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IS THE TRUMP-PUTIN “BROMANCE” OVER?

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 5, 2018 at 12:33 am

The love-fest between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump certainly got off to a great start.

No doubt well-informed on Trump’s notorious egomania, Russian President Putin called a press conference on December 17, 2015, to announce: “He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. But, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the Presidential race.”

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Vladimir Putin

kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

Trump quickly responded. On the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” he said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia. 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country”—an insult aimed at President Barack Obama.

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Donald Trump

Both Putin and Trump are well-known for their authoritarian characteristics. But more than one dictator’s admiration for another might explain their notorious “bromance.”

Trump has repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). He believes the United States is paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance—and he wants other members to contribute far more.  

He has also said that, if Russia attacked NATO members, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after determining whether those nations have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

If he believed that they had not done so, he would tell them: “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

This clearly gave Putin a reason to prefer Trump over his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton. Trump’s statement marked the first time that a major Presidential candidate placed conditions on the United States’ coming to the defense of its major allies.

The withdrawal of the United States from NATO would instantly render that alliance kaput. Its European members that have long hurled insults at the United States would suddenly face extinction.  

Even if their armed forces proved a match for Russia’s—which they wouldn’t—their governments would cower before the threat of Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal.  

Trump’s motives for his “bromance” with Putin have been more difficult to decipher.

Some believe that Trump—a notorious egomaniac—is simply responding to overdoses of Putin flattery.

Others think that, while visiting Moscow, Trump made himself vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

There are unconfirmed Intelligence reports that he paid—and watched—several Russian prostitutes urinate on a bed once slept on by President Obama and his wife at Moscow’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The alleged incident was reportedly captured by hidden microphones and cameras operated by the FSB, the successor to the KGB.

Then, on November 29, Trump’s longtime attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, cast new light over the Trump-Putin relationship.

Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to lying to Congress about the Russia investigation. 

Cohen admitted that he lied about the “Moscow Project”—the Trump Organization’s efforts to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.” To sweeten the deal, Trump planned to offer a $50 million penthouse suite to Putin. 

According to Cohen, Trump hid his business dealings with Russia throughout the campaign—while Moscow intervened to elect him.

Shortly after this news broke, Trump canceled his scheduled meeting with Putin at the December 1 G20 summit in Buenos Aires. 

Even so, Putin is not the first Communist dictator to find common cause with an avowed Right-winger.

On August 23, 1939, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin signed a “non-aggression pact” with Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.

Joseph Stalin

The reason: Hitler intended to invade Poland—but feared going to war with the neighboring Soviet Union if he did so. By signing a non-aggression pact with Stalin, he avoided this danger—and gained “rights” to the western half of Poland.  

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

In addition, Nazi Germany began receiving huge shipments of raw materials from the Soviet Union—as part of Stalin’s effort to placate Hitler and avoid a Nazi-Soviet clash.

And Stalin got something, too: The eastern half of Poland, which would be occupied by the Red Army.

But the Hitler-Stalin alliance lasted less than two years. It ended without warning—on June 22, 1941.

With 134 divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more for deployment behind the front—a total of three million men—the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

There are four ways Putin may now regret his “bromance” with Trump.  

First: Trump has not been able to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia by President Obama for subverting the 2016 election.  

Second: Democrats and even some Republicans have taken a more aggressive stance toward Russia because of that subversion. They have pressured European allies to impose tougher sanctions against Russia.

Third: Putin must be dismayed that his subversion of the 2016 election became known—and, even worse, is the subject of an all-out investigation. That investigation has proven highly embarrassing to Trump—and Russia.

Fourth: Trump is known for his egomania, not his loyalty. He may take offense at some future perceived Putin slight. In such case, he may well decide he doesn’t owe anything to the man he once called “a leader.”

TRUMP: INCITING VIOLENCE, ESCAPING RESPONSIBILITY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 6, 2018 at 12:06 am

David Gergen is a longtime Republican who has advised Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. He is now a senior political analyst for CNN. 

Summing up Trump’s legacy of hatred, Gergen said: 

“Trump unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country from the day he declared he was running for president, and they’ve been snarling and barking at each other ever since. It’s just inevitable there are going to be acts of violence that grow out of that.” 

Gergen made that statement on October 24, 2018—the day that pipe bombs were mailed to:

  • Former President Barack Obama
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former First Lady and United States Senator Hillary Clinton
  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder
  • Congresswoman Maxine Waters
  • Billionaire George Soros
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Actor Robert De Niro
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan
  • Former Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz

All of these intended victims had one thing in common: All of them had been brutally and repeatedly attacked by President Donald Trump. 

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Donald Trump

Watching coverage of the pipe-bomb mailings on CNN, a viewer might be forgiven for mistaking this thinking this network for Fox News.

One commentator after another said, in effect, “The President doesn’t understand the power of his words—and that they can lead unstable people to violent action.”

On the contrary: Trump thoroughly understands the power of his words. 

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks addressed this issue on the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.  

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it.”  

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Donald Trump

DAVID BROOKS: “Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes. And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’”

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gift for insult.  His targets—and insults—included:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.” 
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.” 
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

Trump fully understands the power of threats—and has made liberal use of them against both Republicans and Democrats. 

On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”

An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’”

Two years later, on August 27, 2018, Trump, meeting with Right-wing Christian leaders at the State Dining Room of the White House, warned of “violence” if Democrats won control of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections: “There is violence. When you look at Antifa—these are violent people.”

Trump also understands the value of having subordinates make inflammatory statements that serve his purposes. 

On July 29, 2016, Roger Stone, a notorious Right-wing political consultant and Trump strategist, told Breitbart News: “The first thing Trump needs to do is begin talking about [voter fraud] constantly. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.”

In short: This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Donald Trump fully understands the constituency that he is trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs—and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either. 

He is the ultimate narcissist: “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere,” Trump told Playboy magazine in a 1990 interview.

After the bombing attempts, Trump stated: “In these times we have to unify.” But he is by nature a combative divider, not a conciliator. He is a nihilist, appealing to hatred, offering only destruction.

He’s 72, has often boasted of the joys of getting even, and he’s not going to change now.

As first-mate Starbuck says of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

TRUMP: INCITING VIOLENCE, ESCAPING RESPONSIBILITY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 5, 2018 at 12:18 am

England’s King Henry II became infamous for his quick temper.

It was Henry who screamed, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” And soon afterward, four of his barons rushed to Canterbury Cathedral and murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket.

Becket and Henry had been close friends for years. On the battlefield, Becket had routed Henry’s enemies in France.

And Henry had rewarded Becket’s loyalty by appointing him Chancellor of England.

But then Henry decided to negate the expanding power of the Catholic Church by appointing Becket Archbishop of Canterbury.

It was a mistake. The previously worldly Becket took his new duties seriously—and became the church’s foremost defender in England. 

Henry believed it was a betrayal—and never forgave Becket. 

Unable to convict the archbishop on trumped-up charges, Henry gave vent to his rage—and Becket died in a hail of sword-thrusts by the King’s barons.

Fast-forward to 2018—and America’s own version of Henry II (or Henry VIII): Donald Trump.

According to the The New York Times, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump aimed nearly 4,000 tweets at 281 different targets.

Donald Trump

His Twitter assaults often dominated entire news cycles for days on end.

As President-elect, he continued these assaults—such as the one on November 18, 2016.

On that evening, Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended a Broadway performance of the hit musical “Hamilton.”

After the curtain call, the actor Brandon Victor Dixon—who played Aaron Burr—respectfully addressed Pence:

“We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our friends, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Dixon—who is black—was rightly alarmed.

Trump had received the open and enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and other white supremacist groups. Since his election, white thugs had assaulted blacks and other non-whites across the country.

Trump’s reaction to Dixon’s plea came in two Twitter rants:

“Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen!”

And: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

Trump clearly didn’t care if some of his 55.3 million Twitter followers decided—like Henry’s barons—to “rid” him of “this meddlesome actor.”  Or the whole “meddlesome cast” of “Hamilton.”

According to an October 16, 2018 story on CNN: Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has directly insulted, attacked or otherwise maligned more than 100 individuals on Twitter. 

On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” 

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match. 

And on August 15, 2017, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

Image result for Image of Trump Train running over a CNN reporter

Then there are his “hillbilly Nuremberg rallies,” as comedian Bill Maher put it.

During his 2016 run for the Presidency, Trump said at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell … I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.” 

And on August 9, 2016,  Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Thus, Trump encouraged gun fanatics to assassinate Clinton.  

On October 18, 2018, appearing at a rally in Missoula, Montana, Trump celebrated Montana United States Senator Greg Gianforte’s 2017 physical assault on a reporter: “Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!” 

From the outset of his campaign for President, Trump gave his opponents—Republican and Democrat—a series of disparaging nicknames. Among these:

  • “Crooked Hillary” Clinton
  • “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz
  • “Psycho Joe” Scarborough

Besides inciting violence against his critics and opponents, Trump has repeatedly attacked their integrity and patriotism. 

Trump mocked the wife of United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz. He claimed that Cruz’s father had been a party to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  

Throughout his run for President, Trump’s followers aimed the chant, “Lock her up!” at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Yet Clinton has never been tried for a crime, let alone convicted of one.

At his rallies as President, Trump still encourages his followers to shout this chant.

Summing up Trump’s legacy of hatred, longtime Republican Presidential adviser David Gergen said: 

“Trump unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country from the day he declared he was running for president, and they’ve been snarling and barking at each other ever since. It’s just inevitable there are going to be acts of violence that grow out of that.”

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STUPIDITY AND TREASON

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 16, 2018 at 12:20 am

In June, 2001, President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred. 

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed. 

“I did play rugby,” gushed Bush. “Very good briefing.”

President George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin

But more was to come.

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others—even world leaders—through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that America can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Foumier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.  We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

In short: Bush got played

He believed that Putin was trying to lead Russia into a democratic future. He did not admire Putin as a dictator—nor want to be a similarly autocratic “President-for-Life.”

He didn’t constantly praise Putin, nor demonize American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency—when they contradicted what Putin told him.

Nor did he coerce or encourage House and Senate Republicans to defame the integrity of those Intelligence agencies.

From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it would have been unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to find common cause with a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald Trump won, first, the Republican Presidential nomination and, then, the White House. 

Donald Trump

Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, both during his Presidential candidacy and since taking office. In fact, Putin remains the only major public figure that Trump has never criticized. 

Perhaps his most infamous defense of Putin came on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

“Russia, if you are listening,” Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida, “I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election. 

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Trump, however, has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.” 

Since becoming President, Trump has:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for pursuing an investigation of “the Russia thing,”
  • Told visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the day after firing Comey: “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
  • Repeatedly attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from agents pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • Threatened to fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian subversion of the 2016 election. 
  • Intended to fire Mueller during the summer of 2017, but was talked out of it by aides fearful it would unleash calls for his impeachment.
  • Demanded that when he meets Putin in Helsinki, Finland, no Americans be in the room with the two of them.

Bush was simply naive. Trump displays the classic hallmarks of an autocratic traitor.

WHAT TRUMP SHARES WITH OTHER DICTATORS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 19, 2018 at 12:16 am

“And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald [Trump’s] bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.”  

The speaker was Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, addressing an audience in San Diego, California, on June 2, 2016.

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea—something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.

“And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” said Clinton.

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Hillary Clinton

To many people, it’s the ultimate odd-couple: The lifelong Communist and former KGB officer (Putin) walking arm-in-arm with the billionaire, publicity-hungry capitalist.

First Putin:

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

Now Trump:

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.” 

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader—“unlike what we have in this country”—he undoubtedly meant then-President Barack Obama. 

And, as President, Trump has continued to worship the ground dictators cover with corpses. Asked by a Fox news anchor why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, Trump replied: 

“He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father …if you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.  

“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did, at 26 years of age, and is able to run it, and run it tough—I don’t say he was nice or I don’t say anything about it—he ran it.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying because of it.  

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Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which has refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. (Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.)   

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

TRUMP AS SLAYER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 14, 2018 at 1:05 am

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Donald Trump—then a candidate for President—said at a rally in Sioux Center, Iowa. 

That low moment—one of many others in his campaign—came on January 23, 2016.

Recently, the idea that Trump might shoot someone—and get away with it—has also occurred to his attorney, Rudloph Giuliani. 

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Donald Trump

“In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted,” Giuliani told the Huffington Post. “I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is.”

On June 3, 2018, the former Federal prosecutor asserted that, no matter what crime Trump might commit, he couldn’t be held accountable for it unless he was first impeached. 

“If he shot [former FBI Director] James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.”  

Trump’s legal team had recently said as much in a letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating documented ties between Trump’s Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  Trump’s counsel said that that the President “could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.”  

Asked on ABC’s “This Week” if Trump could legally pardon himself, Giuliani said: “He probably does. He has no intention of pardoning himself, but he probably—not to say he can’t.” 

Rudy Giuliani.jpg

Rudolph Giuliani

Trump quickly backed up his attorney’s claim with a tweet on Twitter: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

Conservative commentator Joe Scarborough had a different take on the issue. 

“This is really literally out of a tyrant’s playbook,” Scarborough said on his MSNBC show, “Morning Joe.”

“You pick the president’s sworn political enemy and then you put it out there about the shooting of him. And you let the president’s followers know that—Vladimir Putin could shoot his political rival and not be thrown in jail. [Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan could do the same thing. Except this is in America.

Joe Scarborough (NBC News).jpg

Joe Scarborough

By NBC News (NBC News)  [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“What if Barack Obama had said in 2009, 2010, or let’s say Eric Holder here. What if [Obama’s Attorney General] Eric Holder had said, ‘You know what? Barack Obama could shoot Rush Limbaugh and he can’t be indicted. Barack Obama could shoot Paul Ryan and he couldn’t be indicted. You know what, Barack Obama could shoot George W. Bush and he couldn’t be indicted.’

“The reaction from Republicans and the media would be just mind-boggling.”  

During the Nixon administration, the Justice Department wrestled with the question: Is a sitting President immune from indictment and criminal prosecution?

Its Office of Legal Counsel determined that indicting and criminally prosecuting a President would interfere with his ability to carry out his constitutionally given duties.

And that has been its position since 1974. Although reaffirmed in the Clinton administration, it has never been tested in court.

What lies beyond doubt is this: For Republicans, actions that are perfectly justifiable for a Republican President are absolutely taboo for a Democratic one. 

  • Republicans accused Democrats of blocking Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for the Supreme Court. Yet Obama’s nominee for the seat, Merrick Garland, is the only candidate in the history of the United States to be denied a hearing by the opposition—Republicans.
  • More than nine out of 10 Tea Partiers said they feared Obama’s policies were “moving the country toward socialism.” Yet Republicans overwhelmingly voted for a man—Trump—who has repeatedly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and clearly has close ties with him. 
  • Republicans falsely accused Obama of creating “death panels” in the Affordable Care Act—yet have enthusiastically supported Trump’s efforts to destroy access to healthcare for more than 20 million Americans.
  • During the Republican-orchestrated government shutdown in October, 2013, Arizona state Representative Brenda Barton attacked Obama for closing Federal monuments: “Someone is paying the National Park Service thugs overtime for their efforts to carry out the order of De Fuhrer…where are our Constitutional Sheriffs who can revoke the Park Service Rangers authority to arrest???” 
  • In a June 10, 2012 tweet, Donald Trump wrote: “Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?”   
  • “The problem with executive [orders], it’s really bad news for this reason,” Ohio Governor John Kasich said of Obama in February, 2016. “Since he’s given up on working with Congress, he thinks he can impose anything he wants. He’s not a king. He’s a president.”  

But Republicans who accused Obama of acting like a dictator haven’t objected to Trump’s “joking” that it would be “great” if the United States had a “President-for-Life”—like China. 

Nor have they objected to Trump’s flood of executive orders—65 in a year and a half. The inescapable message in all this: “Legitimacy is only for us—not for you.” 

Or, as Joe Scarborough put it: “This is really literally out of a tyrant’s playbook,”

TYRANTS: A MUTUAL-ADMIRATION SOCIETY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2018 at 12:10 am

“And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald [Trump’s] bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.”  

The speaker was Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, addressing an audience in San Diego, California, on June 2, 2016.

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea—something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.

“And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” said Clinton.

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Hillary Clinton

To many people, it’s the ultimate odd-couple: The lifelong Communist and former KGB officer (Putin) walking arm-in-arm with the billionaire, publicity-hungry capitalist.

First Putin:

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

Now Trump:

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader—“unlike what we have in this country”—he undoubtedly meant then-President Barack Obama.

Ironically, it was Obama—not Trump—who was repeatedly named in Gallup polls as the most admired man in America in each of the last seven years, from 2008, the year he was elected president, to 2016, his last year in office.

Although Trump didn’t mention former President George W. Bush, it was he, not Obama, who was taken in by Putin.

In June 2001, Bush and Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting this exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush. “Very good briefing.”

Bush knew that Putin had worked for Soviet intelligence. So he should not have been surprised that the KGB had amassed a lengthy dossier on him.

But more was to come.

BUSH: Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN: It’s true.

BUSH: That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others—even world leaders—through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” a reporter asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

No Right-wingers—including Trump—criticized Bush then. Nor do they now recall such embarrassing words.

It’s politically profitable for Rightists to pretend that America’s tensions with Russia began with the election of Barack Obama.

And that those tensions have vanished now that another Rightist—and white—President occupies the White House.

REPUBLICANS: KISSIN’ COMMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 7, 2018 at 12:28 am

One year and almost two months after taking office, President Donald Trump remains haunted by “the Russian connection.”   

Throughout 2016, the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency (NSA) found numerous ties between officials of the Trump Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  

And many of those he has appointed to office have strong ties to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One of these is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In 2013, as the chief executive of ExxonMobil, he was presented with the 2013 Order of Friendship award. He had just signed deals with the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft. Its chief, Igor Sechin, is a loyal Putin lieutenant.

Secretary Tillerson in March 2017.jpg

Rex Tillerson

Another such official is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. During the 2016 campaign, Session—hen serving as a surrogate for Donald Trump’s campaign—twice spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

But during his Senate nomination hearings, Sessions denied that he had had “communications with the Russians” during the campaign. Following this disclosure after he became Attorney General, Sessions removed himself from oversight of the investigation into Russian subversion of the election.

The discovery of numerous contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian Intelligence agents led the FBI to launch an investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. That investigation is still ongoing.

And the House and Senate Intelligence Committees launched their own investigations into the same.

On March 30, 2017, Clinton Watts, an expert on cyber warfare, testified before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. As part of his testimony, he presented a prepared statement on “Disinformation: A Primer In Russian Active Measures And Influence Campaigns.” 

Image result for Images of the seal of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

FROM WATTS’ STATEMENT: Russia certainly seeks to promote Western candidates sympathetic to their worldview and foreign policy objectives. But winning a single election is not their end goal.

Russian Active Measures hope to topple democracies….from the inside out [by] creating political divisions….

[Their ultimate goals are]  the dissolution of the European Union and the break up of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).  

Achieving these two victories against the West will allow Russia to reassert its power globally and pursue its foreign policy objectives bilaterally through military, diplomatic and economic aggression.

Trump has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin. On December 18, 2015, Trump appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Its host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: 

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. 

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

At a press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump declared: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”  

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Trump, however, has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”   

On October 19, 2016, Trump’s admiration of Putin became a major target for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.  

This occurred during their third and last Presidential debate.    

CLINTON: … that the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race. 

So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We’ve never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election.

We have 17–17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.  And I think it’s time you take a stand…

TRUMP: She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else.

CLINTON: I am not quoting myself.

TRUMP: She has no idea.

CLINTON: I am quoting 17…

TRUMP: Hillary, you have no idea.

CLINTON: … 17 intelligence–do you doubt 17 military and civilian…

TRUMP: And our country has no idea.

CLINTON: … agencies.

TRUMP: Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it. 

REPUBLICANS: KISSIN’ COMMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 6, 2018 at 12:17 am

Clinton Watts is a consultant and researcher on cyberwarfare. He has served as

  • A U.S. Army infantry officer;
  • An FBI Special Agent on a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF);
  • The Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point (CTC); and
  • As a consultant to the FBI’s Counter Terrorism Division (CTD) and National Security Branch (NSB). 

In a statement he prepared for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he outlined cyberwarfare measures that Russia used to influence the 2016 Presidential campaign. 

He delivered this on March 30, 2017. Part of this reads as follows: 

Through the end of 2015 and start of 2016, the Russian influence system….began pushing themes and messages seeking to influence the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election.

Russia’s overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adversarial views toward the Kremlin. The final months leading up to the election have been the predominate focus of Russian influence discussions to date.

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Clinton Watts

However, Russian Active Measures were in full swing during both the Republican and Democratic primary season and may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed. 

The final piece of Russia’s modern Active Measures surfaced in the summer of 2016 as hacked materials from previous months were strategically leaked.

On 22 July 2016, Wikileaks released troves of stolen communications from the Democratic National Committee and later batches of campaign emails. Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks revealed hacked information from a host of former U.S. government officials throughout July and August 2016.

For the remainder of the campaign season, this compromising material powered the influence system Russia successfully constructed in the previous two years.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump—as both Presidential candidate and President—has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the efforts of Vladimir Putin’s government to ensure his election. 

Consider his exchange about this with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third and final Presidential debate on October 19, 2016:

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CLINTON: So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is, finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past?

Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before.

CHRIS WALLACE: Well?

TRUMP: That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders, OK? How did we get on to Putin?

[After insisting that Clinton wants “open borders” and “people are going to pour into this country,” Trump deigned to address Wallace’s question.]

TRUMP: Now we can talk about Putin. I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me.

If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good. He has no respect for her. He has no respect for our president.

And I’ll tell you what: We’re in very serious trouble, because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads—1,800, by the way—where they expanded and we didn’t, 1,800 nuclear warheads. And she’s playing chicken.  

FROM WATTS’ STATEMENT: This pattern of Russian falsehoods and social media manipulation of the American electorate continued through Election Day and persists today.

Many of the accounts we watched push the false Incirlik story in July now focus their efforts on shaping the upcoming European elections, promoting fears of immigration or false claims of refugee criminality.  

They’ve not forgotten about the United States either. This past week, we observed social media campaigns targeting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hoping to foment further unrest amongst U.S. democratic institutions, their leaders and their constituents. 

As we noted two days before the Presidential election in our article describing Russian influence operations, Russia certainly seeks to promote Western candidates sympathetic to their worldview and foreign policy objectives.

But winning a single election is not their end goal. Russian Active Measures hope to topple democracies through the pursuit of five complementary objectives: 

  1. Undermine citizen confidence in democratic governance;
  2. Foment and exacerbate divisive political fractures;
  3. Erode trust between citizens and elected officials and democratic institutions;
  4. Popularize Russian policy agendas within foreign populations;
  5. Create general distrust or confusion over information sources by blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

From these objectives, the Kremlin can crumble democracies from the inside out creating political divisions resulting in two key milestones:

  1. The dissolution of the European Union and 
  2. The break up of the North American Treaty Organization (NATO).  

FROM THE TRUMP-CLINTON DEBATE:

TRUMP: … from everything I see, [Putin] has no respect for this person.

CLINTON: Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.

TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.

CLINTON: And it’s pretty clear…

TRUMP: You’re the puppet!

CLINTON: It’s pretty clear you won’t admit…

TRUMP: No, you’re the puppet.

WHY SETTLE FOR PRESIDENT WHEN YOU CAN BE COMMISSAR?

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 15, 2018 at 1:07 am

On January 17, Arizona United States Senator Jeff Flake is expected to do the unthinkable.

According to CNN, he will deliver a speech on the floor of the Senate where he will compare President Donald Trump’s attacks on the news media to the poisonous rhetoric of former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Jeff Flake official Senate photo.jpg

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake

In one of those attacks—on February 17, 2017—Trump had called the press “the enemy of the American people.”

“The FAKE NEWS media,” he tweeted, “(failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

A day earlier, during a press conference in the East Room of the White House, Trump had delivered an unhinged rant, full of anger, personal attacks, self-pity and self-glorification.

Among the topics he covered was his all-out hatred for the press: “….The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it to find out what is going on, because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

Both during his 2016 Presidential campaign and since his inauguration, Trump has called for “opening up” the libel laws to penalize reporters and authors with draconian fines. He has repeatedly attacked any story he dislikes as coming from the “fake media.”

Donald Trump

On the other hand, he has lavishly praised such Right-wing media as Breitbart and Fox News Network. These have steadfastly supported him despite overwhelming evidence that his 2016 Presidential campaign received subversive support from Russian Intelligence officials.

“Mr. President,” says an excerpt of Flake’s upcoming speech made available to CNN, “it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies.

“It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.

Joseph Stalin

“This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party. For they are shameful, repulsive statements.

“And, of course, the president has it precisely backward—despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy.

“When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him ‘fake news,’ it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”

Flake—or someone acting on his orders—had clearly leaked an advance text of the speech to the media.

On the January 14 edition of “This Week,” ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos already knew about Flake’s plan to deliver the speech.

“What are you trying to do?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“What I’m trying to say,” replied Flake, “is you can talk about crowd size, and that is pretty innocuous if there is a falsehood there. But when you reflexively refer to the press as the ‘enemy of the people’ or ‘fake news,’ that has real damage. It has real damage to our standing in the world.”

This will be part of a series of speeches Flake intends to give about Trump’s relationship with the truth and the press.

It is especially ironic that a Republican should condemn another Republican as following in the footsteps of an infamous Soviet dictator.

From the end of World War 11 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Republicans slandered every Democratic Presidential candidate as a witting or unwitting agent of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Trump, however, has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, both during his Presidential candidacy and since taking office. In fact, Putin remains the only major public figure that Trump has never criticized.

Perhaps his most infamous defense of Putin came on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

There may be more than a little envy on Trump’s part for how Putin has dealt with his media.

On July 2, 2017, Trump tweeted a video showing him punching a man with the CNN logo superimposed on his head during a WWE wrestling match.

And on August 15, the President retweeted a cartoon photo of a “Trump Train” running over a CNN reporter.

Joseph Stalin ordered his critics executed in prison or exiled to Siberia. It’s clear that Donald Trump would like to have that same power.

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