Advertisements

He Lies, But At Least He Fights

One of President Donald Trump’s former campaign managers spent more than five hours testifying to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and it was quite a show.
If you can’t quite recall the name of Corey Lewandowski, he was the guy who managed the Trump campaign before Paul Manafort, who is currently serving time in federal prison for various financial and perjury crimes. Lewandowski was caught on videotape manhandling a female reporter, and although the local officials decided the incident didn’t rise to the level of criminal assault he was fired from the campaign, but Trump continued to praise his pugnaciousness. After winning election Trump continued to consult with Lewandowski, and according to the special counsel investigation of Robert Mueller the president asked private citizen Lewandowski to order then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curtail the investigation, one of several instances in the report which document attempts by the president to obstruct justice, which is what the House Judiciary Committee wanted to ask about.
Lewandowski was every bit as pugnacious as Trump could hope for, and spent most of the five hours dodging questions on the claim of executive privilege, although he’d never been an employee of the executive branch, and asking his interrogators to read long portions of the special counsel’s report, and impugning their motives for asking such pesky questions, and personally insulting some committee members. At one point a questner compared Lewandowski’s testimony to the tooth fairy, and Lewandowski castigated for him for undermining his children’s faith in the fairy tale.
Despite his best efforts, Lewandowski did ultimately admit under oath that Trump had in fact asked him to tell Sessions to kibosh the special counsel, which Lewandowski had told the special counsel about under oath, so the Democrats running the committee got what they were after. It remains to be seen if the general public cares about a rather clear cut if clumsy attempt by the president to obstruct justice, which came to naught when Lewandowski went “on vacation” without carrying out the order, which he had no legal authority to make in any case, but if public opinion continues to turn against Trump it might prove handy ammunition.
The most striking moment to us was when Lewandowski freely admitted that he outright lied on Ari Melber’s MSNBC show when he said that “I don’t ever remember the president ever asking me to get involved with Jeff Sessions or the Justice Department in any way, shape, or form, ever.” If you’re not familiar with Melber’s program he’s a typically leftward biased MSNBC host with an annoying penchant for allusions to hip-hop lyrics, but he doesn’t just make things up, and he asks hard questions of people on both sides and gives them a chance to answer, truthfully or not. “I have no obligation to be honest to the media,” Lewandowski unapologetically explained, adding “They’re just as dishonest as anyone else.”
Trump “tweeted” effusive praise for Lewandowski’s performance, and Lewandowski “tweeted” during a break in the proceedings about a potential run for the seat of famously mild-mannered Democratic Sen. Jean Shaheen in New Hampshire. We’ll leave it to the people of New Hampshire to decide that matter, but we’ll also hope they keep in mind that Lewandowski freely admits he feels fully entitled to lie to the American public on national television. That seems to be the current standard, but it shouldn’t be.

— Bud Norman

Advertisements

Robert Mueller’s Graceful Bow from the Public Stage, and Its Aftermath

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before two congressional committees on Wednesday was one of the most highly anticipated episodes in President Donald Trump’s long-running reality show, but it proved anticlimactic. No matter which side you’re rooting for in this tawdry spectacle, you probably didn’t get what you were hoping for.
Trump’s tormenters in the Democratic party were mostly disappointed that Mueller stubbornly refused to add anything juicy to what’s in the 480-page report his exhaustive investigation into the “Russia thing” provided. There’s plenty in the report that looks very, very bad for Trump, but it’s a long and tough read that most Americans haven’t perused, and much of the country is willing to go with Attorney General Robert Barr’s four-page summary that there’s nothing in it that looks at all bad for Trump, so the Democrats were hoping that Mueller would make it more vivid, which his very carefully chosen words didn’t do.
On the other hand, Trump and his die-hard supporters in the Republican party didn’t get what they wanted. They’ve been claiming that the report completely exonerates Trump of any wrongdoing, and Mueller reiterated the report’s carefully chosen and clearly stated words that it “does not exonerate the president.” Even as Trump and his die-hard supporters claim that Mueller did exonerate the president, they’re also claiming that Mueller is a “deep state” conspirator who launched a treasonous “witch hunt” into a “total hoax” about Russian interference on Trump’s behalf in the last presidential election, and they didn’t make much headway with that alternative argument.
On the whole, we’d say that Trump and his die-hard supporters got slightly the worst of it.
In his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee Mueller reiterated his investigation’s finding that Russia did indeed interfere on Trump’s behalf in various ways during the last election, a claim that all of America’s intelligence agencies confirm is not a hoax, with Trump’s Secretary of State and Central Intelligence Agency director and National Security and Director of National Security Director in agreement. Trump is still inclined to take Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s word for it that Russia would never think of doing any such thing, and has taken no action to prevent from doing so in the future, and any fair-minded American who’s still paying attention to Mueller’s carefully chosen words about this stuff should be concerned about that.
Mueller also reiterated his investigation’s conclusion that it could not charge Trump or his campaign with criminally conspiring with the Russians, which seems to be the “total exoneration” that Trump crows about, but of course it’s more complicated that. The investigation found Trump campaign officials were fully aware of Russia’s efforts and had numerous and Russian officials, proved that Trump was lying when he assured the Republican primary electorate he wasn’t pursuing any business deals in Russia, and has won indictments and guilty pleas and convictions against such high-ranking Trump associates as longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen and campaign manager Paul Manafort and national security advisor Mike Flynn. Another case against longtime Trump friend and advisor Roger Stone is currently being adjudicated, but Mueller carefully avoided commenting on that, or any of the other many criminal cases his investigation referred to other jurisdictions.
The House Judiciary Committee was naturally more interested in the part of Mueller’s report that outlined ten instances where Trump sought to thwart the investigation, but Mueller disappointed the Democrats by artfully dodging questions about whether he would have charged Trump with obstruction of justice if Trump weren’t the president of the United States. There’s a Watergate-era opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that says you can’t charge a sitting president for a felony, which the report seems to imply is the sole reason no charges were brought, and the seasoned Mueller was craftily coy in dodging questions about whether he’d meant to imply that, but we figure any fair-minded observer still paying attention to this arcane stuff could probably read between the lines.
The Republican attacks on the character and credibility of the man they simultaneously claim has completely exonerated Trump looked ridiculous, of course. If you’ve been following this soap opera on right wing talk radio and through Trump’s “tweets” you know that Mueller and the Hillary Clinton-loving and Trump-hating “13 Angry Democrats” he assembled for his investigation were intent on a coup d’tat against a duly elected American president, but despite their best efforts the Republican interrogators failed to make a convincing case. Trump has “tweeted” that Mueller only investigated him because Mueller was “best friends” with fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, Trump didn’t appoint Mueller to a a third term as FBI director, and because of some long-ago dispute about greens fees at a Trump-owned golf course, but that was all the more ridiculous.
Mueller is a bona fide Eagle Scout, a veteran of the Vietnam War decorated with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, a star student at three of America’s most elite universities, a longtime prosecutor against America’s most dangerous criminals whose reputation for by-the-book integrity earned him a nomination to head the FBI by a Republican president and a nomination to serve a rare second term by a Democratic president, with both appointments confirmed by landslide and bipartisan votes in the Senate. His reputation for honesty and integrity and patriotism is far better than Trump’s, by any fair-minded assessment, and it’s hard to believe he’d toss away his hard-earned fawning footnote in America’s history because of a collegial professional relationship with Comey or a third term at the FBI he swore under oath he did not apply for, much less some petty dispute over greens fees that only the likes of Trump would make a big deal about.
That Mueller disappointed by the Democrats by declining to sensationalize the more damning parts of his report makes the Republican arguments that he’s a treasonous “deep state” conspirator all the more unconvincing. So far as we can tell from our reading of Mueller’s report the Trump campaign cooperated with Russia’s interference in the election, and the Trump administration sought to prevent efforts to find out about it, and while it’s outside Mueller’s jurisdiction he stuck to rules as he reads them and he figures it’s up to Congress to decide if that amounts to the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that are impeachable offenses. We’re sure Mueller has some private opinion about how Congress should proceed, but he’s a stickler for the rules ,and one of those rare Washington figures who doesn’t think everything’s all about him, and is still willing to let his private opinions remain private, so as disappointed as we are our old-school Republican souls admire his old-school reticence.
Which is more than we can say for Trump. At what he surely hopes is the end of a long and distinguished career of public service Mueller has once again provided the American public with the facts of the matter at hand, as best as he could, and according to the rules he has once again humbly and wisely decided to let the rest of us sort it all out. We’ll hold out hope, as we’re sure Mueller will do, that whatever the hell the truth is it will ultimately prevail.

— Bud Norman

Another Riveting Afternoon of Television

James Holzhauer’s continued dominance of the Jeopardy! game show notwithstanding, the most compelling television show on Wednesday afternoon was Attorney General William Barr’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the “Russia thing.” Barr wound up taking such a beating that he’s declining to participate in today’s scheduled interrogation by the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, even though that’s likely to be the embarrassing big story of today.
If you’ve been following the “Russia thing” reality show you know that Mueller’s report found insufficient evidence to charge that President Donald Trump colluded with a Russian plot to interfere with the past presidential election on his behalf, despite the indictment and convictions and guilty pleas it won against Trump’s campaign manager and personal lawyer and national security for lying about their numerous contacts with Russian officials, and left it up to the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the slighter Republican majority in the Senate to decide if Trump’s thoroughly documented attempts to impede the investigation constituted obstruction of justice and the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that are impeachable offenses.
Before releasing the redacted 400-plus-pages report Barr released a four page press release summarizing the conclusions, which he chided the press for calling a summary, and it made Trump look a lot better than the eventually released redacted report did, and the redactions are probably even more damned damning. The free if “fake” news media have reported that Mueller and his crack team of investigators thought Barr mischaracterized their findings, so naturally the damned Democrats had some tough questions about that, and for the most part Barr had trouble coming up with answers.
As old-fashioned pre-Trump Republican conservatives we have no rooting interest in these damned Democrats, but we have to admit they scored some points. One of Barr’s inquisitors was California Senator and announced Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who is far too far left for our tastes yet too centrist for the left wingers we watch Jeopardy! with at Kirby’s Beer Store, and as a former California prosecutor she’s probably sent too many young minority males to prison to win a Democratic nomination, but there’s no denying she left Barr stammering. As crazy as she is Harris can eloquently pose a tough question, which Trump’s Attorney General struggled with on Wednesday, and if the Democrats can forgive her occasional resort to common sense she’d probably make a formidable opponent for Trump in the next presidential election.
Trump had clearly hoped that Barr’s four-page summary of the the Mueller report would fully exonerate him of anything to do with the “Russia thing,” but Barr’s testimony on Wednesday and his absence on Thursday will likely keep it in the news for a while. The report confirms the consensus of the national intelligence community and Trump’s own appointees that Russia meddled in the last election on Trump’s behalf, which Trump continues to doubt and has done absolutely nothing about, and we can easily guess why Barr declines today to answer any questions from a Democratic majority on a House Judiciary Committee about that. For now, at least, the “Russia thing” seems likely to linger, and any attempts by Barr and Trump to charge “deep state” conspirators for starting it will only drag it out into the next administration, no matter what it is.
At this point, we wonder if any of it will make any difference at all. By now Trump’s opponents are disposed to believe the the worst about him, even if the Mueller report doesn’t fully oblige them, and Trump’s fans are inclined to believe that he’s making America great again, even if the Mueller report doesn’t quite back up that audacious claim. The economy’s still sluggishly chugging along at the same low-growth rate it was during the last years of the hated Obama administration, more and more brown-skinned people are showing up at our southern border but we’re treating them more harshly than ever, and there are a couple of Trump appointees on the Supreme Court who might or might not back him up in the the looming Constitutional showdowns about all of it, and that’s more likely to settle the next presidential election.
We’ll be watching all the news until then, and taking on an even livelier interest than in Holzhauer’s amazing run on Jeopardy! So far as we can tell, this is serious business.

— Bud Norman

The Never-Ending Cage Match Between Rep. Nadler and President Trump

We read that the World Wrestling Entertainment franchise just had another big-bucks pay-per-view “Wrestlemania,” with reigning women’s champion Becky Lynch besting both Rhonda Rousey and Charlotte Flair in a rare triple threat match and unprecedented all-woman headline bout. As usual we declined to pay to view it, but it will eventually be free on YouTube, and for trash-talking and body-slamming and eye-gouging entertainment we don’t think it can compete with the political battle between President Donald Trump and New York Rep. Jerry Nadler.
By now you surely know who Trump is. Aside from being President of the United, he’s the billionaire real estate mogul and failed casino-operator and reality show star who once body-slammed and shaved the head of WWE owner Vince McMahon in a “Battle of the Billionaires” on a past big-bucks pay-per-view “Wrestlemania,” which YouTube can verify we’re not making up. Die-hard Kansas devotees of political blood sport that we are we’ve only recently become aware of the existence of Nadler, but apparently the political junkies in New York already know that Nadler’s been successfully going toe-to-toe against Trump for the past several decades.
The feud started way back in ’85, when Trump was an ambitious 30-something real estate wheeler-dealer who wanted to transform a dilapidated section of New York City into a “Television City” with the world’s tallest skyscraper, and make it “the greatest piece of land in urban America.” Nadler was a mere New York assemblyman at the time, representing the district that Trump wanted to transform, and where most of the constituents absolutely hated the idea, but he waged a fairly effective fight. Trump did get to build some buildings, but none of them were the tallest skyscraper in the world, and that area isn’t the most valuable piece of land in urban America, but the mostly middle class people there seem to prefer Nadler to Trump. Since the ’80s Nadler has been elected to the House of Representatives, where he blocked Trump’s plans to relocate a federal highway to accommodate one of his development plans, and the latest election results show that at least in New York City Nadler is far more popular than Trump.
Trump has since been elected the President of the United States, but over the past 14 terms Nadler has risen to the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee, where he has the legal authority to subpoena all sorts of things and make all kind of trouble for Trump. These matters will eventually be resolved in court according to the constitution, rather than WWE rules, so we give the formidable Nadler at least a fighting chance.
Back in the ’80s Nadler was conspicuously overweight, and Trump was still relatively svelte, so Trump dubbed him “Fat Jerry” in their tabloid war of words. These days Nadler has slimmed down some and Trump is pretty fat, but Trump recently revived the “Fat Jerry” slur in front of a group of uncomfortable Republican senators, and we expect that Trump’s die-hard fans will love the way that at least he fights. The feud doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon, though, and in the meantime this Nadler fellow will probably get some licks in.
So far as we can tell this Nadler fellow is one of those damned Democrats, and from New York City to boot, but the courts don’t seem to put much weight on the weight of the litigants, and neither do we, and these days our old Kansas Republican souls don’t have a dog in these fights between two New York City boys, and we know it’s all rigged anyway.

— Bud Norman