Friday, May 12, 2017

Trump Ushers America Into A Late Medieval Period

Charlie Pierce manages to make the grisly affair of this presidency seem almost funny. (A proper heir to Hunter S. Thompson.)

“When we last left Camp Runamuck, and it was only this morning, there was some question as to whether the walls of the East Room ought to be discreetly padded. Since then, and it's only been about six hours, every single element of the most recent account of why the president* iced James Comey had been refuted, much of it by the president* himself, who sat down for a whopper of an interview with Lester Holt of NBC and proceeded to make clowns out of Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Rod Rosenstein, and most conspicuously of all, Vice President Mike Pence, who must wish he were back being the incredibly unpopular governor of Indiana. It is getting very crowded under the bus."

From CBS News we learn how much the White House has been interfering with the Kremlingate investigation. A lot. As in Coverup. As in Obstruction of Justice.

"Within the FBI, the Russia investigation is considered to be "a crisis," the source said, and "there is a whole lot of interfering." The succession of events surrounding Comey's firing is not considered to be a coincidence by the agency. In the week before he was terminated, Comey asked Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein for additional resources to pursue the Russia investigation.”

Here's a good Washington Post summary and analysis of Trump’s motives and the lies he’s told to cover up those motives. This is the sort of capricious behavior you see in tinpot dictators but seldom see in elected leaders of advanced western nations. With it’s intrigues and contradictions and whispered betrayals and brazen threats it’s reminiscent of a medieval court. Until now America has not experienced a medieval period.

Juan Cole describes the significant steps Trump is taking in his march to dictatorship. (He has not burned the Reichstag yet. But wait.)

"One of the classic techniques of dictatorship is humiliation, a manifestation of the sadism of the regime. Most people want to avoid being made the butt of ridicule, and authoritarian personalities calculate that they will even surrender some rights and liberties to avoid it… Comey was personally humiliated. He was giving a talk in Los Angeles when the news came across the television screen. Here you have the Director of the FBI appearing in public and having his dignity abruptly stripped away… What is the message here? If you work for the Federal government, you work for Trump. And if you work for Trump, and you cross him or he just decides he doesn’t like the look of you, he will degrade you and make you abject in front of the whole world. Therefore, be afraid, be very afraid.”

And then we have Trump’s Russian friends (or masters) casually humiliating him, making it clear he is their poodle.

CNN reports that the Russians are laughing at Trump and us.

"Russian officials are having a grand old time laughing at the United States -- and at President Donald Trump. The events of the past few days would seem to indicate that their efforts to aid Trump's election may have paid off after all -- and paid off handsomely -- with a United States weakened by division, its government consumed with a crisis rooted in Moscow's 2016 election interference.”

Trump isn’t the only one caught in this. Jefferson Davis Beauregard Sessions is also caught in a trap he built and walked into. He could be disbarred and removed from office.

From the Washington Post: (Remember them? They brought down Nixon.)

"Refusing to recuse oneself from a conflict or breaking the promise to recuse from a conflict is a serious breach of legal ethics. “Someone could file a bar complaint, and/or one with DOJ’s office of professional responsibility, if Sessions had a conflict of interest when it came to the firing decision, and if he did not follow the ethics rules, including those of DOJ by acting when he had a conflict of interest,” legal ethics expert Norman Eisen tells me. “The fact that he broke his recusal commitment, if he did, would be relevant context, and violating an agreement can sometimes in itself be an ethics violation.” In sum, Sessions has risked his law license.”

Commentary from Elizabeth Drew who covered Watergate.

Vox explains what Trump is afraid of and why he’s barricaded himself in the White House with loyal henchmen and henchwomen… if he can be sure of them. (There are a lot of leaked stories coming out.)

Let’s review the score here.

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House about Michael Flynn’s compromised position and Russia links… so Trump fires her.

Preet Bharara, US Attorney in New York, is putting together cases touching on Trump’s and Trump’s allies’ relationships with Russian oligarchs and money-launderers… so Trump fires him. (This reprise of Bharara's investigations comes from The Week.)

From The Hill newspaper: FBI Director Comey asks for more funding to increase the size of his investigation into Kremlingate and begins subpoenaing Trump associates… so Trump fires him. He pretends to be following AG Sessions’ advice but he demanded grounds to fire and got it from Sessions (who violated his recusal to do so; see above)

Top legal experts are calling this a dangerous move. Dangerous for Trump to have done it, but mostly dangerous for our democracy and rule of law––because Trump has the Republican Congress trained like poodles. (From Lawfare Blog.)

One or two Republicans in Congress are showing some ability to grow spines and walk upright. Lindsey Graham goes back and forth between admiring Trump’s muscles and asking difficult questions. We learn from Reuters that just before Comey was fired Graham expressed interest in Trump’s business dealings, which no doubt increased Trump’s paranoia.

Like the mobster he is, Trump is now threatening people. He’s always threatened people who threatened him, but usually those were people with little power, people he’d abused or refused to pay. Notice he doesn’t threaten his Russian masters. He does like to threaten people he’s fired in case they disliked being fired. In case they know things and might talk. (From the Guardian)

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