To Hold Trump Accountable — Or Not?

I apologize in advance for the lengthiness of this post, but I thought it was one worth consideration.  I have mixed feelings on this issue of whether Trump should be held to account for his actions such as obstruction of justice, bribery, conspiracy to defraud, and campaign finance violations once he leaves office.  On the one hand, I do want to see him treated just as any of the rest of us would be for harming the people of this nation, but on the other hand … can we truly begin to heal the Great Divide in this nation if Trump remains headline news for the next two years or longer?  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read Sam Tanenhaus’ OpEd from The Washington Post last Friday


The reckoning

The country can’t recover from Trump’s presidency unless he’s held accountable

tannenhaus-samBy Sam Tanenhaus

October 16, 2020

Some Americans entertain a fantasy that goes like this: President Trump is voted out of office, finally faces justice for his serial misconduct and shuffles off to prison. A wearier, probably larger population looks forward to scrubbing the nation’s memory of these past four years and returning to pre-Trump life. A third sizable group shows unwavering loyalty to Trump.

One lesson of American history is that the country’s worst injuries are those we’ve caused ourselves. This history is not uplifting, but it is edifying, and it haunts. Failing to perform the necessary diagnostic surgery after a time of collective wrongdoing has costs. The steepest is this: Subsequent generations inherit a weakened democracy. Today it is imperative to confront the facts of the Trump era. We elected as president a homegrown insurrectionist. He rose to the highest position in our democracy and damaged it. Even now, he continues to assault our laws and institutions, our independent judiciary, our national security, our health, and our constitutional system of checks and balances. It’s unimaginable, ludicrous even, to contemplate doing nothing about Donald Trump.

No single course for a post-Trump reckoning will satisfy, let alone reconcile, the country’s divergent constituencies. And some damage can’t easily be undone — harm to America’s standing in the world, for example, and the fatally negligent response to the coronavirus pandemic. But in the search for accountability there are middle-path options that fall between prosecuting this singular president and prosecuting his broader legacy. One is to begin with a problem that Americans across the ideological spectrum agree needs fixing: our elections.

Elections are the place to start because so much of Trump’s misconduct relates to them. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election resulted in three dozen indictments or guilty pleas and five prison sentences, all related to Trump campaign actions during that election and afterward, when the president and others tried to cover up what they had done. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, have both done time. The Senate Intelligence Committee — led by Republicans — produced a nearly 1,000-page report detailing the Trump team’s misdeeds, most pertaining to the 2016 election. Prosecutors in New York, meanwhile, are digging further into Trump’s payment of hush money to a porn star ahead of the vote. And of course, in his impeachment, Trump was charged with misusing his office to try to get help from Ukraine in his reelection campaign — in violation of election law and of the framers’ fear that a president might, in James Madison’s words, “betray his trust to foreign powers.”

In at least one thing Trump has been proved right. Joe Biden is a strong opponent. If he is elected (increasingly likely), and if Democrats hold on to their majority in the House (it seems probable) and achieve one in the Senate (distinctly possible), they will be in a position to mount the kind of full-scale investigation they have been kept from doing while Trump is president.

But will the next administration hold the Trump crew truly accountable for past crimes, such as those uncovered by Mueller, the House impeachment committees and the Senate, to say nothing of the Trump family’s financial dealings? Should it? Yes, some will say, because of Trump’s long trail of malfeasance and mis-governance, which also involves top administration figures such as Attorney General William Barr. But the price of such an inquiry would be considerable. It could rebound against Democrats and undermine public confidence in their fairness and sense of proportion.

We are a fiercely divided country. As the historian Garry Wills remarked to me recently, the true crisis of our moment consists “of Trump showing us not about Trump but about us.” Republicans continue to support Trump as faithfully as any president in modern memory. It is true that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but he won 30 states. No matter the result in November, the tribal feelings that now define American politics will not change. They might intensify.

This is partly an outgrowth of Trump’s approach to the presidency — his unapologetic conception of the office as explicitly serving him and those on his side, even as he wages war against those who oppose or even question him. The formula, as Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine, is blunt and direct: “If Trump’s opponents are doing something, it’s a crime; if Trump and his allies are doing it, it isn’t.”

The president’s supporters have a grievance of their own. They can say that Trump’s enemies tried to delegitimize him from the moment he took office. His detractors spoke early and excitedly about impeachment, as though the removal of a president was sport. This was why cooler heads, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urged caution after Democrats regained a majority in the House.

With Ukraine, everything changed. The facts were clear. Trump’s plea to the Ukrainian president that he “do us a favor” by announcing that he would investigate Biden was a textbook case of abuse of power. It hardly mattered. Republicans mounted a counteroffensive, echoing Trump’s cry of “witch hunt.” The rest was an elaborate performance in which the only verdict that seemed to matter was public opinion. Yet the most significant poll showed that two-thirds of Americans, regardless of the outcome, would not change their minds.

Attacks on Trump, no matter how justified, have dependably aroused his base. There is no reason to think his post-presidency will be different. What’s to stop Citizen Trump from continuing to operate at the margins of the law, but without the cover of the White House and in the knowledge that there would be a reluctance to prosecute a former president? A fresh investigation, broadcast over the “lying” media, could play right into Trump’s program of self-glorification.

And yet, America is not just a political carnival with gladiators in the arena and spectators in the stands. It is also a democratic republic — a nation of laws, procedures, history and tradition. A good, or rather ghastly, example of history failing to hold its chief actors accountable is the first president to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, in 1868. For many years schoolchildren were taught, with the aid of the book “Profiles in Courage” by John F. Kennedy, that Johnson’s escape from removal was an act of high statesmanship. Supposedly Sen. Edmund Ross of Kansas, a Republican who went against his party and voted to acquit, “may well have preserved for ourselves and posterity constitutional government in the United States.” The real villains, in Kennedy’s view (shared by many at the time), were the “Radical Republicans,” who arrogantly treated the defeated Confederate states as “conquered provinces” and wanted to “crush their despised foe” and voted to convict.

Today the episode is judged very differently. Johnson, most agree, was one of the worst presidents in history and a danger to the republic. Taking office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he flagrantly violated the principles of post-Civil War Reconstruction. He sided with “all-white Southern state governments full of ex-Confederates, stood by when they enacted ‘black codes’ that oppressed ex-slaves, and took no action when racist mobs began to murder black Southerners,” according to a history in The Washington Post. Johnson’s removal would have sent a powerful message about the nation’s new, post-slavery course; his acquittal instead reinforced pro-Confederate sympathies, which have lingered for generations.

So, too, with the case of the next president to face impeachment, Richard Nixon. He resigned in 1974 when it became clear that he faced removal for his Watergate crimes. His successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him. For years, the thinking was that Ford’s action was statesmanlike, and the nation gratefully heard his soothing assurances that “our long national nightmare is over.” But the pardon helped plant the seeds of a counter-history of Watergate, promulgated by Nixon and his defenders, that Nixon was not the perpetrator but the victim, hounded by the liberal media, and that the investigations and impeachment were an  example of “the criminalization of politics.”

What happened afterward may suggest a sensible approach to holding Trump accountable. In 1975, after the New York Times published a sensational report by Seymour Hersh under the headline “Huge C.I.A. operation reported in U.S. against antiwar forces, other dissidents in Nixon years,” the Senate organized a committee to examine the long history of Cold War intelligence. The chairman was Sen. Frank Church of Idaho. Respected legislators from both parties, giants of the period, also were on the panel. Their inquest looked hard at the Nixon administration but also pressed further and turned up patterns of wrongdoing by three predecessors, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Not everyone was happy with the result. The intelligence community felt under siege. But no one could accuse the committee of being partisan.

Here is a possible road map, then, for a public accounting of the Trump years. Instead of mounting an investigation of all his excesses and corruptions, the Biden administration could reach out to Trump’s supporters with a statement acknowledging their concerns, and Trump’s, that our elections are “rigged.” Why not take him at his word? To some extent, many are — in both parties. Each has assembled teams of lawyers and operatives for state-by-state legal battles, in the expectation that if Trump loses, he will challenge the results.

At that point, rightly or wrongly, a substantial portion of the country will question the validity of our elections. This has happened before, in 2000. Biden, as president, might address these concerns, respectfully announcing that he will set up an Election Commission, a formal investigation on the scale of the Warren Commission, which tried to uncover the facts of the Kennedy assassination, or the commission formed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A more immediate example is the panel convened after the 2000 election. Chaired by former presidents Ford and Jimmy Carter, it presented recommendations. One was that there be a ceiling of 2 percent on the share of votes thrown out because of errors. Another was to have a federal agency create national standards for voting machines. A third was to restore voting rights in all 50 states to felons who had served their sentences. President George W. Bush supported the “key principles” stated by the panel and urged Congress to act on them. But the operative word was “recommendations.” The report did not say the government should require these changes. And so almost 20 years later, the defects remain.

But the circumstances are different now; the crisis has grown. Trump has sown doubts about our elections for the whole of his presidency. As soon as he took office, he declared that the 2016 election was “rigged” because the popular vote had gone against him. He organized a “commission” of his own on voter fraud, with Vice President Pence in charge. It quietly disbanded eight months later, having met a total of two times and without filing a report. The material it did produce was “glaringly empty,” in the words of one member. A commission set up by Biden could take up the work of Trump’s panel, only push much further.

And this is where the Church Committee could be a good model. Just as it pursued the trail of intelligence wrongdoing back to the early years of the Cold War, so Biden’s blue-ribbon panel would start with the 2000 election and the recommendations made afterward, this time pointing out what was lost because those recommendations were not adopted. From this premise, the commission could range widely and hear testimony on many important matters — for instance, efforts to suppress African American and Hispanic votes in battleground states. Every Republican who has affirmed or suggested that the 2020 elections are rigged, beginning with Trump himself, would be given a chance to testify with immunity and in a closed session, their words recorded. The findings would be released with ample transcripts.

Such a proceeding will be vulnerable to accusations of bias. But the facts would be on the record, and perhaps we would learn more about how democracy works, and doesn’t work, and what we can do to repair it.

Unhinged!

Remember the 2016 presidential election?  Who could forget, right?  Remember all the hullaballoo about Hillary Clinton’s emails, which as it turned out, was a non-starter, for while she had used poor judgment in using a private server, there was no huge leak of classified information as the Trump campaign had hoped.

Now it is another presidential election year, four years later, and the two candidates are former Vice-President Joe Biden, and once again, Donald Trump.  You may notice that I did not mention Hillary Clinton, for she is not running for president this year.  And yet, according to yesterday’s New York Times

Trump forced the State Department on Friday to commit to releasing at least some of Hillary Clinton’s emails before next month’s election, resurrecting a four-year-old issue in hopes that it would prove as helpful to his political prospects as it was when he defeated her in 2016.

WTF???  What in the Sam Hell is wrong with the bit of grey matter that resides in Donald Trump’s head?  HILLARY CLINTON IS NOT RUNNING FOR THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT IN 2020!  Do I make myself clear?  It isn’t rocket science!  What it is, I strongly suspect, is an attempt to energize his rabid base who, in 2016, took great pleasure in demonizing Hillary Clinton, screeching “Lock her up!” at every rally.

Whatever is or is not in Hillary’s emails is irrelevant at this point, and Trump’s base wouldn’t understand what they were reading if they even bothered to read them.  It’s not about the actual emails, but rather about the perception that Hillary did something wrong.

But it doesn’t even end with that bit of lunacy!  He also attempted to coerce Attorney General William Barr to prosecute his opponent Joe Biden as well as President Barack Obama!  The Times article continues …

He publicly badgered Mr. Barr this week to indict Democrats connected to the original investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any ties to Mr. Trump’s campaign, naming specifically Mr. Biden and former President Barack Obama. But Mr. Barr has told Republicans and others that he planned no major moves in his re-examination of the Russia investigation before Election Day.

Yo Republicans!!!  You folks didn’t elect a president in 2016, you elected … and continue to support … a mentally deranged maniac!  Wake up and take your heads out of your arses before you doom us to a fate worse than death!

Beyond his public comments, the president has also conveyed to Mr. Barr, directly and through surrogates, that he wanted “scalps,” according to two government officials familiar with the conversations.

While Mr. Barr defied the president’s desire for pre-election action, Mr. Pompeo bowed to Mr. Trump’s wishes a day after he publicly chastised the secretary of state for not cooperating. Mr. Pompeo told Fox News that he would release at least some of Mrs. Clinton’s emails from when she was secretary of state and using a private server.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he fires William Barr over this.  Both the release of Hillary’s emails and the attempt to force an indictment of Biden, Obama and others appear to me designed to draw the public attention away from the pandemic, the thing that has brought him to his knees in more ways than one.  An animal caught in a trap will go so far as to chew off its own foot in order to free himself.  Need I say more?

Yesterday, Jeff and I told you how the United States has lost respect in the eyes of the world.  Is it any wonder, given this latest batch of pure, unadulterated bullshit?  The saddest part is that some 40% of the people in this country are genuinely too uneducated, too self-focused (and I’m being kind here) to understand what they have done:  they have created a monster who has neither intelligence nor a conscience, and who would destroy the world if he thought it would boost him in some way.

Confirmation of Sabotage!

I don’t understand why we haven’t heard more about this story …

G.O.P.-Led Senate Panel Details Ties Between 2016 Trump Campaign and Russia

Everybody understands this, right?  After the years of Trump decrying that the investigation led by Robert Mueller was a “hoax” and a “witch hunt”, the Senate Intelligence Committee, a bi-partisan committee comprised of eight (8) republicans and seven (7) democrats, determined that Russia did, in fact, conspire with members of the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favour. committee-membersThree years … these 15 people have dedicated the last three years to investigating the exact same things Robert Mueller and his team investigated, reviewing the exact same data that the Mueller team reviewed, and they have drawn almost the exact same conclusion!  That Russia did interfere in our elections on Donald Trump’s behalf, and that the Trump campaign aided and abetted them!  WHAT THE HELL more proof does Congress, do Trump’s base, need in order to be convinced that Trump & Co BOUGHT the election … he did not win it, but he PAID for it!!!  Oh, he didn’t do all the dirty work with his own hands, but left most of the dirty work to the likes of Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, his own children and  others, some of whom are serving prison time today, others who should or soon will be.  But you can bet your last dollar that Trump knew every move that was made, every dollar spent or received, and knew just how far Vladimir Putin was willing to go to help put him into office.

Below is a chart showing who, amongst the Trump campaign, had contact with the Russians and when. contacts

For further detail about the key players, the New York Times has an excellent assessment.

Some of the most insidious republican senators were on the committee … Richard Burr, Tom Cotton, Susan Collins, and Marco Rubio … and yet, the findings were in agreement with those of the Intelligence Community and of Special Investigator Robert Mueller.  This speaks volumes, and yes, I have seen the story reported in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico and others, but … nobody seems to be talking about it!  Why???

Is everybody too wrapped up in his threats, his bullying, his name-calling, to stop and take a look at this report and what it means???  Is his ‘deflect and distract’ operation really working that well?  I would agree that there are a few serious issues this election season:  the denigration and destruction of the United States Postal Service, systemic racism, voter rights and suppression, climate change, the handling (or rather, mishandling) of the coronavirus pandemic, the failing economy … well okay, perhaps more than a few.  Still … we cannot remain silent on the results of this committee report!

For one thing, it is only further proof that the 2016 election was, in fact, interfered with by the Russian government and with the full knowledge of Trump and his cronies.  For another, we are told by the intelligence community that the Russians have been working to help sabotage our November election that is just over 10 weeks away.  Do you really think it’s coincidence that Russia claims to have a vaccine for the coronavirus that will soon be ready to go?  Do you think it’s coincidence that Trump has been ‘demanding’ the G7 allow Russia to sit in on their next meeting, whenever that may take place?

Since I don’t have a direct conduit to Mr. Putin’s brain, I cannot know his reasons for ‘preferring’ Trump both 4 years ago and now, but I can form an intelligent guess.  Putin wants the U.S. to look the other way when he does things that may be against United Nations protocol.  Putin has made no secret that he would like to rebuild a Soviet-style empire.  He needs the U.S. to, at the very least, sit back and turn a blind eye.  Donald Trump is not an intelligent man, and is far more easily manipulated with the promise of some small reward than Hillary Clinton would have been, or than Joe Biden would be.

You can, if you are so inclined, read the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report … well, you can read the parts that are not redacted, at any rate.  And there’s another point.  Why does any of this report need to be redacted?  These are events that happened, mostly 3+ years ago, and I cannot conceive of any events or conversations that would cause a national security issue today, hence the need for heavy redactions.  The only damage this report will cause is to the key players who were treasonous in their dealings, who put Trump and the Republican Party ahead of the best interest of the nation.  We the People have a right to know … we have a right to know who said what and when.  We have a right to know just what the Russian government did to sabotage our election!

I close with one reminder:  despite the help of the Russian government, despite the gerrymandered districts and restrictive voter I.D. laws, Donald Trump did not win the vote of We the People – he lost by nearly 3 million votes.  He won only the electoral college, and that only because of unfair district boundaries.  Will we allow this to happen again this year?  I damn sure hope not!

History is Written By the Winners

Attorney General William Barr, one of Trump’s lackeys, stated that “History is written by the winners …” Face it, folks … in the U.S. today, the only ‘winners’ are the greedy capitalists and corrupt politicians … the other 99.9% of us are losing every day. It’s time to turn this around, as our friend TokyoSand has written. Thank you, T.S.

Political⚡Charge

Screen Shot 2020-05-07 at 10.43.16 PM

Is the rule of law dead under this administration?

Yesterday, the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Bill Barr, announced they were no longer pursuing the case against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and moved to have his case dismissed entirely. This sparked immediate outrage, but only from one side of the aisle. Here’s a taste of the sentiment:

I won’t do an explainer on the Flynn case today, as Vox has already done one that is excellent. You can find it here: The Justice Department has dropped Michael Flynn’s case  But I will…

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Snarky Snippets, Volume #105

That’s right, folks, this is the 105th  version of Snarky Snippets!!!  The concept started as just one post on a day that I didn’t have a major topic, but had several little things I wanted to write about.  Several commentors suggested I should do this more often, so I began writing snarky snippets once a week or so.  Nowadays, however, it is more like 3-4 times a week!  This morning I wondered if I had done one hundred yet, so I did a quick keyword search and came up with 104, making this the 105th!  I start with some rather cheering news to kick off the weekend …


Roger goes down in flames!

roger-stoneWell, folks, you know how Trump has said that the Mueller investigation into the ways in which Russia interfered with our 2016 election and who may have been involved within Trump’s campaign, is naught but a ‘hoax’, a ‘witch hunt’, and that nobody has been convicted of anything?  WRONG!  Just this morning, Trump’s long-time friend, ally and former aide was convicted on all seven felony counts with which he had been charged!  ALL SEVEN!

The friendship between Stone and Trump dates back more than 40 years.  Does anybody really believe that Stone was involved, but that Trump knew nothing about it?  I don’t.  Trump did not testify in person in the Mueller investigation, but rather submitted answers in writing to the questions posed by Mueller and his team.  In one such answer, he claimed that he could not recall the specifics of any of 21 conversations he had with Mr. Stone in the six months before the election.

Stone is the sixth individual to be convicted on charges stemming from the Mueller investigation.  The others are:

  • Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman
  • Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor
  • Michael Cohen, Trump’s former longtime attorney and “fixer”
  • George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide
  • Paul Manafort, Stone’s former partner

Stone-orange-suitRemember how, after the Mueller report was released and Attorney General William Barr gave his misleading summation of the report, Trump kept screeching, “No obstruction, No collusion!”  It was a lie then, we all knew it was a lie, and Stone’s conviction proves the lie.  I wonder what ol’ Trumpie will have to say now?

Stone’s sentencing will be interesting.  On one count alone, he could face up to 20 years, which at age 67 could amount to a life sentence.  It is anticipated that he will receive a lighter sentence, but then again … remember when he posted a picture of Judge Amy Berman Jackson with the cross hairs of a gun near her head?  Might not go so well for him after all.roger-stone


Ohio wants to “Make America Stupid Again”

Most days, I am ashamed to say that I live in the state of Ohio.  Like any other state, it has its ups and downs, but since the state’s electoral votes went for Trump in 2016, I would just as soon live in Bangladesh or somewhere.  Today’s latest had me picking up my jaw from the floor where it had dropped.

A proposal in Ohio would allow students to be exempted from answering questions correctly in school if their wrong answers conform with their personal religious beliefs.  In essence, a student wouldn’t be penalized if their answers were scientifically wrong, even if they’re in a science class or science-based school.

In part, the bill reads that no school “shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments.”  So, for example, if a young person answers on a test that the earth is flat, his/her answer cannot be counted wrong as long as he or she claims it is what is taught by their religion???  Science is factual, not subject to the whims of one religion or another.  The U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state.  This bill is discriminatory, for if two children both get the answer to question #14 wrong, but one claims it was a result of her religious beliefs, then she will not have it counted against her, while the other will.  Discrimination!

The proposal has already been passed as a bill in the Ohio state House of Representatives. It now goes to the Republican-led Senate, where, if passed, it would move onto Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s office for his signature.  I swear if this one passes, I’m moving to a different state!


Only in Kentucky …

I have a number of friends who live in Kentucky, so I am not putting down the state per se, but let’s face it, this is the state that keeps sending Mitch McConnell back to the Senate time and time again … says something, don’t you think?

Well, this latest has nothing to do with politics, but it crossed my radar last night and I let out a WTF before I could catch myself.  The headline reads …

Kentucky man wins 3-year court battle to put ‘IM GOD’ on license plate

Back in 2016, the man, one Ben Hart, ordered personalized plates, otherwise known as ‘vanity plates’ for obvious reasons.  He requested the plates read “IM GOD”, but was turned down by the state Department of Transportation.  Some things are just deemed to be inappropriate.  Most people would have just picked something else, or given up on the personalized plates altogether, but not Ben Hart.

He took the state to court, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union in Kentucky and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  Three years this has been in process, until finally on Wednesday a U.S. District Court judge in Frankfort ruled in favor of Hart, saying personalized license plates are private speech, and protected under the 1st Amendment. 🙄

ben-hartI wonder how much money was spent on this foolishness?


Well, folks, that’s a wrap for today’s episode of Snarky Snippets!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Executive Power …

More than a few times over the past year or so, people have tried to assure me that there are limits to what Trump can do, that the Constitution, Congress, and the Courts will stop him from going too far, and all will be well.  It is true that the Constitution defines and limits the power of the office of president … except in certain circumstances.  And Congress has a large degree of control … if they can agree to agree on anything and if the issue at hand cannot be done by executive order.  And the Courts can intervene … but there are levels within the court system leading up to the Supreme Court – the one that Trump is stacking with his and the Federalist Society’s hand-picked justices.

On a Friday afternoon in July 2016, a faction of the Turkish military launched a coup attempt allegedly aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.  Although Turkey is considered a democracy and Erdoğan was democratically elected, he was and is clearly a threat to Turkish democracy and secularism.  As leader of the AKP Islamist party, Erdoğan had ‘reformed’ Turkish schools along Islamist lines, cracked down on freedom of the press, and pushed constitutional changes that would consolidate dangerous amounts of power in the president’s hands.

It has been my belief since the beginning that Erdoğan himself played a leading role in staging the coup.  If so, to what end?  To give him the justification to declare a ‘state of emergency’ that would increase the powers of his office.  As part of the state of emergency, Turkey temporarily suspended part of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The initial state of emergency was for three months, but in October 2016, it was extended to be for a year, and the following year it was again extended, and was only lifted in July 2018, after new elections that gave Erdoğan greatly expanded powers.  During that time, there was an extensive purge of the Turkish civil service employees, with more than 45,000 military officials, police officers, judges, governors, and civil servants arrested or suspended, including 2,700 judges, 15,000 teachers, and every university dean in the country.  Turkish authorities said the crackdown was meant to “suppress dissent”.  journalists-TurkeyAccording to Amnesty International, detainees in Turkey have been denied access to legal counsel, have been beaten and tortured, and have not been provided with adequate food, water, or medical care.

Now tuck into the back of your mind for a bit the fact that Donald Trump made the decision, without consulting Congress, without consulting his military and foreign affairs advisors, without consulting our allies, to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria based on a telephone conversation with Erdoğan.  Consider how much Trump admires those ‘strong-arm’ leaders such as Erdoğan, Putin, and even the Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte.  Ever since he took office, Trump has chafed against the constraints of the office, believing that as president his powers ought to be unlimited.

Fast forward … it is rumoured that Robert Mueller will complete his investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, and the Trump family/campaign role in such interference around mid-February.  While that is strictly rumour at this point, the timing makes sense.  What do you think will happen if, as I firmly believe, Mueller has evidence that Trump’s family with Trump’s knowledge, and perhaps even Trump himself were involved in underhanded dealings to influence the outcome of the election? Trump-angry What if it is proven that Trump broke the trust of his office?  No doubt impeachment proceedings would begin in the democratic-majority House of Representatives.  Given what we know about Trump and his erratic temperament, what is your best guess about his reaction?  Think he’ll just sit down and shut up?  Yeah, right.  If you believe that, please contact me, for I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell you dirt-cheap.

Fast forward even more … the year is 2020 and the election for which Trump has been campaigning for four years is rapidly approaching.  And yet … Trump is not winning any popularity contests … his temper tantrums are no longer playing well among his masses, in light of the financial recession caused largely by his tariffs and by the chaos he wrought at the end of 2018 by shutting the government down needlessly while demanding billions of dollars for his ignominious border wall.  Trump is not being supported by the majority of the GOP in Congress, and the Republican Party is lukewarm about his re-election bid, at best.  trump-tantrumThink he’s going to just put his nose to the grindstone, do the best job he can while trying to win over the masses with his honesty and integrity?  Again … see above comment about my bridge.

Not quite two years into his term of office, Donald Trump has signed …

  • 86 Executive orders
  • 42 Presidential memoranda
  • 12 Presidential determinations
  • 01 Administrative order
  • 22 Presidential notices
  • 01 Presidential sequestration order
  • 07 National security presidential memoranda
Trump-sign-bill

Can’t you just hear him saying, “nyah nyah nyah nyah-nyah”?

None of these required the advice and consent of Congress.  Many were to overturn regulations that were in place to safeguard our health and safety.  Others were simply to exert his power.  None, as far as I can tell, were in our collective best interest.

Back now to 2019 when impeachment is looming, or 2020 when an election looms large.  What does Trump do?  Does he follow the example of his buddy Erdoğan and create a diversion that will allow him to declare a ‘state of emergency’?  Oh yes, he most certainly can do that, and with little or no reason.  The decision to declare a ‘state of emergency’ is entirely within his discretion, and it makes more than 100 ‘special provisions’ available to him.  The framers of the Constitution never in their wildest dreams imagined a Donald Trump, never believed the nation would need to be protected from its own leader.

What, then, could happen if, say to detract from impeachment proceedings, Trump declared a state of emergency?  Worst case scenario, he could shut down electronic communications.  He could freeze the bank accounts of those he believed to be subversive.  He could disperse troops within the country to subdue domestic unrest, ie., legitimate protests.  And the list goes on.state-of-emergencyIt is not my intent to fear-monger … I don’t play Trump’s games.  It is, however, my intent to proclaim that the time is now to rein in this president.  Now, before it becomes impossible, is the time to set limits on the ‘executive authority’ that the Founding Fathers never thought would be necessary.  When the 116th Congress is seated next Thursday, one of the first orders of business, besides getting the government open without giving in on “the wall”, should be to set limits on what the president can and cannot do without the consent of Congress.

Personally, I would like to see strict guidelines for declaring a state of emergency, and a very narrow interpretation of what he can or cannot do under such a state.  He must not be allowed to shut down the internet, the only means many of us have of getting news of national and world events.  He must not be allowed to stifle the freedom of the press or our First Amendment rights of free speech.

There have been situations before where a president overstepped the reasonable limits of his power and Congress or the Courts stepped in, such as the Youngstown Steel case in 1952 where President Truman attempted to take over the steel plants, but the Supreme Court said, “no”.  But with Donald Trump the bully in office, I don’t think we can assume that he would be easily stopped from assuming far greater power than he should have, and it would behoove us to put restraints in place before they are needed rather than wait until it is too late.

Dear Senators …

For quite some time now, even for years before the current administration invaded the White House, we have seen a Congress so divided that it almost makes a mockery of the words “democratic process”.  We have seen a Congress that pays little, if any, heed to the will of the people, the betterment of the nation, but rather are acting in their own best interests.  It speaks volumes when even former members of Congress are speaking out against the uber-partisanship and asking Congress to step up to the plate and do what they were elected to do.

A group of 44 former senators has penned a letter to the current and future senators, asking them to set aside their partisanship and self-interest for the sake of guarding our democratic principles.  Will they listen?

Dear Senate colleagues,

As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.

It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate.

We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.

During our service in the Senate, at times we were allies and at other times opponents, but never enemies. We all took an oath swearing allegiance to the Constitution. Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.

At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.

Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.

Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Don Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John W. Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)

A Shared Opinion …

There are a number of opinion writers who I read regularly, and Charles Blow of the New York Times is one.  His column on Sunday struck a chord, for much of what he says mirrors my own thoughts very closely, especially when he says, “I would love nothing more than to write about other things, worthy things, more intellectually stimulating things. But for more than two years, I have written almost exclusively about Donald Trump.”  I initially intended to only provide a few snippets from this column, but after I studied and pondered it a bit, I decided to share the entire column after all.  Give it a read … I think you’ll be able to relate to much of what he says …

You Have a Right to Weariness

The struggle for goodness and decency is an eternal struggle, not a seasonal one.

Charles BlowBy Charles M. Blow, Opinion Columnist

Do we have a right to weariness in an era of animus? More precisely, can we afford it, or is exhaustion a luxury reserved for those whose wealth, privilege and status insulate them from the losses the rest of us could suffer? Does patriotic defense of country require perpetual, obsessive vigilance, or is it permissible to retreat occasionally for one’s own mental and spiritual health?

These are questions I ask myself regularly, and ones that are frequently asked of me, if not in those exact words. People are trying to figure out the proper posture to take in a world riven by deceit and corruption, a world in which the leadership of the country represents an assault on decency.

This is a conundrum, I must confess.

I, as much as anyone else, feel trapped by our current predicament. I would love nothing more than to write about other things, worthy things, more intellectually stimulating things. But for more than two years, I have written almost exclusively about Donald Trump.

I feel compelled by what I view as history, fundamental and consequential, playing out right before me with nothing short of the life of the republic at stake. And yet, at a certain point, words begin to fail, or the obvious has already been stated. Once you have pointed out that Trump is a liar, you can then note only that he is telling more lies. The same goes for his racism, bullying, anti-intellectualism, corruption and grift.

At some point, it becomes clear that the abnormal, outrageous and unacceptable have become a constant, and even the rolling boil of righteous folk’s indignation reduces to a simmer.

People often ask me, “When will it end? What can we do to get him out of there?”

My answer always is, “I doubt it will end soon, and there’s very little anyone can do to change that.”

I hate to bear that message, but it is the only one I can deliver if I wish to be honest rather than popular.

As much as there was to celebrate last week, with liberals winning control of the House of Representatives, and doing so with such a diverse slate of candidates, it was also clear that Republican control of the Senate means that any hope of removing Trump via impeachment has shrunk to nearly nothing. Even if the House impeaches Trump, the Senate remains highly unlikely to remove him.

Democrats are even debating how far they can take oversight in the House without turning off people politically.

The only hope is that the Robert Mueller investigation may deliver something so damning that some Senate Republicans view it as unacceptable. But there is no evidence as of yet that anything would sway them.

Trump is taking steps to severely hamper Mueller’s efforts. Last week, he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. The F.B.I. is currently investigating corruption at a company where Mr. Whitaker sat on the advisory board.

At this point, it may be more prudent to view what comes from the Mueller probe as fodder for the 2020 presidential campaign. It may not pave the way for an impeachment conviction by the Senate, but could well pave the way for an electoral “impeachment.”

It is very likely that we are stuck with Trump until the 2020 election, and even then the Democrats can take nothing for granted if they wish to defeat him.

That is the root of people’s distress. How can Republicans in Congress abide this behavior and use it for political positioning? How can so many of our neighbors condone open hostility to minorities, the press and the truth?

Or maybe the questions are for us. How could we not have registered fully just how hostile a substantial portion of America is to inclusion and equality? How could we not have registered the full depths of American racism and misogyny? How could we not remember that American progress has always been like a dance with a disagreeable partner, stumbling backward as well as moving forward?

I remember calling my mother when Trump was elected, and she was not nearly as distraught as I thought she’d be. Her stated reason: We’ve been through worse. She is an elderly black woman from the South. Her sense of history and heartbreak are long and fraught.

Recently, I’ve delved even more deeply into this line of thinking, reading about how black people positioned themselves during both Reconstruction and Jim Crow, when the political structures were largely arrayed against them.

I wanted to know how they survived and made progress against open hostility. The recurring themes are to never lose hope in the ultimate victory of righteousness; to focus your fire on the things you are most able to change; and to realize that change is neither quick nor permanent.

The struggle for goodness and decency is an eternal struggle, not a seasonal one.

Don’t beat yourself up if you need to tune out every now and then and take a mental health break. There is no shame in it. This is a forever fight. Once you have recharged, reapply your armor and rejoin the fight with even more vigor.

Another … sigh … Trumptian Terror

On Wednesday, the day after the mid-term elections, Donald Trump demanded the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  We all knew it was coming, and I think others will follow. While I have no love for Jeff Sessions, who is a proven racist, I am greatly disturbed by his termination.  With Sessions gone, the door is open to either terminate or stifle the Mueller investigation.  The Mueller investigation is no ‘witch hunt’, as Trump has claimed, but I strongly suspect has uncovered scandal and corruption beyond what we can even imagine.  Methinks Mr. Trump doth protest far too much, and his claims of innocence are a joke … a bad joke.

Let us take a look at the man who will be serving as a temporary replacement for Session.

Matthew-whitakerHis name is Matthew Whitaker.  He is an attorney with a rather unremarkable career thus far, his biggest ‘claim to fame’ being that he has run for public office three times … and lost ‘bigly’ two of the three.  Whitaker ran as a Republican for Treasurer of Iowa in 2002 and lost by 12%.  He ran for the Iowa Senate seat vacated by Tom Harkin in 2014 but came in only 4th in the republican primary with less than 8% of the votes.  After the 2014 loss, he became a paid advisory board member for a company called World Patent Marketing, a fraudulent business based in Florida that deceived inventors into thinking that the company had successfully commercialized other inventions.  The company was shut down by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2017.

In September of 2017, Whitaker was appointed to be Jeff Sessions’ Chief of Staff at the Department of Justice.  The month before, he wrote an opinion column for CNN titled “Mueller’s Investigation of Trump is Going Too Far.”  His premise was that the Mueller investigation should be limited and should not probe into Trump’s finances.  And in June 2017, three months before becoming Chief of Staff, he said publicly …

“I also think, you know, we have another hearing in front of Congress where there is no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Democrats continue to conflate the collusion issue, which there is no evidence of, with, with the fact that Russians did try to interfere with the election.”

His views on the Mueller investigation are high priority and would take an entire post to discuss, and while that is the most urgent issue that he will likely face in the coming two months, there are others that are equally appalling.  Let’s take a look at a few …

  • On gun control“The mass shootings we’ve seen in our country have been often times and always executed by mentally ill individuals who those laws never would’ve impacted in the first place. So I don’t think infringing on Second Amendment rights will prevent those types of events.”  Right-o … why bother to try to save a few thousand lives every month … they aren’t your lives, after all!

  • On climate change“I think the evidence is inconclusive, but there may be a human component to global warming. But that’s very small and it may be part of the natural warming or cooling of the planet. I’m certainly not a climate expert, but I don’t believe in Cap and Trade or those types of regulations that try to hamstring the U.S. economy as other countries continue to put carbon into the air. I don’t believe in big government solutions to a problem that doesn’t appear to be that significant or quite possibly isn’t man made.”  Yeah, again … what’s a few million lives as long as they aren’t yours?


  • On education“I think the Department of Education should be disbanded and the resources either returned to the taxpayers or put into the schools. Bureaucrats in Washington D.C. shouldn’t know how to better educate my kids than I do.”  Heh heh heh … like you’ve shown yourself to be so bloomin’ smart???  🤣🤣🤣


  • On marriage“I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Throughout history it’s traditionally been up to the churches and to God to define that. I don’t have an omnibus solution. Certainly it’s affecting all sorts of parts of our country. Here in the state of Iowa we can’t even get our elected officials to do anything about it and that’s really frustrating. It’s affecting our military. There are chaplains in the military under a lot of pressure to go against their religious beliefs.”  Bigot.  Homophobe.


  • On federal judges“I’d like to see things like their worldview, what informs them. Are they people of faith? Do they have a biblical view of justice? — which I think is very important. And what I know is as long as they have that worldview, that they’ll be a good judge. And if they have a secular worldview, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge.” Hey Jerkface … every hear of separation of church and state???  Has anyone ever told you that this is a SECULAR government???

Add to that he has indicated his belief that Social Security is unconstitutional and that basic labor laws like the minimum wage must be struck down.

In an interesting twist yesterday, a number of prominent attorneys including none other than George Conway, Kellyanne’s husband, have claimed that it is illegal for Trump to appoint Whitaker as acting Attorney General because he is evading the requirement to seek the Senate’s advice and consent for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.  Don’t hyperventilate over this one, folks.

Under Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, otherwise known as the “appointments clause” of the U.S. Constitution, a principal officer, that is one who reports only to the president, must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate under its “Advice and Consent” powers.  Legally, I agree with Mr. Conway and the others, but … this is the reign of Trump, where Trump considers himself above the law, and the relevant people in Congress and the Supreme Court have upheld his lawlessness more than once.  And the bottom line is that if Trump is forced to bring Whitaker before the Senate to confirm his nomination … well, need I say more?  It will mean not much more than a delay of a few days.  Remember Brett Kavanaugh?