Could Trump Be Prosecuted for Leaks Under New Department of Justice Directive?

The still nascent presidency of Donald Trump is rife with controversies and scandals. His financial conflicts of interests and unsavory connections to Russia have dominated his short tenure in office. Additionally, he has produced no legislative accomplishments. Most notably, the failure of his efforts to kill ObamaCare went down in flames. He has made no progress on immigration, taxes, terrorism, or his lame-brained border wall.

Rod Rosenstein Fox New

However, Trump regularly signals what issues are of most importance to him. And judging by the frequency of his tweets, it has little to do with matters critical to the nation. Rather, he is variously obsessed with either the media, last November’s election, or the torrent of White House leaks. Most experts agree that leaks occur when an organization is in disarray. But in Trump World it is blamed on a shadowy conspiracy of “deep state” saboteurs.

On yesterday’s edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (video below). Much of the segment specifically addressed the question of leaks and what the Justice Department intends to do about them. Wallace sought to follow up on remarks made last week by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Those comments sparked some controversy for implying that journalists could be targeted for prosecution. Rosenstein walked that back a bit in the following exchange:

Wallace: Some of the people who engage in leaks, I don’t have to tell you, are not the members of the so-called ‘deep state’ or faceless bureaucrats inside intelligence agencies. They are White House officials. They are members of Congress. If you find any of them have committed these leaks – have disclosed classified information – will you prosecute?
Rosenstein: “What we need to look at in every leak referral we get, we look at the facts and circumstances. What was the potential harm caused by the leaks? What were the circumstances? That’s more important to us than who it is, than who is the leaker. So if we identify somebody, no matter what their position is, if they violated the law and that case warrants prosecution, we’ll prosecute them.
Wallace: Including White House officials and members of Congress?
Rosenstein: Including anybody who breaks the law.

If Rosenstein can be taken at his word, Donald Trump may be in even more trouble than previously thought. Leaks from any administration are made for a variety of reasons. It may be because someone is genuinely concerned about a course of action and has no other recourse to alter it. Sometimes a leaker is angling for position or acting out of vengeance. And sometimes leaks are deliberate attempts by the White House to disseminate information that it wants disseminated.

For example, Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s short-lived communications director, recently outed his boss as a leaker. During an interview on CNN, Scaramucci defended Trump’s reluctance to concede that the Russians were responsible for hacking during last year’s election. He even offered “evidence” by way of an anonymous insider:

“You know, somebody said to me yesterday — I won’t tell you who — that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those e-mails, you would have never seen it.”

That, of course, is grade AAA bullshit. Professional spies may be good at what they do, but they are not infallible. Scaramucci is suggesting that the Russians are so superior in their clandestine operations that their American counterparts are helpless yokels, incapable of facing off against the almighty Ruskies. But more important was what Scaramucci said next. After CNN’s Jake Tapper challenged Scaramucci’s hypocritical use of an anonymous source, the Mooch spilled the beans:

“How about it was – how about it was the President, Jake? I talked to him yesterday. He called me from Air Force One.”

So here we have a White House official admitting that the President was the source of a leak that disclosed inside information. Trump’s observations about the capabilities of Russian intelligence ought to be regarded as top secret. But this business was aired on national television at the behest of Donald Trump. On another occasion, Trump leaked classified data to Russian diplomats visiting the White House. This leak may have put intelligence assets of an ally at risk of discovery or termination.

Who knows what else the President might have leaked. Handing out information that advances the administration’s interest is an ago-old tactic. Dick Cheney did it to plant the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And Trump has his own media operation headquartered in the White House and led by Breitbart News chairman, Stephen Bannon. Remember, this is the same guy who used to call newspapers and pretend that he was a publicist working for, well, himself.

So if Trump is later found to be the source of leaks to the media, will the Department of Justice keep their word and prosecute him? That’s an open question for the time being. They have not been especially anxious to pursue criminal investigations of the President. And, of course, Trump remains poised to fire anyone he thinks is getting too close to the truth. In the end, it may only be possible to obtain justice with a truly independent counsel, or a Democratic congress. Stay tuned.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

REPORT: Trump Considering Replacing ‘Beleaguered’ Attorney General Sessions With Rudy Giuliani

The past couple of weeks has seen Donald Trump becoming ever more buried in scandal and controversy. Much of it is related to the ongoing questions about his unsavory connections to Russia. However, lately there have been new concerns emanating from a floundering White House that increasingly sees itself as under siege. The anxiety is getting so intense that Trump tweeted a plea for Republicans in Congress to protect him.

Rudy Giuliani

Setting aside the fact that it is not the job of Congress to protect the President (they are a co-equal check and balance on the executive branch), Trump’s worries extend to his his cabinet, with which is he decidedly unsatisfied.

That is especially true of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Recently Trump castigated his former favorite shill in what appears to be an attempt to force his resignation. He told the New York Times that Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe caused him to regret the appointment. That was followed by a leaked report revealing Sessions meetings with Russians. There is speculation that the White House was the source of that leak. And on Monday morning Trump referred to Sessions as his “beleaguered” attorney general. Ironically, it is Trump who is “beleaguering” him.

A report just published by Axios is stirring the waters even more. They are hearing talk of Sessions being replaced by Rudy Giuliani. That would be an astonishing development. Giuliani is one of Trump’s most strident supporters. It would be suspicious if he should be put in that position as Trump’s legal woes expand. His fierce loyalty to Trump make it impossible to imagine that he’d run the Justice Department with the necessary independence.

But there are other reasons to be concerned about Giuliani running the Justice Department. His background is rife with controversy in both his political and personal lives. And he has much in common with the darkest side of Donald Trump. For instance:

  • Giuliani is a confirmed Birther.
  • Giuliani is a serial adulterer.
  • Giuliani asserts that he would prosecute Hillary Clinton.
  • Giuliani is frequently on Fox News and officiated at the wedding of Roger Ailes.
  • Giuliani implemented the racist stop-and-frisk policy for New York policing.
  • Giuliani eliminated New York’s control and command center for emergency response. This hampered rescue efforts after 9/11.
  • Giuliani business clients include the Canadian company that is building the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
  • Giuliani gave a speech to the Iranian organization Mujahedeen Khalq, which was on a State Department list designating it a terrorist organization.
  • Giuliani has a personal reverence for Vladimir Putin, who he said, “makes a decision and he executes it quickly. And then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader.”

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Should Sessions be forced out as many insiders expect, Trump may lean on his pal Giuliani to do his dirty work at the Justice Department. The degree of sycophancy that Giuliani has displayed would make it likely he would willingly fire special counselor Robert Mueller. And stifling the investigations into his Russian affairs and finances is a top priority of Trump’s since he fired former FBI director James Comey. However, if any of this transpires there’s still a question as to whether Giuliani could be confirmed by the Senate. Even some Republicans might be wary of installing Trump’s consigliere as Attorney General.

LATE BREAKING: The Washington Post is reporting that Ted Cruz is also being considered as a replacement for Sessions. That would be a remarkable political turnaround for Lyin’ Ted whose father collaborated with JFK’s assassins. However, known as the most hated man in the Senate, he may find it even harder to get confirmation from his Senate colleagues.

Desperate Trump Tweet Accusing Hillary Clinton Proves He Doesn’t Know What ‘Illegal’ Means

As the walls continue to close in around the Donald Trump crime family, he’s resorting to ever more desperate outbursts. On his Sunday morning Twitter venting, the President let loose on several familiar topics. His act is getting so stale that it can be predicted with almost perfect certainty.

Hillary Clinton

Among the subjects gnawing at his ego today were his pitiful approval ratings that reached another new low. At thirty-six percent he is the most unpopular president in seventy years of polling. And yet, his comically rounded up tweet bragged that at “almost 40% [it] is not bad at this time.” That’s sort of true, it isn’t bad. It’s historically abysmal. And even as he sought to spin this poll as good news, he dismissed is it as “just about the most inaccurate poll around.” So in effect he’s saying “See how great I’m doing in this bullshit poll?”

Trump also took a perfunctory slap at the media, complaining about its “phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting.” The man who allowed Russia to influence our election also charged that the media was “DISTORTING DEMOCRACY” (his caps). Never mind that Trump happily boasts about his own unnamed sources when they serve his purpose.

Perhaps the most ludicrous tweet of the morning, though, was the one that dug deepest into his desperation and paranoia. It’s a comment that harkens back to the classic campaign chants of “Lock her up.” That was when Trump was accusing Hillary Clinton of heinous acts of criminality that were never supported by facts. Trump tweeted this morning that:

This explains so much. Perhaps we now know why the Trump family so frequently engages in unlawful behavior. They clearly don’t know what the word “illegal” means. For instance, there is nothing illegal about getting questions prior to a debate. In fact, a competent debate prep team probably anticipates the questions in advance anyway.

Nor is it illegal to delete your own personal emails. Despite the controversy surrounding this, no one has ever proved that Clinton deleted any government documents. And that’s after FBI investigators scoured her servers and recovered many of the deleted emails.

Both of these allegations were leveled by Trump in defense of his unscrupulous son, Don. Daddy Trump is attempting to argue that his son’s treasonous collusion with hostile Russian operatives should be excused because Clinton deleted some emails and might have cheated in a debate with Bernie Sanders. Trump is obviously still obsessed with Clinton and can’t stop thinking about her and her popular vote victory. What’s more, he’s blaming the “fake” news media even though the evidence of Junior’s crimes came from his own emails. How ironic.

You have to wonder what Trump is thinking when he posts these tweets. Does he believe that they will exonerate him and his skeevy family? Does he think that he’s persuading anyone other than his glassy-eyed disciples that they’re all innocent? Can’t he read all of the replies on Twitter that are overwhelming opposed to his whining commentaries?

Trump is a president who is not only notching new lows in public opinion, he is losing the battle on almost every front. The same poll that showed him at thirty-six percent approval has other bad news for him as well. It shows that sixty percent of Americans think Russia did try to influence the election outcome. It also shows that sixty-three percent believe that meeting with Russians during the campaign was inappropriate. Other polls show that his agenda is almost universally despised. America hates his healthcare plan, his border wall, and his immigration ban.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

These are not split decisions. They are uncommonly large majorities that have concluded that Trump and his family are dishonest and untrustworthy. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the Republican Party recognizes the risk to their congressional dominance. That’s when they will start to turn on Trump in order to save their own political skins. And the good news is that they will almost certainly make that decision too late.

Supreme Court Ruling On Trump’s Muslim Ban Makes No Friggin’ Sense At All

Monday morning the Supreme Court announced that they will allow a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States to go into effect. The ban was part of an Executive Order by Donald Trump that was blocked by lower courts, rewritten, and blocked again. In the Supreme Court’s decision the ban will be partially reinstated until the the full court considers it in October.

Donald Trump

For the record, the Court did not side with Trump on the constitutionality of the ban. They only reversed the lower court decision to suspend the Order pending a final ruling. But there is a more important reason why the whole matter is absurd. In order to understand what’s wrong with this decision we need to look at what the Order originally called for. Which was this:

“I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order. […] The Secretary of State shall suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days.”

Trump’s attempts to ban immigrants and refugees were limited in scope to 90 and 120 days respectively. That ban was was ordered on January 27, 2017. So it is has already been 150 days since the order was effective. His reason for imposing the ban was to review the processes and procedures related to immigration and the security considerations thereof. There was nothing stopping him from conducting that review for the past 150 days. Had he done so it would have been completed by now and the ban would be moot.

Why didn’t Trump conduct those reviews that he was so insistent were critical to national security? Why isn’t he conducting them now? If he really cared about the safety of the American people he would have done that while the courts were hashing out the Executive Order. This exposes the lie in his statement celebrating the Supreme Court’s temporary ruling. He said that “My number one responsibility as Commander-in-Chief is to keep the American people safe.” Obviously that wasn’t true. Because instead of fulfilling that responsibility, he did nothing at all. And that is pretty much the story for his entire short presidency.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Ted Cruz Tried to Outsmart Sally Yates at Senate Hearing on Russia – Got Smacked Hard

Monday afternoon the Senate judiciary Committee met for hearings on Donald Trump’s connections to Russia during his campaign and into his presidency. The star attraction was former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, whom Trump fired under suspicious circumstances. Yates had warned him that his then-National Security Advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn, might have been compromised by Russian operatives. So, of course Trump fired her, but didn’t fire Flynn until three weeks later.

Ted Cruz Sally Yates

The hearing was predictably partisan with Democrats sticking to the subject at hand, while Republicans tried to deflect to everything from alleged leaks, to Hillary Clinton’s email server. However, the most peculiar moments came during questioning by Sen. Ted Cruz (surprise). Although Cruz has long boasted of his debating skills, his exchange with Yates did not go well for him. Here is a condensed transcript of what occurred. [Note: the full video is posted below]

Cruz: Is it correct the the Constitution vests the executive authority in the President?
Yates: Yes.
Cruz: And if an Attorny General disagrees with a policy decision of the President – a policy decision that is lawful – does the Attorney General have the authority to direct the Department of Justice to defy the President’s orders?
Yates: I don’t whether the Attorney General has the authority to do that or not. But I don’t think that would be a good idea. And that’s not what I did in this case.

At that point Cruz asked Yates if she was familiar with a statute that he said was the binding authority for Trump’s executive order. He said that her refusal to comply with it was the reason for her termination. Then he read the statute as if declaring victory over his foe. But Yates responded in a manner that ought to have shut him up:

Cruz: The statute says, quote, ‘Whenever the president finds that the entry of any alien or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem appropriate.’ Would you agree that that is broad statutory authorization?
Yates: I would, and I am familiar with that. And I’m also familiar with an additional provision of the INA that says, ‘No person shall receive preference or be discriminated against in issuance of a visa because of race, nationality, or place of birth.’

Yates went on to point out that the section of law she quoted was promulgated after the statute that Cruz cited. It therefore took precedence. Cruz appeared not to be aware of any of that. So in a desperate effort to divert attention from his humiliation, he sought to baselessly accuse Yates of partisanship:

Cruz: There is no doubt the arguments that you laid out are arguments that we can expect litigants to bring, partisan litigants who disagree with the policy decision of the president.

Of course, Yates’ arguments were neutral statements of fact that Cruz just couldn’t rebut. Shortly thereafter, Cruz tried another tack wherein he met a similarly embarrassing fate:

Cruz: In the over two hundred years of the Department of Justice history, are you aware of any instance in which the Department of Justice has formally approved the legality of a policy and three days later the Attorney General has directed the department to not to follow that policy and to defy that policy?

Yates: I’m not. But I’m also not aware of a situation where the office of legal counsel was advised not to tell the Attorney General about it until after it was over.

Immediately after this exchange Cruz left the hearing room with his tail between his legs. He didn’t bother waiting until the hearing was over or listening to any of the other testimony. Clearly he was ashamed and unable to face his colleagues or the press. So he beat a hasty retreat. He might have been better off had he not shown up. And the same can be said of the rest of the GOP inquisitionists on the panel.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Watch Sally Yates and Ted Cruz spar here:

Trump’s Executive Order on Religious Liberty Gives Bigots a Free Pass to Discriminate

Much of the media today is over-indulging the White House’s short-term success in crippling ObamaCare. Never mind that the American people support it and today’s House vote is not expected to be repeated in the Senate. It’s a “W” in Donald Trump’s column that they are exploiting to the max.

Donald Trump

What is not being talked about is the executive order Trump signed earlier on Thursday. The purpose of yet another Trump executive order is being sold as an attempt to promote “Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” In reality it does neither. The language in the order itself betrays its true intent. It says that it:

“…protects the freedom of Americans and their organizations to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life without undue interference by the Federal Government.”

“…[mandates that] the Department of the Treasury does not take any adverse action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization on the basis that such individual or organization speaks or has spoken about moral or political issues.”

“…address[es] conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate.”

Taking a closer look at these objectives reveals something far more ominous than what the Trump administration suggests. The actual impact of the order is to allow religious institutions to use their tax-exempt status to advocate for political campaigns and policies. It attempts to reverse the “Johnson Amendment” which many faith leaders support. It also permits businesses to discriminate against individuals they regard as incompatible with their religious beliefs.

For the most part, the executive order is merely window dressing on the right’s Christian supremacy. It doesn’t alter existing law at all, which would require an act of Congress. Instead, it directs federal legal authorities to refrain from enforcing statutes that actually protect equal treatment under the law. In other words, businesses that refuse to service gays (or Muslims, or whoever) will get a free pass for prejudice. Churches that openly engage in political activity will not have their tax-exempt status reviewed by the IRS. Employers will be able to force their religious beliefs on employees (such as refusing contraceptive healthcare coverage) with impunity.

It should be noted that current law does not prohibit anyone from exercising their right to religious expression. Any business owner is free to express their beliefs so long as doing so does not infringe on the constitutional rights of others. Any representative of a religious institution can speak out on politics so long as it is not done in a facility that receives federal tax exemptions. If pastors want to turn sermons into political speeches they can simply decline tax-exempt status. Many people believe that the policy that grants religious organizations freedom from taxation should be revisited as an historical anachronism. But no one argues that political organizations should conduct their business tax-free.

Trump’s statements at the signing of the executive order (video below) were vaguely patriotic while disguising overtly prejudicial intent. “No American,” he said, “should be forced to choose between the dictates of the American government and the tenets of their faith.” He continued:

“We will not allow people of faith to be bullied, targeted, or silenced any more. And we will never ever stand for religious discrimination. Never ever.”

That coming from the same man who issued an executive order banning all Muslims from entering the country. Trump’s idea of religious freedom is limited to those who practice the American brand of Christianity. He supports business owners who seek to discriminate against gays. But he would oppose any business that insisted that all female patrons cover their heads. He also said that:

“For too long the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying, and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs.”

In reality, the federal government generally tries to insure that the practice of religious beliefs don’t infringe on anyone else’s liberties. The only bullying evident was by radical Christians who tried to prevent the construction of Mosques in their communities. What Trump is bothered by is the free exercise of beliefs by people who don’t subscribe to his faith.

This point was made clear in an open letter by more than 1,000 faith leaders who oppose Trump’s executive order. Their letter said in part that:

“Although it purports to strengthen religious freedom, what this order would actually do is misuse this freedom, turning it into a weapon to discriminate against broad swath[e]s of our nation, including LGBTQ people, women, and children in foster care.” […]

“The religious freedom upon which our nation was founded has allowed our country’s diverse religious landscape to flourish. The draft executive order flies in the face of that rich diversity by enshrining one religious perspective – on marriage, gender identity, health care, and the role of houses of worship in partisan politics – into law, above all others. This is neither what religious freedom means in the eyes of the law, nor what religion itself means to millions of Americans of faith.”

Trump’s attempt to govern by executive order, something he lambasted President Obama for, is typical of the authoritarian tendencies he has long exhibited. And in this case he is going beyond conventional authoritarianism to full fledged theological tyranny. Expect this executive order to suffer the same fate as his others that were overturned in court. The ACLU has already announced a court challenge.

[Update: The ACLU released a statement saying that they are declining to bring a suit at this time because Trump’s EO is “an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome” and is “fake news.” I don’t entirely agree, because a threat of non-enforcement still constitutes unequal treatment under the law. However it’s fun to see the ACLU essentially call Trump an impotent doofus]

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

INSPIRED By TRUMP: Lawsuit Filed Against Trump By Supporter Accused of Attacking Protesters

It seems like a lifetime ago, but Donald Trump’s campaign for president ended on election day just five months back. It was a surreal undertaking that included vulgar recordings, racist endorsements, and relentless media bashing. And the repercussions from that campaign are still being felt.

Donald Trump

A fixture at the many rallies held by Trump was the ever-present air of hostility. Violence always seemed to be on the verge of breaking out. Protesters courageously attended the cult-like affairs despite the open threats they faced. And on several occasions Trump’s minions did assault them. In one of those incidents the victims filed a lawsuit against both the perpetrators and the Trump campaign.

On Monday one of the perpetrators, 75-year-old white nationalist Alvin Bamberger, responded with a lawsuit of his own. However, it was not directed at those accusing him of assault. It’s directed at Donald Trump. According to the filing:

“To the extent that Bamberger acted, he did so in response to – and inspired by – Trump and/or the Trump campaign’s urging to remove the protesters. If Bamberger is adjudged liable to Nwanguma for his actions, Trump and/or the Trump campaign should be adjudged liable to Bamberger in an equal sum, because Trump and/or the Trump campaign urged and inspired Bamberger to act as he did.’

Bamberger may have a case. The charge that Trump “urged and inspired” violent activity is easily proved. Trump repeatedly used overtly provocative language aimed at protesters. For instance, he once said that he would like to punch one in the face. He explicitly advised his followers to “knock the crap” out of other protesters. He reminisced about some longed for past when people exercising their right to free speech were “taken out on a stretcher.” And he approvingly spoke of a protester who had been beaten saying that he deserved it.

Even more incriminating was Trump’s promise that if his supporters attacked a protester they wouldn’t have to worry about the legal consequences because he would “pay for the legal fees.” That’s more than an incitation to violence. That’s a purposeful solicitation to commit an criminal act. Consequently, Bamberger had a reasonable expectation that Trump would back him up were he to knock the crap out of a peaceful protester.

Trump is making a multi-pronged defense. First of all, he claims that his exhortations to “remove” the protesters were not directed at rally attendees, but to security personnel. That’s a specious argument since he never made any such distinction. What’s more, his bombastic rhetoric wouldn’t be appropriate for responsibly policing crowds either. Secondly, Trump claimed to have immunity due to his position as president. That, of course, was settled long ago when the courts found that President Clinton could not use that argument to avoid litigation over his alleged sexual misconduct.

President’s are not above the law, and any allegations not related to their official duties are actionable. Since the allegations in Bamberger’s suit occurred before the election, Trump cannot evade legal responsibility. And in the end, neither can Bamberger. While Trump could be found to have “inspired” the assault, Bamberger alone is responsible for carrying it out. It’s not as if he didn’t have a choice.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

So Trump’s liability would be to the victims, not to Bamberger. However, the spectacle of a president being held to account for such inspiration is disturbing, to say the least. It speaks to the brutish tendencies of a dangerously unstable so-called leader. And it is sadly emblematic of the petulant character of Donald Trump and the hostile environment he has created ever since he stepped onto the political stage.

Desperate Trump Tweets Threat To Investigate Debunked Clinton/Russia Uranium Deal

The walls are losing in around Donald Trump. Allegations concerning his unsavory connections to Vladimir Putin and Russia continue to accumulate. His closest associates are being investigated by the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies. The 2016 election was tainted by revelations of meetings between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives. And the Justice Department has already certified that Russia interfered with the election in an effort to harm Hillary Clinton and Boost Trump. The FBI is currently investigating the Trump campaign’s complicity.

Donald Trump Vladimir Putin

In the heat of all that, Congress is under fire for failing to hold independent hearings on the mounting scandals involving Trump and Russia. GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has himself been implicated in shady behavior. He reportedly met with a secret “source” at the White House prior to holding a press conference last week. At the presser Nunes released information intended to help the President evade further scrutiny. Then Nunes returned to the White House to brief Trump without ever sharing his information with the committee.

In the midst of this, Trump has now engaged in a pitifully obvious attempt at diversion. He posted the following tweets Monday evening:

Under the circumstances, asking the Intelligence Committee to investigate the Clinton’s is a transparent act of desperation. Especially since the Committee under Nunes’ control has zero credibility. In addition, the matters Trump cited have all been investigated by numerous legal and congressional entities. There was no wrongdoing found by the Clinton’s or President Obama. PolitiFact summed up the findings in a comprehensive analysis last year after a prior accusation by Trump. They rated Trump’s accusations “Mostly False” and said in part:

Russia’s nuclear energy agency, which also builds nuclear weapons, bought a controlling stake in Uranium One. The company has mines, mills and tracts of land in Wyoming, Utah and other U.S. states equal to about 20 percent of U.S. uranium production capacity.

So, to be clear, the 20 percent is capacity, not uranium that has been produced.

Given that Russia doesn’t have the licenses to export uranium outside the United States, it was likely more interested in Uranium One’s assets in Kazakhstan, the world’s largest uranium producer, our colleagues said. […]

The State Department did approve the Uranium One deal, but it didn’t act unilaterally. It was one of nine U.S. government agencies, plus independent federal and state nuclear regulators, that had to sign off on the deal.

And as FactCheck.org noted in a related fact check, while any of the nine agencies could have objected to the deal, only President Barack Obama had the power to veto it.

So there was nothing untoward about the deal in the first place, and Clinton didn’t have the power to approve or reject it anyway. Consequently, Trump’s only motivation could be to divert attention away from his potentially treasonous activities. It’s a pathetic scheme that is so clumsy it can’t possibly work. And that is the most damning proof of his desperation and fear. Stunts like this are only likely to exacerbate his situation.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

So keep tweeting, Mr. President. Your outbursts merely serve to dig you in deeper. They certainly won’t have any effect on the law enforcement professionals examining your activities during and following the campaign. And as the evidence continues to expose your malfeasance you will lose even more support from your fellow Republicans in Congress. You know, the ones you just insulted because they didn’t buy into your phony healthcare scam.

YOU’RE FIRED: Trump Sacks U.S. Attorney Probing Fox News For Hiding Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

On Friday the White House announced that it was asking forty-six U.S. Attorneys to submit their resignations. They were further instructed to clear out their desks by the end of the day. Replacing staff at the Department of Justice is a routine part of most administration transitions. However, it is rarely done so ham-handedly without prior notice or opportunity to orient the replacements.

Preet Bharara Donald Trump

By acting so impetuously, Donald Trump is leaving numerous in-progress investigations without leadership or direction. They include cases involving terrorism, drug trafficking, civil rights abuses, and more. There is no reason to rush these lawyers out the door. Most are career attorneys who have served during both Democratic and Republican administrations.

One possible explanation for Trump’s hastiness could be something he saw the night before on Fox News. Sean Hannity demanded that anyone affiliated with the Obama administration be summarily dismissed ASAP. What he was advocating was nothing short of the purges conducted by old-school tyrannical regimes. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that Trump carried out the ideological cleansing the next day. But there is abundant evidence that Trump responds obediently to things he sees on Fox News.

Which makes the case of fired attorney Preet Bharara especially troubling. Bharara is the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In that jurisdiction he has had responsibility for high profile prosecutions of organized crime, Wall Street corruption, and political malfeasance. He has a reputation for being thorough and non-partisan. He was even personally asked to remain by President-Elect Trump last November, which he agree to do.

What makes Bharara’s dismissal so controversial is that one of the cases he is currently investigating involves Fox News. Last month the New York Daily News reported that:

“The feds are conducting an ‘ongoing criminal investigation’ of Fox News Channel and whether Rupert Murdoch’s company hid from investors the payments it made to employees who alleged they were sexually harassed, an attorney alleged in court Wednesday.” […]

[Attorney Judd Burstein, representing former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros] “said Fox News’ payouts to female employees claiming sexual harassment are not disclosed in Fox’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings, which could be a violation of federal securities law.”

The ever-increasing number of former female Fox News staffers alleging sexual harassment is not just a moral atrocity. It also threatens to cost the network millions of dollars and loss of prestige. The current rash of scandals began with Gretchen Carlson and quickly spread to others including Andrea Tantaros, Juliet Huddy, and even Megyn Kelly. As such it’s pertinent to any analysis of the company’s fiscal health and they have a responsibility to inform investors. Fox News already lost its founder and CEO. Roger Ailes, as a result of the scandal.

To say the least, it is unseemly for Trump to shove Bharara out the door while he is working on such a sensitive case. Fox News is Trump’s most devoted media cheerleader, thus Trump has an incentive to shield them from legal jeopardy. And for this act of presidential protection to take place immediately after a plea from Hannity – Fox’s most adoring Trump fluffer – just compounds the inappropriateness.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Bharara, as a matter of principle, refused to cooperate with the Trump purge. CNN reported that he would not comply with the request for a resignation. In effect, he dared Trump to fire him. And given Trump’s penchant for petty vengeance, that is exactly what Trump did. This opens the door for a replacement who Trump is already considering. Marc Mukasey is a lawyer who counts among his clients Fox’s ex-CEO Roger Ailes. Were he to assume the position, it is unlikely that the case against Fox News would proceed. This is how Trump drains the swamp.

CREEPING FASCISM: Trump Insults Another Judge In Ongoing Effort To Deligitimize The Judiciary

The rule of law is often touted as a cornerstone of democratic society. The United States regards equal justice under the law as a core value. Founding Father John Adams articulated this principle when he declared that we are “a government of laws, not of men.” None of this, of course, presumes that there is a tyranny of legal rhetoric. That’s why we have courts to adjudicate the meaning and scope of the statutes that govern us.

Donald Trump

Respect for the law is generally observed in a civil society. That doesn’t mean unquestioning agreement or forgoing the right to dissent. But it does mean appreciating the role of an independent judiciary. That’s a concept that Donald Trump has repeatedly trashed.

In a petty and insolent tweet Saturday morning, Trump demonstrated once again his contempt for the judiciary and for any form of disagreement with his autocratic authority. He was responding to a ruling by a Washington state judge that stayed his executive order barring people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. The order even included legal residents and those with valid visas and green cards. He tweeted:

For the record, Judge James Robart was appointed to the federal bench by George W. Bush in 2004. Consequently, Trump could not lash out reflexively at the “liberal” courts. But that didn’t stop him from demeaning the Judge Robart, and by extension the entire judicial system.

By labeling Robart a “so-called judge,” Trump is implicitly denying that he isn’t an actual judge. By some twisted illogic he is demoting Robart to some other status. Perhaps Trump thinks he’s a “fake” judge, or an “alternative” judge. Either way, the effect is to undermine his legitimacy and that of his ruling.

Furthermore, Trump’s assertion that the decision “takes law-enforcement away from our country” makes no sense whatsoever. The judge’s ruling is, by definition, a component of law enforcement. And how does a decision by a U.S. federal court take anything away from “our country”? In what jurisdiction would Trump place this authority?

What’s more, Trump’s assertion that the ruling is “ridiculous” defies reason. Which may be why he didn’t even bother to supply one. However, four other courts agree with Robart’s decision. Last week courts in New York, Virgina, Washington, and Massachusetts issued similar judgments. That portends trouble for any hope by the White House for overturning the stay or prevailing overall.

Trump has previously expressed his disdain for the law when battling a suit over his fraudulent Trump University. In that case a judge who was born in Indiana, but whose parents were from Mexico, was accused of being biased and unfit to preside due to his heritage. That was just another example of Trump diminishing the role of the judiciary for irrelevant reasons. Despite swearing never to settle, he eventually did just that. The plaintiffs won a massive $25 million in compensatory damages.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

The problem with Trump’s tweet cannot be overstated. It is common in totalitarian regimes for the government to assert dominance over its institutions. That applies to the legislature, the media, the military, and the judiciary. Trump’s comment reflects his view that the courts are, or should be, subservient to his will. It’s a view that reinforces concerns about his aspirations to dictatorship.

The judiciary is one of the last lines of defense to prevent a descent into tyranny. Hopefully they will stand strong against Trump and for the principles enshrined in the Constitution. And maybe the Democrats in the Senate will have the guts to block the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court seat that they stole. At the very least they should ask him whether he thinks Robart is a so-called judge.