Thursday, September 28, 2017

RussiaGate, Republicans and the Redefining of American Patriotism

There used to be a time when Republicans were the tough-talking, patriotic, red-baiting, Democracy-defending standard-bearers. Not anymore. Partisanship no longer ends at our shores. These days the GOP and its kleptocrat commandant Donald Trump act more like tools of the Russian government. Like they’re on Vladimir Putin’s payroll. Like maybe Putin has something incredibly incriminating on them (hooker pee pee tapes, money laundering?). Because there’s no other explanation for this unfathomable shift to such blatant Russian-ass-kissing behavior.

Seventeen United States intelligence agencies have unanimously concluded that there was Russian interference in last year’s election, primarily limited to email leaks and fake news. We’ve now learned that Putin-backed troll farms have used Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to spread lies and manipulate the electorate. But in 2018 and ‘20 it could include actual tampering of voting machines, materially impacting the vote count.

Within the Trump administration, several key former and current advisors and cabinet members—including Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, J.D. Gordon, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions—have held clandestine meetings with Russian officials, including Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, before and after the election. 

Donald J. Trump Jr. also met with high-profile Russian intermediaries in July 2016 to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. His official explanation is that the meeting, which was also attended by Manafort and Kushner, was to discuss Russian “adoption” policy. But his subsequent release of emails related to the meeting illustrate that its true purpose was to acquire information directly from the Putin regime that "would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father." 

It’s entirely possible Trump himself attended one or more of those meetings. 

While the issue of lifting U.S. sanctions is suspected as being the primary underlying Russian motivation of all these meetings, the bigger issue of interference in the election and possible Trump campaign collusion has been the subject of House, Senate, FBI and special counsel investigations.

Since he announced his campaign in May 2016, Donald “I Love Wikileaks” Trump has fed this conspiracy theory with unyielding acceptance of Russia’s interference in the election. He’s mercilessly maligned the intelligence community and has done everything in his power to obstruct the ongoing investigations, including firing former FBI Director James Comey. In May he told NBC’s Lester Holt:

“And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

The very next day Trump hosted Russian diplomats in the Oval Office where he mocked and demeaned Comey, telling the Russians:

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Trump’s obsessively denied, discredited and disrupted the investigations with irrational, manic Tweeting, and has impugned the integrity of our free and open press, relentlessly attacking it as “fake news” and “an enemy of the people.” 

As such, we’ve been witnessing the greatest test of checks and balances in United States history. Which brings us to Republicans in Congress. Those spineless, self-serving oligarchs who’ve sanctioned and encouraged this unconscionable anti-American, potentially treasonous behavior from the Trumpsters. This ‘equal branch of government,’ responsible for oversight of the presidency, has instead been acting like paid Trump lobbyists. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have literally been playing Russian Roulette with America’s security as it hungers for tax reform and huge cuts for the rich and big corporations. They’ve sold their souls for money. They’ve allowed Putin to attack us, influence our election, and undermine our democracy. Congress’s silence, and impotence, is stunning.

Russia is America’s biggest global threat. It’s an enemy state which seeks to destroy democracy throughout the world. Judging from our chaotic transfer of power these past eight months, Putin’s already succeeding. He doesn’t see left or right. Just Russia. The existential threat from more invasive cyber-attacks remain. Our democracy’s been kicked in the nuts, and Republicans just don’t seem to care.

Most mystifying is the behavior of Trump voters—the xenophobic, Confederate flag-waving, National Anthem defending, NFL-bashing “USA! USA! USA! crowd who, pre-Trump, would be calling for the execution of anyone colluding with Russia—who suddenly don’t give a shit that America’s under siege from Moscow and that the president is the reason why. 

But special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s independent investigation is intensifying. Subpoenas are flying, and indictments could follow soon. High-profile targets including Manafort, Flynn, Stone, Boris Epshteyn and perhaps even son-in-law Kushner and Don Jr. could end up singing like canaries to avoid prison, which would be the nail in Trump’s coffin. 

To be sure, the Feds are closing in. Trump’s days are numbered. It’s just a matter of time. No thanks to Republicans.

Monday, September 25, 2017

It's 'Little Bone Spurs Man' vs The World

It's been a tough couple of weeks for Donald Trump. The Pugilist-in-Chief took on everyone from world leaders to athletes. The self-described counter-puncher mixed it up—both on and off Twitter—with Kim Jong Un, Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, Jemele Hill, ESPN, Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors, Lebron James, the NBA, Colin Kaepernick, Roger Goodell and the NFL. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.

Here’s the rundown:

With the Unites States and North Korea seemingly on the verge of nuclear war, Trump’s chosen geopolitical strategy centers on taunting Kim by calling him “Little Rocket Man” while threatening during his United Nations address to “totally destroy” him and his country. It’s Battle of the Psychos time. 

(It was during this same address that Trump twice incorrectly referred to the African nation of Namibia as Nambia).

Trump attacked McCain’s “courage” over his intent to vote against Graham-Cassidy, the huge and heartless “fuck you” to Americans disguised as a health care replacement for Obamacare.

Trump once again demeaned the entire U.S. intelligence community, and special counsel Robert Mueller, by referring to the RussiaGate investigation as a “hoax.” 

Trump was widely criticized for retweeting a fake video of him hitting a golf ball into Hillary Clinton’s back, knocking her to the ground. He also cyber-bullied her again, attacking her on Twitter over her book and election loss.  

Trump attacked Hill and her network, ESPN, over her comments that he is a “white supremacist” and demanded that she be fired. 

Trump “un-invited” Curry to the White House after the Warriors superstar said he wasn’t going to attend the traditional celebration following his basketball team’s 2017 championship win. The entire team then decided to blow it off as well. Lebron James called Trump a “bum” over his behavior. 

Trump condemned Kaepernick and other NFL players who’ve taken a knee during the National Anthem in protest of racism in America and the president’s own racist rhetoric. He called on fans to boycott games until NFL owners “fire” the “son of a bitches.” 

Call me crazy, but taking on the beloved gridiron institution might just be the first time that Teflon Donnie’s instincts may be counter-intuitive. It’s a bigly miscalculation if he thinks his angry, white, chips ‘n beer guzzling couch-potatoes are gonna choose him over football. That in a showing of solidarity they’ll spend Sundays tending their gardens or playing gin rummy with the wife. Fat chance. 

The Trump shit storm has reached Category 5 status. The “chaos president,” as Jeb Bush once astutely predicted Trump would be, appears hellbent on creating more scandal and controversy for himself instead of using his time to prevent the North Korea crisis from escalating while also lobbying Congress and voters in an effort to push through his agenda. 

But policy bores Trump. Being president, and actually accomplishing things, is not what motivates him. What turns him on is the fight. Antagonizing anyone and everyone over anything at any time. It’s so ironic, because when his time came to actually fight, in the Vietnam War, he was a shameless draft-dodging coward who hid behind his rich pappy’s connections and deferment-causing ‘bone spurs.’ A terrified elitist brat who was too good for war. War was for “losers” like McCain, who Trump has claimed is not a “real hero” because “he got captured.”

Well let me tell you something, Little Bone Spurs Man, real men like McCain have more “courage” in one single strand of hair than you have in your entire bloated, bloviating being. But of course you already know that, which is why you’ve spent your entire life overcompensating for this overpowering self-hatred by putting everyone else down in order to build yourself up.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

No, Trumpsters, Donnie Has Not Been "Vindicated"

The Breitbart News headline Tuesday screams “Trump Vindicated!” It follows the news this week that the president’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was wiretapped by the U.S. government before and after the campaign. Investigators on special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s in July raided Manafort’s home and he was subsequently told to expect an indictment. 

The wiretap came under secret order of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court after the FBI began investigating Manafort in 2014 over consulting work done for Ukraine's former Party of Regions and it’s leader Viktor Yanukovych. 

In an effort to distract attention away from the mounting RussiaGate scandal and its impact on his administration, the Liar-in-Chief, in a March 4th tweet, accused former President Obama of spying on him during the campaign:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!

Trump refused to produce even a shred of evidence of such surveillance.

And now the Trumpsters are claiming he’s been “vindicated.” 

No, he hasn’t. Actually, it’s the good guys, the U.S. government, who’ve been vindicated.
FISA doesn’t just throw around search and surveillance authorizations just for the fuck of it. It doesn’t engage in partisan witch hunts. The government must demonstrate probable cause. The targets must likely be guilty. Which is why Manafort (and perhaps others) may soon be indicted.

So let’s dissect the “vindication” logic in plain English: Trump and his cronies did some really bad shit. They know they’re guilty. They know the Feds are on their trail. They consistently do everything they can to discredit and distract from the investigation. Trump throws a hail Mary and claims he’s been “tapped.” Now we learn the government tapped Manafort. Because he and Trump are likely guilty as sin. Which is why FISA issued the order in the first place. And the Trumpsters claim ‘AHA! Trump was right!’ Nope. It’s the investigators who are right. Trump’s just a desperate, terrified, guilty manbaby.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Is This Donald Trump's Re-Election Master Plan

The conventional wisdom in presidential campaigns is that you play to the base to win the nomination and pivot to the center in the general election. With Donald Trump, the pivot never came. He kept playing to his rabid base and has consistently done so throughout the eight months of his presidency. But has his pivot finally arrived?

Cue The Chuck & Nancy Show. Fed up with Republican leadership, Trump’s cozied up to Democrats in an effort to make deals with the goal of ‘winning’ and reversing his abysmal approval ratings. Rather than work with Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, he’s marginalized them over DACA, border security, the debt ceiling and Hurricane Harvey aid. And in the same week he’s also backpeddled on his border wall and the Iran nuclear deal.
Predictably, Republicans are livid with Trump over his newfound “bipartisan” romance with Democrats. 

Amnesty Don,” screamed a a headline on former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon’s alt-right website Breitbart News. 

"At this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached?" tweeted Ann Coulter. She added, “If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence.” 

“Exactly what @realDonaldTrump campaigned on. Not,” tweeted Andrea Ingraham. She later added, “BUILD THE WALL! BUILD THE WALL! … or … maybe … not really.”

And Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) warned that Trump’s base is “blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair.” He called the purported Donnie/Chuck/Nancy DACA deal “Republican suicide.”

So is Trump’s sucking up to Chuck and Nancy part of a much bigger political calculation? Has he realized that the re-election math makes way more sense if he pivots from his 30% base and starts providing policy goodies to the other 70% instead? 

I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters,” Trump once infamously crowed. 

So far the MAGA crowd’s proven Trump dead right. No matter how much he lies to them or reneges on campaign promises, the base stays loyal and committed. As such, perhaps Trump knows he has nothing to lose and everything to gain by shifting his focus to moderate Republicans, independents and, yes, even Democrats. Maybe he knows that an electorate so exhausted and frustrated with crazy Trump may be ready to embrace mainstream Trump. And that the base will manage to find a way to justify it all and stick with him. 

One thing we’ve learned time and again with Trump is never to under-estimate his instincts and political barometer. So here’s my perfect storm: his bi-partisan shift is real and sustained over time; he weens himself off Twitter and the persistent trouble it causes him (i.e this weekend when he retweeted a fake video inciting violence against Hillary Clinton, while also referring to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man”); and he somehow manages to survive the Russia investigations. If he succeeds, we just might be looking at another four years of this roller-coaster presidency...

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Letter Obama Wished He Could've Given Trump

Last week we learned the content of the letter Barack Obama left in the Oval Office for incoming president Donald Trump. It was anything but the traditional “Hey bud, it’s an awesome job, good luck!” It’s a carefully worded cautionary missive which clearly indicated Obama’s concern for America’s future. Below is the letter we all now he wanted to give Trump: 

Dear Mr. President:

You did it. You won. I never thought you would pull it off. Honestly? I thought you were a goner the minute you started. “Mexican rapists” isn’t a great way to launch a successful presidential campaign. But then you went on to insult women, immigrants, blacks, Jews, war heroes, John McCain, Gold Star families, disabled people, judges, the intelligence community, the media, Democrats, fellow Republicans, the Pope and just about everyone else who got in your way and yet you still won. You were right: you probably could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and your base would still support you. 

But now here you are. President of the United States of America. Commander-in-Chief. Leader of the Free World. This isn’t a fucking game. It’s the hardest job on the planet. It’s not sitting around Trump Tower deciding which shitty towels to slap your name on. You are now responsible for the safety and security of 325-million Americans and people all over the world. Are you up to the task? 

You’re like a million guys I’ve seen in my life: huge ego and a microdick. So you’re constantly trying to compensate with bombast, braggadocio and bullying. By having an insatiable hunger to ‘win’ no matter what the financial, political or human cost. You seem devoid of compassion and empathy. Some even claim you’re a sociopath, but I’m not ready to go there...yet. But I am scared. You scare me Trump, and I don’t scare easy. I still can’t believe I have to hand the baton to you. You make 43 look like a statesman.

So what are you going to do? Are you going to lead by example? Will you unite Americans in these highly toxic, polarized times or will you further divide us? Will you take the highroad and uplift the nation and be a beacon of light or will you slink further into your dystopian darkness? Will you be the president of everyone or just your 35% base? Will you uphold the rule of law? Will you honor and respect the Constitution? Will you inspire our children? Will you truly make America greater, or will you spiral it into a terrifying vortex of ignorance, intolerance and hate? 

You cannot let your ego and emotion direct your words and actions. You must grow some balls and thicker skin. You have to act like a smart, mature, curious, disciplined president with impulse-control, not a petulant manbaby. 

Make no mistake: I am rooting for you, Trump. Not because I like, admire or respect you, which I don’t (and it’s not because you spent seven years trying to delegitimize me and my presidency). I am rooting for you because I love my country. Because I want America to succeed. Because we are the greatest nation in the world and I want it to remain that way. 

So, man to man, get the fuck off Twitter and stop acting like an asshole and be the man your wife and kids keep telling us you are. Because so far we haven’t seen that dude. 

Call me if you need anything.