Chaos - and disturbances - in the Oval Office - The good news? Donald Trump is behaving so incoherently, unable to parse sentences, claiming to have coined phrases like “pump-priming” and announcing to ...
18 hours ago
Well, all this is interesting to me, anyway, and that's what matters here. The Internet is a terrible thing for someone like me, who finds almost everything interesting.
It is difficult to assess the relative danger of each of these stories, because in any normal administration any of them could consume weeks if not months of attention as the press and politicians ferreted out each loose end. In this case, each seems to be supplanted by a new self-inflicted casualty within hours. ...
Time and again, Trump’s errors have been dismissed—even, incredibly, by his own aides and defenders—as the work of a man who simply has no idea what he’s doing. He doesn’t understand the gravity of Flynn’s duplicity. He didn’t think firing James Comey would be a big deal. He didn’t intend to make a liar of his vice president; it just slipped out! Even in the case of the classified information, National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, while refusing to state that what Trump shared was classified, said the president wouldn’t have known its status either way. These repeated lapses, taken together, create a case that Trump is simply not up to the job of the presidency. ...
The president does not help his own case. While it is fashionable to compare Trump to Nixon—a comparison Trump recently seems to be courting, from his hobnobbing with Henry Kissinger to his “tapes” threat—Nixon was a far more careful, strategic operator. His lies took time, and secret tapes, to unspool. Trump, however, keeps confirming his critics’ suspicions to the entire world. When the White House insisted Trump had not fired Comey over the Russia probe, Trump said he had. When the White House rebutted the classified-info disclosure, Trump implicitly admitted it, tweeting that he had an “absolute right” to do so. Where Nixon insisted he was not a crook, Trump boasts of his crookedness 140 characters at a time. ...
In part, Trump benefits from a double standard. Because he is not a career politician and because his reputation for crassness was well-established before he ran, he received a pass for some of his actions. This is true even now. While Hillary Clinton’s careless handling of classified information was perhaps the decisive factor in her November loss, Donald Trump appears to have handled far more sensitive information far more carelessly, even if, as he says, he was within his legal rights to do so. Yet although his position is precarious he is not finished. It is much harder to remove an elected president than it is to defeat a candidate, for reasons both legal and cultural.
Monday - We learned that Barack Obama had warned Trump about hiring General Flynn, the guy fired in disgrace, because of his undisclosed ties to Russia, less than a month after Trump hired him as National Security Advisor.
Tuesday - Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who's been investigating this Russia stuff.
Wednesday - Trump met with Russian diplomats, including an accused spy, in the Oval Office (giving Russian photographers access, but not the American news media).
Thursday - Trump admitted that he'd fired Comey because of the Russia investigation (after having his representatives lie about it using two other, contradictory explanations first).
Friday - Trump threatened Comey with secret tapes of their conversations (while refusing to divulge whether or not those tapes actually exist).
Saturday - The Justice Department interviews Trump-friendly replacements for Comey.
Sunday - Mothers Day. Trump was golfing.
Monday - We learned that Trump gave the Russians in that meeting highly-classified intelligence information.
Today - We learned that Trump had asked Comey to shut down the investigation into Flynn.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein wrote the memo articulating the argument for why James Comey should be fired. I was just speaking to one of my colleagues who said that in isolation, Rosenstein’s memo was not totally off base. Comey has made a number of big mistakes as FBI Director. (You can see the memo at the bottom of this article.) But that is really beside the point. As an argument in the abstract to justify why Comey could be fired, it’s an interesting argument. As an explanation of why Comey was in fact fired it is flatly ridiculous.
We heard earlier from CNN’s Jeff Zeleny that President Trump decided he wanted to fire Comey a week ago and then tasked Jeff Sessions with coming up with a rationale. But we don’t need Zeleny to tell us that. It’s obvious that this a rationale and not an explanation.
The idea that Trump fired Comey because he was unfair to Hillary Clinton or set aside DOJ guidelines in a way that was damaging to her is clearly not true. Indeed, it is so transparently nonsensical that putting it forward as a rationale suggests a certain presidential indifference to what anyone thinks.
As an accomplished lawyer, Rosenstein may have been able to justify the memo as an argument within the four corners of the document. But he knew that he was preparing an argument for firing the FBI Director while the FBI is investigating the President and his top associates for colluding with a foreign power to subvert a US election. The theory isn’t the point. The nature of the act is. This is a massive abuse of office. It is a very plausible basis for impeachment, though its plausibility in that regard is irrelevant unless and until there is political will in the Congress to take that step. Impeachment is a political not a legal process. ...
Months ago Jeff Sessions recused himself from any involvement in the Russia probe. That recusal put the investigation in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Whatever his reputation to this point, Rosenstein has zero credibility to run this investigation. The taint of corruption and disgrace on him permanent and irreversible.
Here’s the fundamental issue facing the country right now.
In criminal trials there are certain actions defendants can take from which judges will tell juries they can infer guilt. In a political context, this is one of those moments. We are now hearing word from White House officials that the White House is stunned at the backlash at Comey’s firing. Didn’t Democrats think he was doing a bad job? We’re even hearing commentators speculate that maybe this may have been a huge miscalculation. The White House didn’t realize how big a deal this was. In the final analysis I think this will be judged a major miscalculation – just not in the sense they mean. Frankly, no one is that naive. It doesn’t wash.
There is only one reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the decision to fire Comey: that there is grave wrongdoing at the center of the Russia scandal and that it implicates the President. As I write this, I have a difficult time believing that last sentence myself. But sometimes you have to step back from your assumptions and simply look at what the available evidence is telling you. It’s speaking clearly: the only reasonable explanation is that the President has something immense to hide and needs someone in charge of the FBI who he believes is loyal. Like Jeff Sessions. Like Rod Rosenstein.
You’ve probably heard that the Kushner family was caught over the weekend literally selling visas to immigrate to the United States in exchange for funding a $150 million dollar New Jersey real estate project. [See this article.] The sale itself is actually legal. It’s part of a highly controversial and widely abused program which provides visas to foreign nationals in exchange for $500,000 investments in US projects which by certain standards are judged to create jobs in impoverished or economically distressed parts of the United States. It’s become a widely abused vehicle for real estate developers looking to fund luxury development projects.
Setting that controversy aside, what sets this apart of course is that Jared Kushner is the most senior advisor to the President of the United States, as well as being the President’s son-in-law. While nominally stepping aside from his family business, his family is in China openly trading on the Kushner family’s ties to President Trump to rake up money. As much and as quickly as possible. Kushner’s sister Nicole actually led the presentation. Reporters from the Times and the Post were on hand at the presentation in Beijing (where they were able to get in) and at a second in Shanghai (where they weren’t.)
Trump – as well as the Kushner family’s connection to him – was explicitly invoked as the “key decision maker” in getting the visas. A Times reporter posted this picture of the presentation to Twitter, which I’ve marked up to identify the people in the slide …
This is, needless to say, the most open and flagrant kind of monetizing of the Presidency – as bad as anyone could have imagined from the conjoined Trump/Kushner families. The fact that this ‘nationalist’, ‘crack down on illegal immigration’ White House is connected to cash for visas activities like this just adds a layer of oily crust to the corruption.
President Donald Trump questioned why the Civil War — which erupted 150 years ago over slavery — needed to happen. He said he would be "honored" to meet with Kim Jong-Un, the violent North Korean dictator who is developing nuclear missiles and oppresses his people, under the "right circumstances."
The president floated, and backed away from, a tax on gasoline. Trump said he was "looking at" breaking up the big banks, sending the stock market sliding. He seemed to praise Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte for his high approval ratings. He promised changes to the Republican health care bill, though he has seemed unsure what was in the legislation, even as his advisers whipped votes for it.
And Monday still had nine hours to go.
"It seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian. "It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the president." ...
"White supremacists, lost causers, states-rights activists could latch onto this,” said David Blight, a Civil War historian at Yale University. “I don’t know if Trump even knows he’s doing it. You can be too ignorant to know you’re ignorant.”