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

What’s On TV Instead of “Jeopardy!”

The House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry regarding President Donald Trump preempted “Jeopardy!” on Tuesday afternoon, so we figure this getting to be serious business. All the critics on the talk radio right are panning the televised hearings as boring and lacking pizzaz, and so far the ratings are not boffo, but we’re finding it “binge-worthy,” as the kids might say.
If you’ve been following the latest installment of Trump’s ongoing reality show, you already know why the Trump-loving talk radio right doesn’t like it. So far all the evidence indicates that Trump sought help from the Ukrainian government in his reelection campaign in exchange for much-needed military aid that Congress had appropriated to an important ally, the polls show that most of the country thinks it was not a good thing for an American president to do, and no one in the Republican party has yet come up with a coherent rebuttal.
The pilot episode of the televised hearings featured a West Point alum and Vietnam war hero and distinguished foreign service officer who’d been lured out of retirement by Trump’s Secretary of State to take over in Ukraine, and he testified that Trump had sought reelection help from Ukraine in exchange or that much-needed military aid, and that he thought it was a bad thing to do. There was also the distinguished foreign service officer he replaced as ambassador to to Ukraine, who testified under oath that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and two of his recently indicted associates were seeking help for Trump’s reelection, and that she was removed from her post because she thought it was a bad thing to do. In addition, there was an aide to Vice President Mike Pence who told pretty much the same story, and Trump of course “tweeted” that they’re both “Never Trumpers,” as if that’s a bad thing and necessarily makes them liars.
Tuesday’s episode started out with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testifying in uniform, replete with his many combat decorations from the Iraq War, with his credentials as a National Security Council member and America’s top expert on Ukraine mentioned in the introductions, and he also testified that Trump was leaning on the Ukrainians for political advantage and that he thought it was a wrong thing to do. Under questioning from the Republicans Vindman admitted that he’ been born in Ukraine and was fluent in both Russian and Ukrainian, and the Republicans thought it damned suspicious that he wound up as a high-ranking expert on Ukraine, but Vindman’s uniform and decorations and and impeccable record of public service and no apparent reason to lie seemed to carry the day. There was also corroborating evidence from Jennifer Williams, and aide to Vice President Mike Pence, who was also dismissed by “tweet” as a “Never Trumper.”
The Republicans got to call two witnesses in the hearings, but neither did them much good. Trump loyalist and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker wound up vouching for the character of former Vice President and possible Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, the very man Trump was allegedly seeking dirt on. He also derided the “conspiracy theories” that it was the Ukrainians and not the Russians were the ones who meddled in the last presidential election, depriving talk radio of a favorite talking point, and he couldn’t deny the bargain Trump is alleged to have sought political gain from Ukraine in exchange for the much-needed aid. Senior director on the National Security Council Timothy Morrison was no more helpful, admitting that when Trump admittedly asked the Ukrainian president for “a favor” it was “not what what we recommended the president discuss.”
Future guest stars in this embarrassing reality show surely include Gorland ┬áSondland, the billionaire who bought an ambassadorship to the European with a million-dollar donation to Trump’s inaugural and has already amended his testimony and now finds himself neck-deep in this mess, and potentially Giuliani and his recently indicted associates, and Trump himself is threatening to give written testimony. This will likely be increasingly hard for the talk radio right to explain, and it can only hope that the ratings remain low.

— Bud Norman