Disappointment haunted all my dreams…

No, this is not a Doug! post, but I stole his song lyric-post title shtick because it fits my topic so perfectly. Ever since the unthinkable catastrophe of a Trump administration became our waking nightmare, I’ve dreamed of its end, preferably in disgrace and with the Republican Party in smoking ruins in its wake.

But I’ve tried to be a responsible dreamer. I avoid the high-fructose corn syrup confections some enemies of my enemy have been peddling for the last year in the form of promises that this next revelation will bring the entire Jenga treason tower down on the heads of the liars, cheaters, incompetents and thieves in this odious pigpen of an administration.

Well, despite it all, I’m becoming a believer. I understand what we’re up against. I remember the Ghost of Fitzmas past. But formidable obstacles aside, I’m becoming convinced Trump won’t serve out his first term.

The revelation that Don Jr. was colluding with WikiLeaks — and communicating with senior members of the campaign about it — is the latest straw. One of the people Junior emailed with WikiLeaks tidbits was Hope Hicks. I find that significant.

Beltway media types have long been mystified by Hicks’ role in the Trump organization, but I think it’s simple: She primarily functions as a human email interface for Trump. I’ve never believed Junior would take a crap without running it past the old man first, and the fact that Hicks was looped in proves it, as far as I’m concerned.

So, I am officially allowing myself to hope that indictments will roll in, people will flip, and Trump will react with such panic and madness that his presidency will end, one way or another, most likely with a huffy resignation. Sure, I could be wrong. But the staggering stupidity and amateurishness of nearly every actor in the Trump shit-show is an asset for justice.

Anyhoo, IF Trump goes down, that brings us to Mr. Pence, the Man Who Wasn’t There. I apologize for inflicting a Morning Joe clip on you, but this one does address Pence’s lying about the Russia scandal:

Steve Schmidt, from the clip:

“We don’t talk enough about Mike Pence… We don’t talk enough about the vice president’s nonstop lying… I think that over these months, the vice president has exposed himself as a titanic fraud… The truth of the matter is, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, 100% of the time, 100% of the people around this administration, when asked a question about Russia, the Russian involvement in this election, they lie about it. Not 99% of the time, not 99.9% of the time, 100% of the time.”

There’s no mystery about how Pence earned the nickname “Dense Pence” — he’s not a bright guy. But unless Mother rode around on Pence’s shoulders during the entire campaign and transition, with her thighs clamped over his ears, one hand covering his beady eyes and the other stopping his mouth, there’s just no way Pence didn’t know the Trump crew was ass-deep in Russians. He needs to go down too.

I’m guessing 15% or more of the responses to this post will be people telling me I’m an idiot for getting my hopes up. Maybe y’all are right, and feel free to piss on my parade. But I’m feeling more hopeful than I have in months.

He’s already here…

One of Trump’s favorite themes on the stump was complaining that “other countries are laughing at us, believe me” and offering himself as the strong man who could restore American honor. It was an absurd proposal based on a lie; President Obama was widely respected in the world, and Trump is a buffoon.

Still, a significant portion of our fellow citizens lapped it up, and now the buffoon is doing what clowns do for an audience, provoking laughter:

Of course it didn’t come up. Who’s going to bring it up, Trump?

There was a similar “did they or didn’t they” controversy after Trump got his ass in a crack this weekend over his remarks about Russian meddling in the U.S. election. First, Trump spoke to reporters on AF1, leaving the distinct impression that the two men discussed the issue at length and that he, Trump, took Putin’s word that Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 elections.

Then, when those remarks were received with derision at home — even on Fox News! — Trump walked them back, claiming (absurdly) that what he actually meant was that PUTIN sincerely believes that Russia had nothing to do with the election meddling. As if it’s remotely plausible that Russian agents would undertake a massive coordinated cyberattack on the U.S. without clearing it with Putin.

At first, a Kremlin spokesman said Putin and Trump didn’t even discuss the election. Later, he said the two DID discuss it.

The common thread here is that foreign leaders have no respect for Trump. They don’t fear contradicting him. And why should they? They’re busy running circles around Trump, distracting him with geegaws while the grownups negotiate deals. And he’ll come home tomorrow convinced the trip was a big success because red carpets.

Putin said it, Trump believes it, and that settles it…

From The Washington Post:

HANOI — President Trump said Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin again denied his nation tampered in the U.S. presidential election last year when the two men spoke during brief conversations on the sidelines of an international summit…

“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump said, answering questions in the press cabin on the Air Force One. “I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. … He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did…”

“This is really an artificial barrier that’s put in front of us for solving problems with Russia,” Trump said. Of Putin, he added: “He says that very strongly, he really seems to be insulted by it and he says he didn’t do it. He is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. You have President Putin very strongly, vehemently, says he has nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine…”

“There was no collusion,” Trump said on the plane. “Everybody knows there was no collusion.” The president added that he is determined to enlist Moscow’s help to end the civil war in Syria and to ramp up pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

He said the investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia could hurt those efforts. “I think it’s a shame that something like that could destroy a very important potential relationship between two countries that are really important countries,” Trump said…

Trump did not answer when asked during the flight to Hanoi whether he believed Putin’s denial of the tampering.

“Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,'” Trump said, “but I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. … I think he’s very insulted by it and that’s not a good thing for our country.”

The Russia investigation is an “artificial Democratic hit job” that “gets in the way,” Trump added. “And that’s a shame. Because people will die because of it” in Syria and elsewhere. “It’s artificially induced and that’s shame.”

So, to recap, all U.S. intelligence agencies agree that Russia meddled in our election, but the KGB-trained autocrat accused of masterminding the interference denies it, and that’s good enough for Trump. Nothing more to see here. Move along.

Also, note how Trump raised the stakes on the investigation into his campaign’s collusion with Russia: “people will die because of it.” This tells me Trump will try to shut the Mueller probe down, and he’ll attempt to cast himself as a heroic lifesaver when he does.

Open thread.

The Vultures are Circling

Maddow did a segment last night on the destruction of the State Department. I know she drives some of y’all crazy with her long windup, but it’s worth watching. Skip to the six-minute mark to bypass the soup and seafood courses and dive right into the entree.

[Edited to remove video embed code because MSNBC interface fucking sucks — just click the link above to go to the shitty MSNBC site and watch the excellent content that deserves a better online home.]

Foreign Policy ran a piece earlier this week that also highlighted the alarm signals sent by senior diplomats, including current American Foreign Service Association President Barbara Stephenson:

“Our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed,” Barbara Stephenson, a former U.S. ambassador to Panama and current president of the American Foreign Service Association, the union for foreign service officers, wrote in a letter for the December 2017 issue of the Foreign Service Journal.

Scores of senior diplomats, including 60 percent of career ambassadors, have left the department since the beginning of the year, when President Donald Trump took office, according to the letter. There are 74 top posts at State that remain vacant with no announced nominee…

Morale at the State Department is crumbling, as Foreign Policy reported in July, amid an ongoing effort by the Trump administration to sideline the traditional motor of U.S. diplomacy. At a meeting last week, White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster appeared to justify the assault on State Department staffing by saying that some officials there did not support the president’s agenda, according to Reuters.

In a Nov. 2 interview, Trump responded to a question about unfilled positions at the State Department by stating, “I’m the only one that matters.”

Yesterday, I noted that Trump is making a fool of himself on his Asia trip. As Maddow noted, during the campaign, Trump blustered about China “raping” the U.S. through imbalances, currency manipulation, etc. Yesterday, he could barely detach his lips from Xi Jinping’s buttocks. His bellicose campaign rhetoric was embarrassing, but Trump’s deference is humiliating.

Also, it turns out that being a serial liar and backstabber has diplomatic consequences. Trump is finding no takers in sideline efforts to forge bilateral trade agreements. And why would anyone want to make a deal with him? World leadership has shifted to other players.

But back to the question Stephenson asked and Maddow highlighted: It’s time to ask why the State Department is being gutted. Who benefits when the U.S. abdicates its role as a world leader? Why is the man who received an Order of Friendship medal from Vladimir Putin taking a sledgehammer to State?

Funny how all this incompetence just coincidentally benefits the world’s most powerful authoritarians, chiefly Putin. It looks less like a clown show and more like a flock of vulture capitalists stripping a distressed enterprise down for parts.

Fine-Tuned Machine

It’s morons, all the way down. The ABC News scoop, via TPM:

The White House had no idea that Sam Clovis testified before the grand jury in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, ABC News reported late Thursday.

ABC News reported, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the probe, that the White House learned Clovis had met with the grand jury from media reports rather than from Clovis himself.

Clovis was a co-chair on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and served as the supervisor to George Papadopoulos, a former adviser on the campaign. Court documents unsealed on Monday revealed that Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier in October to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian nationals.

“The White House was surprised to learn Mr. Clovis had been contacted by the Special Counsel’s office as part of their separate probe of Mr. Papadopoulos’ activities,” an unnamed White House source familiar with the probe told ABC News.

So, in addition to a generally chaotic administration, the effort to control the administration’s response to the Mueller investigation is also a raging dumpster fire that can be seen from space. May it consume them all.

Open thread!