries. Sick.

State of the union
State of the union:
Why is this guy clapping?

ABC News reflects on the address: ANALYSIS: In State of the Union, Trump’s contradictions were on display. It was part victory lap, part rallying cry, part bragging session, and part call for unity.

And it was all Trump. President Donald Trump’s first official State of the Union address encapsulated the contradictions and contradictory impulses of a presidency that has alternately soared and stalled, and has found itself distracted by the president’s own actions more often than not.

Despite anything Trump said or didn’t say, the Mueller investigation rolls along but not without political interference. Trump upstages his State of the Union address with a meltdown over the Justice Department reports Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post).

We’re not much further along than we were Monday in piecing together the explanation for former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe’s abrupt departure. Reports are disturbing insofar as they paint a picture of a vengeful president who is out of control and of a chief of staff, John F. Kelly, helping President Trump to muscle McCabe out of his post…

Once again, we see evidence that Trump believes the Justice Department should be working for him and allowing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’s spurious memo to be released (because Trump thinks it helps him). Trump sees nothing wrong with strong-arming those involved in an investigation of him out the door. He blows up when the DOJ acts on national security grounds and when it complicates a campaign to smear the FBI.

… one does get the sense the wheels are coming off the bus at the White House. Trump’s level of panic is rising and his subordinates’ ability to contain him and prevent him from acting on his impulses seems to be diminishing. If not committing new crimes, he’s giving Mueller plenty of evidence of his “corrupt” intent.

That latter point is important legally.

Before the latest news, one legal analyst pointed out that if it is true, as a Foreign Policy report alleged, that Trump launched an organized smear campaign against McCabe; chief of staff and senior counselor to the director of the FBI Jim Rybicki; and former FBI general counsel James A. Baker, then the federal witness tampering statute (18 USC Section 1512) might come into play. That statute makes it illegal to use intimidation, threaten, or corruptly persuade another person, or attempts to do so with intent, among other things, to induce someone to change or withhold testimony or to “hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense.”

… Section 1512 (c) separately gives Mueller some more running room. That subsection makes it illegal to “corruptly” take action that “otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.” That generic catch-all could well, if the press accounts prove true, pose one more legal problem for Trump.

All that is why Trump will likely release the GOP’s “Nunes” memo this week - another move to discredit Justice and the FBI by the Trumpian disinformation machine. The AZ Blue Meanie (Blog for Arizona) has a comphensive account of the conspiracy to aid Trump and damage the Mueller investigation, national security be damned. In unprecedented move, GOP House Intelligence Committee jeopardizes national security to aid Donald Trump in obstruction of justice. Here is some of that story.

Donald Trump is engaged in a slow-motion “Saturday Night Massacre” purge to get to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He does not necessarily have to fire Mueller, but he can put him on an island by replacing everyone in the chain of command around him with yes-men who will deny Mueller resources, or deny his requests for subpoenas of documents or witnesses, etc., to effectively impede his investigation.

As I pointed out in a link to Foreign Policy yesterday, it reported on an organized campaign to discredit top DOJ and FBI leadership, expressly so that they would lose power in acting as witnesses to support Comey.

President Donald Trump pressed senior aides last June to devise and carry out a campaign to discredit senior FBI officials after learning that those specific employees were likely to be witnesses against him as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two people directly familiar with the matter.

The FBI officials Trump has targeted are Andrew McCabe, the current deputy FBI director and who was briefly acting FBI director after Comey’s firing; Jim Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff and senior counselor; and James Baker, formerly the FBI’s general counsel. Those same three officials were first identified as possible corroborating witnesses for Comey in a June 7 article in Vox. Comey confirmed in congressional testimony the following day that he confided in the three men.

FBI Director Wray replaced Jim Rybicki last week. Baker was reassigned in December. And now McCabe is gone.

Trump has previously attempted to force Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, and to force Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to resign, who is now the target of the #ReleaseTheMemo smear campaign from Rep. Devin Nunes, FAUX News (aka Trump TV) and Russian intelligence bots.

The intentionally misleading GOPropaganda talking points memo from Rep. Devin Nunes and his staff will be released by the White House, without regard for national security sources and methods which may be compromised by the release. The Nunes Memo will go directly to FAUX News (aka Trump TV) where it will be hyped incessantly, and our Twitter-troll-in-chief will tweet about what he is watching on Trump TV in a seamless loop. Epistemic closure and the ‘conservative misinformation feedback loop’ media bubble.

Whether the Democratic minority memo that exposes how the Nunes Memo is cherry-picked intelligence taken out of context for partisan purposes is ever released remains to be seen.

Both memos rely on underlying classified intelligence, and FISA Court warrants, by law, are secret; it is a crime to reveal even the existence of a FISA Court warrant, let alone its contents. Yet here we are.

And that makes the Republicans in the House complicit with Trump in breaking the law. It should be now clear to all that the GOP will do anything to keep Trump in office, even committing crimes that endanger our national security.

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