Sessions Ends

By now there are a lot of Americans who regret their past support of President Donald Trump, but few are more regretful than former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He once enjoyed a lifelong sinecure as a Senator from Alabama, where he was well-liked, but ever since he became the first Senator to endorse Trump’s 2016 candidacy he’s had nothing but trouble. By Tuesday night, he was out of public life completely and probably forever.
Trump rewarded Sessions by making him Attorney General, arguably a more prestigious gig than the United States Senate, but that quickly became a problem. The intelligence agencies had concluded that the Russian government had meddling in various ways in America’s presidential election, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had reasons to believe the Trump campaign, so an investigation was launched. Because Sessions had served on the campaign being investigated, and had already perjured himself in in his confirmation hearings by saying he had no contact with any Russians during the campaign, he acted according to legal ethics and recused him from the matter.
Trump has never forgiven Sessions for doing the right thing. After Session’s recusal the matter was turned over to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special investigator, which turned out to be an annoyance to Trump. Even as Sessions continued to pursue White House policies as Attorney General, Trump constantly berated him in “tweets” and public statements, and continued to do so after Sessions relented to the pressure and offered his resignation. Trump continued to criticize Sen. John McCain even after McCain’s death, so he’s not one to let a feud end for any reason.
After Sessions resigned his Senate seat to join the administration there was a special election held to find a successor, and because the Republicans nominated a very credibly accused ephebophile and over-the-top theocrat a Democrat actually won the general election. The Democrat is up for reelection this and considered quite vulnerable, so Sessions joined a crowded primary field to get his old job back. Despite Trump’s opposition Sessions wound up in a run-off against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who has no previous political experience but had won a lot of games on the gridiron, which plays well in Alabama. Trump enthusiastically endorsed Tuberville and continued to lambaste Sessions, and although Sessions used to routinely win election in Alabama by landslides the state is now more loyal to New York City scam artist.
Tuberville won the nomination Tuesday by a landslide, and the political handicappers are saying the state “leans Republican” in the general election. Sessions was once beloved in Alabama for his principled conservatism, but because he was too principled to help Trump out of a jam his career there is now over. He’s old an entitled to a generous pension from his years of public service, but we’re sure Sessions regrets giving up that cushy lifetime sinecure in the Senate by aligning himself with Trump.
Sessions is not the only one to see his reputation tarnished because of an association with Trump. John Kelly and James Mattis and H.R. McMaster were all high-ranking military brass respected by both parties when they became Trump’s Chief of Staff, Defense Secretary and national security advisor, respectively, but all were defenestrated for the habit of giving advice Trump didn’t want hear, and he continues to insult them all. Former multinational oil executive Rex Tillerson was Trump’s first Secretary of State, but since he was forced to resign Trump has described as “dumb as a rock.” The other administration officials Trump once claimed were “the best people” but now denigrates is too long to recount here.
With the possible exception of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who briefly served as Trump’s ambassador the United Nations and has continued to speak on Trump’s behalf, it’s hard to think of anyone who’s served in the administration who left with a reputation intact. Those who remain in the administration will eventually see their careers ending with Trump’s. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could have remained in his safe congressional seat in Kansas’ Fourth District and would easily be nominated for the Senate and most likely win a lifetime sinecure, and perhaps parlayed that into the presidency, but he should probably forget about that lifelong ambition.
There are plenty of arguments to be made against Sessions, but his principled recusal from the Russia investigation. As Sessions surely realizes by now, his greatest lapse of judgment was tying his fortunes to Trump.

— Bud Norman

Pompeo and Circumstances

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo served nearly three and half terms as our congressman here in Kansas’s Fourth district before joining President Donald Trump’s administration as Central Intelligence Agency and then becoming America’s top diplomat. He was quite popular around here, routinely winning with more than 60 parent of the vote, and although the local liberals hated him for his old-fashioned conservatism they were never able to pin any scandals on him.
As a member the Trump cabinet, Pompeo now finds himself embroiled in several controversies. An inspector general who was investigating Pompeo from using a taxpayer paid aide to do personal, as well as declaring a national emergency to green light an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, was fired by President Trump, and after Trump said the firing was at Pompeo’s request that is three scandals. Pompeo also stands accused of holding expensive taxpayer-funded dinners for big bucks donors to the Republican Party who have nothing to do with foreign policy, which is a pretty embarrassing fourth scandal.
Pompeo admitted he asked for the firing of the inspector general but insisted it was a not a conflict of interest because he was unaware he was being investigated, but he also admitted that he had been given a written set of questions by the inspector general about both the aide an the arms deals.
There’s one exception: I was asked a series of questions in writing,” Pompeo said. “I responded to those questions with respect to a with respect to a particular investigation … I don’t know the scope. I don’t know the nature of that investigation — of what I would have seen from the nature of the questions that I was presented.” Except that earlier in the same news conference Pompeo said “I couldn’t possibly have retaliated for for all things I’ve seen — the various stories that someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner. It’s all just crazy.”
That’s as dismissively sarcastic a reply as Trump himself might offer, but it does amount to an admission that Pompeo knew exactly what that pesky inspector general was looking into when he requested the firing. It was the fourth firing of a pesky inspector general in the past six weeks by the Trump administration, on top of the firings of various pesky “whistle blowers,” and another worrisome example of how anyone in the federal government who doesn’t toe the administration’s line is putting his or her career in jeopardy, which is yet another administration scandal.
The defenestrated inspector general was also looking into the lavish parties Pompeo allegedly hosted on the tax payer’s tab, allegedly welcoming such guests as the chief executive officers of Chik-Fil-La and 7-Eleven and the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, along with others who had no apparent reason for being at a State Department dinner but were potential donors to potential future campaigns, and so far Pompeo hasn’t denied any of the allegations. Pompeo might have some reasonable explanation, but for now we’re expecting only another Trumpian dismissively sarcastic reply.
All of Pompeo’s problems began when he signed on with the Trump administration, and we believe that if he hadn’t done that he’d be sitting pretty right now. His seat in Congress was as safe as a government bond, as they used to say, and the the state’s open Senate seat that’s up for grabs in November would have been his for the asking. Pompeo’s got an impressive resume, including top of his class at West Point and editor of the Harvard Law Review and a successful high-tech aviation company here in Kansas, and he had a masterful knack for appealing to both the fire-breathing anti-establishment elements of the Republican party as well as the party’s establishment types who proudly voted for General Dwight Eisenhower and Senators Bob Dole and Nancy Landon and other erstwhile exemplars of moderate Kansas Republicanism.
Given his impressive resume and political instincts, a lot of us here in the Fourth Congressional district of Kansas thought Pompeo might even wind up as president some day. Pompeo is an obviously and unabashedly ambitious man, so there’s no doubt the same thought had occurred to him, and we suspect he bet that joining the Trump administration would be the shrewd move to get there. With all due respect to Pompeo, we think that in this case his political instincts failed him.
“We’ll always remember Pompeo’s rousing endorsement speech for the very Republican establishment Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at the Kansas Republican caucus in downtown Wichita’s Century II building, and how many of us booed candidate Donald Trump’s appearance and how Trump came in third after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Rubio. Trump wound up winning the nomination and then won Kansas’ electoral votes by the same 60 percent any other Republican nominee would have garnered against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, however, and Pompeo was glad to to accept an offer to hop on board. When he was elevated from CIA director to Secretary of State, with unemployment at record lows and the stock markets at record highs, he seemed poised to take some share of the credit for making America great again.
We’re not nearly as smart as Pompeo, but we’re nowhere near so intoxicatingly ambitious, and from our relatively sober perspective here on the political sidelines, after watching more Kansas politics than Pompeo has been around to see, we think he should have stayed here in the middle of Kansas. He could have supported Trump’s many sensible policies, criticized his more common vulgarism and and divisiveness and other outright corruption an many other offenses, and joined other Kansas Republicans to condemn the trade wars have hurt the state’s crucial agricultural and aviation sectors, and poised himself as a leader of the post-Trump Republican party’s return to greatness that America will much need, given how crazy the Democrats seem these days.
Instead Pompeo has hitched his proverbial wagon to Trump’s proverbial star, and so far that hasn’t worked out for anyone. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be sitting in a safe Alabama Senate seat if he hadn’t endorsed Trump and been rewarded with a Cabinet chair before being fire for dutifully recusing himself from the federal investigation of the campaign he’d worked on, and is currently in a tight battle to win his party’s nomination for the Senate because Trump continues to disparage him. Various Trump appointees appointees have have been fired for doing the right thing and now publicly oppose him, along with others who were hired for no apparent reason and then fired for good cause, and Pompeo might well be another casualty of the Trump administration. So far, no one who’s signed on with Trum0 hasn’t unscathed
Barring some deus ex machina that miraculously cures the coronavirus, and it magically goes away as if by miracle as promised, and the stock market is back at record highs and the unemployment on Election Day, Pompeo’s once-promising presidential ambitions might at an end. The good news is that with the coronavirus dominating the news few people with notice such routine scandals.

— Bud Norman

The Ongoing Trials of Sessions

President Donald Trump is still tormenting his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which is entirely unsurprising but the biggest non-coronavirus story we could find in the news this week.
Then-Alabama Sen. Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump’s seemingly quixotic campaign for the Republican party’s presidential nomination, and a time when the rest of the party’s elected and officials and other establishments were desperately hoping to nominate almost anyone else. His campaigning on Trump’s behalf helped win over a lot of the fiscal and religious conservatives who had been suspicious of the former Democrat and outspoken abortion rights advocate from New York City, and when Trump somehow won the general election Sessions was rewarded with the Attorney General gig, despite a lack of any apparent qualifications other than his loyalty.
Not long after Trump took office, though, the Justice Department announced an investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s apparent attempts to hack e-mails and sponsor internet information in order to help Trump. Because Sessions ha been a prominent member of the campaign, and he and other campaign staff had some arguably innocent interactions with Russians that he denied during congressional testimony, he recused himself from any role in the investigation. it was the ethical thing to do, and probably smart politics given the doubts that any decisions he might have would prompted, but Trump was furious.
Trump wanted the investigations quashed at the beginning, and believed that an Attorney General’s job is to protect him rather than pursue justice without favoritism, and made Session’s life as miserable as possible. Trump “tweeted” schoolyard taunts against Sessions, pilloried him during televised news conferences, and in private conversations with other administrations likened sessions to the diminutive and nearly-blind and constantly blundering cartoon character Mr. Magoo. Although he had neither the guts nor a plausible reason for outright firing Sessions, who was pursuing White policies diligently, Trump was clearly intent on forcing a resignation.
That’s what eventually happened, and Sessions was replaced by Attorney General William Barr, who has proved more willing to protect the president at all costs.
Sessions was still popular in Alabama, where he probably could have held his Senate seat until his dying day if he hadn’t loyally accepted Trump’s offer of the Attorney General job, so he went back to the welcoming arms of his home state and bided his until the next senatorial election. All of Trump’s “tweeting” and pillorying had somewhat weakened Sessions standing, though, and after a crowded primary election Sessions wound up in a run-off against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville slated for July 14. Sessions campaigned on the argument that he’d been an early supporter of Trump — who is also quite popular in the state — and remained a loyal advocate for the “Make America Great Again agenda, but Trump values loyalty to himself more than loyalty to his ever-shifting policies, and he endorsed Tuberville, who was also fully on board and already had a sizable following in the football-crazy state.
Sessions has continued to campaign as “Trump’s #1 supporter,” but the the Trump reelection has campaign has sent him a cease-and-desist letter about it, saying the claim is “delusional.” This looks bad to us, as it seems quite petty on Trump’s part and clearly implies that any true Trump supporter would have gladly obstructed justice on the president’s behalf, but a majority of Alabama’s Republican voters might well see it differently. When Alabama had a special election to fill the state’s Senate after Sessions left for the Justice Department, a majority of Alabama’s Republican voters nominated Roy Moore, an unabashed theocrat who had been kicked off the Supreme Court of Alabama for defying federal and had a number of women coming forward to describe his very creepy behavior when he was in his 30s and they were in their teens. He was such an awful candidate despite Trump’s endorsement and ardent campaigning and ample campaign contributions the Red Sea parted and a moderate Democrat named Doug Jones won a statewide election for the for the first time in decades.
Alabama is still as red as the Crimson Tide, though, and Jones is considered the Democrat’s most vulnerable incumbent in November. Tuberville might or might not have much going for him except a winning record at Auburn and Trump’s endorsement, as we don’t follow Alabama politics closely enough to say, but from this distance he doesn’t seem nearly so awful as Moore, so he’d likely be the frontrunner in a general election. Sessions would be, too, though, as Alabamans has long considered a good public servant who put principle above politicians, and although it goes against off his prideful instincts Trump would be wise to support a Sessions nomination if it happens.
These days every story has a coronavirus angle, however, and at this point it’s not clear if Alabama will be able to have a run-off election on July 14. The Alabama Republican Party could decide to postpone it until hopefully happier days, or have everyone vote by mail or on-line or some other socially-distanced, or just have the party establishment pick a nominee, and there’s no telling which candidate that would benefit.
The other coronavirus angle is that such a petty and impetuous and unprincipled president as Trump is in charge of that horror show. Even in Alabama, Jones might be able to make some hay of that by Election Day, if that happens.

— Bud Norman

The Competing Conspiracy Theories in the News

There are two very consequential conspiracy theories in the news these days, and being longtime conspiracy buffs we’ve been following both closely. One theory golds that the Russian hacked Democratic e-mails and spread disinformation through American social media and attempted to infiltrate America’s vote-counting computers in an effort to elect Donald Trump as president, and and that Trump’s campaign cooperated with the effort. The other theory, long popular on all sorts of conservative media and now fully embraced by the “tweets” of Trump himself, holds that the previous conspiracy theories is the product of a “deep state” coup d’tat against a duly elected president who’s just trying to make America great again.
Based on our everything we’ve read and our general understanding of how the world works, we’re inclined to believe the former theory than the latter.
The theory that the Russians meddled in the past election on Trump’s behalf has been endorsed by the heads of all of America’s intelligence agencies, including the ones appointed by Trump himself, and although Trump has publicly stated he’s more inclined to believe his good buddy andRussian dictator Vladimir Putin’s assurance that it never happened we better trust the American experts. All the e-mails that were somehow hacked during the election proved embarrassing to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, all of the big social media head honchos have testified to Congress that the Russkies did use their platforms to spread anti-Clinton disinformation, and Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security has advised many of the states that the Russians had attempted to breach their voting computers.
Meanwhile, a duly appointed special counsel investigation has racked up guilty pleas from Trump’s longtime lawyer and Trump’s former campaign foreign policy chief and Trump administration national security advisor, as well numerous convictions against a former campaign chairman, for lying about their contacts with Russian officials, and promising investigations are seemingly underway about Trump’s namesake son and son-in-law on the same suspected charges. There are damning e-mail chains that Trump Jr. has released, sworn congressional testimony by the heads of America’s intelligence agencies ad social media big-wigs, various guilty pleas accepted by duly constituted American courts of law, lots of intriguing search warrants and indictments also issued by duly constituted American courts of law. Throw in Trump’s continued friendliness toward the Russian dictator, and it looks bad to us.
On our daily drives around town, however, all the talk radio hosts assure us that it’s all “fake news.” The real story, we’re told, is that the damned Democrats and their feckless Republican allies in the hated establishment have concocted all these ostensible facts in prevent Trump from making America great again. The real collusion, they argue, was between Clinton and those nefarious yet somehow friendly Russians. While Clinton was Secretary of State the United States allowed a fifth of its uranium supplies to be sold to the Russians, and although nine separate agencies signed off on the deal Clinton is considered a Russian collaborator
Although it was a wealthy Republican who didn’t want Trump to be his party’s standard-bearer who first employed an ex-British intelligence officer named Christoper Steele to ask his former Russian contacts about Trump’s business dealings with Russia, the Clinton campaign later made payments to the effort, so Clinton is therefore guilty of colluding with Russians to get dirt on an opponent. The “Steele dossier” — or the “dirty dossier” or “dodgy dossier” or “discredited dossier,” as it’s known on conservative talk radio — reported the investigator’s “raw data” had informed him that the Russias were launching on a three-pronged cyber-attack on the American election through hacked e-mails and disinformation through social media and attempts to take over America’s vote-counting computers, all of which has since been confirmed to Trump’s own appointed intelligence chiefs, The dossier also had salacious details about Trump paying some Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed once slept on by President Barack in a fancy Moscow hotel room, and although nobody has verified that neither has anybody definitively discredited anything about the Steele dossier.
The Steele dossier was part of the evidence submitted to the top-secret United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to start all the “Russia thing” investigations, and that’s proof enough for the talk radio hosts that that it was a “witch hunt” from the beginning. Since then, we’re told, the establishment has been out to get Trump and prevent him from fulfilling his destiny of making America.
Which sounds weird to our aging ears, as we’re old enough to remember when the it was the hippies and the Democrats and the rest of the left-wing nutcases were blaming every human failing on the establishment. These days it’s the right-wig nutcases who are donning the cloak and righteous victimhood at the rough hands of the hated establishment, ill-fitting as it always is, and we hate to see that the President of the United States is among them.
On Monday Trump “re-tweeted” one of the Fox and Friends hots that “This was a illegal coup attempt on the President of the United States,” and added “True!” After that he played his third round of golf in as many days, then “tweeted” that former high-ranking Federal Bureau of Investigation officials Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, “who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act and got caught. There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who ad just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more. This was the illegal and treasonous ‘insurance policy’ in full action!” Which strikes us an extraordinary broadside against the establishment by a duly elected President of the United States.
If Rosenstein truly is guilty of “illegal and treasonous acts,” as Trump has “tweeted,” we wonder why Trump still retains him as his duly appointed Deputy Attorney General. Rosenstein was recommended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and you can sarcastically consider him “another beauty” if you want, but we note that Sessions was also appointed to his post by Trump, who brags that he only hires the “best people.”
We’ll also note that the Steele dossier didn’t become public until after Trump’s election, which seems an odd tactic for such an undeniably diabolical woman as Clinton, and that we can’t see any reason she’d collude with what everyone other than Trump and his most die-hard defenders agree was a Russian plot to get Trump elected.
Perhaps Trump is the victim of a vast conspiracy, but at this point it’s so vast it includes not only the damned Democrats and the varied “fake news” media but also America’s duly constituted courts of law and a small but significant slice of the Republican party and its leadership, and all of Trump’s appointed intelligence chiefs and his Deputy Attorney General, as well as such disinterested sideline observers as ourselves. One can never tell how these conspiracy theories play out, and they don’t usually amount to much, ¬†but for now one side seems to have a lot of evidence and the other side has a lot of explaining to do.

–Bud Norman

A Busy Day After Election Day

There’s a longstanding political tradition in America that the day after an election is blissfully boring, with both sides paying lip service to the will of the people and making phony baloney promises of bipartisan cooperation. President Donald Trump’s newfangled version of conservatism has little regard for longstanding political traditions, though, and even before all the ballots had been fully counted in some very close races he was generating several unavoidable news stores.
Everyone who’s been paying attention to the top-rated Trump reality show knew that soon after the midterm elections he was going to somehow remove and replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but it was still a slight surprise that it happened so suddenly. Trump did observe the longstanding tradition of giving a press conference following a mid-term election, but instead of the traditional humility and happy talk Trump insulted his interlocutors as well as the defeated Republicans who had been insufficiently supportive of his presidency, and vowed that if the soon-to-be-installed Democratic majority in the House of Representatives dares use its constitutional power to snoop into Trump’s political and financial dealings he’ll take a “war-like stance.”
The forced resignation of Sessions is an unavoidably big deal, as it’s a major plot twist in the “Russia thing” that is still an unavoidably big deal in the Trump reality show. Sessions was the first Republican Senator with undeniable conservative bona fides to endorse Trump’s anti-establishment take-over of the Republican establishment, and he pursued Trump’s immigration and civil rights and anti-pothead policies more zealously than even Trump himself, but he also committed the unforgivable sin of recusing himself from the whole “Russia thing.” Trump is temporarily replacing Sessions with someone who’s publicly on record in favor of impeding that pesky special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing,” so what with a soon-to-be-installed Democratic majority in the House that will be an unavoidably big deal in the coming days, even though a slightly-padded Republican majority in the Senate will probably confirm any permanent replacement that Trump might nominate.
There’s a longstanding yet unwritten Justice Department tradition that it not affect politics for at least sixty days before an election, and the old-fashioned establishment Republican running the special counsel investigation of the “Russia thing” rigorously hews to such to-time-honored if unwritten rules, but the subplot was bound to wind up back in the news after some respectful pause from its relentless subpoenas and indictments. Trump has chosen to immediately put the story back at the top of the news cycle, and although he might be shrewdly getting ahead of the current 24-hour-news cycle it remains to be seen how he comes out in the long run.
Based on that combative press conference we’re not at all hopeful that Trump will strike any of his promised great deals with the soon-to-be-installed Democratic majority in the House, and we think Trump is unduly cocky abut his slightly padded slim majority in the Senate, which now includes several members who are there in spite of rather than because of Trump. There are are several Republicans missing from the soon-to-be-installed Democratic majority largely because of Trump, too, including a Democratic seat won by a Native American lesbian kick-boxer here in Kansas, of all places.
Trump also wrote off all those Republicans who weren’t fully obeisant to Trump and tried to stand on their own Republican records,, but he should note that even here in Kansas there aren’t enough of the faithful to elect a governor, no matter how fulsome Trump’s endorsement might be.

— Bud Norman

“Tweeting” Our Way Into Autumn

There’s long been a venerable tradition in America that no politician dares make news over the Labor Day weekend, but President Donald Trump has little regard for even the most venerable traditions, so of course he interrupted Monday’s picnics and ball games and blissfully slow news cycle with perhaps his most outrageous “tweet” thus far.
“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well-publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time,” Trump “tweeted,” adding with apparent sarcasm “Good job Jeff…” After an elongated and exhausting Labor Day Weekend of bratwurst and beer and baseball and helping to mow and edge the oversized lawn of our very small church over in Delano we hardly know where to begin explaining how extraordinarily outrageous this strikes us, but we’ll try to start at the beginning.
The “tweet” apparently refers to the recent indictments the Justice Department has has won in two separate but duly constituted federal courts of New York’s Republican Rep. Chris Collins on insider trading charges, and then California’s Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter for using more than $250,000 of campaign funds for such non-campaign related expenses as family vacations and theater tickets. Trump is quite right that the indictments probably leave a couple of otherwise safe Republican House of Representatives seats in doubt, but it’s yet another provable lie that the investigations were launched by President Barack Obama’s administration, even if that did make a difference, which it doesn’t, and although both defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence our old-fashioned Republican law-and-order sensibilities feel the people are also entitled to make their case without a President of the United States tainting the jury pool by “tweet.”
Never mind that annoyingly random capitalization and incorrect hyphenation of “midterms” — what’s with that all balderdash about the “Jeff Sessions Justice Department” that’s apparently thwarting justice? Attorney General Jeff Sessions is indeed in charge of the Justice Department, but only because Trump appointed him to the post and a majority-Republican Senate confirmed him, and he serves at the pleasure of an obviously displeased president, and Trump could fire him at any time he summons the reckless political courage to do so, and until then it’s actually the Trump Justice Department that Trump and his rally-goers are railing against.
Given the current extenuating circumstances our old-fashioned law-and-order sensibilities are inclined to offer a not all sarcastic “Good job Jeff” to the Attorney General, although we’d respectfully add the proper comma. Two duly consisted federal courts have found prima facie evidence that both congressmen had committed felonies, and although it remains to be seen if the Justice Department can prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt we’ll trust more in the American justice system and the verdicts of two groups of twelve tried and true fellow citizens than “tweeted” prejudgments of President Trump.
The first-indicted Collins was the first congressional Republican to endorse Trump’s Republican candidacy, and the second-indicted Hunter was the second in line, which will surely strike to right-wing talk radio and Fox News opinions show audiences as damned suspicious, but we well recall that the first Republican Senator and entrenched establishment figure to sign on with Trump was Sessions. Trump rewarded Sessions with the plum Attorney General position, and Sessions returned the favor by aggressively pursuing Trump’s agenda on illegal immigration and environmental deregulation and various quarrelsome racial issues on the streets and in the schools and elsewhere in the public square. Sessions also recused himself from that whole “Russia thing,” though, and has pursued prima facie cases against even Republicans in an election year, and no matter how tough one is on the the border such transgressions cannot be forgiven.
By now we’re pretty sure that Sessions regrets his early endorsement of Trump’s candidacy and resignation from a safe Senate seat, and that Trump is mainly peeved at Sessions for hewing so closely to old-fashioned Republican law-and-order sensibilities. At this point in post-Labor Day America the President of the United seems to have made clear that he thinks the true purpose of the American justice system is to lock up his political enemies and vindicate his still-in-favor political allies, and we expect a cold and dreary autumn.

— Bud Norman

Yanny, Laurel, Blue Dress, Gold Dress, Green Needles, Brainstorms, the “Russia Thing” and the “Deep State” Conspiracy

First there was that dress that some people see as blue and others see as gold, and more lately there’s that recording that some people hear saying “laurel” and others hear saying “yanny,” but for weird experiments in differences of perception. Some people look at what’s been reported in the news and testified to before congressional committees and courts of law and revealed by e-mails and other documents and see a conspiracy by the Russians and the campaign of now-President Donald Trump to illegally affect the presidential election, while others see a vast “deep state” conspiracy attempting to unseat Trump in a “silent coup.”
So it is with the latest twists and turns in the exceedingly complicated “Russia thing” reality show. The New York Times and the Washington post both reported late last week that an undercover informant to the Federal Bureau of Investigation had at least three contacts with Trump campaign officials prior to the election, and we assume that most of their readers took that as evidence the FBI already had good reason to believe that something fishy was afoot. Those who see things Trump’s way usually like to call the papers “The New York Slimes” and “The Washington Compost,” and insist that their reports are usually “fake news,” but in this case they accepted the “lame-stream media’s” finding as unassailable fact and damning proof that the “deep state” conspirators were “spying” on Trump even before his righteous victory.
Over the weekend Trump himself “tweeted” about it at unusual length but with the usual Arbitrary Capitalizations and stream-of-consciousness syntax and sneering mentions of “Crooked Hillary,” and announced that he was “hereby” — which he correctly spelled, this time — demanding a criminal investigation of President Barack Obama’s possible espionage on his campaign. By Monday deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who finds himself in the difficult job of overseeing the “Russia thing” after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was obliged to recuse himself from the whole, and announced that he was having a Department of Justice investigator general look into this latest plot twist.
People had different perceptions of that, too, of course. Many of the ones convinced that Trump cooperated in Russia’s meddling in the election thought Rosenstein was abetting Trump’s ongoing obstruction of the special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing,” while most of those who see things Trump’s way were disappointed that he didn’t go whole-hog and appoint a special counsel to investigate the special counsel who’s currently investing that “Russia thing.”
From our current perspective here on the sidelines, with no rooting interest in either the Democratic party or our erstwhile Republican party, we fine ourselves sympathizing with this Rosenstein fellow. When Trump promoted the life-long Republican and career civil servant to his current position Trump called him a “great guy” and his press secretary said he was the “gold standard” of governmental integrity, but after he appointed the lifelong Republican and former FBI head honcho Robert Mueller as the special counsel to continue the investigation that had begun under the lifelong Republican FBI director that Trump admittedly fired because of his interest in the “Russia thing” he became a darling of the Democrats. At the moment he’s being pilloried from both sides, but we can’t blame him for splitting the difference.
Despite their disappointment about the lack of a special counsel to to investigate the special counsel investigating the “Russia thing,” those who see things Trump’s way on talk radio and other “conservative” media are certain that an investigator general will surely expose the “deep state” conspiracy. Despite their disappointment that Rosenstein agreed to even a inspector general’s investigation into the investigation, they’re still holding out realistic hope that he’ll find that the FBI had good and by-the-book reasons to have a trusted undercover agent ask a few questions about some numerous damned suspicious and now admitted contacts between Russians and the Trump campaign.
Whatever that poor fellow who somehow wound up as the inspector general for the Justice Department about the “Russia thing” might conclude — for now we don’t know his name, although it will surely be widely known when he writes his report — different people will surely have different perspectives. If he concludes that the FBI had reasonable reasons to have a trust undercover informant ask a few questions the people who see things Trump’s way will say that the career civil servant who had risen to the level of inspector general is part of the “deep state” plot, and if he concludes that FBI was “spying” on the Trump campaign others will conclude he’s complicit in Trump’s ongoing obstruction of justice.
From our man-without-a-party perspective here on the sidelines we don’t see anyone coming out of this “Russia thing” untainted, but expect that Trump and his apologists will get the worst of it. The FBI’s fired-by-Trump director clearly did mishandle its investigation into Democratic nominee “Crooked” Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and other suspicious matters, whether you’re a Republican still annoyed that they didn’t “lock her up” or a Democrat annoyed that he openly investigated Clinton and publicly chastised her for the “extreme carelessness” of her e-mail practices but didn’t publicize investigations into the “Russia thing,” but for the moment we feel sorry for that poor fellow and longtime civil servant as well.
The next experiment of differences of human perspective to go “viral” will probably be a video of a weird device that says either “green needle” or “brainstorm” depending on which word you were thinking of. Sure enough, we defied the mathematical odds by hearing whichever of the two words we were thinking of every time.
Still, we believe in an objective reality regarding more prosaic matters such as the “Russia thing” and the the “deep state” conspiracy, and at this point our only rooting interest is that the truth will somehow prevail. Way back when O.J. Simpson was being tried for murder we perceived a wholly different reality than even our most sober-minded black friends, but by now they’ll pretty much admit that yeah the guy was guilty even though they still have understandable suspicions about the criminal justice system, and we’ll bet real money that even our most Trump-addled white friends will eventually come to the same desultory ambivalent conclusions about Trump and the “deep state.”

— Bud Norman

Our Erstwhile Republican Heroes

These are the times that try our old-fashioned and conservative Kansas Republican souls. Many of the men and women we once admired for their rock-ribbed Republicanism and brave willingness to stand on principle and defy the ever changing forces of popular opinion are going squishy, too many of the last few who more or less stood steadfast to our old-fashioned and conservative Kansas Republican beliefs are either bowing out of public life or dying, and what’s left finds itself under assault from the newfangled Grand Old Party of President Donald Trump.
Once upon a time in America there was nobody we admired more in public life than Rudy Giuliani. He was a formidable lead U.S. Attorney in the southern district of New York, where he quite ruthlessly convicted a lot of mobster types, and although many Republicans of the time in New York and elsewhere thought he was rather over-zealous in his prosecution of some Wall Street types he wound up as the Republican party’s nominee for mayor of New York City. He lost his first bid to one of the long, long string of Democrats that had brought the notoriously crime-ridden and graffiti-covered city to the brink of bankruptcy, by the the time he made his second run things had gotten so bad that even the voters of New York City chose a Republican to turn around the fortunes of America’s most essential city.
Giuliani’s tough-talking style and even tougher policies angered the the leftward media in New York City and thus elsewhere, but he hung tough and the results were hard to argue with. His tough-on-crime attitudes toward law enforcement eventually reduced the city’s internationally scandalous murder rate by 66 percent, even as police shootings and complains of excessive force similarly declined. Following the model of President Ronald Reagan he drastically cut rates across the board and especially at the highest brackets, but it once again counter-intuitively resulted in such a economic boom that the revenues actually increased. By the end of the his controversial reign as mayor, Giuliani had restored New York City to its rightful status as America’s most essential city, and even the billionaire newfangled Republican and self-described socialist Democrat who’ve followed have been careful not to stray too far from the formula.
Since then, though, Giuliani has been on a conspicuous losing streak. He seems to have made some money in his private ventures of security consulting and whatnot, but in the public sphere he’s been a disaster. His bid for the Republican presidential nomination in ’08 didn’t last enough for the big states his “big state” strategy was counting, given the suspicion that heartland Republicans used to have about twice-divorced New Yorkers who’d once gone on record supporting gun restrictions and abortion bans and acceptance of homosexuals’ civil rights, and after that he largely dropped out of sight. Lately he’s been back in the news as Trump’s attorney, and has done such a disastrous job of defending his client’s now admitted payment of $130,000 to a pornographic video star and suspected role in a widely-acknowledged plot by the Russian dictatorship to affect that he’s also likely to find himself under assault from the newfangled Republican party of Trump.
Once upon a time in America we also admired then-Alabama Senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in part because of how much he was hated by the Democrats and the rest of the left for his reasonable ideas about border enforcement and the more general rules of law, but these days he’s under assault from those Trumpian sorts of Republicans. He greatly disappointed us during the presidential campaign by being the first Republican senator to endorse Trump more unreasonable ideas about sea-to-sea border walls and cops bumping suspect’s heads on the paddy wagons, but he rescued some of respect our respect by recusing himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign he’d been a part of and it’s contacts with Russian agents that he freely admitted he had not disclosed. Of course, that has brought him under constant “twitter” assault from Trump himself. California congressman quintessentially Trumpian Republican is now pushing to have Sessions held in contempt of congress for failing to provide documents he’s requested in his investigation of Session’s alleged involvement in violations of law as a result of a special counsel’s ongoing investigation into Trump and the “Russia thing.
Until recently we’d never heard of anybody called Ron Rosenstein, but these days he’s one of our favorite Republicans and of course is under even greater assault from the Trumpians, with several newfangled Republican congressman agitating for his impeachment. He’s the deputy Attorney General Attorney general that Trump appointed, and because the Attorney General Trump appointed had to recuse himself for principled reasons from that whole “Russia thing” Rosenstein is in charge of that mess, and Trump and the Trumpians don’t like the way he’s signed off on some rather ruthlessly Giuliani-esque prosecution methods. The life-long Republican is a key conspirator in the “deep state” conspiracy against former Democrat and Reform Party member and relatively newfangled Republican Trump, according to the talk on right-wing talk radio, and his newfound and feckless friends on the left aren’t likely save him.
Trump is doing some significant things right, as our old-fashioed conservative Kansas souls have to admit and the economic date indicate, but we’d still like to see a Republican party that can stand steadfast against the constant barrage of lies and porno performers and lies about porno performers and the juvenile “tweeted” taunts and the daily assaults on the successful post-war international order and our even more constitutional norm and the all-essential concept of an objective reality. Once upon a time in America House Speaker Paul Ryan was that kind of Republican, and his steadfast stand on balancing America’s budget once had the Democrat’s depicting him throwing your grandmother off a cliff, but he played that deficit-exploding spending bill that Trump signed and Ryan got all the blame for, and he’s bowing out of a tough re-election race because his rather half-assed criticisms of Trump leave him vulnerable to a primary challenge. So is the Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, whose voting record on rock-ribbed Republican issues is unassailable but has had the temerity to criticize Trump’s vulgarity and meanness and blatant dishonesty and even more blatant corruption, along with some overly zealous policies on immigration. Meanwhile senior Sen. John McCain is dealing with advanced cancer, and making funeral preparations that do not include an invitation to Trump, the draft dodger who infamously scoffed that although McCain voluntarily endured years of torture in a North Vietnamese prison rather than desert his comrades was a hero “only because got caught.”
Several lesser-known but equally admirable Republicans are also bowing out in the next mid-term election, and it’s not clear who will take their place. One of the Republican candidates in the Arizona primary to replace Flake is former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who accepted Trump’s presidential pardon and therefore admitted his guilt in violating the 13th and Fourth Amendment rights of Phoenix’s sizable Hispanic yet undeniably naturally-born American citizens, and was recently warmly greeted by Vice President Mike Pence, another Republican we once expected. The Republicans might pick up a seat in West Virginia by nominating a former coal mine owner who was convicted and served prison time for worker safety law violations that killed more than two dozen of the coal miners that Trump claims to love, and if he gets the nomination we’re sure he’ll get the same presidential endorsement as that credibly-accused child molester who nonetheless lost a safe seat to a Democrat down in Alabama.
Such is the state of our erstwhile law-and-order and family values party, and we still don’t like those damned Democrats any better.

— Bud Norman

The White House Loses Hope, but Endures More Sessions

Keeping up with all the complicated subplots in President Donald Trump’s latest reality show is exhausting work, and hardly leaves any time to binge-watch anything else. The show features a wider and even wackier cast of characters than “The Simpsons,” writes them off faster than “The Sopranos,” and Wednesday’s episode featured the departure of one of the hotter co-stars and left another less comely but more consequential co-star hanging from a metaphorical cliff.
White House communications director Hope Hicks announced that she would be leaving her post soon, and although the departure of a White House communications director would usually be buried on the back pages and at the bottom of the hour this got better play. This isn’t your usual White House, and the 29-year-old Hicks isn’t your usual White House communications director.
A former teen fashion model from an upper-crust Connecticut family, Hicks was graduated from Southern Methodist University and then briefly worked for a well-regarded public relations firm before taking a PR job at the Trump Organization in Trump Tower with Ivanka Trump’s fashion company. While on the job she demonstrated a somewhat icy sort of feminine beauty and a slavish loyalty to all things Trump, the two qualities Trump most admires in a woman, so despite her lack of any previous political experience he hired the then 26-year-old to help out with his campaign. Following Trump’s improbable election, she wound up in a challenging job at the White House.
All the more challenging at this particular White House, where a communications director is quite frequently required to communicate things that are obviously untrue. Hicks rarely spoke in public, even though she came off endearingly humble whenever she did, which further endeared her to a boss who doesn’t like the supporting cast hogging the spotlight, but she still wound up in the news from time to time. She was involved in the drafting of the president’s son statement regarding his meeting with Russian agents that he understood to be involved in Russian effort to swing the presidential election, which was quickly walked-back. She was also involved in crafting the statement about the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, who left because two ex-wives and an ex-girlfriend, and was reportedly dating Porter at the time, which led to a crackdown on security clearances that has lately left the president’s son-in-law in hanging from a metaphorical cliff, so that also made the news.
Over the past year or so Hicks has been involved in so many laughably untrue White House communications that she’s wound up giving testimony to both a special counsel investigation and an investigative Congressional committee, and her resignation comes the same day it was reported she admitted to Congress that she had told “white lies” on Trump’s behalf. This might be mere coincidence, as both Hicks and Trump have stated that they still love one another and hope to work again, and there’s talk of unspecified “other opportunities,” which could conceivably range from a PR job with one of the last Trump-friendly corporations to a gig on a less convoluted reality show. We can readily believe that Hicks has long considered resigning, considering the stresses of her job, and doubt that Trump would fire someone for telling “white lies” on his behalf. In any case, we’ll wish her well.
Despite all our complaints with the guy we’re also wishing well for Sessions, who’s currently hanging from that metaphorical cliff after the latest episode. Sessions was once a well-respected conservative hard-liner and the first of his to kind to his endorsement of Trump’s questionable contrastive bona fides, and was duly rewarded for his slavish loyalty with the long-coveted position of Attorney General, but since then it’s been one of those convoluted subplots. He had to recuse himself from that overarching “Russia thing” story arc after admitting that he’d mislead Congress about his contacts with Russia as a campaign official, as his legal profession’s code of ethics clearly required him to do, and Trump has never forgiven him for such disloyalty.
Trump has since frequently “tweeted” his annoyance that Sessions isn’t more robustly interfering with the special counsel’s investigation into the “Russia thing,” and on Wednesday he “tweeted” that it’s “disgraceful” Sessions isn’t more vigorously pursuing the talk radio counter-connspiracy theory that it was actually the Democrats who conspired with the Russians to swing the election in Trump’s favor. Sessions released his own defiant statement that he has been ¬†following established ethical protocols, .and would continue to do so long as he remains Attorney General, so future episodes should be suspenseful.
Trump isn’t the least bit bothered by the rest of Session’s right wing agenda, which includes a full-throated defense of his immigration policies that are bound to alarm all the bleeding hearts and a crackdown on state-sanctioned marijuana that’s bound to annoy a couple of our otherwise Trump-supporting friends in Colorado and California. We have our own gripes about the guy, mainly his early endorsement of the president who now torments him, but his obstinate and ethical refusal to obstruct the pursuit of justice in the “Russia thing” is not among them.
This cliff hanger might well end up with Sessions hanging on the cliff, at least for another couple of episodes, given that there’s no obvious replacement who could win Congressional approval and the early departure of an Attorney General is harder to spin than even the most comely 20-something White House communications director. However it turns out, we expect the next White House communications director is going to have a hell of a time with it.

— Bud Norman

How to Fill a Fully-Funded Government News Cycle

Way back when last weekend’s latest partial government shutdown began, President Donald Trump said the Democrats had caused it just to change the discussion from that fabulous tax bill he had signed. By Monday morning the Democrats had admitted defeat and fully funded the government way up until Feb. 8, however, and by Tuesday morning the discussion had shifted to the “Russia thing” and other topics that Trump would rather not talk about.
All of the mainstream “fake news” media were reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the “Russia thing” had conducted an interview with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which the Department of Justice officially confirmed was entirely true, and without all the file copy and stock footage about furloughed government workers and disgruntled national park visitors all the front pages and 24-hour news cycles had plenty of room for speculation about that.
If you haven’t been following the complicated and downright convoluted “Russia thing” subplot in Trump’s latest reality show, Sessions once felt obliged to recuse himself from any investigation of the whole affair after offering a Senate committee’s confirmation hearing inaccurate information about his own proved contacts with Russians, which so infuriated Trump that he both “tweeted” and gave taped press interviews to both press and television “fake news” media about how he wanted his Attorney General to be running interference on the whole “Russia thing,” like past attorneys general had done for presidents John Kennedy and Barack Obama during their more tawdry scandals. Of course all the “fake news” media and all the snarky ate night comedians had a gleeful time with that, and although it’s not yet known if he admitted anything harmful to the Trump administration during the interview it seems unlikely Sessions had anything very exculpatory to say on its behalf.
One of the many sidebar stories in the “fake news” about the “Russia thing” subplot was that the investigation had already secured guilty pleas from past Trump campaign and administration officials and won scary-sounding indictments against a former Trump campaign chairman and his longtime business associate, and was now reportedly negotiating some form testimony from the president himself. This administration didn’t clearly deny a word of it, and of course that led to much speculation. There was a lot of speculation about whether a sitting president could be compelled to give any written or oral testimony, several precedents from the Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton presidencies cited, and further speculation about the political ramifications of testifying or not testifying. On one or another of the “fake news” cable channels we heard a panel of purported experts speculating that such an instinctively narcissistic and dishonest with such a cocksure certainty he talk himself out of anything as Trump will imperil himself testifying to the seasoned likes of this particular special counsel, and that sounded real enough to us.
Meanwhile the idiot son-in-law Trump picked to solve everything from Middle East peace to the opioid crisis is also the crosshairs of the the special counsel for his role in the “Russia thing,” and such diverse “fake news” outlets as The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker are also reporting that Jared Kushner has his own “China thing” to go along with it. There’s also fresh news about the story The Wall Street journal broke about Trump’s tryst with a porn star and the six-figure hush-money she received, with all the “fake news” reporting on the very real court filing by some left-wing do-gooder group alleging it the pay-off amounted to a illegal campaign contribution, and of course all those snarky late comics were having great fun with that.
The more Trump-friendly voices in the media are trying to change the conversation to talk about the “deep state” conspiracy that’s trying to concoct all this “fake news,” but Russian “internet bots” are reportedly perpetuating the same talking points about some memo that a Republican congressman who had to recuse himself from his committee’s investigation has written about the “deep state” conspiracy, and at least we can be sure that Trump would rather everyone be talking about that fabulous tax bill.

— Bud Norman