trump 2020: never indicted!

Jesus suffering fuck. I’m already seeing folks declaring Comrade Trump is going to be re-elected because of AG Bill Barr’s summary of the Mueller report.

Take a breath, people. Remember who Bill Barr is. Last year he was a lawyer with Kirkland & Ellis (the firm that also employed Brett Kavanaugh, Robert Bork, Ken Starr, and several lawyers now serving in the Trump administration). Last June Barr wrote an unsolicited 19 page memo to Rod Rosenstein (who oversaw the Mueller investigation) arguing that Mueller’s approach to investigation possible obstruction of justice by Trump was ‘fatally misconceived’ and ‘legally insupportable.’ He said Mueller shouldn’t even be allowed to interview Comrade Trump.

And hey, what a surprise, Trump picked Bill Barr to be his new Attorney General. So having spent part of his weekend reading the report of Mueller’s two-year investigation, Barr concluded he was right last June. He agreed with himself; no obstruction of justice. In other words, Bill Barr did the job he was hired to do: he protected Trump.

Republicans toss confetti, set off fireworks, wear party hats. Democrats weep, rend their garments, cast themselves into the Pit of Despair. And the news media, bless their simple little hearts, repeat that narrative and cast it into the cement blocks Democrats will use to drown themselves.

Trump 2020: Never Indicted!

I totally understand why folks are disheartened and glum. We have a corrupt president supported by corrupt administrators put in place by corrupt senators. But remember this: we haven’t even seen the actual Mueller report yet. We don’t know what it says. But we know this:

  • in the course of the Mueller investigation, grand juries and federal judges approved 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, and 50 pen registers to gather evidence, which we haven’t seen.
  • that evidence resulted in 199 criminal charges against 34 individuals and three companies.
  • seven of those individuals were either members of Trump’s presidential campaign team or closely associated with Trump’s campaign — all of whom have either pled guilty, gone to prison, or are still awaiting trial.
  • at least six other individuals were referred to career prosecutors in the DoJ on related criminal matters; there may be other referrals that haven’t been made public.

Those facts would end any other administration. But there are other investigations still progressing out there. Comrade Trump may have dodged this particular bullet (and ‘may‘ is the operative term), but he’s still facing a whole lot of trouble.

For example, there’s the New York Attorney General’s Office, which is investigating:

  • allegations of illegal operations by the Donald J. Trump Foundation
  • allegations of tax fraud by the Trump family and the Trump Organization
  • allegations of tax evasion by the Trump family and the Trump Organization

And there’s the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is investigating:

  • irregular Political Action Committee activity by the Trump campaign and by Rebuild America
  • matters relating to Russian intelligence operative Maria Butina and her interactions with the National Rifle Association
  • allegations of violations of the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution by Comrade Trump and the Trump Organization
  • irregular spending by the Trump Inaugural Committee

And there’s the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which is investigating:

  • the Russian disinformation campaigns
  • improper Turkish influence in the Trump campaign and administration

And, of course, there’s the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which is investigating:

  • various violations of campaign finance laws
  • unregistered foreign lobbying

So even though Comrade Trump and his fluffers are celebrating the end of one investigation, there’s still a metric ton of ugly fetid shit hanging over his head. Some of it’s going to land on him. He may survive his first term, but he’s going to have a hard time convincing anybody but his most loyal supporters that Trump 2020: Never Indicted! is a winning campaign slogan.

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guilty af

Okay, so Robert Mueller has punched his time card. He’s done his job. He’s going home, he’s gonna kick off his shoes, crack open a cold one, and sit on the porch with his dog, and later catch up on Game of Thrones. Well done, Bobby Three Sticks.

But today we don’t know what’s in his report (and more importantly, what’s not in his report) and a whole lot of folks are freaking out. People need to follow Mueller’s example. Take off your shoes, have a drink, relax a bit. There’ll be work ahead and plenty of freaking-out time to come. But let’s not forget that regardless of what’s in/not in the Mueller report, there’s one thing we know with mathematical certainty.

Comrade Trump is guilty as fuck. Guilty of a wide range of crimes and misdeeds. Guilty in a legal sense, in an ethical sense, in a moral sense, and in a spiritual sense.

This is what we know:

  • For years Putin’s Russia has been cultivating right-wing, hate-inspired political groups in democratic nations. He’s done this with semi-legitimate business transactions with right-wing leaders, he’s funneled money to right-wing groups through illegal donations, and he’s used both traditional and social media to spread propaganda supporting right-wing leaders and to create division in opposition groups. He’s done this in France, in Italy, in Great Britain, and of course in the U.S.
  • Prior to the 2016 presidential campaign, most of Comrade Trump’s financial support came from Russian banks or banks with close ties to Russia. In addition, many of Trump’s most expensive condos and apartments were sold to Russian oligarchs and folks with ties to Russian organized crime–sales often made in cash.
  • Before and during the 2016 election season, Trump was negotiating to build Trump Tower Moscow. He also sought to build Trump Towers in the former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. He lied when he said he had no business matters involving Russia.
  • Around the same time Trump announced he was running for POTUS, Russian hacker teams began phishing operations targeting the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Other Russian intel operations targeted social media in an effort to support Trump, suppress Democratic voting, and create dissent within the Democratic Party.
  • Many folks on Trump’s campaign team (Flynn, Manafort, Stone, Gates, Page, Ross) had major business interests in Russia during the campaign and after the election.
  • After Trump won the nomination, the only change his team made in the Republican Party Platform was to water down opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Crimea.
  • During the campaign and during the transition period, members of the Trump team met with Russian government officials and operative more than 100 times, and initially lied about–or failed to report–those meetings.
  • Since his election, Trump has revealed classified information to the Russians in the Oval Office, stalled the implementation of sanctions against Russia, denied Russian interference in the election, fired the head of the FBI who was investigating that interference, met privately (without staff and without any record) with Putin on at least three occasions, openly stated he believed Putin rather than the US intelligence community, defended the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, denigrated the NATO alliance (created to provide a collective defense against Soviet/Russian aggression), and continuously undermined the Special Counsel’s investigation.

That’s what WE know. That’s what’s in the public record. That’s what anybody who reads the news can know. Mueller knows more. The other investigations into Trump criminality and malfeasance will know more than we do as well. And that’s just the Russia stuff. Trump criminality is a LOT wider than that.

We also knew Mueller wouldn’t indict Comrade Trump. I mean, he basically said that at the beginning; he said he’d abide by the Department of Justice memorandum that said a sitting president couldn’t be indicted. So there’s no point in whinging about that. Still, Mueller has indicted, convicted or gotten guilty pleas from 34 people and three companies. That ain’t bad.

Again, it’s important to remember that Mueller’s investigation was limited to Russian interference in the 2016 election. Yeah, there was a provision for him to look into “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” but it seems he interpreted that as “I guess I’ll just hand the stuff that’s not directly linked to Russia to other prosecutorial agencies.” Which he did.

But here’s the thing: we’re not done. Mueller’s report is just one step on the path to restoring some semblance of normality and lawfulness to US politics. We’ve still got lots of other investigations churning away. We’ve still got a long, ugly way to go. There are a lot of Trumps and a shit-ton of Trump criminality to look at.

We probably won’t ever get real justice, but I firmly believe that eventually some of those fuckers will end up disgraced and shunned — and hopefully in orange jumpsuits. Because c’mon, they’re guilty as fuck.

manafort, the torturer’s lobby, & an otherwise blameless life

Paul Manafort has spent his career–his entire adult life, really–serving the very worst people in the world. I’m not being hyperbolic here; I’m being literal. He has literally served the literally worst people in the world.

In 1992 the Center for Public Integrity released a report detailing how nations having long, verifiable records of serious human rights abuses paid Washington lobbyists to press Congress for financial aid. By ‘serious human rights abuses’ I mean everything from intimidation of political opponents, to political imprisonment, to physical and mental torture, to systematic rape as a strategy, to extrajudicial murder. The CPI report was titled The Torturer’s Lobby. The firm of Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly (BMSK) features heavily in that report.

BMSK’s client list has included:

Jonas Savimbi — whose guerrilla army forcibly ‘recruited’ child soldiers, forced women and girls into sexual slavery, killed and mutilated tens of thousands, and whose indiscriminate use of landmines created “one of the largest amputee populations in the world.”

Mobutu Sese Seko — whose brutal authoritarian rule “became notorious for corruption, nepotism, and the embezzlement of between US$4 billion and $15 billion during his reign.” Before executing one of his rivals, Sese Seko had his eyes gouged out, his genitals torn off, and his limbs cut off one by one.

Ferdinand Marcos — who in addition to illegally amassing a fortune of between five and ten billion dollars, abducted and imprisoned somewhere between 70,000 to 120,000 people, tortured at least 35,000 people, and murdered more than 3500. One report listed 19 different types of physical torture used by Marcos’ forces, four types of sexual torture, and five types of emotional torture (one of which was described as “government units mutilating, cooking and eating the flesh of victims in front of their family and friends to sow terror”).

Sani Abacha — whose security forces, according to the US State Department, routinely “tortured prisoners with whippings, suspension by the limbs from the ceiling, burning with candles, and extraction of teeth.”

Manafort’s foreign client list gradually became more sophisticated, but no less corrupt, cruel, and malevolent. He found work with Putin-friendly clients in former Soviet nations who were less bloodthirsty, but equally cold-blooded. At the same time, BMSK worked for US entities (like the Tobacco Institute) and were deeply involved in Republican politics. The BMSK business model was based on the notion that anyone seeking to get and keep power ought to have a lobbyist. Corporations, African warlords, special-interest groups, regional strongmen — if they had a LOT of money, Manafort would work for them.

By 2005, Manafort had winnowed his client list down to essentially one client: Viktor Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine. There was none of that ugly mutilation or gross torture with Yanukovych; if he needed an opponent dead, a little dioxin would do the job without all the fuss. Manafort was able to construct a shadow government within the Yanukovych regime; he had intelligence assets in just about every governmental agency. Unfortunately for Manafort, the citizens of Ukraine grew weary with the scale of the corruption; in 2014 Yanukovych had to flee for his life. The money soon dried up.

Manafort desperately needed a new client — preferably who was open to the idea of shady business transactions. Comrade Trump, who had his own Russian connections, needed a campaign manager. Bingo. It’s no coincidence that once Manafort joined the Trump campaign, the GOP platform on support for Ukraine changed.

(Photo by Alex Wong)

Let me say it again. Paul Manafort has spent his life working for the worst people in the world, and he got rich doing it. He may not have personally tortured anybody or raped anybody or mutilated anybody or kidnapped anybody or murdered anybody, but he willingly, knowingly, and effectively worked for people who did.

Judge T.S. Ellis had to know this about Manafort when he sentenced him to 47 months (with credit for time served). He had to know this about Manafort when he claimed Manafort “has lived an otherwise blameless life.” Ellis had to know all this. But let’s face it — Ellis belongs to the same culture as Manafort. He was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan, who was also one of Manafort’s early clients. But before his judicial appointment, Ellis worked for the firm of Hunton and Williams, who made billions of dollars facilitating the corporate practice of outsourcing and offshoring. Ellis, I’m sure, feels he himself has lived an otherwise blameless life.

There’s a lot of blamelessness going on in the world. It just isn’t evenly distributed.

Addendum: The same applies to Roger Stone, by the way. The Stone in Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly is Roger.

pants on fire

For a decade Michael Cohen was Comrade Trump’s fixer — the guy he went to in order to get ugly shit done. Pay off a porn star, bully a business partner, threaten a reporter, kill an unflattering story. If ugly shit needed to be done, Cohen was willing to do it. He was actually proud of his ability to ‘protect’ Trump from the consequences of whatever ugly shit Trump had done. By any moral or ethical standard, Michael Cohen is a flaming asshole.

But yesterday, through the magic of hypocrisy fueled by stupidity, the Republicans on the House Oversight Committee actually managed to make Michael Cohen look like a sympathetic figure. The Republicans, like Cohen for the last ten years, were hoping to ‘protect’ Trump from ugly shit. Unlike Cohen, they weren’t very good at it.

Their approach was flawed. It depended almost exclusively on 1) attacking Cohen’s credibility, 2) yelling at him, and 3) arguing the hearing itself was a waste of time. Here’s why that didn’t work. First, Cohen entered the hearing room and set his own pants on fire. He baldly stated Comrade Trump was a racist, a con man, and a cheater. Then he said, “And yet I continued to work for him.” Boom. The most effective line of the hearing. It was effective because it was in the past tense, because it implied “I’m done working for him.” You can’t damage a person’s credibility when that person openly shreds it himself and says, “Lies got me into this mess, lies can’t get me out of it, believe me or don’t believe me, all I have left is the truth as I see it, and here it is.” It was a raw admission by Cohen. But I don’t think it would have been as effective if the Republicans hadn’t been such dicks.

Second, yelling at Cohen was pointless and massively stupid. You yell at people to rattle them, to make them so upset they can’t think straight, to keep them off-balance. But c’mon, Cohen worked for Trump for a decade. He’s been yelled at by the best. The yelling only served to make the Republicans look more dickish.

Third, a number of Republicans used their allotted five minutes to claim the hearing itself was taking them away from more important matters. Instead of wasting valuable Congressional time talking to a known liar about the possible criminality of the President of the United States, they claimed the committee should focus on the gang members of MS13 who are storming the Southern border bringing in drugs and disease in an effort to weaken Americans by giving free late-term abortions to people who believe in climate change. Or something like that. Seriously, some of those people are off their meds.

There’s another reason the Republicans failed yesterday. They didn’t even try to claim Comrade Trump was innocent of any wrongdoing. They didn’t even try. Seven hours of testimony and questioning, and not once did the House Republicans attempt to defend their president. Not once.

Were the Democrats any better? Surprisingly, yes. I mean, sure, there were a few mooks trying to score political points or get in a soundbite they thought would play well on their local news station, but most of the Democrats were actually prepared and focused. Most of them asked at least one intelligent question.

Here’s something else to think about. Yesterday we only heard testimony about the stuff Cohen could talk about in a public hearing. There’s more stuff he can only discuss with members of Congress in closed sessions. Stuff he’s only allowed to discuss with the folks building a criminal case against Trump.

And in other news, Comrade Trump, the current President of These United States, is returning to the US after the failure of his second summit with Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean dictator who has been starving his own people, and who had his own brother assassinated using a nerve agent in a busy airport, and who ordered his uncle Jang Song Thaek (and his uncle’s aides) to be executed with a damned anti-aircraft gun (after which they were reportedly dismembered and fed to dogs), and who had his uncle’s children AND grandchildren executed (though not, apparently, fed to dogs), and who executed at least one of Jang’s supporters (O Sang-hon) with a fucking flamethrower. That’s how Kim does pants on fire.

Comrade Trump, who repeatedly says the free press is the enemy of the people, calls Kim Jong-Un ‘my friend’.

with an emphasis on the ass

The revision list informs me I starting writing this post on August 21, 2018. I’ve revised it eight times in the intervening months without publishing it. I chose not to publish it because the supporting evidence was too complex to fit conveniently in a blog post and I didn’t want to assert that Comrade Trump was an intelligence asset without backing it up. Happily, the New York Times has finally done all that, and I can simply link to their article:

Here’s the meat of my original much-revised post. I’ve edited out all the supporting material, I encourage you to read the Times article, and a rather good summary of the evidence by Politico.


My opinion? Comrade Donald J. Trump is a Russian intelligence asset.

I know that sounds like some conspiracy theory shit, but I’m serious. It’s probably a good idea to define ‘intelligence asset’. An asset is someone or something intended, developed, cultivated or utilized to gather or disseminate information that might be useful to an intelligence service. That’s all it means.

It doesn’t mean Trump is a Russian spy. It doesn’t mean he’s intentionally working for his boy Vlad Putin. It just means Putin is using Trump to further Russia’s geo-political agenda, and has been doing so since Trump began his campaign. It’s possible — even likely — Trump isn’t aware he’s being used.

Comrade Trump meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov & Ambassador Sergei Kislyak the day after he fired FBI Director Comey. During the meeting Trump disclosed classified material obtained from a US ally.

Let’s face it, Comrade Trump is a classic example of the Dunning-Kruger effect (which, for some reason, I always read as the Freddie Kruger effect). The D-K effect is defined as ‘a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.’ In other words, the D-K effect describes folks who actually aren’t terribly clever but believe they are. Comrade Trump has claimed expert knowledge of: international trade, politicians, social media, ISIS, campaign finance, television ratings, taxes, the visa system, governance, debt, renewable energy, the law, infrastructure, finances, drone technology, science, border security, and the economy. In fact, he’s shown himself to be painfully ignorant in those areas.

Because of the D-K effect and his massive ego, Trump is easily manipulated. And let’s not forget, Putin is a former intelligence officer who has worked undercover and has been trained by experts in social manipulation. But it’s not just a matter of Trump being a dupe; there are a lot of other reasons he may be acting as a Russian asset.

He’s vulnerable to kompromat. I mentioned this back in July of last year. It seems probable that Putin has something on Trump. It could be his shady business and banking transactions with Russian and former Soviet states have made him vulnerable to blackmail. It could be money laundering in the US; we know a LOT of Russians have purchased Trump condos and apartments for millions of dollars (and real estate is the money launderer’s favorite tactic). It could, I suppose, be the infamous pee tape, though I think that’s unlikely. I’m inclined to think the Trump kompromat is more criminal than salacious. 

It really doesn’t matter what his motives are; what matters is that Donald Trump, the sitting president of the United States, is furthering the geo-political agenda of a hostile foreign nation. What matters is that one of this nation’s two major political parties is complicit in Comrade Trump’s offenses. 


Again, the reason I didn’t publish this back in August was that I wanted to include evidence to support the claim — but all that evidence made for an awkwardly long blog post. Over the past several months, even more supporting material has become known and has been reported by major news sources.

Even so, it still sounds incredible to state that the President of the United States is a Russian intelligence asset. But I can’t find any other explanation for Trump’s behavior, for his pro-Russian policies, for his reluctance to impose sanctions against Russia or Russian oligarchs, for his willingness to remove those sanctions, for his campaign’s frequent inappropriate interactions with Russian agents, and for his consistent attempts to undermine US law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

It seems clear the guy is helping the Russians and damaging the security of the nation he’s sworn to defend.

a certain regard for audacity

Okay, I know this is going to sound weird. But I have a certain regard for Melania Trump’s red Christmas trees. Don’t get me wrong–they’re horrible. But they’re also bizarrely beautiful. If we saw those crimson trees in a movie with subtitles, outside of the context of Christmas, they could win awards for set design.

But what I really appreciate about those trees is Melania’s deliberately in-your-face approach to holiday decoration. She had to know how ordinary folks and the media would respond to them, but that didn’t dissuade her. It’s as if Melania Trump is saying, “You make fun of me? You mock me? Pffft, your opinion means nothing. I will not shrink away. I will cover your Christmas trees in the blood of innocents. I will create in the hallways of your presidential palace a nightmare so hellish it can never be cleansed. I will crush your soul through fashion. This I will do to your Christmas, and though you may weep and rend your clothes, there is nothing…nothing…you can do to stop me. I will have my revenge; you will look into my narrow eyes and cower on your knees before me.”

Comrade Trump, of course, is a buffoon, but Melania is not. She has the elegance and audacity of a Bond villain. Trump may shout and threaten and bluster; he could destroy the nation as much through accident as intent. But Melania would set fire to the entire world with cold, casual contempt. She’d cut your throat with exquisite precision using a Danish-designed scalpel, then she’d kick you once–just once–very carefully and methodically, directly in the balls for bleeding on her Christian Louboutins. She may be terrible, but she’s terrible with deliberation and a flair for the dramatic.

The thing is, she can’t burn the world. She lacks access to real power, for which we should be grateful. She is mocked and scorned and ridiculed, and her only weapons of reprisal are fashion and set design. I can’t find it in me to like her or feel much in the way of sorrow for her; to some extent she’s earned the mocking and scorn and ridicule. But at the same time, I feel compassion for her. She made a deal with the devil, and I suspect it’s cost her more than she bargained for.

In a weird way, I respect the fact that she’s fighting back. There may not be anything very Christmasy about those red firs, but they’re delicious as a gesture of defiance. I only wish she’d made her walk down that hallway while drinking from a red Starbucks cup.

dude, not my fault

Years ago, before Academia and I decided we weren’t really compatible, I taught a variety of criminology and sociology courses — including courses on criminological theory. You know — what is crime, why do folks commit crime, how do we explain what’s going on? That sort of stuff. One of the theories I taught undergrads was Matza and Sykes’ theory of neutralization.

Matza and Sykes studied juvenile delinquency back in the 1950s. People, they said, are aware of their obligation to follow the law, so in order to skirt that obligation and do stuff they know they’re not supposed to do, they concoct a series of techniques to neutralize that obligation. In other words, they find ways to escape responsibility.

I mention all this because if you paid any attention to the news over the last week, you saw Matza and Sykes’ theory in action. Here are their five techniques of neutralization:

  • Denial of responsibility — Dude, it’s not really my fault.
  • Denial of injury — Dude, nobody really got hurt.
  • Denial of the victim — Dude, really it’s their own fault.
  • Condemning of the condemners — Dude c’mon, it’s not like you’re innocent.
  • Appeal to higher loyalties — Dude, I did it for my friends (or family, or god).

We saw ALL of these techniques in play over the last week. Every single one of them. We saw them employed by Comrade Trump, by his followers, and by most Republican politicians. Denial of responsibility: “Dude, Trump didn’t mail any of those bombs.” Denial of injury: “Dude, the bombs weren’t even bombs; they didn’t detonate and nobody got hurt.” Denial of the victim: “Dude, the people who got the mail bombs wouldn’t have gotten any mail bombs if they hadn’t tried to undermine the president like that.” Condemning the condemners: “Dude c’mon, it’s not like Democrats are innocent; I mean, a Bernie supporter shot a Republican congressmen who was playing softball, right? And people were rude to Sarah Sanders in a restaurant.” And yeah, even an appeal to higher loyalties: “The people who got the mail bombs were traitors and the real enemies of the people.”

Dude, don’t look at me, it’s not MY fault.

Even this morning, Trump was obliviously tweeting out neutralization techniques with all the desperate need of a spawning salmon.

There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly. That will do much to put out the flame of Anger and Outrage and we will then be able to bring all sides together in Peace and Harmony. Fake News Must End!

He really can’t help himself. Trump seems to be completely incapable of accepting the notion that by labeling the news media as ‘fake’ and the ‘true Enemy of the People’ he’s not only inciting the anger he’s condemning, but also emboldening his followers to act on that anger.  Dude, it’s not my fault if the Enemy of the People get hurt; I’m just talking and words can’t really hurt you; besides, it’s the Enemy of the People who are at fault for being the Enemy of the People; and it’s not like they’re innocent, just look at how mean they are to me; and if I call the Enemy of the People the enemy, it’s because I want peace and harmony. Bitches.

It’s sad and infuriating that the only way to explain the behavior of the President of These United States is to rely on theories developed to explain criminality. Jeebus in handcuffs, we used to be a semi-decent nation.

People, you have GOT to vote. If you value decency and truth and science and integrity and compassion, you have GOT to fucking vote.