Tag: Donald Trump

Duterte and Trump

I’m getting tired of these things. Donald Trump — who will happily “stand up” to European leaders and call them on NATO funding and trade — made some time to praise Rodrigo Duterte last week. Any President should be embarrassed to talk to let alone praise (and give classified info) to Duterte:

Since Duterte took office in June, Philippine national police and vigilante death squads have embarked on a campaign to slaughter drug users as well as drug dealers. “Hitler massacred three million Jews [sic], now, there’s three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he said in September. Last month, he told a group of jobless Filipinos that they should “kill all the drug addicts.” Police have killed over 7,000 people, devastated poor areas of Manila and other cities, and used the drug war as a pretext to murder government officials and community leaders.

Look, Presidents sometimes have to deal with scumbag leaders. But Duterte is next-level scumbag — a murderous bloodthirsty despot who is turning the Philippines into a nightmare. And it’s not like he’s the only dictator Trump likes kissing up to. Remember all that stuff about how Obama snuggled up scumbags and pissed on our allies? Trump is doing that and then some.

It raises another concern too. Duterte has turned the police in the Philippines into an extra-legal force for violence. Trump has appointed, as his Attorney General, a man who thinks the biggest problem with police shooting videos is that there’s video. He’s seeking to ramp up the War on Drugs, end consent decrees and pull back on civil rights investigations. The GOP is considering a bill that would make police unaccountable while making assaulting a police officer a federal crime. And he’s tapped batshit crazy and power-abusing Sheriff David Clarke for a possible DHS role.

Are we going to go the way of the Philippines? I don’t think so. There are a few too many checks on power to go there quite yet. But it’s clear that Trump’s admiration for Duterte is more than just lip service.

Today’s Trump Drama

Today in Trump, we learned that his trusted son-in-law may or may not have tried to set up a communications line to Russia outside of normal channels that American intelligence services couldn’t monitor. This comes on the heels of Trump pissing away what turned out to be a pretty good visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel by dumping all over Europe and NATO.

The last few weeks have been exhausting with revelation after revelation, ranging from the banal to the dramatic. This is precisely what I feared when Trump won: that we’d have non-stop drama and bullshit. It would be like the 2016 election itself only every day and for four years.

The Case for Patience

In August of 1867, President Andrew Johnson fired Edwin Stanton in violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson was a terrible President and had been in conflict with Congress for a long time. They began working on impeachment almost immediately but it dragged out until, nine months later, the Senate acquitted him.

On June 17, 1972, four men were discovered breaking into the DNC headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. It took over two years for the scandal to grind through an opposing Congress until Nixon resigned. Had he fought impeachment, it might have dragged out even longer.

From November of 1995 to March 1997, Monica Lewinsky had a series of encounters will Bill Clinton. The coverup began later that year and the scandal broke on January 17 of 1998. It took almost a year for the scandal to develop until a hostile Congress voted on impeachment that December. And this was really the culmination of years of scandal with the Clintons.

Why do I bring these up? To remind everyone that we have only turned to impeachment three times in our nation’s history. In each case, the President faced a hostile Congress. In each case, there was specific law-breaking. In each case, it was the culmination of years of conflict. And in each case it took months or years to resolve.

So why are all of the sudden in such a rush to impeach Donald Trump?

Look, Donald Trump has had a poor four months. His Muslim ban was rolled out with all the skill of the Marx brothers. His budget went nowhere. His healthcare imploded. He hired Mike Flynn — a man compromised by multiple foreign entanglements — and then fired him reluctantly. He fired the FBI director because he didn’t him poking around his Russia ties. He has serious conflict of interest and infuriating temperament problems. I’ll be second to few in my criticism of him.

But it is way too early be talking impeachment and way too early to be calling Congress — held by his party — “cowards” and “partisans” for not beginning impeachment proceedings immediately.

Let’s look at some facts here:

  • There is zero evidence, at this point, that Donald Trump directly collaborated with the Russians to win the election.
  • There is zero evidence that anyone in his campaign did. There are some indications that some of them had worked for Russia and one may have contacted the DNC hacker. But there’s no smoking gun yet. Not even on Michael Flynn.
  • Even if someone did work with the Russians, this is not “treason” in any legal sense. Treason is defined very narrowly in our laws to avoid it being used to go after political opponents. We’re not at war with Russia.
  • It is highly questionable whether Trump’s business interests violate the law. They’re slimy, sure. But corruption? No proof yet.
  • Firing the FBI director is not illegal nor is it obstruction of justice. Firing Sally Yates is not illegal nor is it obstruction of justice. Firing Preet Bharara is not illegal not is it obstruction of justice. Asking Comey to lay off Flynn is not illegal nor is it obstruction of justice. These things may be part of a pattern of behavior that could be said to constitute obstruction. You would introduce these as elements of a crime. But none of them are crimes in and of themselves.
  • (And while we’re on the subject, why the hell are the liberals making a hero of that overzealous Constitution-shredding prosecutor Bharara? He is no friend of theirs. His “resistance” to Donald Trump has consisted entirely of refusing a perfectly legal and routine request to resign because … he didn’t want to. Bharara is only in this for himself.
  • Trump’s executive orders are not illegal. In fact, the precedent for most of what he’s done was set by … Barack Obama.

Look, I’m not saying there will never be a case to impeach Donald Trump. I’m just saying that case does not exist yet and may not for years. People who are talking impeachment — or worse using the 25th Amendment — are way ahead of themselves. Hell, let’s be honest. Some of them were talking about impeachment the day he won the election.

Let’s all take a deep breath here. Donald Trump is President of the United States. I’m not fond of that fact but he is. Screaming impeachment every time he swats a fly is not going to get us anywhere. And frankly, it make the “resistance”, after all of four months, sound more insane than the worst Tea Partiers ever did. For four months, the courts, the Congress and the media have held Trump in check. Concentrate your efforts there. And when he does do something right, admit he’s done something right.

Post Scriptum

For the record, I think it’s likely that Donald Trump will not finish his first term. But I don’t think it will have anything to do with Russia and I don’t think he will be impeached. My opinion is that while Russia tried to influence the election, their contacts with the Trump campaign were limited at best. And Trump’s behavior does not cross me as someone trying to cover up a huge scandal. It crosses me as the behavior of a petty inexperienced man who is convinced the Russia thing is a bunch of garbage and wants to end it, not understanding the political ramifications. This is Trump’s inexperience showing — a smart man would let the Democrats gasbag themselves to death over it. But we’ll see what comes out of the investigation.

If Trump quits early it will be because he’s frustrated with the limit on the office and wants to do something else. I don’t think he ever really wanted to be President. And while I think he enjoys talking to crowds and sparring with the media, I don’t think he likes the slowly frustrating hamstrung grind of the office itself.

Post-post Scriptum

Note that with impeachment on the brain, a lot of Democrats are unveiling their, “actually Pence is worse” lines of BSery. The line of thought is that Pence is less personally obnoxious and could therefore get a lot more of his agenda through. Well, that and that Pence is such a religious maniac, he’s going to turn the country in the The Handmaid’s Tale.

In unveiling this argument, the Left is revealing that a huge fraction of their opposition to Trump is pure partisanship. You can’t make the argument that Trump is uniquely unsuited to the office and then claim that Pence (or Ryan) is worse. That’s just foolishness as well as an abuse of the English language.

The other argument is that they want Trump to be truly awful and, thus, destroy the Republican Party. Apart from the reality that truly awful candidates never wreck a party, this is putting politics ahead of country. Are you seriously hoping that Trump wrecks the country so that Democrats get to power? Is that really what this is all about?

Then don’t call yourself “the resistance”. You’re not resistance. You’re just wearing a different shade of uniform.

The Last 48 Hours Of Trump

It’s hard to keep up with everything but here’s what we know:

  • A number of media outlets are now reporting that Jim Comey took copious notes of his meetings with Donald Trump. On at least one occasion, the reports say, Trump pressured him to lay off Mike Flynn. This is a very serious allegation and both the House and Senate Oversight Committee are demanding copies of the memos and testimony from Comey by next week.
  • The DOJ has now appointed a Special Counsel — Robert Mueller — to investigate Russia’s influence over the election. This is very good news, whether there’s something to it or not. Mueller is highly respected and will be very thorough. If he finds nothing, the Democrats … well, some of them won’t accept it but some will. If he finds something … well, then it does get interesting.
  • We’ve found about that the leaked intel came from Israel. I’m a little bit of two minds about this since it seems to me that the press is now getting this information out there as much as Trump is.
  • Putin, possibly trolling Trump, offered to provide transcripts of the Russian meeting with Trump.
  • Rumors abound of chaos in the White House. Hard to know how seriously to take those, of course.

So … a mess. But this is exactly what all of us Never-Trumpers predicted would happen if we elected this buffoon. I suppose there are some people out there pleased because it’s “pissing liberals off” (this being what Limbaugh has been saying for the last few weeks). I’d just as soon we have a President who could, you know, do stuff beyond raging on Twitter.

Trump Burns Intel Sources?

I hesitate to post this because it’s early hours. But it’s a bombshell if true.

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

It’s anonymous sources. The White House has issued a denial, but it’s a carefully worded one. At this point, I am still awaiting confirmation, which may never get. But if it is true, it is a serious and egregious mistake by an increasingly bumbling and lost President. The President may have exposed a vital source of intelligence so that he could boast to a Russian foreign minister. (Note: Reuters and Buzzfeed are claiming confirmation from other sources, also anonymous).

A lot of people are rallying around the President but a lot more than usual are criticizing him. As I said — we should be cautious about spectacular anonymously sourced stories. But veterans of the blog may remember Lee’s invention of the phrase Brownie Moment. I think there a lot of Brownie Moments happening right now.

Comey Fired

Trump has apparently fired James Comey, the head of the FBI. Comey has been a lightning rod lately with allegations that he “threw” the election to Clinton, a (possibly false) claim that Huma Abedin forward classified e-mails to her husband and an ongoing investigation into Russia. But it is apparently his failure to file charges in the e-mail scandal that precipitated this.

Updates to follow.

The Budget “Deal”

So Congress has put out their budget deal. It includes gigantic massive cuts to … um, nothing. Spending will go up. And it includes important reforms to … um, nothing. Entitlements will go on as scheduled. But at least it has full funding for … um, Planned Parenthood? And the EPA will get … um, almost all of its funding.

I’m not sure why I expected anything different. Congress is spineless and the only way spending has been cut in the past is through intense showdowns with the President. This President is so eager to reach a deal that he immediately abandoned his “skinny budget”. And whatever political capital the GOP had has been burned on ham-fisted poorly-executed attempts at a travel ban and ACA repeal.

We’re 100 days into the Trump term. I’m unwilling to pronounce him a failure only 1/16th into his term. But something is going to have to change and soon. The vital issue of overhauling Obamacare has now ended in not one but two legislative implosions. The vital issue of tax reform came down to a one-page outline that wouldn’t pass muster in a freshman economics class. The issue of illegal immigration is descending into ham-fisted deportations. Our foreign policy is a mess, with Trump heaving praise at such luminaries as Kim Jong-un and and mass murderer Rodrigo Duterte. You occasionally see glimpses of competence (Gorsuch, Trump’s dealings with China). But we need a lot more.

This is one of the reasons I was NeverTrump: political outsiders sound good but you need someone who is willing to learn the system and use it. Trump is not that man and never has been. If Rubio or Kasich or anyone else had won, we’d be seeing a much more competent agenda advanced.

Still, recriminations get us nowhere. Someone needs to step up and take the helm here. I had hoped that Paul Ryan would be that man but, so far, we haven’t seen much from him other than catering to Trump’s politics of the moment.

I suspect, however that this is how the next four years will play out. Not with disasters — although that possibility always looms — but with four years of rudderless government that gets nothing done. A GOP that is in gridlock with itself. Sometimes, that’s preferable. But I think our economy and our country need more than just benign neglect right now.

In Which I … Kinda Side With Trump

This weekend saw a somewhat concerning diplomatic faceoff. North Korea indicated they were going to test a nuclear weapon and Trump had hinted at the possibility of pre-emptive or retaliatory strikes, sparking fears of a second Korean War. It wasn’t clear exactly what was going on because it was all rumors and innuendo. Ultimately, the Nork’s nuclear test failed (possibly due to US cyberwarfare) and the situation was defused.

Today, however, a new chapter in the saga came out. Trump is apparently talking to China to try get them to reign in North Korea. We’ve done that before but Trump is apparently breaking with long-standing US policy and offering trade concessions to China if they reign in Kim.

And … I’m actually not averse to that.

Look, we all know that Kim is China’s pet. China provides almost all their energy and trade. China has long had the ability to at least threaten North Korea, if not reign it in. Trump has been talking big on China for some time. He’s apparently reversed a number of positions after talking to Xi, including backing down on labeling China a currency manipulator. That’s another kettle of fish, of course. But if get China to clamp on Kim AND not have a trade war … that’s a win-win, isn’t it?

I’d like to hear why I’m wrong about this. But if my criticisms of Trump are to have any meaning, I have to point out when he’s done something right. Avoiding a trade war and getting North Korea in line is exactly the kind of “deal” Trump promised.

Virtue Signaling with Bombs

It would appear that we are moving toward getting involved with Syria. Images have emerged of a horrific chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians, including children. Multiple independent organizations are pointing the finger at Assad. And various Trump officials are making noise about attacking Syria in retaliation. So far, a number of politicians have indicated support for such an action, including Hillary Clinton and John McCain, even though it carries the danger of a conflict — by proxy or directly — with Russia.

I have long been wary of intervention in Syria. The reason is not because I am insensitive to the suffering of Syrian civilians or the house of horrors that is Assad. It’s because it’s not clear to me what the hell the goal would be. Sean Davis raised 14 questions that our leaders need to answer before they commit to military action — all good questions that no one has answered. The logic seems to be:

  1. What’s happening is awful.
  2. Let’s drop some bombs.

But what will that do? If we destroy his air force, does that simply drag the war out? If we remove Assad, do we just get more chaos for ISIS to move into? Is this virtue signaling with bombs?

I find myself agreeing with our friend Thrill:

My other thought is that one of the top five reasons I voted for Trump was that I thought he was less War Crazed of the two major candidates. You can argue with me all you like, but Clinton was creaming her pantsuit in anticipation of dragging us into more international conflicts. Trump convinced me that he wasn’t interested in any further needless military interventions and I’d prefer not to be proven wrong.

I’ve seen the images coming out of Syria. Yeah, it’s awful.

But it isn’t our war.

It isn’t our fault either. There’s nothing we stand to gain from it. It isn’t even within our ability to resolve. I’m not indifferent to human suffering, but I don’t support any war that doesn’t further the best interests of the United States. There’s no way I support Trump if he moves forward with military action against the Assad regime.

Something else to think about: why is Assad’s use of chemical weapons the red line here? Why is it so much more horrible than the bombs he’s been dropping on his people or years, bombs that have left many children dead or screaming in pain or maimed for life? Let’s say we eliminate all his chemical weapons — hey, remember when John Kerry said we’d gotten rid of them all? Will that ameliorate the suffering of Syria’s children? Will he not just drop more conventional bombs?

The more I turn this over, the more I think this is virtue signaling with bombs. Something horrible has happened and we want to show that we don’t like it. But that’s not enough for me. You’re going to need more than that for me to support committing blood and treasure to what looks like a massive dangerous quagmire.

Update: As I was writing this post, CNN announced that we have launched 50 tomahawk missiles against airfields in Syria. That was fast. And there was no approval from Congress.

The Flynn Flip

The internet is filled with the new that General Mike Flynn is seeking immunity in exchange for testifying about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. What exactly he would testify about it a bit unclear. And so far, no one has taken him up on the offer.

The Democrats are salivating over this, but let’s keep something in mind: Flynn may not know shit. He may just be trying desperately to evade any consequences of his own actions which, at the very least, included undisclosed lobbying on behalf of Turkey. Even is he does know something, that something may not be the thing that leads to the downfall of Trump.

I’m reminded a bit of Oliver North. During the Iran-Contra Affair, North was given immunity to testify to Congress. In the end, he didn’t give them what they wanted: nothing implicated Reagan. The prosecutors went after North himself and got a conviction but it was subsequently overturned because of the immunity Congress had given him.

Maybe Flynn cracks the Russia thing open. But I suspect this will go the same way. If he is given immunity, the stuff he will reveal will be less than damning or, at worst, implicate Manafort.

As I’ve said many times, the Russia thing demands full independent investigation (especially with Nunes going off the reservation). But I’m not going to say, “This is the end of Trump!” until it’s the end of Trump.