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REPUBLICANS: “I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN–AND STAY ELECTED”–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 5, 2019 at 12:10 am

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers. 

And monies. These Russian monies were officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III Mueller spent almost two years uncovering links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

On July 24, he addressed Congress on Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller declared to members of the House Judiciary Committee.

“The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.

“It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

In his report, Mueller documented years of meddling in American politics by the Internet Research Agency, which runs the Kremlin’s online disinformation efforts from its headquarters in St. Petersburg. 

The Agency reached 126 million Americans through fake accounts on Facebook. Its messages communicated with unaware members of the Trump campaign, and even prompted real-life rallies that mobilized crowds of unwitting voters.

Hours later that same day, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked the passage of three bills designed to tighten election security at the federal level. She claimed that Congress had already responded to election security needs for the 2020 Presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) came to the Senate floor the next day to personally object to House-passed legislation backed by Democrats.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

These Russian monies are officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes—which, in fact, they are.

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. 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. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

Specifically, he contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $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 the late Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham

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

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $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, 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 is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals. But its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But then Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions.” So long as they did Putin’s bidding, the rubles would roll in.

So for a party of power-drunk would-be dictators, the decision was simple: Better Red than un-elected.

REPUBLICANS: “I’D RATHER BE RUSSIAN–AND STAY ELECTED”–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 4, 2019 at 12:15 am

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed—themselves as America’s foremost defenders against Communism. 

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed—and demonstrated—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek was driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. 

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the language of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
  • President Harry S. Truman.
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller.
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger.
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield.
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein.
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb, thus forcing Japan to surrender.
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball.
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany.
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

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Even prominent Republicans became targets for slanderous attacks on their patriotism. The most prominent of these: President Dwight D. Eisenhower—was labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings exposed McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemned his behavior for “bring[ing] the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.” Shunned in disgrace by his onetime colleagues, McCarthy drowned his sorrows in alcohol, dying in 1957.

But even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans held the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans elected Richard Nixon, who preyed upon their fears and hates of blacks and “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. And Republicans held the White House until 1992.  

Upon taking office as President in 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to end the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intended to “roll it back.”

American proxies fought Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escaped nuclear holocaust.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans continued to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Republicans found that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” didn’t carry the same weight.

So they turned to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invited him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers.

TRUMP HATES/LOVES “RATS”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 1, 2019 at 12:08 am

Former FBI Director James Comey has had firsthand experience in attacking organized crime—and in spotting its leaders.

In his bestselling memoir, A Higher Loyalty, he writes:

“As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and the truth.” 

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James Comey

Validating Comey’s comparison of Trump to a mobster:

On August 21, 2018, Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. He also said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him:  

“For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.”

Making “flipping” illegal would undo decades of organized crime prosecutions—and make future ones almost impossible.

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United States Department of Justice

To penetrate the secrets of criminal organizations, investigators and prosecutors need the testimony of those who are parties to those secrets.  

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 gave Justice Department prosecutors unprecedented weapons for attacking crime syndicates across the country. One of these was the authority to give witnesses immunity from prosecution on the basis of their own testimony.

Thus, a witness to a criminal conspiracy could be forced to tell all he knew—and thus implicate his accomplices—and bosses. In turn, he wouldn’t be prosecuted on the basis of his testimony. 

Organized crime members aggressively damn such “rats.” There is no more obscene word in a mobster’s vocabulary.

But no President—until Trump—has ever attacked those who make possible a war on organized crime. 

On August 19, he tweeted: 

“The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……” 

In 1973, former White House Counsel John Dean testified before the United States Senate on a litany of crimes committed by President Richard M. Nixon. Dean didn’t lie about Nixon—who ultimately resigned in disgrace.

For Trump, Dean’s sin is that he “flipped” on his former boss, violating the Mafia’s code of omerta, or silence. 

But Trump feels completely different abut “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

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).

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The leak revealed a DNC bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton, who was about to receive the Democratic nomination for President, was thoroughly embarrassed. Sanders’ supporters were enraged.

Donald Trump’s reaction:

  • “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
  • “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it.” 
  • This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
  • “WikiLeaks just came out with a new one just a little while ago it’s just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, probably illegal, between the Department of Justice the Clinton campaign and the State Department, you saw that.”

But now Trump has reverted to his longtime hatred of “leakers.”

In July, 2019, he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

On September 26, Trump told a private group at a midtown hotel: “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy.

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

TRUMP HATES/LOVES “RATS”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 30, 2019 at 12:06 am

Donald Trump resembles his fellow New Yorker, Mafia “Boss of all Bosses” John Gotti, in more ways than he would like to admit. Among these:

  • He craves publicity like a drug.
  • His egomania long ago reached psychotic heights: In a 1990 interview with Playboy magazine, he offered his worldview: “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” 
  • He impulsively and brutally badmouths virtually everyone—in press conferences and on Twitter. 
  • He brags constantly—about his wealth, his intelligence, his sexual prowess, his achievements: “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”  
  • He has bought his way out of legal trouble: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from him while her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates. After Bondi dropped the case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 

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 Donald Trump

  • He repeatedly threatens violence against his opponents: On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, “I think you’d have riots….I think bad things would happen.” 
  • Although not a member of the Mafia, he has often been linked—directly or indirectly—to men who are, such as “Anthony Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano.
  • He prizes being seen as a tough guy: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” At a Las Vegas rally in 2016, he said about a protester: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
  • He has no loyalty to anyone. He has badmouthed—and fired—such ardent supporters as his ex-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
  • He has an unrelenting hatred for “rats” who prove equally disloyal to him.

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John Gotti

Consider the case of attorney Michael Cohen.

  • An executive of the Trump Organization, Cohen acted as “Trump’s pit bull.” “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”
  • In 2015, a reporter for The Daily Beast asked Cohen about Ivana Trump’s charge (later recanted) that Trump had raped her while they were married. Cohen: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”
  • In 2016, while Trump was running for President, Cohen acted as the go-between for a $130,000 hush-money payoff to porn “star” Stormy Daniels. The reason: To prevent her from revealing a 2006 tryst she had had with Trump.  

In April 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. Charges reportedly included bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law.

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Michael Cohen

By IowaPolitics.com (Trump executive Michael Cohen 012) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as at his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

Cohen,  feeling abandoned and enraged, struck back: He “rolled over” on the man he had once boasted he would take a bullet for.

On August 21, 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. He also said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.

Among his revelations:

  • Trump has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election. But Cohen said he believed it did.
  • Trump has repeatedly claimed he had “no business” in Russia. But Cohen testified that the Trump Organization had sought to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”
  • Trump denied having had sex with and paid off porn “actress” Stormy Daniels. But Cohen confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay her $130,000 to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him:

“For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.

“You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.”

REPUBLICANS: LOVING AMERICA LESS–AND THEIR JOBS MORE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2019 at 12:04 am

“Just another week in Caligula’s Rome.”

That was how conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. for the week of February 24 to March 1, 2019.

It could serve as the epitaph for the history of the Trump administration.

Every Friday Books faces off with liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields on The PBS Newshour. And on the program for March 1, the two men found common cause in sizing up the appearance of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee two days earlier.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

During that hearing, Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer:

  • Condemned his former boss as “a racist, a conman [and] a cheat.”
  • Confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn “star” Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Provided the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account—after he became President—“to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made.”
  • Produced “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.”

But for Brooks, far more was at stake than the individual accusations:

“To me, it was more of a moral occasion, more than anything else. What it illustrates is a President and, frankly, Michael Cohen who long ago decided that celebrity and wealth is more important than being a good person. And they have dragged us all down there with us.

“And the people they have dragged most effectively are the House Republicans, a lot of them on that committee, who decided that they were completely incurious about whether Donald Trump was a good guy or a bad guy or a really awful guy, that—their own leader, they didn’t seem to care about that, but they were going to rip the skin off Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen testifying before Congress

“And so they attacked him. And what struck me is how moral corrosion happens, that you decide you’re going to defend or ignore Trump. And then to do that, you have to morally distance yourself from him. And then you have to morally distance yourself from him every day.

“And, eventually, you just get numb to everything. And so [Ohio Republican Representative] Jim Jordan and other people on the committee were saying, oh, we all knew this, like, it’s all unremarkable. And so that’s—that’s how moral corrosion happens.”  

During the hearing, California Representative Jackie Speier asked Cohen: How many times did Trump ask you to intimidate creditors?

Cohen estimated the number at 500. 

For Shields, this counted as especially despicable behavior: “And—but the thing about it is, when he stiffed those small business—the plumbers and the electricians who did the work in the Trump projects, and he came back, and Donald Trump loved to hear about it, I mean, reveled in it.

“Now, I mean, at what point do you say that there’s no honor here? I mean, there’s nothing to admire.” 

Shields was equally appalled by the refusal of Trump’s Republican committee defenders to condemn his moral depravity—as a businessman or President.

“If you can’t deal with the message, you shoot the messenger. And that’s what their whole strategy was.

“The very fact that not a single member of the Republican committee defended Donald Trump or what he was charged or alleged to have done, to me, was revealing. They just decided to go after Michael Cohen.”

So why have Republicans aligned themselves with such a man? 

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. And the riches that go with it.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation. 

Like Adolf Hitler.

Like Richard Nixon. 

And his supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

House and Senate Republicans can imagine a future without Trump—but not one where they disappear.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

REPUBLICANS: “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 31, 2019 at 12:25 am

Upon taking office as President in 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to end the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intended to “roll it back.”

American proxies fought Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escaped nuclear holocaust.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans continued to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Republicans found that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” didn’t carry the same weight.

So they turned to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invited him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers.

And monies. These Russian monies were officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

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.

On July 27, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

This is treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. 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. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

Specifically, he contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $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 the late Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham

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

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $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, 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 is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals—but its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But when Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions,” they decided: Better Red than un-elected.

REPUBLICANS: “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 30, 2019 at 12:17 am

On July 24, former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III finally addressed Congress on Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Mueller had spent almost two years uncovering links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller declared to members of the House Judiciary Committee. “The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.

“Many more countries are developing the capability to replicate what the Russians have done.

“It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

In his report, Mueller documented years of meddling in American politics by the Internet Research Agency, which runs the Kremlin’s online disinformation efforts from its headquarters in St. Petersburg. 

The Agency reached 126 million Americans through fake accounts on Facebook. Its messages communicated with unaware members of the Trump campaign, and even prompted real-life rallies that mobilized crowds of unwitting voters.

Hours later that same day, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked the passage of three bills designed to tighten election security at the federal level. She claimed that Congress had already responded to election security needs for the 2020 Presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) came to the Senate floor the next day to personally object to House-passed legislation backed by Democrats.

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed—themselves as America’s foremost defenders against Communism. 

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed—and demonstrated—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek was driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. 

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the language of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
  • President Harry S. Truman.
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller.
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield.
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein.
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb.
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball.
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany.
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger.
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

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Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these: President Dwight D. Eisenhower—labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfired, exposing McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemned his behavior as acting “contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans held the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.

They elected Richard Nixon, who promised to end the Vietnam war and attack “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators—and, above all, “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. And Republicans held the White House until 1992.

WHAT TYRANTS MOST FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 19, 2019 at 12:08 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
—N
iccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

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Niccolo Machiavelli

When Donald Trump—as a businessman and President—has been confronted by men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, he has reacted with rage and frustration.

  • Trump boasted that he “never” settled cases out of court. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pressed fraud claims against the real estate mogul’s counterfeit Trump University—and Trump settled the case out of court rather than take the stand.
  • “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, 2016, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”
  • On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. 
  • Upon learning of his appointment, Trump wailed: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” 
  • “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump demanded of Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. “You were supposed to protect me. Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
  • Throughout Mueller’s probe, Trump hurled repeated insults at him via Twitter and press conferences. He also called on his shills within Fox News and the Republican party to attack Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.
  • But aides convinced him that firing Mueller would be rightly seen as obstruction of justice—and thus grounds for impeachment. So he never dared go that far.

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Robert Mueller

Perhaps the key to Trump’s innermost fear can be found in a work of fiction—in this case, the 1996 historical novel, The Friends of Pancho Villa, by James Carlos Blake. 

The book depicts the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920) and its most famous revolutionary, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. it’s told from the viewpoint of Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s most feared executioner. In one day, for example, Fierro—using two revolvers—executed 300 captured Federale soldiers.

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As in history, Blake’s Fierro presides over the execution of David Berlanga, a journalist who had dared criticize the often loutish behavior of Villa’s men.

On Villa’s command, Fierro approaches Berlanga in a Mexico City restaurant and orders: “Come with me.”

Standing against a barracks wall, Berlanga lights a cigar and requests permission to finish it. He then proceeds to smoke it with such a steady hand that its unbroken ash extends almost four inches.

The cigar finished, the ash still unbroken, Berlanga drops the butt to the ground and says calmly: “I’m ready.” 

Then the assembled firing squad does its work.

Later, Fierro is so shaken by Berlanga’s sheer fearlessness that he seeks an explanation for it. Sitting in a cantina, he lights a cigar and tries to duplicate Berlanga’s four-inch length.

But the best he can do is less than three inches. He concludes that Berlanga used a trick—but he can’t figure it out. 

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Rodolfo Fierro

It had to be a trick, Fierro insists, because, if it wasn’t, there were only two other explanations for such a calm demeanor in the face of impending death. 

The first was insanity. But Fierro rules this out: He had studied Berlanga’s eyes and found no madness there.

That leaves only one other explanation (other than a trick): Sheer courage. 

And Fierro can’t accept this, either—because it’s disturbing.  

“The power of men like me does not come solely from our ability to kill….No, the true source of our power is so obvious it sometimes goes unnoticed for what it is: our power comes from other men’s lack of courage.

“There is even less courage in this world than there is talent for killing. Men like me rule because most men are faint of heart in the shadow of death.

“But a man brave enough to control his fear of being killed, control it so well that no tremor reaches his fingers and no sign shows in his eyes…well. Such a man cannot be ruled, he can only be killed.”

Throughout his life, Trump has relied on bribery and intimidation. He well understands the power of greed and fear over most people.

What he doesn’t understand—and truly fears—is that some people cannot be bought or frightened. 

People like Elliot Ness. Like Robert Mueller. And like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

WHAT TYRANTS MOST FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 18, 2019 at 12:06 am

On July 14, President Donald Trump unleashed a brutal Twitter attack on four Democratic members of the House of Representatives who had harshly criticized his anti-immigration policies:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

“….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

“….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”  

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Donald Trump

The Democrats—all female, and all non-white—were:

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York;
  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan;
  • Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and
  • Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Of the Congresswomen that Trump singled out:

  • Cortez was born in New York City.
  • Tlaib was born in Detroit, Michigan. 
  • Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Only Omar was born outside the United States—in Somalia. And she became an American citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old. 

Critics have assailed Trump as racist for implying that these women were not United States citizens. 

Moreover, as members of Congress, they had a legal right to declare “how our government is to be run.”  Republicans in the House and Senate vigorously—and often viciously—asserted that right during the Presidency of Barack Obama.

Ocasio-Cortez quickly struck back on Twitter on the same day: “You are angry because you don’t believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected , where fights for Michigan families, where champions little girls in Boston.

“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.

“You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

But then followed the most significant part of Cortez’ reply:

“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President? On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.

“You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”

“You cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.”

For all his adult life, Donald Trump—as a businessman, Presidential candidate and now President—has trafficked in bribery and coercion.  First bribery: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then-attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
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Now coercion:
  • Throughout his career as a businessman, Trump forced his employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, threatening them with lawsuits if they revealed secrets of his greed and/or criminality.
  • In 2016. USA Today found that Trump was involved in over 3,500 lawsuits during the previous 30 years: “At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings” were from contractors claiming they got stiffed.
  • On March 16, 2016, as a Republican Presidential candidate, Trump 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.'”
  • Speaking with Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post investigative reporter, Trump confessed: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”
  • During his Presidential campaign he encouraged Right-wing thugs to attack dissenters at his rallies, even claiming he would pay their legal expenses. 

But when he has confronted men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, Trump has reacted with rage and desperation.

TRUMP’S INSULTS COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2019 at 12:06 am

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) was an Italian Renaissance historian, diplomat and writer. Two of his books continue to profoundly influence modern politics: The Prince and The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy.

The Prince has often been damned as a dictator’s guide on how to gain and hold power. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and John Gotti have effusively praised its teachings.

But The Discourses outlines how citizens in a republic can maintain their liberty.

Machiavelli’s writings on republicanism greatly influenced the political thinking of America’s own Founding Fathers. For example: Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson feared that Alexander Hamilton was creating an American aristocracy through the Federalist Party. And they moved vigorously to oppose him.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

In Chapter 26 of The Discourses, Machiavelli advises:

I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy—but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.

If Donald Trump has read Machiavelli, he’s clearly forgotten the Florentine statesman’s advice. Or he decided long ago that it simply didn’t apply to him.

On November 18, 2018, Trump hurled a scatological insult at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of his frequent critics.

Trump’s was furious that Schiff had said on ABC’s “This Week” that the President’s appointment of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was “unconstitutional” because he wasn’t confirmed by the Senate.

So, true to form, Trump responded with a tweet: “So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!”

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May, 2017, after Trump suddenly fired FBI Director James Comey. Mueller didn’t require Senate confirmation for the position.

Schiff was quick to respond on Twitter: “Wow, Mr. President, that’s a good one. Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions, or did you write this one yourself?”

What made Trump’s insult not only infantile but self-destructive was that, on November 6, the Democrats had retaken the House of Representatives. 

For Trump, this spelled real danger. Even before taking office in 2017, he had been haunted by charges of conspiring with Russian Intelligence agents to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

And in six weeks, Schiff would become Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats returned in January. This would arm him with investigative powers even greater than those possessed by Mueller.

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

Trump similarly relishes tossing insults at another longtime critic—Rep. Maxime Waters (D-CA). On June 25, 2018, he tweeted: “Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party.” 

This also proved a mistake. After voters returned Democrats to running the House, Waters was slated to become Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee.

For Trump, this had to be a nightmare come true. Throughout the 2016 Presidential race, Trump had refused to release his tax returns—which every Presidential candidate has done since Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Trump’s longstanding ties to Russian oligarchs and subservience to Vladimir Putin have fueled speculation that his returns could reveal some truly unscrupulous financial dealings.

Waters would now have the power to subpoena Trump’s tax returns and delve into the long-standing mystery of what he’s hiding.

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Maxine Waters

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly attacked hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.  The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

As President, he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Trump waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. Trump fired him on November 7, 2018, the day after Democrats retook the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections.
  • Trump humiliated his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, 2017, six months after taking the job, Priebus resigned.
  • Trump similarly tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump was angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and wouldn’t tolerate it again.

With Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters now heading powerful House investigative committees, Trump will undoubtedly come to regret the fury his ill-advised insults have raised up against him.

Which leads to a final warning by Machiavelli: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

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