russian ratfucking

It never stops, does it. Last week yet another whistleblower filed a complaint with yet another Inspector General accusing the Trump White House and Trump-appointed agency officials of yet another abuse of authority by censoring yet another report outlining ongoing attempts to interfere with the 2020 election by Russian intelligence agencies.

This time it was Brian Murphy, the Principal Deputy Under Secretary in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Before he went to work for DHS he was a Marine and an FBI agent. Not what you’d call a ‘liberal’. He was ordered “to cease any dissemination of an intelligence notification regarding Russian disinformation efforts…because it ‘made the President look bad’.” Murphy objected (because Russia was running a disinfo campaign) and complained to his superiors. He was subsequently demoted.

There are very few core principles in the Trump administration, but included in them are the need to protect Putin and to deny Russian ratfucking of the 2016 election and the upcoming 2020 election. You have to wonder why that’s so important.

Who appears to be in charge here?

In May of 2018 I suggested that Trump’s insistence that the FBI ‘infiltrated’ his 2016 president campaign in an effort to ‘spy’ on it and entrap his campaign staff into breaking the law was a matter of ignorance rather than complicity. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. I thought perhaps he simply didn’t understand that the FBI, by opening a counter-intelligence investigation into his campaign, was trying to protect him from some of his campaign staff who were in wildly inappropriate contact with Russian intelligence agents and/or Russian criminal elements. If the FBI hadn’t attempted to find out what the Russians were up to, they’d have been derelict in their duties.

What the FBI discovered was a series of attempts by Russian intelligence operatives to penetrate Trump’s campaign. Sadly, those attempts were actually welcomed by some campaign members. Not only were they eager to accept material that had clearly been stolen from Democrats by Russian intel agencies, they never considered reporting it to the FBI. Worse, when confronted by the evidence, those staffers lied about it. Lied repeatedly, and actively hampered the investigation. That’s a clear demonstration of guilt.

Who seems to be subordinate here?

By July of 2018, after the weird and horrifying Helsinki summit, I was far more willing to believe that Trump’s currying to Russia wasn’t just a matter of ignorance. I began to accept the probability that Putin had something on Trump himself — some sort of kompromat. I figured it was likely something to do with money laundering and/or criminal conspiracy rather than something personally embarrassing (like the alleged ‘pee tape’). In any event, it looked less like stupidity from inexperience and more like cooperation and complicity with Russian influence agents. I couldn’t think of any other probable explanation for his behavior at Helsinki.

By January of 2019, I was ready to accept that Trump was, in fact, a Russian intelligence asset. Not a ‘spy’; Trump lacks the emotional stability and the skill set required to be a spy. But he has a personality that makes him exceptionally vulnerable to Russian exploitation as an asset: he’s emotionally needy, he’s driven by greed and ego, he’s at least immoral if not amoral, he’s both shameless and easily insulted, he has no real sense of loyalty or patriotism, he has no qualms about cheating and assumes everybody cheats, and he’s willing and able to lie about anything. Trump is easy to manipulate.

Who is in control here?

The sad fact is, willing or not, since he took office Trump has furthered Russian interests and increased their international presence, and at the same time damaged US interests and surrendered US leadership on the world stage. He’s created a wedge between the US and NATO — to Russia’s benefit. He’s given Syria a free hand to commit war crimes — to Russia’s benefit. He’s withdrawn US influence in Iraq by abandoning the Kurds, allowing Russian troops to assume control of military bases and stations built by the US military. He’s essentially legitimized Russia’s illegal seizure of Crimea. He’s fought against and/or failed to impose sanctions against Russia despite bipartisan support in Congress. He’s refused to acknowledge, let alone act on, reports that Russia has paid the Taliban bounties to kill US troops serving in Afghanistan.

Domestically, he’s been willing to disregard the collective opinions of the US Intelligence Community on issues like Russian interference in the US election, and accepted Putin’s claim that Russia wasn’t involved. He’s not only undermined the efforts of the FBI and CIA to disrupt Russian interference, he’s appointed agency administrators who have leaned on their agencies to mute any criticism of Russia.

Who is most confident here?

I’m NOT saying Trump is run by Putin or Russian intelligence agencies. They don’t need to run him. On his own, he’s brought chaos and exacerbated existing divisions in US society. Russia helped him get elected (and are trying to help him stay in office), but after that all they had to do was stand back and let Trump be Trump. It was a low-cost, low risk, high reward black op — almost certainly the most successful and cost effective black op in modern history.

The idea that the President of the United States might be — and probably is — a Russian intelligence asset should be absurd. It should be laughable. Sadly, it’s not. The evidence keeps mounting up. It’s entirely possible — and, again, this is shocking for me to say — it’s entirely possible that if Trump is re-elected, representative democracy in the US may come to a crashing halt.

Lawdy, I hate saying that. I hate that it’s actually necessary to say it.

hocus pocus hoax

Let’s just acknowledge this reality: anybody who seriously uses the phrase ‘Russian hoax’ can be immediately disregarded. Doesn’t matter whether they’re referring to the Mueller investigation or just generally talking about Comrade Trump’s insidious machinations with Russia, if they say the terms Russia and hoax together and mean it, anything else they say can be dismissed.

I know, I know. That sounds extreme. And it is. Under normal circumstances, I’d argue against a policy like that. But the phrase has been in use long enough that anybody who offers it as a serious explanation for Trump’s various scandals has lost all credibility. In fact, the notion that there is such a thing as the Russia hoax is, itself, a hoax.

Okay, wait. We need a tangent here. A big meandering tangent taking us back to the 17th century and a guy named Thomas Ady. Ady was interested in witches and witchcraft. Not in the standard 17th century ‘How to Catch a Witch and Do Terrible Things to Her’ way, but in a more intellectually rigorous way. He wrote a couple of books to expose of the various bullshit techniques used in that time to identify and convict alleged witches. He also wrote that what passed for ‘magic’ or ‘witchcraft’ was mostly either natural phenomena or trickery.

In his book A Candle in the Dark he wrote about “common Juglars, who go up and down to play their Tricks at Fayrs and Markets.” He spoke about one such person:

[M]ore excelling in that craft than others, that went about in King James his time, and long since, who called himself, the Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus tabantus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery.

A ‘juggler’ back then was an entertainer who performed tricks of dexterity and sleight of hand. Not just the sort of toss juggling we see now, but also ‘magic’ tricks. The name by which this one most excellent Juglar performed gave us the term hocus-pocus as a sort of ‘magical’ invocation. And hocus-pocus is where the term ‘hoax’ comes from. A hoax is deliberately creating a malicious fabrication and convincing people to believe it.

Comrade Trump’s entire career has been built on a foundation of hoaxes. The hoax that he was a good student, that he was a successful entrepreneur, that he was a financial genius, that he was a savvy businessman and a brilliant negotiator. His history suggests none of that is completely true, and much of it is a lie.

Perhaps his greatest hoax has been convincing his followers to believe that secretive Deep State government officials and career federal law enforcement officers (most of whom are lifelong Republicans) in conjunction with leaders of the Democratic Party collaborated to create a massive cabal designed to thwart the improbable presidential campaign of a failed businessman and reality television showman. He’s convinced his followers that these three groups, despite their long-standing ideological differences and hostility, came together in the short time after his nomination but before the election and agreed to impede his agenda by waiting until after the election to accuse him of colluding with Russian intelligence agents.

Now that is some serious hocus-pocus, right there. That’s a hoax on a galactic scale. Anybody who believes that — anybody who is capable of believing that — is somebody whose opinions can dismissed. Normally, I’m willing to entertain almost any argument if it forces me to support my position. That’s healthy, I think. But there comes a point at which you just have to accept that verifiable evidence doesn’t matter to Trump’s most faithful followers.

He said he pulled a rabbit out of his hat. I believe him. Why would he lie about that?

Let’s go back to Mr. Ady for a moment. He had to deal with the 17th century version of Trump supporters.

[T]hey ingage me to answer to a story, which they would compell me to beleeve, or else to goe see where it was done; but if it happeneth (as often it doth), that I make it appear by Scripture, that it is absurd or impossible…or that I shew them the story, in any of the afore said Authers, who have been the Authors of many vain fables, then they presently fly to another story, as vain and absurd as the former, and that being answered, they fly to another, saying, Sir, what do you answer to this? in which manner of disputes I have heard sometimes such monstrous impossibilities reported and affirmed to be true, (for they had it by credible report) as would make the Angells in Heaven blush to hear them.

This morning Comrade Trump is frantically trying to defend himself against the revelations in Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-released book. His defense is full of ‘such monstrous impossibilities…as would make the Angells in Heaven blush.’ I don’t believe in angels or heaven, but I do believe in an open exchange of ideas and views. However, that sort of exchange is no longer possible with anybody who, at this point, believes in the ‘vain fable’ of a Russia hoax.

a constant cascade of calamities and coincidence

The thing about Comrade Trump and his Constant Cascade of Calamities is that they come at us so fast that we don’t have time to process any given scandal because there are two or three other scandals slamming into us. Not only that, but we have scandals nestled inside of other scandals like Russian matryoshka dolls. The result is we exist in a perpetual state of calamity-shock.

What? It’s a coincidence. Could happen to anybody.

Here’s an example. Last week we learned that Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf…okay, wait. According to the Government Accountability Office, Wolf was not a legitimate Acting Sec. DHS. Why? Because his predecessor, Kevin McAleenan was not legitimately appointed as Acting Sec. DHS. Why? Because his predecessor, Kirstjen Nielsen, bungled the paperwork attempting to change the rules governing temporary appointments to ensure McAleenan (Trump’s pick for the gig) would get the Acting position. BUT even if Wolf had been legally appointed to the Acting position, he’d still be invalid since he was appointed under the Vacancies Act, which clearly states an Acting secretary can only serve for 210 days from when the position was made vacant, and Wolf has been doing the job for more than 250 days. Two weeks ago Trump said he’d officially nominate Wolf for the Sec. DHS position — but he hasn’t actually done it.

Okay, so last week we learned Chad Wolf had personally blocked publication of an unclassified DHS memo reporting that “Russian malign influence actors” would be trying to interfere with the US election by “denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health.” This, of course, just happens to be one of Trump’s primary arguments against Biden. But it’s probably just a coincidence that Trump’s DHS chief buried a memo that showed Trump was using a campaign attack also being used by Russian intelligence agencies.

What? Shit happens, what’s a guy to do?

But wait. Last week another unclassified DHS memo was leaked to the news media. That memo reported that in March “Russian malign influence actors” began “spreading disinformation” about the absentee and mail-in voting system. The memo stated “Russian state media and proxy websites…criticized the integrity of expanded and universal vote-by-mail, claiming ineligible voters could receive ballots due to out-of-date voter rolls, leaving a vast amount of ballots unaccounted for and vulnerable to tampering.” The Russian proxy websites also claimed “vote-by-mail processes would overburden the U.S. Postal Service…delaying vote tabulation and creating more opportunities for fraud and error.”

And hey, guess what. Comrade Trump has also been attacking the integrity of voting by mail, saying it increased the potential for fraud and would overburden the USPS. Another shocking coincidence between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies.

What? How should I know? These things happen.

Speaking of coincidences (and the Constant Cascade of Calamities), Louis DeJoy, Trump’s hand-picked Postmaster General, has made significant structural changes to the US Postal Service, which…okay, wait. It needs to be said that DeJoy was supposed to divest himself of financial conflicts of interest before accepting the Postmaster General gig. But he apparently still retains a stake in XPO Logistics, which has charged USPS about US$14 million in the past 10 weeks for managing transportation and providing support during peak times. It also appears that DeJoy became influential in GOP circles (and therefore a candidate for positions in the Trump administration) by urging his employees to donate to Republicans and attend political fundraisers at his home, then manipulating the company’s finance and payroll systems to give ‘bonus payments’ to employees who donated to help reimburse the cost — which is what folks in the law enforcement biz call “a crime”. DeJoy is being investigated for this now.

Anyway, DeJoy implemented significant structural changes to the US Postal Service which has resulted in delays in mail delivery. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what Trump AND Russian intelligence malign influence actors said would happen.

A suspicious person might think all these coincidences aren’t all that coincidental.

What? I mean, come on, what? Would I do that?

BUT — and this is the important thing — all of those nested matryoshka scandals were just one part of the larger matryoshka scandal that included the ‘Troops are suckers and losers’ scandal and the 190,000 Covid-19 deaths scandal and the roughly 29 million people unemployed scandal and the Trump advising voters in North Carolina to vote twice scandal and the withholding of funds to ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ scandal and the fake camera store owner in Kenosha scandal and the ‘planeload of Antifa’ scandal and the scandal about the 600 loans totaling $100 million of the Paycheck Protection Program that went to companies that are barred or suspended from doing business with the federal government. And those are just the scandals I can remember. You know, from the last week.

It’s been like this for nearly four fucking years. The Trump Administration has been beating the American public senseless with their coincidental Constant Cascade of Calamities. And he promises, if re-elected, to keep it up for four more years. At least. MAGA, and all that.

dammit bernie

I was SO proud of Bernie Sanders for acknowledging that Russia was interfering in the 2020 election in his favor. Unlike Comrade Trump and his cadre of Nazgûl supporters, who are actively abetting the Russian attack on our national elections, Bernie spoke out and condemned the interference. He said, “I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear. Stay out of American elections. And as president I will make sure that you do.”

How can you NOT respect that? Especially when you compare it to Trump’s tantrum and childish denial of facts.

But here’s the thing: I have a weird and dysfunctional relationship with Bernie. I like the guy. I like his consistency. I like that he’s been remarkably steady in his beliefs and opinions — not just recently but for decades. I like most of his values and I agree with most of his policies. And yet I’ve never been able to go all in for Bernie because time and again he does something that flat out pisses me off. Or disappoints me. I’ve spent a lot of time saying, “Dammit, Bernie.”

It’s not just Bernie. There are a lot of politicians (or other folks) I like and respect that make me say Dammit. Dammit Bill Clinton. dammit Rashida Tlaib, dammit Kirsten Gillibrand, dammit Al Franken, dammit dammit dammit dammit. And now, once again, dammit, Bernie.

Dammit, Bernie, you knew about this for a month. A month, for fuck’s sake, and you didn’t say anything. That, in itself, wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. I mean, there could be lots of valid reasons for not reporting it. Maybe an intelligence agency asked you not to reveal the information to the public for some obscure spy reason.

But apparently that wasn’t the case. Dammit, Bernie, you were apparently (and I say ‘apparently’ because to my knowledge you haven’t given any other reason) just reluctant to acknowledge it. That’s bad. Understandable, but still bad. And dammit, Bernie, then you made it worse. You got pissy with the Washington Post for reporting the story. And then you made it still worse by suggesting the newspapers broke the story right before the Nevada caucus in order to hurt your campaign.

Here’s a True Thing, Bernie: bad news is always bad news, so if you want to control HOW that bad news is released, release it yourself. Release it under your control. If you dawdle and somebody else releases that bad news in a less flattering way, then that’s on you. A fucking month, you knew about this — and yet you weren’t prepared to answer questions about it when the story broke. At the very least you should have had talking points prepared, you should have had a strategy in place. Really, you should have dealt with this a month ago.

I don’t think you were deliberately trying to hide the information; I suspect you just saw it as an unwanted distraction. I suspect you treated it the same way you treated the bothersome chest pains you said you ‘disregarded’ because you didn’t have time to deal with them. I mean, that’s a classic guy move — ignore it, assume it’ll go away. I suspect every guy ever born has done that.

But dammit, Bernie, if you’d held a press conference soon after learning about Russian interference and denounced the interference using the very same language you used recently, you’d have been universally praised. But you didn’t. Now you come across as cranky and snarky and resentful and bitter. Now it seems like you’re blaming others for your own mistakes. Those are the qualities that made me stop supporting you in 2016.

Dammit, Bernie you’re so much better than this. And it pisses me off that you sometimes seem to forget that.

it’s worse than that

The Republicans are lying. But it’s not just lying; it’s worse than that. The Republicans are also spreading disinformation. Disinformation is deliberate misinformation intended to distract and deceive. Disinformation is worse than a lie because it’s meant to cast the concept of truth itself into doubt.

Here’s a lie: Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 presidential election with the intent to help Trump. It’s demonstrably not true. Ukraine was responsible for the meddling in the 2016 election — that’s a lie, but it’s worse than that. It’s disinformation. It’s designed to deliberately mislead people, to plant misinformation into the discussion. Disinformation forces truth-tellers to dispute both the lie and the false information as well.

Let me say it again. Republicans are lying, but worse than that they’re spreading disinformation. But it’s even worse than that, the disinformation is part of a Russian intelligence campaign. It’s designed both to aid Russia in its invasion of Ukraine and to sow dissent and discord in the domestic politics of the U.S.

The Russians are really very good at this. They didn’t invent disinformation, but they were the first nation to develop it as an cohesive intelligence strategy. Even the term ‘disinformation’ itself was created as disinformation. In the 1920s, a Russian black propaganda program began using the term dezinformatsiya, suggesting it was translated from a French word (désinformation), which didn’t exist. That allowed them to claim the concept had a Western origin. With the creation of mass media and the internet, disinformation in the post-Soviet era has become a critical facet of both the Russian military intelligence and the SVR — the Russian Federation’s foreign intelligence service.

And, again, Republicans are disseminating a disinformation campaign designed by an intelligence agency hostile to United States’ interests. It’s worse than that. At this point, they’re doing it knowingly. Fiona Hill told them under oath that the idea that Ukraine was behind the 2016 election ratfucking was “a fictional narrative” created by Russian intelligence. But even if they dismissed her sworn testimony, Congress was briefed by U.S. intelligence agencies that “Russia had engaged in a years-long campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election.”

Treason for the tackiest of motives — partisan politics.

They know. They know it’s a lie, but they still tell it. They know it’s disinformation, but they still spread it. They know it’s a critical element of a Russian intelligence operation, but they continue to repeat it. They fucking know, and they don’t care. They are, in effect, providing aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States. That’s treason.

It’s worse than that. It’s not treason for ideological reasons, or treason for money, or treason as an act of dissent, or even treason for personal power. It’s worse than that; it’s treason for the tackiest of motives — partisan politics.

sputtering bastards

It didn’t take long, did it. For the Republican sputtering to begin, I mean.

Yesterday we witnessed an Olympic caliber exhibition of synchronized justice. Comrade Trump’s former campaign manager AND his personal attorney simultaneously became felons. It was certainly the most news-intensive 20 minutes of my long and semi-wicked life. It put me right on the cusp of news overload.

And the response from Republicans in Congress? Sputtering. “But but but neither of these cases has anything to do with Russia.” “But but but this has nothing to do with collusion.” “But but but but…”

These fucking guys, I declare. But hey, technically they’re right. They’re cowardly dissembling ethics-free sacks of horseshit, but technically they’re right. Manafort’s convictions aren’t directly related to Russia or Trump. And Cohen’s guilty plea has nothing whatsoever to do with illegal Russian meddling into the election.

Cohen’s plea is an altogether different sort of illegal meddling into the election. But hey, guess what. It’s still illegally meddling in the damned election. And Cohen, bless his criminal little heart, directly implicates Comrade Donald J. Trump as knowingly and willfully participating in that illegal election meddling.

There’s some shit Republicans can’t just sputter away.

Here’s the thing: Cohen’s guilty plea incriminates Trump in a conspiracy to influence the election that’s completely separate from the Russian conspiracy to influence the election. That’s TWO distinct criminal conspiracies to influence the election. Two. A Russian criminal conspiracy AND a domestic campaign criminal conspiracy. And since we already have a Special Counsel to investigate the Russian conspiracy, it only makes sense that we should appoint a completely separate Special Counsel to investigate the campaign conspiracy.

I doubt that will happen. Certainly not while Republicans control Congress. Certainly not while Republicans run the Department of Justice. They’re much too busy with all that sputtering.

ADDENDUM — As I was writing this, a friend asked me if I thought this might lead to articles of impeachment. And no, I don’t think it will. It should, but c’mon…we’re talking about Republicans in Congress, who have turned hypocrisy into pure performance art. Let’s consider some of the high crimes and misdemeanors Republicans considered impeachable when Barack Obama was POTUS.

— Republican Darrell Issa said it was an impeachable offense for Obama to offer an administration job to Joe Sestak to persuade Sestak to drop out of the PA Senate primary election.
— Republican Michael Burgess at a rally said Obama needed to be impeached in order to prevent him from “pushing his agenda”.
— Republican Jon Kyl said there might be ‘shenanigans’ involved in the Obama immigration policy that would be impeachable.
— Several Republicans suggested there was an impeachable cover-up in the Benghazi incident that somehow escaped discovery in the ten separate Republican investigations.
— Republican Tom Coburn said Obama was “perilously close” to committing high crimes and misdemeanors by allegedly ordering USCIS employees to “ignore background checks for immigrants” though there’s no indication Obama ever suggested such an order.
— Republican Blake Farenthold told a rally that Obama should be impeached over the conspiracy theories relating to his birth certificate.
— Republican Kerry Bentivolio said he’d like to write articles of impeachment based on the notion that the Obama administration had directed the IRS to target conservative groups.
— Republicans on the House Judiciary committee held a hearing on “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws”, which they viewed as an attempt to begin justifying impeachment proceedings.
— Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature (and seriously, I’m not making this up) filed a measure asking Oklahoma members of Congress to impeach Obama (and also the Attorney General and the Secretary of Education) over the decision to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

I suppose we should be grateful they never accused Obama of collusion with Kenya to influence the 2008 election. Although we’re talking about Republicans in Congress, so there’s still time for that.

putin’s pocket

Had a buddy tell me “I can’t get interested in the Manafort trial, since it’s not about Trump.” I told him, “Dude, of course it’s about Trump.”

I sorta kinda lied to him. I mean, it IS about Trump since it’s about the Russians, and you can’t throw a ruble without hitting Comrade Trump. But it’s not directly about Trump. At this point in the trial, it’s as much about Vladimir Putin’s pockets — and who Putin has tucked away in those pockets — as anything else. Allow me to ‘splain, since Rick Gates has finished testifying. Just follow the numbers.

Rick Gates, who 1) worked for Paul Manafort for several years before 2) becoming Trump’s deputy campaign director, and who has 3) already pleaded guilty to a handful of felonies, testified that he helped Manafort, 4) who was Trump’s actual campaign director, 5) commit a buttload of felonies by 6) covering up Manafort’s numerous overseas bank accounts in which Manafort 7) hid and laundered the millions of dollars he earned by 8) helping get Putin-supported Viktor Yanukovych elected as president of Ukraine before 9) Yanukovych was run out of his country for 10) stealing hundreds of millions of dollars, after which 11) Yanukovych found asylum in Russia, where 12) he bought a house for US$52 million. Okay, that bit about Yanukovych buying a house really isn’t relevant to the case, but it shows what sort of company Manafort keeps.

Putin and Yanukovych

Gates also 13) helped Manafort illegally obtain 14) more than US$20 million dollars in bank loans by 15) falsely inflating his income and 16) failing to disclose debts, including so-called ‘loans’ totaling around $60 million from 17) Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is usually described as 18) Putin’s favorite industrialist. Loans without a repayment date are 19) a common way of laundering money.

Putin and Deripaska

So what we have is Gates and Manafort siphoning off a lot of illicit coin from Russians. What does that have to do with Comrade Trump? Good question. Here’s the answer.

While Manafort was running the Trump campaign, some unidentified campaign aides pressured the Republican National Committee to make a change — the ONLY change the Trump campaign insisted on — to the official Republican Party platform. The change was to remove a call for the U.S. to provide arms to Ukraine in response to the Russia invasion, occupation, and annexation of the Crimea province. Why did the Trump folks want to make that change? The answer seems to be: because Putin wanted Crimea.

Gates and Manafort

So here’s the thing: Gates testified that he was in the pocket of Manafort, who was in the pockets of the Ukrainian Yanukovych and oligarch Deripaska, both of whom are in the pocket of Vladimir Putin. LOTS of evidence suggests that pocket is also occupied by Comrade Trump.

So, yeah. Dude, of course the Manafort trial is about Trump.

it’s rats all the way down

Back in the 17th century, this dude named Samuel Butler wrote a — okay, wait. Trust me for a bit. This is actually going to relate to Comrade Donald J. Trump and his ex-buddy Michael Cohen. Honest, I wouldn’t lie to you. Not about this anyway.

Right, so back in the 17th century, this dude named Samuel Butler wrote a mock heroic poem about the adventures of a knight-errant called Hudibras and his squire Ralpho. It was basically a British rip-off of Don Quixote. At one point in the poem Hudibras gets himself in trouble and winds up in the stocks. In order to get released, he promises to flagellate himself — which, of course, Hudibras really doesn’t want to do. So his squire tells him that breaking that promise is really sorta kinda holy. Almost saintly, in fact.

For breaking of an oath, and lying,
Is but a kind of self-denying;
A Saint-like virtue: and from hence
Some have broke oaths by Providence
Some, to the glory of the Lord,
Perjur’d themselves, and broke their word

Lying and perjury. That brings us to Trump and Cohen. Cohen has now claimed that Comrade Trump was aware of the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower before it occurred. You’ll remember this was the meeting at which Trump the Lesser, Manafort, Kushner, a few other folks, sat down with a Whitman’s Sampler of Russian agents in order to get ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton. This is Collusion 101. Fundamental collusion stuff.

When hard words, jealousies, and fears / Set folks together by the ears / And made them fight, like mad or drunk / For Dame Religion, as for punk

Trump the Elder, of course, denies it. Totally denies it. Denies the absolute hell out of it. This morning he tweeted (and Jeebus, how embarrassing is it to have a president whose main form of…aw, fuck it, never mind) the following:

I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam

This leads to the obvious question: “Is Comrade Trump lying?” Which leads to the obvious answer: “Ha ha ha what? Yeah, of course he is, this is Donald Fucking Trump, y’all.” Let’s pause for a brief moment and review the various accounts Trump has given of that meeting (not verbatim).

— Meeting? What meeting? There was no meeting.
— Oh, that meeting. Yeah, there was a meeting, but it was about adoption. Oh, and I didn’t know about it.
— Okay, okay, the meeting was about getting dirt on Crooked Hillary, but the Russians didn’t have any.
— Well, maybe they had some, but they didn’t offer it to us.
— Okay, yeah, they offered some dirt, but it wasn’t very good dirt. Did I mention I didn’t know about it?
— Well, okay, it was moderately good dirt, but we didn’t take it. And besides, I didn’t know about the meeting.
— Okay, we took it, but we didn’t use it.
— Okay, let’s say maybe we took it and maybe we used it, who can say? It was a long time ago and memories keep changing, and anyway, so what?

In other words, Comrade Trump has lied about this event like a thousand different times. We certainly have no reason to believe him now. But here’s the problem with dealing with Trump and anybody Trump has dealt with regularly: all of these fuckers lie. They lie all the time about anything at all. It’s as natural to them as water is to a goldfish. It’s the environment in which they live and function.

I’d like to believe Cohen is telling the truth about this — that Trump DID know about the meeting in advance. But Cohen, like Trump, is an inveterate liar and the thing about liars is that they lie. So who the hell knows?

Okay, back to Hudibras for half a moment. Here’s maybe the most famous line from the poem: “I smell a rat; Ralpho, thou dost prevaricate.”

I smell a rat. A lot of rats. I don’t know if Michael Cohen is telling the truth this time. I assume Trump is lying. It’s very possible they’re both lying. I mean, it’s possible Cohen has no idea whether or not Trump knew about the meeting, and he’s lying about it because he’s pissed at Trump and would like to drop him deeper in the shit. And it’s possible Trump did know about it and is lying because he’s a fucking liar. It’s also possible Trump didn’t know about it, because his campaign was run by crooks and amateurs so stupid they couldn’t pour piss out of a boot.

But I know this much. When it comes to Comrade Trump, I smell a rat. A whole nest of rats. It’s rats all the way down.

Editorial Note 1: That ‘I smell a rat’ line is usually attributed to Patrick Henry, speaking during the Constitutional Convention in 1776. But Butler wrote his poem a century before that took place. He owns the line. There’s some useless information for you.

Editorial Note 2: You probably know the turtle anecdote, but here it is in brief. William James gave a lecture on astronomy and the structure of the solar system. Afterwards, he’s accosted by an old woman, who claims the earth can’t revolve around the sun because the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle. “And what does that turtle stand on, madam?” “It stands on the back of a larger turtle.” “And pray, what does that turtle stand on?” “You’re a very clever man, Mr. James, but it’s turtles all the way down.”