The Trials of the Centuries

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump has formally begun, with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swearing in the Senate as sworn impartial jurors, and thus far it’s the trial of this young century. In many troubling ways, it reminds us of The People v O.J. Simpson, which was the trial of the last century.
In case you’re blessedly too young to remember, we should explain that Simpson was a Heisman Trophy-winning running back at the University of Southern California who went on to set several National Football League records with the Buffalo Bills, and then parlayed that and his good looks and congenial public image into lucrative careers as a rental car pitchman and sports announcer and sometime movie actor and household name. When he was charged with the brutal stabbing murders of his glamorous ex-wife and a handsome young waiter she’d been seeing, it was a very big deal.
When the story first broke that the ex-wife of a B-list celebrity had been murdered it got little play in most newspapers, but we had a very savvy editor at the paper where we worked and he put it on the front page, as he’d been around long enough to know that ex-husbands are usually a prime suspect in a murder case and that readers are suckers for sordid stories about even B-list celebrities. We spent countless hours of our newspaper’s time following every detail that came over the wires, right up to desultory climax, and are still watching Simpson grow old and the story plays out to its ultimate tragicomic ending.
Everything that was reported in the papers and admitted as evidence and testimony in a court of law pointed to Simpson’s guilt. He was previously convicted on two occasions of violence against his ex-wife, his blood was found at the murder scene and her blood was found in his car, there was a very rare glove found at the murder scene and testimony from the glove-maker that one of them was bought by Simpson’s then-wife at Christmas time, and after Simpson led the police on a highly-rated low-speed flee from justice the best alibi he had to offer was ludicrously weak.
None of which made any difference in the outcome. Simpson is black, his ex-wife and her reputed boyfriend were white, and in the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots that mattered more to most of black America. The trial judge allowed the defense to argue a conspiracy by the same justice system that had let Simpson off lightly for domestic abuse conviction, and when one of the detectives was caught lying about the using the “n word” most of black America had made up its mind. The trial judge also allowed the defense to argue that Simpson’s ex-wife might have been killed by a Colombian drug that gang that mistook her for another blonde who had a thousand dollar or so cocaine debt, and most of black America seized on that improbable explanation.
The the trial was held in the mostly black district of downtown Los Angeles, rather than the upscale white suburb where the murder occurred, and the “not guilty” verdict was expected.
We were friends with both of the two black men in the newsroom at the time, and usually enjoyed our talks about sports and inter-office gossip and the rest of the news of the day during coffee breaks and other downtime, but the Simpson trial strained relationships. Both of our friends were highly intelligent and well educated and quite competent journalists who tended to look at things a with dispassionate objectivity, yet despite all the evidence neither was willing to concede even the possibility that Simpson was guilty as charged.
They had their reasons, we must admit. American justice has indeed imprisoned a lot of innocent black people, and imprisoned a lot more guilty black people fo longer sentences than they eserved, and Simpson was just the sort of black celebrity icon the man would want to bring down. We can see how these convoluted conspiracy theories were more compelling than the clearly evident facts of the case.
This time around Trump is on trial, and once again tribal allegiances seem more important than the clearly evident facts of the case. In one of those twists of fate one should by now come to expect it is highly intelligent and well educated and rapidly aging and increasingly outnumbered white men who are ignoring all the clearly evident facts of the case to will stick by their man. Trump stands accused of abusing his executive powers by withholding congressionally authorized aid to beleaguered ally Ukraine to extort political help against a Democrat party rival, and then obstructing Congress’ constitutional authority to look into it, and so far all the -press reports and sworn testimony and admitted by court documentary evidence indicates that, yeah, Trump did that.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the moonlighting White House chief of staff and Officer of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney and former national security advisor John Bolton might and Attorney General William Barr and private Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani might offer some exculpatory testimony, but for some suspicious reason Trump is barring them from doing so. The fans don’t mind it a bit, and will hope for as little information as possible so long as it ends in an eventual acquittal.
They have their reasons, too. Those damned Democrats are indeed a bossy bunch, and might well prove the ruination of our great country if given a chance. Relatively wealthy white men are also under rhetorical assault from the mainstream media and popular culture, and at least the stock market is up and Trump is appointing conservative judges and getting pro football players to stop kneeling during the national anthem.
So what if Trump did what he’s accused of doing in his impeachment trial, as all the evidence clearly indicates? Given how awful the damn Democrats are we can understand why most Republicans still think they deserve to lose. As guilty of murder as Simpson obviously was, we can well understand why some people had less faith in American justice, We try our best to be objective and non-partisan and not all racist about these things, and instead proceed with the established facts of the matter. In both trials of the past two centuries we’ve found the defendant guilty as all get-out, but for reasons having nothing to do with the facts of the case Trump will also likely be found not guilty.
“Not guilty” doesn’t necessarily mean “innocent,” though, and history will eventually convict both Simpson and Trump, what with all those stubborn facts and the objectivity that tine affords. Chief Justice Roberts will likely run a better trial than the judge in the Simpson case did, but there will be all sorts of conspiracy theories and other distractions, and the eventual inevitable acquittal won’t satisfy anyone any more than Simpson’s did.
It should be a hit show, though, so we’ll stay tuned in.

— Bud Norman

The Impeachment Show Commences

The House of Representatives has formally forwarded articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate, and there’s no way of knowing comes next, except that it will be complicated and divisive and inconclusive and ultimately harmful to America’s international reputation.
At this point the betting line is that the slim Republican majority in the Senate, which includes some sometimes principled members in iffy states, won’t vote to summarily dismiss the charges when it comes up in a week or so, and even if they did it probably wouldn’t be the smart political play. Only so much of the viewing public is paying any attention, but most of those unwashed masses want to hear the story told by sworn witnesses and any e-mails or text massages or hand-written notes or other verifiable documents that might flesh out this fascinating tale.
There’s already enough of it in the press and sworn testimony before the House and other public records to make for a prima facie case to the Senate, and if Trump succeeds in not offering any defense he’ll look bad to objective observers, which currently seem to be a majority of the electorate. Since Trump was indicted by the House one of his personal lawyer’s currently indicted clients and associates has gone on cable television to further implicate Trump in the charges of impeachment, and even though he’s under indictment and there all sorts of other a reasons to doubt his credibility he’s also a a client and associate of Trump’s personal lawyer, who also seems tied up in this mess, and given his current legal situation he has good reason to be forthcoming and truthful under oath, which makes for another interesting plot twist in this ongoing Trump reality show.
If there’s going to be a trial with all those pesky witnesses, Trump and his Senate allies are hoping they’ll include Hunter Biden, the son of currently front Democratic presidential presidential frontrunner who was apparently cashing in on Ukrainian corruption, will be among them, along with any other witnesses who can be culled from the “deep state” conspiracy against Trump, The charges facing the Senate jury are that Trump and his administration withheld congressionally authorized aid to our ally Ukraine in exchange for damning charges against the Bidens, then obstructed Congress and the justice system at large from finding about it, but on that point of law both Bidens and any other “deep state” conspirators can believably testify they know nothing about it.
Trump will either be convicted or more likely be acquitted by a Senate trial, but in any case it won’t look good in the international or historical courts of opinion.

— Bud Norman

.

On What Many People Are Saying

Although we’ve done a lot of damned dumb things in life, we can at least boast that we’ve rarely fallen for even the slickest con man’s patter. Hypersensitive as we are to the English language, and being avid students of the art of rhetoric and the comedy of W.C. Fields, we can always spot the tricks a used car or time-share or snake oil salesman or other huckster uses to reel in the suckers.
Whenever making an obviously suspicious assertion they like to add “OK?” or “right?” and await the suckers’ hypnotically nodding acknowledgement of what they’ve been told. Their claims are always absurdly hyperbolic and couched in the most superlative adjectives, but most often too promising for anyone but such fatalistic sorts as ourselves to resist. They also like to throw in that some people are saying the same thing, and imply that you also want to be in the know, and that there’s something very wrong with anyone who says anything different..
By now you’ve probably figured out this is all leading up to yet another of our rants about President Donald Trump, who daily employs these tricks to peddle his suspicious claims and hyperbolic promises. We were set off by a Trump “tweet” arguing that many people believe the Senate should just summarily dismiss the impeachment charges against him without at any testimony or evidence or any sort of trial at all.
Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, ‘no pressure’ Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have,” he “tweeted,” adding “I agree!”
The argument at least has some truth going for it, as there are indeed “many people” who think this way, but there are also “many people” who think the Earth is flat and that shape-shifting Illuminati reptilians secretly run the world. They’re all entitled to their crackpot opinions, but so are we and the rest of a more skeptical world. We’ve read the “transcripts,” as well the sworn testimony and documentary evidence that got Trump impeached by the House of Representatives, and find it quite persuasive, so we’d like to hear a more vigorous defense from the president than what “many people” are saying.
Perhaps Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the moonlighting White House Chief of Staff and Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, and Trump’s personal lawyer and shadow Secretary of State Rudy Giuliani could exonerate Trump, but for some reason Trump is blocking their sworn testimony, presumably because it would give credence to the “Democrat Witch Hunt.” Former national security advisor John Bolton has said he’ll testify in an impeachment trial if subpoenaed, and we’re among the many, many people who would love to hear what he has to say under oath about all this.
Despite a slim Republican majority in the Senate there’s a good chance there will be an impeachment trial, with witnesses and evidence and withheld testimony and evidence, and it will surely be embarrassing to Trump. The good news for Trump is that there almost certainly won’t be the needed supra-majority need to remove him from office, and he will thus be able to claim he was innocent of any wrongdoing all along, and that after he says “OK?” and “Right?” many heads will nod in agreement.
Many people will disagree, though, and we’ll find out on Election Day how many there are on each side.

— Bud Norman

End-of-the-Year Procrastination

All three branches of the government of are still on holiday vacation, the private sector is also taking a break, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un didn’t deliver any unpleasant Christmas surprises. For the moment there’s no reason in the news to interrupt the holiday cheer, which might well last until next year, but sooner or later you’ll find the news of the world unavoidable.
When we all get back to it President Donald Trump will still be impeached, with all the headache-inducing arguments that will entail, the stock markets will go up and down, and the situation on the Korean peninsula will remain very scary. The national debt will continue to accumulate, the climate will continue to change, and trade wars will be ongoing and the resulting agreements underwhelming. There will be celebrity scandals and much-ballyhooed product launches by big corporations, and stories about the many good and bad things happening in the world that deserve more serious attention.
For the past several holiday days we’ve been carefully avoiding any discussion of any of it at our family gatherings. This has mostly worked out well, as we have lots of happy memories and fond wishes to share, and that seems most apt for this cold and dark time of year. We’ll put off the news for another week if not another year, and send our best wishes for a Happy New Year to anyone who happens to read this.

— Bud Norman

On Trump and Christianity Today

Since its founding by Rev. Billy Graham in 1956 the magazine Christianity Today has been an influential voice in evangelical circles, but little noticed by the rest of the world. That changed on Friday when it ran an editorial urging that President Donald Trump be removed from office, which got so much attention the magazine’s internet site briefly crashed in the unprecedented traffic.
The editorial was newsworthy because poll after poll has shown that Trump enjoys overwhelming support from white self-identified evangelical Christians, with such self-proclaimed evangelical leaders as Graham’s son Franklin Graham among his most obsequious defenders, and Trump’s critics have long been perplexed by the phenomenon.
Trump boasted in “The Art of the Deal” about the many married women he’s seduced, his third wife is a former nude model, he broke federal laws to cover up an affair with a pornographic video performer, he ran casinos and strip clubs, often curses in front of the kids, once tried to kick an elderly widow of her longtime home to build a parking lot for his limousine, and has earned a reputation for stiffing his employees and contractors and investors. He tells at least two or three outright lies a day, his family was recently barred by the New York courts from running a charity because his foundation had stolen money from a children’s cancer program, he pridefully “punches back ten times harder” rather than turn the other cheek, and while running for the Republican nomination he told a Christian forum that he’s never felt the need to ask God’s forgiveness for any of it.
So far as we can tell, Trump’s white evangelical supporters believe he’s punching back ten times harder on their behalf, and therefore deserves a pass. Although he was a staunch advocate for abortion rights through most of his life, he’s kept a promise to appoint Supreme Court justices and lower court judges who might overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that made first-term abortions a constitutional right. He moved the America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and given his blessings to his expanded Israeli settlements in disputed territories, and has otherwise been a staunch friend to a country that is now more important to America’s evangelical Christians than to its most secularized Jews. Trump has also sought to revoke the Johnson Amendment that forbids tax-exempt churches from advocating for political candidates such as himself, and his controversial Secretary of Education has sought to prevent restrictions on the free speech rights of students.
More importantly, we suspect, is that Trump is despised by the same snooty Hollywood and academic and media types that many evangelicals feel have been sneering down at them during the past many decades of cultural revolution. He longs for a 1950s economy of coal miners and steelworkers and stay-at-home moms, and a return to that same halcyon era when football players stood at attention during the national anthem and protestors were treated roughly and Christianity was a more dominant force in American culture. Trump might not be an exemplary Christian, some of our white evangelical friends will admit, but they note that David was beloved by God and a great leader despite his rather extraordinary sins, and that the Persian King Cyrus negotiated a treaty that protected his kingdom and also gave freedom to the Israelites, so they have faith that Trump is one of those mysterious God ways with which works His will.
We’re white and regularly attend services at a strictly-by-the-Bible low church over on the west side and not embarrassed to evangelize for Christ, and in fact are ashamed by how little we do it, but better Christians than ourselves have never persuaded us to support Trump with any of these arguments.
David had demonstrated his love for God in mortal combat against Goliath and pleaded God’s mercy for his sins, and Trump’s bone spurs and prideful nature have prevented him for doing either. That deal Cyrus struck with the Israelites only forestalled the diaspora and the destruction of the temple and the pogroms and the Holocaust and all the difficulties that still beset a reconstituted Israel. For all its virtues the ’50s was a time of disgraceful institutional racial and sexual inequality, and for all the destructive influences that have been unleashed since we’re glad that the era’s dissenters weren’t beaten into submission. That steelmaking and coal mining economy isn’t coming back, nor are the trade union dominance and high top-bracket tax rates of the era, and we figure it’s better the public should focus on the inevitable high-tech and air-conditioned and less brown-lung-inducing and more female-inclusive industries of the future, and how to get along with one another in a population that will become increasingly diverse no matter what walls Trump builds. Even if Roe v Wade is overturned, the matter will simply be turned back over to the states, where the liberals will likely win lots of elections on the issue.
We’re as appalled at the current state of the American culture as any of our white evangelical brothers and sisters, but the scriptures tell us to put not our faith in princes, and as princes go we’re especially suspicious of this unrepentantly vulgar and profane Trump fellow. He seems to epitomize the Hugh Hefner and Rat Pack hedonism of the ’50s, as well as the decade’s pushy racism and sexism, and his complaints about what have come since seem disingenuous except when they’re overtly racist and sexist or obviously self-serving. God allowed Trump’s election to the presidency, just as he twice allowed President Barack Obama’s, but we believe that in both cases He was granting American mankind its postlapsarian free will and the opportunity to once again screw things up beyond recognition.
At this point, and as always, even the most cocksure Americans of humankind can’t bring about paradise on Earth, so we figure the Church should remain focused on sending as many individual souls as possible to a better place. Having the faith identify itself with its allegiance to Trump won’t help the effort. As the editorial in Christianity Today notes, there’s no disputing the evidence that Trump’s unabashed amorality has led him to abuse the powers of office and obstruct officials to find the truth about it, among other odious things, and there’s no explaining that to the skeptical sinners in need of salvation.
“To use an old cliche, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence,” the editor-in-chief wrote. “And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.”
We’re not saying any damn Democrat would be any better, but we share the hope of Christianity Today and Christians everywhere that there’s something better on the far horizon.

— Bud Norman

And So It Begins

As the House of Representatives was voting to impeach him on Wednesday, President Donald Trump was holding yet another campaign rally, this time in Battle Creek, Michigan. The location was appropriately named, as Trump was even more combative than usual.
Although the rally was a relatively short two hours long, Trump managed to ramble through the usual boasts, toss out the usual nicknames for his potential election challengers, whip up the usual hatred for the media covering the event, gripe that the security forces were too gently escorting a female protestor out of the event, and cast the usual aspersions on the patriotism of anyone who opposes him. He seemed particularly peeved with Democratic Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, who filled her husband’s longtime seat after his recent death, and threw a rather morbid joke to the rant.
“Debbie Dingell, that’s a real beauty,” Trump said, telling the crowd how he had signed off on the half-mast flags and other funeral honors routinely given to mark the passing of such a longtime congressman as her husband. “She calls me up. ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened. Thank you so much. He’s looking down,'” Trump told the crowd, imitating the tears she was supposedly crying, then adding with a comic shrug, “Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know.”
Most of the crowd found it hilarious, but the mocking of a grieving widow and a jocular suggestion that her recently deceased husband might be roasting in hell did get a few audible moans, and not just from the media in attendance. We found it a bit much even by Trump standards, and were also offended by the suggestion that Dingell was obligated to vote against Trump’s impeachment because he didn’t spitefully deny him him the honors due a long-serving member of Congress. Later in the speech he also seemed especially peeved with New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, suggesting that she owed him a “nay” vote because he had once donated to one of her campaigns and “now I want my damn money back.”
Such arguments didn’t stave off Trump’s impeachment by the House, where only two members of the Democratic majority, both running for reelection in districts that Trump won in the past election, were all voting “yea.” Every Republican voted “nay,” though, and and for now the entire slim Republican majority in the Senate finds Trump’s exaggerated boasts and unfounded slanders and casual cruelties compellingly persuasive. It wows the rally crowds and plays well with the talk radio-listening base, too, and will probably be the defense that Trump sticks with through an impeachment trial.
Which should make for an interesting holiday season.

— Bud Norman

What Not to Talk About in Christmastime

The House of Representatives is expected to impeach President Donald Trump today on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress today, giving Americans plenty to shout at one other about during their family Christmas celebrations. All the polls and other evidence the country is split pretty much down the middle on the matter, and neither side seems willing to listen to the other, so for now we suggest everyone talk about such anodyne topics as sports and whatever good news they have about the cute kids scurrying around the festivities.
Even so, we’ll be keeping an eye on the developments. This is only third time in American history that a president has been impeached — not counting the impending and inevitable impeachment that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation — and no matter one’s perspective it’s a subject of great importance. It’s very serious stuff, even if many of the arguments being made are utterly unserious.
On impeachment eve Trump issued a six-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on official White House stationery, and it has to be seen to be read. The president reportedly spent a whole week on it, with input from top White House advisors and Trump’s personal lawyers, and it’s clearly been spell-checked and made use of a thesaurus, but otherwise it’s just a longer-than-usual presidential “tweet.” The are the usual Random Capitalizations and excessive use of exclamation markets, easily disproved claims, personal attacks, and the standard Trumpian tactic of accusing his opponents of whatever he’s been accused of, as well as a complaint that the Democrats “have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”
Nothing in the missive offers any credible refutation of the evidence that has been brought against him, nor any explanation about why he’s blocking key witnesses from offering any exculpatory testimony, but Pelosi’s response that the letter was “ridiculous” and “really sick” also wasn’t very substantive. We’re holding out faint hope that the arguments will be more high-minded during a Senate trial, which is expected to take place next month, but have no expectation that any of it will change anybody’s mind.
Anything’s possible, though, especially these days, and there’s no predicting what bizarre plot twists might unfold in this surreal reality show. We’ll keep an open eye on it, but during the Christmas season we’ll try to keep our mouths shut at the family get-togethers. Some Republicans are blaming the Democrats for impeaching Trump so close to Christmas, but some of them voted to impeach President Bill Clinton on Dec. 19, 1998, and even though our family was in favor of that we mostly talked abut sports and the young kinfolk during that holiday season.

— Bud Norman

 

The Impeachment Inches Along

The House judiciary committee spent an exhausting 14 hours squabbling about the impeachment of President Donald Trump on Thursday, then went home without having voted on on the matter. A vote is scheduled for this morning, and it’s a safe bet the committee will pass two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on strict party lines and set up a vote by the full House.
The House Republicans can continue to slow things down with amendments they know won’t be passed, and conspiracy theories that can’t be proved, and non-stop points of order and indignant complaints about the constitutional process, but eventually the overwhelming Democratic majority in the House will vote to impeach Trump. The Democrats’ voters want Trump out of office as soon as possible, all of the evidence so far indicates that Trump is guilty of what they’re charging him with, and only the Republicans are fearful of what Trump might “tweet” about it.
Trump has been “tweeting” even more than usual, setting a presidential record with 105 “tweets” on Sunday and more than 90 during Thursday’s impeachment session. He took time out of his busy day to taunt a 16-year-old climate change activist after she was named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year,” but mostly it’s been diatribes abut hoaxes and witch hunts and diabolically crazed Democrats. He’s not offering any exculpatory evidence, is blocking key witnesses from giving testimony to Congress, and his taunts are increasingly lame and his “tweets” increasingly ignored.
The smart is money is betting that Trump won’t be removed from office by the Senate, where the Republicans have a slight majority and a supermajority is required for a conviction, but he and his party will likely be bruised by the process. According to the Constitution the trial in the Senate will be presided by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, and given his reputation for nonpartisanship he’s likely to compel the testimony of those key witnesses Trump has thus far muzzled, and we expect there’s good reason Trump doesn’t want them to testify. The Republicans in the House have been playing to the die-hard Trump supporters, the Republicans in the Senate will mostly do the same, and to everyone who’s paying attention but the die-hards they look ridiculous.
The good news for Republicans is that there are a lot die-hard fans and much of the country isn’t paying attention.

— Bud Norman

NAFTA, the USMCA, and Maybe MAGA

The big story on Tuesday was the House judiciary committee drawing up a couple of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, which the House of Representatives is almost certainly to soon vote for, so you might have overlooked the better news for Trump that the Democrats are also going to soon vote for a north American free trade agreement he has been pursuing called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The USMCA is not to be confused with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has long derided as the worst trade deal ever, even if it does basically retain NAFTA’s basic principle of making North America a more or less free trade zone. Not only has Trump rebranded it with more cumbersome initials, this agreement has some of the same modifications that have been made in all the biannual renegotiations since NAFTA was passed, and enough of them are beneficial enough that Trump is boasting it’s the best trade deal ever. The stock markets were all slightly down on the day, but the reviews from the farm and manufacturing and retailing spokespeople and even the mainstream media were all at least lukewarmly positive.
The impeachment articles overshadowed Trump’s accomplishments, though, and the Democrats also got some good press out of the USMCA. They were able to boast that Trump had made some serious concessions to them about environmental protections and labor rights that some prominent congressional Republicans were grousing about, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi taunting Trump that “We ate their lunch,” and at the same time demonstrate their willingness to work with Trump on the public’s behalf even as they impeach him.
Both sides deserve some credit for arriving at a deal that least resumes the basic structure of a North American free trade zone that has benefited the entire continent since its inception, and letting America’s farmers and manufacturers and retailers resume business more or less as normal. Neither side will probably make a big deal of it, though, as the deal is not all that great and the credit for it is spread too thin, and this impeachment business will be the bigger story.

— Bud Norman

Dueling Conspiracy Theories

As any right wing talk radio listener well knows, there’s a “deep state” conspiracy of intelligence and law enforcement officials, along with the legacy media and the Ukrainians, that’s been out to President Donald Trump since the day he announced his campaign. So far the conspirators haven’t been successful in their efforts, but at least they haven’t been caught.
An inspector general for the Department of Justice named Michael Horowitz was dispatched to expose the conspiracy’s efforts to launch a phony investigation of Russia’s alleged election meddling and spy on his campaign with informants and phone taps, but on Monday he issued a report concluding the investigation was based on solid evidence of wrongdoing rather than political bias and that no spying occurred. That won’t satisfy the die-hard Trump fans, though, and the conspiracy theorizing will continue.
Attorney General William Barr focused on the serious mistakes investigators had made in seeking a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, and reached his own conclusion “that the (Federal Bureau of Investigation) laughed an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.” He’s already launched another investigation led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who took the unusual step of releasing a statement casting doubt on the inspector general’s report.
Perhaps Durham will be better luck exposing the conspiracy, but it won’t be easy. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, after all, and the “deep state” conspiracy theory makes some very extraordinary claims. All of America’s intelligence heads have confirmed that Russia ran a disinformation campaign hacked into Democratic party e-mail system and selectively leaked the most embarrassing missive, even the Trump appointees have confirmed the finding, as did a special counsel investigation that won an indictment of 13 Russians allegedly involved, and a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence agency also agreed. So far no one’s come up with any evidence that Russia was blameless and it was Ukraine that did the meddling, or a even a reasonable explanation for why Ukraine would be hacking and leaking Democratic e-mails and planting internet pro-Trump internet trolls to get Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton elected.
Also hard to explain is why a presumably left-wing “deep state” conspiracy is still conspiring to get Vice President Mike Pence promoted. Perhaps Pence is on it, as are a number of hand-picked Trump appointees, but that’s another extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary proof.
At this point we not sure why Trump remains concerned about Russia’s meddling in the election, as it fizzled as an impeachment case and the die-hard fans don’t care if he was in on it, and it makes the Ukraine business look all the fishier, Our best guess is that Trump believes the die-hard fans will cling to the dangling possibility of Russia’s vindication also vindicating him, and neatly explain why he was heroically withholding congressional appropriated military from those nefarious Ukrainians, and that even if the House impeaches him none of the Republicans in the Senate would dare vote to remove him from office. That’s not a bad bet, as the die-hard fans have thus far proved willing to believe even Trump’s most extraordinary claims without any proof at all.
The strategy might not be sufficient by election day, however, as you have to be a pretty die-hard fan to believe any of it. If they’ve been paying any attention, all of the damned Democrats and most of those squishy independents and at least a few of us fed-up pre-Trump Republicans will conclude that Russia meddled on Trump’s behalf in the last election and intends to do so with Trump’s blessing next time around, that Trump withheld military aid from a country that is largely occupied with Russian troops, and that a president shouldn’t be doing such things.
Between the die-hard fans and all the people who aren’t paying any attention, and given the very strong possibility that the Democrats will again nominate an extraordinarily awful candidate, Trump still has a fighting chance. The unemployment rate is undeniably low despite his trade wars, even if they have hit the farming and manufacturing sectors Trump relies on particularly hard. No new wars have broken out, even if Trump has made a mess of the old ones in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan, and he’s lately having a scary lover’s spat with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. If his luck holds up, and his voters are optimally spread around the electoral map, it might not matter about what happened in such faraway places with such unfamiliar people as Ukraine and Russia.
There’s always an outside chance the Democrats won’t once again nominate someone too extraordinarily awful, however, and with the manufacturing sector in a technical recession and farm foreclosures on the rise and much of the relative economic boom going on in states and suburbs where Trump does not poll well there’s no telling how the economy will play come election day. The dictator Kim has lately threatened to once again call Trump a dotard if Trump ever calls him “Rocket Man,” and is further threatening a more belligerent stance during the upcoming election, and given the state of the world and America relationships with it there’s no telling what’s likely to come up by next November.
If Trump’s luck doesn’t hold up, as it didn’t during his career as a casino mogul, his impeachment by the House and acquittal despite clear evidence in the Senate will be a problem.

— Bud Norman