• Comey's Thursday Testimony Is Consuming Washington Already
• Democrats Want Hillary Clinton to Shut Up and Go Away
• Russiagate is More Like Iran-Contra than Like Watergate
• Putin Denies Having Any Kompromat
• Is Marc Kasowitz the Right Person to Defend Trump in Russiagate?
• Deutsche Bank Denies Democrats' Request for Trump Information
On Saturday night, while details were still scarce, President Trump sent out several tweets that are best described as...ill-advised. Sunday morning, he was back at it again, issuing forth with another mini-tweetstorm:
We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don't get smart it will only get worse— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is "no reason to be alarmed!"— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That's because they used knives and a truck!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
Trump returned to the subject in an address at Ford's Theater Sunday evening, declaring, "This bloodshed must end, this bloodshed will end. As president, I will do what is necessary to prevent this threat from spreading to our shores and work every single day to protect the safety and security of our country, our communities and our people."
This sort of posturing has become standard for Trump after these sorts of attacks, right down to the exhortations to be "smart" and the denunciations of political correctness. Consider, for example, these tweets from the past 18 months:
After the Jakarta attacks (January 15, 2016): More radical Islam attacks today—it never ends! Strengthen the borders, we must be vigilant and smart. No more being politically correct.
After the Orlando nightclub attack (June 12, 2016): Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
After the Karrada bombing in Iraq (July 4, 2016): With Hillary and Obama, the terrorist attacks will only get worse. Politically correct fools, won't even call it what it is—RADICAL ISLAM!
After the Louvre attack (February 3, 2017): A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.
It is evident, at this point, that Trump has no actual interest in combating terrorism. If he did, he would fill the jobs that are crucial to the endeavor, like the directorships of the FBI, the Transportation Security Administration, and the National Counterterrorism Center. He would budget for a robust State Department, and pursue a foreign policy designed to weaken jihadists, as opposed to fanning their flames. He would stop distinguishing between Muslims and non-Muslims when it comes to politically-motivated acts of violence. He would acknowledge that most of the terrorists who have attacked the U.S. (and the U.K. and France, for that matter) were homegrown, and so any meaningful efforts have to consider the matter from that angle. He would also tear up his travel ban, which has little chance of stopping terrorist acts, and every chance of fomenting the kind of resentment that leads to homegrown terrorism.
No, Trump's game is not stopping acts of terrorism (which is not easy, even with the best of intentions, and the finest people working on the problem). His game is (1) venting his emotions, over which he exercises very little control, and (2) scoring political points. Sunday morning's tweets are particularly obvious in this way. The second one renews Trump's rivalry with London mayor Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, by willfully misrepresenting the Mayor's words (Khan was not downplaying the attacks, he was advising Londoners not to be alarmed by increased police activity over the course of the next week). And the third tweet, remarkably enough, is even more outrageous, as Trump bends over backwards to try and score some pro-gun points. His argument, apparently, is that you don't need guns to commit terrorist acts. True enough, but the London attackers used a van and knives precisely because guns are very hard to get in the United Kingdom. If they had been armed with guns, there's every reason to believe the carnage would have been worse, particularly if those guns were semi-automatic (legal in the U.S.) or automatic (illegal in the U.S., but still obtainable).
The President's response, rooted in fear and anger, parallels the rather authoritarian response of British Prime Minister Theresa May. Declaring that "enough is enough," May said that if her government is sustained in Thursday's elections, she will deal with Muslim communities more aggressively, watch Internet traffic more carefully, and increase security in London. Perhaps this will involve re-hiring some fo the 20,000 police officers whose positions were eliminated in the name of fiscal austerity by then-Home Secretary...Theresa May.
May's response appears to be out of step with the British public, which has pulled together after each of the attacks of the last few weeks. On Saturday evening, for example, social media was full of offers from Londoners offering their spare bedrooms to anyone who might need a place to sleep, along with—in proper British fashion—a cup of tea. May's handling of the situation may cost her dearly: Thursday's election was supposed to be a slam dunk for the Conservatives, but polls now show that Labour is gaining ground, and the election could turn into a toss-up.
Will Trump's approach similarly turn off his voters? There's no general election anytime soon, so that's hard to know. However, what is clear that he's getting roasted on Twitter, with tens of thousands of respondents weighing in to register their disapproval. He's also getting absolutely flayed by the media. CNN's Chris Cillizza argues that The Donald's response, instead of being presidential, is anti-presidential—the exact opposite of what we hope for and have come to expect. The Washington Post's Phillip Rucker wrote:
A traditional president would have reacted carefully to the London Bridge terrorist attack by instilling calm, being judicious about facts and appealing to the country's better angels.
But Donald Trump is no traditional president. He reacted impulsively to Saturday night's carnage by stoking panic and fear, being indiscreet with details of the event and capitalizing on it to advocate for one of his more polarizing policies and to advance a personal feud.
The Post's conservative columnist, Jennifer Rubin, was even more unsparing, writing, "our president acted like a clod, a heartless and dull-witted thug in sending out a series of tweets." The rest of her column is equally unflattering, making use of such phrases as "off his rocker," "incoherent," and "tower of lies."
There is also some evidence that the muckety-mucks within Trump's own party are getting restless. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and other lawmakers are openly wondering why the administration is still pursuing its travel ban, since its ostensible purpose was to provide a 90-day window to examine vetting policy. They observe that, thanks to the various injunctions, the administration has had its 90 days, so the ban should no longer be needed. Naturally, the White House has had no comment on this.
As Harry S. Truman so famously observed, the buck stops with the president. Empty declarations are fine on the campaign trail, or when speaking of some other country. However, if the United States is victimized in the same way the U.K. has been while Trump is in the White House, he's not going to be able to blame Barack Obama, or political correctness, or a failure to be "smart." Indeed, such an attack might unleash an even darker and more authoritarian response from Trump than the ones we've already seen. That is the prediction, for example, of former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau. In any case, should such an attack come to pass, that is likely when we will understand where Trump, and his base, truly stand. (Z)
On Thursday, former FBI Director will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Republicans in Washington are on tenterhooks, fearing what he might say and how it could affect President Donald Trump's future. It is already known that Trump asked him to drop the investigation of former NSA Michael Flynn, but he might have a couple of additional shoes to drop. He also wrote a detailed memo after the meeting with Trump and the committee might just have asked him for a copy of it.
Republicans on the committee are likely going to try to undercut Comey in any way they can. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), for example, said she wants to know about his tone and the tenor of the questions. Republicans outside of Congress are saying that Comey has zero credibility. Jim Gannon, a GOP activist in North Carolina, put it this way: "The whole thing with Russia is nonsense." Allison Powers, a Republican Party official, said the "deep state" is "trying to mess [Trump] up." Nevertheless, Republicans are very nervous that Comey will say something to the effect of "Trump tried to obstruct justice." (V)
Interviews with a dozen Democratic insiders, including supporters of Hillary Clinton, feel that enough is enough and she should stop rehashing why she lost (Comey, Russia, WikiLeaks, bad data, voter suppression, anything but Clinton) so the party can move on. Former presidents generally don't attack their successors, but of course, Clinton is not a former president. Still, her whining in public about how she wasn't treated fairly is not a basis for putting the Democrats on track to win back the House in 2018 and the White House in 2020. Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said: "Complaining about an outcome and blaming everyone else is not a good political strategy." Others said that if she wants to talk about the election, maybe she could focus a bit more on what she did wrong. For example, she lost Wisconsin by 0.7% of the vote. Maybe if she had visited the state even one time, that might have added one point to her column and saved the state. Another said: "When Al Gore lost the election, he went to Europe, gained weight and grew a beard. He walked away. And there's something to that." (V)
Paul Rosenberg has a strong argument that the Russia scandal isn't much like Watergate, but is a lot like Iran-Contra. Watergate was pretty simple, after all. Richard Nixon's reelection committee hired some "plumbers" to fix leaks he didn't like by burgling the DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex. When the burglars were arrested, Nixon tried to cover it up. It was strictly domestic and a nice, tidy package.
Iran-Contra was far more complicated, with the Reagan administration illegally selling arms to Iran in hopes of getting some hostages released, despite Reagan pledging never to negotiate with Iran. The proceeds were used to fund drug-dealing terrorists in Nicaragua (the "Contras"), who opposed the country's leftist government. Generals were bribed, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was an accomplice, and Reagan repeatedly lied to Congress and the American people.
Special Counsel Lawrence Walsh, a lifelong Republican who was appointed to the federal bench by Dwight Eisenhower, indicted a dozen people, but later George H. W. Bush pardoned them all. Walsh didn't indict Reagan because he believed Reagan had dementia.
The scandal had many moving parts and involved foreign countries, Middle East arms dealers, the Iranian government, Central American paramilitary groups, and more. While Russiagate is still unfolding, it clearly involves at least Russia and Ukraine, and maybe Turkey and Cyprus. It also involves many people, not just the president, a couple of henchmen, and five plumbers. And fundamentally, Iran-Contra was about abuse of power rather than statutory felonies. (V)
Vladimir Putin, currently president of Russia and formerly a KGB spy, knows a thing or two about kompromat and also about lying. Yesterday in an interview with Megyn Kelly on NBC Putin was asked if he had any compromising information on Donald Trump. His response: "Well, this is just another load of nonsense. Where would we get this information from? Why, did we have some special relationship with him? We didn't have any relationship at all." If you believe this, we have a nice bridge over the Moscow River you might want to buy for a bargain price.
As to where he might have gotten such information, well how about the FSB (successor to the KGB)? Maybe the hackers who broke into DNC and John Podesta's emails could also have spared a few hours to break into the RNC and some of the people associated with Trump's campaign. There have been numerous reports that the Russians also tried to hack the Republicans and it seems unlikely that their security measures were any better than the Democrats'. If Putin has the goods on Trump, he is unlikely to release anything damaging as long as Trump is what the Russians call "a useful idiot," basically someone who unwittingly serves their interests. If at some point Trump becomes more of a liability than an asset, then Putin could decide it's time for him to go. It would be ironic, to say the least, if Congress couldn't bring Trump down, Robert Mueller couldn't bring Trump down, but Putin could. Right now this is all speculative, but Putin's statement that he has no kompromat doesn't pass the smell test. He has the motive and the ability to collect lots of it and surely has been doing it. (V)
Donald Trump has chosen his long-time personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, to lead his defense team in the Russiagate scandal(s). Kasowitz has a stellar track record, but this job is totally different from anything he has ever done before. Some of his previous and current cases include:
- Trump vs. NYT: Kasowitz demanded that the Times retract a "defamatory" article; it didn't
- Trump vs. Timothy O'Brien: O'Brien said Trump isn't a billionaire; Kasowitz sued, but the case was dismissed
- Trump's divorce records: The media wanted to see Trump's divorce records; Kasowitz kept them sealed
- Trump University: One student has rejected the settlement and Kasowitz is representing Trump in the appeal
- Trump vs. Zervos: An "Apprentice" contestant is suing Trump for sexual advances; Kasowitz is handling it
- Trump vs. Trump properties: When Trump World Tower wanted to fire Trump as property manager, Kasowitz won
These are standard conflicts between two parties: Trump and someone else. Kasowitz is good at these, but the Russia scandal is a whole other ball of wax. Kasowitz has no background in national security cases and certainly is no expert on obstruction of justice or misuse of executive power.
Another problem Kasowitz has is whether his client will listen to him. Suppose Kasowitz tells Trump to lie low, stop tweeting, and let him be the one to talk to the media. It might be good advice to have a savvy lawyer dealing with the media rather than an explosive client who tends to say things that aren't true and which could be used against him later. But there is a fair chance that Trump would undermine Kasowitz's strategy and say (or tweet) things he shouldn't. (V)
As Congressional Democrats endeavor to unravel the Trump-Russia situation, they have decided—with some justification—that the President's financial records will be an invaluable source of insight. He, of course, is not interested in sharing, so the blue team tried a different angle, and asked Deutsche Bank to verify whether or not Trump has any ties to Russia. The bank has declined the request.
Surely, the Democrats making the request knew it was a longshot that a foreign bank, and one whose marketing pitch involves keeping its clients' secrets, would give up the goods. Much more interesting will be when and if Robert Mueller gets around to subpoenaing the President's tax returns and other financial records. Executive privilege would not apply, since those documents are not the work product of the executive branch and pre-date Trump's presidency. Undoubtedly, Marc Kasowitz (see above) is already hard at work trying to find a legal way to say, "No thanks, Bob." (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun04 Trump Is Not Making Progress Finding an FBI Director
Jun04 Haley: Trump Believes in Climate Change
Jun04 White House Will No Longer Honor Requests for Information from Democrats
Jun04 Mueller Will Investigate Manafort
Jun04 Trump Will Not Link Tax Reform and Infrastructure
Jun04 Next Week Is Infrastructure Week
Jun04 Montana Attorney General Will Not Challenge Tester
Jun03 Trump Is Gambling on His Base
Jun03 Winners and Losers
Jun03 Bloomberg Pledges $15 Million for Dealing with Climate Change
Jun03 Trump Pressed Obama State Dept. to Ease Russia Sanctions
Jun03 Did Sessions Meet with the Russians a Third Time?
Jun03 Keep an Eye on Al Franken
Jun03 Are Democrats Barking Up the Wrong Tree?
Jun02 U.S. to Withdraw from Paris Climate Accord
Jun02 Will Trump Try to Block Comey's Senate Testimony?
Jun02 Trump Will Appeal Travel Ban to the Supreme Court
Jun02 White House Grants Ethics Waivers to 17 Appointees
Jun02 Trump Breaks Promise and Will Keep U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv
Jun02 Why Kushner Is in Jeopardy
Jun02 Senate Races with an Incumbent Republican
Jun01 Trump's Window for Passing Laws Is Closing
Jun01 Trump Likely to Exit Paris Accord Today
Jun01 Trump Is Running a Bake-off for Chief of Staff
Jun01 Trump Is Having Trouble Hiring Senior Officials
Jun01 Trump's Approval Ratings Continue to Erode
Jun01 Why Russiagate Is Not Watergate
Jun01 Republicans Are Already Gunning for Elizabeth Warren
Jun01 CNN Cans Kathy Griffin
Jun01 More Senate Races
May31 Trump's Communications Director Leaves
May31 Trump's Communications Strategy Really Is a Mess
May31 Can Trump Stop the Leaks?
May31 Russians Discussed "Derogatory" Information about Trump and His Aides
May31 Dirty-Money Case Could Ensnare Trump
May31 Rundown of the Senate Races, Part I
May30 New Main Page Today
May30 Trump Is Consumed by the "Russia Thing"
May30 Trump Should Fire Kushner
May30 Trump Can't Decide How to Deal with the News
May30 Trump Staffer Says that the Portland Attacks are Unacceptable
May30 Can the President Be Indicted?
May30 The CBO Score and Election Year Pain
May30 The Sanders Revolution is Fizzling
May30 Georgia Republican Is Running with Trump and against Trump at the Same Time
May30 Wisconsin Democrats Like Their Chances of Knocking Off Scott Walker
May29 Merkel: United States Is Not a Reliable Partner
May29 Trump Calls Kushner Reports "Fake News"
May29 Intel Pros See No Legitimate Explanation for Kushner Plan