Collusion Lite (Open Thread)

The latest line is that if there was collusion, it was over before the election anyway:

Next up: “Collusion is awesome and everyone does it.” A version of this brazen lie was debuted earlier this year by Giuliani in defense of Dim Son, when Giuliani said that any campaign would have taken a meeting with Russians claiming to have dirt on a political opponent. Does anyone doubt this tactic will eventually be rolled out in defense of Trump himself?

Giuliani hinted at it today when he said on the same program, “if Roger Stone gave anybody a heads up about Wikileaks leaks, that’s not a crime. It would be like giving him a heads up that the Times is going to print something.”

Okay then. Y’all go with that.

Why not, indeed?

This is the greatest tweet ever:

I was reminded of it today while reading this NYT account of the botched firing of soon-to-be former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and botched hiring of soon-to-be-former Pence Chief of Staff Nick Ayers, a 36-year-old Republican hack who not only declined to become captain of the Titanic White House chief of staff but quit his current VP gig to “spend more time with family” (seriously — that’s the explanation).

That an ambitious, rich, donor-connected Republican operative ran away from that plum job like a scalded dog tells us all we need to know about the state of this administration. From the NYT piece linked above:

After Nick Ayers, the Georgia political operative who was the president’s top pick, declined the job — something of a plot twist in a presidency notorious for its episodic cliffhangers — Mr. Trump is without a Plan B. Several of his aides expressed frustration that months of intense campaigning to replace John F. Kelly — an effort led by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s elder daughter and son-in-law — resulted in yet another chaotic staffing scramble in a White House splintered by factions and rife with turnover…

Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Ayers were widely seen as a coup attempt, started on behalf of a president who was unhappy with Mr. Kelly but could not bring himself to fire him. Mr. Ayers’s rejection of the offer stunned the couple, who had long resisted Mr. Kelly’s attempt to bend them to a traditional White House hierarchy.

As Kay has observed, low-quality hires never improve; they only get worse. And that vapid, entitled, arrogant pair of clowns started at rock bottom and have been busily tunneling toward the earth’s core ever since. Better and smarter rats won’t jump on this sinking ship.

According to The Times, Trump tried to get Ayers to fire Kelly, and failing that, met with Kelly, Pence and Ayers last Friday and agreed to let Kelly resign the following week (to preserve his non-existent dignity, one assumes). But instead, Trump announced Kelly’s ouster the next day. On Sunday, Trump’s comms shop was prepping the press release to announce Ayers as Kelly’s replacement, and Ayers publicly declined the offer via Twitter, leaving Trump to feebly squawk “FAKE NEWS” about the Ayers speculation and lie about the many quality candidates beating down his door for a shot at the chief of staff job.

Does it matter who rearranges the deck chairs on the Trumptanic? The chief of staff gig seems to be a pretty big fucking deal in normal administrations and even in fictional ones — President Bartlet had Leo McGarry and CJ Cregg!

But in this shit-show of an administration, I suspect it doesn’t matter at all. Trump’s gonna Trump no matter who sits in the adjoining office, so the chaos, stupidity, venality and ruin will continue apace.

ETA: Trump tweeted this while I was composing this post:

Fake News has it purposely wrong. Many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position. Why wouldn’t someone want one of the truly great and meaningful jobs in Washington. Please report news correctly. Thank you!


Lying liar necessitates new WaPo fact-checker category

The Post debuted a new fact-check category today in an attempt to capture the unprecedented fire-hose volume of repeat lies coming out of Trump’s lie-hole. They call it the “Bottomless Pinocchio” category:

Trump’s willingness to constantly repeat false claims has posed a unique challenge to fact-checkers. Most politicians quickly drop a Four-Pinocchio claim, either out of a duty to be accurate or concern that spreading false information could be politically damaging.

Not Trump. The president keeps going long after the facts are clear, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to replace the truth with his own, far more favorable, version of it. He is not merely making gaffes or misstating things, he is purposely injecting false information into the national conversation.

To accurately reflect this phenomenon, The Washington Post Fact Checker is introducing a new category — the Bottomless Pinocchio. That dubious distinction will be awarded to politicians who repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation.

To qualify as a Bottomless Pinocchio, the lie must have been repeated at least 20 times since receiving a 3- or 4-Pinocchio rating from The Post. Glenn Kessler, WaPo’s chief fact-checker, says 14 of Trump’s lies already qualify.

The failure of the mainstream press to adjust the way it covers presidencies in the wake of the election of a pathologically lying stooge of a foreign autocrat has been nothing short of calamitous, IMO. The Bottomless Pinocchio isn’t a serious enough change, but it’s a start since it at least acknowledges the unprecedented nature of this maladministration and its liar-in-chief.

“This is the biggest scandal in the history of the American presidency…”

Sometimes I get so bogged down in the minutiae of the Trump-Russia investigation that I lose sight of the scandal’s scope. This Twitter thread by David Rothkopf puts it in perspective. It’s long, but that’s because the list of misdeeds is so extensive, and reading a brief reference to each one is instructive and devastating:

So we know this, Russian government representatives reached out to the Trump campaign in 2015 and undertook multiple initiatives and had multiple points and series of contacts with Team Trump for the next couple years.

It’s not just the Trump Tower meeting. It’s not just the interactions with Wikileaks. It’s not just the Russian ties to Cambridge Analytica. It’s not just Konstantin Kiliminik, a Russian agent working hand in hand with campaign chair Paul Manafort.

It’s not just the ties between Flynn and the Russians. it’s not just the links between the Russians and Eric Prince through the meeting in the Seychelles and beyond that. It’s not just the ties of Wilbur Ross. It’s not just the Trump Organization dealings with Russia.

It’s not just Jared Kushner’s dealings with Russia. It’s not just Kushner and Flynn’s dealing with Kislyak during the campaign. It’s not just the candidate Trump asking for Russian help. It’s not just the GRU hacking for which indictments have already taken place.

We can go on. But let’s not stop before we discuss the many benefits the Russians delivered to Trump via hacking, the dumping of files, the manipulation of social media and other avenues…all to support Trump over Clinton. Nor should we fail to discuss the benefits Trump…

…offered the Russians since he gained power. There was his covering up their hacking and his efforts to slow investigations of it. There was his denying the conclusions of the intelligence community about the Russians. There were the talks between Flynn and the Russians…

…about waiving sanctions. There were the meetings with Trump when he was president when he handed over classified information to the Russians. There were whatever promises or concessions were made in Helsinki. There was a pattern of placating the Russians or…

…failing to enforce sanctions for months and months. In other words, there was plenty of quid and plenty of quo ($50 million penthouse apartments and the promise of big deals or financing benefits aside).

From the outreach to Cohen to just the first mos of the admin we can count more than a dozen separate avenues of connection at the highest level. In any normal campaign or administration, just one would set off alarm bells and have the president calling the FBI into action.

But instead, in addition to those dozen avenues, the offers that were explicitly or tacitly accepted, benefits to both sides & the overt betrayal of the U.S. to advance the political or economic interests of Trump and those close to him, we have the president obstructing justice.

Actively obstructing. Threatening to fire all those getting closer to the truth. Lying and lying and lying some more and urging staff to lie and witness tampering and so on.

This is not a case of possible collusion. This is sweeping, multi-layered, high level conspiracy led by Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence community and involving the active cooperation and complicity of a man who was a candidate for president and then president…

…as well as his entire team. This is the biggest scandal in the history of the American presidency and there is not another that is close to it. But that is not all we know.

The DoJ believes the president of the United States directed the commission of campaign finance felonies as a candidate. The NYT produced extensive and compelling evidence of serial tax fraud by the Trump family. The state of NY is investigate fraud in their charities.

The House will soon begin investigation of Trump money laundering. A case involving his violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause is under way. In other words, as massive as the Russia scandal is, it might not be the biggest Trump scandal.

It might not even be the scandal that brings Trump down. But what we know is that all of these or any of these scandals must bring him down. This criminal has no business being the White House. He has no business walking freely among us.

2019 is going to be the worst year of Donald Trump’s life except for all those that will follow it. These cases will be investigated further and then proven. Some may be prosecuted while he is in office. Some may wait until he leaves office.

But someday this is already certain, no senior American public official–not Richard Nixon, not Andrew Johnson–will go down in more disgrace or be more reviled by history than Donald Trump. And that is as it should be.

My only quibble is with Rothkopf’s suggestion that the emoluments and money-laundering aspects of the Trump Omniscandal might eclipse the collusion with a hostile foreign power part. The latter is an unprecedented betrayal, but hell, it’s all unprecedented, and honestly, I don’t care which set of misdeeds brings Trump down.

But here’s what matters: If Trump isn’t brought to justice, the United States of America will cease to exist as a sovereign nation. It’s frightening to face that fact, but face it we must because a criminal gang has seized the executive branch. We and our fellow citizens will either root them out, or we’ll pretend accept that this is just how things are now.

To paraphrase someone else on Twitter: What a time to be alive. It’s like the fall of Rome, but with WiFi.

Open thread.

“When in danger, when in doubt…”

“Run in circles, scream and shout.”

My sister and I used to mock an extra-flinchy relative with that derisive couplet behind her back. It also applies to the current POTUS, who’s been losing his shit on Twitter all morning:

Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest. And bye the way, wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of “legal” at the corrupt Clinton Foundation? A total Witch Hunt…

….Will Robert Mueller’s big time conflicts of interest be listed at the top of his Republicans only Report. Will Andrew Weissman’s horrible and vicious prosecutorial past be listed in the Report. He wrongly destroyed people’s lives, took down great companies, only to be……..

…..overturned, 9-0, in the United States Supreme Court. Doing same thing to people now. Will all of the substantial & many contributions made by the 17 Angry Democrats to the Campaign of Crooked Hillary be listed in top of Report. Will the people that worked for the Clinton….

…Foundation be listed at the top of the Report? Will the scathing document written about Lyin’ James Comey, by the man in charge of the case, Rod Rosenstein (who also signed the FISA Warrant), be a big part of the Report? Isn’t Rod therefore totally conflicted? Will all of….

…the lying and leaking by the people doing the Report, & also Bruce Ohr (and his lovely wife Molly), Comey, Brennan, Clapper, & all of the many fired people of the FBI, be listed in the Report? Will the corruption within the DNC & Clinton Campaign be exposed?..And so much more!

It has been incorrectly reported that Rudy Giuliani and others will not be doing a counter to the Mueller Report. That is Fake News. Already 87 pages done, but obviously cannot complete until we see the final Witch Hunt Report.

We will be doing a major Counter Report to the Mueller Report. This should never again be allowed to happen to a future President of the United States!

Interestingly, Trump hasn’t bothered to deny the reports about Kelly’s imminent resignation, even though “John Kelly” has been trending on Twitter all morning. Sounds like the reports of the two not speaking to each other are true — no one’s left to enforce limits to “executive time,” so it’s all Fox News and Twitter today for Spanky as we all await the Cohen and Manafort sentencing documents.