Tag Archives: impeachment

What I Want from the Media

My memory may be faulty but as I recall the years of the Vietnam War and after for some time, you knew that in the early evening the “news” would be on television. There were, of course, only three networks but you did have some choice. My favorites were Walter Cronkite and commentator Eric Sevareid on CBS, but there were other significant “anchors” and analysts that I often chose to watch. By and large, Cronkite told you what happened that day around the world. There were news “reports” from the field often accompanied by film footage, especially during the War.

The news shows weren’t very long but you generally felt you got the gist of important developments since the prior evening. And, in the meantime, you also had access to newspapers that were published in some places twice a day or even more. In Memphis, Tennessee, where I spent my formative years, we had a morning paper, the Commercial Appeal, and an evening paper, the Press-Scimitar. The latter ceased publication in 1983, long after I had departed the city, but the Appeal still publishes seven days a week.

Cronkite and Sevareid were both news geniuses. Cronkite was considered one of the most trusted newsmen in the country, and Sevareid, in a few minutes of prepared remarks, would provide incisive thoughts to help you understand the events of the times. In later years I encountered Sevareid several times eating lunch in a restaurant near my Washington law firm’s offices. He seemed usually to dine alone and I never worked up the nerve to interrupt his solitude. I was pretty sure he was still thinking deeply about what was going on in the world.

Of course, I understand that times have changed. We have the internet and 24-hour cable TV “news” shows like CNN. And 24-hour propaganda shows like Fox News. Many great newspapers have failed as a result; all are challenged to remain viable in the era of “free” news around the clock.

What troubles me the most is that the cable news shows that you can turn to while the networks continue showing the mind-numbing garbage that they have contracted to broadcast do not report the news of the day. Instead, they seem to focus on one or two stories and repeat the coverage of them until something else they deem worthy of coverage happens. If you watch CNN on any given day, you will see that anchor after anchor repeats the “Breaking News” mantra that the prior anchors have already reported, calling on many of the same field reporters to “being us up to date on what you have learned.” There follows the same story that the prior segment covered, often involving the same questions and the same answers.

The other favorite of CNN and its competitors is the panel of “experts.” Back in the day, we had Sevareid; now we have panels of experts, again often repeated in subsequent segments. Worse yet, the cable shows appear to believe they are obligated to be “balanced” in their coverage, which has the effect of making them complicit in the false equivalencies that the Trump administration shills are pitching. Cronkite and Sevareid were interested in “equivalencies.” They saw their jobs as reporting the truth. After being fed an endless stream of lies about the combat outcomes in Vietnam, Cronkite famously had had enough and said so on the air.

It was a breathtaking moment in journalism and, I believe, in that moment changed the opinions of millions by telling the truth. He didn’t then bring on an administration shill to argue that the reports of combat outcomes were in fact correct. No panel of experts spent hours each day arguing about it. And no one like Kellyanne Conway was given a voice over the network to spread administration propaganda. A news show was about reporting news of the day, often on a variety of subjects, not just repeating the same story all day until a new “breaking news” story showed up.

So, call me old fashioned and unrealistic. It won’t be the first time. I suspect there are many like me who are sick to death of having “news” presented as a panel discussion or, worse, a “debate” with administration shills and complicit politicians claiming that down is up and lies are truth. I doubt there is any way to return to the “good ole days” of news broadcasting but I continue to hope that at least some news figures will begin calling out the lies and propaganda when it is presented.

We have an important election coming up in 2020, an election that may well determine the fate of the American republic. Meanwhile, there is going to be an impeachment inquiry and investigation of the president and his henchmen/women who have violated multiple laws and their oaths of office. It is crucial that the American people get the truth about these events. CNN, MSNBC and the others need to rethink their approach to news reporting before it is too late. If they help Trump get re-elected, by continuing to serve as vehicles for his disinformation campaign, he will turn on them with a vengeance. He will then be a lame duck and will have nothing to lose, nothing to restrain his authoritarian propensities now so fully on display.

Whistling by the Graveyard

On August 25, 2018, the New York Times published a “News Analysis” of Donald Trump’s treatment of the American legal system:  Trump’s War on the Justice System Threatens to Erode Trust in the Law, by Michael D. Shear and Katie Benner. https://nyti.ms/2oINv1V

The piece opens with this:

In his attempt at self-defense amid the swirl of legal cases and investigations involving himself, his aides and his associates, Mr. Trump is directly undermining the people and processes that are the foundation of the nation’s administration of justice.

The result is a president at war with the law.

Further, and presciently,

The president’s public judgments about the country’s top law enforcement agencies revolve largely around how their actions affect him personally – a vision that would recast the traditionally independent justice system as a guardian of the president and an attack dog against his adversaries.

The comment ends with this:

“No matter when this all ends, Trump will have caused long-lasting damage to the ability of the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to execute on its mission…. He is sacrificing our public safety and national security on the altar of his own ego.” [quoting Christopher Hunter, a former FBI agent and prosecutor]

Certainly, the authors could not have precisely foreseen how Trump’s approach to governance would lead to the present circumstances, but their overall impression of the direction of Trump’s presidency was stunningly accurate.

Now, perhaps emboldened by what he convinced himself was “exoneration” by Mueller and thus a free hand going forward, Trump has been caught out trying to use a foreign power to influence the 2020 election. And, the evidence is clear, Trump and his loyal team of lawyers, who were also allowed to skate by Mueller, have clumsily tried to cover up the president’s crimes by secreting the records in a computer system designed to contain only coded high-security information. Indications are that this is not the first time they have done this. As we have come to expect, Trump responded to all this by threatening his “enemies,” attacking the press and deflecting by inventing others’ offenses that he purports to expose.

All of that was simply too much for the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who called for an impeachment inquiry and had the votes to do it. Trump responded by declaring that Pelosi was no longer the Speaker of the House. This from a man who publicly swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Also, as we have come to expect, Republican enablers in and outside the White House rushed to Trump’s defense with all manner of false and hysterical claims. While the wagons were being circled, more news emerged, including that Secretary of State Pompeo was listening on the Trump-Zelensky call even though he indicated otherwise in television interviews. Trump is demanding to “face my accuser” and has said that the White House is trying to determine the whistleblower’s identity even though the governing law provides for protection of that individual’s identity. Trump supporters have offered a large cash award for anyone who will conclusively identify the whistleblower. Trump has not repudiated them for this action, arguably putting the whistleblower’s life in danger.

And so it goes. Meanwhile, the Editorial Board of the New York Times and the editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have both called for Trump to resign. Likely, other major newspapers will join the list. What goes around ….

The Times if, of course, still trying for “journalistic balance,” by giving print space to defenders of Trump to make their case. The same Sunday that the Times printed “The Allegations Are Grave. An Election Is at Risk. The Founders Were Clear,” a half-page op-ed appeared, entitled “Impeachment Is an Act of Desperation,” by Christopher Buskirk, publisher and editor of the very conservative website American Greatness. Buskirk’s argument is the reason for the title of this post.

Buskirk posits that by proceeding with an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s conduct, the Democrats are playing into the Republicans’ hands and assuring Trump of victory in 2020. Why? Because (1) “we’ve all been down this road before” and nothing Trump has done or said so far has affected his support that “has bounced around in more or less the same range since he took office,” (2) what about Hunter Biden in Ukraine? (3) impeachment “success requires broad public support,” and (4) Democrats can only beat Trump by focusing on the issues.

The corollary to the first point is that “there will be no resignation, there will be no conviction in the Senate.” That is probably true, but it misses the point that Trump’s conduct is so egregious across a broad range of areas and issues that a well-presented impeachment case in the House will serve the Democratic agenda in 2020 as well or better than any candidate on her/his own. It also ignores the Democratic sweep of House seats, and return to a majority there, in 2018. Finally, to claim that Trump’s popularity has not been affected by his prior egregious acts in office ignores the reality that his “popularity” is very low. These are not the likely elements of a winning position.

Buskirk’s second point is the classic Republican trope transplanted from Barack Obama (the usual target of Trump ego-angst) to Joe and Hunter Biden. But, no matter what the Bidens may have done in Ukraine, and so far there is no evidence of wrongdoing, a point made repeatedly by past and present Ukrainian officials with reason to know, it would not justify Trump’s attempt to arm-twist a foreign government into investigating a domestic political opponent. Except for self-defense against physical threats, American law does not support a defense that “someone else broke the law so I can too.” This is essentially the “Hillary’s emails” defense and it’s worthless. As Yogi Berra famously said, it’s déjà vu all over again.

Buskirk’s third point – impeachment success requires broad public support – is, I believe, simply wrong. Impeachment requires only a smartly executed process of compiling and presenting for public viewing the evidence of corruption in the multiple scenarios in which Trump has acted as if he were above the law. But even if Buskirk’s claim is right, we are in early days and it’s premature to conclude that the public won’t get on board as the evidence of Trump’s venality and illegality is presented. Again, this assumes the presentation is properly done. I have argued repeatedly that this must not turn into another political show with politicians sitting on the House committees trying to act like practicing prosecutors. Develop a list of “points to be proved” and leave the questioning to experts that know how to do it.

Finally, the fourth point that defeating Trump requires beating him on the “issues,” is an attempt to divert attention from what is at the root of the current mess. Trump has willfully violated a serious federal law designed to protect American elections from foreign interference and then tried to cover it up. Moving the records to a secret computer for coded security information is functionally equivalent to Richard Nixon’s deletion of 18.5 minutes of tapes involving a crucial meeting between the President and his Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, the revelation of which ultimately destroyed Nixon’s support in the Senate and forced his resignation prior to being impeached and removed. Trump’s crimes are extremely serious and they follow a thoroughly documented showing of at least 10 prior instances of criminal obstruction of justice in the Mueller Report. He was only saved from indictment by Mueller because the Department of Justice, dubiously, has opined that a sitting president may not be indicted.

Buskirk argues that impeachment of Trump now is just “political theater” and “more Washington psychodrama.” He claims the voters are simply uninterested in the crimes Trump may have committed and that they “just want to know what Washington is going to do for them.”

Methinks Buskirk has it backwards. Trump’s most ardent supporters seem only interested in political theater. The proof is evident in the endless tapes of Trump’s rallies that have little or nothing to do with “issues” and everything to do with performance. Trump is a star in that crowd because … he’s a star. He gives voice to their anger and fear and they see no irony in the fact that he is rich and unlike them in almost every way. He does not really share their fear and anger; he puts on the show they came to see and they love him for it even though the hard evidence is that he has done virtually nothing to make their lives better.

And that is the ultimate point. Even if Buskirk’s assessment regarding the “issues” is correct, it fails to reckon with Trump’s massive and ongoing failure to deliver on most of his electoral promises. If indeed it is only “issues” that will motivate the voters, and Trump’s illegal and immoral conduct of the Office of President and multiple violations of his oath of office are not “issues” of interest or force in the election, Trump’s performance still fails. Most of his governance actions are for “show” to impress his political base but it is not a stretch to show how he has failed to deliver.

So, is impeachment a mistake? I don’t think so. Democrats have been handed a weapon by Trump that needs to be used with surgical precision. We have a criminal in the White House, a person who does not respect the office he holds or guiding principles of the government he swore to serve. It should not be hard for the Democrats to show this to the electorate in a compelling way, to motivate their own base to go the polls in 2020 and, if Donald Trump still sits in the White House, to send him packing.

Going Along to Get Along

Since the news of Donald Trump’s latest criminality is racing ahead faster than I can keep up, I’m just going to engage in a little homespun philosophizing for a moment. The subject is “inevitability.” By that I mean the inevitability that some things that start badly will end badly.

Trump, we now know (Mueller) was elected with the substantial help of Russia. To that extent, at least, he is an illegitimate president. The majority of the American electorate, by a margin of about 3 million votes, wanted someone else to be president. Someone who, while far from ideal and with some troubling history, had shown for many years a high degree of intelligence, commitment to important human values and a willingness to serve her country, if not perfectly, at least with a serious commitment to protect its interests.

The person who was elected was not demonstrably qualified to be president. He was qualified, if at all, to be what he was: a real estate tycoon, staked by cash from his father, who had managed to bankrupt casinos, an airline, and a multitude of other businesses bearing his name. He had a reputation for dishonesty, for refusing to pay his bills, for using the legal system to bully and intimidate others and a reputation as a misogynist who was buddies with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein. His life was so exposed to public view that there was no doubt about his character and values, made all the clearer by the revelations in the Billy Bush Access Hollywood tape. Many Republican stalwarts of the day, such as the US Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, spoke of him in the most derogatory terms imaginable: “a race-baiting xenophobic religious bigot” who is “putting our soldiers and diplomats at risk” and “empowering our enemies.” https://cnn.it/2DjJHdC Another Republican leader of presumed integrity, Mitt Romney, described this person as “so not smart.”

Nevertheless, with help from Russia, Donald Trump rose to the top of the manure pile that was the Republican nominee class. Further aided by the Electoral College, a vestige of another time and country we thought had passed into history, Trump vanquished all the Republican contenders and won the general election. His most ardent supporters didn’t care whether he was qualified. They were against his opponent and liked that he “told it like it is” even though independent fact-checkers found that Trump lied multiple times a day. It took only a few days for his prior critics, Graham and Romney among them, to undergo a complete transformation. Romney went begging for a Cabinet job (rejected) and Graham became one of Trump’s most enthusiastic cheerleaders. When Robert Mueller produced conclusive evidence that Trump had committed at least 10 significant acts of criminal obstruction of justice, Graham said he didn’t care about that “obstruction of justice stuff.” https://bit.ly/2mAPxAt

In office, Trump’s conduct has matched his résumé. His speech is full of bigoted and often incomprehensible hate rhetoric. His policies have been rejected by the courts in a multitude of cases. His cabinet appointees proved to include a large number of grifters in it for the perks and unqualified incompetents with no idea how to manage a large federal department. Many have resigned in disgrace. There have been more indictments and jail terms handed out in Trump’s administration that in any modern presidency except Nixon (who resigned when impeachment was imminent) and he’s only in his third year.

The evidence is now in, and Trump has admitted most of the essential actions involved, showing that Trump tried to get the help of a foreign power to undermine his (currently) main 2020 challenger, Joe Biden. The evidence of Trump’s illegal conduct was apparently recognized by multiple staff and thus the records of the call were moved to a coded computer intended for other purposes on the “direction of White House lawyers” or other “White House officials,” which may be the same thing in this case (to be determined).

This is not, of course, out of the ordinary. The Mueller Report, about which I published a series of too-long analyses in this blog, documented multiple undisputed cases in which White House staff were directed by Trump to engage in acts constituting criminal obstruction of justice. While Mueller was unduly impressed with the failure of some of those staff, including attorneys, to carry out all of Trump’s obstruction directives, I showed there were cases in which they clearly did what Trump demanded. Mueller’s failure to indict those people remains unexplained and inexplicable.

This, then, is the central theme of the Trump administration. An entire collection of Republican elected officials, comprising a majority of the Senate, and a number of White House staff, including attorneys, have actively participated in the crimes and the coverup of those crimes.

Why do they risk everything for this?

It’s hard to fathom. For some, no doubt, it’s just the money. Or it’s just keeping the job. For some, it’s possibly the innate resistance we all have to uncertainty and major changes in our lives. For some, I’m sure, there is a misguided attachment to some ideology that they convinced themselves is being promoted by this president.  In all cases, it’s easier, much easier, to go along to get along than to do the right thing. It’s hard to give the advice no one wants to hear. If, as in Trump’s case, the boss has a short fuse, is easily angered and has made clear that personal loyalty to him is more important than virtually anything else, it’s hard to get yelled at, called out and humiliated in front of colleagues for not being a “team player,” “putting everyone at risk” and being called a rat. It’s very hard to be the odd-man-out when a big challenge is on the table and everyone else is either deferring to someone else or simply agreeing to avoid being called out. Going along to get along is the easy path. Standing on principles is very difficult.

Thus, going along rules the day. With each affirmation, each failure to object, the pressure to stay that course mounts until, in all likelihood, the possibility of taking a stand for principle, for the right thing, doesn’t even arise any more.

These outcomes, which are commonplace in society and entrenched in Trump’s history and his performance as president, are, I think, the inevitable consequence of electing someone who is fundamentally not competent to do what is probably one of the most difficult jobs in the world. And that inevitability is all the more assured when the mitigating influences are stilled.

It’s not just the Mitt Romneys and Lindsey Grahams and Mitch McConnells who are responsible, though they certainly bear huge responsibility. It’s also the voters who stayed home; it’s the voters who said “if it’s not Bernie, I won’t vote or I’ll just vote for Trump;” it’s the voters who didn’t think about the question of qualifications at all and just thought it was cool that Trump called his opponents by insulting nicknames and threatened to ban Muslims and immigrants from the United States. It’s the voters who still think a woman’s place is … nowhere. It’s the voters who are racists and religious bigots. It’s the inevitable result of all those actions, inactions and indifference.

There was, I believe, no chance that Donald Trump’s presidency could have been successful by any reasonable standard. It was clear early on that the Republican Party establishment would go along to get along; that the types of people Trump admired and appointed to cabinet and high government posts were often unqualified ideologues, in it for themselves and no one else. It was clear that nothing of substance was going to change. Inevitability was driven by the root problem of Trump’s incompetence, dishonesty, immorality and insecurity, all of which was there to be seen.

We now have arrived at the denouement of this sad, pathetic saga. Trump has admitted to seeking the aid of a foreign power to help him win the 2020 election. He participated in a coverup, adding to the multiple violations of fundamental American law of which he is guilty. He was aided in this by multiple White House staff who were going along to get along.  The time has come for a reckoning.

As I have written elsewhere, the proceedings in the House of Representatives should move forward with deliberateness. The relevant committees should hold multiple hearings to set out the evidence not only about the Ukraine episode and coverup but also the evidence of criminal obstruction of justice from the Mueller Report. The evidence should be presented by experts, and hostile witnesses should be cross-examined by retained expert trial counsel.

Above all, take the time to do this right. The American public needs to understand all of what happened, presented in a way that ordinary people can understand. DO NOT allow another Lewandowski style hearing to occur. If the committees are going to do their jobs, insist that testimony be presented under oath and if questions are refused without claims of 5th Amendment privilege, arrest the witnesses and hold them in contempt of Congress. This is the job the American people expect and deserve from their elected leaders. The time has come for a reckoning.

There is much talk in the press about whether a majority of Americans support impeachment. That, I suggest, is the wrong question. This is not a political popularity contest whose outcome should depend on ever-shifting polls. Impeachment, rarely used because it is so serious, is about holding to account a lawless regime that threatens to undermine the democratic republic that was created by the Constitution. If the case is properly made, the majority of Americans will support the action. The Republicans in the Senate will undoubtedly act as they have always acted, supporting the regime no matter what it does. So be it. Make the case for the voters to see. Do it professionally and soberly in keeping with the gravity of the task.

It will be hard for politicians, especially those running for president, to give up some of the limelight but it is essential that they do so in the interest of bringing an end to the massive and unrelenting corruption that has infested the Trump presidency from its inception. The time has come for a reckoning.

 

Impeaching a President

A 1974 Congressional staff memorandum, entitled Report by the Staff of the Impeachment Inquiry, has resurfaced. The Report was prepared in connection with the potential impeachment of Richard Nixon. Hillary Clinton was a young attorney hired to help with the work, though her name does not appear on the list of contributors on the author page. The analysis element of the Report runs only 26 pages, but contains a compelling and unique assessment, given the circumstances of its creation, of the appropriate criteria for impeachment proceedings by the House of Representatives. The Republican enablers of Donald Trump notwithstanding, the Report is consistent with contemporary analyses of the reasons for and essential elements of impeachment, as intended by the framers, as well as the considerations that are not required criteria for impeachment under the Constitution.

The remaining pages of the Report in two appendices summarize the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 regarding impeachment and various American impeachment cases going back to 1797, most of which relate to federal judges. As a reminder, impeachment by the House of Representatives is in the nature of a political indictment; it is a set of accusations. The trial of articles of impeachment is conducted by the Senate. Conviction requires a vote of two-thirds of the Senators present.

I will spare you the intricate legal details and summarize the key points. If you want to read the memo itself, it can be found at https://bit.ly/2lPNB6p

The Constitution states that impeachment may be brought for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” a sequence of words that historically referred to “offenses … against the system of government.” Report at 5. Through several centuries, impeachment was determined to refer to “negligent discharge of duties and improprieties in office,” “abuse of official power or trust,” and “corruption in office.” Report at 6-7. Most significantly, while the commission of crimes in office may be included in an impeachment charge, violations of common law or criminal law are not prerequisites. Impeachment was intended as a broad remedial regime for “executive abuse and usurpation of power.” Report at 8.

The Report makes clear that violations of Constitutional mandates, such as the prohibition of emoluments from foreign powers are proper subjects for impeachment. Report at 13. And, in a discussion with direct implications for a current issue swirling around Donald Trump, the Report notes that Convention delegate George Mason stated that the use of the presidential pardon power to “pardon crimes which were advised by himself” or “to stop inquiry and prevent detection” are proper subjects of impeachment. Report at 13.

Of similar import in relation to Trump’s appointment of grifters to the Cabinet, the Report at 15 makes clear that the President may be impeached if he allows executive officers appointed by him or under his supervision to commit high crimes and misdemeanors or “neglects to superintend their conduct.”

It is worth repeating that impeachment does not require, though it certainly permits, allegations of conduct that would violate the criminal code.

Much more common in the articles are allegations that the officer has violated his duties or his oath or seriously undermined public confidence in his ability to perform his official functions. Recitals that a judge has brought his court or the judicial system into disrepute are commonplace. In the impeachment of President Johnson, nine of the articles allege that he acted “unmindful of the high duties of his office and of his oath of office,” and several specifically refer to his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed…. Impeachment is “intended to reach a broad variety of conduct by officers that is both serious and incompatible with the duties of the office. [Report at 21]

Finally, in its detailed rejection of the argument that an indictable crime must be alleged in an impeachment, the Report states that,

Unlike a criminal case, the, cause for the removal of a President may be based on his entire course of conduct in office. In particular situations, it may be a course of conduct more than individual acts that has a tendency to subvert constitutional government.

This understanding of impeachment bears directly on the conduct of Donald Trump in ways too numerous to mention in a one blog post. It is clear, however, that the Report provides a solid legal foundation for impeaching Trump if the Democrats controlling the House of Representatives have sufficient determination to use the tools available to fight the criminality and abuse of office that has characterized Trump’s conduct of the presidency since his inauguration.

The principal arguments against impeachment appear to be two: (1) political unpopularity — the people won’t approve of trying to remove Trump with the election just about a year away; and (2) the Senate will never convict because the Republican majority will never abandon Trump no matter what the evidence shows.

I doubt that the first reason is true except as to Trump’s loyal base who apparently will support him no matter what he does. But all available evidence points to the reality that the anti-Trump segment of the population outnumbers the Trumpers by a significant margin. There is no apparent reason for the House to concern itself with the Trumper sentiment that will never turn against Trump.

As to the second factor, given Republican intransigence, the smart move is to conduct a very slow impeachment process. Present the extensive evidence slowly in hearings throughout the next year but do not take a vote in the House and thus deny the Senate the chance to “exonerate” Trump following a show trial before the 2020 election.

 

 

The Larger Meaning of the Trump-Sharpiegate Fiasco

By now everyone in the allegedly civilized world is aware of Trump’s Sharpiegate episode. Trump, having falsely claimed that Hurricane Dorian was a threat to Alabama, was determined to “prove” that he was right and that everyone else, including all the relevant experts, saying otherwise were wrong. In classic Trump fashion he engaged in tweet storms and, apparently, ordered his chief of staff to order the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to support his claims. And on and on and on, like the typical playground bully in junior high school.

Standing alone, this episode supports the questions being raised about Trump’s mental and emotional stability, although there really is nothing new here. His behavior in this situation is of a piece with numerous other aspects of his performance as president, including refusal to read briefing documents, inability to concentrate on detailed national security information and many other incidents that have been widely reported since Trump became the nominal president.

The real concern here is how these personality traits, that Trump is apparently helpless to control, may manifest in a true emergency situation. One example among many is an apparent military conflict at some overseas location where the facts may be unclear, decision time is short and the stakes are high. If Trump “decides” that he knows more than his senior military advisors and, for example, does not trust our allies to provide reliable intelligence, how might he react? Will his demonstrated propensity to threaten and bully lead him to order irresponsible, highly risky and irreversible military action? If so, the conduct of the senior White House advisors suggests they will simply do what they are told, regardless of the potential consequences to the country and the world. The incompetents and grifters that typify most of Trump’s appointments would rather keep his favor and their White House employment than do what responsible citizens should do when the “boss” is engaged in blatantly unlawful or irrational behavior that threatens existential harm to millions.

This is the stunning point of potential no return at which we have arrived. A man who was “made” by money provided by his father, with a history of graft and corruption, a demonstrated inability and unwillingness to educate himself and who is accustomed to just issuing orders and having them obeyed without hesitation or question is in charge of the nuclear arsenal of the most powerful military force in the world. This is not a child playing with firecrackers. It is a man-child playing with forces capable of triggering nuclear winter.

The solution, if there is one, is to initiate the process that could lead to the earliest possible termination of Trump’s presidency using the impeachment process established by the U.S. Constitution. I recognize the counterargument that if threatened with removal, Trump may declare some kind of fake national emergency, maybe even start a war, or, maybe just declare the Constitution suspended, essentially decreeing for himself the powers of the dictatorship that the Constitution was ratified to prevent.

There are likely other scenarios with similar consequences. It is, I suggest, pointless to speculate about Trump’s behavior. He may do the very same thing if the 2020 vote is held in the normal course and his effort to win a second term is rejected by the voters. There is, in other words, no escape from the implications of Trump’s mania. He is a danger to the country. Ignorant while claiming to be a genius. Delusional about his negotiating skills. Unable to distinguish truth from falsity, illusion from reality. There is no reason to think any of that will change. In fact, it is likely to worsen as the pressure of declining popularity into 2020 becomes more apparent to him.

The time for equivocation is past. It is time to act before it is too late.

 

Cholesterol: Democracy’s Only Hope

The title of this post comes from my favorite sign at this year’s Women’s March in New York City. It is, of course, not true, but I thought it was clever. There are better ways to remove Trump than waiting for him to have a heart attack. I will return to that in a moment.

I had planned to title this piece something more like “And still they came.” Meaning that beginning at 11 am and continuing for more than five hours, the marchers processed in New York. The size of the crowd was overwhelming.

They started somewhere up past West 72nd (we never made it up there for the rally) and came down 8th Avenue (aka Central Park West) passed by Columbus Circle went east on West 58th to 6th Avenue, then down to the mid-40s where the March ended. We had to walk out Broadway and quickly ran into a near standstill crowd at 60th. We crept forward to 63rd, where the police finally allowed our crowd to cross back toward 8th Avenue to merge into the main body of the March. Thus, we processed across town to 6th Avenue and turned toward Downtown. We finally gave out at West 54th Street and headed back toward our apartment. On the way we stopped to get a bite to eat (splitting a corned beef on rye, for which New York is justly famous). Back on the street at about 4 pm, we realized that the people were still marching and chanting; even when we reached Columbus Circle, almost back to our apartment, the street was packed with marchers carrying signs.

So, back to the signs. I can’t say this year’s crop was as creative as those of the first March in Washington last year but some of them were pretty good. I have attached photos of the ones suitable for a “family blog.” If you want to see the others, submit a reply and I will send them privately to you.

The “cholesterol sign” mentioned above is, of course, an allusion to the recent medical report on Donald Trump’s health, a report that, like everything else about Trump, cries out for a redo by people not employed in the White House, Fox News or the Republican Party. My ultimate message, however, is not to quibble about Trump’s health.

Rather, I want to say that the real way to get rid of Trump is to bring about one or more of the following:

(1) Robert Mueller’s investigation acts upon the conclusion that Trump was complicit in the Russian interference in the 2016 election or that Trump has otherwise engaged in obstruction of justice or some other “high crime or misdemeanor,” leading to irresistible pressure for impeachment.

This is, of course, beyond the control or influence of us as individuals. As much as we may prefer a direct take-down of the president, his co-conspirators and enablers, we cannot afford to rely solely on that approach, especially since Republicans control both houses of Congress and are virtually certain to defend Trump to the death.

Thus, we turn to No. 2:

(2) effect a massive Democratic turnout for Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms and strip the Republican Party of control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This is the part we can control. The massive turnout for the Women’s March around the country is strong, but not conclusive, evidence that the Democratic Party can experience a massive renaissance and reverse the anti-humanity, anti-environment plague of the Trump-Republican regime. Marching is great, resistance is essential and bringing constant pressure against the regime is important. But, in the end, victory can only be accomplished by one thing:  VOTE THE BASTARDS OUT OF OFFICE.

It is likely that, if you read this blog, you agree with me on this. But it is not enough for each of us individually to follow that prescription and arrange our affairs so we can vote in the 2018 midterms. There are many other potential supporters who, for a variety of “reasons” will not be sufficiently motivated to actually go to the polls or who, for a variety of reasons, will face obstacles to voting, either in their personal circumstances or because they are unaware how to handle the barriers to voting that have been erected in many jurisdictions. If we’re going to win this election going away, we each must reach out to such people and offer to help them by guiding them, driving them, just plain encouraging them, asking them to make the commitment to you personally and then remind them again on Election Day, taking the extra step to assure that every possible vote for Democratic candidates is actually cast on Election Day.

If you run into resistance, with, for example, someone telling you that for reason X or Y, they are going to vote for some third party single-issue candidate, you need to double down with that person and bring pressure on them so that they understand that voting for such candidates is the same as not voting at all or, worse, the same as voting for the Republicans and a continuation of the anti-American agenda they have pursued since Donald Trump was inaugurated. This is a solemn obligation of every right-thinking American. VOTE and make sure that every like-minded person you know also VOTES. This may be awkward in some cases, but if you approach friends on a positive, personal basis, they will generally respect what you are doing.

Understand that the supporters of Donald Trump are not going to just give up if they feel his position is being threatened. No matter what you may have read about the softening of his support, those folks who have found a way to believe in Trump are not going to sit at home whining about how the Democrats are organized and passionate about turning Trump and his cabal out of office. They will vote because they passionately believe Trump is a victim and that they are victims and that sense of victimization and loss is a powerful driving force that largely explains the shock vote in 2016.

That means that every vote is more important than ever. Recall that one legislative seat in Virginia was recently lost by drawing the Republican winner’s name from a bowl because the actual vote of the people was deemed to be a tie! Think about that – an “elected” representative chosen by drawing a name from a bowl.

That doesn’t happen often, but it can happen again. Moreover, the Electoral College vote was determined ultimately by a total of 77,744 votes in three states. Those votes represent .057 percent of the total votes cast for Trump and Clinton combined. Our fate was determined by the slimmest of margins. If this happens again in 2018, resulting in continued Republican control of the House and Senate, who will we blame then? We will just have to look in a mirror to see who is responsible.

Enjoy the photos. Be moved. Act! Join the ACLU. Or Moveon.org. Or Indivisible. Or all of them. Play a part, win the fight, win the war for the soul of the country. Save our republic and its democracy … without cholesterol.

Trump Calls Comey a Liar – A Most Dangerous Game

Alternative Title: Rat in a Corner — Who You Gonna Believe?

It didn’t take long for President Trump to dispute the stunning facts set out in James Comey’s testimony on Thursday. Trump’s apparently strong conviction in his assertion that Comey lied under oath (and also has misled Special Prosecutor Mueller by providing him with false information about Trump’s conduct) may give some people pause. Trump even says he will speak under oath about the critical meetings with Comey but stops short of saying that he will stand cross-examination as Comey did.

Is Trump’s assertion another version of “I will definitely release my tax returns?”

I suggest that Trump has flatly disputed Comey’s narrative because he had no choice. Could he conceivably have remained silent in the face of the allegations that he pressured Comey to end investigation of Michael Flynn and lighten up on the Trump-Russia investigation? I suggest that the answer can only be ‘no.’ Trump’s silence would have been construed as acquiescence and that is one thing he cannot afford to do now that the suspicions about his conduct have become fixed.

Still, the question remains: who is to be believed? The answer is Comey and there are multiple compelling reasons for that conclusion.

First, it is not disputed that Trump directed other persons present to leave the room before speaking to Comey. Is there a plausible reason for this other than “I know what I am about to do is wrong and I don’t want witnesses to it?”

Second, Comey says he immediately wrote down detailed notes of what had transpired. This was done on a “classified computer” and thus can be verified as to date and time of creation. Comey obviously knows that. Is it plausible then to believe that he created a contemporaneous false narrative to destroy the President? Bear in mind that Comey’s written testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee was based on those notes and that Comey gave the notes to Special Prosecutor Mueller before testifying?

Third, weeks ago Trump implied in a tweet that he might have “tapes” of the meeting(s) with Comey. Subsequently, he has refused to confirm that such “tapes” exist and his White House staff claims either not to know. After Comey’s testimony, in which he said he would welcome release of the tapes if they exist, Trump has continued to refuse to confirm the existence of the tapes. I suggest that this is a classic Trump negotiating tactic and that he has to be bluffing. Why? Because Trump had to know what actually happened during the Comey meetings and if he had “tapes” that would completely destroy Comey’s credibility and serve as major pushback against the Trump-Russia investigation, he would have released them by now.

Finally, there is the matter of general credibility. Comey has a distinguished career in law enforcement and is highly respected by anyone with a shred of objectivity and, reluctantly, by some who have sacrificed their credibility in support of Trump. Contrast that history with Trump’s history of lies before, during and after his election. There are lists of these all over the Internet, so I will not repeat them here. This comparison is “no contest” – Trump loses.

In the interest of balance, I do acknowledge, as I have in another post, that Comey made some mistakes in handling the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but these are not mistakes of credibility. They were mistakes of judgment. And, of course, there is the fact that the Clinton investigation mistakes worked to Trump’s advantage and may well have pushed Trump over the finish line in 2016. No joy for Trump in this.

Thus far, then, Trump is putting his credibility squarely on the line against Comey. Someone is lying, bigly. This looks like a losing proposition for Trump. Notwithstanding the weakness of Trump’s position, his political base, and the Republican Party co-conspirators and sycophants in Congress, continue to support him. They appear ready to do down with the ship.

From here on, the key for the country is for the Democrats in Congress and the Democratic base, regardless of preferences in 2016 (get over it), must engage in a relentless, all-hands-on-deck resistance to Trump’s agenda. Republicans will not move against Trump unless and until he is both failing as the chief executive of the country and conclusively humiliated as having engaged in obstruction of justice and lied about it.