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!

The makings of an awkward family Thanksgiving…

CNN a short while ago:

(CNN)Jared Kushner has turned over documents in recent weeks to special counsel Robert Mueller as investigators have begun asking in witness interviews about Kushner’s role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, CNN has learned.

Mueller’s investigators have expressed interest in Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser, as part of its probe into Russian meddling, including potential obstruction of justice in Comey’s firing, sources familiar with the matter said.
Their questions about Kushner signal that Mueller’s investigators are reaching the President’s inner circle and have extended beyond the 2016 campaign to actions taken at the White House by high-level officials. It is not clear how Kushner’s advice to the President might relate to the overall Russia investigation or potential obstruction of justice.

Could investigators be spelunking for anything other than obstruction of justice if they’re looking into the circumstances of Comey’s firing? Of course, Trump’s conveniently on video blurting out a confession to Lester Holt. Maybe they’ll nail Jared for obstruction too?

From Vanity Fair yesterday:

“Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” said former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s fucked.”


According to two sources, Trump has complained to advisers about his legal team for letting the Mueller probe progress this far. Speaking to Steve Bannon on Tuesday, Trump blamed Jared Kushner for his role in decisions, specifically the firings of Mike Flynn and James Comey, that led to Mueller’s appointment, according to a source briefed on the call. When Roger Stone recently told Trump that Kushner was giving him bad political advice, Trump agreed, according to someone familiar with the conversation. “Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” Nunberg said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.”

Trump could try to slide several pardons under cover of the traditional commutation of sentence for the White House turkeys. Would be pretty weird if Jared ended up in a petting zoo.

Bonfire of the Inanities

The White House and Wingnut Wurlitzer chorus are still singing from the “Hillary Clinton did the real Russia collusion” hymnal, as if Mueller Monday never happened. Trump, Huckabee-Sanders, Fox News, etc., are still yapping about emails, uranium, blah blah blah. If anyone pulls that bullshit on you, Joy Reid shows how to shut that person all the way up:

Reid produces a pile of receipts, arranges them just so around that woman’s specious argument, lights them on fire and burns that bullshit distraction to the fucking ground. It’s a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

“We are in control…”

Team Trump is so incompetent that it’s impossible to tell if they’re truly blindsided by events or just acting as a group of stupid people would in response to circumstances for which they’ve had time to prepare. But man, Huckabee-Sanders looked even more pole-axed than usual at today’s briefing.

I’ve not allowed allowed myself to hope that the Mueller investigation could take Trump down. Pessimism still seems the wisest policy. But it does sorta feel like the whole rotten edifice is tottering.

Open thread!