Must Read Op-Ed and Profiles


#270

Republicans and conservative media did their best Thursday to give the impression that the latest revelations in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation pose little threat to the administration and their party. But the signs are clear that there’s one person who isn’t buying this story: President Donald Trump.

The president tried to brush off the news Thursday morning that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower Moscow with Kremlin officials. Cohen said he did so out of loyalty to the president. In response to this plea, Trump called Cohen a “liar” and “weak.”

Whenever threatened, it’s Trump’s instinct to lash out. But this attack made little sense.

Cohen is admitting that he lied — and now he says he’s telling the truth. Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani is saying that the president’s answers about Trump Tower Moscow given to Mueller “match” Cohen’s. But if that’s true (which is highly doubtful), then that means it’s the Trump team’s official position that Cohen is being honest now when he gives his account of the Trump Tower Moscow project — which means he was lying to Congress earlier, at a time when he was still working for Trump and serving his interests. So in their desperation to respond to this story, the Trump team is providing incoherent and damaging answers.

And after the news broke about Cohen’s guilty plea, Trump left for Argentina to attend the G-20 summit. He had had plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit, but announced on the Twitter that he was canceling those plans because of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Many argued it was more likely that he was avoiding the bad optics of meeting with Putin in the light of the new developments in the probe.

Trump later also canceled formal meetings with South Korea and Turkey — suggesting he is truly scrambling. Clearly, the latest Mueller news is not sitting well with Trump.

Michelle Kosinski, a CNN diplomatic correspondent, reported on Twitter that a source told her Trump was in a “terrible mood” and “spooked and completely distracted”.


#271

Charles M Blow makes some excellent points in his column this week.

Nixon had no propaganda arm. Trump has one. It’s called Fox News. There is little daylight between the network’s programming and the White House’s priorities. If Trump goes down, so too does Fox, in some measure. So the network has a vested interest in defending Trump until the bitter end, and that narrative-crafting could impede an otherwise natural and normal disaffection with Trump.

Furthermore, Trump does not strike me as a man amenable to contrition or one interested in the health and stability of the nation.

I expect Trump to admit nothing, even if faced with proof positive of his own misconduct. There is nothing in the record to convince me otherwise. He will call the truth a lie and vice versa.

I also don’t think that Trump would ever voluntarily leave office as Nixon did, even if he felt impeachment was imminent. I’m not even sure that he would willingly leave if he were impeached and the Senate moved to convict, a scenario that is hard to imagine at this point.

I don’t think any of this gets better, even as the evidence becomes clearer. I don’t believe that Trump’s supporters would reverse course in the same way that Nixon’s did. I don’t believe that the facts Mueller presents will be considered unassailable. I don’t believe Trump will go down without bringing the country down with him.

In short, I don’t believe we are reaching the end of a nightmare, but rather we are entering one. This will not get easier, but harder.

The country is about to enter the crucible. This test of our republic is without a true comparison. And we do not have a clear picture of how the test will resolve. But, I believe damage is certain.


#272

Well, this explains why Putin and Salman are high-fiving each other. They own a mole and a sycophant in Trump’s inner-circle at the White House. It also explains why Trump has been so soft on the Saudi’s heinous torture and dismemberment of Khashoggi. Hard to stay mad at a guy who’s BFF with your favorite daughter’s husband.

Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king.

Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.

But even with the restrictions in place, Mr. Kushner, 37, and Prince Mohammed, 33, kept chatting, according to three former White House officials and two others briefed by the Saudi royal court. In fact, they said, the two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls.

The exchanges continued even after the Oct. 2 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was ambushed and dismembered by Saudi agents, according to two former senior American officials and the two people briefed by the Saudis.

And so on, and so on. Appalling. How many of our nation’s vital secrets has Kushner leaked to Salman who has then passed them to Putin? Hard to imagine it isn’t happening in light of these revelations.


#273

Good point @Keaton_James …Jared only was able to shore up that 666 Fifth Ave debt in the last 6 months…and his security clearance was not fully cleared until perhaps the same last 7 months. But we know that Kushner was digging into a lot of top secret intel, and I believe he was all to happy to pass it along as you say. This more than suspicious alliance with MBS is very disheartening…aligning himself with power and money sources, despite MBS’s immoral character.

Same can be applied to the Chinese…with Jared being very friendly with Wendi Deng, who is Chinese and the ex-wife of Murdoch.

Early in 2017 US officials urged Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the US president, to exercise caution around Murdoch, according to the Wall Street Journal. Murdoch is a close friend of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump.

Concerns were raised by US officials about a counter-intelligence assessment that Murdoch was lobbying for a high-profile construction project in Washington funded by the Chinese government, anonymous sources told the US paper.

Wendi Deng Murdoch is former wife of Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Wall Street Journal.

The construction project was a proposed $100m (£73m) Chinese garden, which was reportedly declared a national security risk because the design included plans for a tall tower that officials were concerned could be used for surveillance. The garden was planned to be built less than five miles from both the Capitol and the White House.


#274

Here it comes…a plea from former Senators, albeit mostly Democratic are sending out a SOS for the current Senate to take heed and protect our democracy. They are asking them to stand up and fight for it.

Opinion

We are former senators. The Senate has long stood in defense of democracy — and must again.

Dear Senate colleagues,

As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.

It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate.

We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.

During our service in the Senate, at times we were allies and at other times opponents, but never enemies. We all took an oath swearing allegiance to the Constitution. Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.

At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.

Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.

Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Don Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John W. Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)


#275

This is a very powerful and moving tribute to journalists around the globe who risk their lives and freedom to act as the guardians of truth and who protect us from oppressive, totalitarian regimes. I highly recommend taking five minutes to view this – it is stirring and inspiring.

(Shoutout to @dragonfly9 who drew attention to the Time Person of the Year issue in another post today. Without that informative link, I would not have experienced this remarkable video.)


#276

Yes, guilt by action and association - whoever T attracts, they keep the bar very low.

NY Times Editorial board

In pleading for mercy, Mr. Cohen told the judge a sad tale of a starry-eyed man led astray by “a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

“Time and time again,” he said of his ex-employer, “I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass.”

Lest a tear come to your eye, let’s be clear that Mr. Cohen’s “path of darkness” began with a sleazy legal practice years before meeting Mr. Trump. Prosecutors have made a persuasive case that the moral compass of Mr. Cohen, who also pleaded guilty to tax evasion and bank fraud, didn’t locate true north until he was caught and his home, office and hotel room were raided by the F.B.I.

Mr. Cohen, once just an example of one kind of person Mr. Trump draws close to him, is now also a case study in where that association can leave them.


#277

How do you handle lies on top of lies…? You don’t.

Check, please.

Trump has been walking a tightrope of lies all his adult life, and now he is teetering. He has inflated his wealth. He has aggrandized his business acumen. He has managed to convince supporters that he is a respected businessman who brilliantly commanded a vast real estate empire. In a fanciful 2015 statement of his net worth, he claimed that his brand alone — just the name Trump — was worth $3 billion.

In reality, Trump has never come anywhere near the top rank of New York real estate developers. He ran not a huge, sprawling enterprise but a small family firm in which he and his children had direct control. He was seen as so unreliable that genuine moguls refused to have anything to do with him. When he tried to go big — risking everything on casino development in Atlantic City — he failed miserably despite his father’s efforts to bail him out. His bankers were left holding the bag, and now most major financial institutions won’t lend the Trump Organization a dime. It was Trump’s undeniable skill as a television performer on “The Apprentice” that saved him from total ruin.

Now the law is beginning to squeeze him from all directions. His former consigliere, Michael Cohen, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison. One of the crimes Cohen confessed to was violating federal campaign finance laws by orchestrating six-figure payments to a Playboy model and an adult-film star, in the weeks before the 2016 election, to ensure their silence about sexual encounters they say they had with Trump. Cohen says he did this at Trump’s direction.

Trump’s see-no-evil allies dismiss Cohen as a proven liar about other matters. But also Wednesday, the company that owns the National Enquirer — American Media Inc. (AMI), which is run by Trump’s close friend David Pecker — admitted playing a major role in that same hush-money scheme. The aim, according to the company, was to help Trump win the election.

Trump responded by tweeting that “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.” But in the past, the president has also said that there weren’t any hush-money payments; that if such payments were made, he didn’t know about them; and that the payments, which totaled $280,000, were a “simple private transaction.”

The bottom line is that two witnesses, Cohen and AMI, independently now implicate the president of the United States in the commission of two felonies.

The campaign finance case is being brought by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Back in Washington, meanwhile, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has been busy, as well.


#278

Incensed Judge Emmett Sullivan was galled enough at Flynn and his lawyers suggestion that Flynn was ambushed into his guilty plea to delay the sentencing because there still may be some more compliance that Flynn can be providing to Mueller.

Michael Flynn learned that incorporating crackpot Trumpers’ conspiracy theories in your legal brief can get you jailed. Flynn’s lawyer, by including in his sentencing brief the suggestion that President Trump’s former national security adviser had been entrapped or tricked into making false statements to the FBI, put his client at risk of serving real jail time. That’s the difference between spouting nonsense on state TV and doing so in the realm of the law: In the latter, facts and truth matter, and people are held accountable for what they do and say.

We should remember that Flynn was given no guarantee that he would avoid jail time. Former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance tells me: “A plea agreement always explicitly states that the agreement is not binding on the judge. And although judges typically go along with the term’s of a plea agreement . . . it’s not impossible for a judge to disagree with the deal the parties have struck and try to insert his own judgment in its place.”

One way to incite a judge to disregard a plea is to convey the sense the defendant is pleading guilty, but isn’t really accepting his guilt. That’s what happened in court. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, however, concluded that the crimes Flynn was prosecuted or, if not treason as he inquired, were of such seriousness that jail time might be appropriate.


(Renee) #279

Dragonfly, only this week of 12/16+ has it seemed like Trump is starting to get ‘bad press’ from FOX (due to court hearings and other news which I suppose is where I should be posting - cut/paste post and repeat?) and I think he is finally getting the vetting now he should have had pre-election. This is a comment I heard but it really seemed to resonate. As the market continues to take a dump I think his negative ratings will continue. But as in all things Trump - who can say when or how the ‘base’ might actually figure it out or believe it. I think the doubt factor has to higher (than 40%) but people are not owning up to it. Max


#280

:pushpin: This short profile on Mattis from 2011

Back in 1998, he was making his final delivery to Marine Corps Combat Development Command headquarters at Quantico when he asked the Marine on duty who the officer of the day was.
“The young Marine said, ‘Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis.’”
Krulak thought the Marine had misunderstood him, so he asked again, but he got the same answer.
“I looked around the duty hut and in the back, there were two cots: One for the officer of the day and one for young Marine. I said, ‘OK, let me cut through all of this: Who was the officer who slept in that bed last night?’
“And the Marine said, ‘Sir, Brigadier General Mattis.’”
At that moment, Mattis walked around the corner.
“So I said to him, ‘Jim, what are you standing the duty for?’ “And he said, ‘Sir, I looked at the duty roster for today and there was a young major who had it who is married and had a family; and so I’m a bachelor, I thought why should the major miss out on the fun of having Christmas with his family, and so I took the duty for him.’ ”
Never before or since has Krulak run into a general officer standing duty on Christmas Day.
“I think it says volumes about Jim Mattis and his leadership style,” Krulak said. “He did it very unobtrusively. He just took the duty.”

I posted this as an example of the image that General James Mattis cultivated with his style of leadership. And then Trump happened…


#281

NYTimes: The Ghost of Trump Chaos Future
The Ghost of Trump Chaos Future

Two years ago, after the shock of Donald Trump’s election, financial markets briefly freaked out, then quickly recovered. In effect, they decided that while Trump was manifestly unqualified for the job, temperamentally and intellectually, it wouldn’t matter. He might talk the populist talk, but he’d walk the plutocratic walk. He might be erratic and uninformed, but wiser heads would keep him from doing anything too stupid.

In other words, investors convinced themselves that they had a deal: Trump might sound off, but he wouldn’t really get to make policy. And, hey, taxes on corporations and the wealthy would go down.

But now, just in time for Christmas, people are realizing that there was no such deal — or at any rate, that there wasn’t a sanity clause. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Put an unstable, ignorant, belligerent man in the Oval Office, and he will eventually do crazy things.

To be clear, voters have been aware for some time that government by a bad man is bad government. That’s why Democrats won a historically spectacular majority of the popular vote in the midterms. Even the wealthy, who have been the prime beneficiaries of Trump policies, are unhappy: A CNBC survey finds that millionaires, even Republican millionaires, have turned sharply against the tweeter in chief.


#282

What kind of crazy has this man wrought…dumbfounding and dangerous.

Trump is incompetent, impulsive and amoral. Heaven help us all.

It has become a cliche to quote William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming,” written almost 100 years ago in the aftermath of World War I. But no one has said it better: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . . And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

We should acknowledge such apocalyptic thoughts so that we may conquer them. For many millennia, this has been the season of hope and renewal — the time of year when, in the Northern Hemisphere, the daylight hours begin to grow longer and the promise of spring, still months away, is assured. While Christians celebrate the birth of their savior, others mark the turning of a page and the coming of a brighter tomorrow.

So we must be realistic but never hopeless. Much has gone wrong. But it is in our power to put things right.

Political news refused to take a break for the holidays. Here is a recap of what occurred in the whirlwind week of Dec. 17-21. (Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

It is difficult, at the moment, to fully assess the damage Trump is wreaking. We have never had a president like him, so history is a poor guide. For his racism, we can perhaps look back to Woodrow Wilson; his general unfitness to hold the nation’s highest office recalls the hapless Andrew Johnson. Maybe Andrew Jackson was as impetuous, maybe Richard M. Nixon as venal.


#283

One after the other…Op-ed pieces that scream get rid of this man.

NYTimes: Time for G.O.P. to Threaten to Fire Trump
Time for G.O.P. to Threaten to Fire Trump

It was the moment when you had to ask whether we really can survive two more years of Trump as president, whether this man and his demented behavior — which will get only worse as the Mueller investigation concludes — are going to destabilize our country, our markets, our key institutions and, by extension, the world. And therefore his removal from office now has to be on the table.

I believe that the only responsible choice for the Republican Party today is an intervention with the president that makes clear that if there is not a radical change in how he conducts himself — and I think that is unlikely — the party’s leadership will have no choice but to press for his resignation or join calls for his impeachment.

It has to start with Republicans, given both the numbers needed in the Senate and political reality. Removing this president has to be an act of national unity as much as possible — otherwise it will tear the country apart even more. I know that such an action is very difficult for today’s G.O.P., but the time is long past for it to rise to confront this crisis of American leadership.


(Renee) #284

I propose Jethro Tull’s song Locomotive Breath as the Trump investigative/admin… theme song.

And Mueller stole the handle and the train is won’t stop going no it won’t slow down…

The entire song could be made so with no changes - but I do like the part of the “all time loser” as Trump.


(M A Croft) #285

(Renee) #286

There have to be GOP members saying cut our loss now and regain favor in 2020… allowing them to primary him or replace and primary someone. Even if McConnell is ready to Titanic the Senate and the country to - really just get the courts changed? Or is there something worse being breed in the dark corners of GOP leadership?


#287

How Mark Burnett Resurrected Donald Trump as an Icon of American Success


A bit more insight into the character of DT.


#288

Yes…Burnett’s been instrumental in showcasing T…and has been very loyal to him.

Hey, FWIW

posted on…Link to Portrait of a President

We’ve got this guy cornered…and hopefully outta office.

HNY


#289

Mitt Romney comes out swinging. The newly elected Republican is ready to take on T, call him out on his bad behavior and maybe another Presidential run.

So it begins.

The Washington Post: Mitt Romney: A president shapes the nation’s character. Trump’s falls short.

The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a “sucker” in world affairs all defined his presidency down.

It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.

It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.

To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.

The world is also watching. America has long been looked to for leadership. Our economic and military strength was part of that, of course, but our enduring commitment to principled conduct in foreign relations, and to the rights of all people to freedom and equal justice, was even more esteemed. Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world. In a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 84 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believed the American president would “do the right thing in world affairs.” One year later, that number had fallen to 16 percent.

The world needs American leadership, and it is in America’s interest to provide it. A world led by authoritarian regimes is a world — and an America — with less prosperity, less freedom, less peace.

Furthermore, I will act as I would with any president, in or out of my party: I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state, and oppose those that are not. I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.