Donald Trump, Not-So-Secret Agent
Charles Pierce picks out just one “bombshell word” from the New York Times story.
Deep in The New York Times's latest bombshell is one singularly deadly word, a lethal bit of shrapnel aimed directly at the vitals of a criminal—and possibly treasonous—presidency. The word is tucked into a sentence that, at first glance, seems to be a perfectly anodyne statement of the current facts. Indeed, it's tucked into a sentence that would be an unremarkable bit of knee-jerk newspaper balance if this explosive charge of a word weren't placed right the in the middle of it. That word is "publicly," as in:
No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.
Yep, the same word stuck out for me when I was reading this. In fact, the whole section, which includes one official refusing to comment, and another official noting that critics don’t have “all the evidence” seemed to be practically screaming “but… behind the scenes, there’s evidence. Oh, there is evidence.” Pierce goes on to note many of the same comments.
Each of those paragraphs, taken by itself, would be a gobsmacker. Taken together, they are the most astounding evidence of Oval Office criminality since the release of the "smoking gun" tape in 1974. The counterintelligence apparatus of the FBI looked at the conduct of the president* of the United States and determined it appropriate to look into the possibility that he was being run by a foreign power. They thought there was enough there to wonder if the president* was a threat to the security of the nation.
Is it possible for information on Trump to appear that is still shocking at this point? Yep.
Johnathan Chait uses the same word in discussing the Trump-as-Russian-operative reveal.
New York Magazine
On Friday night, the New York Times published a bombshell report that the FBI has been investigating whether President Trump “had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.” The story reframes the focus and purpose of the investigation now headed by Robert Mueller. The probe is not just about Russian election interference, or about Trump’s obstruction of the probe — it is about the secret relationship between Trump and Russia that appears to be causing both these things to happen.
The first question to ask yourself when absorbing this story is, what does it mean for a president to be working for Russia, and against the United States? Trump frequently says the United States would be better off if it got along better with Russia — and that position, right or wrong, is certainly not criminally suspect. Presidents obviously have the right to change American foreign policy, and to forge friendships with countries that had been previously hostile. Nixon’s overtures to China, or Obama’s opening of relations with Cuba, did not set off criminal investigations. The FBI would not investigate a president simply for harboring friendly views of a rival state.
Yep, There’s definitely, definitely more to why the FBI launched this investigation than what we’ve seen in public. But, even though we haven’t seen all the information, it’s still possible to draw conclusions. Put it another way: If Donald Trump was working as a Russian operative, what would he do differently?
Burning down America to save it
Virginia Heffernan gets to the core value of Trumpism — hurting people.
Los Angeles Times
This was the closest the world had been to ending, in the opinion of the atomic scientists who keep the [Doomsday Clock], since 1953, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union first tested hydrogen bombs.
Republicans are cutting off their noses to spite … everything. Throw the nation into massive debt to own the libs. Align with fascism to own the libs.
Most people discussing the clock on Facebook were, to say the least, concerned. The topic wasn’t politics but fear; doom isn’t partisan. But one commenter who repped MAGA consoled himself with his own calculus. “Better nuclear winter than more letters in LGBTQ,” he wrote.
And that’s it. Ding, ding, ding. That’s Trumpism in a nutshell — better everyone die, than I acknowledge the validity of people no like me.
Since that exchange, I’ve made mental reference many times to the terrifying aphorism of that Facebooker. It was, looking back, scarier than the Doomsday Clock ticking away.
His words laid bare the Death Logic that suffuses the philosophy of Trump and his supporters. The idea is that even the annihilation of humankind is worth it if it owns the libs.
Has the FBI considered that Donald Trump may be an operative for the cockroaches? I think this theory has a lot going for it.
Karen Tumulty on Trump’s increasing reliance on a decrease base.
The Great Shutdown Showdown of 2019 has shown more clearly than anything before the central reality of Donald Trump’s presidency: He does not lead a country; he leads a movement.
Trump is president of the Republican base. He knows how to make his most passionate supporters vibrate like the reed of a clarinet. And they have the same effect on him.
That is why he was willing to go to the wall over The Wall, despite the fact that most Americans think it is a lousy idea. It is why he proudly claimed ownership of what has now become the longest government shutdown ever, and is deservedly getting more of the blame for the pain that it is causing.
Just today, there was a story about a farmer willing to lose his farm, so long as Trump got his wall so that … who knows? Someone would be hurt by it. That’s what he’s been promised. That all that matters.
Trump used his first televised Oval Office address not to offer a more persuasive argument, or a fresh compromise, or to bring the country together. The only thing he managed to do in that precious nine minutes was to cheapen our most revered national platform with the same histrionic claims about illegal immigration that he made when he came down the Trump Tower escalator in 2015.
Dana Milbank on Trump’s willingness to embrace Chinese dictators before Democrats.
Asked an unrelated question on the White House South Lawn on Thursday, Trump volunteered a comparison between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) — and the leaders of the People’s Republic of China.
“I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy. I really do,” he said. “I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.”
Sure. Because Nancy Pelosi needs to stop driving those tanks over protesters, and locking religious groups in jail, and censoring the internet, and claiming international waters.
Trump has a strange sense of honor. In April, he bestowed the same adjective on the world’s most oppressive leader, North Korea’s nuclear-armed dictator: “Kim Jong Un, he really has been very open and I think very honorable from everything we’re seeing.”
Now, the president is declaring that China’s dictatorship, by far the world’s biggest international criminal and abuser of human rights and operator of its most extensive police state, is more honorable than his political opponents in the United States.
Trump doesn’t like Pelosi because she told him no. Of course, Xi has also told Trump no, but then, Xi is not a woman.
Mike Littwin on seeing no way out of Trump’s manufactured shutdown.
Here’s where we are: Trump has invented an emergency in which no one really believes. (Remember the caravan? And the Middle Easterners? Did the invasion ever begin? Any casualties other than the kids who died in understaffed and ill-prepared border-patrol custody?)
And to fix the nonexistent emergency at the border — yes, there’s a problem at the border of long standing, but not an emergency — he is proposing the same build-a-wall solution he has been proposing for years, except it’s now made of steel instead of concrete. Either way, more than half the country believes the wall — which Mexico was supposed to pay for — is somewhere between unnecessary and ridiculous.
And who says Trump acts like a giant toddler? Everyone.
By Wednesday, following Trump’s poorly-received Oval Office speech, matters got worse. Much worse, even though Trump apparently tried to make nice by beginning his Wednesday meeting with Congressional leaders by passing out candy. CNN reports that at least one Butterfinger bar was in evidence.
The sweetness apparently ended there, though. Here’s an account I’ve pieced together after listening to several participants relate the events: Democrats asked why Trump couldn’t open the government and then negotiate about the wall. Trump then asked if he did that, would Democrats eventually agree on funding for a wall. Nancy Pelosi said, “No,” and then Trump walked out. Schumer said he slammed the table. Mike Pence said there was no slamming. All seem to agree he used the words “Bye, bye” and that Trump said the meeting was a waste of his time. Sadly, no mention from any of the participants about what happened to the remaining candy.
Pass out candy, throw tantrum, say bye bye and run away. Did diddums fall down?
Michael Tomasky on the negative effect of Trump’s sad Oval Office appearance.
Here we were, braced for Donald Trump to come out in full American Carnage mode, a little unhinged, declaring a national emergency and citing some obscure part of the United States Code that made it clear that he and he alone could seize property along the Rio Grande and build the damn wall and next week he was going to start doing exactly that. I was following conversations among liberals over the course of the afternoon in which people were all but laying bets on whether the Supreme Court would buy Trump’s take on eminent domain.
<looks around quickly> I didn’t realize Tomasky could hear my conversation.
Instead? Nothing. It’s always disappointing when Trump tries to act like an actual president. Oh, yes, there was fear-mongering in the speech. The whole thing in fact was devoted to laying out the facts of a crisis that very few other people in government think exists. But this crisis, as Trump described it, wasn’t wholly the kind of crisis demagogues usually describe, a crisis of the hordes at the doorstep (though it was that in parts).
He also allowed that it was a “humanitarian” crisis; even “a crisis of the soul.” That’s a nice phrase, actually. Unfortunately, the only humanitarian crisis is the one his administration created, as people sleep in cold steel boxes with no blankets, and the only soul in crisis is his.
Remember: Lowest level of people crossing the southern border since 1971. Anyone trying to make any sort of claim, should first have to address that fact.
Paul Krugman on the costs of the Trump shutdown.
New York Times
Donald Trump is, in effect, implementing at least part of the drastic reduction in government’s role his party has long claimed to favor. If the shutdown drags on for months — which seems quite possible — we’ll get a chance to see what America looks like without a number of public programs the right has long insisted we don’t need. Never mind the wall; think of what’s going on as a big, beautiful libertarian experiment.
Seriously, it’s striking how many of the payments the federal government is or soon will be failing to make are for things libertarians insist we shouldn’t have been spending taxpayer dollars on anyway.
But Trump is somehow finding money to process oil and gas permits, which are clearly America’s top priority.
For example, federal checks to farmers aren’t going out — but libertarian organizations like the Cato Institute have long denounced farm subsidies as just another form of crony capitalism.
Businesspeople are furious that the Small Business Administration isn’t making loans — but libertarians want to see the whole agency abolished.
If the shutdown extends into March — which, again, seems entirely possible — money for food stamps will dry up. But Republicans have long been deeply hostile to the food stamp program. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has denounced the program for “making it excessively easy to be nonproductive.”
If Trump holds the government dead until March, the whole of America is going to look like a cross of Kansas under Brownback, and Kansas circa 1932.
Will Bunch on the toxic combination of the National Emergency Act and Donald Trump
Roughly two years after his election, the president declared a “state of emergency.” More significant is what happened after that: Political opponents and journalists thrown in jail by the hundreds, universities and labor unions shut down by the government, mass firings of public workers suspected of disloyalty, and an autocratic leader able to bypass the legislative branch and issue new edicts by fiat.
That’s what Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — a despotic ruler that President Trump has long known and even admired — has done over the two years since a failed military coup in his country, and it’s one more reason why the very notion of a democratically elected leader declaring a “national emergency” or “state of emergency” strikes fear into the heart of anyone who truly believes in human rights and liberty.
The right is just not right
Leonard Pitts on the right’s increasing fixation on things of zero consequence.
Just days ago, The Daily Caller tweeted “the photo some people are calling a nude selfie of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” But it turns out “some people” are morons. The so-called “nude selfie,” depicts only a woman’s feet in a bathtub. Yes, some observers claim her bare breasts are visible in a reflection on the faucet, but if that’s true, your humble correspondent lacks the eyesight — and the interest — to make them out.
Not that it matters, because Ocasio-Cortez is actually not the woman in the image, as The Daily Caller was eventually forced to concede. So this was a political hit job wrapped in a Three Stooges routine. She seems to attract a lot of those.
The skill with which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez crushes these attacks is one of the pleasures of the season.
All this lavish abuse, it bears repeating, is for a freshman representative who, at this writing, has yet to do much of anything in Congress. Yes, like Bernie Sanders — and Martin Luther King Jr. — Ocasio-Cortez is drawn to democratic socialism. It’s fair to question her ideology. It’s fair to question anyone’s ideology. But that’s not what this is.
No, this is that movie we’ve seen before where the right wing, alarmed by the rise of the scary Other, seeks to manufacture scandal, spread rumor, sow confusion, impute some sense of the sinister. The less they have to work with, the more shrill, desperate and idiotic they become.