Is Rod Rosenstein the Anonymous Op-Ed Writer?

Probably not, but this article in The Times suggests he was thinking along similar lines last year:

WASHINGTON — The deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, suggested last year that he secretly record President Trump in the White House to expose the chaos consuming the administration, and he discussed recruiting cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office for being unfit.

Mr. Rosenstein made these suggestions in the spring of 2017 when Mr. Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director plunged the White House into turmoil. Over the ensuing days, the president divulged classified intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office, and revelations emerged that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty and end an investigation into a senior aide.

Mr. Rosenstein was just two weeks into his job. He had begun overseeing the Russia investigation and played a key role in the president’s dismissal of Mr. Comey by writing a memo critical of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But Mr. Rosenstein was caught off guard when Mr. Trump cited the memo in the firing, and he began telling people that he feared he had been used.

Concern about Trump’s chaotic style — check.
Musings about the 25th Amendment — check.

I find the “feared he had been used” thing hard to believe. How could he expect anything else from Trump? Also, this:

The president’s reliance on his memo caught Mr. Rosenstein by surprise, and he became angry at Mr. Trump, according to people who spoke to Mr. Rosenstein at the time. He grew concerned that his reputation had suffered harm and wondered whether Mr. Trump had motives beyond Mr. Comey’s treatment of Mrs. Clinton for ousting him, the people said.

Rosenstein can’t possibly be that naive. Recall that his memo excoriated Comey for sandbagging Clinton, even though that aspect is often overlooked in accounts of Comey’s firing. Rosenstein cannot possibly believe that the “lock her up” guy gave a flying shit about Clinton being treated unfairly.

Rosenstein issued a statement calling the story “inaccurate” and “factually incorrect.” Anyhoo, interesting, and it’ll probably drive Spanky even battier.

ETA: Someone on Twitter:

Maybe she’s right.

ETA 2: The fix is definitely in:

Dim Son dutifully chiming in after the story drops definitely confirms it’s a load of horse shit.

The Big Bamboozle

In a bizarre interview with The Hill last night, Trump bragged that he is doing the country “a great service” by declassifying documents pertinent to an ongoing investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. What he is actually doing, of course, is trying to further undermine the Mueller investigation and influence the news cycle.

I hope and believe that Adam’s prediction about that effort will come to pass — that it will make Trump and his toadies in the House look like idiots. In The Hill interview, Trump said the declassification could become one of his “crowning achievements” because it will reveal that the FBI was out to get Trump all along when they surveilled Carter Page. The Atlantic covered this odd strategy here:

But it’s looking more and more like House Republicans have chosen to die on a hill that’s shifting below their feet. “Be careful what you wish for,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Tuesday. He was indicating, according to an aide, that “it’s simply impossible to review the documents” on Page and conclude anything other than that the FBI “had ample reason” to investigate him. It’s not only Democratic Senators who believe that: Republican Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN in July that he believes the FISA judges had “sound reasons” for issuing the Page surveillance warrant to the FBI. “I don’t think I ever expressed that I thought the FISA application came up short,” Burr said at the time.

But Reps Nunes, Gaetz, Meadows, et al, are doubling down on the Page-as-martyr strategy. It may make sense to people (like Trump) who marinate in Fox News 24/7, but it’ll likely fall flat with everyone else because believing all the Deep State conspiracy crap is a prerequisite of buying the Page-as-victim angle. It would be as if you or I showed up at a city council meeting and started babbling about lost mustard and naked mopping. Any jackals in the audience might find it amusing, but the rest of the crowd would look at us as if we’d lost our goddamned minds.

Anyhoo, there was also this piece of supreme weirdness from Trump in last night’s interview with The Hill:

Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI Director James Comey immediately instead of waiting until May 2017, confirming an account his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, gave Hill.TV earlier in the day that Trump was dismayed in 2016 by the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email case and began discussing firing him well before he became president.

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. … I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

Trump has offered different reasons in the past for his firing of the FBI chief, blaming Comey’s handling of the Clinton case but also linking it to Comey’s actions in the Russian investigation.

Emphasis mine. Of course, Comey served at the pleasure of President Obama when Trump won the primaries and was nominated at the convention. But I suspect Trump was just indulging in mindless superlatives as usual during that interview but was otherwise faithful to talking points created as part of an evolving legal/PR strategy — to claim that he was onto this Deep State conspiracy even before day one and, therefore, Trump fired Comey for the Clinton email investigation rather than to shutdown the Mueller probe.

But believing that dog’s breakfast of a post-hoc justification requires going down rabbit holes within rabbit holes. For instance, recall that the memo Trump ordered Deputy AG Rosenstein to produce to justify firing Comey rightly claimed that Comey’s actions at the conclusion of the email investigation were unfair to Clinton. But now we’re supposed to believe that Clinton was colluding with the Russians to take out Trump, either with the active participation of Comey or via his negligence? Come on, man.

It’s nonsense. But so is everything else Trump says, like the claims this morning that the economic recovery began the day he was elected. You can plot unemployment rates, GDP growth, etc., on a chart that represents a gradual upward trajectory from the Great Recession to the present day and wave it in Trump supporters’ faces, but they won’t believe their lying eyes or lived experience. Nope, the USA was a Dickensian hellscape until 11/9/2016 and the ascension of the Golden Calf.

Will the con work again? I don’t think so. One thing successful con artists know is that you have to move on because the bamboozle only works until it stops working. Ironically, being POTUS is the first real job Trump has ever had. And it looks like the first performance review is going to be all kinds of ugly.

“Fear” and Loathsome in the West Wing

So, excerpts of Bob Woodward’s book about the Trump White House, “Fear,” were published at The Post a while ago. Woodward claims there’s been an “an administrative coup d’etat,” describing aides swiping papers off Trump’s desk and ignoring outbursts so he doesn’t precipitate World War III or crash the global economy in a fit of pique and stupidity. You know, the usual stuff. Here are some excerpts:

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,” Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” Read more

One Dragon at a Time

I despise Meghan McCain’s smug, shallow millennial-con shtick. But that doesn’t mean I was unable to appreciate the spectacle of Ms. McCain shitting all over Trump while eulogizing her father and hurling a MAGA-mocking cow-pie right in the faces of funeral crashers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump this weekend.

That’s not a universally held opinion, if my Twitter feed is any indication. Some folks are insinuating that those who relished Ms. McCain’s denunciation of Trump are in effect enrolling her in the Resistance. Read more

Our Lying Eyes

Trump told a bald-faced, easily debunked lie this morning. Nothing unusual about that, but I have a theory about his motivation for telling this particular lie today. Here’s the lie, which was tweeted at 7:02 AM ET:

He’s referring to the interview he gave to Lester Holt last year in which he confessed to Holt, on camera, that he fired Comey because of “this Russia thing with Trump.” Relevant transcript below:

“He [Rosenstein] made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of [the] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time to do it!

And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

NBC posted the interview for all to see here. The portion where Trump basically confesses to obstructing justice certainly appears to be unedited, and I’m sure experts will weigh in on that question eventually since Trump has now falsely accused Holt of doctoring the tape.

But why now? Trump is prone to blurting out self-incriminating things — he just did that last week on a softball Fox & Friends appearance that was supposed to be a spin session after Michael Cohen implicated Trump in a crime while pleading guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

As the fallout from the Holt interview was happening in real time, Trump didn’t accuse Holt of editing the video. His go-to tactic until now has been to reclassify “obstruction of justice” as “fighting back.” So why revisit the Holt interview and make up a whopper about it on August 30, 2018?

I think it’s related to soon-to-be former White House Counsel McGahn. In the reports about McGahn spending 30 hours talking to the Mueller team, it came out that Trump’s legal team wasn’t aware of the extent of McGahn’s cooperation with Mueller. I’m not a lawyer, but I find it astonishing that Trump’s attorneys weren’t extensively debriefing McGahn after each session with Mueller. But apparently, they weren’t.

So, in the wake of that report, I’m guessing the Trump lawyers belatedly debriefed McGahn and learned that Mueller was especially interested in Trump’s rationale for dispatching Comey as confessed to Holt. Hence the absurd claim from Trump this morning that the video was edited.

Anyhoo, that’s my theory — Trump is in a box because he confessed to a crime on TV. Now he worries that Mueller recognized the confession for what it was, and this lame, easily debunked lie about Holt is the only response he’s got.

Open thread!

Chillin’ with Villains

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is notorious for going on camera and defiantly declaring that up is down and black is white. That’s pretty much her job. But she won’t say unequivocally that there’s no tape of Trump using a racial slur because she’s knows there’s a distinct possibility the tape will surface:

The Trump people must be shitting themselves, wondering what bit of audio Omarosa Manigault Newman will drop next. She already caught Katrina Pierson in a big fat lie today.

Meanwhile, Manigault Newman claims she’s been interviewed by Mueller and says Trump definitely knew in advance about the hacked emails from the Clinton campaign:

It would be hilarious and fitting if an ugly beef with his former reality TV villain — plus an association with living comic book villain Roger Stone — is what finally brings Mango Mussolini down. I don’t say it will — just that it would be both hilarious and fitting.

In related news, the Manafort trial is almost over — the defense rests without calling any witnesses, and Manafort declined to testify, so only closing arguments are left (I think). Any predictions?

Open thread.

Banana Republican Purge

Peter Strzok was formally fired on Friday. Here’s an excerpt from The Post:

FBI agent Peter Strzok fired over anti-Trump texts

The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.

Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s lawyer, said FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the firing on Friday — even though the director of the FBI office that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI’s repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process.

“This isn’t the normal process in any way more than name,” Goelman said, adding in a statement, “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans.”

Trump is handling the news with the circumspection and class you’d expect:

So, he’s hoping to parlay the Strzok firing into a termination of an investigation into his campaign and its involvement with a hostile foreign power and a reopening of a completed investigation into a former political opponent. I assume that even the professionals who were appointed by Trump (Wray, Rosenstein, etc.) will continue to pretend their toddler boss isn’t smearing shit on the wall and allow the relevant investigation to proceed and the concluded one to remain closed.

That’s how it works when the Trump-appointed bosses of the national security agencies occasionally emerge to assure us they’re aware that Russia is engaged in information warfare with the US even though their boss and an increasing number of Congressional Republicans keep sending “Do you like me? Yes. No.” notes to Putin. It’s an awfully thin reed to hang one’s hopes on, though.

The Post article says Strzok’s termination was ordered on Friday, although the news only became public today. Maybe that explains Trump’s weird tweet on Saturday:

By the way, the language Trump uses regarding Lisa Page is beyond creepy, not to mention dangerous and hypocritical. People are supposed to be allowed to have private political opinions in this country, and it’s gross and inappropriate that an infamous serial philanderer who is known to pay off porn film actors, Playboy playmates, etc., would use his office to publicly harass a private citizen this way.

I realize the larger issue is that law enforcement officials should be able to have private opinions without threat of being purged by an unhinged narcissist in the Oval Office, Banana Republic style. But the persecution of Page is noteworthy in its own right; she hasn’t been a public employee for a while now and was not central to the investigation, but Trump continues to publicly shame her.

So, we continue the march toward nuclear-armed Banana Republic status. Just another day ending with “y.”