A Feline Performance Of The Mueller V. Trump Finale

A boy can dream, right?

Sunday Morning Open Thread: Trump’s State Visit to France, Illustrated

The little man who wasn’t there. As our opponents would say: This is the world Repubs want.

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Late Night Open Thread: No Love for the Malevolent Leprechaun

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Schadenfreude Open Thread: “HUAC! – the Musical”, Reviews Not Good

As the tag goes: Riveted by the sociological significance…

Up till now, Nixon’s ‘You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around any more’ speech was supposed to be the exemplar of national-stage political self-pity. Trump’s press conference yesterday bids fair to unseat it. Per ace Trump-rally reporter Daniel Dale:

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Analyzing Trump’s Actions Through The Lens Of Toxic Narcissism

Jeff Sessions, some long time ago, gave Donald Trump a signed resignation letter, which Trump used today.

Trump has been irritated at Sessions since Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. Sessions was a member of Trump’s campaign and has connections to the cast of thousands suspected to be involved in some way with Russian influence in that campaign. That has eaten at Trump, who believes that the Attorney General is the President’s consigliere. Trump has complained openly about this.

He has also nagged and browbeaten Sessions in public, but Sessions rode out those humiliations.

Trump has been angry about the Russia investigation (“Witch Hunt!”) since it began. He seems to see his interactions with Russia, or to want us to see those interactions, as normal business practice. Someone says that they have dirt on your campaign opponent? Who wouldn’t meet with them, even if foreign contributions to campaigns are illegal?

Matthew Whitaker, who will be acting Attorney General until a new one is appointed by the President, has publicly stated his opposition to the Mueller investigation and even to Marbury v. Madison, the early Supreme Court case that established the principle of judicial review.

There is a sense in which all of this is predictable – many people have predicted it for some time, to be followed by the firing of Robert Mueller. But there is a lot that doesn’t entirely hold together. Even Maggie Haberman can’t figure it out.

The conventional analysis is something like this: Trump is guilty of conspiracy against the United States, or obstruction of justice, or perjury, or all three and more. Further, he understands that he and his family are guilty. Mueller continues the attack, and he must be counterattacked, which would start with removing him from his job. Trump bragged to the Russians who visited him in the Oval Office in May 2017 that he had removed James Comey, who had been pursuing Russian connections to the Trump campaign. He would likewise remove Mueller to end the “Witch Hunt.”

But that analysis assumes a particular strategy on Trump’s part: He knows he is guilty and wants to avoid the consequences in a very direct way. Haberman’s perplexity assumes such a strategy. Let’s assume a different motivation on Trump’s part.

David Roberts (@drvox) wrote a thread reminding us of Trump’s toxic narcissism. This summarizes it:

Put aside whether Trump is worried about being found guilty of anything. His ego has been hurt by Sessions’s failure to act as consigliere. In yesterday’s election, Republicans lost the House, which will complicate Trump’s presidency and, likely, his life. His morning tweets on Wednesday seemed upset, and he handled his news conference badly, seemingly indicating a distraught state of mind.

When a toxic narcissist feels injured, he must injure someone else. So it was time to use the letter Sessions gave him. Whitaker seems to be a Trump loyalist, which comforts Trump that now he has his consigliere. Unless Whitaker recuses himself (and there may be reason to do that), this is likely to calm Trump temporarily.

Trump responds in the moment, and the threshold for his action seems high (tweeting, not so much). Whether Whitaker will undertake action against Mueller on his own is not clear, even with the implicit backing of Trump. Most likely is a passive-aggressive strategy of starving the investigation of funds. As usual, Trump seems not to have anyone lined up to become Attorney General. That is consistent with the impulsive acting out of a narcissistic injury.

Further actions, by this analysis, will depend on injuries to Trump’s ego. Indictments via the Mueller investigation against Trump or his family (Don Jr. is rumored to be close to indictment) would be a great injury and a reason to fire him.

Other things can go wrong for Trump. The coming of a Democratic House and speculations about its actions will constantly irritate. A meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a North Korean representative has been postponed. For any number of reasons, Trump may feel he needs the comfort of firing Mueller. But probably not right away.


Late Night Comic Relief Open Thread: Trump Can’t Even Attract Quality Ratfvckers!

Nixon had guys like G. Gordon Liddy“a little nuts”, per ol’ Tricky, but at least he knew there were limits, even if he didn’t understand his own. The current Oval Office Occupant? He’s got these guys ‘defending’ him. Per Will Sommer at the Daily Beast:

A press conference intended to publicize sexual assault claims against special counsel Robert Mueller collapsed in spectacular fashion on Thursday, after the pro-Trump operatives behind the event failed to demonstrate a grasp of even basic details about their accuser or explain why they had repeatedly lied about their project.

Mueller has asked the FBI to investigate the effort from publicity-hungry Washington lobbyist Jack Burkman and pro-Trump Twitter personality Jacob Wohl, which has been dogged by accusations that they offered women money to accuse Mueller of sexual misconduct.

But the prospect of an FBI investigation was the least of Wohl and Burkman’s problems on Thursday.

Throughout their 45-minute press conference, the two men repeatedly contradicted themselves and each other, giving cryptic non-answers that convinced approximately zero people in attendance that their allegations were anywhere close to the truth…
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A Penetrating Glimpse Of The Obvious

Thirty six years ago, on September 12, 1982, a Lebanese Maronite militia invaded two refugee camps occupied by Palestinians.  As The New York Times remembered on the 30th anniversary of the disaster,

In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camps’ narrow and darkened alleyways. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men.

That reference to the flares points to the miserable truth behind the blood and broken bodies:  the people on the spot, those militiamen handled the killing.  They pulled the triggers, broke the women, shattered the bodies. They were guilty of those crimes; they did the worst that human beings can do.

But there were others who stood aside, hands nominally clean while the predictable result of their actions and their studied inactions played out in Sabra and Shatila.

After the fact, the Israeli government ordered an investigation into the massacres, and they got a real one.  It concluded that

Israeli leaders were “indirectly responsible” for the killings and that Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister and later prime minister, bore “personal responsibility” for failing to prevent them.

Sharon didn’t fire a single shot; no blood spattered the shoes of his colleagues, and the Israeli soldiers on the front lines in Lebanon did nothing more than stay out of the way.  But as the report concluded, those in charge in Israeli knew what would happen if the Maronite militias gained free rein in the camps, and they let events unfold anyway. They were guilty not of murder, but of enabling the killings, of giving permission for an atrocity.

Adam, below and elsewhere, has laid out a compelling case that Donald Trump is similarly guilty of complicity in the ongoing racist and anti-Semitic violence occurring now in America’s civic space.  When you tell armed and angry supporters that they have enemies, that those enemies are ruthless, relentless, and Jewish or Black or Brown, then for all that Trump himself never slams home a magazine, he’s the man giving those who do kill a target list and permission to go after it.

What I want to add to that is that this responsibility, this complicity in the slaughter of innocents lies with the entire public apparatus of the Republican Party.  They have had every opportunity to push back on Trump’s white supremacy, his barely-coded demonization of Jews, his overt and explicit racism.  Concerned Jeff Flake and sincere Susan Collins — and the more important figures, the Paul Ryans and the Mitch McConnells and the Mitt Romneys and the rest — all had opportunity after opportunity to say no.  Just no: that this isn’t what the Republican Party is about; that it’s dangerous and hateful and so on.

Instead we got the pieties, “incivility” policing and the rest.

And now we have a body count of at least ten in just the last two days, not even to mention the assassination campaign that fortunately did not succeed.  They were all victims of exactly the kind of hatred Trump explicitly fomented as recently as last night — after the two deaths in Louisville, KY.

Democrats’ condemnation is important, because the country has to hear that hate is vicious, deadly, and to be reviled.  But as a matter of effectiveness, the Republicans have a far greater duty here: they can hold Trump priorities hostage, and they give permission to the GOP “tribe” to recognize that there are, there need to be, lines beyond which our politics should not go.

That’s the duty the Republican party has entirely failed. It’s why the current GOP must go, root and branch.  And it is why each Republican in power — the elected officials and their staffs, the party apparatus, all of them — bear exactly the same kind of indirect responsibility carried by the Israeli commanders and politicians who presided over those massacre.  It didn’t take a genius to realize that a nightly incitement to violence would end in actual murder. As it has, repeatedly over the last two years, and ten more times in the last two days.

I got nothing more. The US government is in the hands of a cabal that is, so far, willing to trade street murder for tax cuts and Supreme Court seats.  That rule has to end.  Which we knew.  Hence the PGO.

Images: Nicholas Poussin, Massacre of the Innocents, before 1665.

Mattia Pretti, Pilate washing his hands, 1663.