Wednesday, January 03, 2018

House Republicans––Stooges or Traitors?

Last night the New York Times published a remarkable op-ed written by Glenn Simpson (a former Wall Street Journal reporter) and Peter Fritsch, the clients for whom Christopher Steele, the former longtime British intelligence agent, assembled the so-called Steele Dossier.

The opening paragraph is particularly astute:

"A generation ago, Republicans sought to protect President Richard Nixon by urging the Senate Watergate committee to look at supposed wrongdoing by Democrats in previous elections. The committee chairman, Sam Ervin, a Democrat, said that would be “as foolish as the man who went bear hunting and stopped to chase rabbits.”

The Dossier has been targeted and rubbished by Republicans for many months because it casts their president in a bad light. Devin Nunes has recused himself from the House Committee trying to investigate the president's Russian entanglements but he has kept his hands on the wheel and he keeps pumping the brakes. He's not in the chair but is definitely running things. Nunes Recused himself unseriously, the way a film star says she doesn't want any attention. Nunes wants attention, hence the drama. He sometimes acts like he wants to be James Bond. His envy may explain why he despises Steele, who was a real James Bond.

The Republicans on the committee have been behaving strangely for over a year, sounding off like children desperate to distract Mother from their own misbehavior, blaming their playmates for the broken window. If there has been a witch hunt it has been Republicans endlessly hunting for evidence to justify burning Hillary Clinton in the public square, evidence that never emerged. They have fantasized about this auto da fé for over a decade in various committees. It is a vendetta. But the FBI doesn't go in for vendettas, so the FBI must be in the Hillary camp, or so the Republican drama queens say. There is a very large and dangerous bear loose in our country, endangering our democracy and our institutions and our national security, but the Republicans whose party spent decades hunting the Russian bear are off hunting rabbits.

It’s strange how closely one R’s agenda aligns with the agenda of the other R out there.

Republican motives and efforts and tactics and actions align very closely with Russia’s. We need to hear this stated more explicitly in news reporting. It is dangerous and disorienting when something so obvious and alarming is not stated clearly. People begin to doubt the obvious that isn't stated. Certainly we need to wait for and respect rules of evidence, but we need to stop hiding and ignoring what is staring us in the face. Distraction and obfuscation is the strategy employed by guilty parties.

Both the Russians and the Republicans want to discredit the Mueller investigation, both want to discredit witnesses testifying to serious crimes. Both Rs make perverse and inverse responses to things to which most Americans would see one clear set of responsible responses: get the truth, contact law enforcement, pay attention, take evidence, do the right thing. There is another apt term for what we need: Due Diligence.

Due Diligence is what Americans deserve from their political parties when they are putting a presidential candidate on the menu. Is he or she sound? Is he or she capable? Is he or she insane? Is he or she a criminal? Is he or she engaged in shady financial dealings with foreign enemies? During the selection process, and the convention, and the campaign, and the transition, the Republicans––notably Mike Pence who chaired the transition and Devin Nunes who worked on it––who were tasked with Due Diligence were not just undiligent, they were the opposite of diligent, they were carefully and aggressively ignoring every warning they heard and silencing the citizens who were warning them. Were they willfully blind and carefully ignorant, or were they obstructing justice?

Try to get your head around this––it isn't easy: When the Republicans in Congress heard people warning about Russian interference in our election, instead of seeking the truth they did everything they could to shut down and discredit the truth. They wanted to hide it. They wanted to shut up the witnesses. What investigators would logically see as a roadmap to finding and nailing the criminals the Republicans saw as a roadmap to protecting the criminals and nailing the people who were calling in the crime. And once the FBI took the warnings seriously they began discrediting the FBI.

The Republicans seem determined to arrest and prosecute people who are doing their civic duty to help protect our democracy from a foreign enemy... (Mr. Pence's Bible names False Witness as one of the ten gravest offenses against God.) How can being a good citizen be criminal or anything less than patriotic? But to listen to Jim Jordan and Chuck Grassley and Devin Nunes and others you would think testifying honestly about a dangerous crime you’ve witnessed is itself a crime. To listen to Republicans you would think the professional lawmen and women in the FBI were dangerous career criminals. (President Trump accuses law enforcement of crimes and accepts the reassurances of Vladimir Putin, one of the planet's most successful criminals.)

Imagine friends learned of organized criminal activity in your neighborhood and notified your elected officials and law enforcement. The law officers begin an investigation but the elected officials (Republicans) do everything they can to discredit the investigation and protect the criminals, using the evidence not as a guide to finding the criminals but a guide to help the criminals find the witnesses, your friends, and shut them up––the way criminals shut witnesses up, permanently.

How many key witnesses against Putin have died mysteriously in the months since this story began to break? We reasonably suspect the Russians are behind some or all of the mysterious deaths. We might ask: Are the Republicans also helping find and terminate or at least intimidate witnesses? Are the Republicans supplying a handy roadmap for the lawbreakers to help them cover up the evidence and derail the enforcement of our laws?

Why would they do this? It seems improbable that a major political party would actively collude with a foreign enemy, but until last year it was improbable that a major political party would nominate, run, and elect a president who our intelligence agencies and the FBI suspect might be in bed with the Russians. This improbability has been a useful cloak for what happened, the way a con man's plausibility and confidence and his nice suits and his nice offices and top public relations staff help to cloak his real business. People need to ask how genuine someone is before they hand him the keys and the nuclear codes. This is called Due Diligence and the Republicans failed to do it.

Now that they are implicated, and they are implicated beyond being plain fools, they must rearrange their mindset to justify what they have done. Republicans who once criticized Trump now praise him and protect him. Why? They have to decriminalize the dodgy things they've done ("That was his job," "Everybody would do the same thing.") They have to decriminalize the criminals they've thrown in with, and then criminalize the responsible behavior of their accusers. They need to make their treason into patriotism. Their accusers, who've done the Paul Revere bit by warning about the foreign threat, they have to recast as traitors.

The Republicans have realigned their policies and strategies and talking points to match their captors'. If you write down a list of Trump's achievements and the Republicans' achievements of the past year they could serve as a wish list for any of America's foreign rivals. Splitting alliances: check. Hollowing out America's global diplomacy: check. Alienating America's allies: check. Debasing America's standing in the world (in many western nations America's poll numbers have declined by as much as 70%): check. Cast doubt on the soundness of the dollar by loading the budget with large unnecessary debt as far as the eye can see (not to secure the prosperity of working Americans but to enrich offshore billionaires): check. Worst of all, perhaps, has been Trump's abandonment of the Paris Accords on climate change; climate change being listed as the #1 threat to American national security by the Pentagon and other agencies whose job it is to warn and prepare for threats. Check. The Republicans and the Russians appear to be working from the same set of plans to do the same kinds of harm to our country. Why would they do this? I've suggested two possible reasons: Blackmail and Bribery.

Putin is reputed to be the richest individual in the world. Most of that wealth having been looted from his own country. Putin placed these billions offshore in more covert ways than the ways American billionaires offshore their wealth. It appears Trump may have been one of his money launderers. But offshore billionaires do have shared interests and goals. This collusion would work like bribery but disguised as shared goals, shared values, simply doing business: there's so much money coming from Russia how can a rich person refuse to accept it when it's offered? Afterwards it would work like blackmail once the transactions became known and began to stink.

Regarding the Russian hacking of public comments on net neutrality and Wall Street fairness: it appears Republicans and Russian mobsters have matching agendas on these issues as well. An internet rigged to favor the very wealthy (and no one is richer than Putin) is easier for the Russians to hack. Unfair wealth markets are easier for the rich both Russian and Republican, to profit from by making the unrich easier prey. Both Rs, the Russians and the Republicans, are working against our national interests, so Americans need to be informed. Newspapers and all journalists need to report it. Connect the dots. Follow the money.

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