‘We have a lot of people working at this, technical people, and I think he’s going to get himself out.”
–Sen. Dianne Feinstein
The Watergate didn’t happen in a day. Woodward and Bernstein didn’t write a single story. Big news stories are often cumulative. It takes a while for readers and viewers to see the big picture and understand its import.
The media is in the early stages of reporting on the Russian Connection. At the moment, we’ve hit a bit of a lull. There are a lot of individual reports and stories floating around and a few themes: mafia connections; money laundering; working for foreign powers; Trump campaign connections with the Russians: computer hacking; espionage; Ukraine and Russia. What’s missing is an accumulated, critical mass of information that takes shape of a narrative that people can understand.
In the last couple of weeks, media outlets have charted the ties between Trump, his minions, and Russia, and Rachel Maddow has been doing a lot of reporting about the various connections of between Trump, Russian oligarchs, and money laundering. Working with David Cay Johnston, a reporter who has covered Trump for decades and written a book about him, Rachel is starting to connect the dots. From where I sit, there are three main strands of the Trump-Russia story: 1) crime, including money laundering 2) conflicts of interest and influence peddling 3) espionage. The players are Trump, his minions, Russian oligarchs, Russian spymasters, and hacker types.
In GOP-created hyper-partisan world, it is easy to forget the ideals that are supposed to guide our government. There is a code of ethics that applies to federal employees. It starts with this belief: “Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.” Given this standard, the Trump administration certainly warrants an investigation.
As bad as violating this trust is, endangering the country in the process in clearly worse. The influence of the Russian’s in the White House puts the defense of our nation and our interests at risk. We deserve to have complete confidence in the integrity of the Federal Government. We deserve a Federal Government that does its best to keep us safe. For these reasons, the Trump-Russia connections must be investigated.
The answer is simple, but really unfamiliar in our hyperpartisan era: we should care for the good of our country. Our country as a nation.
This morning I was listening to NPR’s politics podcast. One of the reporters scoffed at “the Left” for talking about impeachment. His inference was that impeachment is a pipe dream. First of all, it’s not just the Left who are concerned or think Trump could be impeached. On Twitter, I follow two conservatives–one with a hefty national security pedigree–who believe Trump will be impeached. Of course, it’s not a given, but the chances are high.
Because the Trump Presidency shouldn’t, can’t, go on. Aside from the conflicts of interest, the criminal ties, Trump can’t do the job, and he hasn’t appointed enough grown-up’s to help him. He’s not only incompetent, he’s vulnerable to the simplest manipulation by staff or Russia. Someone on his staff that put the Breitbart report accusing Obama of wiretapping him in his reading pile. It was Russia Today that provided the claim that British intelligence was wiretapping Trump on behalf of Obama. The Palmer Report has it, and Media Matters confirms it:
Donald Trump now acknowledges that he heard the claim [of the Brits wiretapping him on behalf of Obama] on Fox News, from on-air contributor Andrew Napolitano (Fox has since officially acknowledged that it can find no evidence to support Napolitano’s claim, dismissing it as being “off the rails”). But a new report from the New York Times confirms that Napolitano got the story from his associate Larry C. Johnson. And in turn, The Independent is reporting that Johnson first revealed the claim on Russia Today. Russia Today is funded and controlled by the Russian government, and nothing is said on its airwaves unless it has the blessing of the Kremlin itself.
The Russia propaganda pipeline flows through the Right Wing’s Ministry of Truth to our mentally incompetent president. Napolitano is a wingnut judge who knows nothing about national security or espionage, but Fox News put him on as an expert anyway. That’s not much different than putting on a Nils Bildt, allegedly a “Swedish defense and national security advisor,” to talk about immigration problems in Sweden. No one in Sweden had heard of Nils Bildt. It’s bad enough Fox News does this kind of crap, but we have a president who is stupid enough to believe it.
We will eventually experience a serious crisis, a natural disaster, tension with a hostile country, or an act of terrorism, and there aren’t enough grownup’s in the White House to save us. We’re in serious fucking trouble.
For now, the news continues to trickle. In normal times, with a normal president, many of these stories would expand to consume much of the news cycle. Paul Manafort are wanted for questioning in Ukraine where five police are on trial for the massacre of 100 people. Roger Stone is a target in a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation. Everyday reveals something new about Michael Flynn’s employment with federal governments. Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev’s plane and yacht have a tendency to show up at the same airport and docks, respectively. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is a major owner of the Bank of Cyprus, a key bank in Russian money-laundering operations. Sebastian Gorka, another Trump “advisor,” is looking more and more like he belonged to a Hungarian Nazi organizations. Former NSC deputy National Security Advisor has taken a job working for a Russian oligarch. Almost completely absent from the news are the deaths of six Russian diplomats in the last four months.
After reading the book Superforecasting, I try to estimate that chances of an event happening, rather than saying it will or won’t happen. PaddyPower, an odds maker, puts the chances of Trump’s impeachment at 40% (6/4). The odds for him resigning are somewhat smaller a 34.8% (15/8). Trump’s job disapproval rating has reached 55% in the Gallup tracking poll. The odds of Trump finishing his term are much higher, I think. There are far too many scandals to keep Trump’s negatives out of the news. There are far too few competent people in place in the White House to handle the scandals. There are far too many connections to Russia for there not to be significant connections. Trump’s usefulness to Congress is minimal. He may be able to sign legislation, but they have to pass it first and he’s little or no help.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Grassley met with FBI Director James Comey this week. A few news outlets reported that they looked like they had seen a ghost. A couple of days later, Feinstein responded to liberal protesters outside a Los Angeles fundraiser.
“How are we going to get him out?” the questioner asked.
“I think he’s gonna get himself out,” the California Democrat and member of the Senate intelligence committee replied.
“I think he’s going to get himself out”—hinting that Trump might resign in the months ahead.
Is she suggesting that impeachment or the threat of impeachment will drive Trump out of office? Or that Congress will pass a law clearly disallowing the conflicts of interest that are clearly and materially benefitting the President and his family? This morning on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Congressman Adam Schiff about connections between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Schiff replied: “There is circumstantial evidence of collusion. There is direct evidence, I think, of deception and that’s where we begin the investigation.
Hearings on Russia start today.