censure? fuck that. impeach.

An alarming number of Democratic politicians are suggesting that censure of Comrade Trump would be a better option than impeachment. A pair of WaPo pundits — Karen Tumulty and the improbably-named Thor Hogan — have echoed the suggestion.

Tumulty says censure ‘would be dismissed in some quarters as merely a symbolic act‘ but counters that ‘it would be a historic rebuke of the Trump presidency.‘ Our boy Thor says censure ‘has proved to be an effective form of public shaming, especially when implemented in a nonpartisan way. Such a punishment seems well suited for this president and this moment in our national history.

Tumulty’s right in one regard; censure would be dismissed as a symbolic act. Because it would actually BE a symbolic act. And if Thor seriously thinks shaming could be effective against Comrade Trump, he wasn’t paying attention during that whole Stormy Daniels ‘I-spanked-Trump-with-a-Forbes-magazine-while-his-third-wife-was-home-with-a-newborn-baby’ business.

Jeebus dancing migraines, we’re talking about Comrade Donald Fucking Trump here. Shame doesn’t attach to Trump. Shame is embarrassed to be seen in the same room with Trump. This is a guy who’s spent his entire adult life brazenly lying and cheating and bragging about it. This is a guy who didn’t just accept help from a hostile foreign power in order to win an election, he welcomed the help — then he rewarded Russia for fucking with the election. Does anybody honestly think he’s going to respond to public shaming with sincere reflection and regret?

Hell no.

Because he’s a liar and a cheater.

He’s lied to and cheated most of his business partners. He’s lied to and cheated on all of his wives. He’s lied to and cheated the American public. He’s lied to and cheated federal law enforcement officers, and the intelligence community, and his most trusted advisers, and the White House staff, and members of Congress in both parties, and our nation’s oldest and most valued foreign allies, and HE’S NOT GOING TO STOP.

Because he’s a liar and a cheater.

If we wait to deal with Trump until the 2020 election, he’ll keep lying and cheating. If Congress holds public hearings and exposes his lying and cheating, he’ll keep lying and cheating. If Congress censures him, he’ll keep lying and cheating. If Trump is impeached by the House but not convicted in the Senate, he’ll keep lying and cheating. He’ll keep lying and cheating until he’s grabbed by the scruff of his neck and forcibly removed from the White House.

Because he’s a liar and a cheater.

People say that even if the House does impeach Trump, the Republicans in the Senate will never vote to convict him. They’re probably right. Probably. But you’ll never get an omelet if you’re afraid to break the eggs.

Start the impeachment hearings. Hardly anybody will watch them on C-Span, but they’ll get reported every day online and every night on the news. That constant dripping of evidence may move some people to be pissed off, and if enough people get pissed off maybe some Senators will be concerned about their re-election, and if enough Senators get concerned about their re-election maybe they’ll decide party loyalty costs too much, and if enough Senators decide party loyalty costs too much maybe they’ll also decide their best bet to save their own ass is to get rid of Trump.

That probably won’t happen. Probably. But here’s the thing: for Democrats it’s a gamble in which they have nothing to lose. Comrade Trump will lie and cheat and attack them whether they start the impeachment process or not. Trump will lie and cheat to win his own re-election whether they start the process or not.

Because he’s a liar and a cheater. Lying and cheating is what liars and cheaters do. Hell, even if Comrade Trump IS impeached and convicted and tossed out of the White House on his fat ass, he’ll still keep lying and cheating in every possible way as an ordinary citizen. And some folks think the answer is to censure him?

Censure? Really? Fuck that. Impeach.

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dude ought to be impeached.

Trying to distill a 448 page report down to the point where it can be encompassed in a blog post is a mug’s game. I’m not even going to attempt it. Instead, I’m going to point to one thing — a single line on page 213 of the Mueller Report. This is part of Mueller’s explanation why he’d decided neither to accuse Comrade Trump of obstruction of justice nor to exonerate him. Here’s the line:

“…we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”

It’s that last bit I want to draw attention to. That potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct bit. In effect, Mueller is saying he and his team decided NOT to accuse Trump of a crime in part because it might bugger up another process designed for dealing with him. And what constitutional process exists for addressing presidential misconduct?

That’s right. Impeachment.

I actually mentioned this as a possibility last month (yeah, this is me showing off now). The Principles of Federal Prosecution manual includes a section describing conditions for declining prosecution — one of which is if ‘there exists an adequate non-criminal alternative to prosecution.’ And when the accused is the president that non-criminal alternative is…that’s right again. Impeachment.

It’s important to remember that impeachment is a process, not a result. Congress has filed articles of impeachment against two presidents in recent history: Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Nixon resigned before any impeachment hearings could be held; Clinton was impeached in the House but acquitted by the Senate.

In both cases, however, the articles of impeachment had some common elements. Here’s one of Nixon’s:

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.

And one of Clinton’s:

In his conduct while President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.

Change the names and the text is exactly the same. In each case the president is accused of preventing, obstructing, and impeding the administration of justice in violation of their constitutional oath of office. It’s important to remember that neither Nixon nor Clinton was actually charged with the crime of obstruction of justice. The credible accusation of obstruction based on evidence was, in itself, a reason for the impeachment process to begin.

I think you can see where this is going. It’s my opinion the Mueller Report is basically a solid, well-crafted, meticulously researched foundation for the impeachment of Comrade Trump. It’s jammed with credible evidence that Russia deliberately interfered with the 2016 election, that the Trump campaign was eager to cooperate with Russia, that the president and his staff repeatedly lied about their interactions with Russia, that the president publicly and privately undermined the investigation, and that the president actively encouraged (and even ordered) his subordinates to impede the progress of the investigation.

It’s a long document, no mistake. It’s not light summer reading. But all the same, you  should consider reading it. This is an historical tipping point.

Comrade Trump swore an oath when he was inaugurated. He promised to faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Trump lies a lot. I don’t know if he was lying when he swore that oath; I don’t know what was in his mind or heart. But if you read the Mueller report, it’s clear he hasn’t even tried to preserve, protect, or defend the Constitution.

Dude ought to be impeached.

head explodes

One of the many unacknowledged problems with having a fuckwit as president is the frequency with which logical folks have to hip-check less-than-logical folks about really stupid stuff. Take, for example, this recent adventure in Trumpian fuckwittery:

“[T]hey say the noise [of wind turbines] causes cancer.”

It’s blatantly and profoundly stupid, right? But in an effort to be fair to Comrade Trump, some folks — even intelligent folks — might ask if there’s any basis in reality for the claim. Here’s a non-Barr summary of a conversation I had this morning:

Friend: I dunno, maybe the deep thrum of a wind farm can maybe possibly cause some form of cancer? Maybe?
Me: Nope.
Friend: I mean, if noise at a certain frequency can make your head explode, then why can’t it also cause cancer?
Me: What? I mean, what?
Friend: Sound at a specific frequency can make your head explode. You know…like glass.
Me: No it can’t.
Friend: I think it can.
Me: I’m pretty sure it can’t.
Friend: Pretty sure?
Me: Fuck you, it can’t. It just can’t.
Friend: Pretty sure?

So I — and I can’t believe I’m actually writing this — checked. And hey, I was right. It turns out a dry skull does have some acoustic vulnerabilities, mostly between the 9 and 12 kHz frequencies. But even prolonged exposure to concentrated sound in that range will, at most, cause a dry skull to vibrate a bit.

But here’s the problem: we’re not walking around with dry skulls. We’ve got them encased in layers of soft, soggy tissue and muscle. It’s like wrapping your head in a thick coat of bacon. That’s not all; inside that skull is a thickish fluid, and floating in that fluid is a hefty wad of squishy brains. All of that wet material would act as an acoustic dampener and would prevent your skull from shattering and your head exploding.

The low-frequency infrasound of a turbine farm might give you a headache, but it’s not going to give you cancer. And sound can’t make your head explode. Listening to Comrade Trump speak might make you wish your head would explode. But sorry, nope, ain’t gonna happen.

we’re not that stupid

Now that we’ve had a couple of days to calm down and/or sober up, let’s take a more rational and dispassionate look at AG William Barr’s letter summarizing the Mueller report. Specifically, let’s look at the way ‘coordination’ is defined in a footnote.

Before we can look at the footnote, we need to read the sentence referred to in the footnote.

As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

On the surface, that seems pretty clear, doesn’t it. But it’s not. I mean, Barr doesn’t even give us the entire sentence. We don’t know if the phrase that precedes that bracketed [T] reinforces or undermines the conclusion of the sentence. For all we know, the entire sentence could be something like this: “Despite extensive circumstantial evidence to the contrary, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.” Until/unless we get to see the unredacted version of the report, we’re expected to assume Barr is accurately stating what Mueller found.

Even if Barr IS being accurate, there’s the problem of the footnote. It contains the operative definition of the term ‘coordination’. It’s a very narrow definition. According to Barr, coordination is:

an “agreement — tacit or express — between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference.”

I’m no counter-intelligence expert, but I’ve been around the block a time or two. I know enough about people and conspiracy to know that definition is absurd. That’s not how intelligence services work. Hell, that’s not even how normal people operate.

Now THERE’S some collusion. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you’re the sort of dick who wants to upstage your ex-spouse by giving your kid a better birthday present. You don’t call up your ex and ask what she’s going to give the kid; you get a friend to chat with your ex and find out what she’s giving the kid. You don’t tell your friend you want the information so you can be a dick. You might just say you want to give the kid something of similar value.

Guess what: intelligence agents are just as smart as you are. I mean, the whole point of having spies and covert intelligence agents out doing shit is to avoid tacit or expressed agreements. It’s all about plausible deniability, putting distance between what you seem to be doing and what you’re actually doing.

Barr’s definition becomes even less useful because he restricts coordination to the actual Russian government. When Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and Comrade Trump Jr. met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower to discuss ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, they could deny she was there representing some facet of the Russian government. When Maria Butina hosted a party attended by Trump campaign aides, they could accurately claim she  deny she wasn’t actually employed BY the Russian government. Veselnitskaya and Butina might be serving the interests of the Kremlin while not actually being directly paid by them.

Finally, Barr’s definition of ‘coordination’ caves in on itself when he confines it to deliberate electoral interference. When Manafort shared polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik, who has ties with Russian intelligence agencies, he could claim he wasn’t trying to interfere with the election — he was just trying to demonstrate the probability of Trump being elected.

Barr limits the meaning of coordination to tacit and express agreements, then restricts it to actual members of the Russian government, and further confines its use to blatant election interference. By doing so, he basically claims there couldn’t be any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia unless somebody from the Russian government met with somebody from the Trump campaign and clearly stated he wanted to work with them to disrupt the election.

The Russians aren’t that stupid. Barr isn’t that stupid. But apparently he thinks the American public is that stupid.

One more example. Let’s say you wanted to be the Attorney General in order to protect the President of the United States from being impeached and/or indicted for a criminal act. You wouldn’t announce that, would you. No, you’d write a 19 page memo arguing that the president could only be guilty of obstruction of justice under very specific circumstances, then you’d repeat that argument in a confirmation hearing controlled by supporters of the president, and you’d tell the opposition party that of course you’d obey the law, and you’d promise to give the public as much of the Mueller report as possible.

Plausible deniability, y’all. We can’t allow ourselves to be that stupid.

something to think about

In his letter summarizing the findings of the Mueller final report, AG Barr says this about his decision not to pursue an obstruction of justice case against Comrade Trump:

After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.

I highlighted that one section for a reason. There’s actually a Department of Justice manual that articulates the Principles of Federal Prosecution for criminal and civil matters. It lays out reasons for initiating or declining prosecution. The manual says:

[A]s a matter of fundamental fairness and in the interest of the efficient administration of justice, no prosecution should be initiated against any person unless the attorney for the government believes that the admissible evidence is sufficient to obtain and sustain a guilty verdict by an unbiased trier of fact.

Admissible evidence. Not all the evidence, only the evidence that’s admissible. Since Mueller’s mandate includes a counter-intelligence aspect, it’s possible — and maybe even likely — evidence exists that can’t be admitted in open court without compromising counter-intel methods and practices.

Remember too, that it’s Barr’s opinion that Trump didn’t commit obstruction — an opinion he’d actually argued for prior to being selected by Trump to be the Attorney General. Mueller, according to Barr’s memo, “did not draw a conclusion” whether Trump should face obstruction charges.

Why would Mueller decline to make that decision? The answer might be in that same Principles of Federal Prosecution manual. In the section that describes conditions for declining prosecution, the manual includes this:

[T]he attorney for the government’s belief that a person’s conduct constitutes a federal offense and that the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction is not sufficient standing by itself to commence or recommend prosecution. The prosecution must also serve a substantial federal interest, and the prosecutor must assess whether, in his/her judgment, the person is subject to effective prosecution in another jurisdiction; and whether there exists an adequate non-criminal alternative to prosecution.

In other words, the prosecutor can believe there’s enough evidence to convict the accused BUT still decide NOT to prosecute the case IF

  • he feels prosecution wouldn’t serve a federal interest. Mueller might feel that charging a sitting president with a crime would be harmful to governance.
  • the accused is subject to prosecution in another jurisdiction. We know Trump is facing possible criminal charges in the Southern District of New York, in the Eastern District of Virginia, in the District of Columbia, and in New York state. Perhaps Mueller thought one or more of those jurisdictions had a better case against Trump.
  • there’s a non-criminal alternative to prosecution. Like, say, impeachment.

Obviously, I don’t know what Mueller was thinking. What I do know — and what Mueller’s prosecutions demonstrate — is that every guilty plea or guilty verdict he obtained included the accused lying to Congress and/or the FBI. And what did they lie about? Their connections with Russia. Those connections might not directly link them to collusion, but there’s a pattern of behavior that’s obvious.

There was some seriously nasty skullduggery taking place between Trump, his people, and Russian agents. It may not have been actually criminal. It may have been criminal but not prosecutable. It may have been criminal and prosecutable, but not convictable. It may have been criminal and prosecutable and convictable, but not in the best interests of the US government.

But there’s a Russia-shaped piece of the puzzle that’s missing, and right now we can only guess what it represents.

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.

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.