2:00PM Water Cooler Special: Blowback on Russiagate for 2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Those of you who followed the 2016 campaign may remember a pattern where Trump would create a debacle, the polls would drop, a cry of “This time we’ve got him!” would arise, whereupon Trump would rebound and the polls would rise, sine wave-style fashion (see charts from my post here). And as election day, 2016, neared, the sine wave was heading upward…. It’s possible that, following the release of the Mueller report, Trump is about to repeat the same pattern, on a much larger scale. Polls down, 2016-2018; polls up 2019-2020. Perhaps.

I got to thinking of this when I read the following mildly titled article by Jack Goldsmith: “Thoughts on Barr and the Mueller Report.” Here’s Goldsmith’s biography, in its entirety:

Jack Goldsmith is Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law at Harvard University. He is the author, most recently, of The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside The Bush Administration (W.W. Norton 2007), as well as of other books and articles on many topics related to terrorism, national security, international law, conflicts of law, and internet law. Before coming to Harvard, Goldsmith served as Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, from October 2003 through July 2004, and Special Counsel to the General Counsel to the Department of Defense from September 2002 through June 2003. Goldsmith taught at the University of Chicago Law School from 1997-2002, and at the University of Virginia Law School from 1994-1997. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, a B.A. and M.A. from Oxford University, and a B.A. from Washington & Lee University. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Court of Appeals Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, and Judge George Aldrich on the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal.

I quote this to point out that whatever else he may be, Goldsmith isn’t a swivel-eyed loon. (We can postpone discussion of whether all conservatives and/or all liberals and/or the political class are swivel-eyed loons for another day; personally, I think that in our enormous country, there are gradations.)

Goldsmith’s piece, which in essence is a defense of Barr’s release process for the Mueller report, is worth reading in full, especially if you don’t read a lot of conservative fare (I don’t), but here are the paragraphs that caught my eye:

Finally, a few words about Barr’s statements that the executive branch was “spying” on the Trump campaign. Barr explained himself on May 1 in response to a question from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse:

I’m not going to abjure the use of the word spying. I think, you know, my first job was in CIA and I don’t think the word spying has any pejorative convert connotation at all. … [T]o me the question is always whether or not it’s authorized and adequately predicated, spying. I think spying is a good English word that in fact doesn’t have synonyms because it is the broadest word incorporating really all forms of covert intelligence collections. So I’m not going to back off the word “spying” to—except I will say I’m not suggesting any pejorative.

Barr also added that his original remark was “off the cuff” but that he “commonly” uses the term “spying” in this way. (For what it’s worth, Senator Whitehouse, among many others, has used the term “spying” in this way too—see here and here.)

I have no idea if Barr is being candid here or winding people up—or both. But he has signaled, especially in his original “spying” pronouncement, that he has concerns about the origins and operation of the investigation of the Trump campaign. And he says he plans to investigate it.

This is in theory an appropriate thing for the Justice Department to do, for two reasons. First, while there is plenty of prima facie evidence of potentially untoward Trump campaign-Russia contacts, there is also plenty of prima facie evidence of potentially untoward intelligence agency activity in connection with its investigation of the Trump campaign and presidency. For example: the horrible animus displayed in texts by Peter Strzok toward the president and his supporters while investigating his campaign; the truly unprecedented and terribly damaging leaks of U.S. person information collected via FISA or E.O. 12,333; and the at least questionable FBI decision, after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, to investigate the President as a counterintelligence threat premised on the judgment that he was a “threat to national security.”

Second, the FBI and intelligence community more broadly need better internal guidance and procedures when they confront possible evidence of improper foreign contacts or counterintelligence threats by a presidential campaign. These institutions faced what was probably an unprecedented situation. It would have been entirely irresponsible for senior leadership in this agencies to not follow up and investigate the extraordinary Russia contacts by the Trump campaign. But they would have been much better situated to avoid controversy later if there were express guidance, process, and accountability mechanisms in place for the decisions they made in this most delicate of contexts.

The country needs a full accounting of what the intelligence community did in the 2016 presidential campaign and in other presidential campaigns, as a basis for needed reform in this area. I just hope that Barr conducts this review in a way that is and appears to be scrupulously fair to all involved, so that it does not seem like political payback that would weaken the important Justice Department norm against politicized retaliatory investigations. That argues, I think, for inspector general review, not attorney general review. I am not sure Barr agrees, however. We will see.

While I agree with Goldsmith on the need for a “full accounting,” I think Goldsmith is being pretty naive if he thinks any review by Barr will be seen as anything other than “political payback,” especially by Trump, who has a knack for saying the quiet part very loudly indeed. As for example in this letter to Barr — not crude, to be sure, but loud — from the President’s Special Counsel, Emmet T. Flood, who “most notably represented Clinton during the impeachment proceedings brought against the former president by the House of Representatives and tried before the Senate” (!). This too is worth reading in full, just because it’s always fun seeing an attack dog doing its thing, but I think this is the key paragraph. From Flood’s letter:

Flood (and Goldsmith) and, for that matter, Barr, are serious people; they’re not going to run a flaky operation like Benghazi, for example. If they say they’re going to look into this, and if Trump can manage to maintain a modicum of self-control, the “accounting” they think should take place, will take place.

* * *

To the “prima facie evidence” listed by Goldsmith, I would add some random bits I’ve picked up in my travels on the Twitter; this should not be taken to suggest I’m “in the weeds” on this material, because I’m not. Goldsmith doesn’t mention how oppo (the Steele Report) was laundered into a FISA warrant. Nor does he mention what looks to a LeCarré fan like an FBI coat-trailing operation, complete with honeypot, directed against low-level Trump operative George Papadopoulos. He also doesn’t mention the presence of a mole — oh, I’m sorry, an “FBI informant” — in the Trump campaign. (British intelligence seems to have inserted what looks rather like a mole in the Sanders campaign; and given the lack of “express guidance, process, and accountability mechanisms” to which Goldsmith alludes, it would certainly be interesting to know if the FBI has moles planted in 2020 campaigns and if so, which.) Nor does Goldsmith mention the media campaigns conducted by former intelligence officials (if there is such a thing) Clapper, Brennan, and Comey that helped create the “frenzied atmosphere” to which Flood alludes and with which we are all familiar, and which was extremely profitable for them personally, as well as for the media venues on which they appeared. Really, has cashing in on one’s tenure as a high official in the intelligence community given a whole new meaning to “tradecraft”? It does seem so.

From the 30,000-foot level of the Constitutional order, we have ended up with the intelligence community having potential veto power over who gets on the Presidential ballot (I mean, will either party want an unvetted candidate after the object lesson of what happened to Trump?), we have the intelligence community having potential authority over the results of counting those ballots (if DHS delegitimizes a count based on a claim that cyberwarfare interfered), and we have the intelligence community having inserted moles in not one but two Presidential campaigns (on the assumption that there was some sort of intelligence sharing arrangement for the UK mole in the Sanders campaign). That’s rather a lot of power for an unelected body with enormous operational and disinformation skills that works in secret using a black budget to have. These are strange times, but on the merits I tend to agree with Goldsmith and Flood. Of course, in 2020, “the merits” will be the last thing on anybody’s mind, so let me know how that turns out…

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

103 comments

  1. JohnnyGL

    I think we’re reached the point where opinions have hardened on all sides on Russia-gate in its various iterations and retreads and it’s for insiders only, at this point.

    I’ll make a call here: If Trump avoids a stock market crash or recession (and avoids getting trapped into going to war), he’s competitive in 2020, especially from the electoral college math. He’s staked his presidency more than most on keeping the economic expansion going. He’s yelled at the Saudis to pump more, harder. He’s yelled at the Fed to lower rates. He’s cut taxes (minding Bill Black’s excellent commentary), he’s jacked up defense spending (the only kind acceptable to the Republican Party). In short, he’s done everything a Republican can do to make the economy GO, while still being politically acceptable to the party elites.

    Here’s the rub: I think we’re probably going to avoid a recession. We’re probably going to avoid a market crash, too.

    I think we’re underestimating the possible disaster scenario: Bernie wins nomination but loses the presidency. I hate to contemplate it, but it’s possible. Centrist dems will try to make it happen, if they can.

    Reply
    1. JohnnyGL

      If Bernie wins the nomination and loses to Trump, Russia-gate will have played a strong role.

      Reply
      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I think the wheels will turn. Slowly, but turn they will. I believe, once the silly kerfuffle dies down over whether the word “spying” describes surveillance activities of intelligence agency operatives (of course it does) we will be able to move to the next question: was it spying or was it entrapment? Mueller’s report had some glaring omissions in this regard, I believe on purpose. If the FBI sent spies to observe what a campaign was or wasn’t doing I think the ‘Murkan people would find that repulsive but maybe even necessary. But if the spooks were laying a honeypot trap (which is what I believe happened) then that is a different kettle of (rotten) fish. What did Obama know and when did he know it?

        Reply
      2. richard

        It’s really hard for me to feature Trump beating Bernie. Here’s what I think would need to happen:
        1) trump would need to red bait him. he has no other course, no other weapon
        2) that would need resonate with the electorate, even though…
        trump has himself been red-baited and by the same msm, party and intelligence networks that would now have to jump to his defense
        and even though…
        it is far from clear that voters will ever give a s*^% about any of this (they certainly don’t now)
        and even though…
        the elite networks that would have to orchestrate the slime campaign have pretty negligible influence on voters. They had zero credibility in 2016, and it’s getting worse.
        I don’t think red-baiting is going to win many elections in 2020.
        The main thing we should be worrying about, imo, is how they’re (not) counting the votes.

        Reply
        1. Enrico Malatesta

          I believe it’s simpler than you think for Trump to beat Sanders – how many DCCC type Dems like Pelosi/Schumer would rather ‘fight’ President Trump than ‘work’ with President Sanders?

          DJT enriches Swamp Democrats the same way that DJT enriches CNN, MSNBC, etc… so what kind of help will candidate Sanders get from his alleged ‘Party’?

          Reply
          1. sierra7

            Along my thoughts also…No way the Dem party apparatus is going to allow Bernie S. to be the Dem candidate for 2020. No way. You put it nicely.

            Reply
        2. richard

          I want to add to/clarify my point about red baiting bernie. It is worth considering that the same organs of state power that have spent 2 years red baiting trump to such extremes will have a hard time turning that same argument on bernie, should bernie be the opponent.
          I’m thinking a lot lately about pelosi’s statement/threat: “you better choose a moderate, or the devil won’t like it”
          I think about her the way she pretends to think about trump
          anything to beat her
          but unlike her reasoning about trump,
          I am sure it will take a fire breathing populist to do it
          and her district is possibly too high income for that to ever happen
          so maybe her goddamn district doesn’t get to choose the future for the entire party anymore
          would be my foolish hope
          and as for her advice, go to the devil nancy.

          Reply
    2. Summer

      It’s coming whether before or after.
      If Bernie wins the nomination, people will get the warning big drop.
      If Trump wins the election, the recession / crash happens after the election.

      After all, there are big players waiting to clean up on the crash. One would think that after a while, the stock prices become too high to buy. The pyramid only works if buying can continue.

      Reply
    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Wealth inequality and partisanship mean the stock market is irrelevant to the ebb and flow of politics. McCain had 59 MILLION VOTES. Shrub had just over 62 million in 2004, but there is death/birth (destiny of demographics), McCain’s standing with evangelicals, and the movement of the election to different states especially Senate races and how that affects organizing.

      Stocks aside, Trump hasn’t been good for the neighborhoods that swung from Obama to Trump. The areas where turnout was lower than hoped. The White Flight Republicans HRC coveted went for her in a few blue states, but she managed to have over 400K less votes than John Kerry in Ohio. The reason is the organizing effort wasn’t there (Team Blue worked pretty hard in Ohio in 2004, not hard enough). HRC appealed to the nursing home crowd and people who believe if they squint really hard during Maddow they will win an election.

      We look at Trump’s results as deadenders hang their hats on a Hillary win in a contest we don’t have, but outside of safe blue states, he did pretty good. Trump wasn’t the perceived enemy of evangelicals, the way McCain and Mittens would be. At the end of the day, Republicans are loyal. Stocks up, stocks down. It doesn’t matter. They vote for their tribe. Joe Biden could hump Reagan’s corpse and they’ll call him a Commie-Nazi.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > outside of safe blue states, he did pretty good.

        I can’t swear to this and I’m too lazy to find the link right now, but IIRC, if you bring Clinton’s margin in California down to 50% + 1, Trump and Clinton are more or less equal in the popular vote.

        Reply
      2. Summer

        “Wealth inequality and partisanship mean the stock market is irrelevant to the ebb and flow of politics.”

        The big donors and their friends, families, and neighbors, that the politicians serve don’t care about the stock markket?

        Reply
    4. neo-realist

      If Bernie is allowed to win the nomination, he may lose due to 24/7 right wing radio chatter of socialism and medicare for all that taxes the middle class into poverty; the centrist corporate media may passive aggressively support Sanders – a tepid endorsement combined with bashing his policies and the left. Not to mention voter disenfranchisement on steroids in the purple states run by republicans — voter ID and crosscheck to neutralize the youth and the black vote, maybe in democratic run purple states as well to keep a non brought and paid for candidate from winning because it disrupts the business model of a donor run, donor compliant democratic party.

      And yes, people who voted for Obama and switched to Trump may stick with him if they keep their jobs and their shirts from the economy and Wall Street not crashing. Hard right judges and Racism Uber Alles, c’est la vie.

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        If you make the assumption that the Sanders organization retains a presence between elections — as Obama’s OFA might have, had not Obama demolished it, and handed the fragments to the DNC — then that changes the political landscape. Maybe. Maybe enough, maybe not.

        Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Who — just like Carter, another “insurgent” — was actively sabotaged by the Democrat establishment.

        OTOH, they know they’re in trouble, and so they’re now openly behaving like gangsters controlling a corner: Loyalty oaths, eliminating competitions (the DNC thing) and so on. The circle gets smaller and smaller. At some point, the circle becomes too small to maintain its integrity and cracks, but perhaps liberal Democrats can stay stupid longer than activists can stay active…

        Reply
    5. WestcoastDeplorable

      Got news for ‘ya….looking at the gaggle running on the Dem side, Pres Trump is a whole lot more than “competitive”. Don’t forget who he took out in the 2016 race, plus all the nefarious FBI clown-car acts.
      And the likelihood of indictments of scores of those involved coming to trial just before election day.

      Reply
  2. Carolinian

    Since we’ve been talking about this at NC for years now you can’t just call it Republican spin although the press, mostly, certainly will try. They are among the sitting ducks along with Brennan, Clapper etc.

    Reply
    1. JohnnyGL

      I have trouble believing that Barr is prepared to lock up Comey or Brennan. I’d LOVE to be wrong, though. I actually think it’d be healthy for the country.

      Reply
        1. Off The Street

          The first in line may get a shove forward today. You could do worse than looking at all the copious notes and sources compiled by Sundance at The Conservative Treehouse. That site is notable for having a non-zero signal to noise ratio if you ignore the foily commentary and stick to documentation. To mix images, don’t toss out the former director with the bathwater.

          Reply
  3. pjay

    Thanks for posting these important observations Lambert. The Goldsmith article is a useful rebuttal to that ridiculous “analysis” of the Mueller report by Benjamin Wittes that was in Lawfare (and in the NC Links) the other day. If there is a follow up investigation, I imagine it will be very circumscribed. Given all the links to the US and foreign intelligence you mention (and more besides) I don’t see how they can do a real investigation. It will certainly be framed by the MSM as merely partisan pay-back by Trump and the Republicans. And it probably will be; the Republicans won’t go after the CIA and its foreign partners any more than the Democrats, other than maybe a Ukrainian or two. For the general public, I think JohnnyGL is probably right that opinions have hardened and probably won’t change much. Still, I’d love to see this blow up.

    Reply
    1. Off The Street

      Americans may find some amusement in the quaint place names scattered throughout the British Isles. Isn’t Auchtermuchty just a few miles from Balliesackie?

      Reply
  4. Chili Goat Gruff

    Given the FBI’s long history of infiltration and provocation, I can’t see why they wouldn’t have moles inside every campaign.

    Reply
    1. Eureka Springs

      So much is well known. But all these people, Mueller, Barr, etc., are fox guarding their hen house.

      Intel and Law Enforcement Tried to Entrap Trump

      The Horrowitz investigation/report will tell us if there is a possibility of accountability. Additional fox guarding most likely.

      Notably, Barr said his aides will be “working very closely” with the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz.

      Horowitz is conducting his own investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation and whether there were abuses when the FBI obtained a secret warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in October 2016 to spy on another foreign policy adviser to the campaign, Carter Page.

      Barr said he wants to know whether the only intelligence collection that occurred in 2016 was the use of a single confidential informant and the warrant to spy on Page.

      “I’d like to find out whether that is, in fact, true,” Barr said. “It strikes me as a fairly anemic effort if that was the counterintelligence effort designed to stop the threat as it’s being represented.”

      Barr didn’t clarify how he would work with Horowitz, whose office is by law a separate and independent entity within the Justice Department.

      Reply
  5. jeremyharrison

    If investigations into wrongdoings on the parts of the FBI or intelligence agencies end up producing solid evidence, not one person who gets their news from anything other than Fox News will hear a thing about it.

    If indictments are handed down, that will make news – in between cute puppy stories and the latest gossip about the British Royal Family – and the “news” will only consist of face-time for Congressional Democrats calling for Trump’s and Barr’s imprisonment for “attacking our most sacred institutions”.

    Reply
  6. Tom Stone

    I find the overt roles of the FBI, CIA and Justice department deeply disturbing.
    So many officials were deeply conflicted, Andrew McCabe’s wife recieving a $500K campaign donation from Terry McAuliffe, Nellie and Bruce Ohr, the meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton…

    And the way the FBI did their best to cover HRC in the Email matter.
    Good grief copies of her emails ended up with her Non cleared Attorneys, Platte River who were also not cleared for information of this sensitivity and on the laptop of a convicted sex offender, Anthony Weiner.
    If that doesn’t constitute gross negligence I don’t know what does.
    Remember Obama’s comment that there was “No Intent” to violate the Espionage act?
    And that he was fully aware of HRC’s use of private Email since he had communicated with her at that address using a psuedonym.
    The combination of arrogance and incompetence by so many in positions of power should scare the crap out of anyone who cares about our Country.

    Reply
    1. clarky90

      Our emerging awareness of the function of the ALPHABET (!) USAian agencies, is terrifying. Today their innocent victims lie, primarily in far-away graves. Have they turned their focus on the domestic population…….?

      Similar clandestine “agencies” have arisen in the past. For instance…..

      “The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del), abbreviated NKVD was the interior ministry of the Soviet Union.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NKVD

      Established in 1917 as NKVD …the agency was originally tasked with conducting regular police work and overseeing the country’s prisons and labor camps…

      The functions of the OGPU (the secret police organization) were transferred to the NKVD in 1934, giving it a monopoly over law enforcement activities that lasted until the end of World War II. During this period, the NKVD included both ordinary public order activities, as well as secret police activities. The NKVD is known for its role in political repression and for carrying out the Great Purge under Joseph Stalin. It was led by Genrikh Yagoda, Nikolai Yezhov and Lavrentiy Beria.

      The NKVD undertook mass extrajudicial executions of untold numbers of citizens, and conceived, populated and administered the Gulag system of forced labour camps. Their agents were responsible for the repression of the wealthier peasantry, as well as the mass deportations of entire nationalities to uninhabited regions of the country. They oversaw the protection of Soviet borders and espionage (which included political assassinations), and enforced Soviet policy in communist movements and puppet governments in other countries, most notably the repression and massacres in Poland….”

      Reply
      1. rowlf

        When Bibi visited his representatives in Congress during the last administration everyone seemed to be jumping up from their chairs like Beria and crew had stopwatches and were timing them.

        Reply
    2. SpartaTodd

      You are SO right Tom Stone! Anyone that is NOT disturbed about this because of their hatred for Trump needs to see the big picture. The track our govt has taken in the past 20-30 years is very disturbing. It is not a representative Republic anymore.

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > And that he was fully aware of HRC’s use of private Email since he had communicated with her at that address using a psuedonym.

      Remember, it’s not the private email account that’s at issue. The service provider can always be induced to cough it up.

      It’s the private email server that’s the issue; it’s ‘having her own server that enabled Clinton to wipe literally half the data on it (“with a cloth?”) and claim that the disappeared data was all about yoga lessons and Chelsea’s wedding, before turning it over to the FBI.

      The coverage on this has just been ridiculous, and the “but her emails!” mockery* is either tendentious or just brain-damaged, I don’t know which. Because it’s not “her emails.” It’s her email server.

      NOTE * Mockery that Sadly-Not-First-Spouse Bill Clinton repeated at their Seattle event, bless his heart.

      Reply
      1. Ashburn

        Lambert, thanks and I couldn’t agree more.

        As a retired federal employee I was, am, and long will be deeply offended by Hillary’s use of a private email server. We were always instructed that our government-issued phones, computers, and emails were government property over which we had no expectation of privacy. We also knew that if we needed to communicate with family or friends from work we could do so on our government systems but, again, we could claim no exemption should the government wish to examine our emails. If you really wanted such an expectation of privacy while at work you needed to communicate on a personal cell phone or other device and through your own personal email account–not through a .gov email. (Apparently, this is how Colin Powell did it when he was SecState and it was perfectly legitimate for him to do so.) HRC chose not to do this and so set up a personal server. It is outrageous that she was able to do this and get away with it.

        I recognize this may all be confusing to the general public but certainly any reporter in Washington should and probably did understand this. So the fact that all these mundane rules were obscured or omitted from nearly all reporting on her email controversy signals to me that the press was always in the tank for Hillary. So it’s bad enough that she used a private server to circumvent the rules governing all other federal employees, but even worse that she was able to deliberately destroy/delete the email evidence from her server, that was, in essence, rightfully government property?.

        Reply
  7. Tomonthebeach

    Trumps wants an extra 2 years extension to his current term as fair payback for Russiagate. While that sounds absurd, the country has been drowning in the absurd these past 18 months. Just like Mussolini, Trump wants vows of loyalty so he can control his party. Like Mussolini, Trump is refusing to appoint agency heads in order to consolidate control. Lust like Mussolini, he might not have to run again for Il Duce if he can turn the country against the fake press and annoying Democrats.

    Had our schools done a better job teaching “Civics” and History, people might have seen this political tsunami coming, but like climate change, they will wait until standing nose-deep in it before the risk of drowning becomes apparent – too late to swim for it.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Trump is refusing to appoint agency heads in order to consolidate control.

      I think that Trump is making the best of a bad situation (though doubtless liberal Democrats, as they do, will adapt Trump’s rotten precedent to their own purposes).

      What I see is a professional services strike by the 10% (much like a capital strike). They refuse to serve in a Trump administration, and so Trump faces difficulty filling slots. (Institutions like Liberty University and such were designed to supply a conservative shortage of credentials for lawyers, e.g., but for whatever reason seem not to have done so). That’s all fine, I suppose… Until one considers the possibility that they would actively er, resist, a Sanders administration as well.*

      NOTE * Here I think the difficulties would not be so great. There’s plenty of excellent work being done at so-called second- and third tier institutions; see, e.g., MMT at UMKC. Like the FDR administration (as Thomas Frank points out) a Sanders administration would not have to be run by an intellectually inbred and morally corrupt cohort of Ivy Leaguers. Heck, I bet there are adjuncts who would be a better pick than Larry Summers, and I’m not joking.

      Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      No. In fact, open conflict between factions in the intelligence and national security communities is becoming increasingly visible. The concept of a monolithic deep state cannot give an account of such conflict. In fact, I suggest the adjective “deep” can be removed from “state” without loss of generality (although, to be fair, with a loss of rhetorical pseudo-profundity).

      Reply
      1. NotReallyHere

        thanks for the link. The term “deep state” is probably appropriate in countries such as Egypt when the military have sources of income that are independent of elected government. For instance, Egypt’s military controlled something like 40% of GDP before the coup and subsequent economic collapse (it is said to be even more today). It can do this because is has monopolies/preferential industry positions in a wide range of economicall essential sectors.

        https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2011/02/10/133501837/why-egypts-military-cares-about-home-appliances?ft=1&f=1004

        I suppose one could argue that the opacity of the Pentagon budget moves us towards a separate state-within-a-state, but I don’t believe we are at that level given that we do at least know that the Pentagon’s accounts are a mess and there are procedures that can be used to rein it in if the political will exists for that.

        Another term that I find useful if the “state bureaucracy” because it is a more neutral sounding term that allows discussion of the different and sometimes conflicting problems faced by different departments within a modern government/security apparatus.

        Reply
  8. David in Santa Cruz

    Let’s not miss the forest for the trees. James Comey was absolutely engaged in the abuse of power through his improper public statements relating to wrongdoing by both Clinton and Trump. He should have been fired long before Trump became president, and a thorough investigation of his abuse of power conducted by the Inspector General of the DOJ is long overdue.

    However, the recusal of AG Sessions and the appointment of a Special Counsel by Rosenstein were completely appropriate and necessary. Trump had all but publicly admitted his attempts to collude with a foreign government to dirty-up his opponent with illegally-obtained evidence. He failed miserably, like his cockamamie schemes often seem to, but Emmett Flood’s disputation of the legitimacy of the Special Counsel is nothing but slime-ball advocacy and classic misdirection on behalf of a client with much to hide.

    The FBI has engaged in the abuse of power and in the blackmail of politicians and private citizens since its founding. This is their brand, but that isn’t a reason to downplay Trump’s own criminality. Mueller’s investigation was appropriate, legitimate, and resulted in multiple criminal indictments. Trump’s attempts to obstruct Mueller’s team should be grounds for impeachment: https://medium.com/@dojalumni/statement-by-former-federal-prosecutors-8ab7691c2aa1

    Reply
    1. SpartaTodd

      The problem is that there is no criminality. That is what this report was about. There was criminality in the FBI and the IC, including many felony acts. Hillary Clinton committed crimes that would land any lower level people in Leavenworth and everyone in the military and government with TS or SCI clearance knows it. You can say that the Orange man is bad and he is slimey and unethical and whatever but they don’t have any crime to pin on him. There was no conspiracy with Russia so there is nothing to obstruct. The statement by former prosecutors is honestly just weird. I am not sure who they are or what they are trying to do. It’s a bunch of lawyers second-guessing a bunch of information that they don’t have the details of and has not stood up to cross-examination. BTW, Muellers indictments were mostly a joke… a bunch of Russian intelligence officers that will never show up? They were not prepared for the one company that called them on the fishing expedition. Manafort and Cohen are the only ones caught and for what? I am pretty sure if you put that many agents on almost anyone in DC, you would have a lot of people going to jail for being corrupt and unethical.

      Reply
      1. David in Santa Cruz

        Attempting to obstruct an investigation such as Mueller’s is a crime. Hundreds of federal prosecutors and former federal prosecutors agree. Just because politicians no longer prosecute politicians doesn’t mean it’s not a crime.

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        1. WJ

          Except that the report doesn’t claim to prove this. And given that it does conclusively show that there was no conspiracy with Russia, and that it affirms that Trump’s (very) *arguable* *attempts* at obstruction did not materially affect the primary investigation, I see no plausible reason to pursue the obstruction case.

          But if I was a ratings-dependent anchor for MSNBC or a bread and circuses Washington correspondent like Chuck Todd or Jake Tapper I would probably think different.

          The point for me is that all the people who conspired against Trump (and I think this pretty clearly happened, judging by the Mueller report’s curious omissions) are the people who want more war, more censorship, more austerity, more “normalcy,” under the guise of a faux-inclusive widow and orphan killing liberalism.

          I say (family blog) them.

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          1. Detroit Dan

            Well said, WJ. The liberal blogs I visit are silent on Venezuela. It’s as if they don’t want to muck up the conventional wisdom that Trump colluded with Russia. Domestic politics trumps humanitarian concern for these people, it seems.

            Reply
            1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              “Silent” on Venezuela? Yesterday Rachel family blog Maddow did a paean to John friggin Bolton for his “principled” stand on Venezuela

              Reply
        2. Oregoncharles

          What is the difference between attempting to obstruct vs. attempting to defend yourself from a false accusation?

          Because it WAS a false accusation, as Mueller admitted.

          Financial corruption? Very likely. But that wasn’t Mueller’s writ.

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          1. David in Santa Cruz

            False? Trump and his campaign are conclusively shown to have conspired among themselves to collude with a foreign government. They only failed because that foreign government wasn’t interested in colluding with them.

            Attempting to shut down a legitimate investigation is not a lawful way to “defend yourself” — the crime being investigated was committed by the Trump campaign on their own by conspiring among themselves, whether or not their attempted collusion with a foreign power was ultimately successful.

            Trump’s lack of success at either collusion or obstruction does not negate his mens rea to commit both crimes.

            None of this excuses the reprehensible actions of various camps within the FBI to interfere with the campaigns of both Clinton and Trump by exposing uncharged wrongdoing by both candidates.

            But Trump should be impeached for obstruction of justice. Let the Senate acquit him, and see what the voters do…

            Reply
            1. Oregoncharles

              So you disagree with Mueller’s own conclusion, based on Mueller’s evidence?

              I’ve seen multiple accounts of the campaign’s attempted interactions with Russians; they’re Keystone Kops, not “collusion.” Which is not a crime.

              Reply
            2. WJ

              “Trump and his campaign are conclusively shown to have conspired among themselves to collude [ed. conspire] with a foreign government.”

              The Mueller report concludes the opposite. Get over it.

              Then again, if the foreign government in question was Israel or Saudi Arabia I’d say you have a case.

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            3. Bill Smith

              It is not illegal to try to have business dealings with the Russians. (It might be unseemly for someone running for President but that is a different story.) It is not illegal to talk to the Russians.

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            4. Detroit Dan

              David in Santa Cruz– Why do you say that “Trump and his campaign are conclusively shown to have conspired among themselves to collude with a foreign government. shown to have conspired among themselves to collude with a foreign government. They only failed because that foreign government wasn’t interested in colluding with them.”?

              This seems to me an absurd argument. It could just as easily be said that Hillary and her campaign conspired among themselves to collude with a foreign government (Ukraine, Israel), but it didn’t work out because she didn’t need the help.

              Political campaigns are generally interested in getting help wherever they can find it. Internally wanting such help is miles away from conspiring to get it.

              Reply
              1. David in Santa Cruz

                The June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower happened. Don Jr, Jared, and Manafort were there. Cohen is said to claim that Trump knew about it in advance. They all lied about the purpose of the meeting. They weren’t their to discuss “business” or “orphans.” They were fishing for hacked compromising info about Clinton.

                However, if the Russian government had wanted to collude with the Trump campaign, they would have. Look at how easy it was for the Israelis to get Flynn to act as their agent. The Russians used Wikileaks, not the Trump campaign.

                To be clear, I also think that Hillary Clinton should have been investigated for collusion, corruption, and cover-ups over Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, and probably charged with multiple crimes — but this discussion is about Trump.

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                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  ” The Russians used Wikileaks” . . . . uhh, what did the Russians use Wikileaks for? How did the Russians use Wikileaks? Exactly?

                  Reply
                  1. David in Santa Cruz

                    They quite literally “used” Wikileaks by providing them with hacked emails through fake intermediaries such as “Guccifer 2.0” and “DC Leaks.” Wikileaks didn’t “collude” but were evidently quite happy to get the information without needing to be particularly curious about the source — for which we should be grateful.

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                    1. pretzelattack

                      except the emails were leaked, not hacked, and all this crap from the steele dossier is worthless propaganda. you just buy into the propaganda.

                    2. Yves Smith

                      You are WAY over your head on this topic. The Trump campaign wasn’t told about the Wikileaks dump until after it was public. So you are now trying to tell me that surfing the Web is a crime? Seriously?

                2. WJ

                  “The Russians used Wikileaks, not the Trump campaign.”

                  Will you please stop spouting obvious falsehoods? What, do you get your news from Chuck Schumer’s twitter feed?

                  You are either very misinformed about the topics you are trying to argue about or you are just being intentionally deceitful.

                  I mean, you are not going to just get away with writing crap like “the Russians used Wikileaks, not the Trump campaign” on this site.

                  Reply
                3. Yves Smith

                  Yes. and the person who solicited the meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russian prosecutor from what amounted to the Russian ‘burbs, and isn’t part of Putin’s circle, set up the meeting on false pretenses to try to get Team Trump on board with overturning the Magnitsky Act. She initiated contact and dangled vague promises of oppo.

                  So to stress:

                  Her connection to Putin or Putin insiders has never been demonstrated. She is a “well connected” Moscow area prosecutor who represented one branch of the intelligence services on a property case. See Leonid Bershidsky for details: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-07-11/trump-s-low-level-russian-connection

                  She provided nada of value

                  In fact, she had close connections with…..drumroll….from Fusion GPS, the people who brought you the now discredited Steele Dossier:

                  The information that a Russian lawyer brought with her when she met Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 stemmed from research conducted by Fusion GPS, the same firm that compiled the infamous Trump dossier, according to the lawyer and a source familiar with the matter.

                  In an interview with NBC News, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya says she first received the supposedly incriminating information she brought to Trump Tower — describing alleged tax evasion and donations to Democrats — from Glenn Simpson, the Fusion GPS owner, who had been hired to conduct research in a New York federal court case.

                  A source with firsthand knowledge of the matter confirmed that the firm’s research had been provided to Veselnitskaya as part of the case, which involved alleging money laundering by a Russian company called Prevezon.

                  https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-dossier-firm-also-supplied-info-used-meeting-russians-trump-n819526

                  It’s not a crime to meet people who hold Russian passports.

                  Reply
                  1. SpartaTodd

                    David from Santa Cruz is not well-informed about the actual facts or legal issues of the case as are about 80-90% of Americans sadly. Collusion is NOT a crime, there was no conspiracy found, there is no obstruction. Mueller and everyone else hates the Orange man for obvious reasons. I don’t like him either but I prefer we have rule of law over people being tried by a popularity contest. I also don’t like govt. agencies trying to exert full control over the executive branch but apparently, this doesn’t bother a large swath of the country because Trump is a jerk. It’s a reminder that our democratic republic is dead and buried. It’s now a battle between oligarchs, the media and special interests. The rest of us get soft fascism.

                    Reply
    2. tegnost

      Trump had all but publicly admitted his attempts to collude with a foreign government to dirty-up his opponent with illegally-obtained evidence

      Wasn’t the steele doc created in uk?

      Reply
        1. Eureka Springs

          And paid by FBI.

          Steele’s status as a fully signed up CHS was exposed in August 2018 when documents were released, thanks to a Judicial Watch FOIA request, showing that Steele received at least 11 payments during the 9 month period that he was signed up as a Confidential Human Source.

          The key is to look at the report forms; there are three types–FD-1023 (Source Reports), FD-209a (Contact Reports) and FD-794b (Payment Requests). There are 15 different 1023s, 13 209a reports and 11 794b payment requests covering the period from 2 February 2016 thru 1 November 2016.

          Reply
      1. Detroit Dan

        Yes, the Steele doc was created in the UK and has proved to be bogus — at least a 2 year investigation by the FBI could find no validity in its collusion allegations. So the Clinton campaign was working with a foreign government to dirty-up her opponent with false accusations.

        Technically, Steele was not a foreign government, but rather a retired spy. Apparently, his credibility should be retired too. Our 17 intelligence agencies have been unable to confirm any of his accusations regarding Trump – Russia collusion.

        Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Emmett Flood’s disputation of the legitimacy of the Special Counsel is nothing but slime-ball advocacy and classic misdirection on behalf of a client with much to hide

      Well, it is true that Flood has experience with such clients; Trump chose well. That said, did you read the portion of Flood’s letter that I highlighed? I don’t see how you could have done that, given the claim you make that I just quoted.

      NOTE Let us remember the original liberal Democrat claim, made in debate by candidate Clinton in front of a TV audience of millions: that Trump was a “Russian puppet.” Nothing in the Mueller report, as published supports that, and instead we get vague, legally meaningless terms like collusion. As I wrote back in 2016:

      [2] One who is under foreign influence. Lithwick’s talking point dramatically misrepresents Hamilton’s views. Hamilton wrote:

      Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?

      Here is what “creature” means in this context, once more from the OED:

      creature /ˈkriːtʃə/ noun. See also critter. me. [ORIGIN: Old French & mod. French créature from late Latin creatura, formed as create verb: see -ure.]

      4. A person who owes his or her fortune to, and remains subservient to, another; a puppet. l16. Ld Macaulay The corporations were filled with his creatures.

      To claim Hamilton’s assent to their schemes, Lithwick (and Clinton loyalists generally, as well as those whom they have managed to persuade) must show not that Trump is “influenced” by a foreign power, but that he is their puppet, or in modern terms, their operative or agent; mere business dealings are not enough. Disagreeing with The Blob on realpolitik is not enough. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Where is it? (And if it is produced, can we trust it any more than we trusted aluminum tubes, white powders, and uranium yellowcake when Bush was gaslighting us on WMDs?)

      All true today, hysteria and handwaving aside.

      Reply
      1. David in Santa Cruz

        Please stop with the straw-manning. I don’t for one minute think or claim that Trump was a “pawn” of the Russians. He was not and is not.

        The June 2018 report by the DOJ Inspector General outlines in sordid detail the culture of unprofessionalism, bias, and bad judgement prevalent at the FBI. James Comey and other people inside the FBI did outrageous things during the 2016 election. There was a battle of leaks (apparently between NYC and DC internal FBI factions) of the bad behavior of both legacy party candidates that was clearly intended to influence the outcome of the election. A Deputy Director’s wife was accepting huge amounts of cash from one of the political parties. The Director made public statements about charging decisions in a criminal investigation that were far outside of his authority and leaked details of private meetings with the President.

        Illegal FBI leaks aside, Trump’s reckless posing and public invitations to the Russians to publish hacked Clinton emails — combined with the amateurish attempts by his cronies to contact “Russians” — are why Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself and why Rod Rosenstein had no choice but to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate after Comey leaked Trump’s ham-fisted attempts to get him to back off of Flynn.

        Rather than cooperate and be quickly exonerated, Trump went down the same road as Clinton and Nixon, and engaged in obstruction and cover-ups that opened other cans of worms. Why? The most likely explanation is fears about exposure of the silly conspiracy by Junior, Jared, and Manafort to meet with “Russians” at Trump Tower.

        What non-lawyers fail to understand, but Trump apparently did, is that the crime of conspiracy is committed when there is an agreement to do an unlawful act and an overt act is completed toward the object of the conspiracy, even if the crime contemplated is never ultimately committed. Such failed conspiracies rarely result in criminal charges, because juries are reluctant to convict the often laughably incompetent participants.

        Two wrongs don’t make a right. This is my dispute with Emmet Flood’s statement. He challenges the legitimacy of the Special Counsel, instead of the substance of the flimsy allegations against his client. Why? Because it’s not about the crime, it’s about the cover-up.

        Reply
        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Please stop with the straw-manning. I don’t for one minute think or claim that Trump was a “pawn” of the Russians. He was not and is not.

          The vocabulary employed in your comment is corrupt; “collusion,” along with “conspiracy” is one of the many words used in RussiaGate discourse to walk back the original false, and not proven, claim of that Trump was a Russian “puppet” (the word used by Clinton in her original accusation. I don’t know where “pawn” comes from; I certainly didn’t use it). This is important because the bar for treason, as the quoted material shows, is higher than “collusion,” and approaches the “puppet” (“creature”) level.

          I placed this material in a NOTE exactly because it was not a direct response to your comment; it’s there for the edification of readers, since the hysterical tub-thumping of RussiaGaters has obscured the shifty character of their claims. So, both as a matter of content, and as a matter of structure, your accusation that I’m strawmanning is false. In fact, I’m a little miffed that anybody could imagine I’d have to resort to such tactics in the first place; as somebody who’s been blogging for IIRC 2019 – 2003 years, I would have imagined I’d be thought capable of strawmanning in such a fashion that no technical flag can be thrown. Live and learn.

          As for the rest of your commentary, I think this says it all:

          Rather than cooperate and be quickly exonerated….

          Really? What serious observer could possibly believe that would happen? Remember, the liberal Democrats had already floated a faithless elector scheme to prevent Trump from taking office by showing electors intelligence material the voting public would not be allowed to see. If there’s a better characterization of that than “soft coup” I would like to know what it is. Personally, my speculation is that Trump, as an experienced casino operator and New York real estate magnate, knew a shakedown when he saw one, and decided he didn’t want to be muscled, which is what “co-operation” would have entailed.

          Obstruction of justice — assuming there is such a thing as justice to be had — is one thing. Obstructing a soft coup could certainly be seen as not the same thing. These issues will be fought out, I believe, in the political realm until 2020, the point of the post.

          Reply
  9. The Rev Kev

    When all is said and done, what happened was that Meuller was supposed to be the White Knight who would reveal that Donald Trump was guilty of treason and has to be arrested because Putin gave him the Presidency. After two and a half years of investigations, and in spite of being the good deep state operative, Meuller came up with zip. There was no there there but that did not stop Meuller trying to shape the report and its reporting to keep the whole thing going. Barr, with the look of a man that does not give a stuff, has dumped on that idea and now we are seeing grief in action. In a just world, Fort Leavenworth would be building a new wing to hold all those guilty of treason against a sitting President. It does not matter if it was Trump, treason is treason and unless slammed, will happen again and again after each election. Worse thing that Trump could do is do an Obama and say let’s forget all that and ‘move on’. Of course the deep state could get Trump tied up in a foreign war against say Iran or Venezuela so that he would be too busy to take advantage of their comeuppance.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      President Trump is a slimy individual but he is not a traitor. The sad thing is that Trump is impeachable under the Emolument Clause in the Constitution, but since a majority of Congress is also impeachable that was never going to happen.

      Reply
  10. JakSiemasz

    Reading some of these comments by the world’s smartest men – legends in their own minds – make me realize the world has done gone crazy.

    Reply
  11. Phil in KC

    Just to be clear, under the Constitution (to the extent it still matters), treason is defined as action against the state, or adherence to the enemies of the state by giving aid and comfort. There is no such thing as treason against a sitting president, and the way the Constitution is worded on this subject makes me think that the narrow definition of treason is intentional, so that the executive is not to be thought of as the equivalent of the state.

    Reply
    1. Oregoncharles

      The charge of treason had been much misused against colonials by King’s government, so yes, they intended to define it very narrowly indeed.

      The operative concept is “betrayal”, which is a moral, not a legal term.

      Reply
    2. JBird4049

      The requirements are also for two witnesses.

      That definition of treason was very deliberately put in the Constitution because of the British government’s expansive definition of treason. It has been far too long since I have read the history of it to give details but the impression of enthusiastic executions and deportations remains.

      Considering how the Bill of Rights has been steadily weakened by both Republican and Democratic judges with creative reasoning I am glad for the black and white definition.

      Reply
    3. The Rev Kev

      Good point that. So maybe not a charge of treason but one of sedition against a sitting President.

      Reply
  12. Oregoncharles

    ” the “accounting” they think should take place, will take place. ”

    Your confidence is charming, but it’s up against the Blob. It would indeed be gratifying if it happened, even though it’s in defense of Trump; but I really don’t think our government works that way any more. Assuming it once did.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Beneath all the sound and fury and the extraordinary amount of bullshit, Trump is capable of hiring good people and letting them work far away from the madness. Too lazy to find the link, but there was a single story in WaPo about an obscure couple of lawyers who coordinated his interactions, shall we say, with Mueller. They did a great job (Trump, after all, never testified, never fired Mueller or Rosenstein, and gave Mueller every document he asked for).

      So I am assuming that the administration already has a document trove of some sort, and that Barr and the White House lawyer know this. That would make the past two years a ginormous game of rope-a-dope, but then Trump does that (the sine wave). All this is pure speculation and I could be wrong!

      Reply
      1. Off The Street

        Lambert,
        I think that your speculation may turn out to be correct. As one example, the FISA process can work both ways in showing who knew, or pretended as with the Steele dossier, to know what when.

        Reply
  13. Wellstone's Ghost

    I love how “deep into the legal weeds” these punks get when they are investigating each other.
    For the rest of us, it is “how much legal representation can you afford?”
    There are no winners here, only a country of peasants quickly being picked over by the vultures of corporate capitalism.
    I wish I was wrong.

    Reply
  14. Oregoncharles

    IOW (I hope I’m not the first to say this), we’re deep into Praetorian Guard territory. Which was predictable as soon as they modeled the Capitol on Roman Imperial architecture, right down to the name.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      That’s the thing. The situation reminds me a little of Brexit, not in the detail, but in the idea that we have an irresistible force meeting an immovable object, and no way for the political system — as presently configured — to resolve the conflict. One would need an, er, revolution of some sort.

      Suppose there’s a liberal Democrat restoration in the form of a House impeachment of Trump* followed by Biden’s election.

      Taking the liberal Democrat claims that they had to indict a criminal President on principle at face value (I know, I know, but hear me out), what you also get is:

      1) TPP and the trade deals fired up again (loss of national sovereignty; harm to workers)

      2) Another couple of election cycles before the next try for #MedicareForAll, if indeed that ever comes (40,000 deaths a year)

      3) Probable war with Russia, hopefully by proxy (which is what Clinton’s no-fly zone in Syria would have led to, as the generals testified at the time). Since Russia is a nuclear power, that seems a little sketchy to me.

      4) An enormous increase in McCarthyism, that having proven to be an effective political tactic

      5) Handing over questions of the legitimacy of Presidents and Presidential elections to the intelligence community.

      These are all bad outcomes. Is it worth impeaching Trump and electing Biden to attain them? One for the judges, I would say. I will also say that most of the furor about the need to indict Trump — e.g., the recent letter from attorneys general — seems to me to assume a West Wing view of disinterested professionals working toward their own abstract notion of “justice,” a topic on which they are authoritative. That would be self-deluded not to say morally preening in the extreme. (For example, had West Wing-style politics been operating in 2008, Obama would have indicted some banksters. The same might be said of Clinton’s email server.) To me, it’s also ludicrous to see such efforts as anything but an attempt by those same professionals, the liberal Democrat base, to overturn the results of the 2016 election “by any means necessary” — an election that was, among other things, a rejection of the legitimacy of their right to rule (e.g., the right to rule by the lanyards and letterheads who wrote the letter**).

      It really is like professional wrestling, isn’t it? Trump is the Heel, and most of the Democrat candidates are auditioning to play the Face….

      NOTE * Yes, it fails in the Senate, but remember that, as opposed to simply appealing to rural voters on the basis of policy, liberal Democrats want to remove rural political power entirely by reconfiguring the Senate. Discrediting the Senate then, for them, is a positive.

      NOTE ** The same sort of lanyards that turn down your benefits, and the same sort of letterheads that foreclose on your house or dun you for medical bills.

      Reply
  15. VietnamVet

    Everything since the Cold War restarted in 2014 has been crazy. That the Democrats turned into Joe McCarthy tail gunners is astonishing. Democrats must justify their being warmongers by blaming Russia for everything. In a rational world Donald Trump would never gotten through the primaries. That he is President is a statement that the world has turned upside down. The forever wars, homelessness, declining life expectancy and austerity are the main reasons. The Empire’s politicians and apparatchik cannot acknowledge this. Their built-in incompetence results from this denial of reality. Neither political party will ever acknowledge that an active soft coup by the US/UK intelligence community against an elected American President is underway. The really weird thing is that the entrapment of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone means that Donald Trump knows he needs the Presidency to avoid a future indictment. He will move mountains to remain the Great Leader forever. But imposing a 25% tariff on Chinese imports looks like shaking the mountain that will trigger an economic avalanche that will bury his Presidency.

    Reply
  16. Expat2uruguay

    Lambert, sorry if this has been said before, but in this paragraph the links for “here” and “here” are missing:

    Barr also added that his original remark was “off the cuff” but that he “commonly” uses the term “spying” in this way. (For what it’s worth, Senator Whitehouse, among many others, has used the term “spying” in this way too—see here and here.)

    Reply
  17. Stephen V.

    I agree with all you say. Recently I read also that Putin will scheme to retain his position simply because if he doesn’t — he will be Beria’d. This say zip about the personalities involved but more about the powers that (shouldn’t ) be… (h/t James Corbett )

    Reply

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