So, it's been confirmed that even while FBI Director James Comey was blathering on about Hillary Clinton's "recklessness" five years earlier by having a private email server which was never hacked and contained no information that did anything but show how boring government work actually is, he knew this was going on as he spoke:
The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said.
The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.
Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.
Trump addresses Russia accusations, business dealings in post-election press conference
President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday delivered his first press conference since the November presidential election. Trump addressed his relationship with Russia and how he will handle his business once taking office.
The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.
On Jan. 6, the director of national intelligence released a declassified report that concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign to “undermine faith in the U.S. democratic process,” damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects and bolster Trump’s. The campaign included the hacking of top Democrats’ emails and fake news distributed by Russian sources.
The president-elect, who will be inaugurated Friday, has said he believes Russia was involved with the hacking, and he has called allegations that he or his associates were involved a “political witch hunt” and a “complete and total fabrication.”
Trump has yet to say whether FBI Director James Comey will be retained. The rest of Trump’s newly appointed intelligence and law enforcement chiefs will inherit the investigation, whose outcome could create national and international fallout.
Trump's presidential transition team did not respond to a request for comment about the inquiry.
I don't know if any of the charges are true. But it does appear that there have been suspicions for some time that the Russian government was helping Trump and his own behavior has fed into that suspicion. Certainly, soft and gentle way he is dealing with the sanctions issue and his loose talk about NATO, along with the boundless positivity toward Putin himself as a great leader, seem odd for a man who is usually all about "toughness" and personal competitiveness. The whole thing is strange and while I have no idea what the depth of Trump's personal involvement in all this might be, it's certainly worthy of investigation and it should be done by a special prosecutor. Trump's IC leaders obviously cannot be trusted and James Comey should be banned from any involvement.
It's early days so who knows where this will go. Maybe there's a reasonable explanation for all this. If Russia hacked the presidential campaign, that's a big deal but it's also not entirely surprising. What would be a shocker is if it turns out that Trump's campaign was involved somehow. It appears there is some evidence out there that it was. This is uncharted territory.
This is what it's come to. The Republicans are trying to figure out how to trick the imbecile who will be living in the White House into doing what they need him to do. But it's not easy because he's an undisciplined pathological liar.
After Rand Paul announced he had spoken with Trump, who agreed with him about making repeal and replace simultaneous, one congressional staffer suggested at a Capitol Hill meeting on health care that his boss could call Trump and get him to say the opposite. After Trump’s news conference last week, several members and staffers suggested (independently) that Trump must mean that repeal and replace should take effect simultaneously, rather than that they should be enacted simultaneously, in which case congressional Republicans were already on the same page as Trump. (And of course, that could very well be what Trump meant.) After Trump’s Washington Post interview this past Sunday, the conservative health-care universe, including some people on Trump’s own team, quickly concluded that the separate administration plan he described was entirely a figment of Trump’s imagination.
If you read that whole article you'll see that the Republicans in congress are trying to use a Machiavellian strategy to repeal Obamacare. They really, really want to do it. I'm not even sure they know why anymore. It's the Holy Grail.
But that paragraph suggests that Trump's stupidity may be what stops it. He is without any fundamental beliefs other than doing and saying anything to make the sale and when it comes to governing he doesn't know what "the sale" is or who he's selling it to. So he's entirely unpredictable. But that means there's a chance that he'll screw his own people for reasons that have nothing to do with the policy which he doesn't understand at all.
We have a puerile fool for president and a Republican Party that's at peak crazy. Pray for them to metaphorically shoot each other in the foot. For the time being, that's the best we can hope for, at least until enough of the population wakes up* and puts them out of office.
*And that means mobilization. Lot's of things for citizens to do to make that happen. Read all about it.
I wrote about "adviser and public liaison to government agencies and businesses" Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci for Salon today:
A long time ago in an alternate universe far, far away, I wrote a Salon column about how the Republican Party was in trouble because rich gadflies had decided to get personally involved in electoral strategy and that could only spell their doom. These were foolish wealthy donors for the most part, people who believed the size of their bank accounts meant they were renaissance geniuses who can do anything.
Needless to say my prophesy didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. One of those gadflies is going to be inaugurated president of the United States in two days. And it turns out that the central focus of my long-ago column has been named a top adviser to that new president.
His name is Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci, and he could be a character out of an Elmore Leonard novel. In fact, in my 2014 article I wrote, “the man’s hijinks make Donald Trump look like a prince by comparison.” (I didn’t know the extent of Trump’s high jinks at the time.) Scaramucci has a big mouth and a big wallet and he has been ostentatiously rubbing elbows with the political elite for quite some time.
Scaramucci made a ton of money in hedge funds and, like his new boss, he loves to show off his wealth as a reality-TV star. In 2009, he starred in a show called “Untold Wealth: The Rise of the Super Rich.” (Like Trump, Saddam Hussein and Louis XIV, his taste runs toward gold and mirrors.) He has been a regular on CNBC, offering himself up as an expert on all things financial and has cultivated many friends in high places.
But Scaramucci has particularly concentrated on politics, hosting a sort of mini-Davos called SkyBridge Alternatives Conference (or SALT for short) named after his hedge fund. He invites sports and entertainment stars to rub shoulders with major officials, politicos and wealthy master of the universe types in Las Vegas for a little networking and a lot of partying. According to Ken Vogel, who wrote about this conclave for Politico, Scaramucci was seen as “a validator who can steer major Wall Street money to hedge funds and super PACs alike.” The Mooch is a liaison, a middleman, a matchmaker.
He is also self-aggrandizing and has a reputation for indiscretion, spilling campaign finance secrets on Twitter and posting on Facebook backstage pictures of luminaries at the 2012 GOP convention. He made a particularly egregious gaffe by alerting a reporter to a closed-door fundraiser where Karl Rove was recorded telling fellow Republicans they needed to “sink” Todd Akin, the Senate candidate of “legitimate rape” fame. (That flap seems almost quaint in the age of Trump.)
Vogel quoted a conservative Wall Streeter characterizing Scaramucci as someone with the profile of Sheldon Adelson but without the bank account:
“Do people take him seriously? I think they do because of his image and his brand, more so than because of his political giving. The only thing similar between his politics and his business, including SALT, is that it’s all about him.”
It’s easy to see why Trump would be impressed. Scaramucci is an obnoxious, crude, indiscreet, wealthy egomaniac. What’s not to like? Naturally Trump has hired him as his “adviser and public liaison to government agencies and businesses.”
This week Scaramucci is attending the actual conclave in Davos rather than his home-grown imitation, reassuring all the big-money players that Trump isn’t really going to do anything that will displease them. According to The Wall Street Journal, Scaramucci told that gathering:
“If you guys get a little bit upset about the tweeting or some of the things that [Trump is] saying, I want to put your mind at ease. Directionally, this is a super-compassionate man. He’s not necessarily communicating in a way that the people in this community would love, but he is communicating very, very effectively to a very large group of the population in Europe and in the United States that are feeling a common struggle right now that maybe many of us here in this room do not feel.”
He also reportedly said that Trump is “one of the last great hopes for globalism” but it’s broken and only he can fix it. He used China as an example, explaining that Trump doesn’t want a trade war but expects “symmetry” and therefore demands that China “reach now towards us and allow us to create this symmetry because the path to globalism for the world is through the American worker and the American middle class.”
I’m sure the rest of the world thinks that sounds perfectly fair and will happily sublimate the needs of their own people because Donald Trump says so. After all, Scaramucci vouches for his good intentions, assuring everyone that Trump is “the least racist person” Scaramucci has ever met.
But even more interesting than the Mooch’s PR outreach to the global masters of the universe is his personal dealmaking on the eve of the inauguration and his ascension to an important post in the White House. In the middle of Trump’s monumental Russian scandal, Bloomberg reported yesterday that Scaramucci openly admits that he “discussed possible joint investments in a meeting in Davos with the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund that the U.S. sanctioned in 2015.”
He also gave interviews to Russian media outlets, expressing the opinion that the sanctions haven’t worked because Russians get mad at those who inflict them.
Since he is notoriously indiscreet, Scaramucci also blurted out that he’d been working for months on the deal. (Remember, this wealth fund has been under U.S. government sanctions since 2015.) He told Bloomberg that he would have to determine whether he can continue to work this deal from the White House, what with ethics rules and all.
Luckily, Scaramucci happens to have sold his own hedge fund — this week — so it should all be fine. That is, unless some stodgy old ethics lawyer thinks it might be inappropriate for a liaison from the White House to arrange private business deals with Russian businesses to benefit who knows whom or if you believe that when the U.S. imposes sanctions on a foreign country for violations of international law they should be honored by American businessmen who are about to become White House advisers. But if all of that is no problem, then the Mooch should be in the clear. digby 1/18/2017 10:30:00 AM
President-elect Donald J. Trump made his first visit to Washington on Tuesday in more than a month, appearing at a dinner where he predicted “record” crowds at his inauguration and praised the Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders who plan to protect it from protesters.
In the stream-of-consciousness style he employed at his campaign rallies, Mr. Trump said, “I saw the Bikers for Trump — boy, they had a scene today. I don’t know if I would want to ride one of those, but they do like me. That’s like additional security with those guys, and they’re rough. And they get on that Harley, usually Harley, made right here in America.”
Please allow me to introduce myself I'm a man of wealth and taste I've been around for a long, long year Stole many a man's soul to waste And I was 'round when Jesus Christ Had his moment of doubt and pain Made damn sure that Pilate Washed his hands and sealed his fate Pleased to meet you Hope you guess my name But what's puzzling you Is the nature of my game ...
Liberals have been acutely suspicious of DeVos. They view her and her husband, Amway heir Dick DeVos, as right-wing activists masquerading as education reformers and philanthropists. Indeed, members of the DeVos family have donated to conservative causes, including anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and have profited in investments in educational companies. She has also been portrayed as both a profiteer and religious zealot, with Lily Eskelsen García of the National Education Association, for example, calling her “dangerously unqualified.” That sentiment has been echoed by many of the nation’s largest teachers unions.
At her confirmation hearing yesterday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, DeVos faced biting questions from Democrats about her qualifications. Crooks and Liars has a clip of Sen. Al Franken's questioning. "Stewart Smalley" was noticeably absent:
At one point, her answers showed she did not understand the difference between proficiency and growth when evaluating student's performance on standardized tests.
Growth is the measure of how much a student learns year-to-year compared to his or her peers. Proficiency is the attainment of specific objective benchmarks, usually determined via standardized testing. There's a huge difference between the two, and the debate is one that heavily influences public education policy.
Franken let DeVos know he wasn't impressed, chiding, "It surprises me that you don't know this issue."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts made it plain that DeVos had no personal experience with managing anything like a "trillion-dollar student loan bank." Nor had she nor any of her children ever applied for a federal student loan. DeVos would not commit to enforcing against private educational institutions rules in place for protect against waste, fraud and abuse.
“Tonight at her confirmation hearing, I asked Betsy DeVos a straight forward set of questions about her education experience and commitment to protecting students cheated by for-profit colleges,” Warren said in a message posted to her Facebook page. “If Betsy DeVos can’t commit to using the Department of Education’s many tools and resources to protect students from fraud, I don’t see how she can be the Secretary of Education.”
Freshman Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire asked how DeVos would protect students with disabilities (like Hassan's) from being denied an adequate education as required by law if they attend a voucher school. Earlier, Sen. Tim Kaine asked whether all schools receiving taxpayer funding should have to meet have to meet the requirements of special education law. DeVos answered, "
“I think that is a matter better left to the states.” So Hassan came back to that with regard to private and voucher schools. Would DeVos enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) that protects children's rights?
“Were you unaware that it is federal law?” Hassan asked.
“I may have confused it,” DeVos said.
“I'm concerned that you seem so unfamiliar with it,” Hassan said, adding that some private school voucher programs supported by DeVos aren’t honoring students’ rights under IDEA.
DeVos said that if confirmed, she’ll be sensitive to the needs of students under the law.
“It is not about sensitivity,” Hassan said. “It is ensuring that every child has equal access to a high-quality education. The reality is the vouchers that you support do not always come out that way. That is why it is something we need to continue to explore.”
Dana Goldstein observed at Slate that while DeVos did a fair job of presenting herself as a moderate, "she revealed herself to be either underprepared for the job or stiffly wedded to an ideological, market-oriented vision of education policy."
Rachel Tabachnick's 2011 profile of DeVos'
“dominion theology” makes the ideology behind
“Biblical Capitalism” sound more like that of a cult.
DeVos said that is decision “best left to locales and states to decide.”
When Murphy asked her again, DeVos said, “I will refer back to Senator Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming … I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”
On Monday night, Michael Flynn Jr. — son of and former chief of staff for President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — tweeted out a story published on Voltaire Network entitled, “General Flynn’s Proposals to Reform Intelligence.”
The story, published last month with a Damascus dateline and authored by Thierry Meyssan — a 9/11 truther who published a book in 2002 entitled, “The Big Lie” — previews how Flynn plans to rollback “the big reforms that took place during the Bush and Obama years.”
Perhaps most significantly, the story says the “radical overhaul” Flynn is planning involves the elimination of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, an office created by President Bush in 2004, with power centralized under Flynn instead.
“The 16 agencies should no longer be accountable to the National Intelligence Director but only to the National Security Adviser,” Meyssan writes. “In other words, they will be accountable to General Flynn personally.”
The story cites anonymous sources, which some informed observers believe include Flynn Jr. himself. Last month, CNN broke news that Flynn Jr. was working in an official capacity for the Trump transition team, but the Trump team quickly distanced themselves from him after Flynn Jr.’s social media posts amplifying unfounded conspiracy theories and racist memes came under scrutiny.
Flynn Sr. is an open Islamophobe who has close ties with Russia. In December 2015, he sat at the same table with Russian President Vladimir Putin at an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of Russia’s state-owned RT television network, an outlet described in the recently unclassified intelligence report about Russia’s manipulation of the presidential election as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” Flynn gave remarks blasting President Obama and said he didn’t know whether the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria widely thought to have been the responsibility of the Russia-backed Assad regime was a “false flag.”
Last week, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, citing an unnamed “senior U.S. government official,” reported that on December 29 — the same day the Obama administration announced retaliatory measures in response to the election meddling — Flynn “phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times.”
Subsequent reports indicate Flynn and Kislyak talked on the phone five times that day. By contrast, the Obama transition team didn’t talk to Kislyak a single time before Obama was sworn in.
This may very well be bullshit. Flynn Jr is even nuttier than his father and that's saying something. The idea of putting the entire Intelligence Community under him is outrageous. What's scary about this is the fact that it's quite believable. He has got a very big ax to grind. Now Trump does too. I could see them doing it.
President-elect Donald Trump told a radio interviewer in October, 2015 that he had met Vladimir Putin “one time…a long time ago” and that he “got along with him great” – a statement that conflicts with his later denials during the campaign that he had ever met or spoken with the Russian President...
Trump discusses Putin with conservative radio host Michael Savage, telling him “it’s wonderful” that the Russians were “really hitting ISIS hard” in Syria.
“Have you ever met Vladimir Putin?” Savage asks.
“Yes,” Trump answers, emphatically.
“You have?” Savage follows up.
“Yes, a long time ago. We got a long great, by the way.”
Savage then asked, “If you win the presidency, do you feel you can do business with Vladimir?
“Yes, I do. I think I would get along very well. I had the Miss Universe pageant, believe it or not, in Moscow two years ago. I got many of the Russian leaders, the top people in Russia, honeslty … These are people, they are looking to do things.”
Trump’s responses to Savage add to the confusing, flatly contradictory comments the President-elect has made about his past dealings with the Russian president. While in Moscow during the Miss Universe content, Trump had given an interview to MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts—who was co-hosting the event—in which, when asked whether he had a “relationship” with Putin, he replied: ” “I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.” He later said in a National Press Club speech in November 2015 that while in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest: “I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”
But when later repeatedly pressed last July 31 by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, Trump gave a very different answers about Putin. “I ‘ve never met him,” Trump said then. “I have no relationship with Putin. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I never met him. … I mean if he’s in the same room or something. But I don’t think so.” …”
“You’ve never spoken to him on the phone?” Stephanopoulos followed up.
“I have never spoken to him on the phone, no,” Trump replied. “Well, I don’t know what it means by having a relationship. I mean he was saying very good things about me, but I don’t have a relationship with him. I didn’t meet him. I haven’t spent time with him. I didn’t have dinner with him. I didn’t go hiking with him. I don’t know — and I wouldn’t know him from Adam except I see his picture and I would know what he looks like.”
During the Stephanopoulos interview, Trump sought to clarify comments he made about Putin during a November 2015 Fox Business channel debate. In the debate, when discussing Putin and the Ukraine crisis, Trump said: “I got to know him [Putin] very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”
In the Stephanopoulos interview, Trump explained what he meant. We did 60 Minutes together,” Trump said. “By the way, not together-together, meaning he was probably shot in Moscow….And I was shot in New York.”
And to think Clinton was defeated by this man because everyone thought she was dishonest because of the emails and benghazi and other trumped up nonsense.
The New York Times reports on a new study of gender attitudes in America, in which a lot of Republican men (white, of course) believe they are oppressed. By women.
To be a woman in the United States is to feel unequal, despite great strides in gender equality, according to a wide-ranging poll about gender in postelection America released Tuesday. It’s catcalls on the street, disrespect at work and unbalanced responsibilities at home. For girls, it’s being taught, more than boys, to aspire to marriage, and for women, it’s watching positions of power go to men.
Men, however, don’t necessarily see it that way.
Those are some of the findings from the poll, by PerryUndem, a nonpartisan research and polling firm whose biggest clients are foundations. It surveyed 1,302 adults in December via the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago’s AmeriSpeak panel.
Eighty-two percent of women said sexism was a problem in society today, and 41 percent of women said they had felt unequal because of their gender.
Men underestimated the sexism felt by the women in their lives, the survey found. And while most respondents agreed it’s a better time to be a man than a woman in our society, only Republican men thought it was a better time to be a woman than a man.
As women across the nation prepare to march in protest of an election in which gender loomed large, the poll results reveal nearly unanimous support for gender equality and policies that would help women — but deep partisan divides in the perception of inequality and of who’s thriving and who’s losing in society.
Many Americans seemed to think others had it better than they did, especially Republican men.
Over all, only 37 percent of respondents thought it was a good time to be a woman in the United States. Fewer thought it was a good time to be a minority woman; 24 percent said it was a good time to be a Latina, and 11 percent a Muslim woman.
The share of people who say they have felt unequal in American society because of aspects of their identity.
Republican men seem to see it differently. Just over half thought it was a good time to be a woman, while only 41 percent of them thought it was a good time to be a man.
Donald J. Trump’s rhetoric has appealed to people who feel this way. At his victory rally in Cincinnati last month, he said about women: “I hate to tell you men, generally speaking, they’re better than you are. Now, if I said it the other way around, I’d be in big trouble.”
Dennis Halaszynski, 81, is a retired police captain in McKeesport, Pa., and a registered Democrat who voted for Mr. Trump. “It’s easier being a woman today than it is a man,” he said in an interview. “The white man is a low person on the totem pole. Everybody else is above the white man.”
Women “should be highly respected,” he said, but they are no longer unequal: “Everything in general is in favor of a woman. No matter what happens in life, it seems like the man’s always at fault.”
Democrats of both genders were much more likely to have felt unequal because of some aspect of their identity – 68 percent, compared with 47 percent of Republicans. Gender, race and religious views were the biggest reasons. The only reasons Republicans were more likely than Democrats to feel unequal were their religious views and military status.
And everyone says they believe in equality, of course. It's just that a lot of people think that all the specific paths to making that happen (if it isn't already true, which 42% of male Trump voters believe), including are unfair. To white men. We can't have that.
And anyway, it's not that bad:
Even men who said women were still treated unequally underestimated the sexism that women experience.
While 41 percent of women said they frequently or sometimes heard sexist language in their daily lives, 26 percent of men thought their partners did. Fifty-four percent of women said they had been touched by a man in an inappropriate way without consent, while 31 percent of men thought their partners had.
“The typical catcalling or comments or inappropriate gestures that men make toward you, I don’t think there’s any women who haven’t experienced that sort of harassment,” said Cristina Hall, 44, who works in customer service in San Diego.
But she was not surprised that men didn’t realize it. “I think when people don’t go through certain experiences, it’s hard for them to understand that it even happens,” Ms. Hall said. “Maybe they’ve never done it to a woman. Plus as women, we don’t typically say anything because of fear we’re not going to be believed or retaliation or shame.”
About 40 percent of women said acts of sexism would be more likely because Mr. Trump won, including sexual assault and feelings of entitlement among men to treat women as sexual objects.
His female voters all trust Ivanka will deliver for them, so that's good.
Meanwhile, this gets right to the heart of the problem. Nobody wants to be a feminazi, amirite? The boys really don't like it:
Despite the widespread support for gender equality and certain feminist policies, only 19 percent of respondents said they considered themselves feminists. There was no clear consensus on who best represented feminism today. The largest shares of people, both women and men, named two black women: Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
Whatever. If there's one thing we've learned from the last election, in spades, is that the most important person in American politics is a white male Real American Trump voter and the woman who wants to please him. Best get used to serving that fine fellow. Just like always.
The media still hasn't figured out how to deal with Trump and his weaseling skills.
They are using the, "If a democrat did this..." model. That one was blown out of the water early. But Trump has even surpassed the "It's Okay When You Are Republican" model. And they are light years away from the "If a regular person did this"..." model. Normal, Democratic, Republican and Decent people norms haven't been applying to Trump. The media hasn't adapted, but we need to.
Now I could coach the press on how to bust him, but they are too busy trying to figure out how to stop being humiliated daily.
If they do get kicked out of the press conferences they might start noticing how Trump has continued to play them. So most of them are beyond help, but that doesn't mean that WE can't do their job.
In the piece Marshall also said, "If you're an activist or politician start mobilizing against his corruption."
I totally agree with this. And when we do, we need to understand how any stories we uncover about him and his corruption will be played out in the mainstream media. We also need to anticipate how Trump will flip a narrative or twist reality to shut down a story. We need to learn to give the press multiple story lines.
That means we might start with salacious headlines but keep going deeper than the surface story.
The reason for this is that in the era of Twitter, Trump is alway getting the last word. Getting him to respond to each new aspect of the story keeps the story going. (In the olden day's people would say, "That story has legs." Sadly the media do NOT think this way--so we need to.
Preparing a story needs to be like preparing a multi-tiered legal case. We are up against a lawyer in a $5,000 suit with mob ties and a Russian flag pin. We need to prepare for narratives, counter narratives, blatant lying, no follow-up, lying surrogates, threats, veiled threats and unveiled threats. There will be blatant lying, visits from "Friends of Joey No-Socks," computer hacking and reality hacking.
We need to anticipate Trump's weasling. Things like "I never said or did what everyone saw me do and say on that video." Plus the "It's 3:00 am, here is a new Tweet to write about!" problem.
So, let's play a game called "I've uncovered a new case of Trump corruption!"
Think you have a "slam dunk" case against Trump? Ask yourself, based on what we know now about how Trump responds, what would make the story fail?
A white weasel standing up near a hole
in the brown, winter grass.
Photo credit: Jana M. Cisar / USFWS
weasel, winter coat weasel white weasel
It's great to get damning info and evidence of corruption, but we must keep working up the chain of this scandal/story. We know that it will be dismissed, spun, handled, ignored and normalized.
Therefore we need to anticipate how he will turn incriminating stories about him and his problems into a story about the hypocrisy of the DEMOCRATS. We need to build into our story how he will turn everything into a story of Trump being the real victim...
After that we need to prepare for how Trump will change what would be a major liability for others into an asset. Not only an asset, but a strength, something a REAL Man would do. Something that Putin and other tough guys could see themselves doing. (BTW, I gamed out this exact scenario with the PeeGate Tape just for grins. I now have a very frightening grin)
The reason that we need to do all this is to prepare for how the "neutral media" will write about us and the inevitable stories we uncover. The people on the left keep throwing up their hands when they see how easily the media are out maneuvered. As I said, the media haven't adapted but neither have our expectations of the media. Our ability to be the media have grown, but we still get put into boxes and weak narratives by journalists and pundits.
Sometimes we need to do the media's job for them. A lot of bloggers started from this position. We need to reinject ourselves in the process, as well as understand the role of instant access in social media.
I know that playing the "Trump is an idiot" card is fun. But playing cards with an idiot savant who can memorize the deck is going to lead to losing.
When Donald Trump tweeted out his angry reaction to Rep. John Lewis’ announcement that he would not attend the inauguration, a lot of people were aghast that he would accuse a Civil Rights icon of “all talk, talk, talk — no action.” They couldn’t believe the incoming president would so crudely caricature Lewis’ district as being “in horrible shape and falling apart not to mention crime infested” when Lewis represents Atlanta, which Forbes recently ranked as the ninth-best place in America for businesses and career development, and among the best for job growth and education. The city’s crime rate has also been steadily declining since the ’90s. In other words, as usual, Trump was not telling the truth.
It’s important to recognize what was really going on there, however. It seems obvious to me that Trump had never heard of Lewis and had no idea where he is from. He was reflexively repeating his standard campaign talking points about the “inner city” in which he complained that nobody has ever done anything about the dystopian hellholes he believes all African-Americans inhabit. Trump claimed to be the only man in the country who could fix the problem, although he never shared the details. If you look at his history, however, it’s not hard to figure out what he plans.
Trump’s view of race in America is very simple: If police could take the gloves off it would fix whatever problems exist. He is particularly adamant about applying the death penalty. He famously took out a full-page ad in New York newspapers after the arrests of the young men known as the Central Park Five (four of them black and one Latino) in the rape and beating of a white jogger in 1989. The five men spent years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence and the confession of another man, a career criminal with a long prison record. Trump has said he still believes they are guilty.
The big, bold title of the ad was “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY, BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” Even then, Trump wanted to make America great again by going back to the days of his youth when the cops could crack some heads. The ad said:
When I was young, I sat in a diner with my father and witnessed two young bullies cursing and threatening a very frightened waitress. Two cops rushed in, lifted up the thugs and threw them out the door, warning them never to cause trouble again. I miss the feeling of security New York’s finest once gave to the citizens of this City. Let our politicians give back our police department’s power to keep us safe. Unshackle them from the constant chant of “police brutality” which every petty criminal hurls immediately at an officer who has just risked his or her life to save another’s. We must cease our continuous pandering to the criminal population of this City. Give New York back to the citizens who have earned the right to be New Yorkers.
Trump has a few bedrock beliefs he has held for decades: The world is laughing at America, Asian nations are making fools of the U.S. on trade, we must bring back the death penalty and law enforcement must be given more power. This was the fundamental philosophy that propelled him to the presidency.
After the election, the Fraternal Order of Police issued a wish list for the first 100 days. It includes reinstituting racial profiling, deporting Dreamers (undocumented immigrants brought here as children) and ending sanctuary-city programs. Whatever advances we may have made toward reform of the criminal justice system don’t look as if they are going to hold.
Trump’s loyalty and reverence for the police, and his racist 1970s stereotypes of African-American communities makes for a dangerous brew, particularly considering recent Pew Research center findings about attitudes in law enforcement. That report paints a highly disturbing portrait of police officers who increasingly see themselves as under siege and who long for more power and authority — with important differences in attitudes between white and black police officers, particularly regarding the protests against police shootings. That points to a potentially volatile situation.
Trump often brings up the distressing gun violence in Chicago as if it wer emblematic of all major American cities. It’s not, actually. This week a new Justice Department study about Chicago’s finest was released, suggesting that the gloves are already off — police in the Windy City routinely use whatever force they deem necessary, and there is very little accountability for it. Illinois recently repealed the death penalty after it was revealed that at least 13 men had been wrongly condemned to Death Row.
Apparently, Trump’s “get tough” policing doesn’t work in real life. Not that he is likely to believe that. As he said during the campaign and as far back as 1990 in this Playboy interview:
In order to bring law and order back into our cities, we need the death penalty and authority given back to the police … It sets an example. Nobody can make the argument that the death penalty isn’t a deterrent.
In reality, anyone who knows anything about the subject will make precisely that argument. Trump simply won’t listen. He believes what he believes and from what we can tell, he is incapable of changing his mind about any of it.
As Salon reports, neo-Nazi icon Mike Enoch — the pseudonym used by the man who created the pro-white nationalist website The Right Stuff — has resigned from his role at the website after being outed by rivals as a New York website developer named Mike Peinovich.
The real shocker, however, wasn’t the identity of Peinovich, but the identity of his wife, who happens to be a Jewish woman. This is particularly surprising because Peinovich often makes “jokes” about the Holocaust on his podcast, where he also regularly talks about killing Jewish people.
In a post on The Right Stuff’s password-protected forums, Peinovich admitted that he’s married to a Jewish woman and said he didn’t want to see anyone making excuses for his longtime deception of his fellow white nationalists.
“Yes my wife is who they say she is, I won’t even bother denying it, I won’t bother making excuses,” he wrote. “If this makes you want to leave the movement, or to have nothing to do with TRS, then I understand. Don’t lie for me. Don’t try to defend me to those attacking me. Don’t jeopardize your own reputation by defending things that you don’t think you can.”
While Peinovich’s downfall has drawn many cheers from his rivals in the white nationalist movement, many longtime fans were depressed by this revelation.
“Enoch’s rants were both enlightening and triggering, but now I cannot listen to them the same way again,” wrote one. “It just feels like they’re just more actors in the same play being orchestrated by the Jews.”
Recently, civil rights icon John Lewis criticized Donald Trump, saying he wouldn't be a "legitimate president," and Trump, true to form, issued a factually challenged attack on Lewis for being "All talk, talk, talk - no action." For added irony, this occurred just before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Lewis of course actually marched with King and was severely beaten in the course of fighting for voting rights. Meanwhile, Trump was elected in the first presidential election after John Roberts and other conservatives on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Lewis helped secure. Voting rights continue to be under attack and there's plenty of bad faith evident from conservatives and Republicans on the subject. Given MLK Day and Trump's looming inauguration, I found myself pondering these issues and some words by King.
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice." (1955)
"No justice, no peace" is the rally version of this one. I've seen many pieces, often with a scolding tone, arguing how everyone who didn't vote for Trump should try to understand and sympathize with Trump voters, who are typified as white, working class and economically anxious (the working class part isn't entirely true). I've seen much less discussion of the economic anxieties of folks who aren't white and why their concerns matter less, or conversations about Trump's horribly plutocratic policies, a standard conservative/Republican approach that will not help anyone but the rich. (Republicans keep invoking the middle class and running against the predictable consequences of their own economic policies and then offer as their solution more extreme versions of the same.) Nor have I seen anyone who's complained about how mean liberals are to conservatives address the issue of Trump proposing to discriminate against Muslims (which was a planned statement, not one of his many crazy, off-the-cuff remarks). That wasn't a deal-breaker for Trump voters, and I've yet to hear from those complaining about social discomfort whether they approve of the loss of actual rights for a minority group or just don't consider it that big an issue. (The two concerns aren't equivalent.) We're not hearing honest and in-depth discussion of any of this stuff, and that prevents any kind of meaningful reconciliation. True peace can't be achieved through capitulating on essential rights or accepting a rigged system of justice and prosperity.
"The time is always right to do something right." (1964)
This one serves as a gut-check. It's not always hard to tell right from wrong; the kicker is whether we're willing to deal with the hassle. King championed some causes that were unpopular in his time and many still are – voting rights, racial equality, aid for the poor and opposition to war, to name a few. Activism isn't easy or quick or glamourous, nor is there any guarantee of success. All that work may never pay off in the material world, at least not in one's lifetime. And sometimes even when that work succeeds, it may be undone later and the same struggle will need to be refought.
"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way." (Often attributed to King, although I haven't been able to verify a source.)
It's easy to look at the current political climate and the year to come with dread, or feel overwhelmed by all the battles to come. It's easy to get burnt out as an activist. I like this line because it makes those challenges a bit more manageable. No one has the energy to fight every struggle. Realistically, with all three branches of government in Republican control, the destructive ideology of movement conservatism and the level of conscience demonstrated by elected officials and political operatives, plenty of good policies are likely to be shredded and many bad measures will be enacted. It may be possible to block some of them. But it’ll be important to call out wrongdoing, go on record and bring that up in future battles, especially elections. And although it may be possible to win over some of the people who voted for Obama and then Trump, it would be wise to register many new voters, motivate registered nonvoters and fight to make sure that more people who want to vote actually can do so. The long game for a healthy democracy depends a great deal on small things.
Trump press ban. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
by Tom Sullivan
The Trump threat to evict the press corp from the White House might actually do reporters some good, writes Hullabaloo alum David Atkins at Washington Monthly. Putting to bed the "dreary spectacle" of press room briefings where reporters compete in a high school-ish competition to be called on is overdue:
The Trump Administration will be actively hostile to the press, and the press should see itself as hostile in return. Journalists from major media organizations would likely do better reporting separated from the high-school-cafeteria environment of the briefing room, and would be better advised to seek out leaks from disgruntled Republicans than from cozy access granted by being a good “team player.”
At Politico, Jack Shafer believes Trump is making America great again by giving the press no reason to kiss up to the White House in the name of "access." Trump's inauguration marks an end to the "transactional relationship between sources and journalists." It is Liberation Day:
Opportunities to ignore the White House minders and investigate Trump announce themselves almost daily. For instance, the load-bearing walls of the Office of Government Ethics are groaning with the weight of filings by his appointees, as the New York Times reported earlier this month. Trump has installed the “wealthiest cabinet in modern American history,” the Times says. Its website has already crashed from public queries and the OGE director has denounced the Trump plan to avoid conflict of interest as “wholly inadequate.” Reporters will be mining these forms for months and producing damaging results without any Trump administration confirmation or cooperation.
As Trump shuts down White House access to reporters, they will infest the departments and agencies around town that the president has peeved. The intelligence establishment, which Trump has deprecated over the issue of Russian hacking, owes him no favors and less respect. It will be in their institutional interest to leak damaging material on Trump. The same applies to other bureaucracies. Will a life-long EPA employ take retirement knowing he won’t be replaced, or if he is, by somebody who will take policy in a direction he deplores? Such an employee could be a fine source. Trump, remember, will only be president, not emperor, and as such subject to all the passive-aggressive magic a bureaucracy can produce. Ditto the Pentagon, the State Department, the FBI, and even conventionally newsless outposts like Transportation and Labor.
Trump the Incurious, the president-elect with no clue who John Lewis is, probably thinks Deep Throat means something entirely different from what it once meant in Washington. If the post-Watergate press unlearns its stenography, Trump may actually learn something as president. Like eating his strained spinach like a good boy, he won't like it.
Josh Marshall thinks Trump's attempts to bully the press are "no different from the dominance politics he played on his opponents in the GOP primaries." Bark loudly in the other dog's face until he submissively rolls over onto his back and pees in the air. It's the same game the right used to "work the refs" in the press for so long. Trump is just better at it.
Shafer quotes Newt Gingrich from an appearance on Sean Hannity's show. He lays out Trump's game plan:
Trump and his team “need to go out there and understand they have it in their power to set the terms of this dialogue,” Gingrich said on the Jan. 11 episode.
A Russian journalist Marshall cites congratulates the American press on being screwed:
This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules — which he can change at any time without any notice. You can’t — in Putin’s case — campaign to vote him out of office. Your readership is dwindling because ad budgets are shrinking — while his ratings are soaring, and if you want to keep your publication afloat, you’ll have to report on everything that man says as soon as he says it, without any analysis or fact-checking, because 1) his fans will not care if he lies to their faces; 2) while you’re busy picking his lies apart, he’ll spit out another mountain of bullshit and you’ll be buried under it.
Trump wants to bully the press and profit off the presidency. He's told us this clearly in his own words. We need to accept the reality of both. The press should cover him on that basis, as a coward and a crook. The big corporate media organizations may not be able to use those words, I understand, but they should employ that prism. The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won't obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don't surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.
Trump the Message Undisciplined no doubt thinks press coverage works the way Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" does. That in the event of negative stories his presidency has magic ways "to try to shut the whole thing down.” Good luck with that. It didn't stop Deep Throat and print-only newspapers. It's not likely to in the age of the Internet and social media. But first the press needs to unlearn how to sit and roll over.
Americans divide evenly on whether the incoming Trump administration is complying with ethics laws. And while a bare majority in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll accepts President-elect Donald Trump’s business ownership plan, three-quarters say he should release his tax returns.
Contrary to his comment that the American public doesn’t care about the issue, four in 10 of those polled say they care “a lot” about Trump releasing his tax records.
See PDF with full results and charts here.
This report is a first look at results of an extensive ABC/Post pre-inaugural poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Results on Trump’s handling of the transition, views on his policy proposals and expectations for his presidency will be released Tuesday morning, with results Wednesday morning on President Barack Obama’s final ratings as president.
In terms of ethics, the poll finds Americans are split on whether or not Trump, his family and his advisers are complying with federal ethics laws: Forty-three percent think so, while 44 percent think not.
Partisan and ideological gaps are wide: Seventy-nine percent of Republicans say Trump is complying with ethics laws, dropping to 44 percent among independents and just 16 percent of Democrats. Similarly, it’s 72 percent among strong conservatives, slipping to 56 percent among “somewhat” conservative Americans, then plummeting to 37 percent of moderates and 25 percent of liberals.
These divisions also are evident in another measure: Among Americans who say they wanted Trump to win the presidency -- 36 percent of the public -- a broad 85 percent think he’s in compliance ethically. That drops to just 11 percent of those who wanted Hillary Clinton to win (39 percent of all adults) and a third of those who preferred other candidates, or none of them.
Despite criticism by some ethics officials, 52 percent overall say Trump’s plan to continue owning his businesses while placing them in a trust managed by his sons is sufficient. Forty-two percent instead say he should sell his businesses, peaking at 71 percent of Clinton supporters, vs. just 10 percent of those who favored Trump for the office.
Over half the country thinks it's just fine if Trump runs his business out of the white house and basically sells the presidential seal as his "brand."
And when I think about the fits they threw over Al Gore doing a fundraiser at a Buddhist temple or the horror of Clinton losing money on a land deal years before he even ran for president it gives me a headache.
They do want him to show his tax returns. But obviously, if he does it half the country will say it's all good and that will be that.
He can do what he wants for the time being and his people will march behind him into hell. I don't know what it will take to get them to change course.
In an interview with German news magazine Bild published this weekend, Trump said that BMW should reconsider plans to build a $1 billion plant in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. The automaker plans to begin building the BMW 3 Series sedan there in 2019.
BMW says that it will sell the cars it makes in Mexico all over the world, including in the United States, regardless of Trump's plan to impose a tarriff on any Mexican-built car that come into the U.S.
The new Mexican plant is meant to be a boost to the Series 3 production that's already underway in Germany and China -- BMW isn't relocating any jobs to Mexico.
BMW's largest plant in the world is in Spartanburg, S.C., that employs 8,800 workers. The facility assembled more than 400,000 X model crossover vehicles last year, 70% of which were shipped to other countries. In fact, BMW is the largest U.S. exporter of cars.
"The BMW Group is at home in the USA," said the company's statement.
BMW builds far more cars at its U.S. plant than it sells here. In 2016 it sold 288,000 in the U.S.
It's a multi-national company that both exports and imports cars, some of which are manufactured here and some of which are not. I know that's complicated for Trump and his voters to understand but if he wants to insure that Americans have high paying manufacturing jobs he might want to take exports into consideration before he spouts off like a fool on these subjects.
But hey, Trump's gonna Trump and apparently there's nothing anyone can do about it.
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.
Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.
After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
The tortuous road which has led from Montgomery, Alabama to Oslo bears witness to this truth. This is a road over which millions of Negroes are travelling to find a new sense of dignity. This same road has opened for all Americans a new era of progress and hope. It has led to a new Civil Rights Bill, and it will, I am convinced, be widened and lengthened into a super highway of justice as Negro and white men in increasing numbers create alliances to overcome their common problems.
I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." I still believe that We Shall overcome!
This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.
Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood. I say I come as a trustee, for in the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally.
Every time I take a flight, I am always mindful of the many people who make a successful journey possible - the known pilots and the unknown ground crew.
So you honor the dedicated pilots of our struggle who have sat at the controls as the freedom movement soared into orbit. You honor, once again, Chief Lutuli of South Africa, whose struggles with and for his people, are still met with the most brutal expression of man's inhumanity to man. You honor the ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth. Most of these people will never make the headline and their names will not appear in Who's Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvellous age in which we live - men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization - because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake.
I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners - all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty - and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.
The man who will be president next week at this time suggested that the head of the CIA leaked fake news about him on twitter yesterday:
Notice how fake news is capitalized. He's like an excited 13 year old girl.
The so-called fake news has been circulating for months. The leak was the fact that the president and the president-elect had been briefed on it. And that wasn't fake. And who knows who leaked that? It could have come from the White House.
It wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing for a president to go to war with the Intelligence Community. But Donald Trump is not that president. He isn't doing it because he understands they have too much power or because he doesn't think secrecy is appropriate in a democracy. He would happily use the power of these institutions for his own ends.
He's upset because of this Russian investigation of which he may or may not have had knowledge but for which he's responsible nonetheless. If he knew about it he's in big trouble. If he didn't he's being an absolute fool to let it fester like this. The smart move would be to disavow it and tell the country he wants a thorough investigation. Anyone with half a brain would take that route. The fact that he refuses is what's causing the suspicions to rise.
Of course, he is a cretinous moron so who knows why he's doing it? But it's crippling him before he even gets started. When I went through all the political cartoons yesterday to choose some for the Sunday Funnies, I was very surprised to see that the majority of them were about the Russian scandal. This thing is not going away.
This column is about what life will be like under Trump, based on discernible patterns in other countries where populists gained power, especially those with possible murky Russian ties. I write this not as the kind of airy opiner now ubiquitous via the internet – just one more shrill partisan voice in the noise – but as a professional with specific two-decades-long experience in the subject. Experience on the ground that is, as a reporter and commentator. I have now covered upwards of a dozen countries that have buckled under the emergent wave of populist leaders, from the Far East to the Mideast to Europe and the Americas. Many of the countries have done so quite democratically, at first. That emergent wave has crashed onto US shores in a fashion thoroughly precedented abroad.
Recently, I wrote about how I’d seen all the tricks in the Trump campaign before, actually in Tbilisi, Georgia, during the 2012 national elections when the pro-US candidate lost to a pro-Russian populist. At that time, no one was ready to believe the Russians capable of influencing Western style elections. Many still don’t, even after Trump. We now have enough experience of populists in power in the West and elsewhere to guess intelligently at what’s to come in the US; what life will feel like under Trump. Here is a checklist to compare against in the coming months and years. We will all be happier if none of this comes to pass but the weight of evidence suggests the worst. Equally, none of this implies that supporters of Trump don’t have legitimate issues on their side which, sadly, other politicians won’t address. Which is how populists come to power.
Already the intelligence services and Mr.Trump have squared off. Think about that for a long moment. Then think about what Trump will do. He will appoint new chiefs. They will fight with their rank and file. He will try to downsize and defund. There will be pushback. Imagine what that will look like in the media. Then there’s the ‘Emoluments Clause’ that, according to various experts, requires Trump resign from his businesses. He won’t fully. His kids certainly wont. His kids will also occupy indefinable White House positions with disproportionate power, raising all manner of nepotism questions. For a long while, Trump will ignore his more-or-less respectable cabinet chiefs and get things done via non-accredited unofficial advisors. Picking through the legal minefield, the courts and ultimately the Supreme Court will be very busy. So, think about vacancies on the Supreme Court. Watch Republicans in Congress divide endlessly over the issues. There will be incessant all-against-all confusion in America’s institutions – as there was in the very process of the election. All this chaos – cui bono? Confusion and uncertainty creates a yearning for strongman rule.
Democratic Institutions Will Save US
Here is a scary cri de ceour from a Hungarian intellectual with several years of living under populist rule. Published in the Washington Post, the op-ed warns us against putting faith in the rectifying force of statutes or institutions “Do not be distracted by a delusion of impending normalization. Do not ascribe a rectifying force to statutes, logic, necessities or fiascoes. Remember the frequently reset and always failed illusions attached to an eventual normalization of Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Orban.” In short, no ‘normalization’ happens under the corrective effect of institutions. Rather, institutions themselves get eroded.
Everything Is Equal And Opposite
At first it was Trump forecasting doubts on electoral fairness. After the election, it was Hillary’s side. First the FBI seemed to take Trump’s side. Then the CIA took the opposite side. Rightwingers went with Putin over their own national security agencies. Prog types unprecedentedly sided with national security. Suddenly Up is down, down is up. Everything can become its reverse, moral equivalency will reign. Trump’s conflicts of interest? Answer: What about the Clinton Foundation. Trump’s (and Kissinger’s) connections to Russia? Answer: What about the Clinton Foundation. Kremlinologists of recent years call this ‘whataboutism’ because the Kremlin’s various mouthpieces deployed the technique so exhaustively against the US. So Putin commits Georgia, Crimea, Donbass, MH17, Olympic doping, poisoning and killing of opponents, Assad, Allepo etc.? Answer: What about Iraq and Libya.
The suspicious similarity between Kremlin propaganda and Trump propaganda surely cannot mean that the Kremlin influences the Trump campaign? Surely not. Preposterous notion. But just in case the patterns don’t go away, remember: the Kremlin’s goal is not merely to create national bifurcation. The goal is to create confusion of allegiance, of trust, of truth, loss of faith in the open society, in the very epistemology of empirical fact. You’d think such a quasi-metaphysical inversion of all certainty couldn’t be deliberately achieved. You’d have to be paranoid to believe that.
I doubt things will unfold exactly they way it unfolded in other places. And Trump is very, very dumb so who knows how that would impact any scenario. But it's probably a good idea to take into account other peoples' experiences and perceptions of similar events.
On the other hand, the loss of trust, of faith in institutions and the epistomology of empirical fact started in this country before the Trump campaign. The American right has been on board with that for a while. Recall:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
*BTW: As I've written numerous times, it is not unprecedented for the left to be credulous of IC analyses (as opposed to covert activity) and the right to be skeptical of CIA analyses going back to the 1950s. Neither is it unprecedented for the right to be supportive of the FBI or the FBI to be supportive of the right. That part of this story isn't as surprising as the rest of it.