Gaius Publius: Trump – A Nation in Crisis, Again

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Yves here. The media’s fixation on the scary Putin monster takes energy away from opposing Trump on real issues: health care, climate, dropping life expectancy, the surveillance state, to name a few. It also validates the effort of the CIA and certain elements of the military to meddle in domestic politics in a shockingly open manner, which is a terrible precedent.

As Lambert wrote, “If we can’t win on the facts, we do not deserve to win.” As Ilargi said yesterday:

It’s not about whether Trump is or has ever been guilty of anything he’s accused of, it’s that the insinuating narratives about that have long been written and repeated ad nauseam. It’s about whether the witch hunt exemplified by PropOrNot makes objective news gathering impossible. And the only possible response to that question must be affirmative….

Does Trump deserve being resisted? It certainly looks that way much of the time. But he should be resisted with facts, not innuendo of yellow paper quality. That destroys the media, and the media are needed to maintain a democracy.

Gaius’ post focuses on how the “get Trump on Russia” campaign has gone down a series of rabbit holes and his opponents are now likely to shift to “extra-Constitutional means” to remove him. In the face of all of media fixation on Trump and Russia, it’s important to keep in mind:

1.Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs. Both the strong form claim that many seem to believe about Trump (“Trump is a Russian agent”) or its weaker form variant (“Trump under Russian influence”) extraordinary, since both amount to charges of treason.

Yet despite months of press and pundit yammering, nothing has come within hailing distance of proving either claim, despite Trump being the object of extensive oppo by the Republicans, then the Democrats, and throughout, one presumes, by members of the military/surveillance state that badly want to escalate a conflict with Russia (both in the United Kingdom, and this country).

It is hard to fathom how the Russian government could get influence over a US billionaire based on Trump officiating at a beauty pageant and setting up some legal vehicles for licensing deals that never got done. And the other theories of how Russia would have sway over him don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Trump leads an over-the-top life. A sex scandal, even if there were one, wouldn’t dent him, unless, per the cliche, it involved catching Trump in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.

Trump is seriously underlevered on his major real estate holdings, so the idea that he has been under financial stress in the election time frame is also quite a stretch. He could borrow $1 billion out of his major properties without much difficulty if he needed cash.

Selling condos to foreigners does not give them influence over you. Does the person to whom you sold your house have any influence over you?

Another urban legend with respect to Trump is that he couldn’t get financing after his early 1990s bankruptcies. The fact is that Trump is one of only two major NYC developers (the other being Steve Ross’ Related Companies who was a client of mine when I was at Sumitomo Bank) to get through debt restructurings and keep virtually all of their former empires. My immediate client at Related, who led the 18 months of negotiations, was deeply offended that Trump emerged pretty much as unscathed as Related did, because he regarded Trump as a blowhard who didn’t deserve that good a deal.

Trump’s bankruptcies were of specific ventures. Trump never went bankrupt personally. Moreover, banks are happy to lend to post-bankruptcy borrowers because they have cleaned up balance sheets.

With Trump real estate deals, a bank would look at the project to see if the economics made sense and if the developer had a track record of being able to build and stay pretty close to the projected time and cost assumptions.

Some readers pointed to a report by a sportswriter that Eric Trump said Trump was financing golf courses using Russian money. This golf course claim is ludicrous when you look at Forbes and see how little debt financing of any type was used on these properties. Trump has no debt on his three Irish and Scottish golf courses and owns them 100%. He has 10 golf courses in the US which he also owns outright. Even with the value of the US courses dropping from $297 million in 2015 to $225 million in 2016, the debt against them is a mere $18.5 million, an inconsequential amount.

But even if this had been true, so what? These are individual projects, and if they went bust, the lenders would seize the asset. They’d have no recourse to Trump and hence no ability to influence him.

How about the claim that Trump has been laundering money for Russians? The amounts needed to finance developments or even to buy high-end condos would be large enough that the funds would have to go through banks. It is the banks that are be responsible for the money laundering checks (and separately, laundering Russian money means cheating the Russian tax man…. If we so hate Putin, wouldn’t be be in favor of that???)

And please do not bring up Trump’s tax returns. The fact that Democrats and pundits keep harping on this is an embarrassment. Personal tax returns do not show who is the recipient of interest and principal payments. On top of that, Trump would be borrowing through corporate entities, so it is not likely that he has any personal borrowings save a mortgage on his primary residence. It would be dopey from a liability and tax perspective for him to borrow personally. The reason Trump is refusing to release his tax returns is likely due to some or all of:

He had some years where his income was crappy, which would dent his “great businessman” narrative

He paid very little in taxes some years, which would allow critics to depict him as not paying his fair share and potentially stretching the tax code

He had Swiss bank accounts. Recall the IRS gave a tax amnesty and Romney showed in the one year of tax returns he released that he had had a small one. Tax experts believe the reason that Romney didn’t release two years of returns, which had been customary, was that part of the amnesty was that you refiled prior year returns and paid the taxes due. Those refiled returns were “stapled,” meaning the refiling and past tax evasion would be stinkin’ obvious.

2. Trump by virtue of being a billionaire and separately having hastily assembled a political team (and churned though quite a few operatives) will have relationships all over the world through the people in his very large immediate circle, who by nature themselves will be very well connected.

But any of them coducting business with Russia, or even close ties, does not translate into influence over Trump. Both legs of the argument would need to be proven. The first is that the member of Trump’s circle didn’t just do business somehow in Russia, but that the Russian government had “influence” over them. That is a strong claim right there. The second is that that individual was able to sway Trump and on a consistent basis too. Trump’s famously erratic behavior alone makes the second leg a very high bar to surmount.

We’ve been looking at this for months. Perhaps readers can come up with something closer to a smoking gun, but none of these appear to be one:

Former campaign strategist, the prince of darkness Paul Manafort, who worked for Trump for all of four months and was fired. Plus his Russia connections are mainly through Ukraine. Podesta has as strong if not stronger Russia ties, is a much more central play to Clinton and no one is making a stink about that. And that’s before you get to the Clinton involvement in a yuuge uranium sale to Russia, which even the New York Times confirmed (but wrote such a weedy story that you have to read carefully to see that).

Carter Page, who was even more peripheral

Michael Flynn was involved relatively early with the Trump campaign. But if anything the outspoken and politically incorrect Flynn looks to have “evolved” some of his positions to echo Trump’s, such as on waterboarding . And despite complaints that Trump acted slowly on the warning of Sally Yates, Flynn was out a mere 18 days afterwards. It is hard to see that as slow given that Team Trump said it needed to do its own checking. Moreover, the Yates warning was that Flynn “could be blackmailed” over his failure to come clean on his Russian ties, not that he actually had done anything improper.

Jeff Sessions’ two conversations with the Russian ambassador, once at a party and the other time in his role as member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (in fairness, the beef is that Sessions failed to disclose this when asked at his confirmation hearing).

The parties that have the most influence on Trump are Ivanka and Jared Kushner. But they have yet to be shown to have any significant Russia ties.

And even in depicting that they are Trump’s most influential advisors, a New York Times story made clear that while Trump does listen to them, he relishes his role as the final authority. Moreover, it appears that the key to Kushner’s power is that he is largely deferential, in that he operates more as Trump’s can-do man, figuring out how to implement what Trump wants, serving as a consigliere rather than a strategist. Key sections of that article:

At the center of the Trump presidency is a paradox: Even allies acknowledge Mr. Trump is impulsive, indifferent to preparation and prone to embracing the last advice offered. He needs a strong hand to guide him, but insists on appearing in firm command, so any aide perceived as pulling strings can face his wrath sooner or later. It was Mr. Trump, not his children, who pushed Mr. Bannon to the margins, motivated less by ideology than by dissatisfaction with recent failures and his perception that his chief strategist was running an off-the-books operation to aggrandize himself at Mr. Trump’s expense….

For his part, Mr. Kushner has succeeded in part because he has never tried “to explain what Jared wants,” Mr. Gingrich said. “He is very attuned to listening to Trump and trying to figure out what Trump needs, and what Trump is trying to get done.”
So far, all the Dems and the media have come up with are some kinda-sorta connections to Russia. “X has done business with Y” is hardly proof of influence.

3. And as to the timing of the firing of Comey being troubling, bear in mind that in Senate hearings yesterday, the acting director denied press reports the day prior that Comey had been seeking an increase in funding for the Russia investigation.

I find this take from the BBC as persuasive as any, that this is another manifestation of Trump’s thin skin and implusiveness, similar to when he dig himself damage by lashing out twice against the father of the Gold Star soldier who criticized him. Recall that Trump was surprised when Chuck Schumer warned him that firing Comey would be a big mistake. Trump apparently talked himself into thinking that the Democrats would support the move or at least not oppose it since they had also been critical of Comey. That’s another sign of poor decision-making: being even more subject to confirmation bias than most people by being bunkered with his loyalists plus deeply invested in the macho of being a man of action (“Don’t bother me with details!”). From the BBC:

What particularly angered him [Trump], the reports say, was Comey saying it made him “mildly nauseous” to think the FBI may have swayed the election.

This hit right at President Trump’s psychological weak spot – the legitimacy of his victory in the election.

Mr Trump frequently talks up the size of his win in November and often disparages people, or photos, or agencies that suggest he didn’t win big…

Mr Trump hated what he heard in Mr Comey’s testimony. It made him angry, he felt disparaged and he hit back. This, we understand, was Mr Trump’s MO as a business man…

This may be about the Russia probe getting more intense, but there is still no evidence that Mr Trump colluded with Moscow to affect the outcome of the vote. None.

It doesn’t look good that the White House fires the man who’s in charge of the investigation but it may be just that, unfortunate optics.

But it may simply be about Mr Trump’s personality. He doesn’t forgive grudges and feels somehow unfairly treated. Then he acts fast, sometimes impulsively, especially when he’s angry…

If the firing of Mr Comey is an example, it’s not a good sign for long-term stability in this White House.

Mind you, I am not saying there are not financial skeletons in Trump’s closet. And plenty of his conduct since he had been in office has been deeply disturbing. The fact that he has been in the New York City real estate business, which back in the day had substantial Mafia influence, and in the casino business, means there is probably some real dirt if anyone could dig deep enough. But despite the media clearly being keen to publish this sort of story, no insiders have leaked anything juicy beyond what was out there during the campaign (like the use of illegal Polish workers in building Trump Tower and trying to say he knew nothing about it years later) and the press hasn’t unearthed anything more on its own.

As for Gauis’ concern about a Constitutional crisis, the Democrats and security state has been working hard to foment one since Trump won. Lambert remarked early on that the Clinton team was trying to change the Constitutional order by making who became President subject to the consent of the CIA and military, a staple of third world countries. I also think Gauis underestimates the amount of relevant support for Trump. Republicans want their bills signed and Trump will do that. As long as they control the House, contra Gaius, I think Trump is going nowhere.

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

What an odd and frightening place we’ve found ourselves.

Before about a month ago, I’d have agreed with the person who wrote, “The Trump-Russian investigation was a rabbit hole with no rabbit at the bottom.” To twist the metaphor, I’d put it this way: The Clinton part of the Democratic Party, in an effort to maintain Party control and advance a “she didn’t lose” narrative, kept looking at “Russia did it” angles like Alice looking for a hole deep enough to jump into.

They looked at a lot of holes, but none that seemed to have real evidence in them. Recently, though, information started coming out about Mike Flynn, and potentially Jared Kushner, that made it look like Russia-hunting Democrats had actually found something of substance — actual documentable election collusion with actual Russia, as opposed to “maybe Russia gave emails to WikiLeaks” or “maybe Trump cheered them on a little too loudly,” with a strong side of “it had to be Russia somehow, right? because Clinton won the popular vote.”

The comparison that comes to mind is Bill Clinton and Whitewater, another investigation in search of a crime, any crime. The Whitewater inquiry, initially about a land deal, eventually turned up Paula Jones, then Monica Lewinsky, then Bill Clinton’s perjury (finally, a crime!) — but still, the investigation ended miles from where it started.

Same with this. I now think there’s a there there, but it’s not the “there” that Russia hunters were chasing when they set out. I believe they’ve now found something of real substance — the cover-up certainly looks vigorous — but that substance is now miles from where they started looking. As with Whitewater, it seems the investigators got lucky, though I’m glad or our sakes they did.

The Effort to Remove Donald Trump

So where are we now? I’ll lay decent odds the administration will appoint no special prosecutor, and if they do, no independent special prosecutor. It would take a revolt from congressional Republicans to prove me wrong. That could happen, but odds that it will? Less than 50-50 as I see it now.

Which means the country stays in its current state, ruled by a man and a party actively perverting the Constitution to enable obvious corruption and — finally, what the Democrats alleged all along on no evidence — apparent collusion by that man with a foreign power to gain domestic power. Whether that collusion was decisive or not in his victory, matters not at all.

(Interestingly, this is the same activity that Reagan and Bush I were accused of, the foreign power in that case being Iran. Neither political party, though, nor the media of that day would allow a complete investigation, and even went so far as to ostracize from mainstream employment a very good investigative reporter, Robert Parry, for pursuing it anyway.)

All of which means that if Trump’s Russia doings aren’t formally investigated, either by a special investigator or by Congress, elites who want him gone will have to force him out by extra-constitutional means.

Which suggests three questions. One, who wants him to go, since that will determine the shape of the opposition he faces? Two, who wants him to stay in office? And three, what are those means? Others may answer differently, but I’ll offer these.

First, those in elites positions who want him to go include:

• All Democratic officeholders.

• Many Republican officeholders (those who would much prefer a President Pence).

• Many of those who work in the bowels of the CIA, FBI, and NSA — highly placed rank-and-file operatives in position to leak information and do other substantial damage. (Note what happened during the election when those in the DC office of the FBI leaked damaging Clinton material because they disagreed with Comey’s refusal to recommend an indictment. It’s six months later, but the same dynamic.)

• Others in the national security establishment who don’t trust Trump to be warlike enough. This ropes in neocons both in and out of the military.

• The broader neocon establishment/infrastructure, people who would have supported Clinton’s wars and staffed her administration, all of whom hate Trump’s statements (true ones in my view) about NATO’s irrelevance. Saying goodbye to NATO starts the tearing down of American military-backed hegemony. NATO’s sole relevance is to structure that hegemony in Europe.

Note that the list of Trump’s elite enemies is likely to grow in number of individuals, if not in number of groups. Note also that the key group is the second, Republican officeholders. If they turn against him in large numbers, even if only in private, Trump won’t remain in office. Also, if they support him sufficiently, even if only in private, it will be up to the last three groups, working together, to pressure Trump to leave.

Second, who are Trump’s supporters? Who in real power wants him to stay in office? I believe it’s a small list:

• Many in his family.
• Steve Bannon types (who are, note, anti-NATO).
• The Rex Tillerson deals-with-Russia crowd.
• The Scott Pruitt anti-regulation crowd.
• Some Republican Tea Party officeholders.

As I said, a small list, and I think a shrinking one.

Finally, what are the “extra-constitutional means” of making him leave?

The Constitution provides impeachment by Congress — articles of impeachment voted in the House, a trial in the Senate — as the only structural redress to a “Charles I” problem. (The goal of congressional impeachment is to permit our version of Parliament to “kill the king” without actually killing anyone. Charles I must have been fresh in the founders’ minds when they wrote that provision.) That’s all the constitutional remedy there is.

If Trump doesn’t get the “Nixon treatment,” official investigation and trial by Congress, elites who want him to leave have to work outside the Constitution. Options include:

• Relentless, damaging leaks and innuendo from all quarters aimed at turning public opinion against him.

• Privately issued threats and rewards — sticks and carrots — to induce him to step down. Remember, intelligence agencies of various stripes likely have almost all the goods on almost all officials who matter to them. Imagine what’s hoarded in NSA databases, or what FBI background checks reveal. Imagine what secrets angry CIA field agents might dig up.

If you doubt that issuing private threats like these could happen, do you imagine that agency use of damaging information to influence politics ended with Hoover? No Praetorian Guard, once it grows muscular, reverts back to a simple barracks unit just because new leadership arrives. When groups like that change culture, they rarely change back.

The threats are already coming out. Consider this post-firing report in the Washington Post: “Many [FBI] employees said they were furious about the [Comey] firing … One intelligence official who works on Russian espionage matters said they were more determined than ever to pursue such cases. Another said Comey’s firing and the subsequent comments from the White House are attacks that won’t soon be forgotten. Trump had ‘essentially declared war on a lot of people at the FBI, one official said. ‘I think there will be a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.'”

“Attacks that won’t soon be forgotten” and “a concerted effort to respond over time in kind.” The covert State is at war with the overt State. (Be sure to ask yourself, if you like these comments, if you’d like them if someone else were president.)

• Threats amounting to blackmail and, if not physical violence, violence to his wealth, business interests, and “brand.” (“We will destroy your brand forever, you will never do business again, if you don’t get out. Here’s how we’ll do it. First…”)

I’ll say at the outset that real physical violence against anyone involved in this is almost certainly off the table. For one thing, if something did happen physically to Trump, his family, or his close advisors — regardless of who did it — everyone in the country would assume Trump’s enemies’ guilt, and assume it with the same fervor and conviction they now assume his own.

The Next American Constitution

One last thought. This country has had a constitutional crisis every 70 years, after which the government restructured itself. In effect, we have been ruled by three Constitutions, not just one, each producing, in practice, very different governments and societies. We’re rapidly producing a crisis that will produce a fourth.

In order, our constitutional crises are:

• 1789, the Revolutionary War and transition from colony to slave-holding republic.

• 1865, the Civil War and transition from divided slave-holding nation with two competing economies to united freed-slave state. This change took down the Southern agricultural aristocracy (by depriving it of the nearly free labor it depended on); made the Northern industrial economy nationally ascendant; and put us firmly on the path to first-world industrial powerhouse.

• 1933, the Great Depression and transition from a light-handed pro-business government to a heavy-handed regulatory state.

• And now, this.

What will the next American Constitution look like? Turkey’s and Hungary’s, with their dictators and single-party governments wrapped in the old constitutional forms? A naked kleptocracy, where constitutional forms are simply ignored, like those in many third-world countries? A state in which forms are observed but the hand with real power belongs mainly to the “security” apparatus? In many countries, coups by segments of the elite, blatant or covert, are welcomed as correctives and tacitly approved (another way constitutions are revised without being rewritten).

If Trump is not successfully impeached, and it looks for now like he won’t be, our government as practiced will once more dramatically change, as it did when Bush’s crimes were not addressed, and Obama’s after him (never forget that targeted assassination is an innovation Obama made lawful).

But whatever happens next, whether Trump is impeached or not, I think we’ve already been changed as a nation forever by what’s already led to this moment. After all, in 2016 the nation wanted someone like Sanders to be president, wanted an agent of change, and look what it got. This is in fact our second failed attempt this century at change that makes our lives better.

I don’t think that point’s been lost on anyone. We’re in transition no matter what happens to Trump. Transition to what, we’ll have to find out later.

And something else to consider. The last three times the government fundamentally changed, we got lucky. We found leaders — Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt — up to the task, in chaotic and troubling times, of steering an altered ship to calmer water and a safer port.

Will we get lucky once more? We can only hope.

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  1. Disturbed Voter

    The MIC is using the DINOs and RINOs to put pressure on a President? Say it isn’t so! Washington founded the MIC (military-intelligence-complex). Lincoln and FDR expanded the MIC. Thru war the Republic survived and prospered. So how will it work out this time?

  2. EndOfTheWorld

    Will the “the Russians hacked the election” ploy succeed? The answer is “NO”. Somebody once said nobody ever lost money underestimating the American public. But in this case the “misunderestimating” is so extreme that this ploy has no chance of working. Americans don’t watch TV news any more, and if they do they are conscious at some level it’s not the truth.

    Instead, they get their news from their computer, their phone, a short wave radio, or just talking to their neighbors who may possess one of the above devices.

    At some point people just get totally sick of BS.

    1. blue streak

      Don’t agree with your “NO.” Not yet anyway. It’s downright frightening how many educated people I know who are generally smart and alert that have swallowed the Russia did it nonsense. (Show us the proof!) They’ve become parrots regurgitating media and talking head drivel. All I’ve learned is that propaganda works far better than I imagined.

      Great piece.

      1. Andrew Watts

        All I’ve learned is that propaganda works far better than I imagined.

        Of course it does. Propaganda is inevitably consumed first by the educated classes in the opening stages of any campaign. It’s effectiveness is enhanced with the belief that they’re wholly immune from it due to their education, intellect, and social standing. An arrogant attitude in one’s personal superiority renders an individual vulnerable. The pseudo-intellectual urge to have an opinion on every topic and “being informed” simply helps it spread easier.

        However, there are plenty of reasons to suspect that it will fail or blow up spectacularly. The trust and faith in our institutions, including the corporate media, is at a all time low. Trump was the only presidential candidate who even bothered to pretend to care about the American people. Any action taken against Trump will be viewed through the prism of neglect and/or the malicious nature of the ruling class.

        Or whatever conspiracy is popular at the moment. *cough* deep state *cough*

        1. Gaianne

          “The pseudo-intellectual urge to have an opinion on every topic and “being informed” simply helps it spread easier.”

          This urge is not new, but it is pervasive. Rather than say, “I don’t know. (Is there any reason why I would or should?)” People will just make something up, or reach for the available familiar opinion.


      2. Michael Fiorillo

        Yes, and it’s extremely demoralizing to see otherwise well-educated and sophisticated people swallow all this so uncritically. It doesn’t bode well for the House elections in 2018 or Democratic primaries in 2020 (not that I expected much to begin with).

        First, Trump was Hitler, but that didn’t pan out. Then he was Putin’s Manchurian Candidate. Now he’s Nixon.

        If he’s going to be Nixon, the least he could do is give us some of the liberal legislation Nixon did. Then again, if that same legislation were offered today – Clean Air Act, Clean water Act, the EPA and OSHA, etc. -the Democrats would either oppose it or crapify it, as per the wishes of their funders.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          As others have noted, Nixon was often forced into those positions due to outside agitation. “OMG Russia” has largely served to force an escalation in Syria, not the Clean Air Act.

          1. Michael Fiorillo

            Without a doubt, he was responding to the political climate of the time, not his inner wishes, and a Democratic Party that controlled both houses of congress and was still somewhat true to New Deal worldviews, but it was Nixon himself who proposed a Basic Annual Income that most Democrats today would run away from.

        2. Art Eclectic

          One word: Benghazi.

          There is plenty of evidence that one can keep repeating propaganda long enough to create a reality distortion field that will suck in formerly sane people.

          1. Gaianne

            I would love a real investigation of Benghazi.

            But that would reveal the US gun-running operations to jihadi terrorists. Not going to happen.

            Why was the ambassador killed, anyway? Did he know too much? Too little? An inter-agency foul-up? Did he cross some local people? Right now, we can only guess at random.


              1. Gaianne

                What? You think Benghazi didn’t happen?

                Maybe they just faked his death, for shits and giggles! Now there is tinfoil!


      3. Knot Galt

        It takes a while to fabricate proof. From my far off vantage point, I see at least three parties using the Russian theme as an avenue for exploitation;

        1. Those that want to solidify Trump,
        2. Those that want to take Trump down,
        3. Those that want to create something akin to “Handmaid’s Tale”.

        The big dupe in all this might be Trump himself. He believes/thinks he can do this job all by himself.

        It’s a race to see who can fabricate the biggest lie to propel their interests to the head of the line?

      1. sgt_doom

        Since 2008, the WGBH Educational Foundation has been pretty much owned by the number one financier, the Koch brothers. So those PRI shows on NPR (owned by WGBH), or PBS (owned by WGBH) or Frontline (owned by WGBH) have been highly suspect on all levels to myself — and nobody pushes the offshoring of American jobs and the replacement of American workers with foreign visa workers than NPR!

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Nothing is as we remember it, National Geographic used to be articles about national and natural geography, since Rupert bought them you’re just as likely to find an article about how cool a new missile system or tank is.

          Raul pegs it: we live in a naked kleptocracy, with shifting groups of kleptocrats vying for their turns at the trough passing as “politics”. So cast out those obsolete memories of WGBH, NPR, National Geographic, and a constitutional republic based on the consent of the governed, they’re of no real use to you anymore.

          When people finally find the stones to pick up a pitchfork or a brick or even a telephone then we can rekindle hope

    2. sid_finster

      Proof, facts, logic and evidence have nothing to do with whether a belief is convenient or not.

      As long as russiagate allows establishment types to blame others for Trump and avoid having to reform themselves, they will continue to profess belief.

  3. Moneta

    Step number 1: the media should be restructured as to be owned by everyone not only the rich. There should be caps on size and ownership by size.

    1. Tim

      careful what you wish for, that would make it state run, and subject to leadership the media is supposed to cover. That would not be an improvement.

      1. Moneta

        Not necessarily. For example, it could be that no one can own more than a specific percentage of the firm when the market cap is over a certain amount.

        So many ways to do this keeping it private.

  4. jackiebass

    I really don’t believe the republican establishment want’s Trump out. They view him as easy to manipulate. He will sign anything they manage to pass. Probably the same could be said about Pence. Trump views the presidency as he being the star of his own grand bigger and better reality show. He is clueless about almost everything. In fact he is clueless about the truth. Just look at his constantly changing version of an issue. His administration reminds me of the children tale Charlottes Web. I wonder how long it will take for the public to realize they were conned?

    1. Thor's Hammer

      There is no chance that the Important People would engage in the circus folly of impeaching Trump. And the idea that he would resign is ludicrous. As long as he can be herded by manipulating his ego, signs bills removing the last restrictions on banksters, frackers, and medical extortionists, and feeds the maw of the war machine he is immune to legal action. On the other hand, to quote H. Rap Brown from the 70’s, “violence is as American as Apple Pie.” If Trump’s mental instability becomes a problem he will simply be assassinated— something that he is well aware of.

      1. Peter Van Erp

        “I say violence is necessary. Violence is a part of America’s culture. It is as American as cherry pie. ” H. Rap Brown, July 27,1967 I always liked the deliberate misuse of the idiom.

  5. timotheus

    Well-taken points about the dubious Russia claims and the tendentious nature of the leaks and claims. However, this M.O. was installed in our politics by the gang now getting hoist on it. All the relentless “investigations” of thin or non-existent crimes (like Who Killed Vince Foster?) echoed thunderously through the wackadoodle broadcast universe (Limbaugh, Beck, Jones) are now being imitated by the Dems seizing the chance to return the favor. It’s debased, but hardly surprising that we’re reduced to fighting it out over such weak tea when the real crimes are barely mentioned.

    1. TheCatSaid

      Worth watching: James Corbett’s series of videos “Requiem to the Suicided”. I recently rewatched the episode pertaining to Vince Foster’s death. It’s thoughtful and thought-provoking. It provides extensive links to the actual primary evidence–evidence which is rampant with discrepancies. Whatever happened, the official story is incorrect. I had never realized that key witnesses were never interviewed, and that in at least one case, the FBI changed a key witness’s statement when they wrote it up on their internal form.

  6. Democrita

    Can I add a category to people who want him to stay: people who don’t think Pence would be better–indeed, who suspect that with more coherent and unified GOP leadership, the outcome for rubes would be worse.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Good point. I also neglected the Goldman mafia (and presumably all the banks who see themselves as generally on the same page) which is increasingly getting control of Trump policy-making. I had the pleasure of talking with Lori Wallach, who runs Public Citizen, two weekends ago. She is spending a lot of time with Trump policy people on trade. There is one group (allied with Wilbur Ross) that wants more restrictive, pro-worker trade deals. She says that even though Trump does favor that view, the slicker Goldman globalists seem to be getting the upper hand.

    2. Art Eclectic

      I’m in that camp. The only thing that horrifies me more than a Trump presidency is the prospect of a Pence or Cruz presidency.

    3. sgt_doom

      Excellent point, which is why I never voted for anyone with Pence, Cheney or Lieberman on the ticket!

  7. LT

    No impeachment will happen.
    That would taint the Pence administration (pause to gag) and any impeachment needs Repubs on board.

  8. DH

    The rush to repeal Obamacare is the biggest threat to Trump because that is the most probable issue that could flip the House to Democratic control. Meanwhile, Trump is stacking up potential impeachment issues like cordwood just waiting for some firestarter and a match which would occur if the House flips in 2018. A lame duck Pence becoming president following impeachment in late 2019 would probably not be a strong candidate for 2020. Pence does not have the bi-partisan respect that Ford had, and Ford lost in 1976.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I agree. But it may be that the saner heads in the Senate see that and fully intend to kill the Obamacare repeal while giving as many Rs as possible save the Freedom Caucus whack jobs plausible deniability.

      It looks pretty likely that any bill that will pass the Senate won’t pass the House. The Senate is drafting its own bill and can make sure that is the outcome.

      So the Senate Rs and House Rs will all be able to say, “But, but I DID vote for Obamacare repeal! Really, truly, just look at my vote! Not my fault it didn’t get done.” Paul Ryan will be the big fall guy.

      There will be some cost but it will fall most to the Freedom Caucus crazies. Turfing them out, even if it cuts the majority in the House, would be a net plus to the Rs IF they can still keep control.

      1. Susan the other

        From the moment Trump crashed the political party it looked like he was focused on breaking up the Republican log jam. It (log jam) has made government almost useless. It’s not all Freedom Caucus folly, I know, but they are so ossified they will never dissolve on their own. In the confusion, the Democrats look like they have fallen into a state of shock and so are doing everything to protect their own establishment – which was taking an obvious free-ride in the wake of the far right mess. Our politics is long overdue for a complete remodeling. I can’t even imagine what actual good, working politics will look like.

    2. Norm

      Never underestimate the Democrats’ capacity to nominate a really bad candidate and run a lousy campaign.

  9. EoinW

    I’m not sure America got lucky thrice. Lincoln was responsible for a war which led to the most American deaths ever. Then he was assassinated right after the war so I don’t see how he guided the country back to calmer waters when he was dead. Roosevelt led to WW2 which the US could have avoided had it remained truly neutral. Roosevelt, like Wilson, wanted America in the war and got what he wanted.

    I guess the end justifies the means, however many paid the ultimate price and they certainly were not lucky.

    1. larry

      Your implication that FDR was a causal factor in getting the US into the European Theater does not really hold water, though it has been contended by some that he manipulated an isolationist Congress to favor a declaration of war against the Japanese. As for the war in Europe, it was the Versailles Treaty that set the seeds for that war, as Keynes pointed out in his polemic, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, published in 1919. Later, historians argued that WW2 was a continuation of WW1 with many of the same combatants in place. The two Theaters need to be distinguished at the very least with respect to the motivations of the major players in the West.

      1. Andrew Watts

        I favor the argument that the second World War was merely a continuation of the first. In the European theater at the very least. I can’t remember who it was exactly, besides Keynes, that called the peace at Versailles a “Carthaginian peace”.

        1. larry

          It was Etienne Mantoux in the early ’40s, who was killed in WW2. He argued that the German hyperinflation was engineered by the Germans in order to justify not paying the French reparations.

        2. Gaianne

          Or, as we say, the War to End All War was followed by the Peace to End All Peace.

          And it did.

          On a more serious note, FDR clearly manoeuvred the Japanese into attacking through his use of an oil embargo. This was a direct attack on their industrial economy. Realizing that they would have to get oil from (present day) Indonesia by whatever means, and thinking that the US would again stand in the way, led them to believe war with the US was inevitable.

          When Hitler joined the Japanese in declaring war against the US, FDR had achieved his diplomatic goals.


        3. different clue

          I remember watching once a PBS biography show about Harry Truman. In WWI Truman became a Captain of Artillery. I remember the program quoting from a letter he is supposed to have written to his mother back home in Missouri . . . about the Declaration of Armistice . . .
          that the Germans should have been forced to fight and to lose in Germany itself so that they would accept that they had been defeated. He wrote that permitting the Germans to get off with an Armistice would mean Germany would start another war in 20 years.

    2. nowhere

      Hmm… I seem to recall SC seceding from the Union before Lincoln had even been inaugurated.

  10. LT

    And all of this assumes it really was Trump’s decision and not just his signature.

    “Now watch this swing…”

  11. Quentin

    As long as Donald Trump is useful to the Republican agenda, he will remain in office, US President. If the moment comes that he thwarts the Republicans or fails, displeases them somehow, he will be simply and legally replaced by Mike Pence. I’d say it’s as simple as that. By the way, the Democrats may never have the courage and honesty to recognise the depth and breadth of their abject failure strapped in the harness of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and mate as Donald Trump and the Republicans change the US permanently. Both Clintons will take responsibility, while it of course wouldn’t be their fault. One of Donald Trump’s few saving graces is that he’s not a conniving, manipulative, hypocritical lawyer in the mold of the Clintons and, last but not least, Obama. Just a jerky, quirky businessman.

    1. John Wright

      As you say:

      ” By the way, the Democrats may never have the courage and honesty to recognise the depth and breadth of their abject failure strapped in the harness of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and mate as Donald Trump and the Republicans change the US permanently.”

      The Democrats at the top may be simply in the process of monetizing their remaining power.

      They may be quite aware of the “abject failure” of Obama and the Clintons in providing for the country, but they also know that 2 billion in revenue flowed to the Clintons via their foundations and Obama is busily filling his coffers.

      The Dilbert cartoon personnel director Catbert might have captured the attitude of the Democratic leadership, “Don’t let me stop you in your search for someone who cares”

  12. Anonymous

    I have a few bones to pick with Gaius on the historical periphery.

    Slave labor was, in fact, more expensive than free labor. New Englanders figured this out during their harsh colonial winters, when there was little for slaves to do. Southerners were inferior accountants. Nature fooled them, as there’s always some kind of work to do outdoors in the South. DeTocqueville discusses the illusion of thinking slave labor is ‘nearly free’ in ‘Democracy in America’. He contends that it was more expensive than free labor.

    It’s interesting to me that people like Gaius, who are so smart in so many ways, miss these obvious economic points that even a cursory reading of the historical literature would disclose.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The replacement cost of slaves who were often ill from malnutrition.

      The need to guard slaves. Free laborers serve as the local defense. Slaves need guards. Slaves lived in the original police state.

      Slaves besides the stress certainly have no incentives to innovate.

    2. tony

      Note that the South was highly underdeveloped compared to the North. Slavery was a weapon the ruling classes could use against free labour, keeping the labour’s bargaining power low. And because labour was weak, the elites could prevent investment in common goods such as roads and schools.

      You can see the same dynamic now with the ruling classes opposing universal healthcare and pushing austerity, despite both of these policies harming business.

    3. Dr. Roberts

      The biggest advantage of African slaves was their resistance to malaria and other diseases encountered in hot southern summers. Of course free African laborers might have been more economical, but good luck convincing them to move. Africa wasn’t suffering from the problems of over-population that Europe was.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Was sickle cell that prevalent to make a difference? I thought the more celebrated African resistance to malaria was diet related. Slaves suffered from malaria.

        1. Gaianne

          “African resistance to malaria was diet related.”

          Probably not. The sickle cell gene really does give an advantage in malaria resistance.

          “Slaves suffered from malaria.”

          The sickle cell gene gives resistance, not immunity. And not all Africans have the gene, anyway.

    4. Pablo

      That exact point is magnificently made in the Pontecuervo’s film Burn!, with a young Marlon Brandon

      1. nobody

        Another point magnificently made in Burn!:

        — The situation is the same.

        — Yes, but the problem is different. Ten years is a long time. Can be a very long time.

        — Even so, it’s still only ten years.

        — No I only want to explain, gentlemen, that very often between one historical period and another, ten years certainly might be enough to reveal the… the contradictions of a whole century. And so often we have to realize that… our judgments, and our interpretations… and even our hopes… may have been wrong. Wrong, that’s all.

    5. HotFlash

      Absolutely! Sharecropping and wage-slavery outsource the costs of food, clothing, housing, transport and necessary medical care as well as other risks and limitations — injury or death, overwork, care of stock too young to work, equipment/tools, need to sleep, for instance — to the employee, while retaining the profits. Company store makes it more efficient still. Why, its just like today!

    6. nonsense factory

      “Controlled labor force” would be a better description of slavery than “nearly free labor force”.
      While the southern artistocracy did have to pay for slaves, they didn’t have to give up any land. Hence it was more like medieval feudalism with aristocrats and serfs. With freed slaves, sharecropping became the norm, another attempt to prevent the conversion of freed slaves to the “kulak class” – essentially a small independent landowner not under aristocratic or state control.

      The record of persistent 20th century racism and economic targeting of black people continues, however:

      In 1910, Black Americans owned 15,000,000 acres of land, most of it in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina. This figure has since declined to 5,500,000 acres in 1980 and to 2,000,000 acres in 1997. (Wiki, 40 acres and a mule)

      Minority homeowners were also the largest targets of the subprime mortgage foreclosure schemes after the 2008 collapse:

      Overall, blacks lost about 240,020 homes to foreclosure, while Latinos lost about 335,950, according to the study, which analyzed government and industry data on millions of loans issued between 2005 and 2008 — the height of the housing boom.

      The “analysis suggests dramatic differences in how the foreclosure crisis has affected racial and ethnic groups,” the report said. “African American and Latino borrowers have borne and will continue to disproportionately bear the burden of foreclosures.” – Wapo 2010

      Ultimately, land ownership is the critical factor in developing economic independence; permanent wage laborers living in rental housing is essentially a serfdom system.

    7. Susan the other

      So eliminating slaves was one of the industrialists first steps in externalizing costs. And in order to accomplish this glittering future they took us into the worst war we have ever concocted? Makes sense.

    8. Gaius Publius

      Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. My point wasn’t about the economics of slavery, but the economic control of the Southern aristocracy. That’s why I put it this way:

      This change took down the Southern agricultural aristocracy (by depriving it of the nearly free labor it depended on)

      Nearly free to them. This article from the Economist gets to that a bit:

      Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman made the most famous contribution to the debate. Their book, Time on the Cross, suggested that slavery in the American South was a lucrative enterprise for plantation owners. The authors reckoned that slaves were treated pretty well. And this meant that they were productive. So for the owners, slavery was:

      generally a highly profitable investment which yielded rates of return that compared favourably with the most outstanding investment opportunities in manufacturing

      Another study, by Alfred Conrad and John Meyer, calculated the rate of return on investing in slaves. They reckoned that “slave capital” earned at least equal returns to those from other forms of capital investment—such as railroad bonds. The rate of return on slaves could be as high as 13%—compared to a yield of 6-8% on the railroads [emphasis mine].

      There’s also this, from lower down in the same article:

      Slavery hindered the development of Southern capitalism in other ways. Eugene Genovese, writing in 1961, reckoned that the antebellum South was not profit-seeking. In fact, slavery was not even meant to be profitable. Slaveowners were keener on flaunting their vast plantations and huge reserves of slaves than they were about profits and investment. Rational economic decisions were sacrificed for pomp and circumstance.

      Economies which used slavery may, in the long run, have been at a disadvantage. Some analyses suggest that the economic contradictions of slavery led to its inevitable demise. But slavery had indirect effects on other economies. Douglass North, a Nobel-Prize-winning economist, argued that the expansion of Southern plantation slavery was at the centre of midwestern economic development in the nineteenth century (though the South’s demand for certain foodstuffs).

      All of this isn’t to argue that slavery was in general economical or beneficial to the South as a whole. It’s to say that (a) it was beneficial to the Southern plantation aristocracy per the ROI comment in the quote above, and (b) it fixed the Southern economy (and limited it) along a certain path, which was not the Northern path.

      The Civil War took out the Southern aristocracy as a political force and made the Northern economy dominant — which is what I think I said.

      This change took down the Southern agricultural aristocracy (by depriving it of the nearly free labor it depended on); made the Northern industrial economy nationally ascendant; and put us firmly on the path to first-world industrial powerhouse.



      1. Roger Bigod

        It was economics. Slavery persisted longest where the economy was based on a labor-intensive cash crop, preferably one with work spread over the whole year. These included tobacco (colonial VA and MD), cotton (Lower South), sugar cane (West Indies, South Louisiana).

        There were two waves of slavery: VA up to about 1790 based on tobacco, and Lower South after about 1800 (cotton).

        The problem with tobacco was that it exhausted the soil. The settlers noticed that after land was cleared and cultivated, the quality of the produce began to decline after about 3 years.

        There was no solution for this. They tried using marls and rotating land use for pasture, depending on animal manure to restore the soil, but this only delayed the process. A big problem was that the chemistry wasn’t known, so they had no way to measure it. (

        But for decades the economy boomed. Around 1700 the standard of living was higher in VA than in England. There was a fund for needy families and one year the trustee reported that he coudn’t find any recipients.

        When the Immigrant of my Fust Family died in 1711, he left land for 4 big plantations on the James River. By about 1800 they had all been sold or abandoned. George Washington tried to raise tobacco at Mount Vernon without success because the soil was exhausted. He spent years trying to find a profitable use for his slaves, but he couldn’t sell them because they were part of Martha’s estate. By 1760 the planters were deeply indebted to English trading houses, and historians have suggested escaping those debts as an important motivation for the Revolution. Around 1780, newspapers had editorials suggesting that tobacco culture had been a mistake. Several prominent planters freed their slaves. The law teacher at William & Mary proposed a plan for phasing it out.

        Then in 1793, the cotton gin was invented, and the whole cycle repeated. I suspect that the
        Southerners’ pressure to expand slavery was partly based on declining soil. It isn’t clear how it would have payed out if slavery hadn’t been abolished.

        The VA economy cratered in 1820-30 and there was a big exodus to the Midwest and Lower South, covered in a book by the historian David Hackett Fischer. It was still depressed in 1860, which is why it was slow to enter the Confederacy.

        You’re correct that the crisis of 1860 resulted in a big loss for the Southern Aristocracy. But it wasn’t just slavery. The big struggle in Congress in the preceding 50 years had been over tariffs and public improvements (transportation infrastructure), The Union effectively applied a wealth pump to the defeated South, with mixed results, not least for the freed slaves. If the Southerners had been smart they would have threatened to go Marxist and extracted a Marshall Plan.

  13. Katniss Everdeen

    I now think there’s a there there, but it’s not the “there” that Russia hunters were chasing when they set out. I believe they’ve now found something of real substance — the cover-up certainly looks vigorous — but that substance is now miles from where they started looking.

    So, don’t keep us in suspense. What “there” is the “something of real substance” that you think they’ve found?

    Some concrete “evidence” would be appreciated, in contrast to the left-handed “he fired the fbi director so the collusion must be real” rationale, which they had to wait almost a year for.

    It’s a good thing Trump doesn’t drink, or his having a white russian would be cause for martial law.

  14. Ed Walker

    I was myself agnostic on the Russia/Trumpy connection until Trumpy fired Comey. Now I am reduced to three possibilities.

    1. Trumpy was personally involved in some kind of corrupt dealings with Russia or with Putin and his corrupt associates.

    2. He fears that people question his legitimacy as president, a perfectly reasonable concern in light of the continued investigation and the fact that he lost the popular vote by millions. These feelings are reinforced by a) the continued assaults on him on late-night TV, b) his incompetence at playing president as everyone is saying, inside and outside the White House, and which is reinforced by relentless questioning of him and his stupid statements on every possible subject; and c) his inability to lead anyone anywhere, including especially the Republicans in Congress. Also, the continued investigation into the Russia “thing” plays into this, indicating he wasn’t really capable of winning on his own, and only won because of the aid worked out either personally or with his corrupt associates..

    3. He is failing mentally. I worry about incipient dementia, for example. That absurd discussion of health care in The Economist shows that he can’t offer sensible explanations of complex issues. His bizarre explanations of firing Comey are childish at best, and his willingness to blabber on is telling: he can’t even conceal his own motives, but plasters them on the wall for everyone to read. His late-night tweets and discussions are just bizarre, as in sundowning. His blind rages at perfectly normal political difficulties the regular reports of him yelling at people about things they didn’t do and can’t fix is typical of early Alzheimer’s as I recall the behavior of the two people I know with the disease. If you listen to tapes of Trumpy on Howard Stern, you’ll see that he is quick and mildly funny in a crude way, not at all like the way he talks today.

    Of course I don’t know which to believe. But the FBI seems convinced they are on to something, so I’m inclined to point 1.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      …… his willingness to blabber on is telling: he can’t even conceal his own motives, but plasters them on the wall for everyone to read.

      Except, apparently, in this instance, in which he is feverishly attempting to persuade everyone that what they know to be his true motive, is not.

      But you’re right about the blabbering. He should cut it out.

    2. Gaius Publius

      Smart analysis, Ed. I considered your second point as an explanation — the vigor of his defense could just be his reaction to constant Trump tweakage and not a sign of his guilt, as it would be for less easily tweaked individuals. That explanation is still a possibility.

      But I agree that (1) is still looking more and more likely, given the breadth of the cover-up and the increase in individuals roped in. Just seems like the hounds have found something and are starting to converge. Fournd what? I don’t know. I’m still not sure it’s evidence of a “Russian attack on our election,” as the breathless Maddows and Bookers of the world are putting it, but something messy enough to want to hide.

      (Of course, there could well be the same mess on the Democratic side. Yves above quoted someone who made a comment on the Clinton uranium story, which always looked like a vulnerability to me in much the same way — neoliberal cashing in. But you’d have to be running a fever of 106° to get to a place where you see Maddow pursuing that story.)


      1. Loblolly

        “Given the breadth of the cover up”

        Do you even hear how ridiculous that sounds given the constant stench from the blatant money grubbing actions of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Posestas and many others?

        The simplest answer is truth. There is no Russian conspiracy and the DNC gang are all corrupt influence peddlers.

        1. clarky90

          As we used to say in Southern Ohio; “Trump is crazy, crazy like a fox”.

          Meanwhile pontiffs pontificate endlessly about stupid, incompetent, corrupt Trump.

        2. Thor's Hammer

          Spot on. What the Democon/Repugnant criminals can’t stand is Truth. Like the facts disclosed in the Podesta emails. Like the facts that Wikileaks continuously publishes. Like the truths destroyed in the thousands of documents that Clinton shredded in defiance of court orders.

          Vladimir Putin put it in proper perspective at the start of this black Orwellian farce.
          ‘What is the US anyway, a third world country?’

  15. Katharine

    I really dislike the grandiose and implausible assertion that Charles I “must” have been fresh in the founders’ minds when they were drafting the Constitution. Why should events almost 150 years earlier have been fresh in their minds? Do current legislators dwell on the aftermath of the Civil War? Judging by references in the Federalist, they had the common law in mind, and the constitutions of several states that provided for impeachment. Moreover, the Federalist No. 69 expressly distinguishes between the nature of the President and that of the British monarch. Does Gaius Publius imagine he improves his argument by inventing facts contrary to the historical record? Every time he does so he undermines his own credibility.

    1. Byron the Light Bulb

      The English Civil War was the dawn of modern self-rule in the English-speaking world. To rebel and kill a king was to rebel against God herself. And to win. Well…the Roundheads thought, “Maybe there is something to this Scientific Method. The Church is full of it.” Many of the vanquished found themselves forced to flee to the New World. Not since the Romans did Englishmen of all stations have their entire world turned upside down.

    2. Gaius Publius

      Thanks, Byron. Yes, a shattering event, since it undercut the “great chain of being” that had been in ideologically place for centuries.

      Impeachment of lesser officials had been in place before the English Civil War. For example, under James I:

      Meanwhile a legal battle was being waged in the courts, with Sir Francis Bacon zealously upholding the royal prerogative and Sir Edward Coke defending the supremacy of common law. The king dismissed Coke from the bench in 1616, but the Parliament of 1621 impeached Bacon.

      But for Parliament to impeach the monarch was impossible. So, after a long war with armies, they killed him. The idea of Parliamentary supremacy to the monarch was established, but no more kings need be killed. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 closed that book.

      Yes, these events preceded the U.S. Constitution by several generations, but consider the American Civil War, and how that’s both still with us in effect, and with us in our minds. Every election people talk bitterly about the Old South (and the Mountain states that post-Civil War southerners populated via Texas). This happens, it seems, every time an electoral map is shown, and every time people complain about modern (post-Civil Rights era) Republicans and their electoral and senatorial hold on the South and on western low-population states.

      That war is still with us and we know it. I still think the English Civil War was, as Byron implies, a ground-shaking event with a very long shadow: “Not since the Romans did Englishmen of all stations have their entire world turned upside down.”


      1. nobody

        Consider the American Civil War, and how that’s both still with us in effect, and with us in our minds:

        When you think about it, nearly everything in modern American history turns on the Civil War, because the ideology I have been describing (which can be more accurately described as a mythology, or grand narrative) requires us to ‘fix’ traditional societies and eliminate obstacles to progress. With the Civil War these two goals converged, making it the paradigm case of how we carry out, or attempt to carry out, these two projects. What the North did to the South is really the model of what America in general did and does to ‘backward’ (i.e., traditional) societies, if it can. You wipe out almost the entire indigenous population of North America; you steal half of Mexico; you literally vaporize a large chunk of the Japanese population; you bomb Vietnam ‘back to the Stone Age’ (in the immortal words of Curtis LeMay); you ‘shock and awe’ Iraqi civilians, and so on…

        From Japan to Iraq, the pattern is the same, to the extant that we have been able to impose it: first, destroy the place physically (in particular, murder huge numbers of civilians, as the North did to the South during the Civil War—fifty thousand of them by 1865), and then ‘Americanize’ it. Humiliation, the destruction of the identity of the defeated party, has always been an important part of the equation…

        Sure, the war was about slavery, it was hardly a major issue. But it was part of a much larger one about two very different and incompatible civilizations, and a fixation on the moral question of slavery can blind us to the larger (world) context of the Civil War, which was really the American version of the global modernization process. No, I have no wish to live in a slave society; I regard it as an abomination. But the South saw a different type of abomination on the horizon, one that is now with us; and quite frankly, I have no wish to live in that one either. This is what books such as Brave New World are really about (Max Weber’s iron cage meets American Idol might be one way of putting it); and the question of where contemporary ‘Southerners’ can go to escape this dystopia is no small point…

        (Morris Berman, Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline)

    3. nobody

      Friday July 20, 1787:

      Docr. FRANKLIN was for retaining the clause as favorable to the Executive. History furnishes one example only of a first Magistrate being formally brought to public Justice. Every body cried out agst. this as unconstitutional. What was the practice before this in cases where the chief Magistrate rendered himself obnoxious? Why recourse was had to assassination in wch. he was not only deprived of his life but of the opportunity of vindicating his character. It wd.. be the best way therefore to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the Executive where his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal when he should be unjustly accused.

  16. Carolinian

    Perceptive intro whereas the heavy breathing of the post itself is from the bubble. One suspects that most Americans who are just living their lives and aren’t news junkies would find the notion that the country is in some sort of Constitutional crisis to be astonishing. Indeed I’ve seen the contrary argument made that if the Dems and the media keep this up they are going to wreck themselves, not Trump, irretrievably.

    As Yves says, let’s move on to real stuff.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      “…..heavy breathing of the post….” I like it.

      msnbs interviewed a democrat representative yesterday, who held a townhall in a district neighboring the one he represents. That district’s own rep had refused to hold his own in-person meeting. This unusual tact merited an on-set msnbs appearance.

      The panel was eager to hear about the rising hystseria in the electorate over the Russia-inspired meltdown of the republic.

      Throwing a bucket of cold water on them, albeit gently, the rep said that the attendees were most concerned about their “healthcare,” and were not nearly as concerned about Russia as cable news or those in the beltway.

      And so, the beatings will continue……

    2. Andrew Watts

      It’s more likely that most Americans don’t pay attention to this political drama because they believe they don’t have a stake in any outcome. Of course, that’s probably my cognitive bias at work. I’m barely containing my glee at the latest development in the bourgeois civil war.

      Who knew the political decline of America was going to be this amusing?

      1. tony

        Less stake and more influence. The US is a huge country and it makes little difference what an individual thinks about things. Unless you are a billionaire, of course.

      2. jrs

        they would be rational, issues actually effect people, this not so much, and if it’s so hard to get people to care about something as abstract and non-immediate and seemly out of their hands as climate change then why care about palace intrigue among the ruling class? Which is all those things, only less relevant to anyone’s life.

        But I don’t know if it’s about rational. Maybe people watch it for the drama, like t.v..

      3. witters

        “Who knew the political decline of America was going to be this amusing?”

        I had a nasty suspicion.

  17. RenoDino

    Trump is back on stride after a long-post inauguration pause. He thought if he appeased his enemies with the firing of Flynn, the bombing of Syria and snubbing of Russia, they would relent. Surprise! They are crazier than he is. They are doubling and tripling down on treason as the reason for a Trump impeachment.

    Now Trump is done with them. HIs meeting in the White House with Lavrov with photos provided by the Russian state media was not coincidental. His tweet about the Russians mocking us parrots what Lavrov said later after the meeting. America is being humiliated by this hysterical scapegoating.

    Trump’s interview with NBC’s Lester Holt last night was one of his best of his presidency in terms of responding to his critics. Comey was a loose cannon. Obama should have fired him, Clinton would have fired him and finally Trump did fire him. For Comey, that is BIG hole to climb out of.

    In a constitutional sense, where Trump is taking us is far less a threat than what the Democrats are up to.
    Guilt by association is ultimate State Heavy Hand.

    Great piece.

  18. Vatch

    I don’t like the way that Comey let Clinton off the hook due to her apparent lack of intent to commit a crime, because other people who lacked intent were prosecuted and convicted. But I’m also unhappy with an aspect of Trump’s firing of Comey. Supposedly, Trump requested a vow of personal loyalty from Comey early in the administration, and didn’t get it:

    The FBI Director should NOT be personally loyal to the President. He should be loyal to the nation and the Constitution. I apologize if this is a Godwin’s Law violation, but German soldiers were required to pledge personal loyalty to Hitler from 1934-1945:

    The term Hitler oath refers to the oaths of allegiance, or Reichswehreid, sworn by the officers and soldiers of the German Armed Forces and civil servants of Nazi Germany between the years 1934 and 1945. The oath pledged personal loyalty to Adolf Hitler in place of loyalty to the constitution of the country.

    Trump needs to back off the loyalty requirement.

    1. Andrew Watts

      Comey was always going to let Clinton off the hook because she’s a member of the club. I don’t take any of this rule of law posturing as anything other than complete nonsense. There is no mechanical or automatic process which enforces the law or dispenses justice. People do. Which is in spite of the petty superstitions of our gadget obsessed and technological-based society.

      Different rules apply to different people based upon their position in the social hierarchy. That’s why a former FBI translator can travel to Syria, in all likelihood materially aiding the Islamic State, and temporarily marry the person she was responsible for helping investigate, and still only get two years in prison for being “naive”. While people who are neither former FBI (or white) serve more time for even attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State.

      I’m just guessing “naive” translates to “white” in legalese.

    2. davidgmills

      Unless you have the loyalty agreement in writing that Comey refused to sign, this means nothing. A loyalty agreement could mean hundreds of different things.

  19. TheCatSaid

    Yves, great analysis re: the purported Trump/Russian connection. It’s a bogus story being repeated ad nauseum, even on RT!

    What’s more important than the bogusness of the story, is all the things that are not being considered, in particular in relation to the Comey firing.

    There are so many reasons both Comey and McCabe deserve firing (and with McCabe, the sooner the better). They have been responsible for stalling crucial investigations for years, and for flawed “investigations” when they did occur. Comey provided cover for McCabe.

    A serious current example is McCabe’s failure to seriously investigate the Clinton email situation–for example, allowing all the witnesses to be interviewed together (!), never subpoenaing A. Weiner, not following up on all the stolen Blackberries and laptops that were discovered in a Virginia rental property, not investigating the IT thefts of laptops, computers/USB sticks from the staff of 21 democrats sitting on the most sensitive committees, not investigating the Awan brothers for whom Debbie Wasserman Schultz arranged Top Secret clearance, who had access to all the IT infrastructure of the most compartmentalized areas of government, despite their backgrounds of connections to Pakistani ISI, being foreign nationals, having multiple social security numbers (some linked to dead people)–the FBI’s non-investigation into these matters show there is something seriously wrong.

    George Webb has been slowly and systematically documenting all of the above and much more on his YouTube series.

    How can the FBI’s inaction in relation to the above matters be interpreted as other than a cover-up of wrong-doing at the highest levels of previous administrations, including the top security agencies and individuals still in place? (One of the Awan brothers is still on the House of Representatives IT staff! Go figure.)

    They have all been corrupted, R & D alike. Ensuring this was the case was apparently one of the CIA/Dyncorps many responsibilities.

    1. From Cold Mountain

      It’s a bogus story being repeated ad nauseum, even on RT!

      I cannot help to think that Trump is just a rube and is being played by Russia. The whole photo op thing with the Russians, I feel, was an obvious example.

      1. Byron the Light Bulb

        Ding-Ding-Ding. Yes. President Trump was the victim of a sophisticated intelligence operation. The SVR believed if the President lifts sanctions in exchange for personal gain, great. If he says no, well, even better, it will appear as if he is a crook, and he will go along with us for a lot less money. If he gets cute, and tries to have it both ways, like Prince WASP of the Layabouts, he will lock himself out of his own Presidency.

  20. Non-Shakespearean Anon

    It’s important to have a legal background before commenting on matters such as these, not to mention a background in political history and constitutional design.
    First, look at the map.
    One way of interpreting his immigration order is as a strike against deep blue colleges and universities. Do not underestimate the devastating effect this has had on higher ed. budgets viz. recruitment of international students and professors. Trump has been methodically antagonizing what few – but deep – power bases Democrats have left. Hence Sessions return to harsh urban policing. Now here comes the “electoral fraud”/Negroes Voted! commission. The real substantive progress his administration has made thus far has been related to patronage issues and partisan control. Do not underestimate this angle.
    Once you understand where the battle is occurring, you can spot Trump’s real problem: all the independent, unchecked district attorneys and attorneys general with subpoena power he doesn’t control. Once he starts interfering with their federal funds (e.g., the phony sanctuary cities issue), they will have nothing to lose when they retaliate. Trump’s playing a very dangerous zero sum game.
    If there’s a hard rule in politics, it’s never leave the other guy with nothing left to lose. The Republicans have pursued a maximalist strategy for decades now, quite often denigrating their opposition as completely illegitimate and treasonous. It’s come to it’s logical conclusion. If you’re nice to thiem, they come after you. If you’re not nice to them, they still come after you. Deep blue prosecutors have nothing to lose and everything to gain with their base voters in standing up to Trump. With his sprawling real estate empire, he’s probably got footprints in every major jurisdiction. Even one conscientious investigator is a nightmare because he can follow leads all over the world.
    I’ve seen guys indicted on much less than is being tossed about here and I’ve seen totally innocent people convicted for doing nothing other than being in the out party. It’s not fair, but it happens. While there’s no basis for indicting a sitting president, plenty of damage can be done to those around Trump and this is a process outside of Washington that he simply does not control. If you can establish Trump committed obstruction by firing Comey over the Russia investigation – Trump’s justification, not mine – then others who went out an lied about it (e.g., Pence) are suddenly reachable.
    As to constitutional crises, I think you’re leaving out the budget & impoundment crises of the 1970’s as well as Watergate. Electoral orders change about every 36-44 years and the transitions are often accompanied by crisis (see the work of Burnham, Ferguson – but the most relevant here is Skowronek; Trump is aligned against the new emerging order, which makes his position so precarious, and the old existing order in Washington is weak).
    Trump represents the last gasp of an electoral order born in 1968 of disaffected neoconfederate retreads alienated by desegregation and would-be oligarchs brough low by the New Deal state. The only substantive issue they’ve even consistently agreed on has been tax cuts to shrink the government. That’s not exactly an approach that will work on global warming, health care or Afghanistan. In a crisis like this, people turn to government and the folks running that government are unified in the belief that government shouldn’t and can’t work.

  21. Mike Mc

    Big props to Yves, Lambert and Gaius for this. ‘Russiagate’ is a remake of ‘Bengazibengazibengazi’ and works very very well for Hillary Clinton and the DNC to shore up donors – and donations – to keep the grift going.

    As a Berniecrat and survivor of Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes I’m no fan of Trump’s… but the real crimes need to exposed and punished. The DNC Democrats just can’t grasp that their outrage over Russian mischief is a waste of precious time and energy and does more damage than good to what remains of the Democratic Party.

    1. sid_finster

      Russiagate is very convenient to Team D. It explains away Trump and at the same time absolves Team D of any need to make painful reforms.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      The DNC Democrats don’t care about the “Democratic Party.” They care about the grift.

      It also protects Democrats in Washington and the media who swore by Hillary. Sherrod Brown barnstormed Ohio swearing Hillary was trustworthy. The Podesta emails demonstrated both Hillary’s questionable relationship with the truth and that she was clearly dangling the Vice Presidency to Sherrod Brown. Given Trump won Ohio, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Kasich beat Brown especially if people who might have been swayed by Brown to vote Hillary defect. Maddow and her ilk at MSNBC paint themselves as defenders of the Democratic Party but served as gatekeepers. People who watched cable news voted for Hillary. Sanders was rarely mentioned during the primaries by this outfit.

      Hillary sure did run a lot of ads on MSNBC which is a tad odd given the political leanings of the viewers. They don’t need to be reached. If their viewers start to make these connections, how goes the ratings?

      Kos sure seemed anxious to get the primary over. What good are Clinton ads on DailyKos style websites? These are not people who will be shocked to have missed voting by a day.

    3. Art Eclectic

      Given that the Republicans managed to flog Benghazi all the way to control of all 3 branches of government, that might just be a sound strategy.

  22. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

    I’d love to know what the buzz is in the Pentagon. After all, when your commander in chief’s weapon of choice is called Twitter... well, thats gotta sting a little bit. Anyone out there?

    If you can’t get the Pentagon’s opinion, what would Sam Eagle of the Muppets say about it all?

  23. fresno dan

    One of the amazing things about Yves’ preface, a logical, coherent, factual recapitulation of the situation, is how essentially not one aspect of this counterargument is EVER mentioned on cable TV (even FOX maintains a strident Russia paranoia). Why – profit? Ideological preference? Probably both.

    Again, my view as to how serious the repercussion are to Trump all boils down to the anti Russian ideological fervor among repubs. If the repubs think being reasonable regarding Russia is treasonous, and imperils their religious belief in DEFENSE (i.e., all war all the time), and repubs have truly screwy beliefs, I think impeachment is possible.

    Like with Nixon, will it be the cover-up and not the crime? I can very easily see Trump doing something outrageously illegal (and tweeting it) trying to thwart an investigation over something that was not in fact illegal. (firing Comey was “impossible” – even though it is Constitutional, and it is bizarre to argue that it was undeserved)
    Just because your paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you – but if your paranoid, and the president, and you work yourself into ever more irrational reactions and behavior, and if you respond with lying to congressional subpoenas, you may lose the presidency….

    I believe Trump fired Comey because Trump truly (Trump and reality in my view do not often coincide – but that does not prevent Trump from holding views sincerely) believes the Russian investigation is a witchhunt motivated by political enemies. Whether true or not about the investigation, the President cannot unilaterally stop it, especially if Trump is unwilling to build a case with FACTS to give cover to those who would support him. (Trump could use this blog instead of watching FOX….)

  24. Kronos

    Gaius is correct in that this is like Whitewater in that it starts with something and ends far away with something else. We can add Benghazi to that as well. Why are we not drawing these parallels more often? This whole “scandal” is quite simply, payback. Our system is caught up in an endless cycle of payback. I for one am still fuming over all the Benghazi nonsense. there was no there there and yet it continued for years and then led to emailgate which led to Comey’s October surprise. The obvious lesson from all this is that you create power by generating lots of smoke, stir things up and then see what shakes out. NC is spot on in its critiques about all this Russia investigation but it fails to see what underlies it all. The foundation was laid in Whitewater. Clinton’s impeachment was the result of that. Investigate a real estate deal and end with a blowey. Subpoena everyone and hope to catch a lie that then leads to more subpoenas. We all see the game that is being played but no one wants to admit that it is a game. Why is that? The media benefits because the game is great for ratigs. The Dems act like it is all serious because they currently love the game while the Repubs say it is a game, just like the Dems insisted Benghazi was a farce. The problem is that Dems can’t admit it is a farce because that means they will be played as chumps. Why should they admit this is a game when the Repubs still harp on Benghazi and the emails? Trump still insists on bringing it up. As long as he keeps going there and as long as the Repubs keep insisting they were serious there should be no mercy. Who cares if there is truth anymore? The battle has changed to a post-truth realm unfortunately. How do we draw down from all this? Seriously? Let “lock her up” Trump off the hook? This is payback. He may have been playing a character during the campaign but there are consequences for his actions. If they take Trump and his cronies down on false charges no one should cry tears for them. They deserve everything they get. I will cry tears for our political system that is being torn apart by these games.

  25. Alex Morfesis

    Fake russian noise by klown legacy acela vanity press…it is easy to sell and keep a percentage of eyeballs focused on brucella jenner type non news infotainment…

    if the democrats or “journalists” we’re actually chasing this russian/komunist dragon, we would have had 500 profiles of viktor knavs by now…and every action he took from before ww2 until today…other than the car salesman part…or the kreepy almost identical look of melanias dad and trump part…

    some women have a daddy thing but this does seem a bit much…

    There is no here here…this is all theatre and trump is playing along just as he did during the election…

    He helps sell ads and the kardasian media are grateful…

    Meanwhile, he is bringing back corporate jim crow across the board with a smile and a gesture…

  26. John

    Had a conversation with my 76 yo sister this morning and she finally conceded that Trump is “dead man walking”, the question being how long until he is voted off the island. I think it will be a slow bleeding out and it will not be by impeachment….25th amendment maybe?
    It is immaterial whether there is any thing to the Russian allegations. Evil Russky has been a trope in US politics since 1945. It still works. It doesn’t matter if they tampered in the election or if Trump is totally mobbed up with the Russian mafia and NY real estate. As to the banks preventing the money laundering: would that have been HSBC of cartel fame or Wells Fargo with their little credit card thing? Or the ones who sold the securitized sub prime paper?
    We live in a profoundly corrupt society that selects from sociopaths for leaders.

  27. Kswc

    Who are Trump’s supporters? You forgot about the people who voted for him. That he ran on a Republican ticket replete with non stop backstabbing by the GOP, is part of why I’d vote for him again. Drain the swamp.

    1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

      After reading about other revolutions I’ve come to realize that very little swamp draining goes on. Participants often become victims themselves – one way or another, and the ever-present pollution in the water just becomes much more toxic.

      The other striking aspect is that the revolutionaries expend so much mental effort in gaining power, that somehow they arrive at the pinnacle with no plan whatsoever for how they are going to govern. It is all-suck-it-see chaos until a new equilibrium is reached, and that process can be extremely nasty indeed.

      It doesn’t even need to be a heated revolution to show that the average political leader has no plan beyond offing the opposition. Good recent examples are the UK’s Brexit referendum or the GOP’s lack of a cogent health-care bill. Unlike a revolution where there is the heat of battle, the politicians in both instances had all the time and leisure in the world to plan and consider the possibilities.

      It only ever seems to come down to: Whack-A-Mole-Then-What? Perhaps in this, we are seeing the limits of human nature and organization.

      Drain the swamp? More like: Poison the wells!

      Bring on the robots?

      Pip Pip

  28. Tim

    Ever since Trump came to office he has been at war with the Blob/Deep state. They keep exchanging punches. This is just Trump throwing his latest punch.

  29. Jeremy Grimm

    The tempest over Trump’s Russia connection and now his firing of Comey — Cui bono? Cui prodest? If Trump were a Russian agent working for Putin I don’t see what Putin gained or gains from placing a mad hatter in charge of the United States. Not Clinton? — I believe we all gained from that outcome. I also believe other players in our government gain much more from promoting this Russia nonsense than Russia and Putin might gain were it true. And with Yves I wonder what the left hand is doing under the handkerchief.

    As for firing Comey — I wondered why he wasn’t fired much earlier for his display of gross political incompetence. I also wondered why Trump didn’t fire the top level players across the board in all our so-called Department of Homeland Security — a Department which I believe Trump should have deconstructed, dismantled and decimated for its actions against him [though I doubt Trump is troubled by its actions against the American public]. I also believe Trump should have cleaned house at DoD after their decades of gross military incompetence and astronomic misspending of public funds. However I find the notion presented in a link from a few days ago all too credible — the assertion that Trump shifted to embrace with globalist neocon factions in hoping to boost the status of his family and brand from a national to the global scale. [Trump’s apparent shift away from positions he seemed to campaign on dashed what little hopes I had that somehow the horrible damages a Trump presidency promised might stay within our borders and spare the rest of the world.]

    There is a constitutional crisis … but not the crisis Gaius Publius thumbnails. I believe a successful impeachment of Trump based on his firing of Comey and/or the bogus Russia connections would itself be a constitutional crisis. I don’t like Trump and see no good coming of his administration — save by chance. I also don’t see how expelling a mad-hatter president through a kangaroo impeachment process managed by dark factions of our byzantine government establishments would address the very real constitutional crisis we face — that our representative government no longer represents the American people. That crisis cuts away at the preamble of our constitution.

  30. 5:00 PM

    Trump has confessed to obstruction of justice on TV. It’s all just a matter of time now.

    1. Loblolly

      It’s all just a matter of time now.

      I agree. Just three and a half more years until the Democrats run yet another pseudo-progressive corporate money candidate and lose again.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Pray tell how?

      1. Comey was not heading the investigation. The #2 at the FBI told the Senate it would continue without a hitch

      2. Contrary to what Google would have you believe, because not a single MSM outlet has flagged it to correct their earlier reports, Comey had NOT asked for more resources for the investigation. The #2 at the FBI also said that in Senate testimony. So it is false to claim, as has become yet another media urban legend, that Trump fired Comey because he was seeking more resources for the Russia probe.

      3. Per Trump, it was Comey who asked to have dinner with him. But regardless of who asked for the dinner, Comey should never have accepted if Trump were a target. Social psychology researchers have documented that a gift as minor as a soda predisposes the recipient towards the giver. I had clients whose company policy was not to let anyone buy them anything, even a coffee. Comey has to be aware of research like this. Comey should have asked for a meeting in the White House instead. The fact of Comey being willing to dine with Trump as his host would strongly imply Trump was not under investigation.

      That puts an entirely different spin on the idea of Trump asking if he was being investigated. Trump would be asking for confirmation of what would seem obvious by the very fact of how they were meeting.

      1. Byron the Light Bulb

        Destruction, Alteration or Falsification of Records in Federal Investigations and Bankruptcy Section 802 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act [2002]:
        “Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsified, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under Title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          This is a non sequitur.

          Sorry, first this is Sarbanes Oxley, which applies ONLY to public companies. The Senate title of the bill is “”Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act.” All of Trump’s companies are private.

          Second, you have yet to submit any proof of the claim that Trump interfered with the investigation.

          1. Byron the Light Bulb

            The above section applies to private companies, too. More importantly it applies to ALL Federal Investigations. And Trump lies like he breathes. For example, in a letter, if Trump obfuscated the reason why he let Comey go [I’m looking at the thrice exoneration bit], that letter is an official record in which Trump alluded to an investigation, and Comey is an investigator…goodnight Irene. Good luck prosecuting, but I’m sure people have plead out over less. Draconian? Sure. But NatSec investigators are real sticklers about those things. Maybe this is all Tom Clancy nonsense, but maybe not.

            1. Byron the Light Bulb

              sequitur 18 U.S. Code § 1519 – Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy.

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              You still haven’t made a case. You have no offered no proof that Trump destroyed evidence.

              And even if Trump lied in a letter, the section you cited is irrelevant. Trump contradicts himself all the time. And let us not forget that even the sainted Obama was caught in a lie and said, “Politicians lie”.

              Moreover, if what Trump said is correct and Comey in fact repeatedly reassured him that he personally not the target of an investigation, Trump’s actions would not amount to impeding an investigation. The FBI has told the Senate that Comey’s firing has not affected the investigation.

              You are simply doubling down on an unproven assertion.

              1. davidgmills

                My suspicion is that if Comey had told him three times he was not under investigation, Trump had good reason to believe that if he fired Comey he would not be accused of thwarting an investigation.

  31. VietnamVet

    Donald Trump was subject to a PSYOP attack by Corporate Media and the Intelligence Community. His populism was successfully corralled. The kleptocracy and war profiteering were preserved. Unfortunately, probably due to old age, he believes the alt-right gibberish and can’t cope with change.

    Yes, he fired James Comey because he was angry that “mildly nauseous” degraded his magnificent victory. The claim of Russian interference with the election is hogwash and he knows it. His incompetent staff didn’t realize that the Democrats are using Russia as a scapegoat for their loss of power. The firing the FBI chief in charge of the Russia investigation marched the President right into the center of their buzzkill. This will likely hobble him for the rest of his term in office. If is impossible to prove the negative.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Comey was NOT in charge of the Russia investigation. The #2 said in Senate testimony on Thursday that the investigation was continuing as before. He also said that Comey had not asked for more resources for the investigation, but no one in the MSM has either corrected their stories of a day prior (based on a single anonymous source) to the contrary, nor have I seen anyone mention this in their reports of the testimony.

      Apparently one of Trump’s beef re Comey was he was not prioritizing going after leakers. Recall that this is hardly new; Obama was particularly vindictive regarding leaks. And leaking out of the DoJ and the FBI is a far more serious matter than leaks out of other parts of the Executive Branch, since it looks to be pursuing law enforcement by extrajudicial means.

      1. VietnamVet

        The FBI among others is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their contacts with the Trump Campaign. I’ve found no indication that James Comey recused himself unlike Jeff Sessions who did. My understanding as a retired mid-level technocrat in the federal bureaucracy is that the FBI Director is in the chain of command and would have reported the results of his subordinates’ investigations with his recommendations to the Deputy Attorney General for a decision to prosecute or not. Indeed, one of the peculiarities of James Comey was his going public with his recommendation not to prosecute Hillary Clinton. He saved Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, from having to make a public decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton after her infamous airport meeting with Bill Clinton.

  32. Lambert Strether

    On extra-constitutional means, Gaius writes:

    Privately issued threats and rewards — sticks and carrots — to induce him to step down. Remember, intelligence agencies of various stripes likely have almost all the goods on almost all officials who matter to them. Imagine what’s hoarded in NSA databases, or what FBI background checks reveal. Imagine what secrets angry CIA field agents might dig up.

    As I wrote on December 13, 2016, back when the Clintonites were trying to prevent Trump’s appointment using the “faithless elector” strategy, based on intel the public was not allowed to see:

    Finally, I said that I’d highlight a change in the Constitutional Order that would take place if the Clinton loyalists succeed in their goal. Here is article 101 of the Chilean Constitution under Pinochet:

    The Armed Forces[,] dependent on the Ministry responsible for the National Defense[,] are constituted solely and exclusively by the Army, Navy and Air Force. [They] exist for the defense of the country and are essential for national security and guarantee the institutional order of the Republic.

    The Clinton loyalists are doing what Pinochet did. They are making intelligence agencies the guarantors of “the institutional order of the Republic.” From now on, if they manage to set a precedent, every Presidential candidate will have to be vetted before the electoral college by intelligence agencies..

    A change in the Constitutional order is reflected institutionally. If this method of extra-constitutional change (“Privately issued threats and rewards” as an accepted method of reime change*) goes through, we might as well consider the (unelected) “intelligence community” a fourth branch of government, superior already to the Judicial Branch, who defer to them, now to the Executive, even if not yet to the Legislative (who can be defeated in detail). All built on a foundation carefully laid by Bush and Obama, but a change nonetheless.

    Does anybody really believe the intelligence community can be put back in it box?

    I’d say “be careful what you wish for,” but I’m guessing that to the liberal mind, at least, the professionalism of intelligence officers makes them authoritative and trustworthy, by definition. This is in fact what they’re wishing for.

    * “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.” –Carl Schmitt

  33. John

    I don’t think the Russians swayed the election, but the way he is acting, Trump is only asking for a big investigation. Maybe that’s the point. Get the liberals fighting fights that they won’t win.

  34. mtnwoman

    It takes willful blindness to NOT see the deep ties Trump has to Russia and to not see that his authoritarian bent is a danger to the shreds of our democray (not to mention our planet). Perhaps it is love of Trump,and/or hate of Democrats that induces the blindness but it is a shame to see from this site.

    Trump is a Con Man first and foremost, on a foundation of pathological lying that is even shocking for Washington DC.

    Let’s have an independent special investigator. If there is nothing to hide, nothing to fear or resist. The GOP certainly has shown a love for protracted investigations before this Administration.

    I suspect money laundering for Russian oligarchs will eventually be uncovered and described.

    I wonder if we will then get a mea culpa from the Trump-Russia naysayers?

  35. DavidTC

    Same with this. I now think there’s a there there, but it’s not the “there” that Russia hunters were chasing when they set out. I believe they’ve now found something of real substance — the cover-up certainly looks vigorous — but that substance is now miles from where they started looking. As with Whitewater, it seems the investigators got lucky, though I’m glad or our sakes they did.

    How can this possibly make sense? The Clinton investigation jumped from allegation to allegation, from possible crime to completely unrelated possible crime. It was a fullbore investigation of every possible thing about the Clintons.

    The Trump investigation…hasn’t moved. And, as *is mentioned in the article*, there’s a hell of a lot of stuff to investigate about Trump. A lot of the Clinton stuff was complete weaksauce, but direct that same sort of energy into Trump, and people could spend *years* just investigating allegations of underpaying contractors, *or* his ties to the mafia, *or* his taxes, or anything. The man doesn’t have skeletons in his closet, the man has entire houses built out of skeletons.

    But none of it seems to be investigated. Instead, it’s *still* ‘Russian collusion with the campaign’.

    It would be an *astonishing* coincidence if these investigators claimed collusion between Russia and the campaign, based on no evidence, and *that just happened to be true*. What are the odds of that? That would be almost surreal. The Clinton-attackers had to keep jumping from thing to thing, and eventually got him to perjury himself about sex, on what had to be the twenty or so topic change. (Thus committing a crime *after* investigations started, so even though they ‘found’ something, it still can’t justify the investigations *starting* at all.)

    But the Trump attackers just…*lucked* into the right topic?

    What seems much more likely is there has always been a thin thread of evidence, and the investigators are carefully following it. You know, how investigations are *supposed* to work.

    Trying to claim that there wasn’t any evidence to start with, and that the allegations are entirely made up, and it just *happened* to work out, is just an attempt to retroactively justify the (now obviously incorrect) claims you, and others, were been making that there wasn’t anything there and it was all made up.

    Just admit you were wrong. You’re already halfway there with now admitting there’s probably something there, so just take the next step and admit that ‘something’ was almost certainly *known from the start* by the FBI, and the entire investigation was indeed justified.

    Because the scenario you present as an attempt to claim you were always correct is just ludicrous.

  36. Frederick Swartz

    1. Crimes of the Iraq invasion
    2. Crimes of the Financial Crisis.
    3. Black guy elected twice.
    4. Here we are.

    Predicates. Bush/Gore, 911

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