Quote of the Week: “I’m baaaaack!” ~ Vlad “Chuckie” Putin
Week # 162 of the Trump Era dawned on Friday the 14th, Valentine’s Day, and the only one wanting to be Trump’s Valentine was his Attorney General William Barr, who ignored a mutiny at the Department of Justice to interfere with yet another one of Trump’s legal disasters, the case against his first National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, when Barr said he would “review the case” in which Flynn has already been convicted (because he pled guilty), prompting the President to assert that he has “the legal right to intervene in federal criminal cases.” (*Spoiler Alert: he has neither the right nor the legal power to subvert justice.)
That erroneous claim was proven false immediately when the Department of Justice dismissed all charges against former FBI Director Andrew McCabe in one of the Boutique Political Prosecutions that Barr undertook at the direct behest of the President, regardless of the lack of evidence or any legal basis at all for these investigations. Unfortunately for Trump and Barr, manufactured charges are not yet a basis for imprisoning people disliked by the President.
What is standing in their way is the rule of law and the judicial system charged with implementing that rule, and a whole panel of federal appellate court judges illustrated the concept on Friday when they struck down the Trump administration’s approval of work requirements for obtaining Medicaid, in yet another legal defeat for the President. There are simply too many people working for the government who are determined to keep it on the level, both rank and file functionaries and sworn officers of the court, loyal Americans whose training and personal makeup reinforces the integrity of our institutions rather than allow them to be compromised for illegal ends.
Those dedicated public employees are being called the “Deep State” by President Trump as he characterizes their personal honesty and professional competence as some sort of grand conspiracy against himself, and in a strange sense he is correct since they swore an oath to defend our nation and our Constitution from exactly the sort of existential criminal threat that Trump embodies.
Saturday found Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking a not-so-secret meeting with his Russian counterpart in Munich, when he and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov got together and the America press was only informed of the meeting after the fact when it was announced by Russian media, with Pompeo refusing to say what was discussed.
Also on Saturday, the Republican Governor of Vermont endorsed Trump’s only rival for the Republican nomination, Bill Weld, at about the same time that Congress received a memo about Trump’s assassination of Iranian General Qasim Soleimani, an official report that directly contradicts Trump’s lie that he attacked Iran to prevent an imminent attack against the United States’ interests, some vague claims about attacks on “American personnel and embassies” without a shred of evidence to support them.
This reverence for embassy personnel, however, did not extend to the victims of an actual embassy attack when the administration “zeroed out of the State Department budget” a request from a nonprofit entity set up a fund in honor of J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador killed in Benghazi, Libya, in a 2012 terrorist attack. Once their 8 investigations failed to frame Democratic officials for crimes in connection with Ambassador Stevens death, they were done toying with his dead body, and now need his memory erased forever since honoring the man’s valiant death serves only as a reminder of the GOP’s earlier failures at subverting the American system of justice for political ends. Trump would show them later in the week how that should be done.
On Sunday Trump found the time to attend both the Daytona 500 NASCAR race in Florida, and fly back to Washington in time for the wedding of Steven Miller, his chief ghoul and the architect of Trump’s Kiddie Concentration Camps. He had Air Force One do a flyby over the race course while his Presidential limo did a ceremonial lap around the track, then beat it back to Washington where Miller married the former Katie Rose Walden, a special assistant to President Trump and the press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, at their boss’s hotel and cash cow down the block from the White House, the Trump International.
That was also that day that 1,100 former prosecutors called on Attorney General Barr to resign because he is turning the United States Department of Justice into Trump’s personal vendetta machine, and his former Chief of Staff General John Kelly joined the Department of Pointing Out The Obvious when he ripped into Trump’s chief policy advisors Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and the 3 clueless boobs from Fox & Friends, telling reporters that “Fox News, for economic reasons and political reasons, is bolstering the vision that Donald Trump wants to see.” Astounding, Holmes!
Monday was a national holiday, Presidents Day, or as most people called it, “Other Presidents Day,” and a day chosen by a national association of federal judges to call an emergency meeting for Tuesday to address “growing concerns about the intervention of Justice Department officials and President Donald Trump in politically sensitive cases.”
It was also the day when the petition by former prosecutors calling for Barr’s resignation grew to over 2,000 names, including even lifelong friends and former close associates of the man, and the day we found out that the budget for bomb-sniffing dogs at our nation’s airports would be diverted to Trump’s vanity wall, which is already being blown down by high winds and being easily breached by battery-operated household tools.
Back to his usual grueling 3-hour work schedule on Tuesday, Trump contradicted his own rhetoric and undermined his administration’s stated policy of tightly controlling the flow of sensitive American technology to China when he announced he now wants to sell China our high tech products. This only confused and irritated our European allies, who Trump has practically ordered to exclude any software from Chinese telecom giant Huwei from inclusion in international security programs, a sensible idea given China’s history of industrial espionage and intellectual property theft. China, are you listening?
Unfortunately for China, they are in the midst of a devastating pandemic called the Coronavirus that has infected hundreds of thousands of Chinese, quarantined over 100 million in their homes, and killed over 2,000 victims with hundreds more added daily, and is now spilling over its borders to the greater world, the same disease Trump announced the week before would be eradicated by (!!) “April’s heat,” about the extent of the planning this administration is capable of undertaking to combat a potentially catastrophic global pandemic, being that Trump slashed the budget of the Center for Communicable Diseases last year.
Speaking of mixed messages when it comes to intelligence and national security, it was announced on Tuesday that Jason Klitenic will step down as General Counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence because he illegally blocked the Ukrainian whistleblower’s report from going to Congress. No word if he was forced to resign for breaking the law, or for not getting away with breaking the law.
And speaking of breaking the law and rampant corruption, Trump threw a Pardon Party on Tuesday when he pardoned a bunch of famously corrupt rich old white guys and commuted the sentence of a former contestant on his reality show, and we were treated to the news that Barr was considering handing in his resignation in protest of Trump’s takeover of the Justice Department.
The same Justice Department that on Wednesday Trump demanded that Barr should “clean house” of honest prosecutors who defy the President by stubbornly adhering to the rule of law and their oaths of office instead of his whims and political needs, while demanding justice (revenge) for himself and declaring that, as president, he is “the chief law enforcement officer in the land” (Again, he is not, that would be Barr himself, the Attorney General).
Wednesday was also a nationally televised Democratic debate, so naturally Trump threw a competing MAGA rally, where he childishly insulted the Democratic candidates for president in an attempt to steal their headlines, which did not work at all since his by-now predictable cookie-cutter MAGA rally got only scant press attention compared to the spectacle of 6 people who are far smarter and more qualified than Trump discussing complex issues with a familiar ease, issues and intellectual concepts that are still far beyond Trump’s grasp after 3 years on the job.
The week came to a dramatic end on Thursday when Trump’s old buddy, his longest-serving advisor and self-described “political dirty trickster” Roger Stone finally had to face the music for his crimes. His was the case with which Trump has most forcefully interfered, calling his jury conviction on 5 felony counts of lying to Congress, obstructing justice and threatening a witness and the judge herself “a gross miscarriage of justice,” forcing Attorney General Barr to intervene with a lighter sentencing recommendation that resulted in the outraged resignations from the case of all 4 Federal prosecutors.
Stone (as usual) showed up dressed like a villain from an old Batman comic book, and was sorely disappointed not to be let off with a slap on the wrist as Judge Amy Berman Jackson ripped him a new butthole, and offered the same courtesy to Barr and Trump too as she condemned their improper interference with criminal justice in the case before her court.
As it turned out, the replacement prosecutors did not withdraw the original sentencing recommendation of 6 to 9 years, and defended it on legal grounds, a poke in the eye to both Barr and Trump, and another black eye for the Department of Justice. Judge Jackson sentenced Stone to 3 years and 4 months in Federal prison, causing Trump to howl about giving Stone a pardon too, and screaming more crazy lies about “dirty cops” and government officials who he claimed also lied to Congress but were never punished (none of which ever happened).
Generally, when people are charged with crimes, it is because they actually committed them, something Trump wants to change to a more elastic and interpretive approach to criminal justice.
And speaking of inventing crimes out of thin air, on Thursday we learned of a former Congressman and loyal Trump supporter Dana Rohrabacher, who flew to London in 2017 to speak in person with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy that was giving the Wikileaks founder asylum at the time to (!!!) offer him a pardon in exchange for publicly clearing Russia of their crimes of interfering in the 2016 American presidential election on Trump’s behalf.
While Rohrabacher was unable to deny his mission, he fell on his sword and denied Trump’s direct involvement in the scheme with this excuse: “When speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him. At no time did I offer a deal made by the President, nor did I say I was representing the President.”
Riiiight…just like Trump was “unaware” of Giuliani’s covert activities to absolve Russia and frame Ukraine for their crimes, until he wasn’t unaware, until he was very aware but uninvolved, until he was involved up to his neck but innocent of any crimes, until he was directing the whole criminal circus but was above the law since he is the President, until all this criminal activity got him impeached.
And Speaking of Russia interfering with our elections, we found out on Thursday why Trump was appointing a political hack who never worked in the intelligence field (or even had a low-level Security Clearance) to be (!!) Acting Director of Intelligence, a crucial position requiring a broad expertise in intelligence gathering and its judicious dissemination to policy decision makers. It seems that the intelligence community’s election security specialists had warned Congress and some State legislatures the week before that Russia was back with a vengeance in the election hacking business, this time not only targeting the general election to secure a Trump victory, but key State Primaries as well to insure he faces the weakest possible opponent.
When Trump discovered that the public now knows that Putin & Company are actively interfering in our elections on his behalf again, he was furious… that we found about about it. He took to Twitter and the podium, not to deny Russia meddling or to insult anyone’s intelligence by saying he would refuse their help and put a stop to it, but to lament that “Adam Schiff would weaponize the information” by encouraging Democrats to use it against Trump in the 2020 election campaign, yet another instance of life being very unfair to the Victim-In-Chief.
Having successfully taken over the Justice Department with the appointment of Bill Barr, Trump now wants political control over the dissemination of intelligence, so that information that is vital to the national security of the United States gets suppressed if it interferes with the political security of Donald Trump. The appointment of the US Ambassador to Germany (a job for which he was also unsuited) Richard Grennell won’t need to be approved by the Senate since he will be “Acting Director,” not the permanent position that would require Senate approval and the extensive vetting that the demanding and ultra-sensitive post of Director of Intelligence requires.
Small wonder the intelligence-gathering community is increasingly bypassing the President that a great many of them consider a compromised Russia asset (they have seen the proof) and have been presenting their evidence directly to Congress and to individual State governments since Trump and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell have repeatedly prevented any legislation addressing election security from seeing the light of day for the past 3 years. If the Feds refuse to handle this threat, then individual State and Municipal governments will have to take up the slack.
Week #162 of the Trump Era ended with Trump lashing out in uncontrolled rage (okay that’s nothing out of the ordinary in the Trump Era), this time at New York State, when a series of new restrictions were announced on New York’s lucrative used car exporting business, using the Department of Homeland Security as his political blunt instrument when they said vehicles with New York State titles would face weeks or months of delays before they could be exported, putting the livelihoods of thousands of working stiffs at risk while reducing the State’s tax revenues, pretty much the opposite of what a President is suppose to do for the States of the Union.
Apparently the appointment of Mr. Grennell is already paying handsome dividends as Trump immediately began turning the agencies charged with insuring our safety into political weapons easily targeted at not only Trump’s political rivals, but the citizens of certain States of the Union that refuse to recognize that President Trump is a cross between a king and a dictator whose policies may not be disobeyed or his personal attributes mocked.
What Trump forgets, however, is that this is America, where we question authority and mock the mock-worthy, and where nobody is willing to get used to blind obedience to a hysteria-prone cartoonish buffoon with a painted orange face and a yellow fright wig.