Donald Trump

David Warsh: Repudiation, not impeachment, should be the goal

SOMERVILLE, Mass.

A couple of weeks after the 2016 election, I argued that Donald Trump had become a president by accident. He hadn’t chosen his cabinet yet, and I was prepared to give him the benefit of at least some doubts. He was certainly smart enough to be president, I wrote, “but in one respect he is especially ill-equipped for the job’s most important requirement – that of narrator-in-chief.”

At best I was half right. The match-up was indeed an accident. The failure of either party to produce a suitable candidate in timely fashion permitted Trump to slip in. But once he gained the GOP nomination, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton on his own,.

Trump is a bully, a thug, a draft dodger, a tax cheat, a finagler. He is corrupt to his core. But one thing he’s not is stupid. His campaign positions – postures, really, like his television career – were sufficient to the win the states he needed. Any Democratic candidate who wants to be president is going to have to build on them – secure borders, more cautious with foreign wars, tougher on China, softer on Russia, more explicit concern for those left behind, and plenty of infrastructure spending.

I may have been mistaken, too, when a year later I wondered if Trump wouldn’t run again. It’s too soon to tell; it is still possible he’ll declare that he has done what he came to do and pull out. He could do that as late as the first quarter of next year. But today he seems more like a gambler who can’t quit while he’s ahead. “Jobless rate hits 50-year low!” Why not chance it again?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about impeachment – and the impossibility of gaining a conviction from the current Senate. (Never mind as-yet insufficient grounds.) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right. Impeachment is a red herring, at least for now. What is needed is something more than just beating him in an election. What’s required is repudiation, Something like this is what former Vice President Joe Biden has in mind when in his stump speech he refers repeatedly to Trump as an “aberration” And that’s just the beginning.

What would repudiation involve? It would be necessary to retake the Senate, for one thing. The traditionalist wing of the Republican Party would have to re-emerge, for another. A lengthy examination of the claims of Trump’s cheerleaders in the media would be required. And Trump himself would either have to be defeated at the polls in 2020, or impeached and convicted in the course of a second term. Something along these lines is what former Vice President Joe Biden has in mind when he refers in his stump speech to Trump an an “aberration.” And that is just the beginning of the path.

The alternative? Donald Trump joins Ronald Reagan in Valhalla, at least in the minds of his base, while America sinks deeper in discord.

A story in The New York Times the other day made clear how hard it will be for the Democratic Party to retake the Senate. Three strong potential candidates opted out last week: Stacey Abrams, in Georgia; Rep. Cindy Axne, in Iowa; and Rep. Joaquin Castro, in Texas. Four other potential candidates had previously decided not to contest competitive seats: John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado; Gov. Steve Bullock, of Montana; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, of Texas; and Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa. Each had her or his reasons. Other candidates and other competitive races exist. But it may take a “wave” election before the Democratic Party controls the upper house again.

Then, too, the Democratic primaries have a great deal of sorting out to do. And primaries have a lot of sorting out to do before the often-fractious party nominates a candidate next year.

Meanwhile, there is much more reporting to be done, beginning with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s much-anticipated report of the underpinnings of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation in the summer of 2016 – the role of the so-called Steele Dossier in particular. But that is only the beginning. There is also the FBI’s ongoing investigation of the Clinton Foundation, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, apparently predicated on a book bankrolled by Trump campaign adviser Steve Bannon. Unattended so far, too, is the story of a threatened mutiny by dissident FBI agents that forced Director James Comey to briefly reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation a week before the election, only to close it again. Comey ordered an internal probe before he was fired.

The Mueller Report is a blueprint for repudiation – scrupulous and dispassionate. House committees could follow its example, inquiring carefully into matters of stewardship of various departments of government by the Trump administration, instead of badgering the President for his tax returns.

And as for the narrator-in-chief of the Trump presidency? There’s a good chance that it will turn out to be former FBI Director Comey. His book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership (Flatiron Books, 2018), was blunt: “The president is unethical, and untethered to the truth or institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty.”

The other week Comey was at it again, in an op-ed piece in the Times, “How Trump Co-opts Leaders like Barr.” How was it that that Attorney General William Barr, “a bright and accomplished lawyer,” found himself “channeling the president in using phrases like “no collusion” and “FBI spying?” Why did the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein feel it necessary to thank Trump for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations” when the president had spent two years assailing the department that Rosenstein had helped lead?

“I have some idea from four months of working close to Mr. Trump and many more months of watching him shape others,” wrote Comey. “He’s the president and he rarely stops talking…. Speaking rapid-fire with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator in his preferred set of facts, or delusions. I have felt it – this president building with his words a web of alternative reality and busily wrapping it around all of us in the room…. The web-building never stops.”

Comey, of course, spent the first part of his career prosecuting mob bosses in New York. He may yet have the satisfaction of leading a chorus of repudiation of the accidental president.

David Warsh, an economic historian and veteran economics, media and political columnist, is proprietor of economicprincipals.com, where this column first ran. He’s based in Somerville.

David Warsh: Judge Ellis and the rise of conservative Republican judges

The front of the   U.S. Supreme Court Building.

The front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building.

The controversial four-year prison sentence {considered very light by some legal observers} handed down for Paul Manafort last week will bring renewed attention to the career of Judge T.S. Ellis, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  It’s an interesting story, to be sure.  After graduating from Princeton in 1961, Ellis piloted F4 Phantoms for the Navy before graduating from Harvard Law School, in 1969, and Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1970.  He practiced law in Richmond, Va., until 1987, when President Ronald Reagan nominated Ellis to the district bench, the same day he proposed Robert Bork for the Supreme Court.

That was the summer that former District Court Judge Lawrence Walsh began his investigation of the Iran Contra affair, as special counsel to the Department of Justice.  (He had served as Deputy Attorney General during Dwight Eisenhower’s second term.) Judge Ellis’s distaste for wide-ranging independent prosecutors is said to have begun then, and escalated during the Whitewater proceedings, along with the aversion of Congress.

I spent last week reading The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law (Princeton, 2008), by Steven Teles, of Johns Hopkins University.  It is gem of a book, quite unlike several other histories of various aspects of the conservative movement that I have read in that Teles, a liberal, musters considerable sympathy for those whose story he is telling.

Rise was his second, after obtaining his PhD in political science at the University of Virginia . (WhoseWelfare: AFDC and Elite Politics [University of Kansas, 1996] was his first.) For much of his research, Teles worked as a dispassionate reporter, interviewing principals and gaining their trust. Many of the documents he used were given to him. “Serious political earning,” he writes, “requires a view from the inside, and with it an effort to empathize with the challenge faced by the actors from who one wishes to learn,”The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement casts no light on Judge Ellis’s own intellectual odyssey, but it brilliantly illuminates his times.

Teles begins by sketching what it was that the conservative legal movement was up against, a liberal legal movement with deep roots in the New Deal. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1950s fashioned a new activist approach to the law, and by the early 1960s the leadership of the professional bar began to join in.  A turning point was the landmark decision in Gideon vs Wainwright, in 1963, in which the Supreme Court required states to provide legal representation to persons accused of serious crimes who could not afford counsel. Oversight by the Office of Economic Opportunity gave rise to legal aid societies.

Conservative backlash followed, but was largely ineffective.  Former American Bar Association President Lewis Powell wrote a memo for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shortly before Richard Nixon nominated him to the Supreme Court, arguing that legal activism posed a grave threat to the very survival of American business, but that  businessmen had “responded – if at all – by appeasement, ineptitude, and ignoring the problem.”

But the first generation of conservative public interest groups was ineffective.  (During his own court tenure Powell was seen as a centrist, not a conservative.) Efforts under Nixon to “defund the Left” worked only at the margins. Teles writes, “Conservatives slowly recognized that they needed to develop their own apparatus for legal change, one that could challenge legal liberalism in the classroom, the courts, and in legal culture.”

The way out of the wilderness turned out to be intellectual.  The law and economics movement, founded by Henry Simons and Aaron Director after World War II at the Law School of the University of Chicago, gathered steam when Ronald Coase joined the faculty in 1958. Henry Manne, alumnus and serial entrepreneur, introduced the new thinking to Federal judges, starting at the University of Rochester.  And law professor Richard Posner, later an influential Federal appellate judge, published an influential textbook, Economic Analysis of Law, in 1973. Teles doesn’t stint on drama here, dwelling on Manne’s failed attempt to found a “Hoover Institution East” at Emory University in the early 1980s.

Similarly, Teles’s account shows how the Federalist Society filled a need. Organized with great fanfare in 1982, dedicated to burnishing the credentials of conservative lawyers, the Federalist Society opened chapter in significant law schools as quickly as possible and only slowly developed a national office.  At first it existed mainly to foster debate, to attract new members. Only after the defeat of the Bork nomination did the society begin to conceive of itself as a “counter-ABA,” grooming and vetting candidate for office.

It was when the first generation of grassroots activists and business executives gave way to what Teles calls a “new class” of  academics and legal professionals that the conservative legal movement found its feet, even though much trial and error remained. The rise of the conservative legal movement is too often told in terms of a “myth of diabolical competence,” by writers on the right as well the left. It turned out that three kinds of networks were required – intellectual, professional, and political, in addition to imaginative patrons. The other ingredient, Teles continues, is frank internal criticism. The most important document in reorienting conservative strategy was a testy memo written for the Scaife Foundation in 1980 that circulated widely among conservative foundations, criticizing donors’ previous efforts and pointing the way to the Federalist Society.

As noted, Teles is a liberal.  His third book was Prison Break: Why Conservatives Turned against Mass Incarceration (with David Dagan, Oxford 2016); his fourth (with Brink Lindsey), The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth and Increase Inequality (Oxford 2017).  With Robert Saldin, of the University of Montana, he is working on a fifth, about Republican opponents of Donald Trump. Meanwhile, The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement remains an enduring contribution.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

David Warsh, a veteran economics and political columnist, is proprietor of Somerville, Mass.-based economicprincipals.com, where this piece first ran.           


Llewellyn King: Confusing empathy with policy

“La Cucana’’ (greasy pole), by Francisco Goya.

“La Cucana’’ (greasy pole), by Francisco Goya.

WEST WARWICK, R.I.

Mark Twain once observed that no one would try to play a fiddle in public without some prior instruction in the instrument, but no one had such hesitation when it came to writing.

Clearly, many candidates these days think you can run for president without any political experience or with precious little. The unqualified and the marginally equipped seem to believe they are uniquely gifted to be president of the United States.

At the moment a large school of Democrats feel that because they empathize with the working poor, the struggling middle class and are appalled by the excesses of the plutocrats, they can, when elected, put it all right. They confuse empathy with policy and achievability.

Then there are those who subscribe to the belief in business as the incubator of all skills. These are the people who believe — and they could well line up for former Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz — that if you can run a business, you can get a handle on Washington. It is a myth that just won’t die. If one can make a lot of money, it proves just one thing: One has made a lot of money. Running based on commercial success and Washington failure doesn’t work. The two worlds are not subject to the same laws of nature, as it were.

In business, you can walk away from failure; in politics, it follows you. If a franchise deal fails in business, you abandon it. You can’t abandon Russia or China because you can’t get a deal. And you can’t abandon the poor because you think you can’t afford them.

Politics is, above all, learned, and it is learned in political places — school boards, community associations, unions and state legislatures. Anywhere where offices are elective.

If you want to succeed in reshaping Washington, the first thing to do is to understand it and respect it. Yes, respect it.

We are so inured to people running against Washington that we forget that it is the product of all the others who ran against it. Washington, like all complex systems, is the sum of its parts, from the lobbyists to the agencies, and the laws which Congress has passed.

Washington is a seething, dynamic system, not too complex to be reformed but way too complex to be a candidate for simple solutions. Look at the supreme political amateur Donald Trump and see how his plan to upend Washington and “drain the swamp” has fared. In engineering and science, if you want to change something, first understand it — know its parts and their functions before you start.

Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, failed to reform the State Department because he didn’t feel he needed to understand it. He failed in his own right, even without the difficulties that Trump piled on him.

If politics is war by another means, then don’t show your hand. You don’t tell the enemy where you’ll dig in or what secret weapon you’ll bring to bear. To declare the rate of tax you favor (70 percent for the rich), how you are going to implement a national healthcare system (extend Medicare) and who you’ll not  listen to (lobbyists are a great source of information), and what limits you are going to put on yourself (to draw attention to your rectitude) is neither the way to get elected nor to do the peoples’ business. Caring isn’t a plan.

Many successful presidents, from Washington to Clinton, have been bad businessmen. The best qualification for the office isn’t how well you’ve done at something else, but to have run something big and political like a charity, an advocacy group, a school, a city or a state. That way you learn the art of give a little, take a lot. Those who haven’t had this administrative experience need to study it over and over.

As Lloyd George, the British prime minister during the last part of World War I, wrote, “There is no greater mistake than to try to leap an abyss in two jumps.” Every day, I read someone is setting out to prove him wrong and run for president without regard to the geography of the politics.

On Twitter: @llewellynking2
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of
White House Chronicle, on PBS. He is based in Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

Jim Hightower: Counting the 'populist' Trump's lies to his sucker followers

 

Via OtherWords.org

Have you noticed that Donald Trump constantly prefaces his outlandish lies with such phrases as: “To be honest with you,” “To tell the truth,” and “Believe me”?

Why? Because like a snake-oil salesman, he constantly needs to convince himself that he’s speaking the truth in order to perform his next lie convincingly. The show must go on… and on.

In fact, he already ranks as the perhaps lyingest president in U.S. history. And that includes Nixon! The Washington Post‘s fact checker counted over 2,000 lies in Trump’s first year alone.

Trump’s biggest whopper is that he’s an honest-to-God “populist,” standing up for America’s hard-hit middle class against Wall Street, corporate lobbyists and moneyed elites.

This prevarication has duped many working stiffs into thinking he’s their champion. The huckster doubled down on this lie in his inaugural address last year, pompously declaring, “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

That’s why a new, straight-talking pamphlet by the watchdog group Public Citizen is so important. It exposes the “people’s champion” as a rank fraud who’s worked from day one to further enrich and empower the corporate elites he had denounced as a candidate.

Public Citizen’s report documents with concise, easy-to-grasp specifics on how Trump-the-faux-populist has systematically sold out the working families whose votes he cynically swiped, handing our government to a kakistocracy of corporate plutocrats.

The Public Citizen exposé is titled “Forgetting the Forgotten: 101 Ways Donald Trump Has Betrayed the Middle Class,” and it drives the stake of truth through the heart of his populist pretensions. It’s available at CorporatePresidency.org/forgotten.)

 Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board. 

 

How and why the Kremlin put its man in the Oval Office

The biggest winners of the 2016 U.S. presidential election work here.

The biggest winners of the 2016 U.S. presidential election work here.

Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win,by Luke Harding, published by Penguin Random House.

(To hear an NPR interview with Mr. Harding,  please hit this link.)

Amazon describes this book:

"An explosive exposé that lays out the Trump administration’s ties to Moscow, and Russia’s decades-in-the-making political game to upend American democracy.
 
"December 2016. Luke Harding, the Guardian reporter and former Moscow bureau chief, quietly meets former MI6 officer Christopher Steele in a London pub to discuss President-elect Donald Trump’s Russia connections. A month later, Steele’s now-famous dossier sparks what may be the biggest scandal of the modern era. The names of the Americans involved are well-known—Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page—but here Harding also shines a light on powerful Russian figures like Aras Agalarov, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and Sergey Kislyak, whose motivations and instructions may have been coming from the highest echelons of the Kremlin.
 
"Drawing on new material and his expert understanding of Moscow and its players, Harding takes the reader through every bizarre and disquieting detail of the 'Trump-Russia' story—an event so huge it involves international espionage, off-shore banks, sketchy real estate deals, the Miss Universe pageant, mobsters, money laundering, poisoned dissidents, computer hacking, and the most shocking election in American history.''

 

 

 

Jim Hightower: Trump protects huge tax break for hedge funders

"Avarice,'' by Jesus Solana.

"Avarice,'' by Jesus Solana.

Via OtherWords.org

These are hard times for America’s gold miners. They’re scrambling to get ahead, but seeing their pay dropping.

Take Bob Mercer, who’s been a top miner for years, but last year even Bob was down. He pulled in only $125 million in pay. Can you feel Bob’s pain?

Well, these aren’t your normal miners. They’re hedge-fund managers, digging for gold in Wall Street. Indeed, if you divided Mercer’s pay in his “bad year” among 1,000 real miners doing honest work, each would consider it a fabulous year.

Nonetheless, hedge funds are figurative gold mines, although they require no heavy lifting by the soft-handed, Gucci-wearing managers who work them. These gold diggers are basically nothing but speculators, drawing billions of dollars from the über-rich by promising that they’ll deliver fabulous profits.

But the scam is that Mercer, whose hedge fund is Renaissance Technologies, and his fellow diggers get paid whether they deliver or not.

Their cushy set up, known as 2 and 20, works like this.

Right off the top, they take 2 percent of the money put up by each wealthy client, which hedge fund whizzes like Mercer keep even if the investments they make are losers. Then, if their speculative bets do pay off, they pocket 20 percent of all profits.

Finally, hedge-fund lobbyists have rigged our nation’s tax code so these Wall Street miners pay a fraction of the tax rate that real mine workers pay.

Last year, the 25 best paid hedge-fund operators totaled a staggering $11 billion in personal pay — even though nearly half of them performed poorly. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who promised last year to close that special hedge-fund tax break, has mysteriously omitted that vow from the “tax reform” framework that the White House released this fall.

Guess who was one of Trump’s most generous funders last year? Bob Mercer.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.  

 

Stephen J. Nelson: Air Force Academy chief speaks out for diversity

A college leader spoke up to his students and campus community the other week. His concern was a timely topic: race and race relations, bigotry and racial slurs. And who was the president? Well, while we don’t often think of these leaders in this way, the superintendents of our three major military academies are the presidents of their universities. And this superintendent of the Air Force Academy, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the academy’s superintendent, spoke out because of race-baiting posts on the message boards of five African-American students on his campus.

He was forceful. He related his concerns to the cadets and the academy to recent events including the Charlottesville white supremacy rally last summer, and the recent dust-up over NFL players protesting unequal and unfair treatment of blacks in America. And in the process of what Silveria said, he additionally challenged the chair of his board, no less a figure than the president of the United States, his commander-in-chief up the chain of command.

Superintendent Silveria minced no words. He expressed his outrage and told his students that they, too, should be outraged, not just as Air Force students, and future military leaders for our country, but more importantly “as human beings.” His message was simple: If you cannot treat with equality and respect those different than yourself in gender or race, then you should get out. This was a cry for basic human integrity and dignity: Racial slurs are indecent acts that must be condemned. Invoking the fundamental mission of our colleges and universities, Silveria urged “civil discourse and talk about these issues.”

Then, in stark contrast to his commander-in-chief and displaying the force incumbent on college presidents, Silveria went to the heart of the value of diversity. This was not some mushy apology and boilerplate appeal for progressive politics. No this was the power of diversity, “the power that we come from all walks of life, that we come from all parts of this country, that we come from all races, that we come from all backgrounds, gender, all make-up, all upbringing.” That is, “the power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful.” This is no weak-tea argument. This is the revered founding creed of the nation and embedded as fundamental values of academia.

Contrast Silveria’s stand with that in recent months of Jerry Falwell Jr. at Liberty Baptist University, in Virginia. Falwell has done everything from apologize for the bus videotape behavior of Donald Trump, to excuse the president’s remarks about Charlottesville, "the bad people on both sides,''  and to support throwing transgendered military people out of the military services. One president stood up for cherished values of the college and university and of the nation. The other caved in a craven fashion in a quest to curry favor with the ideological proclivities of the president of the United States. (And indeed Falwell was rumored to be the head of a presidential task force on higher ed that never materialized.)

The other week,  the generalplaced his leadership front and center with the men and women of his campus. He challenged them about how they must behave, and what they owe each other and the country now and in their future leadership in military service. President Trump, are you listening to this leader in your military command?

We can and should take heart from this president of one of our major universities about how campuses and leaders can best handle issues of diversity and can push back against those instigating racist messages and rhetoric. All college presidents as they work hard to take similar stands can be encouraged to be likewise forceful when called upon and take up Silveria’s urgent message about how we find unity and power in the diversity of our racial and other differences. Our colleges and universities and the nation benefit hugely from such stand-up leadership.

Stephen J. Nelson is professor of educational leadership at Bridgewater (Mass.) State University and senior scholar with the Leadership Alliance at Brown University.

 

 

Llewellyn King: In the Trump reign, recall John Donne

 

WEST WARWICK, R.I.

When I arrived on these shores in 1963, I wrote to a friend in London from New York, “We had America wrong. It is not a melting pot but rather a fruit salad. Spanish-speaking youths sell pizza on Broadway. Italian and German men drive taxis. All the doormen -- they stand in front of the better blocks of flats -- seem to be Irish. Black men and women do menial work: They are less obvious and not prospering.”

Those were the days when integrating the South was being bitterly fought and I, for one, thought that the soaring rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr. could heal as well as inspire.

The most overt racism I saw in the North was not in New York or Washington but in Baltimore. At a bar beloved by the editorial staff of the Baltimore News American on Pratt Street, a major commercial thoroughfare at the time, an African-American man came in for a drink. The owner, a Polish-American, was on his feet in seconds, telling the man that the bar was in fact a private club, but he could sell him a bottle to go. The would-be patron took this clear lie quietly and left. My colleagues at the newspaper, including an African-American editor, were not interested in protesting the incident.

Race is probably baked into my consciousness, as I was born and raised in the British African colony of Southern Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe).  I grew up in a society in which some dreamed of a multi-racial future and others leaned toward white supremacy. In the end, after independence, Robert Mugabe made a mockery of democracy and civil rights for white and black citizens; his rule has been an equal-opportunity horror.

When King was shot in 1968, Washington and Baltimore erupted in riots. I would not call them race riots, but they were riots of protest, of angry people who felt they had had enough. I walked through some of the worst rioting in Washington, and later drove through burning sections of Baltimore.

Rather than being threatened as a white man in black communities that were gripped with looting and fire-setting, there was an almost eerie politeness, a concern among the rioters for my safety. John Harwood, father of the CNBC correspondent, wrote about this, these manners, in The Washington Post.

It struck me then that the United States could survive even in its worst struggles if it could keep its manners, its sense of the other fellow’s well-being.

Nelson Mandela said that hate has to be learned. What he did not say, as far as I know, is that people love to hate. When hate is sanctioned, as it was in Nazi Germany or in endless Russian pogroms against the Jews, it becomes a creed and a way of seeing everything.

The selection of Barack Obama not as an African-American but as the Democratic presidential candidate was a high point. It made me very proud to be an American, of having been accepted in an exemplary place. It told the world that the United States, for all of its history of slavery and prejudice, was an ascendant society; Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill.”

In Dublin, I chastised an Irish journalist for criticizing a less-than-lovable newscaster as a “Protestant prick.” What had the man’s religion to do with it? In America, I said, we would not add religion to the epithet.

I was lunching with a Malaysian publisher at the National Press Club in Washington when he declared for all to hear, “The only straight thing about a Chinaman is his hair.” I was appalled and said so. We would not have said that, not in recent decades, because of the restraint of brotherhood, the sense of ascendance and the manners of a people from many places who live together.

Now an American president, Donald Trump, has whistled up tribalism, rationalized the unacceptable through false equivalence. And America, as an ascendant place, is in question, the delicate weave of its social fabric under stress.

John Donne, the metaphysical English poet, wrote nearly 400 years ago of “America” as hugely desirable place. He also warned, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Even more so in a diverse nation held together by the knowledge that any other course, any tribal hatred, diminishes the whole construct; or, to me, contaminates the fruit salad with rotten produce.

Llewellyn King (llewellynking1@gmail.com) is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS, and a frequent contributor to New England Diary. This piece first appeared in Inside Sources. 


 

Jim Hightower: The campaign to turn far-right churches into temples of dark money

A Protestant Fundamentalist cartoon portraying Modernism as the descent from Christianity into atheism.    

A Protestant Fundamentalist cartoon portraying Modernism as the descent from Christianity into atheism.

 

 

Via OtherWords.org

You know what’s wrong with American politics? It’s that there just aren’t enough ways for giant corporations and mega-rich political donors to funnel their big bucks into our elections and buy our government.

At least that’s what Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and a devious group of right-wing political pastors are saying. And, of course, they’ve got a diabolical fix for this “problem.”

Their scheme is to turn tax-exempt, far-right churches into gushing sewers of political money, secretly channeling unlimited amounts of cash from corporations and right-wing extremists through the churches and into the campaigns of politicians who’ll do their bidding.

They don’t admit this, of course. Instead, they wrap their scheme in the pious rhetoric of religious freedom.

Their point of attack is the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law passed by LBJ that prohibits tax-exempt charities, including churches, from endorsing candidates, funding campaigns, and directly engaging in politics.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, an extremist Christian operation pushing for repeal of the Johnson amendment, asserts that banning churches from overt political campaigning lets the IRS “tell pastors what they can and cannot preach.”

Clever, but totally dishonest.

First, the issue isn’t whether the government can tell church groups what to say — it can’t. The question is whether taxpayers should subsidize a church group’s electioneering views and activities.

Second, and more diabolically, repealing the Johnson ban would turn these churches into holy temples of dark money. Special-interest funders would rush to these political “charities,” turning churches into super-secret super PACs. And since churches are tax exempt, the donors would also be blessed with a tax deduction for their corrupting campaign contributions!

Taxpayers would be underwriting the corruption of American politics. How ungodly is that?

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

 

Mining for suckers

Leaving an Appalachian coal mine at the end of a shift.

Leaving an Appalachian coal mine at the end of a shift.

In last year's campaign, Donald Trump made much of the wonderfulness of coal-mining and of his solidarity with coal miners and  workers in some other old industries, many of whom were then suckers enough to vote for him -- enough to get him elected by Electoral College, with the help of the Kremlin. But this quote from a 1990 Time magazine interview with him suggests what he really thinks of these people:

"I love the creative process {of the real-estate business}. I do what I do out of pure enjoyment. Hopefully, nobody does it better. There’s a beauty to making a great deal. It’s my canvas. And I like painting it.

"I like the challenge and tell the story of the coal miner’s son. The coal miner gets black-lung disease, his son gets it, then his son. If I had been the son of a coal miner, I would have left the damn mines. But most people don’t have the imagination — or whatever — to leave their mine. They don’t have 'it.'''

Trump was born on third base as a son of a rich and ruthless developer. The future president then went on to inherit tens of millions of dollars.  He sure had "it.''

-- Robert Whitcomb

 

An intriguing conversation

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal24.com

Many of the people around Donald Trump are simply amoral/immoral climbers and operators (like him), united only by their desire for money,  power and attention. As Trump’s power seems to fade you’ll see an accelerating exit from his chaotic administration. Meanwhile, it will be amusing to see how well the oily pseudo-“policy wonk’’ and Sammy Glick-style House Speaker Paul Ryan and the very smart survivor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell handle the challenges of dealing with a sociopath in the White House.

Given Trump’s at least 40-year history of fraud, interspersed with loans from some dubious people (especially Russian oligarchs in the past 20 years), and mental and emotional instability why would anyone be surprised by what has been happening?

The latest (?) exciting report, from The Washington Post:

 “A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“’There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a California Republican long known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

“House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.’’

“Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: ‘Swear to God.’

“Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: ‘No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”’

My hunch is that the Russians didn’t pay Trump directly but rather the secretive Trump Organization has continuedto get big loans and “investments’’ from people close to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Let’s hope that special counsel Robert Mueller will get to the bottom of it. As for Rohrabacker, who knows?

 

David Warsh: Brooks's thin-sliced baloney

 

Every columnist occasionally has a  housekeeping day. Hard-working David Brooks, of The New York Times, is no exception.  Last week Brooks offered nine, count-em, nine grand narratives packed into a single 866-word column, the material currently on his desktop cleaned up and put away, presumably to get ready for another week.

Four of these sources of identity were from a “superbly clarifying speech” by George Packer, author of The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. Not four, mind you, but the four.  Depending on who doing the telling, Packer said, the American story is to be understood as fundamentally libertarian (“free markets and free minds”), or a matter of globalization (technology regnant), of multiculturalism (overcoming bigotry), or of isolationism (make America great again).

Since none of these narratives offers a basis for governing in the 21st Century, Brooks noted two more, found in an essay by Michael Lind, “The New Class War,” which appeared recently in a new maverick conservative journal. If you haven’t seen it, American Affairs, is worth a look, as is Jacobin, a new left-wing counterpart.

The transatlantic class war between neoliberal elites and working-class populists that produced the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump must evolve as “cross-class settlements” in one of two ways, wrote Lind. Perhaps a banana-republic world is here to stay, a Latin American model in which populists perpetually battle oligarchs and their managerial allies.

Alternatively, Lind wrote, the sort of social contract that guided Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore in the years after 1945 might emerge, different in details but similar in spirit: “cautious, suspicious, military-inflected development…” occurring within the borders of four great blocs: the U.S., China, perhaps India, and a politically divided Europe, the sort of world that George Orwell envisioned in Nineteen Eight-Four.

Stimulated by Lind, Brooks adduced two slight variations, both of them descended from the original civic myth that Brooks described in a column a couple of months ago, namely the Exodus story. In that account, national unity in the U.S. had long depended on the shared experience of having at some point left the Old World for the New, of having ventured into a wilderness in order to join in the creation of a shining example to all humankind. But that story depended on a high degree of national self-confidence traditionally buttressed by religious conviction. For one reason or another, it no longer worked. An American “identity crisis” was at hand.

Hence Brooks offered two new possibilities for going forward. One of them was to embrace Lind’s mercantilist model of the U.S. as one contender among several in a multipolar world. “In this, to be American is to be a member of the tribe, and the ideal American is to be a burly protector of the tribe,”  which Donald Trump aspires to be.

The other story that Brooks envisaged is about “the talented community,” a celebratory image of America as “history’s greatest laboratory for the cultivation of human abilities,” a generous, open, welcoming society in which “everything is designed to arouse energy and propel social mobility” – in short, “an Exodus story for an information age.”

I have a narrative, too, but it isn’t suited to the space or time I have today. So much, then, for this columnist’s housecleaning day.

David Warsh, a veteran economic historian and business and political columnist, is proprietor of economicprincipals.com, where this first ran.

 

David Warsh: A very big building and almost two decades of Trump-Russia ties

Trump World Tower.

Trump World Tower.

Having spent the last six months preparing a history of Harvard University’s mission to Moscow in the 1990s and the scandal that ensued (to appear sometime this summer), I have often been reminded of William Faulkner’s line: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  This is as true of the Trump-Russia story as it is of the larger and more intricate realm of U.S.-Russia relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Holman JenkinsJr., the least predictable columnist at The Wall Street Journal, noted last week that Watergate analogies in the Trump Russia controversy are beside the point.  What is wanted, he wrote, is a Pentagon Papers-style history of U.S. policy, “an emptying out of the files” necessary to illuminate the “awkward, contradictory and humiliating straddles” of Western governments over the last 25years.

Alas, we are unlikely to get that kind of retrospective from WikiLeaks. What is required instead is a great deal of shoe-leather reporting. An especially good example was to be found 10 days ago in “The Rich Refugees Who Saved Trump,’’ by Caleb Melby and Keri Geiger, with Michael Smith, Alexander Sazenov and Polly Mosendz, writing in Bloomberg Businessweek (BBw).

When construction 0f Trump World Tower, at 845 United Nations Plaza, in midtown Manhattan was begin two decades ago as the tallest residential building in the country (90 stories), its most expensive floors attracted rich people getting their money out of what had been the Soviet Union.

Trump needed the big spenders. He was renegotiating $1.8 billion in junk bonds for his Atlantic City resorts, and the tower was built on a mountain of debt owed to German banks.

The story is the most plausible account I’ve yet seen of what Trump’s oldest son, Donald Jr., may have meant when he said, in 2008, “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”  In the earlier case reported by BBw, the deluge occurred at a most propitious time, in the late 1990s, when Trump’s business was stretched thin and under stress.

Trump broke ground on the building in October 1998, across the street from the United Nations headquarters. After several years of boisterous churn and at long last some growth, the Russian economy was in crisis. The ruble had collapsed in August; the government had defaulted on its domestic debt. Savvy Russians had scrambled to get their money out of the country. From the article:

“Real Estate provides a safe haven for overseas investors. It has few reporting requirements and is a preferred way to move cash of questionable provenance. Amid the turmoil, buyers found a dearth of available projects.  Trump World Tower, opened in 2001, became a prominent depository of Russian money.

Others who bought units in the building, with its 72 constructed floors and 90 stories listed on its elevator panels, included New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, Bill Gates, Harrison Ford, Sophia Loren, and Kellyanne Conway and her husband, according to Wikipedia. BBw reported:

“The very top floors remained unsold for years but a third of the units sold on floors 76 through 83 by 2004 involved people or limited liability corporations connected to Russia and neighboring states, a Bloomberg investigation shows.  The reporting involved more than two dozen interviews and a review of hundreds of public records in New York.’’

Trump scholars gradually will determine how material was the sales boost in the complicated ups-and-downs of Trump’s financial position in those days. For an explication of some of the favors owed, which in one case went back to 1976, see the current article.  This much is indelibly clear: the president has seen Russia as a prime source of revenue, if not investment, for 20 years. Again, BBw:

“Simultaneous with when the tower was going up, developer Gil Dezer and his father, Michael, were building a Trump-backed condo project in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. “Russians love the Trump brand,” [Dezer] says, adding that Russians and Russian Americans bought some 200 of the 2,000 units in Trump buildings he built.  They flooded into Trump projects from 2001 to 2007, helping Trump weather the real estate collapse, he says.’’

A similar situation, this one involving a troubled midtown Manhattan building owned by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a billionaire Chinese would-be investor, was covered in some detail earlier this month by The New York Times and the WSJ. The next step is to follow Bloomberg’s team in tracing Trump’s dealings with Russians back in time.

My hunch is that  Jenkins is right, that the 2016 campaign-collusion story will turn out to be a dead end. Much more interesting is the saga of the formation of Trump’s views of Russia over the last 25 years.

David Warsh is a veteran reporter and columnist, mostly in economic matters, and an economic historian. He’s also the proprietor of economicprincipals.com, where this essay first ran.

John Feffer: My dystopian novel accidentally predicted Hurricane Trump

Graffiti, referring to George Orwell's novel  1984,  on a wall in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, which has been under attack by Russia.

Graffiti, referring to George Orwell's novel 1984, on a wall in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, which has been under attack by Russia.

 

Via OtherWords.org

It’s terrifying when your dystopian nightmares begin to come true.

Donald Trump is consolidating a circle of extremist advisers. Hardline restrictions on immigration are going up, regulations on Wall Street are tumbling down, and ordinary Americans can no longer agree on simple truths, let alone politics.

Abroad, Europe may be splintering, too, Asia looks volatile, and wars continue to rage in the Middle East. And everywhere, climate change creeps forward.

For me, however, the rise of the Trump era held a special terror.

My novel Splinterlands, which I finished in March 2016 and published in December, imagines a world that breaks into a million little pieces. It begins with the destruction of Washington, D.C.C, by a terrible storm — which I called Hurricane Donald — and goes downhill from there.

I tell the story of the unraveling of a family, which takes place against the backdrop of the break-up of the European Union, the collapse of China, the disuniting of the United States, and a massive financial crisis that wipes out the middle class everywhere.

After submitting the final draft of the book to my publisher, I watched in bewilderment as the British public voted to withdraw from the EU. I was astonished some months later when the American public elected Donald Trump. And I was dismayed to watch the new administration begin to undermine U.S. democracy even before it officially took office.

I also felt a strange sense of déjà vu. It was a feeling akin to traveling back in time to watch the unfolding of an assassination or the lead-up to a world war. I’d already gamed out these scenarios when I was plotting my novel.

I’m no Nostradamus, and I didn’t intend Splinterlands as a prediction of the future.

When I was writing the book, I was concerned about the rise of far-right extremists, the rollback of democracy, and growing divisions here and abroad. And the half-measures the international community adopted to address climate change didn’t bode well for the health of the planet either.

I wanted my new novel to serve as a wake-up call. The world — and our country — could easily fragment, I warned, if we didn’t pay more attention to the sources of the new populist nationalism.

Economic globalization was benefiting some and leaving others behind. Faith in the democratic process was eroding as political elites engaged in corruption. Social media was undermining the distinction between real and fake news.

In past eras, progressives challenged these developments with calls for greater economic equality, more democracy, and solidarity across social identities. But mainstream progressive parties have often backed the same 1 percent-friendly policies as the right, leading to skyrocketing inequality.

The decline of the left has provided enormous political opportunities for the far right.

They’re climbing in the polls all over Europe. And here in the States, the white-supremacist alt-right played a critical role in getting Donald Trump elected.

But novelists don’t write dystopias because they think that the dismal future they portray is inevitable. 1984, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale: These were all calls to arms. If humanity didn’t change its ways, the novelists warned, those dystopias would be more likely.

Americans, fortunately, are already responding to the threat.

The protests following Trump’s inauguration brought millions of people onto the streets. And the executive order banning Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States has generated unprecedented backlash.

The United States is divided, but still it stands.

I’m terrified. But I’m also hopeful. My novel Splinterlands remains mostly fiction, and I’ll work hard with millions to keep it that way.

And now he's our capo di tutti capi

Grandiose Trump Tower, in midtown Manhattan,  base of the Trump Organization and presenting a hugely difficult and expensive (for the taxpayers) security challenge.

Grandiose Trump Tower, in midtown Manhattan,  base of the Trump Organization and presenting a hugely difficult and expensive (for the taxpayers) security challenge.

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' column on GoLocal24.com:

Many Americans, the great majority of whom remain surprisingly ignorant of Donald Trump’s business career, have been taken aback by the volatile, seat-of-the-pants way he acts as president. But that’s how he runs the Trump Organization (runs, not ran: whatever the bad ethics involved he is still  effectively running the Trump Organization, and indeed seeking to make lots of money for it in his new gig in the Oval Office). I’m also impressed by how much this man, who has so successfully avoided paying federal income taxes, is, with his jet-setting family, costing the taxpayers around $10 million a month in travel expenses – 10 times the rate of President Obama and his family. Mr. Trump is on track to be by far our most expensive president.

The president’s company was never publicly owned. Rather it is a secretive family enterprise centered on the  intensely narcissistic if sometimes paternalistic Donald Trump, with power radiating out from him through family members and retainers. It recalls a Mafia operation (and the Trump Organization is not entirely unfamiliar with mobsters). Compared to a public company, the Trump Organization has had relatively few constraints on how it operates and has been able to operate with remarkable opaqueness.

Given Mr. Trump’s history, age and character, it seems very unlikely that he’ll change his operating style in any major way. Rather, he will tend to run the White House as he runs his company – very arbitrarily. He must tell himself: “Hey, it got me this far!’’ Let us hope that some of the grown-ups in the Cabinet can moderate his worst impulses.

 

Jim Hightower: Would Trump put a big tariff on his daughter's company?

Via OtherWords.org


Bring those jobs back home, Donald Trump bellowed to those greedy corporate executives who’ve shipped middle-class jobs out of country, or I’ll slap you with a big tariff when you try to sell your foreign-made products here.

Great stuff, Donnie — and to prove you mean business, I know just the CEO you should target first: Her name is Ivanka. Your daughter.

Her multimillion-dollar line of clothing and accessories, sold through major national retailers ranging from Macy’s to Amazon, is pitched to America’s working women. Yet practically all of her products are made on the cheap in low-wage factories in China, Indonesia and Vietnam — anywhere except America.

Imagine the message it would send to runaway corporations — and the integrity it would establish for Trump — if he slapped his first tariffs on Ivanka’s goods.

But neither Daddy Trump nor the daughter want to discuss the embarrassing conflict between his political bluster and her ethic of runaway capitalism. Instead, she’s tried to dodge the issue by saying it doesn’t matter, since she’ll “separate” herself from the business if she becomes a White House adviser.

Nice try, Ivanka, but the stench of hypocrisy will only grow nastier if you’re at your father’s side while he pretends to castigate other corporations that abscond from America.

The only way to salvage even an iota of moral virtue is to repatriate the manufacturing of your brand-name apparel. Bringing those middle-class jobs home to the Good Ol’ US of A would also make a powerful political statement.

Yet because money trumps both political savvy and the morality of simply doing what’s right, Ivanka says her corporate brand will stay offshore. As a spokeswoman put it: “We want to make responsible business decisions.”

Really? How does that “Make America Great Again”?

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, public speaker and editor of the newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown

 

 

An exciting tour of Trump's deep ties with Putin's mobster empire

"Avarice,'' by Jesus Solana.

"Avarice,'' by Jesus Solana.

 

For a fascinating if alarming look at Donald Trump's connections to murderous Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and the ruthless fellow kleptocrats around him,  read this investigative piece in the magazine The American Interest by hitting this link. The text below is from  journalist David Cay Johnson's introduction:

Throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign he expressed glowing admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Many of Trump’s adoring comments were utterly gratuitous. After his Electoral College victory, Trump continued praising the former head of the KGB while dismissing the findings of all 17 American national security agencies that Putin directed Russian government interference to help Trump in the 2016 American presidential election.

As veteran investigative economist and journalist Jim Henry shows below, a robust public record helps explain the fealty of Trump and his family to this murderous autocrat and the network of Russian oligarchs. Putin and his billionaire friends have plundered the wealth of their own people. They have also run numerous schemes to defraud governments and investors in the United States and Europe. From public records, using his renowned analytical skills, Henry shows what the mainstream news media in the United States have failed to report in any meaningful way: For three decades Donald Trump has profited from his connections to the Russian oligarchs, whose own fortunes depend on their continued fealty to Putin.

We don’t know the full relationship between Donald Trump, the Trump family and their enterprises with the network of world-class criminals known as the Russian oligarchs. Henry acknowledges that his article poses more questions than answers, establishes more connections than full explanations. But what Henry does show should prompt every American to rise up in defense of their country to demand a thorough, out-in-the-open congressional investigation with no holds barred. The national security of the United States of America and of peace around the world, especially in Europe, may well depend on how thoroughly we understand the rich network of relationships between the 45th President and the Russian oligarchy....

 

 

 

 

Slob/celebrity culture puts a threat to national security in the White House

That Donald Trump is a sociopath has long been clear. He’s a volatile, astonishingly greedy and corrupt narcissist and quasi-fascist who lies nonstop. That the Republican Party nominated him and that a minority of voters swimming in rage,  wishful thinking and willful ignorance elected him says something about America’s steep decline into a slob culture..  (I wrote in Jim Webb’s name for president on Election Day, by the way.)

But what is even scarier is that someone who might be a traitor, working closely with a foreign power, Russia, now has access to the most secret U.S. intelligence information. What will the leaders of a mostly supine  Republican Party do to protect America from the grave security threat posed by having this sleazy man as our head of state? If they don’t do anything, how can they call themselves “conservatives’’? But for most of them, fear and opportunism will out.

From the federal statute on treason:

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

-- Robert Whitcomb

 

 

 

Jim Hightower: Perry to run Energy Dept. for crony capitalism

Via OtherWords.org

Rick Perry has taken quite a tumble since being governor of Texas. He was a twice-failed GOP presidential wannabe and then ended up being a rejected contestant on Dancing with the Stars, the television show for has-been celebrities.

But now, having kissed the ring of Donald Trump, Perry is being lifted from the lowly role of twinkle-toed TV hoofer to — get this — taking charge of our government’s nuclear arsenal.

That’s a position that usually requires some scientific knowledge and experience. But as we’re learning from Trump’s other Cabinet picks, the key qualification that Trump wants his public servants to have is a commitment to serve the private interests of corporate power.

That’s why Perry — a devoted practitioner of crony capitalism and a champion of oligarchy — has been rewarded with this position.

As governor, Perry went to extraordinary lengths to let the fossil-fuel giant Energy Transfer Partners run a pipeline through the ecologically fragile, natural wonders of Texas’s pristine Big Bend region. In fact, he rammed it right down the throats of local people, who were almost unanimously opposed.

Perry then accepted a $6 million campaign donation — i.e., a payoff — from the company’s corporate boss, who later made Perry a paid member of the corporation’s board of directors.

Perry also privatized a state-run, low-level nuclear-waste facility, turning it over to Waste Control Specialists, a firm owned by a major campaign contributor. Then he let the corporation double the amount of waste dumped there, while reducing its legal liability for damages.

Finally, after taking even more cash from the owner, Perry pushed to let him put high-level nuclear waste in the dump.

Rick Perry has zero expertise or experience for the job of energy secretary, but he has plenty at stiffing the American people and our environment.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, public speaker, editor of the populist newsletter The Hightower Lowdown and a member of the Public Citizen board. 

Trump and treason; longing for Jim Webb and John Kasich

Our great leader.

Our great leader.

 

Given Donald Trump’s pathological lying, record of personal and business corruption, narcissistic rapaciousness, and his hiding of the sort of financial information that previous presidents have provided to the public, we may never know the full extent of his ties to Russian murderer and kleptocrat–in-chief Vladimir Putin. (Some estimates put Putin's fortune as high as $100 billion.)

But given the extent of Putin’s relentless and successful effort to throw the presidential election to his fan Mr. Trump, we must start asking whether Mr. Trump is a traitor, perhaps because his organization has received massive loans from Russian figures close to the dictator. How much coordination was there between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin? How much will there be when our new maximum leader takes over?

One hint might be Donald Trump Jr.’s remark in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.’’

And then there is Mr. Trump's sleazy and very close associate Paul Manafort, with his very tight ties with the Kremlin. Much of the Trump entourage, including some members of his family, makes one want to take a bath in disinfectant. A creepy, immoral bunch.

John Shattuck, a lawyer and an assistant secretary of state (1993-98) in the Clinton administration and now at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts, wrote for the Dec. 17  Boston Globe a column headlined “Trump raises specter of treason, '' about the Russian hacking to get Donald Trump elected. Among his comments:

“Why does Trump publicly reject these intelligence agency conclusions {on the Russian assault on our electoral system} and the bipartisan proposal for a congressional investigation? As president-elect, he should have a strong interest in presenting a united front against Russia’s interference with the electoral process at the core of American democracy.

“There are several possible explanations for Trump’s position. They are not mutually exclusive. First, he may be trying to shore up his political standing before the Electoral College vote on Monday. Second, he may be attempting to undermine the credibility of US intelligence agencies in advance of his taking office so that he can intimidate them and have a freer hand in reshaping the intelligence product to suit his objectives. Third, he may be testing his ability to go over the heads of intelligence professionals and congressional critics and persuade the American public to follow his version of the truth about national security threats. And finally, he may be seeking to cover up evidence of involvement or prior knowledge by members of his campaign team or himself in the Russian cyberattack.

“In each case the president-elect is inviting an interpretation that his behavior is treasonous. The federal crime of treason is committed by a person ‘owing allegiance to the United States who . . . adheres to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort,’ and misprision of treason is committed by a person ‘having knowledge of the commission of any treason [who] conceals and does not disclose’  the crime. By denigrating or seeking to prevent an investigation of the Russian cyberattack Trump is giving aid or comfort to an enemy of the United States, a crime that is enhanced if the fourth explanation applies — that he is in fact seeking to cover up his staff’s or his own involvement in or prior knowledge of the attack.’’

 

Meanwhile, many of us say: “If only the Democrats had nominated someone like Jim Webb as their presidential candidate and the Republicans John Kasich!’’ Honorable and able men with remarkably little bad baggage.

For a trip down Memory (or is it Amnesia) Lane, take a look at this show. http://trumpthemovie.com/

-- Robert Whitcomb