I’m sure this is fine

Breaking news from The Post:

…Trump on Monday put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia, walking back a Sunday announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that the Kremlin had swiftly denounced as “international economic raiding.”

Preparations to punish Russia anew for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria caused consternation at the White House. Haley said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that sanctions on Russian companies behind the equipment related to Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack would be announced Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

But as officials in Moscow condemned the planned sanctions as overly punitive, Trump conferred with his national security advisers later Sunday and told them he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them, according to several people familiar with the plan.

Gosh, why?

Bannon Slithers Back Onstage

In the Pompeo thread downstairs, the subject of Steve Bannon’s reemergence came up, which deserves its own thread, IMO. Last night, in an interview with Bob Costa, Maddow covered Bannon’s preposterous plan for Trump to fire Rosenstein and retroactively rescind administration officials’ testimony in the Mueller investigation. It’s a dumb plan, and it sounds more like Bannon trying to worm his way back into Trump’s good graces than a serious proposal.

But maybe Bannon is more motivated to save his own blotchy ass than Trump’s. Perhaps he’s panicking at Trump’s catastrophic tar-pit wallowing and perceives it will endanger himself and his patrons. The fact that Bannon is back in DC pitching absurd plots to folks in power is significant. As I alluded to in the thread below, I believe that if we ever get the whole story on Russia’s attack on our election, we’ll find that it was abetted wholeheartedly by Bannon and the Mercers.

We’ll find that undermining liberal democracies worldwide was always the Bannon-Mercer strategy, and that riling up Nazis and alt-right goons globally was their technique in service of this aim. I don’t mean to imply this is some startling new insight that I came up with just now while sitting here eating Cheerios. Y’all know this stuff, and I’m glad to have you to talk to about it, because I know I sound like a crackpot to my non-political junkie friends when it comes up. Read more

“Is this what Watergate was like?”

I had dinner with some teens and 20-somethings last night. Our phones were blowing up with news alerts about the raid on Michael Cohen’s office and residences and Trump’s reaction to those events, so the conversation turned to politics.

As the grizzled warhorse of the group, I was asked if this quickening investigation and presidential freak-out reminded me of Watergate. I indignantly reminded the assembled foals that I was too young at the time to really remember Watergate.

That’s true in one sense. My sister and I used to stomp off in a huff when we realized that the televised hearings would preempt our cartoons yet again. In those days, we only had four or five TV channels and one TV because dinosaurs.

But I do remember my mother’s excitement as she settled in front of the TV with an ashtray, fresh pack of smokes and cup of coffee. She hated Nixon’s guts and watched the Watergate hearings like they were the world’s juiciest soap opera.

Mom would try to explain what was going on in the hearings to us. I found her accounts of it fascinating — she was a good storyteller. But though I tried a time or two, I could not hold still to watch boring old white men droning endlessly on TV, and I often wondered how Mom harvested such startling examples of depravity and hubris from such fallow soil.

I don’t have to wonder what Mom would make of the current political situation. She died in 2014, but like all decent, conscientious, hardworking people who aren’t brainless dupes, Mom loathed the braggadocious conman Trump long before he ran for president.

Anyhoo, now I understand why Mom anticipated those hearings with such glee: It was the prospect of seeing lawless thugs who thought they were above the law brought low and held accountable.

We may not get a similar catharsis in our present age. The Republican Party is an order of magnitude more venal and amoral in 2018 than it was in Nixon’s day, and there is a large, well-funded media ecosystem devoted to obfuscation.

But think of Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s dismay as agents in blue FBI jackets swarmed his residences and office yesterday. A goon who has intimidated countless “escorts” and disgruntled employees and investors, Cohen likely imagined weaponizing federal law enforcement against Trump’s enemies, not staring down the business end himself.

As others have noted, it’s like Watergate, only dumber. I intend to enjoy the show this time.

Global Con

Well, we knew shady, fanatical oligarchs perpetrated a global plan to stoke bigotry and sow fear to subvert democracy, but this illustrates the con in a visceral way:

All out of can’ts to even.

PS: You can read the OpenSecrets.org report here.

What if there ain’t no saint?

I wouldn’t mind having some of this Mueller iconography for my backyard bar, particularly the candles:

I don’t see it so much among the bitter cynics at this here blog, but Mueller’s legend as the Patron Saint of Justice who is poised to smite TrumpCo has reached epic proportions in some quarters. I wish they’d manage their expectations better.

Mueller seems like a straight shooter, but we should remember the man is a Republican. Anyone who remained a Republican through the Bush II and then Obama years is morally suspect in my book until they prove otherwise.

Even if Mr. Mueller possesses a store of integrity that is vanishingly rare among modern Republicans, it’s possible that his investigation will come to naught, either because there isn’t enough direct evidence to nail Trump and his current associates or because Trump’s toadies in the DOJ and congress manage to suppress the report.

I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer here. Mueller’s investigation has already uncovered a storehouse of malfeasance and corruption that would mire any predecessor’s administration in scandal until the day it was turned out of office by angry voters. It says something about the lunacy abroad in the land that Trump can show his face in public anywhere without being pelted by rotting produce.

Maybe the indictments issued so far are just the beginning. Maybe the report alluded to in the news last night will provide impeachment fodder for a Democratic majority congress. I fervently hope Mueller is allowed to continue his work, and I hope he brings the whole astoundingly corrupt pack of grift-mavens down. This is just a reminder that we shouldn’t count on it.

Open thread!

PS: My phone is blowing up with alerts about Roger Stone claiming he “dined with Julian Assange” right before Wikileaks started publishing the DNC emails. Haven’t we known that for a while now? Maybe Mueller can figure out why Stone had advance knowledge about Al Franken’s troubles. If Trump-Russia explodes the myth of Roger Stone, that alone would rid the American body politic of its most prolific and loathsome political tick.