The Ineffable Boiling Frog of Trump Scandal

In the last several days, two outlets have tried — but (in my opinion) failed — to communicate the sheer scale of the President’s corruption. Today, that bastion of warmed over conventional wisdom, Axios, deemed Trump’s Russian conspiracy “the biggest political scandal in American history.”

They miss most of the key details (and treat Trump’s contacts with Russian officials as the crime, when that’s not by itself one). Even in a piece invoking the Teapot Dome Scandal, they don’t seem to see the outlines of a quid pro quo bribe, Tower and dirt for sanctions relief. There’s no mention of Paul Manafort at all, much less one describing how he shared polling data in a meeting where he also discussed sanctions relief.

And I don’t think the Mueller investigation really has delivered one of the biggest counterintelligence cases in history (which may be a mis-citation of this Garrett Graff article).

More remarkably, the Axios founders don’t seem to be able to get their arms around where this scandal ends, in part because some of the other stuff Trump has done — monetizing the Presidency via other foreign powers or various properties — are separate from the Russian part of Trump’s scandals.

Tuesday, Greg Sargent attempted a different approach, cataloging all the things that Republicans in Congress think should not be investigated by Congress. He came up with this list:

  • Materials relating to any foreign government payments to Trump’s businesses, which might constitute violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
  • Materials that might shed light on Trump’s negotiations over the duration of a real estate project in Moscow, which Trump concealed from the voters even as the GOP primaries were underway.
  • Materials that might show whether Trump’s lawyers had a hand in rewriting former lawyer Michael Cohen’s testimony to Congress falsifying the timeline of those negotiations.
  • Materials that might illuminate more detail about Trump’s numerous efforts to obstruct the FBI/Mueller investigation.
  • Materials that would shed more light on the criminal hush-money scheme that Cohen carried out, allegedly at Trump’s direction, and on Trump’s reimbursement of those payments.

This list is based on the HJC list of document requests, and so is limited to people who’ve already (publicly) been asked for documents. But even there, it doesn’t capture why some of these things matter — again, including the appearance of a quid quo pro bribe trading the Trump Tower for sanctions relief. Nor does it incorporate the full scope of kinds of crimes listed here. This list doesn’t include the range of lies told, not just by Cohen but by Roger Stone and Don Jr and others, nor does it consider the import of Cambridge Analytica and Manafort sharing polling data with the Russians.

And, of course, because Sargent works backwards from the HJC list, he doesn’t include issues already being investigated by other committees, such as how Trump’s ICE keeps losing immigrant children, or why he forced aides to give his daughter and her husband security clearances that they clearly weren’t suited for.

I raise this not to criticize, but instead to observe that we’re at a point where journalists are struggling to communicate the full scale of Trump’s corruption, even just that corruption tied exclusively to the Russian investigation. That’s partly been a result of his media approach, treating each day as a new opportunity to replace yesterday’s spectacle with a new one. It’s partly because of the boiling frog effect: we’ve had piecemeal disclosures over two years, and few journalists have taken stock along the way to see what the actual court evidentiary record amounts to. And even there, we often forget to add in the truly breathtaking corruption of Administration aides like Scott Pruitt or Ryan Zinke, or of current Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot of late — I don’t pretend to be able to get my brain around anything beyond the Russian investigation, to the extent even that is doable. It seems that we need to start trying to quantify this not in terms of names or actions but instead in terms of harm to the nation.

Just as one example, even the judges in the Russian investigation have — across the board — seen Trump’s flunkies to be selling out the interest of the United States, perhaps for Trump personally, perhaps for self-dealing, perhaps for foreign associates. Whatever crimes (or not) Trump committed, because he and his flunkies refuse to put the interest of the country first, it has consequences for Americans, including the constituents of members of Congress who want to ignore all this corruption.

We’ve been boiling frogs for several years here. But it’s time to take stock on the bottom line effect that Trump’s corruption has had on the country, and holding Republican enablers accountable for that damage.

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190 replies
  1. Anvil Leucippus says:

    We are so very far off the map! One thing I liked about the Axios article was that it at least tried to give a sense of scale to a previous problem — and the ones that I felt were the most helpful were the ones that said something like “Historical precedent: none”. Let’s scream in terror at how many they list that they have no comparison by any metric. That’s not normal!

    The damage that has been done will take many, many years. And uncomfortable conversations. And trials. Like Germany in the 50’s, 60’s level stuff. That kind of tomorrow is what awaits us. That full scope of how close we come to just fully embracing fascism, and how we got there was more than the work of just one white man.

    • Wajim says:

      “The damage that has been done will take many, many years [to repair/mitigate?]. And uncomfortable conversations. And trials. Like Germany in the 50’s, 60’s level stuff. That kind of tomorrow is what awaits us.”

      Yes, well, 1) that assumes many, many years of mostly (if not complete) Democratic control of the federal government, hardly a guaranteed prospect, as you may have noticed; and 2) America at large is very good at shoving most of or more sordid past down the proverbial memory hole; and 3) as Obama and Eric Holder said (and did) after the Bush 43 economic and war crimes disasters, most politicians (even the good ones) will want to “look forward, not backward.” We have several other crisis to focus on, huge problems to solve, at least one existential (i.e., climate change), that any effort at “national reconciliation” and “justice” regarding the Trump era will be a low priority for even the most progressive dems. That is, we will be told, it would be nice if we had the time and energy, but it’s not going to happen (except via some toothless “9/11” style commission working with a major Democratic led government reform effort even more thorough and wide-ranging than the post-Watergate reforms).

      Meanwhile, even as the GOP may be consigned to the wilderness, they will likely have succeeded in packing the courts with hundreds of far right extremist district and appellate judges, not to mention SCOTUS. That issue in itself will require a huge effort to mitigate via a vast expansion of the number of federal judgeships to the system. That is, we’ll all be happy when Cheeto Mussolini is deposed and the GOP driven out almost entirely, and we’ll do what we can to sweep up, but we’ll also take note of the huge problems facing us, economically and environmentally, and “look forward.” There will be no other choice. Maybe Hillary will get an opportunity to piss on Trump’s grave. That would be satisfying for at least a moment. At least for me. (Anyone up for a Mar-a-Lago road trip in 2028 or so?). I’ll buy the beer.

    • Fmr. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says:

      >Like Germany in the 50’s, 60’s level stuff.

      I’m not sure if you’re saying “what they should have done” or “what they did”, but Germany made no sweeping attempts to prosecute Nazis after the allies were done with them, with the exception of a smattering of holocaust trials in the mid-60’s, around the time of the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial. Denazification was a failure on plenty of fronts, partially because the focus was on getting the country back up and running (as an economically successful bulwark against communism) and just about every single judge, mayor, CEO, police commissioner, or even civil servant had joined the Nazi party (naturally, if you asked after the war, they were “cajoled” and didn’t actually buy into it all that Nazi stuff). Too many people, like Gehlen, were considered too valuable to the national security and cold war concerns.

      No large-scale denazification occurred. But if you think that’s bad, you could look at how many people from the Stasi went to prison after the wall fell. (The answer is “three”.)

      • R says:

        This is correct. The English hung a lot of war criminals, however the Nazis still in typical German managerial jobs were left there, including CEOs. Like the German Coca-Cola CEO, the Nazi. These Nazis stole those jobs from people who weren’t Nazis. They should not have been left in place after the war, because they impeded efforts to catch their friends. You see how Patton is quoted as saying that they couldn’t get rid of the Nazis at lower levels because they were running the infrastructure, which is crap. There were plenty of people available to do that, even after the war. The Americans and English ran a good deal of German infrastructure for a while after the war on the Western side. They didn’t need Nazis for that.

  2. jaango says:

    Our nation has turned its back and toward the lack of a “decency personified.” And which is today’s jubilation that is ingrained in our toxic politics., or so I believe.

    However, I am a patron of the ‘long game’ as personified of the Chicano Movement, and thusly, the role of demographics, will be changing this current pathology and to a citizenship of “duty and responsibility” that empowers our fellow citizens for the next two or three generations.

    As such, need more be said?

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      “…the role of demographics, will be changing this current pathology and to a citizenship of duty and responsibility…”

      The new demographic political coalition can not happen until the new elements of that coalition are empowered politically at the ballot box across the country. This is not going to happen before fall of 2020 without great social and political confrontation and open conflict. This is the last battle of our 159 year old civil war and it’s not clear that the good guys are gunna win. Namaste patriot

      • Veronica says:

        We have to hope this is the ‘last battle’, but unfortunately there are humans who have very Conservative minds, and they need to consolidate like-minded humans around them so that they feel ‘safe’. On that score they ‘need’ also a scapegoat, so there will always be someone trying to restart up this garbage from history. I’m 79 now, a Brit of long-standing Liberal views, and I’m sorry to say there are young teens still “taking up the rage” of hatred & bigotry, and sometimes I wonder “how long oh Lord?” !!!

        • NorskieFlamethrower says:

          This “last battle” has been going on since Gettysburg and like Gettysburg the good guys are gunna need at least as much stupidity on the part of the enemy as the Confederates carried onto the field those days. And this time the “good guys” don’t have military superiority.

  3. Stephen says:

    This administration’s scope of corruption and disdain for the rule of law are indeed breathtaking, and the sooner it is all brought out into the sanitizing light of day and the various conspirators & other grifters removed from high office (preferably into federal penitentiaries) the better. I wonder, though, whether even this will restore the country to its former state. In a horrid way, America may have elected the president it deserves – a vain, blustering celebrity con, born to wealth and privilege, a bullying financial and sexual predator whose main claim to fame is fame itself. Is this what we have come to idolize? Well, I guess the first step is to get rid of the obvious, immediate infection. Then we can consider the underlying disease, if indeed it persists.

    My apologies if this does not really advance the discussion. Just needed to put it into writing. If bmaz or rayne deems it pointless & deletes, no hard feelings.

    • Badger Robert says:

      A significant part of the problem is due to TV. The images are incredibly superficial. The trend is only magnified by social media. Reading is a different experience, and reading a hard copy document makes that difference larger. Long format platforms are the best solution, like this one.

    • Ruthie says:

      First, it is (depressingly) all but certain that 2020 will be another close election. In the past week, I saw a poll that Trump’s approval rating was at 46%!!!!! Thus, “get(ting) rid of the obvious, immediate infection”, i.e. electing a new president, is unlikely to cure the “underlying disease”. The Republican party is admittedly less obviously corrupt than Trump and his administration, but it’s only a question of degree. After all, they have proven themselves perfectly willing to condone rampant criminality, both currently and historically – at least when the perpetrator is of their own party. It’s not an accident that every Republican administration in my 50+ years has had a major scandal involving abuse of power (I include HW Bush because he was involved up to his eyeballs in Iran Contra). Clinton was impeached for a consensual, although ethically problematic to say the least, act.

      I confess to being stumped as to just how we go about rectifying this problem. Even if the Democrats win the Presidency and a majority in the Senate, it remains to be seen how effectively they will push against the type of obstructionist policy we saw for 8 years. If they remove the filibuster and pass HR1 with 50 votes, what will happen in the courts, which have been flooded with Federalist Society members over the last 2 years – not to mention the Supreme Court. The outlook is grim, and I think we should be clear eyed about how much work and how long it will take to right the ship.

      • bmaz says:

        Excellent comment. I see you are back after having been with us under a different screen name long ago. That is fine, do stick with this one though please now. Your comments are valuable (and good!) so we want to make sure that everybody can identify them appropriately. And, again, welcome back!

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Journalists generally and TV news in particular are bad at providing context. Current MSM protocols relegate that job to the reader or viewer. Its mistaken belief is that much of “what it means” is opinion. The MSM should not provide it because having an opinion implies bias or taking sides. That, in turn, is anathema to the MSM, which prides itself on being disinterested, which is what it claims to be when it offers equally loud screeching heads from opposing perspectives.

      I think the position is false and entirely self-serving. Bias is wrong principally when it is not disclosed. When disclosed, it becomes another fact for the reader to consider. But like economists who claim that accurate forecasting is not their job (at least with regard to the Great Recession), the MSM contends that providing context is not its responsibility. IMHO, that position abdicates its responsibility.

      Coincidentally, the MSM’s position avoids pissing off powerful politicians and corporate sponsors: no more NPR being starved of funds for pissing off a Republican Congress, no more Walter Cronkites opining that the Vietnam war is lost, which was both accurate and a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

      As the CJR and top journalists would tell you, though, context is essential. Providing it is one reason this blog and its commentariat are so rare. Without context, isolated facts lack meaning and import, which is often what manufacturing consent requires.

      Comments here and elsewhere have repeatedly said of Trump and all his works, “This.Is.Not.Normal.” It isn’t. When a national newspaper starts a public count of a president’s daily and total lies, it is not normal. When everyone inside the Beltway cries out for “an adult” to be inside the room with Trump, lest he unleash Armageddon, it is not normal. When Cabinet officials insistently play Orwellian word games to avoid language like “children in cages,” and to avoid admitting it does not count how many children it has kidnapped from their parents (an international crime), it is not normal. When the FBI, which occupies a nearly sixty-year old building that is falling down around it, is told to stay put so as to avoid repurposing its valuable site for a use that might conflict with a Trump-leased hotel across the street, it is not normal.

      Once upon a time, any of those things would be a scandal which could lead to resignations or topple a government. Collectively, along with worse and obviously criminal behavior, we have what’s called the Trump Administration.

      • timbo says:

        Hmm. “Bias is wrong when it’s not disclosed” doesn’t seem to make any coherent sense if the only position one can hear is a biased position. That is, in an authoritarian dictatorship, there is only one disclosed position—the position of supporting the dictator’s whims. Stephan Colbert has a regular skit with “Tom Anchorton” and “Jill Newslady” that brings this into solid relief:

        https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1201042573373825

      • horses says:

        Which economists claim that economic forecasting is not their job? That statement does not at all resemble the economists I worked with when I was Ways and Means staff. Every briefing included an extended discussion of current economic forecasts because that was much of their job.

        I agree with the rest of your statement but that line isn’t sitting right with me.

    • Kokuanani says:

      I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the folks who currently say. “I finally understand how Nazi Germany could have happened,” as they view Fox tv and Trump’s base.

      I’ve been wondering if anyone has done any research or reporting on what happened to the “ordinary Germans” after Germany lost the war and full horror of Hitler was realized.

      I wonder if that could teach us anything about the Trump-supporting “ordinary Americans,” how to deal with them, and what we might expect.

      • moonbat says:

        I saw a documentary on the history channel a few years ago, that told the story of Hitler’s rise and fall from the German POV, using personal letters, contemporary magazine articles and so on as source material. Wish I could remember the name, it was one of the most amazing things I ever saw. To your question: when the Allies finally rolled into Germany, they were struck by the enormous number of mass suicides among the ordinary Germans, as the ;atter finally realized “it’s over”.

        • cat herder says:

          ‘Hitler’s People’, originally by SBS Australia, rebroadcast on one of the History/Discovery/Smithsonian channels, don’t remember which one.
          https://youtu.be/gHoWJyCMaG0

          Based on ‘Experiment in Germany. The Story of an American Intelligence Officer’, Saul Padover.

          • Bruce Olsen says:

            Thanks for the link. I just watched it (at 1.75x). It’s a great documentary.

            Although there are many (many, many) differences between German sympathizers on the one hand, and Trump supporters/the GOP on the other, it’s clear Trump is aiming to push many of the same buttons that Goebbels went for. It’s a graphic example of just how lucky we are that Trump is incompetent.

            • skua says:

              Perhaps the key point in the documentary is that democracy was seen as having failed by many Germans with a severe collapse of the economy by 1932.

              “Democracy”, you’ve probably noticed, is now a dirty word among many commenters on pro-Trump websites with the inane argument that “because the USA is a Republic, it is not a democracy” being sighted frequently.
              Democracy is also seen as having failed by those Americans who are anti-abortion-access.
              I’m thinking that a large portion of Trump’s voting supporters, and at least that portion that hated Obama, have seen American democracy as having failed for some time. And so they are open to other forms of government and also the debasement of democracy and responsible government that Trump presents naked/full-frontal.

              See also “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45” a book by Milton Mayers, first published in 1955.
              http://www.ethicsandculture.com/blog/2018/they-thought-they-were-free-a-review

        • timbo says:

          As the Russian armies approached, many Germans were well aware of the war crimes that had been committed in occupied Eastern Europe by the Nazi invasions and occupation, even if they failed to acknowledge them openly. The consequences of a failure to act against Nazi gangsterism in the early 1930s, and the subsequent barbarism that took hold of Germany’s elite and all classes of the rank and file under the Nazis, would finally be blatantly obvious by Germany’s utter defeat at the end of WWII…

          The ignorance of the consequences of willful ignorance has been growing in the US for decades…

      • dwfreeman says:

        Of course, this occurred. In fact, 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of German concentration camps by American troops in April 1945. Days after the April 11, 1945 liberation of the Buchenwald prison camp, residents of nearby Weimar were brought to the camp in their Sunday best and required to observe the emaciated bodies of prisoner corpses piled like cordwood and later photographed in a wagon outside the crematorium as surviving prisoners sitting at barrack tables in their striped prison clothes offered testimony of the horrifying conditions and inhuman treatment they endured.

        Most of the touring residents claimed to have no idea of the death camp’s purpose even as the widespread smoky evidence of its victims was plainly visible from miles away. This scene as well as many others like it, were captured in photos and newsreels of the day.

        • timbo says:

          “Hell was nearby but few were willing to wander by and peer in. Mentioning that one might be in Hell became frowned upon, eventually it was made illegal…”

      • Jockobadger says:

        @kokuanani – There has been an enormous amount of research done on Nazi Germany and the behavior of its population before, during and after the war. Especially wrt the psychology that was in play on the part of the German government, that government’s signaling (propaganda/Goebbels), and its affect on the populace. Numerous attempts have been made and it makes for fascinating reading. In my view there was really no such thing as an “ordinary German” just as there really isn’t an “ordinary American.” People are just incredibly complicated creatures – even the stupidest ones. The question is what motivates them?

        I believe that people respond almost entirely to their fears: economic, health, change, etc. Our government is now doing exactly what has been done in the past, including in Germany, and that is to signal to the population that their fears are justified. Propaganda. Fox News. People respond to that signaling in groups that have similar beliefs and the signaling serves to reinforce their beliefs no matter how nutty. At this point, there is a quite large fraction of our population that responds loudly to trump’s fear-mongering and he trades on that. I haven’t heard/read about how we are supposed to change that? Investigations and subpoenas only reinforce their fears/beliefs. “The Dems are going to rig and then steal the coming election!” He’s already said it.

        A while back Norskie suggested that we are headed for a violent end. I didn’t believe it then, but I’m afraid now that he/she might be right. I’m sort of prepared I guess. Jesus H Christ how did we get here and how do we gtfo? Namaste, but pass the ammunition?

        • Eureka says:

          Nice comment, JB.

          One thing I know about ‘how we are supposed to change that’ is that in-group members can positively influence other in-group members (by whatever classifications one might apply- sex gender race ethnicity class and so on), because they are less feared. It’s not the only way but it is one way well-known from research on persuasion, etc. And those are the main axes that FB, Fox, and the GOP & RU influence ops exploited or tried to mimic to stir this mess in the first place. And they continue to exploit and mimic those things.

          The stupid FB memes would not have had nearly the measure of effectiveness if people knew that GRU officers and exploitative CA & campaign ad programmers were creating and pushing them, instead of Americans and family and friends (tho the latter actually or seeming to ‘share’ them is part of the problem).

          Also people who seem different sharing things they have in common can reduce fear about other differences.

          Very simplified version and sounds trite, but part of the problem can also be part of the solution.

          So get out there and proselytize to your fellow geologists. (Start slow, ease into it maybe- we don’t want to lose you, lol.)

          • skua says:

            “… get out there and proselytize to your fellow … ”
            Anyone here got, or seen, accounts of this being done?
            I’d like to be better at this. (I’d like others to be better at it as well.)
            And reading about and watching those skilled at it would help.
            There is Daryl Davis who reached out to members of the KKK.The YT video starts slow. And then makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw0vS0qvYo0
            Have you got other examples of how this is done?
            Please share.

            • imaquiz says:

              I don’t want to discourage efforts to proselytize the fearful but I have been engaged in correspondence with someone of ordinary intelligence for more than 3 years whom I re-met after 50 years at a high school reunion and who I found as right-wing now as then, and just as friendly and approachable. I wanted to test whether in this exchange over time there would be any benefit to either of us in regard to fast-held beliefs and approaches to truth. Nothing made a dent. They have ears but do not hear. They have eyes but do not see. My energy is better spent educating people who are merely ignorant but open-minded to learn how to continue with self-education and inculcate skepticism and willingness to entertain the devil’s advocate to test even premises they tend to prefer on first encounter.

    • RisingDown says:

      I agree that, sadly, we may have elected the President we deserve in Trump. I keep coming back to the notion that those most harmed by Trump’s policies are often his base: white, middle-class, non-college educated and relying on jobs in agriculture, manufacture, mining, etc… not to mention those utilizing medicare and other government aid that this administration is actively trying to destroy.

      Thankfully, the shear breadth of investigations at play, as Marcy lays out better than anyone, give me hope that we are finally headed to a hashing out in the courts of not just Russian conspiracy, Trump’s likely serially-criminal business empire and efforts to obstruct justice, but also the larger matter of demonstrating the GOP’s disinterest in governing in a way that protects the interests of the American people.

      Until Trump’s base can truly grasp that the GOP has long since abandoned their own best interests, the electoral college and general state of gerrymander will continue to allow for monsters like Trump to take our highest office.

      Let’s just hope the judiciary is still in tact enough to serve its place as a check on these abuses. There are days when I wonder if we’re past that tipping point!

  4. Peterr says:

    We’ve been boiling frogs for several years here. But it’s time to take stock on the bottom line effect that Trump’s corruption has had on the country, and holding Republican enablers accountable for that damage.

    I agree. But I can already hear the replies of the GOP enablers: “Ooooooo! Hot tub time!”

    Laying out the details of the bottom line damage will be key. The spiral of denial goes like this: (1) I didn’t do anything wrong! (2) OK, I did it, but it wasn’t a crime (3) OK, I did it, and maybe it was illegal, but no one was harmed — look at how great the economy is going! . . .

    That’s not where this will end, though.

    The bottom line damage includes (a) destroying a reputation 70 years in the making for supporting our European allies against the USSR/Russia; (2) abdicating US leadership in the scientific community around climate change, disease-control, etc.; (3) forfeiting our moral voice when it comes to refugees; (4) etc.

    To put it in the terms of the business world, Trump has traded our intangible and valuable assets of “reputational goodwill” and the value of Brand US for a couple of fleeting personal photo-ops.

    • bie phiephus says:

      #4 in your denial spiral is, “OK it’s illegal and caused harm, but it was only the coffee boy that did it. Trump had nothing to do with it.”

      Of course the secret behind the whole thing and why the individual steps don’t really matter is the GOP’s fundamental response to Trump’s corruption and criminality is, “We’re cool with it as long as it’s our guy.”

      • CitizenCrone says:

        @bie phiephus
        I thought you were going to say: OK, it caused harm, but it was only the coffee boy that got hurt.

        That’s the message I get from R’s and their policies.

  5. KG says:

    The fact that Republicans in Congress were given many of these same pieces of evidence, and did NOTHING, after years of hounding Obama for his very real and repeatedly provided birth certificate, makes my blood boil.

    When we start taking stock of what will be impacted by Trump, we have to include the GOP and their future. I think they’ve forgotten that there *will* be a president after Trump, and all the actions they’ve taken under this Administration will not be explained away. Not if we can help it.

  6. CapeCodFisher says:

    The range and scope of these “alleged”crimes is hideous. I’ve been seeing some recent national banter about a RICO prosecution. How can it not be headed there? I’d love to see this website do an analysis of that. The fact that the president may be a Russian asset plus is corrupt and criminal on top of that is pretty much unimaginable. Isn’t it obvious to everyone that he is using the power of his office to conceal his crimes? The truly sad part is that he was not legitimately elected. Lost the popular vote and had Russian propaganda push him over (barely) the electoral college numbers that were required.

    • bmaz says:

      Jesus, again with the RICO crap.

      How can it not “be headed to RICO”? Easily. Smart people who actually practice law for a living see RICO as behind idiotic for this situation, come to their senses and dispense with that nonsense on the spot. Couple of points for you: RICO is extremely complex and both judges and jurors hate it. Many judges even have pre written standard questionnaires they issue to anybody stupid enough to file a RICO claim in their court.

      Secondly, RICO is literally designed for criminal organizations, not ones that happen to commit crimes, and yes there is a difference. And, again, it is very complicated, and easy to paint as ridiculous overreach, the last thing you want when going after the President, his family and businesses. In fact it would be arguably one of the dumbest moves imaginable.

      The FAR easier path is to simply charge the actual crimes (whether fraud or otherwise) and then tie it up with a good old conspiracy count. FAR easier to plead and to convict. Talking about RICO is for fools and suckers.

      • CapeCodFisher says:

        Well some of the banter I’ve seen about it is in fact from “people who actually practice law”. Whether smart or not, that I couldn’t tell you. But they seem to make a compelling case. After all, it does seem like the whole trump org is criminally corrupt. Years of crimes which fit the RICO requirements.

        • bmaz says:

          The individual crimes believed to have occurred may technically be possible “predicates” as contemplated by RICO, but it is absurd to say that such makes a RICO case or that they fit the “RICO requirements”.

          Who is the overall entity? Trump himself? No that is silly. The Trump Organization? Well that is not credibly a per se “criminal entity” and it does not magically become one because some crimes may have been committed over the years.

          Seriously, if you want to fuck this overall case up miserably, charge the idiotic RICO nonsense. The continued insistence by people that this is the way to go is truly stupefying.

          • CapeCodFisher says:

            Ok ok lol… I get your point. Charge each crime individually. Some others think RICO is the way to go because all the crimes could be attacked at one time, obviously with the trump org bookkeeper Weiselman as the key witness to the whole racketeering organization. But I’m not going to belabor the point with you because I’m sure you have better things to analyze. Anyway, thanks for your feedback. First time poster. I love the depth of this sites articles…

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Bmaz’s point is that the underlying crimes have to be proven to establish a RICO claim, which does not short circuit much. If anything, it makes it harder.

          • Rollo T says:

            I saw a RICO claim the other day in a rental dispute. Of course it was a pro per. Fell out of my chair laughing.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Knowing something to be true and proving it in court are different things. The smart people may be correct as a factual or political matter. The Trump Organization and its principal owners and subsidiaries may comprise a criminal enterprise. The observation might help frame the issue for the many. But it does not mean it would be an effective trial strategy.

          One thing is certain about any prosecution of Trump, his family and his businesses. It will be litigated to death because it would determine their existential survival. Repeated trips to the Supreme Court, repeated battles at federal and/or state appellate courts, would be routine.

          Completing that cycle against a man as ignorant, stubborn and brittle as Donald Trump would take many more years than he will be in office. Keep It Simple, Stupid, is the simplest and best rule for a successful prosecution.

        • William Bennett says:

          RICO-Lawwwwww….. It’s a stradgety, it’s a cough drop, it’s a stradgety AND a cough drop!

          Looks like we’ll all need to take turns posting this on every thread. My turn:
          https://www.popehat.com/2016/06/14/lawsplainer-its-not-rico-dammit/

          Basically explains why RICO is like saying we should open that bottle using this:
          https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2016/08/robotic-self-pouring-wine-machine-on-sale-for-25k/

          —when we already have one of these:
          https://www.webstaurantstore.com/t-style-wood-handled-stainless-steel-corkscrew/407WDW06768.html

            • bmaz says:

              Listen you freaking RICO troll, you can get the hell out of here. You are now citing absolute horseshit by a person that is not only not a lawyer, but is an Australian? Your ridiculous bullshit is tiring, and on the cusp of being total trolling. Seriously, stop with this crap. You seem to have a one track mind, and it is a stupid one.

              • CapeCodFisher says:

                Ok ok lol, I already said earlier I surrendered… jeese, my first day of commenting on a site that I really enjoy and I’m on the cusp of getting thrown out because I tried to discuss something? Look I don’t really care how the prosecution goes down, as long as it goes down, but really seems like it’s taking forever.. I’m kinda getting tired of these “lawyer games”… drain the swamp, that’s what he was elected on , so what’s the holdup?

            • daisyb says:

              CapeCodFisher (aka RICO troll):

              It might help you to devote some time to reading previous EW posts where RICO has been discussed.

              One of the points BMAZ has made – in this post’s comments and previously – is that at the get-go, RICO is very complicated. I get that this sounds elitist, but it’s a fact. The initial (messy) law has been further muddled by differing judicial interpretations in dozens of cases. (That is to say, that RICO case law is all over the map, even as pieces of it have been looked at by SCOTUS. ) Also, there have been changes to the RICO statutes since its original enactment.

              IANAL, but I am a “primary source” person. I am not an inexperienced reader of legal text. And I am surrounded by lawyers that I pester with questions.

              Several days ago, I started reading the DOJ official RICO manual. As I write this, after devoting slightly over 24 (non-contiguous) hours to the DOJ RICO guidelines, I am about 1/3rd of the way through the 500+pages of DOJ R&R. Of course, there are portions you can skim through (not pertinent to Trump) but there are many cited cases that require looking up and reading. Slugging my way through this one has given new meaning to MEGO (my eyes glaze over). (I have found myself missing reading Scalia at his most mendacious.)

              The salient point I have learned from BMAZ re RICO is that the only people who should be discussing it are those who have significant experience prosecuting RICO cases. Please see BMAZ commentary on this in various previous posts. RICO is too much of a mess to pull together into a cohesive and comprehensible whole for non-lawyers, and frankly, even for some of the most experienced lawyers as well.

              I have read, as you have, some RICO experienced lawyers in the lame-stream-media discussing chasing Trump via RICO. But because the statutes are so complex and layered, I have not seen anyone make a good case for a Trump RICO prosecution in the few hundred words of a typical news story. It can’t be done.

              Here’s a link to the DOJ RICO guidelines if you are interested https://www.justice.gov/usam/file/870856/download

              In the mean time, take BMAZ at his (experienced ) word.

              • Rowboat says:

                @daisyb. Thank you! for taking time to reply to CapeCodFisher in his/her willful ignorance, but also to do the tedious homework of actually reading DOJ RICO guidelines, using your knowledge to affirm the ‘wisdom of bmaz’.

                • CapeCodFisher says:

                  Willful ignorance? I read what I can. Certainly not the doj manual. I was lead to believe from a couple of articles that it was feasible. I would hardly call that willful ignorance. Still not entirely convinced that it isn’t, but I’m certainly not going to push that point here, on this site any longer. Daisyb makes some good points. Jury is still out on bmaz…

              • CapeCodFisher says:

                Thanks Daisyb. Nice write up. Thats incredible that you read the doj Rico manual. You sound completely sensible. Bmaz sounds angry and unhinged. IANAL either but It sure doesn’t stop me or anyone else from knowing wrong from right. Thanks again Daisyb for taking time to write. You are much appreciated.

                  • CapeCodFisher says:

                    Oh please, understands the complexities? Next time try explaining your pov in a calm manner if you would please. I use this site because I have a great deal of respect for the lead writer and the incredible insight that she has and the research and effort that she puts forth. Thank you

                    • bmaz says:

                      Yeah? “Oh please” get your head out of your ass. And screw you. You have done nothing but troll ignorance here repetitively. That is your record, and you have earned every iota of it. You have been here exactly one day, and are completely full of shit. So, “oh please” right back at you, clown.

      • Cicero101 says:

        Thanks for detailing here and at 12.07pm some of the problems in using RICO. It’s really helpful for those of us not familiar with it.

  7. Badger Robert says:

    Wasn’t most of this a direct result of Newt Gingrich, which went a long way towards turning the Republican Party into a southerners party, which is what some people in the south have always wanted?
    The country was divided in 1932 and without an intervention, a fascist v populist split was impending. We are that point again.
    The immense amount of dirty voter suppression is the first thing that will have to be addressed. Are there enough clean states left to save the small “d” democracy?

    • William Bennett says:

      Well… the process of turning the Party of Lincoln into the Party of the Neo-Confederacy is usually credited to the Nixon campaign, though it took until Individual-1 to complete the takeover. While he certainly may have added some impetus to that transformation, I think Newt’s particular contribution was that he really created the strategy of treating the political opposition as not just a different p.o.v., but as illegitimate. The other side are enemies, not just opponents, and any compromise with them is a failure.

      Though to be sure, that’s pretty inextricable from the “southern-ification” of the party, since it perfectly fits Lincoln’s description of the Confederates in the Cooper Union Speech: “Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.”

      • Badger Robert says:

        Thanks for the response.
        And the process became: generate close elections and knock as many people as possible off the voter registration lists and create a torrent of negative news.
        And Democrats have adopted the same techniques with the primary system.
        TV and passive media make it pretty easy.

  8. fpo says:

    I’d like to think that some measure of accountability was assigned by voters with the midterm elections – which might indicate an appreciation for at least some of the damage done by this administration.

    If the Ds can stay out of their own way, the sheer magnitude of the corruption – notwithstanding a formidable misguided/misinformed propaganda campaign – will be impossible to ignore in 2020.

    And you know there will be more ‘children in cages’ moments for this crowd. It’s who they’ve become, sadly.

    [edited per later, now deleted comment]

  9. Hops says:

    One of the most chilling things Trump said ahead of the election was he would only lose if it was rigged, “but the second amendment people, they might do something.”

    This could get a whole lot worse.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Yes, he definitely stirred up the basest of hornets’ nests. Nauseatingly ugly and frighteningly effective.

    • JessP says:

      At the time, I believed this was arguably seditious speech. I still do, and the idea that Trump might fight a peaceful transition of power after he loses the next election is certainly related.

      • So_n_so says:

        Cohen noted in his public testimony (only 10 days ago) that he believed Trump might not transition to a new President peacefully. To me, this was one of the biggest bombshells and it received almost no notice in the “MSM”.

  10. Robert Britton says:

    There was a Wuerker cartoon on Politico a while back. It showed a map of the US with the mouth of Trump coming up out of the ground, spewing filth everywhere, covering and sliming the entire country with vile filth.

    We have been overwhelmed with so much unbelievable norm-breaking, law-breaking, NEWS BREAKING! stories of Trump and what he’s done over the past two plus years that we have become inundated to it. Boiled frog.

    But it’s also more than that.

    I hate to admit it, but I wonder how many people like me have frankly just about completely given up. IANAL, but there’s so much clear corruption, fraud, criminality, conduct unbecoming, and yes, treason, completed by this EVIL man and his family and his mob bosses. For me, this is more than just Trump: It’s Lindsay Graham, Nunes, Chaffetz, Jordan, McConnell, and so many others who do NOTHING but embrace the evil and propagate it.

    And yet articles of impeachment are not yet introduced, nor even a censure, on the floor of the house.

    The MEDIA is just as complicit. For years now, to this day, they reprint and re-run his every tweet, his every soundbite, his every hateful video clip, giving off mock indignation…all to tap into the ability for the media to pick up a few clicks, likes and views, to sell a few more papers and subscriptions, and to benefit from the Trump’s shit-show.

    And even deeper, damage is being done deep to the heart of America, our allies, global partners, as his policies and actions have undermined not just American democracy, but markets, foreign policy, even helping and aiding Russia for their efforts to destabilize the West. (Putin has done a FANTASTIC job, IMHO, and is unbelievably successful in this to date).

    Each and every day, I try to do my duty as a citizen, to be informed by fact, to be active in supporting democracy as I can. I’ve been out fighting the fight as I can. But I am just a tiny microbe on the ass of a flea on the ass of dog.

    But yesterday, this past week, I feel completely hopeless. There is no amount of criminality, fraud, immoral behavior, treason, conduct unbecoming, that will cause anyone in the GOP to split from Trump in any way and honor their oaths as government workers and their pledges as citizens as being faithful and loyal to OUR COUNTRY AND OUR DEMOCRACY! It sickens me to see that even as early as this week, since the Cohen testimony, that Trump’s approval rating has gone up 3 %!!!!! UN-fricken-believable!

    What the hell is wrong with our country and our people?!

    I can’t take it any more. The House, while trying to exercise their duty, tip toes around impeachment because they know the Senate GOP will never convict. Numerous experts (Laurence Tribe et al) have said that the DOJ standing policy to not indict a sitting president is NOT constitutional. And yet here we are, today, with clear evidence of fraud, crime, criminality, and we are still looking for a silver bullet, but will never *INDICT* either.

    Let me tell you: I think there is NO bullet that will take down Trump. The full unleashing of his state media (Fox) propaganda network spreading the Trump kool-aid to the masses, the complicity of the GOP in Congress…and even the enabling and pure opportunism by the media and businesses today has turned our country in to a clown show. More than that, I don’t have any hope OR faith anymore that they will get him. I am full of so much despair. I reek of despair. I did not serve in the USN for this. I still honor my oath to protect and defend against enemies foreign and domestic.

    But I don’t have any strength left to fight anymore. I am literally sick to my stomach 24 x 7, full of despair and hopelessness. I can’t sleep. It’s eating me away.

    My America was never pure. It was never without fault. I am not that idealistic in thinking we were ever as great as we believed we were. Yes, we have as a nation done so many great things.

    But we are a shadow of our former selves. In < 2 years, we have practically been overcome.

    But to wake up and to see the reality of my country today, covered and deeply saturated with filth, hate, bigotry…it's more than I am able to cope with.

    And at the center of it is MORE than just Trump. It's deeply rooted, a vile cancer that reaches deep.

    My heart is so broken and I despair.

    • KG says:

      You know who hasn’t given up, though? The Congressional Democrats. They are launching investigation after investigation and are hiring experts, including prosecutors.

      The wheels of bureaucracy turn slow, but bureaucracy and paperwork is the bane of grifters and criminals. That’s how we got Capone, Nixon, and others. Don’t lose faith; all the recent polls are showing majority of Americans know he’s a liar and a criminal.

    • General Sternwood says:

      Robert, I wrestle with this, too. In my opinion, the reason you shouldn’t despair completely lies in your penultimate sentence: it is a “vile cancer that reaches deep.” While Trump is a unique president, in terms of the system, many of the anti-democratic, racist, and anti-government tendencies that he epitomizes have been growing for decades. With Trump, it is clear these tendencies have metastasized, and a radical cure is needed. Trump gives the gerrymandering and lack of campaign finance reform, the corporate attacks on evidence-based regulation, the casual backroom discrimination, all of it — a name and an ugly pink, self-satisfied face. So no matter how satisfying it would be, it shouldn’t just be a matter of taking Trump down, and if this happens too quickly or without thorough investigation, the cure will be inadequate. Our best chance at survival is if there is a robust immune response, one that doesn’t just attack the symptom but the underlying causes.

      I am not confident that will happen, but there are positive signs. But I think that your acknowledgment that this is the outcome of longstanding causes is the best counter to your dissatisfaction that Trump is not out yet. It isn’t enough that the one man be out of office (after all, in eight years Fox might be pushing Lynne Cheney to run!)

      • BobCon says:

        Another thing to remember is that the bad guys want the good guys to lose hope, which is a sign that they don’t think they can win straight out.

        A constant theme of Russian (and right wing) trolling has been both sides are the same, nothing matters, why bother. If they had more compelling arguments that could generate a true majority, they would use them. They don’t want to be scrapping for chronic gerrymander fueled wins.

        They want crushing wins, but because they can’t get them, they’ll resort to whatever nibbling they can get, and hope liberals forget how to count.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      This is fucking gross period.

      I agree.
      The assault on the rule of law in Italy and Germany was no different. It started with just a little then it went viral.

      A fair comparison might be Il Duce.

      The Dictators Playbook Benito Mussolini ?

      Lots of boiled frogs and darkness Aye?

      “L’Chaim?”

      Not with these fuck-ups. Me thinks face plants in historical pig’s shit..

      You R CORRECT

    • Ollie says:

      “But I don’t have any strength left to fight anymore. I am literally sick to my stomach 24 x 7, full of despair and hopelessness. I can’t sleep. It’s eating me away.” STOP IT! Right now, take a deep breath and let me share some empathy. I’ve battled depression my whole damn life and now? It’s almost unbearable. That’s why I can say, w/100% truth, you are in the right place. Here? You’ll find excellent reporting w/FACTS. What gives depression a good ole sock in the kisser? Truth. Trust. Honesty. Sometimes that comes in very nasty, sickening, intestine blood intense smell….but it has to be fought. I’m 70 this month. I got SO fricking over whelmed w/all of it? I grabbed a homemade sign…wrapped warm (it was the Parkland shooting protest so winter) and me and my walker hiked to the nearest main crossroads in town and I stood/sat on my walker w/the sign held smack in front of my face and I fucking balled like a baby. I was filled w/hopelessness and I was embarrassed to be out exposed to the people of my town, my state, my country w/a message that too many adamantly oppose. I’ve gotten ‘plump’, I’m old, lol………and I do not like people.

      Well let me tell you true: A strange couple, man/woman/ stopped by and brought me a hot chocolate and a hug. I stopped crying. Another woman an hour later brought me a tea and I knew her from years ago. I started laughing. By the end of that visit? I was wavying, yelling…..and smiling till it hurt.

      Come here to get the latest in FACTS. Come here to enjoy bmaz tell it like it is when need be….and it’s NOT PERSONAL! He cares, a lot. Many, many others here do to.

      Go out and hold a stupid sign and when you can? Poke that strong, level head and kind person out there and let us all give you hope. It’s one for all at this point. This might me the last times to bring our sick Republic to health. Gotta go. My medical ride is here. (((HUGS)))!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Cathy says:

        Indeed. Just as the WaPo in the 1970s asserted the right to publish by publishing, we can assert *our* First Amendment right to assemble by assembling; and it’s a *great* antidote to the despair sown by the cable news channels. Highly recommended.

      • Jenny says:

        I totally agree with Ollie. Robert you can turn this around. It is about creating a new perspective. Refuse to go to the dark side.

        As a sexual abuse survivor, I was extremely depressed Trump was elected. I participated in the 2017 Women’s March wearing my pink pussy hat. An uplifting and positive ACTION to express my beliefs. Kavanaugh hearing brought back some buried memories. I took ACTION by sending Dr. Christine Ford cards and letters of support. With the federal government shutdown, I called representatives stating “closing the government only hurts government employees and their families.” It is in the ACTION that will actualize your beliefs.

        My friend was devastated and depressed by the government shutdown. I suggested she consider taking ACTION. She did. Her new attitude changed her life. Now she has her representatives on speed dial.

        Life is a choice. Choose to redirect negative energy into positive energy because positive energy promotes positive results. Stand up for the children, for clear air and water, better health care and more. Stand up for equality for ALL.

        Get active, take ACTION. Put your energy into helping others, by speaking and standing up for what you believe in. Change starts with the self.

    • Callender says:

      What Robert Britton said. In spades. It looks to me like we’re doomed. However it ends it won’t be pretty.

      Secondly, I might suggest that bmaz just comment “slowly I turned” from now on whenever RICO gets mentioned. “RICO” is as much a trigger term for bmaz as “Niagara Falls” was for Moe.

      • bmaz says:

        I have not “turned”. Not one iota. I have always said RICO talk is stupid, and still so maintain. But I have the experience of having pled RICO in civil cases (I was dumb when a young lawyer. It felt good, but NEVER worked for shit. In fact it was always detrimental) and defended against it in criminal cases. Defense lawyers salivate at a RICO charge like angry pihranas because it is an easy way to discredit and mock the entire underlying charges. You want to make a mockery of a case against Trump, then make it about RICO instead of common crimes and conspiracy thereon.

        • Tech Support says:

          No no, Callender is referring to an ancient Abbot & Costello routine (though it looks like they are crediting it to the Three Stooges).

          https://youtu.be/JuMpcSTlB70

          The implication is that when you hear “RICO” you respond the way the hobo in the sketch reacts to “Niagra Falls.”*

          *Proudly draining the funny out of jokes by explaining them for over twenty years.

          • Greenhouse says:

            Holy shit, thank u Tech! You just taught how to embed a link without all the tracking info and it worked…finally!!!

    • roberts robot double says:

      >> What the hell is wrong with our country and our people?!

      They have abandoned compassion by making competition for money and pleasure the basis for their lives. This applies to both poor and rich alike. In doing so they have divided themselves into warring parties like ideological mammals.

      All our technology and media are vapid distractions from both the environmental disasters we wantonly plague our Earth with each day and the societal disasters our “by the wealthy for the wealthy” laws and enforcers heap upon our forgotten poor, especially those of non-European ancestry.

      This is precisely what the Founding Fathers designed: by the wealthy white for the wealthy white where poors of any race are beaten, killed, enslaved or imprisoned with utter impunity. That they crafted actually fantastic ideals in the midst of their evil ignorance is nothing less than a Miracle of God.

      >> My heart is so broken and I despair.

      I’m sorry, my friend. You must connect with our Creator for your strength. Happiness is the result of how you treat others. Sell your Goddamned TV and give the money to charity. Sell your jewelry, heirlooms. Never drink alcohol again. Give *ALL* that money to charity. Buy some homeless people some clothes or food. In these acts you will find a measure of happiness.

      To gain the strength to fight, however, you need to go within and connect to our Creator. All world societies are failing to live according to the universal love we are commanded by our Creator to become consumed with for *ALL* — I mean *ALL* — our fellow human beings.

      The people who control this world and the vast majority of its resources work in direct opposition to this universal love; that is why they sow enmity, hatred, greed and jealousy among others while callously oppressing them for their own selfish gain. As well, most regular people either decry religion as bullshit or only participate in religion for group membership perks. Religion is *ALWAYS* about a personal relationship with our Creator for the selfless purpose of serving those around us. *ALWAYS!* Anything else is bullshit.

      We must rise up first within ourselves by connecting to the Creator of all that has ever existed and all that ever will. It is beyond our comprehension yet has created us to have a conduit to it from within our being. Close your eyes and beg It from your despair for help to first become a force for good upon this Earth in whatever small way your means allow you to. You will become part of an organization that becomes the lever that moves this entire world, where we all move in concert across all contrived barriers such as form of religion, ethnicity and sexual preference or identity.

      We need you, my friend. You are loved. You must learn to fight against the lies that are spoken into your own inner world by the enemy of man before you can become a part of the Army of Light that defends the innocent from the liars and oppressors of this world.

      Beg our Creator to take your Spirit back into Itself while you live that you may become consumed by love for *ALL* human beings and the Earth itself. Close your eyes and make that prayer with all your heart and your life will change. I have done it; the joy I experience daily is immeasurable even though I am deeply troubled by the vast evil and ignorance of the world’s peoples. This is beyond any one form of religion for it is the foundation and essense of *ALL* religion. All else is secondary.

      Go within and find the strength that the Greatest American of All-time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. summoned daily to lasting glory. We must make that great man’s Dream a Vision that can become our Reality. “On Earth as it is in Heaven.”

      Peace be with you, my friend.

      “The Way goes in.” –Rumi

    • Justlp says:

      @Robert Britton – I can SO relate to what you say. I spent the first few months after the election not being able to sleep through the night – waking up at 4 am every night and not being able to go back to sleep for worrying about what was happening to our country. It’s happened since then on a fairly regular basis when the news gets particularly bad…

      As the other people replying to your post are saying – we must not give up – we need to take back our country. It’s not going to be easy with the way the Mercers and Kochs have insinuated their views into the fabric of our democracy through gerrymandering, voter suppression, judicial appointments (and lawless refusal to seat a Supreme Court judge), Fox “news”/propaganda and just plain disregard for the rule of law. The republicans in congress seem to have no shame in their pandering to the malignant narcissist in the WH. It still makes me sick too, to tell you the truth. But we can’t give up! Thanks all, for the reminders that we CAN do things that make a difference.

      This blog has been a lifeline for me. Knowing that there are other smart people out there who care deeply and can help make sense of the firehose of BS that we are dealing with on a daily basis gives me hope. I second (or 100th or whatever ;) the Pulitzer Prize idea. What do we need to do to make it happen? I’m all in to help however I can.

    • Anne says:

      Thank you for your heartfelt “De Profundis Clamavi” which brought in mind this:
      Psalm 130 A song of ascents.
      1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
      2 Lord, hear my voice.
      Let your ears be attentive
      to my cry for mercy.

      3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
      Lord, who could stand?
      4 But with you there is forgiveness,
      so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

      5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
      and in his word I put my hope.
      6 I wait for the Lord
      more than watchmen wait for the morning,
      more than watchmen wait for the morning.

      7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
      for with the Lord is unfailing love
      and with him is full redemption.
      8 He himself will redeem Israel
      from all their sins.

      Sin? Whose? The GOP? We must begin by recognizing that we let this happen. It took years, but WE let it happen. Now we must begin the long climb to something normal. Redemption.

      • roberts robot double says:

        Thank you for that passage.

        Yes, forgiveness is always readily available but is only possible after one has humbly admitted their mistakes. Until then, our Lord allows us to ignore the truth for the simple fact that our free will is sacrosanct, meaning we have no compunction at all to use our moral compass. It is, like all things human, all up to us via the choices we make.

      • Robert Britton says:

        Thanks. I needed this reminder. While I have been despairing, it has been somewhat helpful to know that democracy is stirring. We are as you say all responsible for this.

        But I think I need to let go a bit for my own health…not in abdicating my civic duty but in unplugging. It is too overwhelming 24×7.

    • horses says:

      Depression lies to you. You don’t have to listen.

      I’ve found that rage and appreciating life are good medicine. If they don’t work, ask a doctor.

      I wish you peace. Don’t ever think that you’re alone.

    • CitizenCrone says:

      @Robert Britton
      Yes, it is overwhelming. And it’s not just the egregious lies and corruption and willful ignorance that we see every day. It’s the implications for our democracy –and for the world. (Think journalists, think bloggers and activists in authoritarian states, think economic and political refugees, think of the poor and disabled, think of Muslims in China.)

      The enormity of this moment IS overwhelming.

      But then I see the Parkland kids, the orgs that monitor the administration’s every action and respond with litigation, the countless pop-up protests in response to the countless assaults on our norms and laws, and people like Ollie (above).

      Our democracy is working, however slowly. And our elected leaders will either realize they are vertebrates or they will be gone.

      And we, you and I, WILL break from the news and get out for a walk and some fresh air. Spring is right around the corner (even here in Charlottesville!)

  11. bie phiephus says:

    BTW, does anyone know if Mueller’s grand jury is meeting today? Tomorrow would be a good day for indictments. (Especially given that, according to the MSM’s recent pronouncements, the entire Mueller report was supposed to be done by now.)

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      The CNN grand jury watchers haven’t reported anything since the “packing boxes” report in late February, which also said the last grand jury meeting was on January 24 to approve the charges against Stone. But as @Popehat noted, that could mean the GJ has changed its location to avoid the kind of media scavenger hunt that surrounded Stone’s arrest. Or not.

      Aside from the DC gossip, it’ll be marginally interesting to see who represents the special counsel at the EDVA sentencing. Jeannie Rhee got involved after the plea and during the sentencing process, but she wasn’t part of the trial team.

  12. Peacerme says:

    It seems more and more clear that keeping freedom from tyranny is much easier than fighting to get freedom back again. Power and control contains within it, the ability to erase memory. To make the information we need to save ourselves “invisible”. It reminds me of the old movie “Men in Black”. The use of invalidation is a powerful tool. Every time we get a swell of energy going, it gets deflated and crushed by the sheer invalidation of it. And nothing is more toxic than when we begin to doubt our own eyes and replace it with the eyes of “dear leader”. The powerlessness is deafening. “I’ve given up”, “It makes me so upset I quit paying attention”, “there’s no such thing as truth anyway”, “there’s nothing we can do”. That’s the whole ball game. Cohen words that trump will not go away in 2020, feels too valid for me. We’ve been faking equanimity for so long, and truth has shown up to collect on the bill. There must be a power play to overcome trump. It doesn’t matter what crimes he committed at this point. What matters is stopping him. The equivalent of shutting the heat off the stove. The truth is that he has the power. He has been able to continue to do whatever he pleases and “we the people”, even though we are the majority, are unable to influence him, stop him, or decrease his power. That is a democracy already flipped on its head. The water is boiling right the F now! Children are being trafficked by our government and kept in cages and “we the people” remain unable to stop it. We need a serious plan to over throw this dictator. He was NOT elected. He was NOT chosen. And we need to make our actions commiserate with this truth. Until we do, we boil.

    • roberts robot double says:

      You are truly the only one around here (besides myself) that truly gets it. Compassionate empathy is the gate we must each walk through to be able to actually see, hear and comprehend this world and its peoples’ motives clearly. By having opened your mind and heart to love you have gained the understanding of the depths of depravity we are dealing with here in America, and the simple fact that Trump is merely the tiniest tip of the iceberg, albeit a particularly ugly, obvious and emblematic one.

  13. BobCon says:

    On the press angle, I’ll repeat a point I’ve made before.

    Reporters by their nature are fairly narrowly focused. They’ll have a beat that looks at a limited set of issues, such as David Fahrenthold, who did dynamite work on the Trump Foundation.

    Where the press has fallen down is at the top editorial level, who have continued to treat Trump’s criminal activity as a scattershot phenomenon, and have refused establish a unified command post responsible for a dedicated team of reporters.

    There is no institutional sense that this is a unified problem, despite the fact that everything leads back to Trump. As a result, they print and broadcast endless drips and drops, ignoring the giant, growing pool underneath.

    It was obvious going back to 2016 that there was going to be a need for a comprehensive, consistent approach to reporting on Trump, but the top management still thinks that we are dealing with a classic presidency with competing interests and checks and balances and underlying good faith. They have no framework for reporting on anything else, and they’re not interested in creating one.

    • Ruthie says:

      It would be great to have a visual of the various threads and how they tie together. I’m imagining “TRUMP” at the top, with a giant tree expanding below it. Each separate branch would contain a link so that particular issue could be seen in greater detail. The whole would likely be too large to take in its entirety, and maybe seeing that would convey the enormity of the problem more easily than words.

      • BobCon says:

        They certainly exist — this is one the Washington Post did last year, for example.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/03/28/the-web-of-connections-between-trump-and-putin-visualized/

        The problem is that there is no attempt by the media to connect ongoing reporting with the bigger picture they occasionally draw.

        So for example, the latest denial by Trump gets reported as a simple statement, when truthfully it should be framed as the latest retreat made necessary by further revelations.

        Reporters will focus on their narrow beats as long as editors fail to establish the necessity of a coherent narrative.

        • Ruthie says:

          I did perform a cursory google search before posting. Although there are various examples, none that I saw approached the level of complexity, never mind interactivity, that I was imagining. It should look overwhelming, even before you start drilling down into the details within the links. Alas, I don’t think I have the ability to execute what I’m imagining.

          • RWood says:

            If the ‘tree’ is too much to ask for perhaps a simple timeline, one similar to that which our host provided in her latest concerning the Cohen lawsuit, would be the next best thing.

            (I keep wishing for one to appear in the timeline collection, but understand the work involved in such a creation)

            Still, one can wish.

          • Justlp says:

            @Ruthie – someone in the last few days here (can’t remember who or where) posted a link to this page – which I believe comes close to what you are looking for. It’s a great visualization that shows links to all the players and how connected they are to each other. If you click on a dot – it brings up the related news to that connection. It’s huge – much bigger than can be displayed on anything but a GIGANTIC screen, I would guess.
            https://fathom.info/porfiry/

            oh, and BTW – that’s JUST the Mueller Investigation…

      • rip says:

        I like that idea of a visual. emtpywheel has been doing a great job of providing the nodes, branches, twigs, and timelines.

        I would also suggest that we don’t assume trumpf is at the top node. I would hazard a guess that he is a two-bit player in a much larger game.

  14. Fran of the North says:

    Part of the problem is that the scope of trespasses is so broad. We have the comical like comparing the sizes of ‘nuclear buttons’, trivial abuses of language and decency, financial crimes of all sorts, and the attempts to change the course of the union, both constitutionally (via judicial nominations) and unconstitutionally.

    The Axios article leads with a salacious charge, which is still potentially a crime, but serves to distract rather than illuminate. Just like the Steele Dossier titillates the masses, but allows defenders to obfuscate and misdirect, so to do the myriad of minor crimes.

    Most Americans can’t or won’t be bothered enough to follow the twists of important charges. So they evaluate the minor charges and impute the results to the major cases.

    “So what if Trump was trying to keep an affair private. He was trying to respect his family. That other stuff they are talking about with Russia was probably just business.”

    The challenge for main stream journalists is that today none of this fits into a soundbite. And the longer you talk (or write) the fewer people will stick with you.

  15. Cathy says:

    The splintering of news media amongst the multiple platforms recently available has given rise to many voices that previously would lack an audience. We’re still searching for a way to harness this diversity, use it to power forward toward goals founded on public consensus.

    Trump’s gift for seeding chaos is his best defense against a consensus-building dependent on strong narratives of common belief. Is his modus of predation the price of the diversity?

    Hopefully endeavors such as the House investigations will provide strong calls that can pierce the cacophony and provide a basis for mimicry and murmuration. It’s a delicate dance on the wing, coordinating the efforts of so many whose sometimes narrow goals have only modest overlap.

    This little bird intends to stay informed and share views and expectations with congresscritters. Especially those that favor ducking under brambles. ;-)

  16. John boy says:

    A business man who ran a business of serial bankruptcies leads our country to moral bankruptcy.

    • P J Evans says:

      The people who voted for him need to check the balance on their own morals – they’re running close to, if not already bankrupt (as many of their “leaders” are).

      • John boy says:

        The trouble with being a citizen is that we’re all in the same “sinking boat” and we’ve already had one horrible civil war.

  17. AitchD says:

    Supposing the NSA et al. have something like virtual on-demand omniscience, would the Joint Chiefs have access to that?

  18. JamesJoyce says:

    Il Duce was no different folks…

    Me
    Myself and I

    It is called fascism in living color….

  19. Drew says:

    One of the problems in handling Trump is that we are often fooled by his grandiosity into thinking that he is something other than small-time in his essential aims and methods. This is of course complicated by the fact that his patron, V. Putin is perhaps a bit more complex, as someone with actual geopolitical goals accompanying his gangsterism.

    This opinion piece in the NY Times discusses Trump’s grand scandal in terms of RICO:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/04/opinion/rudy-giuliani-trump.html

    I have no interest in debating the advisability of prosecuting under RICO, or even whether Trump and his eponymous Organization are guilty under the RICO statute. However, as Graff points out, there are plenty of resonances between what Cohen describes and what has been pretty obvious to most of us before he testified, and the behavior of organized criminals. Choosing, keeping and promoting those persons who will read the bosses intentions without forcing the boss to describe the crimes they are to commit, etc. Most of the stuff of Trump’s decades of grift is relatively small time–pushing around vendors & creditors, selling stuff for cash and not exactly reporting it correctly, lying–and lying and lying–so that everyone shrugs and no one takes him seriously. Of course, these are small time, but inheriting his father’s empire meant that Donald could do this with big numbers. In some sense, his criminality is his own frog in the cook pot life–a little grift, a little graft, and it doesn’t feel much different than the bodega owner putting some cash sales into a separate drawer of unreported revenue (as many, if not most do). Eventually Donnie is perpetrating fraud on the level of tens of millions or hundreds of millions-and selling a few apartments for cash doesn’t feel any different than turning over U.S. foreign policy to Putin for a lucrative contract for a building in Moscow.

    So, it may not be RICO, but there’s nothing truly grand in all of Trump’s machinations, there will be no treason smoking gun, it’s all just grift–and every agent will be a “coffee boy” operating on his own, because Trump hires only coffee boys whose job is to deliver the boss’s desires, which are big numbers and flashy things.

    • daisyb says:

      The Times piece is a spun-out fantasy which primarily discusses how Giuliani went after mobsters.

      Another RICO opinion from American Progress, (which runs 66 pages), sums up this way: “there is enormous difference between being able to make a RICO case and a prosecutor, particularly a special counsel investigating a sitting president, deciding that it is in the best interests of justice to do so. That caution is both understandable and merited, and both former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney, argued recently that the special counsel will face a high bar in bringing criminal charges regarding his probe of Trump and the Russians. Tackling the case, or cases, involved in the Trump probe as a RICO case could lead to a sprawling prosecution where the special counsel is not only required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any specific criminal charges that he decides to bring, but also to make an equally persuasive case that these criminal actions are parts of a larger ongoing criminal enterprise.”

      Voila, for those who need to get their RICO buzz on:

      https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/reports/2017/12/07/443833/donald-trump-criminal-conspiracy-law/

  20. William Bennett says:

    “Republican enablers” vs “Republicans” — a redundant modifier? At this point they are ALL enablers, even the ones who have not actively supported but stood by. Even the ones who have made feckless gestures toward resistance but have always every one of ’em rolled over when it actually counted for something. Even the rank and file who have done nothing to bring any heat on the leadership. They ALL bear the taint.

    This. Is. On. Them.

    • bie phiephus says:

      Certainly all republicans are Trump enablers, but all are Trump enablers republican?

  21. earlofhuntingdon says:

    An exhilarating contrast to the neo-Gilded Age vicious selfishness of TrumpWorld is this simple decision by the Dutch national museum for ethnography. [https://nltimes.nl/2019/03/07/dutch-museum-ethnology-give-back-art-stolen-cultures] It holds some 375,000 objects, many of them acquired during the period of Dutch colonial control of what is now Indonesia. The museum has unilaterally decided to return some of its collection to their countries of origin:

    “The Netherlands’ national museum for world cultures NMVW will generously return art taken through colonial theft to their countries of origin. The museum will not wait for claims, but is actively searching its own collections for objects that qualify for restitution.”

    Somewhat optimistically, the museum’s director, “expects that this approach will eventually be adopted throughout the museum world.” The British Museum may not be the first to follow suit, much to the Greeks’ chagrin, but perhaps the US could give its current ambassador to the Netherlands, Dutch emigre to the US, Pete Hoekstra, back to the Dutch. He’s an ancient, regressive artifact if ever there was one.

  22. BobCon says:

    @bmaz

    Do you have a good example of how to think about this? For example, would Enron work? The prosecution for Medicare fraud of Rick Scott’s company? Something else?

    I think a big reason RICO keeps coming up is that people lack good examples of major white collar prosecutions, so we don’t have a good frame of reference for how prosecutors might work on Trump and his company.

    • Areader2019 says:

      RICO keeps coming up because it was also featured in Batman, and a lot of people get their knowledge of the legal system from movies and TV. Haha.

      Me too, but I do wish journalists who write about it would do more research than old episodes of Scooby Do.

    • bmaz says:

      No, not really. Even under the lower standards of civil cases, most RICO claims get bounced on summary judgment. It “looks” big, bad and mean, but rarely works for squat, whether civil or criminal.

  23. Michael says:

    @EW
    “a quid quo pro bribe trading the Trump Tower for sanctions relief”

    Trump Tower MOSCOW for sabctions

  24. gedouttahear says:

    It may very well be the case that if we get through this putrid shitshow that something better will emerge. (Obviously, impossible to predict.) But there is now in the Congress, representatives of the people (so many young, so many women, so long denied power) who are poised to push forward against the horrors that capitalism has wrought. And there are others outside of elected office who are also stirred up and active. It’s either going to get much worse or much better. “The center cannot hold.” Keep hope alive.

  25. roberts robot double says:

    There is only one explanation for both Trump et al’s utter corruption and our system’s indefensible acceptance of it: America has been utterly corrupt since its inception.

    Get that clear: America has been utterly corrupt since its inception.

    All the absolutely fantastic ideals this country were founded upon were only ever meant to be for the landed gentry, i.e. rich white motherfuckers, people who owned slaves and treated them like cattle, people who treated the white working poor only slightly better when it was to their advantage.

    That is the foundation this country has really been built on: by the callous wealthy for the callous wealthy. They have only been competing against themselves for centuries now and that competition has eliminated any shred of human decency or compassion via the simply Darwinian game theory that the most cut-throat money-loving among them survived. And this is not an American tradition: it came over on those boats just as the Pilgrims did but with far, far more effect for it drove the rape and pillage of this land and all its non-moneyed peoples.

    *Everything* in America serves those motherfuckers. It always has, and part of that service is to keep all the rubes ignorant and busy fighting amongst themselves for sex and the coins the wealthy let fall from their overflowing purses. They have constructed every societal structure for that very purpose for power’s first job is to secure that power, and secure it they have, for only they have *ever* had the money to fund any significant endeavor in this land.

    The wealthy of this world are not that difficult to understand but few people are willing to take the first step towards enlightenment by looking in the mirror and first getting their own head out of their ass; therefore, they end up pissing away their lives in their ignorance. We have been divided and conquered and very, very few of any of us have a damned clue. Those of us that do are shunned because the ignorant are mean and defensive of their ignorance. They band together in their groups against anyone who tells them something that hurts their little pride and, believe me, it ain’t just Trumpers who fall victim to this.

    “When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.” — C. S. Lewis

    “The Way goes in.” –Rumi

    • Tech Support says:

      On it’s face, you’re offering an incredibly cynical perspective on the progress of history, and yet at the same time I don’t find it at all controversial. If we accept the premise that the overall progress of civilization is a trajectory away from barbarism and towards greater peace and equity, then it only stands to reason that when you really zoom out you’re going to see that the past… well… sucks.

      Trump, and the collective societal bullshit that he represents can be viewed along that trajectory, recognizing that the progress of civilization has never been smooth or linear. If recessions happen, it bear markets happen, then this kind of crap is bound to happen as well. There was a lot more direct political violence in 1968 than 2018. We’re still just inside a century since women got the vote.

      [You might not accept the above premise and it would be fun to argue but for the moment I’m just acknowledging that as the lens I’m viewing your comment through.]

      The reason why I’m going down this particular path is that while you have a point, I’m not sure which way your point is pointing. Are things hopeless? If so, then reading and commenting on this site is just a form of wallowing-as-infotainment, right? Is it a call to revolt? Or is it an effort to frame the fight for justice as an eternal struggle where you accept that social systems have the opportunity (even if remote) to be bent for more equitable outcomes? Are you just pissed and ranting to vent? Because all of those potentially flow out from your argument but I’m curious where you stand on it.

      • Geoff says:

        Short roberts robot double : The more things change, the more they stay the same.

        I think he is correct in terms of their always being a large element of corruption. We as a country have just done a really good job of papering over it, putting a nice veneer on the whole edifice of business that it’s hard to make out all the underlying rot amidst the shining glare of the surface. There are always competing forces at work, those that struggle to rein in our worst impulses, and those that only care to benefit from taking advantage of others and generally playing lose with the laws that other group tries to create to guide us toward the proper path that we dont find ourselves on without any restraint.

        I differ from Tech Support, in that, while it may be a series of ups and downs along a path, it is possible that one of the downs may lead us to a point that we can no longer recover from. It’s like a star wars analogy of sorts I guess. And maybe you are of the “it’s always darkest before the dawn” persuasion, and others are of the, abandon all hope yee who enter here, variety. Where are we on this cycle? So far, it seems recoverable, but for example, if 2020 comes along, Trump is still in power, and decides, well, he doesnt like the will of the people that try to remove him from office, or yikes, he is re-elected, or yikes, an equally traitorous republican takes his place somehow…well, that might get us to a point where more folks think we are lost in the woods. I cling to the hope that we are not yet doomed, but my fear continues to grow. The last few decades have seen a massive enabling of the corrupt powerful, and the one thing that is different this time is that the amounts of wealth these elitist scum have accumulated is off the charts, and how they have translated that into power, is frightening.

        Just my two cent piece, circa 1864

        • Tech Support says:

          My default position is guarded optimism, but I’m painfully aware not only that there was a Dark Ages, but that the climb out of it and into the Renaissance was fueled by the Crusades. So yeah it’s a mixed bag and it takes a very long time to have a proper perspective. Will Trump turn out to be a symptom of the collapse or some kind of vaccination of the body politic? I will likely be dead before my Great Grandchildren can sketch it out for me.

      • roberts robot double says:

        >> If we accept the premise that the overall progress of civilization is a trajectory away from barbarism and towards greater peace and equity, then it only stands to reason that when you really zoom out you’re going to see that the past… well… sucks.

        a) Yes, I absolutely accept that premise.

        b) My point is not that the past sucks; because of course it does. My point is that our present does not really differ in any meaningful way from that horrific past with respect to our overlords. Sure, chattel slavery has been replaced with economic slavery and the Civil Rights Act was passed but those were merely superficial changes. Anyone with their head out of their ass knows that very, very little has really changed and that that is because the people with the wealth and power are the same callously evil bastards they have ever been.

        >> Trump, and the collective societal bullshit that he represents can be viewed along that trajectory, recognizing that the progress of civilization has never been smooth or linear.

        I would simply say that Hitler, too, was the result of a societal trajectory. Human societies, being composed of human beings with their own free wills, have a collective free will to arc their society towards peace and equity or away from it. While there are good signs that many of we common people feel the need to arc our society in a way that Dr. King (GOAT American) would approve of, my primary point is that those who hold the power have *ALWAYS* staunchly stood in opposition to such upward arcs for it endangers their power to use and abuse others at their whim. A person doesn’t need to draw pentograms in their basement to become evil; all it takes is a heart willfully ignorant to compassion and callous to the pains of others, and it appears that there is a serious possibility that the people at the top take pleasure in the discomfiture they cause.

        >> Are things hopeless?

        No. Absolutely not, but we must not kid ourselves: the root cause of the problem is unfettered capitalism and those who have benefited from it for centuries now. We must recognize their vested interest and strip them of their ability to further taint the ideals accidentally put forth by our corrupt Founding Fathers.

        >> Is it a call to revolt?

        Physical revolt? No. We still have the political means to fundamentally evolve this system into what its theories hold as as-yet-unmanifest potential. The revolution must be in the transparency of our government and in the lessening the power of for-profit corporations to influence it and harm the populace without liability. The wealthy have been crafting the law and the courts for perhaps a century now (probably much more) and those impediments to “equal treatment under the law” must be removed with haste.

        But, certainly, this house needs to be cleaned and a *LOT* of garbage will need to be taken out and the old policies that built up over time to facilitate its decrepitude must be reformed with vigor.

        >> Or is it an effort to frame the fight for justice as an eternal struggle where you accept that social systems have the opportunity (even if remote) to be bent for more equitable outcomes?

        My point is really that in order to have a moral society (morality being the desire to create peaceful equality) we must first have have moral individuals committed to ensuring that our government is not subverted by the amoral, and that when the amoral wealthy are allowed to dictate the government’s policies an immoral government will *ALWAYS* be the result.

        That is the ultimate explanation for the mess we’re in: we have let the wolves into the nursery and they have done what wolves do. The first fix must be to get rid of the wolves and ensure the security of the nursery. The problem is they have made making those changes very difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.

        >> Are you just pissed and ranting to vent?

        Well, I am as powerless as a white man living in the projects can be so ranting is my only real recourse given my situation. Poverty is destructive to productivity on every level. That said, I am very happy with my family situation for we have enough to eat, eat mostly organic and my kids are happy, brilliant and well-adjusted. (Choosing to not have a teevee while making music, legos and minecraft (in short bursts) available makes a big difference there.)

        But, fuck yes! I’m pissed. These motherfuckers are locking kids in cages and lying about it and a significant percentage of our population is perfectly ok with it. Anyone who is not pissed off is part of the problem. Remember that there were plenty of Germans in WWII that willfully turned a blind eye to the camps for the sole fact that they weren’t Jewish (or gay or gypsy). Any American who thinks locking migrant kids in dog cages (while lying about it) isn’t a HUGE FUCKING PROBLEM is definitely a huge fucking part of the problem.

        Luckily we have laws that should be protecting those kids and if this Republic lives to manifest justice, the people involved in that utter evil are going to learn how fucked-up our prison industrial complex is, from the inside. Regardless, we all face justice for the choices we make in our lives but I prefer to see it manifest in a court of law by an impartial jury presided over by the Rule of Law. But mobs of people with their own free wills are likely not going to be as reasonable as myself. Either way, I can only state my views and live the truth as best as I can. Either way, I am beyond fear or grief. What other people do with their free wills is beyond my control. My duty is to always love and teach to always love, and to never hate and to teach to never hate.

        Peace be with you, my friend.

        “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” — MLK (via Theodore Parker)

        • Tech Support says:

          On a fundamental level I can get behind all of that, but would just stick an asterisk at the end, specifically regarding this point:

          “Sure, chattel slavery has been replaced with economic slavery and the Civil Rights Act was passed but those were merely superficial changes. Anyone with their head out of their ass knows that very, very little has really changed and that that is because the people with the wealth and power are the same callously evil bastards they have ever been.”

          I think it’s important to embrace the cognitive dissonance that comes from affirming the small and the large in your position while also acknowledging that the positive changes have been more than superficial. I worry that if we lose perspective over what we’ve gained from the hard fought battles of our predecessors that we further imperil that progress.

          This is going to be a tangent, but one of the things that does not sit well with me is the recent bend towards embracing retribution and a win-at-all-costs mentality that I’ve seen in some progressive circles. The tough thing about embracing these principles that I think you and I agree on is that it requires us to, in effect, not “cheat” on our own ideals.

          Where this ties back to your post is that I believe that if we focus on what we don’t have to the exclusion (or at least the devaluing) of what we do have, it becomes easier to embrace entropy. Nothing justifies dark and desperate behavior than the sense that you have nothing to lose. I’d hate for us to talk ourselves into that headspace.

          • roberts robot double says:

            Agreed, my friend. Fully agreed.

            My real gripe is towards people who talk about all the progress while utterly ignoring the glaring, fundamental problems that are a direct result of that past even-worse state of affairs. I guess that is why I naturally tend to be a bit hyperbolic about the lack of differences; well, that and my own having been jettisoned into the ranks of the uncared-for poor. In light of our apparent current backsliding from progress into regress it seems to me that perhaps the overyly-rosy outlook of our media and populace could use a bit more vinegar than honey.

    • Cathy says:

      With all due respect to Rumi, I sometimes think we have more in common with a virus than divinity. And yet, not unlike Robert Fulghum, I sometimes wonder whether it is our adulthood that somehow betrays us…

      Most of what I really need
      To know about how to live
      And what to do and how to be
      I learned in kindergarten.
      Wisdom was not at the top
      Of the graduate school mountain,
      But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

      These are the things I learned:

      Share everything.
      Play fair.
      Don’t hit people.
      Put things back where you found them.
      Clean up your own mess.
      Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
      Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
      Wash your hands before you eat.
      Flush.
      Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
      Live a balanced life –
      Learn some and think some
      And draw and paint and sing and dance
      And play and work everyday some.
      Take a nap every afternoon.
      When you go out into the world,
      Watch out for traffic,
      Hold hands and stick together.
      Be aware of wonder.

      :-)

      • roberts robot double says:

        That “Kindergartner Wisdom” is wisdom indeed (and thank you for that), but life gets real when we reach puberty and our hormones start luring us into mammalian alpha dominance games and pack warfare attitudes and behaviors.

        >> I sometimes think we have more in common with a virus than divinity.

        The problem is that we all start out as talented mammals and we must activate our free wills (in concert with our inner connection to our Creator) to overcome our in-built tendency to vice over virtue, to selfishness over selflessness, to our baser instincts over enlightened attitudes and behaviors. There’s nothing stopping anyone from choosing to live according to Hitler’s teachings. As such, we must each choose to live an honest life that accepts that none of us are born perfectly divine ~ no, we must work very hard in this life to overcome our failings and *become* divine. That most people deny it is even possible is the work of our internal enemy. That many so-called religous people fall prey to that enemy only proves the enemy’s strength. That many false religious teachings claim that one’s sins will be forgiven after death by uttering some magical phrase is just another lie of that entity, who is ever encouraging us to throw our lives away.

        There is no compulsion in religion, and all religion is based upon the desire to do the inner work to self-evolve our minds/thoughts and hearts/feelings&instincts beyond the mammalian heritage of our bodies. To become utterly consumed by love for *ALL* human beings and the Earth itself is nothing less than the entirety of religion. No form of religion has a monopoly on that because it is all our birthright, just as ignoring our higher potential and becoming a callous, lying, oppressive bastard is also within our grasp.

        When a person denies the inner journey of self-evolution into complete absorption into love they are, in fact, defaulting themselves to an animalistic state which, when viewed from 10,000ft, does indeed make our collective human endeavors look a lot like the work of a viral infestation upon the Earth.

        As such, the solution to our societal problems begins with every single individual’s looking in their inner mirror and accepting the challenge that we are not only the only creatures capable of willful self-evolution within our lifetime but that the morality we are all born with must be consciously developed with great effort, both for our personal benefit and the benefit of those around us.

        I highly suggest Dr. Coleman Barks “Rumi and the Play of Poetry” — a reading he did to music for UCTV some years ago. It shows right up on YouTube.

        Peace be with you, my dear friend.

        • Cathy says:

          Thx for your observations @rrd, especially the gentle reminder for a mindful life: “…the morality we are all born with must be consciously developed with great effort, both for our personal benefit and the benefit of those around us.”

        • Cathy says:

          It’s a pleasure. I’m surrounded by reminders of what we’re like before our shells harden and embrittle…I’m forced into a near constant state of apology, but entranced by how finely tuned their b.s. meters are as they filter through their social media surroundings. ;-)

  26. Kevin Hayden says:

    Scope? I’m not sure there’s any advantage to that. For example, how many Americans can define ’emoluments’?

    I think it’d be great to have a full list, then run them all past a focus group to see which ones draw their ire. And megaphone those.

    Trump: “Adolf told me he’s never done lampshades from human skin and I take him at his word.”

    • Fran of the North says:

      In 1967 I saw both a lampshade of human flesh and the epidermis of a human hand, including nails, in a museum dedicated to preserving both the crimes of the Nazis and the heroism of the children of the Motherland.

      “Who you gonna believe? Your lying eyes or my Orangeness?”

      Me??? I’ll choose my eyes.

  27. TheraP says:

    What is the “frog” that is slowly boiling? That may be key to trying to unify this.

    I wonder if the boiling frog is The Republic itself, as ordained and established in the Constitution.

    If so, I look to the Preamble: https://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_preamble.html

    And as I read its words, it seems to me each and every pillar it describes is under attack or being twisted into its opposite:

    * A more perfect Union
    * Establish Justice
    * Ensure domestic Tranquility
    * Provide for the common defense
    * Promote the general Welfare
    * Secure the Blessings of Liberty
    * To ourselves and our Posterity

    As I write this, I notice that certain words are capitalized: Union; Justice; Tranquility; Welfare; Liberty; Posterity. And interestingly, “common defense” is not capitalized. So the very one that the current administration promotes (or pretends to) the most is, apparently, relegated to a lessor position than the others.

    I also note that Liberty is not a singularity to be secured – but its Blessings, it’s Effects. This is important because so often the right wing focuses on “freedom” but the Constitution, in its Preamble, focuses on “Blessings” of Liberty (as a societal good, it would seem, not as an individual right). Indeed, the entire Preamble speaks, as I read it, to social aspirations or “goods” – all of which are being eroded, like the frog in the pot on the boil. (Even the “common defense” is being eroded by the erratic and dangerous international positions of the current White House ‘resident, together with his insane focus on the southern border with its cruel and sadistic policies.)

    I, as we know, am no expert of any of this. I’m no lawyer. I’ve never taken a course on the Constitution. But as a trained therapist, I have an exquisite sensitivity to language. (And it would be humorous in the extreme if I am channeling the late Justice Scalia here.)

    Marcy’s post is a hugely important one. It asks us to seek some type of Metaphor to connect all of the tangled strings of this massive attack on our way of life, its inception leading way back even before the primaries and all the way till now and wherever this is leading.

    It’s nearly impossible to organize it all into “one massive and horrible whole” or even to keep in mind all the tangled strings. And one reason is that our “working memory” can only hold between 4-7 things at any one time. Which makes it hard to get a grip on this.

    I don’t have that Metaphor. But I do propose the Preamble as a possible way to start. As something written in Law. As something the Founders worked hard on. As something which may allow a Framework, into which we might try to place all the bits and pieces of this massive attack on our way of life, which it seems to me, is being undermined and broken. Which, as Marcy has underscored,m will be very hard to fix.

    And if we can do that, or if Marcy can, it would perhaps demonstrate an “Attack on the Rule of Law” at its most basic level, a huge undermining of all these vital Preamble Pillars, undergirding the very “reason” or philosophy our Constitution is based on.

    • P J Evans says:

      I don’t treat capitalization as meaningful in that doc – they weren’t using our rules for that. The words matter, though.

      • William Bennett says:

        Correct. It was standard orthographic practice in the 18th century to capitalize all nouns, common as well as proper. German still does it that way.

        • TheraP says:

          Yup, German does.

          But if that were the case, why in “common defense” is defense not capitalized? It still sticks out as different from the others.

          But no matter. Suppose you had a spread sheet and used those categories across the top. And then took the crimes, the lies, the dastardly deeds and fit them in the appropriate columns. Maybe you would find some clarity or be more able to see how the Misdeeds attack the very basis of what the Constitution was trying to accomplish. (Not that that accomplishes anything toward fixing things. But it might get across to people the immensity here.)

          ………

          Some above are hoping for a Visual Diagram to help us. But that fits two dimensions only. Even three demensions are insufficient, as you’d need the variable of Time (in addition to length, breadth, width – so to speak).

          We’re into Einstein’s Relativity or even Quantum theory – looking for an image – but that too is impossible to diagram. Or even conceptualize.

          ……………….

          I have no idea what the outcome of all this will be. I just keep thinking how glad I am to be an anonymous, law-abiding, peace-loving soul – facing no investigations or indictments. Versus the Trumps and their ILK – faced with every investigation under the sun, the potential loss of all their worldly goods, not to speak of their liberty. (No assurance of this, but the uncertainty of it can work powerfully, even on a sociopathic mind.)

        • P J Evans says:

          They were pretty good at capitalizing names, not so good at other nouns. Even in the mid-19th century, it was still hit-and-miss for a lot of people. (I have transcriptions of Civil War-era letters and journals. Besides the spelling, it’s sometimes a game to figure out if that’s a name or a common noun that I’m looking at. But I found some gems: a passage talking about how they might have to “bug out for Atlanta”, in 1864. And “dog tents” and rubber blankets, for the infantry – plus lots of descriptions of food that they foraged, mostly fruit.)

          • Cathy says:

            “rubber blankets” … I’m not sure why I find that so fascinating; do you suppose those were for ground cover for tents or otherwise a protective barrier? or something closer in use to a modern rain poncho?

            • P J Evans says:

              They certainly used them as ponchos. Probably also as tents, when they didn’t have anything else. (They really liked to build little cabins, when they could.)
              (Reading those was interesting: the two guys writing them were brothers, and the younger one turned 21 right as the war ended.)

    • John boy says:

      A hopeful continuation of the boiling frog metaphor could be: The boiling frog becomes a burning phoenix recreating itself from its ashes. The systematic corruption being destroyed and replaced by a stronger and better system. Like the United Nations pragmatically created because of the fires of the two world wars….dreams of an “ever advancing civilization”.

      • r helder says:

        thanks for recommending the just security article, it clarified the money laundering and conspiracy elements beautifully. i learn something new — and increase my understanding — every day on this site. all your work is much appreciated

  28. david_l says:

    The only way *everyone* could see – and more importantly grasp – the scope, breadth, depth, and sheer scale of the entirety would be through a 104 episode, can’t-miss-it, weekly television series with each episode uploaded to YouTube the next day so everyone can watch and people can re-watch as episode-related events hit the news.

    Actors would play the characters and the scripts would be based on quotes from principals, multi-sourced verified reporting, and verified information in the public record.

    Each episode and each mini-series would revolve around one or two specific nuggets and have connective tissue to others. I would not limit the series to crimes and funny business but would include threads about e.g., regulatory guttings and agency appointments such as DHS, EPA, DOI, etc. that have had and will continue to have material bad effects on most of us and also have expanded the scope of self-dealing and kleptocracy in our government.

    In effect it would be Reality TV with actors playing the parts, with each storyline packaged to be easily digestible, and with easily-remembered inter-storyline threads e.g., Kusher’s security clearance + the sale of reactors to Saudi + Barrack’s ubiquitous presence e.g., the reactors, introducing Manafort to Trump, and the Inaugural Committee.

    The Catch-and-Kill funny business mini-series would be riveting, as would the 2016 Clinton Dirt no collusion mini-series.

    Trump would go nuts on Twitter, there’d be scores of libel suits most of which would be summarily dismissed because all the info would be adequately sourced, this series would be pretty much the only topic of conversation for the next couple of years, and it would force the disinformationalists to focus on it to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.

    If the series got traction – how could it not – the usual suspect media outlets would have to/be able to organize their coverage of issues in the entirety around the episodic content and threads and they’d likely do in-depth follow up autopsies on each episode that would make inter-storyline connections, show how the episode focus fits into the entirety, and fill in with documentation.

    Most people are “having second thoughts” about what we’ve gotten ourselves into with this guy but, because of the scope and scale and breadth and depth of the entirety, and especially the continuous torrent of disinformation, they don’t have the grasp of the entirety that would give them the confidence to turn the corner, ignore the people who would criticize them for getting suckered by “The Deep State”, and emotionally commit to what they strongly sense is the case.

    The strategy of the disinformationalists is to keep people’s eyes on one-crime-at-a-time, minimize them e.g., “process crimes”, and counter at all costs the efforts to tie everything together to show the breadth, depth, scope, and sheer scale of the entirety. As long as they are successful – and so far so good – very few people are either going to see the whole picture or are going to turn the corner.

    I’m pretty sure this would work, the Nielsen ratings would be stellar, and the YouTube hits would tax the Google infrastructure, but will it happen? I’m not optimistic.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      This will do just fine. Who needs a TV series?

      Lion vs Lamb

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XuNoASmk1QU

      History lesson 101.

      The creep incriminated himself as a fascist and yet those “Good American are to be played like the “Good German.”

      They saw the movie and still bought the bogus tobacco commercial.

      They played Russian roulette as in the Dear Hunter..

      I’m sure some are wondering why they did not get a tax return, could not deduct mortgage interest or state property taxes?

      People who smoke today in light of the science and data are idiots.

      Some bought Trumps rallies as they did in Germany.

      I know people who were there and to this day they are still ashamed of themselves. It was not their fault. They were kids separated from their parent. They joined Hitler Boy Scouts. Some turned in their parents.

      It is the same thing folks.

      The “Good Republican” today are no good at all. They are not even Republicans.

      Abe was a Radical Republican.

      Ike was a Republican.

      Trump is a POS

      I don’t lie.
      Deja Vu.

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XuNoASmk1QU

    • Fran of the North says:

      You make a good case. While names can get jumbled and co-mingled, humans are hard wired to interact with faces. When De Niro plays Deripaska, and Kline plays Kilimnik, then suddenly those funny foreign name dots will start to connect.

  29. ken melvin says:

    Trump’s greatest crime may be his denial of Climate Change. He was never a leader; leaders look ahead.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      Causality can actually be understood.

      Oil monopoly will deny “climate change” in the same way that Taney denied Scott “standing and protection of Law.”

      This protected the old energy monopoly called slavery as climate denial protects the current monopoloy in Saudi Arabia owned by a Crowned Prince and Putin has his own. They offshores
      John D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil after the monopoly was broken up.

      Standard Oil of Southern Cali is today:

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Aramco
      .
      Won’t here that on Fox News will you?

      There are options but we
      can’t discuss
      Abolition or emancipation some
      don’t want you to know about very options, the address human needs

      Meanwhile China is kicking our ass.

      Trump’s as stupid as the fascist slaveowners, who relied on slave labor as did Nazi fascist.

      Oskar Schindler might make a better President than Trump I think. He is the only Nazi recognized for what he did
      for in Israel, I think?

      Trump would horde everything being an addict to his owne misguided myopic self interest, like Benito M.

      Please Correct me if I lied about anything here.

      It was not intentional unlike the misfit Trump and his compromised ilk? 🤥

  30. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    The notion that a frog won’t jump out of a slowly heated pot of water is an actual hoax, fake news, or whatever you want to call it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog?wprov=sfti1

    More substantively, this is the normalization we were all worried about. The scandals are just everywhere and have lost the power to outrage. It’s possible only for the most extraordinary of people (hello, Marcy) to really keep up.

    • Saul Tannenbaum says:

      I am – forgive me – going to quote Claire McCaskill with a better analogy:

      It’s like a bed of nails. One nail, it hurts. A bed of nails, the pressure is spread out so it doesn’t.

  31. sand says:

    Today, Greg Sargent highlights one current strategy many “Republicans” have been using to claim (ridiculously) that the Congressional investigations of the Trump admin. are overreach. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/03/07/trumps-defenders-are-telling-very-big-lie-dont-let-them-get-away-with-it/

    While the claim that Congress needs evidence of a crime in order to conduct its constitutional duties of oversight is ridiculous, isn’t it also a moot point because there’s a ton of evidence? That brings me to the fact that I’ve heard frequent (more ridiculous) claims from Trump defenders that there is no ‘evidence’ or no ‘direct evidence’ of a crime.

    IANAL. If I wanted to prosecute conspiracy, wouldn’t emails between the participants discussing the object of the conspiracy constitute evidence? Wouldn’t the testimony of an eyewitness at a meeting between conspirators constitute evidence?

    If I wanted to prosecute campaign finance violations, wouldn’t a contract, a money wire, testimony from one of the principals in the crime, and a cancelled check with the signature of the President of the United States reimbursing said convicted criminal constitute direct evidence?

    If I wanted to prosecute obstruction of justice, wouldn’t a statement that the Director of the FBI was fired for the sole purpose of bringing about an end to the investigation constitute evidence?

    It seems many Republicans believe that you have to get a conviction of the target of an investigation before you can say that there’s evidence of a crime. Even then, they’d probably say that he was ‘convicted based on zero ‘evidence.’ Inconceivable! IANAL, but they keep using the word evidence, and I’m not sure they know what it means.

    Scenario: MSM breaking news! Trump shoots man on 5th Avenue.

    Trump defender: There’s no evidence he did that!

    Human brain: But there were 20 eyewitnesses that all say they saw him do it?!

    Trump defender: Probably all democrats. We should pull the voting records to see who they voted for. I bet Soros is paying them too. I once heard that Soros and Hillary flew to the moon on a Blue Origin rocket to plant a One World flag on the dark side where Trump can’t see it. But don’t worry, Our President will have everything sorted out soon!

    MSM next day: It looks like the Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl again this year . . .

  32. Shaun Mullen says:

    Two quick points:

    First, I’m with bmaz on cutting out the RICO crap. I covered a number of RICO cases and Trump and the Trump Organization don’t qualify by a country mile.

    Second, Trump did not make America what it is. America made Trump, so there will be hard work on a staggering scale when he departs Washington.

  33. Tburgler says:

    I’m hoping someone smarter than me can sort this out, but can you have a quid pro quo where the quid and the quo are incompatible? That is, if quid=Trump Tower deal and quo=sanctions relief, but Trump could not realistically pursue the Trump Tower deal as POTUS, then how could he deliver on sanctions relief? In his testimony, Cohen said that Trump did not intend to win, and I find that convincing. Does the mismatch between quid and quo signify that collusion is much more loosely coupled than folks would like to see demonstrated, more akin to toddlers engaging in parallel play?

    In other words, is there anything in the known fact set to contradict the idea that each of the players in this sordid mess had their own goals, not aligned particularly well with any others’, and just acted according to their (criminal) natures and the opportunities put before them? Taking just a few . . .

    Trump: Doesn’t want to be POTUS but sees a branding/grifting opportunity in running. Corrupt Russians with sacks of money are friendly faces to him. The dangle of a Trump Tower deal is too good to resist. That the Russians are interfering in the election on his behalf in the election is fine because the closer he gets to winning, the better for his brand. He delights in the destruction of Clinton because that’s how he defines fun. He’s not concerned with becoming ensnared and beholden to Russia because he’s never once thought of running for POTUS as having anything to do with public service. He believes in “NO COLLUSION” because the help Russia gave was not essential to why he was running for office.

    Manafort: Does want Trump to be POTUS. The GOP is most comfortable with ciphers like Reagan and W as POTUS for the powerful to act through, and Manafort would like to be the gatekeeper to Trump. His collusion is direct and a win no matter the outcome of the race. At the least, he retires some old debt. At best, everybody has to come through him to get to Trump.

    Trump Kids: Money, power, parties. What’s not to like? By their natures, there is no one they wouldn’t collude with to get more. Jared, being the smartest man in the room, sees what is taking shape and gets in the deepest, mostly post-election.

    Russia: The criminality and stupidity of Trump and everyone around him put them in a target-rich environment, and they can just keep taking shots without much of a plan because they’re in a no-lose situation. Trump Tower deal? Why not? If Trump wins, they get leverage over him. If he loses, they’ve invested nothing. Exposing Clinton’s emails at the least weakens her as eventual POTUS, at best gets Trump elected, and super bonus points if you get the people around Trump, who do want him to win, in a conspiracy with you. Maybe you even get that sanctions relief. The kicker: even getting caught is a positive, as it exposes rot in American politics and weakens their adversary.

    So now Trump is POTUS and he is compromised by Russia and acts accordingly. He obstructs justice because he knows everyone around him did bad stuff, even if he doesn’t know exactly what it was. Outside of Manafort, there was no need to coordinate with Russians at all.

    • William Bennett says:

      That is, if quid=Trump Tower deal and quo=sanctions relief, but Trump could not realistically pursue the Trump Tower deal as POTUS, then how could he deliver on sanctions relief? In his testimony, Cohen said that Trump did not intend to win, and I find that convincing.

      I’ve been pondering on that too. Specifically if DWT didn’t expect to win, what did all this Russia hanky-panky look like from his point of view—what was the goal as he saw it? One thing is that sanctions relief is an easy promise to make if you don’t expect to have the power to do anything about it, and all the meetings and coat-trailing around it pull Putin into Trump’s orbit in ways that could be used to bind him to that $300M hotel deal. A lure, with nothing real behind it. Whereas, having won the presidency, the whole thing is reversed, and the hotel deal becomes an enticement Putin never meant to fulfill—a lure with nothing behind it—that got Trump to compromise himself in ways that now give Putin leverage over him. Each one had something he considered he’d could offer free of cost because in reality it was never going to happen… depending on which way the election went.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      @Tburgler, this is exactly what has been gnawing at me. It is helpful to read it in someone else’s words. I have come to the opinion that the reason it doesn’t quite mesh, Trumps goals to Manafort’s goals to the Russian goals, and on and on, is because we cannot see the underside of the iceberg. I think there is so much more crime and counter intelligence intrigue involved that is unknown to us, that what we can analyze doesn’t make sense. We are nowhere near close to a complete picture.

      And I would be wary of the ‘quid pro quo’ analysis. There are too many entities with too many different motives to assume such a narrow path of benefits. Remember, the Russians play a VERY long game of 3D chess. I rather see the Electoral College President as a checkers player.

    • JV says:

      Yes! This was exactly my take all during the election.
      As far as today’s article, the Cohen testimony and the investigation remind me of Watergate and Iran-Contra. Both watershed historical events that I lived through but – just like this time, it takes so long for all to be revealed and the media will not give a ccomprehensive overview – it will take years for most Americans to understand.

  34. OldTulsaDude says:

    What harm has befallen the country is still too narrow of scope – what harm has been caused to Western civilization and the liberal world order that has kept us safe from the devastation of a great third war is better and yet still may not be enough.

  35. Martin Lydick says:

    The idolatry expressed by 45’s base & the complete lack of genuine historical perspective evidenced by his enablers is terrifying to me. A side by side comparison of the pic of 45 “humping” the American flag @ CPAC & any of the pics of Hitler massaging the flags during the Flag Consecration Ceremony @ Nuremberg clearly demonstrates what is currently at stake.

  36. Feckless says:

    Democrats, Patriots et al need a mantra to repeat each time they appear on the media:

    **Fruit of the Poison Tree**

    See Matthew 7:17
    Luke 6:43
    The “president” is illegitimate and so is every action he has taken during his occupancy – all appointments, laws, executive rules, contracts – Everything.

    The only way to save our country is if trumpism is removed, root and branch.

  37. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As an update on that debate we had earlier about whether Maggie Haberman was wrong in her claim that Trump might readily write large checks without knowing exactly what they were for, a recent article by Caleb Melby in Bloomberg gives a clear answer.

    In a column yesterday, “Trump was deeply involved in the inauguration planning,” digby [digbysblog.blogspot.com] discusses Melby’s article, “Trump Fussed Over Tablecloths and Rockettes for the Inauguration. [https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-06/despite-denials-trump-actively-involved-in-planning-inauguration].

    Melby reviews the excruciating detail that Trump involved himself in regarding inauguration planning and the spending of the record-breaking $107 million the committee raised. Trump was the go to guy for resolving disputes, be it booking talent, broadcast rights contracts, **or table coverings**. (The White House denies any such involvement. Go figure.)

    “When questions arose in planning meetings, [Inaugural chairman Tom] Barrack would frequently call Trump so he could weigh in, the people said.” Oddly, Trump wanted deputy chairman Rick Gates fired, because he did not like where $700,000 from a direct mail contract relating to his campaign funds ended up. Gates stayed.

    “Barrack told staff that Trump wanted to know everything about the inauguration’s finances, an admonition to keep budgets in check, two of the people said. **Trump’s interest in keeping tabs on spending was familiar to anyone who’d worked on the campaign, according to the two sources.**” I guess Maggie didn’t spend much time with campaign staff.

    Part of Trump’s interest would have been that he wanted to determine exactly what happened to the balance of the $107 million that wasn’t actually spent on his small, limited number of events Inauguration. Both of Obama’s inaugurations, for example, were much larger than Trump’s and spent half as much or less as Trump.

    I think it’s safe to say that Trump has one thing in common with Warren Buffett: he wouldn’t pass up a bent dime if he could make it his, in Trump’s case, all the better if he could steal it from someone else. He knew exactly what he was paying for when writing $35,000 checks from his personal account to Mikey Cohen, especially because earlier payments to Mikey came from some other Trump entity and not Trump’s personal account.

    • Bruce Olsen says:

      “Part of Trump’s interest would have been that he wanted to determine exactly what happened to the balance of the $107 million…”

      Not if he was using the inauguration to launder money…

      • P J Evans says:

        He would have been trying to make sure that it went into accounts he controlled, not accounts for others.

  38. punaise says:

    “The InEFFable Boiling Frog of Trump Scandal”

    Adding nothing other than to agree that we are pretty much EFFED.

  39. Badger Robert says:

    The comparison to the Nazis or to the Civil War is not apt. The correct comparison is probably to the Andrew Johnson administration. During the four years he was in office the momentum towards civil rights for blacks that came out of the Civil War and black military service was wasted as Johnson’s racism and narcissism made a jumble or reconstruction.
    The little bit that was achieved before all northern desire to pay attention to what was happening in the south completely disappeared was not enough to maintain forward movement. By 1948 most of the efforts had to start over again. That probably gives a true dimension to how lasting the damage will be.
    Fox Network itself looks to be a long term drag on rationality.

  40. Justlp says:

    Somewhat OT, but I can’t help but laugh at the republicans who are screaming at the ‘overreach’ of the congressional document requests, etc. Although I tried, I have been unable to independently confirm this, but I heard somewhere on the news that the Clinton investigation (which was NOT related to anything that actually impacted the ability of the President to effectively do his job and which resulted in a salacious report that contained a ridiculous level of pornographic detail – courtesy of Brett Kavanaugh?) sent out something like 1200 document requests. Does anyone have an idea how this might be verified? 81 requests is nothing (and hopefully just the beginning…) especially when they are all related to actual criminal activity.

  41. Savage Librarian says:

    Because there seems to be systemic structural problems in the applicable procedural avenues (impeachment, electoral and voter process, executive governance, etc.), it feels like we are bogged down in an inane predicament.

    But my mind is not willing to accept defeat. It tells me, surely, there must be some way to remedy all this emotional duress. All this negligence and malfeasance. All this harassment.

    So, I dwell on unavailable solutions. Why can’t we file some kind of class action suit, my mind yells to me. Yeah, why can’t we, I agree. Why can’t we find some law that could be used creatively? Why can’t somebody do something appropriate and timely?

    I’d like to think that if Lincoln were here, he’d figure out a way. Maybe he would even use geometry as an analogy, like he did to demonstrate the logic behind equality.

    So, to all the lawyers and logicians out there (and maybe magicians, too,) is there any chance that there is some forgotten law or creative use of an existing one that could help us get outside this box?

    • Savage Librarian says:

      I think I may have found a creative solution from today’s news about the Manafort sentencing.

      Former CIA director, John Brennan, said this about Ellis’ lenient sentencing:

      “Guidelines are used for a reason. But obviously Judge Ellis felt he could decide unilaterally on this one,” he added, referencing the government’s sentencing recommendation which Ellis called “excessive.”

      This could be a win for us if it can be used to establish that government guidelines are very flexible. So, maybe the DOJ guidelines about not indicting a sitting POTUS are very flexible as well. Let’s subvert those guidelines, too!

      What do you think? Could it be helpful this way?

  42. alaura says:

    A lawyer question…what path should Wesselberg take? Any chance he’ll just throw up his hands and tell all?

  43. punaise says:

    We be boilin’, boilin’, rollin’
    Though the streets are roilin’
    Keep them froggies boilin’, raw times

  44. InfiniteLoop says:

    Back to Marcy’s original question on damage done:

    Legend has it that mathematician Kurt Godel, best known for his Incompleteness Theorem which implies that in systems with consistent logical rules some statements cannot be proven either true or false, pointed out during his 1946 naturalization interview a flaw in the US Constitution that would allow for the rise of a fascist dictator.

    Naturally, Godel didn’t leave a record of what he meant. A quick Google turns up plenty of speculation on what the flaw is; no one knows for sure.

    Personally, I think it’s not one of the specific clauses people point to (ranging from the amendment process to the Commander in Chief clause to pardon power to Supreme Court appointments to…you get the idea), but rather the basic presumption that the entities *set* against each other by checks and balances will *act* against each other. If this axiom is false, then you can follow the Constitution to the letter and end up in a terribly undemocratic place.

    I fear that the erosion of the fundamental presumption of checks and balances is a casualty of this mess. We as citizens need to call on our representatives to shore up any cracks before they become wide-open faults in our nation’s bedrock.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Yes, definitely a problem with the checks and balances system. But I fear that harkens back to limitations in Sapiens DNA. Not sure we are well equipped for appropriate solutions.

      Sounds like you might enjoy the film, “The Secret Life of Chaos” which is directed by Nic Stacey. Maybe we are overdue for a fractal shakeup…

  45. Curveball says:

    You might come under the stern gaze of James Fallows for invoking the “boiling frog effect.” He’s been on a one-man crusade for years against its use — because it is apocryphal. Doesn’t happen in the laboratory. But still, the metaphor (fact based or not) is perfect here.

  46. Candace Gorman says:

    A little late on this one and maybe not as eloquent as I might like. However, like most of us visitors here on emptywheel (except for the random troll) I think about this a lot. How did we get here and how do we get out? It has been a long time coming and trump is the latest (and worst) symptom of our collapse. When I am being shallow, I blame a lot on Obama “yes we can”…. but alas… we won’t. That was a missed opportunity to start a correction from a pretty long downward spiral. But I won’t go there (today anyway). I became a lawyer shortly after reagan became president and my fear of the demise of our judiciary following his election was short lived. Yes, he put in some hard-right judges but mostly competent in their right-wing way. And, no surprises here – many of the right-wing judges put in by reagan, bush I, and bush II, got bored and left for better paying jobs. Some actually became pretty decent judges over time. Of course, now the competence level is hitting a new low under trump, so we will have to wait longer for a correction on that one (for one thing many of them probably won’t be able to find better paying jobs in the marketplace) but, if our country survives, I think the judiciary will somehow right itself over time. Climate change, its not like this is a big surprise, we have been warned for decades and no one in power has cared (and few of us not in power cared). trump takes it one step further – by actually egging on the climate change. So, like the judiciary he is making things worse for the short term, but he can’t be blamed for the mess that we have allowed in regards to climate change (to get this far along). Perhaps what I see as the worst aspect of the trump presidency is the normalization of public hate. This will take quite an effort to correct and I don’t really know if (or how) we can do this.

  47. Manqueman says:

    “I raise this not to criticize, but instead to observe that we’re at a point where journalists are struggling to communicate the full scale of Trump’s corruption, even just that corruption tied exclusively to the Russian investigation.”
    Eh, the media have a lot of ground to go over having given crooked, lying Donnie a pass for decades. He’s been dirty since he went off on his own in the early 1970s.

  48. x174 says:

    i think that there is a core problem around which the constellation of crimes orbit: i would argue that if you generalize from monetizing the presidency to include more of these criminal activities it will begin to come into focus. in these types of white collar crimes, there always is a core interest or concern.

    Great encompassing for a relatively short post. Thanks!

  49. x174 says:

    Obviously, we don’t have nearly the scope of evidence that Mueller has, but we can learn from his trail of breadcrumbs where this core most likely lies.

    Manafort/the Manafort case provides one of the many jewels in the net of Indra. Through Manafort, we can see the type and range of crimes and their apparent intent: bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, etc. The a-national ethics-free all-things-for- sale modus operandi strongly suggests that the problem is both national, global and systemic. Even judge tillis seems compromised, the media suspect and law enforcement problematic.

    I suspect that the key attribute that characterizes the core of the problem is systemic fraud. The great benefit of Donald J Trump is that he is unambiguously highlights this key characteristic in his own inimical way. He shows us just how far fraud can go in this country/business world with its incredibly compromised system of government, laws and our long sordid national history.

    Trump is the purest expression of what our nation truly cares about: wealth at all costs. Just look at his Cabinet and those people and institutions with which he associates. To call it a criminal organization misses the point. Trump epitomizes how American leaders have long acted and behaved on the world stage, seen in our history of how we have treated other nations and our own citizens. Long, dark, and nasty. Trump is just the most concentrated exudate of what the us has long stood for: advantage at others expense. Hence the oblivious shamelessness of his Cabinet and the clapping seals of Republican congressmen.

    The proof that the problem is undoubtedly systemic can be seen by the fact that any previous president could not have withstood 1000th the numbers of accusations/investigations (if a democrat) or 100th (if a Republican).

    How is it that Trump could have promoted so much wanton and egregious money laundering using his name, connections and real estate? It is because it is effectively legal b/c of the opaque laws.

    Why hadn’t we been exposed to this awful unpleasantness in a sitting president before? It seems clear that not only did he come along at the right time but that his pretensions to billionaire status put him far beyond the reach of the law. If he is the billionaire that he claims, think how many people he can pay off, have smeared, or sidelined on the interest he makes from his supposed billions. If he is not in fact a billionaire then he will be forced to do whatever it takes to keep from being exposed.

    He is either a witting fraud or an unwitting fraud. Either way he and his droogs take advantage of all that the us offers white collar criminals.

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