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Posts Tagged ‘MICHAEL FLYNN’

THE FBI’S BIGGEST THREAT: THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 3, 2018 at 10:32 am

From 1965 to 1974, Americans watched “The FBI,” a highly fictionalized TV drama supposedly based on real stories from the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the Bureau since 1924, made certain the series reflected the image of the FBI that he wanted seen. 

FBI agents:

  • Didn’t smoke or swear, never used illegal bugs or wiretaps, and seldom fired a gun.
  • Never cheated on their wives.
  • Never planted illegal bugs or wiretaps,
  • Never suffered marital problems from the strains of an FBI career.
  • Could summon a helicopter—like the show’s hero, Inspector Lewis Erskine—with the snap of their fingers.

Yet none of this mattered to the millions who tuned in every week to make this one of the highest-rated series on TV. 

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After decades of a generous self-advertising campaign, Americans generally saw the Bureau as not simply incorruptible but infallible. When agents zeroed in on a criminal—a bank robber, terrorist or member of the Mob—he was as good as caught.  

So it would have been unimaginable to such an audience that the greatest threat to the Bureau would come not from the KGB or Mafia hitmen, but from the President of the United States.

Yet, 53 years after “The FBI” premiered on the ABC network in 1965, that is exactly the case.

On May 9, 2017, FBI Director James B. Comey was brutally fired without warning by President Donald Trump. Trump has since given several explanations why he did it. But the most convincing was the one he gave in the Oval Office to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”  

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James Comey

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.
  2. Trump had tried to coerce him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  3. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

During that meeting where he disparaged Comey, Trump gave the Russian dignitaries sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel. 

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

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 the FBI launched its counterintelligence investigation into collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian Intelligence agents, Trump has repeatedly attacked the American Intelligence and law-enforcement communities. But he has yet to condemn Moscow for its election interference.

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FBI Seal

In fact, he has—at least publicly—accepted Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 election. 

On February 17, 2018—three days after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, Trump tweeted: 

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

This ignored that:

  • The shooting was not a Federal crime, since it didn’t happen on Federal property nor involve Federal officials.
  • Trump has steadfastly opposed any efforts at gun control—while accepting $21 million from the NRA during the 2016 Presidential race. This was the largest contribution the NRA has ever made to a Presidential candidate.

On May 20, 2018, he tweeted: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

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Donald Trump

Trump was demanding that information about an FBI confidential source—in a probe directly relating to himself—be revealed to his cronies in the Republican party.

Trump was desperate to derail the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into proven ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of his 2006 Presidential campaign.  So now he was creating a false charge—that he had been illegally spied upon by the FBI—to divert public attention from that investigation.

With July 4—the 242nd anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence—fast approaching, the outcome of Trump vs. the FBI remains to be seen.

ROBERT MUELLER SUFFERED FOR YOUR SINS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Social commentary on May 24, 2018 at 12:04 am

On April 27, 2018, the House Intelligence Committee, after a sham “investigation,” concluded there had been “no collusion” between Russian Intelligence agents and members of the Trump Presidential campaign.

Among the evidence ignored: The now-infamous meeting at Trump Tower, in June, 2016, between Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr.; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, with Russian Intelligence agents.

The reason for the meeting: The Russians claimed to have dirt to offer on Hillary Clinton.

The “no collusion” verdict was inevitable, since the committee was chaired by California’s Republican Representative Devin Nunes, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trump. Nunes had even improperly shared “secret” committee documents with the President. 

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Devin Nunes

The Senate Intelligence Committee, on the other hand, agreed with the conclusions previously reached by the American Intelligence community (CIA, FBI, National Security Agency): The Russians had worked to subvert the American political process and elect Trump over Clinton.

March 17, 2018, marked the start of the second year of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to uncover “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

By that date, Mueller had:

  • Indicted 19 people—including four former Trump campaign advisers.
  • Indicted three Russian companies.
  • Obtained five guilty pleas—and the cooperation of all five defendants.
  • Unveiled Russians’ determination to elect Trump over Hillary Clinton.
  • Revealed that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed removing sanctions against Russia with then-Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, during the transition period. 
  • Discovered that Trump associates knew about Russian outreach efforts during the campaign. 

By contrast:

  • Republicans spent four years investigating the 2012 attack on the United States embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Their goal: To derail the presumed 2016 Presidential candidacy of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But no indictments followed.
  • Republicans spent two years investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State. Again, no indictments followed.

It’s past time for Republicans to remember the lesson taught by High Noon, the classic 1952 Western starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.

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Town marshal Will Kane (Cooper) has just married Amy Fowler (Kelly) a Quaker. It should be the happiest day of his life. But shortly after the ceremony, word comes that Frank Miller—a notorious murderer Kane once sent to prison—has been released.

Even worse, Miller—joined by three other killers—is coming into town on the noon train to kill Kane.

Kane’s first instinct is to flee: He and his wife get into a buggy and dash out of town. But then his sense of duty takes over. He returns to town, intending to recruit a posse.

But this proves impossible—everyone is scared to death of Miller and his gang. And everyone Kane approaches has a reason for not backing him up.

Even Amy—a fervent believer in non-violence—threatens to leave him if he stands up to Miller. She will be on the noon train leaving town—with or without him.

When the clock strikes noon, the train arrives, and Kane—alone—faces his enemies. He shoots and kills two of them.

Then, as he’s pinned down by the third, he gets some unexpected help—from his wife: Amy shoots the would-be killer in the back—only to be taken hostage by Miller himself.

Miller tells Kane to leave his concealed position or he’ll kill Amy. Kane steps into the open—and Amy claws at Miller’s face, buying Kane the time he needs to shoot Miller down.

At that point, the townspeople rush to embrace Kane and congratulate him. But he’s now seen them for the cowards they are and holds them in total contempt.

Saying nothing, he drops the marshal’s star into the dirt. He and Amy then get into a buggy and leave town.

Fred Zinnemann, the film’s director, intended the movie as an attack on those frightened into silence by Joseph McCarthy, the infamous Red-baiting Senator from Wisconsin.

Will Kane fought to protect himself and his town from a gang of murderous outlaws.

Robert Mueller is fighting to discover the truth behind Russian subversion of the American political system.

The difference between these two conflicts is this: We know how Kane’s fight ended—with a good man defeating evil men.

We do not know if Mueller will ultimately triumph over his—and America’s—mortal enemies. 

Robert Mueller—as a soldier, prosecutor, FBI director and now Special Counsel—took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” 

So did Donald Trump when he was inaugurated President. And so did every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

The difference between Robert Mueller, and the overwhelming majority of Republican Congressional members who have refused to support him, is this: Mueller, like a compass pointing True North, has always stayed faithful to that oath

In doing so, he is carrying on his shoulders the burdens created when millions of racist, hate-filled Americans deliberately sent a Russian-backed egomaniac and would-be dictator to the White House.

ROBERT MUELLER SUFFERED FOR YOUR SINS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Social commentary on May 23, 2018 at 12:20 am

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Len Blavatnik, Alexander Shustorovich, Andrew  Intrater and Simon Kukes––contributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.   

As Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process.

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This was just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election.

Billionaires don’t give huge sums to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display.

So Special Counsel Robert Mueller is facing increased hostility from Republicans who no doubt fear their own ownership by Moscow will become a focus of his investigation.

But there is another powerful reason why so many Republicans have closed ranks with Trump against him: 

#2: Republicans fear enraging Trump’s fanatical base.

On August 30, 2017, an article in Salon sought to explain why President Donald Trump was so popular among his supporters.

Its headline ran: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

It described these voters as representing about one-third of the Republican party:

“These are older and more conservative white people, for the most part, who believe he should not listen to other Republicans and should follow his own instincts….

“They like Trump’s coarse personality, and approve of the fact that he treats women like his personal playthings. They enjoy it when he expresses sympathy for neo-Nazis and neo-Confederate white supremacists.

“They cheer when he declares his love for torture, tells the police to rough up suspects and vows to mandate the death penalty for certain crimes. (Which of course the president cannot do.)

“…This cohort of the Republican party didn’t vote for Trump because of his supposed policies on trade or his threat to withdraw from NATO. They voted for him because he said out loud what they were thinking. A petty, sophomoric, crude bully is apparently what they want as a leader.”

And keeping that cohort constantly stirred up is the Right-wing Fox News Network. This is not a source of legitimate news but the propaganda arm of the Fascistic Right and the Republican party.

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Donald Trump

On May 18, 2018, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks offered this political commentary on The PBS Newshour: “I would just say, I observe politically, I do think if Trump fired Mueller tomorrow, the Republican Party would back him. 

“Because I think FOX News has created a predicate. They have done thousands of surveys and investigations about Mueller as a political operative.” 

And Brooks’ fellow political commentator, liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields, echoed those sentiments: “At the same time, I think what we learned is that the defense of Donald Trump, led by himself and [his attorney] Rudy Giuliani, is to savage and torment, denigrate, vilify and libel Bob Mueller.

“Bob Mueller happens to be an American who turned down an eight-figure income to be a major corporate lawyer, instead became a public servant. He’s a man who volunteered and carries the wounds of battle from having been a Marine platoon leader in Vietnam.

“He is a public servant. He has not said a word. He has not given an interview. He has not leaked to anybody. And he stands vilified by Trump and Giuliani and their cohorts and their outriders. It is indefensible.

“And they are trying to exact the same damage upon the Justice Department of the country, the FBI and this country that Joe McCarthy did on the State Department, which has never fully recovered from his libelous attacks.”

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

According to a Pew Research Center survey, that one-third of Republicans who fanatically support Trump comprise only 16% of the population. That leaves 65% of Republicans who are revolted by Trump’s personality and behavior.

But that 65% of Republicans are being advised by GOP political consultants to vigorously support him.

“Your heart tells you that he’s bad for the country,” one anonymous consultant told the Salon reporter. “Your head looks at polling data among Republican primary voters and sees how popular he is.”

It’s precisely these hard-core Fascists who come out in mid-term elections—and they’re scaring the remaining 65% who make up the GOP establishment.  

The highest priority of that establishment, after all, is to hold onto their privileged positions in the House and Senate. And anything that might jeopardize that—including what’s best for the country—can go hang.  

ROBERT MUELLER SUFFERED FOR YOUR SINS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 22, 2018 at 12:02 am

On November 6, 2016, millions of racist, hate-filled Americans took “revenge” on the nation’s first black President—by deliberately voting a Russian-backed egomaniac and would-be dictator into the White House.

By doing so, they set in motion events that would lead Robert S. Mueller to assume the consequences—and burdens—of their brutal, Fascistic desires.

On May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.  

By doing so, he hoped to derail the Bureau’s investigation of documented ties between Russian Intelligence agents and high-ranking officials of the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign.

A national firestorm erupted—unprecedented since President Richard M. Nixon had fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox on October 20, 1973.

To squelch it, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein moved quickly.

On May 17, 2017, he appointed Robert S. Mueller 111 to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice. 

Rosenstein charged Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” 

Trump has claimed from the outset that there was “no collusion” between him and members of Russia’s Intelligence community. But he has acted like a guilty man desperate to stop the investigation before it uncovers the full extent of his criminality. 

Since then, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods. 

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From the outset of that investigation, there have been widespread fears that Trump would fire Mueller, just as he did Comey. Those fears increased over the weekend of March 17-18, 2018, when Trump spewed a series of angry tweets on Twitter: 

  • “The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!” 
  • “Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”
  • “A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

In “High Noon,” Marshal Will Kane faced death at the hands of four cold-blooded killers. At least for the moment, Mueller does not seem to be facing that.

Trump presumably believes that ordering the murder of a Special Counsel—assuming he could find someone willing to carry it out—wouldn’t be tolerated, even in a country that has already accommodated Trump’s countless brutalities and corruptions.

So Mueller conducts his investigation every day under the shadow of being fired by a President who has repeatedly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. And who has “joked” about how great it would be if the United States, like China, had a “President-for-Life.”

House and Senate Republicans have almost universally refused to speak out against threats by Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  

Or, more importantly, to take action to prevent or punish him for doing so.

On April 17, 2018, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s independent investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election to reach the Senate floor.  

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Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kntucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.                

Earlier that day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.”

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

Why have so few Republicans dared to stand against Trump?  

Two major reasons:

#1: Because many House and Senate Republicans received millions of dollars in “campaign contributions” from Russian oligarchs who are answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

In short: Bribe monies

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The Kremlin

The following data comes from the Federal Elections Commission.

One major Russian contributor is Len Blavatnik. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. In 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs.

In 2017, he gave millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina). Specifically, Blavatnik contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio. 
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell. 
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. 

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

ROBERT MUELLER SUFFERED FOR YOUR SINS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 21, 2018 at 12:26 am

His face is lined and his gray hair is topped with a black hat. This is clearly not a young man. If he’s seen his share of violence, he doesn’t talk about it.

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He’s about to face four armed and vicious criminals who intend to murder him. And he’s going to do it without support from the very citizens he’s sworn to defend.

His name: Will Kane, as played by Gary Cooper. And he’s the local marshal of an anonymous Western town.

“High Noon,” the 1952 movie in which this story takes place, won a Best Actor Academy Award for its star, Cooper. It was nominated for another six Academy Awards and won four (Actor, Editing, Music-Score, and Music-Song).

Its opening tune, “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,” played incessantly on radios throughout the United States. President Dwight D. Eisenhower added his kudos to the movie, and often hummed its  theme in the White House.

Fast forward to an America 66 years later.

A similar morality play is now occurring—in real life, not on a movie set. At stake isn’t simply the life of one man but perhaps the future of American democracy.

Carrying that burden is Robert Swan Mueller III.

Like the Gary Cooper character in “High Noon,” he is not a young man—born on August 7, 1944. And, like Cooper’s Will Kane, he is tall, gray-haired and tight-lipped.

But while Cooper never saw military service, Mueller did. A 1966 graduate of Princeton University, he served as a Marine Corps infantry platoon commander during the Vietnam War.

Wounded in combat, among the military awards he received were:

  • The Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for heroism (for saving a wounded Marine while under enemy fire).
  • The Purple Heart Medal (awarded for wounds in combat).
  • Two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat “V”.
  • Combat Action Ribbon.
  • National Defense Service Medal.

Having given three years of his life (1968-1971) to the Marines, Mueller devoted the rest of his life to law enforcement.

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Robert Mueller

A 1973 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller served as:

  • United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (1986-1987);
  • United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (1990-1993);
  • United States Attorney for the Northern District of California (1998-2001);
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (January 20, 2001– May 10, 2001).

On September 4, 2001—seven days before Al Qaeda’s monstrous 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York—President George W. Bush appointed him director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Widely praised for his integrity and effectiveness, he served his full 10-year term—the legal maximum. 

But when President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he asked Mueller—a lifelong Republican—to stay on for an additional two years until a suitable replacement could be found.

Mueller agreed—and was succeeded by a fellow Justice Department colleague named James Comey.

Retiring from the FBI in 2013 at age 69, Mueller’s 27-year career as a dedicated law enforcer seemed at last to be over. 

Then, on May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump fired Comey as FBI director. There were three reasons for this:

  • Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  • Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  • Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand. 
  • Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

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James Comey

On May 10—the day after firing Comey—Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. 

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 

And on May 11, Trump, interviewed on NBC News by reporter Lester Holt, said: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”       

COVERING TRUMP AS HE DESERVES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2018 at 12:13 am

On June 8, 2017, James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

On May 9, he had been fired as director of the FBI by President Donald Trump.

During his Congressional testimony, Comey revealed that, on February 14,  2017, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Michael Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

Many reporters who undoubtedly knew better agreed with this excuse: He just didn’t understand the protocols. He’ll get it right next time.

They didn’t dare report the truth: America is being ruled by a dictator in the mold of John Gotti.

Thus, Trump didn’t meet privately with Comey because he didn’t know “how modern government operates.” He wanted a private meeting to make a request he knew was on its face illegal—and he wanted to ensure “plausible deniability” in doing so.

If Comey later told the truth about that meeting—as he later did—Trump could say—as he later did: “It’s just his word against mine. Who are you going to believe?”

Reporters covering the Trump administration need to radically change their methods for doing so.

They should start covering it the way organized crime reporters have long covered the Mafia.

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Donald Trump

First, assume that Trump—and those who serve him—are acting criminally unless they can prove otherwise.

As Niccolo Machiavelli advised in his classic work, The Discourses:

“All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason, and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.”

Second, report what he and his minions say publicly—but look for well-placed sources in law enforcement for the truth.

Reporters covering John Gotti found him highly quotable copy. But they also cultivated secret sources within the FBI and NYPD to discover what crimes he had committed—and was committing.

And when they wrote stories about him, they stated—unequivocally—that he was the boss of an organized crime family.

Reporters covering Trump should similarly list his own history of conflicts with the law.

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John Gotti

Third, news media should devote fewer resources to covering the public side of Trump—and  more to unearthing the truths he wants to suppress. 

As robber baron J.P. Morgan once admitted: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

What’s said during a press conference—whether by Trump or any other of his officials—is strictly the version he wants stated. This could be transcribed by a single pool reporter, who shares whatever’s said with all the major news media.

This, in turn, would free legions of reporters to unearth truths that Trump doesn’t want revealed.

Fourth, recognize that Trump is fighting an all-out war on the media—and have the courage to publicly state this.

In 1976, Arizona Republic reporter and organized crime expert Don Bolles, was killed by a car bomb. Legions of reporters from across the country descended on Arizona to prove to mobsters: Attacking reporters is as dangerous as attacking cops.

Donald Trump has labeled established news media as “fake news.” He has called reporters “the enemy of America.” On at least one occasion, he told a CNN reporter: “You’re fake news.”

Yet no reporter—for CNN or any other news outlet—has called him a “fake President.” Nor has any reporter dared to call him a pathological liar with dictatorial ambitions.

CNN has started running an ad featuring a shiny red apple, while a voice-over intones:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”

Unfortunately, many viewers might mistake the “apple” for Apple. Thus, a more effective ad could feature a picture of Trump in an SS uniform, and the following message:

“This  is a Fascist. Some people might try to tell you that he’s a Republican. They might scream Republican, Republican, Republican over and over and over again. They might put REPUBLICAN in all caps. You might even start to believe that he is a Republican. But he’s not. This is a Fascist.”

TRUMP: THE ABUSER’S FRIEND: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 15, 2018 at 12:02 am

In one week, two White House staffers were forced to resign after reports surfaced of their brutality toward their wives.

And President Donald Trump’s reaction was to defend the accused wife-beaters and accuse their ex-wives of lying:

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

What are the lessons to be learned from this?

First, Donald Trump has his own history of abusing women.

At least 22 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct between the 1970s and 2013.  And Trump flat-out denies the accusations–which include ogling, harassment, groping, and rape—while attacking the women as “liars.”

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” he said during a 2016 campaign rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

The election ended on November 8, 2016. And Trump has yet to sue any of his accusers.

So it’s not surprising that when similar accusations strike men he has around him, he leaps to their defense.

Second, Trump fires women-abusing staffers only when the news media outs them.

Accused wife-abuser Rob Porter resigned from his staff secretary position at the White House only after his two ex-wives detailed their abuse to CNN.

According to CNN, White House Chief of Staff John Kelley knew for months that Porter faced claims of physically and emotionally abusing these women. But he never conducted an inquiry to find out if the claims were true or false.

It’s safe to assume that Porter would still be on the White House payroll if CNN hadn’t reported the abuses.

Third, don’t expect Trump to show any sympathy for alleged female victims.

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Donald Trump

Trump has repeatedly shown his contempt for women through abusive and humiliating language. For example:

  • During a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, he said of his then-wife, Ivana: “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?”
  • In 1992, while watching a group of young girls going up the escalator in Trump Tower, Trump said: “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”
  • During a 1991 Esquire interview: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
  • In 2006, during an appearance on The View: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
  • Easily the most infamous example of Trump’s predatory attitude toward women came during his 2005 Access Hollywood interview: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful–I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Fourth, Trump has often defended men who were charged with abusing women.

  • In March, 2016, his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with misdemeanor battery by Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields. “How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?” asked Trump.
  • When Roger Ailes resigned in July, 2016, as chairman of Fox News, owing to sexual harassment accusations leveled against him, Trump said: “It’s very sad. Because he’s a very good person. I’ve always found him to be just a very, very good person. And by the way, a very, very talented person. Look what he’s done. So I feel very badly.”
  • In October, 2017, the news broke that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News had paid almost $13 million to settle multiple sexual harassment allegations. Trump’s reaction: “I don’t believe Bill did anything wrong. I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person.”
  • Trump vigorously defended Roy Moore, Alabama’s Republican candidate for United States Senator in 2017, against charges that he had molested a 14-year-old girl: “Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And you know, you have to listen to him also.”

Fifth, any criticism of sexual harassment—or even outright criminality—must come from outside the White House.

Trump’s defense of accused White House staffers Rob Porter and David Sorensen drew fire from prominent Washington officials.

“Women’s lives are upended every day by sexual violence and harassment. I’m going to keep standing with them, and trusting them, even if the President won’t,” tweeted U.S. Democratic Senator Patty Murray.

And Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont tweeted: “As a former prosecutor, I’ve been amazed by the bravery & sacrifice required of victims to come forward. Their lives are forever changed,. Due process is critical, but it can’t be a pretext for not believing women. We don’t need to see photos of bruises to know that.”

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California tweeted: “Apparently his motto is when they go low, he goes even lower.”

Sixth, in assessing Trump’s character, two essential truths should be constantly remembered:

“Tell me whom you admire, and I will tell you who you are.”

And:

“What is past is prologue.”

TRUMP: THE ABUSER’S FRIEND: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 14, 2018 at 2:44 am

As absolute dictator on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump delighted in firing one contestant every week.

As President of the United States, he has delighted in firing such high-ranking government officials as:

  • Acting Attorney General Sally Yates
  • FBI Director James Comey
  • White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
  • Presidential Chief Strategist Steve Bannon
  • United States Attorney Preet Bharara

But there have been some officials Trump has fought to retain.  Among these:

  • National Security Adviser Michael Flynn
  • White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter
  • White House Speechwriter David Sorensen

MICHAEL FLYNN had fervently supported Trump during his 2016 campaign for President.  He was rewarded with appointment to National Security Adviser on January 20, 2017—the same day Trump became President.

But later in January, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned Trump that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Michael Flynn at the Republican convention

In December, 2016, Flynn had spoken to Kislyak about removing the sanctions placed on Russia by the outgoing Obama administration. The sanctions had been placed in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to manipulate the 2016 Presidential election.

Instead of firing Flynn, Trump fired Yates.

On February 13, The Washington Post reported these events.  Flynn was forced to resign that same day—after only 24 days as National Security Adviser.

STAFF SECRETARY ROB PORTER had the task of vetting all the information that reached Trump’s desk. He resigned February 7 after two of his ex-wives accused him of years of physical and emotional abuse.

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Rob Porter

Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, told CNN that the physical abuse began almost immediately after their 2003 wedding.  During their honeymoon trip to the Canary Islands, Porter kicked her thigh during a fight.  

“The thing he would do most frequently is he would throw me down on a bed and he would just put his body weight on me and he’d be yelling at me but as he was yelling he’d me grinding an elbow or knee into my body to emphasize his anger,” she said. He also repeatedly choked her.

While the couple visited Florence, Italy, in the summer of 2005, Porter punched Holderness in the face.

Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, married him in 2009. During their honeymoon in Myrtle Beach, he began calling her “a fucking bitch” because he felt she was not having enough sex with him.

In the spring of 2010, Porter came to the home they had previously shared and punched a glass pane in the front door, cutting his hand.

Willoughby called police, who suggested that she take out a temporary restraining order. She did so in June, 2010.

In December, 2010, according to Willoughby, “we were in a fight and I disengaged from the fight after screaming at each other. I took a shower and Rob followed me fairly shortly after and grabbed me from the shower by my shoulders up close to my neck and pulled me out to continue to yell at me.

“He immediately saw the look of shock and terror on my face and released me and apologized and attempted to make things right.”

They divorced in 2013.

SPEECHWRITER DAVID SORENSEN resigned on February 9.  His ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, told the Washington Post that he put out a cigarette on her hand, drove a car over her foot, threw her into a wall and grabbed her by the hair when they were alone on a boat off the Maine coast.

Sorensen denied the allegation in a statement he released to CNN and other news media: “I have never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life.  In fact, I was the victim of repeated physical violence during our marriage, not her.”

He claimed he had spoken with an attorney about suing his ex-wife for defamation.

And how did Trump respond to these revelations?

On February 9, he told reporters that Porter’s departure was “very sad” and that “he did a very good job while he was in the White House.”

Donald Trump

Trump did not express any sympathy for the women Porter allegedly abused.

Instead, he focused on Porter’s claim of innocence: “He says he’s innocent and I think you have to remember that.  He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent but you’ll have to talk to him about that.”

On February 10—the day after Sorensen resigned—Trump took to Twitter to post:

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

As Chris Cillizza, CNN’s editor-at-large wrote in a February 9 opinion column:

“This is a familiar pattern for Trump. When a series of women came out during the 2016 campaign alleging that he has sexually abused them, he flatly denied it — insisting that all of the women were conspiring to hurt him for political reasons.

“When a series of women came forward and said that Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore had pursued physical relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his mid 30s, Trump defended his endorsement of Moore, saying: ‘He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.'”

BELLICOSE EVIL TRUMPS TIMID MORALITY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2018 at 12:03 am

When German President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, not all Germans rejoiced.

Millions of them, in fact, hoped that the radical Fascist would be “boxed in” by “the establishment.”

President Hindenburg was known to despise Hitler. And a Hindenburg ally, Franz von Papen, was Vice Chancellor.

Yet it was Von Papen who was largely responsible for Hitler’s coming to power.

He believed that the longtime agitator could be controlled once he was in the government. The cabinet, after all, was not under Nazi domination. And so he convinced Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor.

Almost immediately, Hitler began to outmaneuver those who sought to restrain him.

Adolf Hitler

As part of his deal with Papan, Hitler appointed his longtime supporter, Herman Goring, interior minister of Prussia—thus arming the Nazis with the largest police force in Germany.

On February 1, 1933, Hitler presented Article 48 to the cabinet. This allowed the police to take people into “protective custody” without charges. Hindenburg signed it into law on February 4 as the “Decree for the Protection of the German People.”

In March, the Reichstag (parliament) passed the Enabling Act, which allowed Hitler to rule by decree without interference from legislators. Germany, it was claimed, needed “an iron hand” because it was supposedly threatened by a Communist revolution.

The Enabling Act was authorized to last only four years. But it was renewed in 1937 and, in 1941, extended for the rest of Hitler’s lifetime.

On August 2, the aged Hindenburg died. Hitler immediately consolidated the positions of President and Chancellor—and ordered the German Armed Forces to swear an oath of personal loyalty to him.

Hitler’s mastery of Germany was now complete.

Fast forward 84 years from Adolf Hitler’s gaining total power in Germany to January 30, 2018.

President Donald Trump can say—as truthfully as Adolf Hitler: I am the destiny of America.

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Donald Trump

Among his tumultuous actions during his first year as President, Trump:

  • Fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she notified him that National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn had misled the FBI.
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating the Trump Presidential campaign’s links to the Kremlin.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community—while praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama had illegally wiretapped him during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller, but was talked out of it.

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On January 26, Brooks—a conservative, and Shields, a liberal—reached similar conclusions about the recent news that President Trump had tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller during the summer of 2017.

After Comey’s firing, Mueller had been assigned to oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

DAVID BROOKS: “First, it should be pointed out that White House staff has repeatedly said there was no effort to fire Mueller, when they clearly have been lying for months about that….

“I was in Dayton, Ohio, this morning. And a friend said, in this presidency, I’m just stunned every day. I’m stunned every hour. And at some point, you get out of stunned. There’s no more stun.

“And I found this when I saw our story. If I had seen that story seven or eight months ago, I would have been, ‘Oh, I can’t believe this is happening.’ Now I’m inured. I’m used to it. I have been numbed.

“And I came to think, even if he fired Mueller, maybe we’re all just—we’re like, we have been numbed to the things that happen and nobody gets upset anymore. I think people would get upset if he actually did try to fire Mueller, but we have defined deviancy down and gotten used to a set of behavior that would have been shocking to us a year ago.”

MARK SHIELDS: “I think there would be a firestorm at this point [if Trump fired Mueller]….

“How long and how intense, I don’t know, because I remain just perplexed at the limit of the finite limits of our outrage, or our sense of outrage….

“But I think it really comes down to, who’s going to stand with [Mueller]? And I look at the Republicans on the Hill and, you know, the lack, the tower of Jell-O that is the speaker of the House….”

JUDY WOODRUFF: “…Could this campaign…by some Republicans in the House and with support from the White House to undermine the FBI…have a long-lasting effect on the Justice Department in the end?”

DAVID BROOKS:  “Yes, I think so.

“And the FBI is filled with honest brokers….There are a lot of agencies that are filled with honest brokers, and the idea that everybody in this city is a politician is just not true.

“It’s always amazing to me that a lot of people in government, they are not actually that political. They believe in the public service and they try to do their jobs, but they’re not sort of super political people.”

BELLICOSE EVIL TRUMPS TIMID MORALITY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2018 at 12:06 am

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, many people feared he would embark on a radical Right-wing agenda. But others hoped that the Washington bureaucracy would “box him in.”

The same sentiments echoed throughout Germany after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

The 1983 TV  mini-series, The Winds of War, offered a dramatic example of how honorable men can be overwhelmed by a ruthless dictator. 

Based on the bestselling 1971 historical novel by Herman Wouk, the mini-series factually re-created the major historical events of World War II.

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One of those events took place on November 5, 1939.

General Walther von Brauchitsch is summoned to the Chancellery in Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler. He carries a memorandum signed by all the leaders of the German Wehrmacht asserting that Case Yellow—Hitler’s planned attack against France—is impossible.

Meanwhile, at the German army headquarters at Zossen, in Berlin, the Wehrmacht’s top command wait for word from von Brauchitsch.

CHANCELLERY:

Von Brauchitsch hands the memorandum to Hitler, who reads it.

ZOSSEN: 

Brigadier General Armin von Roon: I must confide in you on a very serious matter. I have been approached by certain army personages of the loftiest rank and prestige with a frightening proposal.

Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder:  What did you reply?

Von Roon: That they were talking high treason.

CHANCELLERY:

Adolf Hitler (slamming down the memorandum): So—what is new in all this?

Image result for Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in The Winds of War

Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in “The Winds of War”

Walther Von Brauchitsch:  Fuhrer, it is the army’s final position that Case Yellow cannot proceed.

Hitler: Why not?

Von Brauchitsch: Because of the military fundamentals as stated.

Hitler: Such as?

Von Brauchitsch: The meteorologists predict continuous soaking rains for weeks.

Hitler: It rains on the enemy, too.

ZOSSEN: 

Von Roon: The conspiracy has been going on that long—since Czechoslovakia [1938)?

Halder: If the British had not caved in at Munich [where France and Britain sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia]—perhaps. But they did. And ever then, ever since his big triumph, it has been hopeless. Hopeless.

Von Roon: Empty talk, talk, talk. I am staggered.

Halder: A hundred times I myself could have shot the man. I can still at any time. But what would be the result? Chaos. The people are for him. He has unified the country. We must stick to our posts and save him from making military mistakes.

Halder: But we really cannot proceed with Case Yellow.

Von Roon:  Brauchitsch will get a postponement.

Halder: And if he does not?

CHANCELLERY: 

Von Brauchitsch:  Fuhrer, even the supply of artillery shells is totally inadequate.

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Wolfgang Preiss as Walter von Brauchitsch in “The Winds of War”

Hitler: Who says so? 

Von Brauchitsch: General Thomas, my chief of economics and armament.

Hitler: Do you know how many artillery shells of all calibers we have in the staging areas—right this minute?

Von Brauchitsch: No.

Hitler: How many we have in the reserve dumps in the West?

Von Brauchitsch: No, it’s up to my staff—

Hitler:  What the monthly annual production of shells is? What the projected rise in production of the next six months is, month by month?

Von Brauchitsch: Who keeps such figures in his head?

Hitler: I do!  The supply is adequate. I tell you so. And I’m a field soldier who depended on artillery for four years to protect his life. [He hands von Brauchitsch a sheaf of armaments figures.] Check with your staff. if one of those figures is wrong, you can postpone Case Yellow. Otherwise—you march!  And next time you come to see me, know what you’re talking about!

Von Brauchitsch: If we march unprepared as we are, defeatism will run rampant. It will destroy the Wehrmacht and the Fatherland. The morale of the army was low, even in the Polish campaign.

Hitler: You question to me—to me—the courage of the German soldier?

Von Brauchitsch: I’m talking facts!

Hitler: What facts? Back up this monstrous assertion! In what units was morale low? What action was taken? How many death sentences were handed out for cowardice? Speak up! I’ll fly to the front and pass the death sentences myself. One specific instance.

Von Brauchitsch: It was common knowledge—

Hitler: Common knowledge? What is common knowledge is that army headquarters at Zossen crawls with cowards. You opposed me in rearming the Rhineland. You opposed me on the [union] with Austria. You opposed me on Czechoslovakia, until the British came crawling to me. You dirtied in your trousers, you heroes at Zossen, at the idea of marching into Poland. Well, have I once been wrong? Have you once been right? Answer me!

Von Brauchitsch: Mein Fuhrer

Hitler:  Tell everyone who signed this insubordinate Zossen rubbish to beware! I will ruthlessly crush everybody up to the rank of a Field Marshal who dares to oppose me. You don’t have to understand. You only have to obey. The German people understand me.  I am Germany.

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to January 26, 2018. 

President Donald Trump—having fired FBI Director James Comey, attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community and tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller—can equally say: I am the destiny of America.

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