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.

Unprecedented Chaos in the Trump White House: 6 Key Posts Turnover in Only 6 Months

The first term of Donald Trump’s administration is only six months old, But it’s such an unmitigated disaster that it’s effectively already over. Many of the top positions in the White House have failed spectacularly. Trump’s campaign assertion that he “has the best people” begs the question: best at what? Obviously they aren’t the best at governing or performing the jobs for which they were hired.

Donald Trump

In only six months Trump has already replaced several of his key staffers. And others are anxiously waiting for the ax to fall on their own precariously exposed necks. This is a historically catastrophic degree of turnover by officials tasked with essential civic duties. There is simply no way any administration can be functional with so much perilous volatility.

The departments that have seen their leaders repealed and replaced are not trivial figureheads. They are mission critical managers upon whom rest competent governance and national security. What follows are some of the posts that are already starting over after a disastrous half year of Trump’s failure of leadership.

National Security Advisor
Within a mere three weeks of his appointment, Gen. Michael Flynn was dismissed under a cloud of scandal. He was closely associated with Russian operatives during Trump’s campaign. What’s more, he failed to disclose those relationships as required by law. Trump said that he fired Flynn for lying to him and Vice-President Pence about his meetings with Russians. However, Trump denied that there was anything improper about the meetings.

Press Secretary
The most visible person in any presidential administration is the press secretary. Trump’s first choice for that post was Sean Spicer (Fibby Spice). In the few months that he managed to hold onto the job he was castigated for being overtly dishonest. His first public appearance was spent lying about the crowd estimates at Trump’s inaugural address. It was all downhill from there. Spicer often claimed not to have spoken with the President on key questions raised by reporters. And in an attempt to avoid further bad publicity, he shut down the daily press briefings or prohibited cameras. During his tenure far-right fringe outfits like Breitbart News and Alex Jones’ Infowars were granted press credentials. And all of this took place under the president who declared the media “the enemy of the American people.”

Communications Director
The first person appointed to this post was not especially noteworthy. Michael Dubke’s short tenure went almost completely unnoticed. He was replaced briefly by Sean Spicer in an acting capacity. Then Trump named Anthony Scaramucci to the post permanently. Scaramucci came screaming out of the gate with wild accusations and insults directed at Spicer and others in the administration. His profanity-laced diatribes against Trump’s Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon made headlines for the worst possible reasons. But he did represent the President in the vulgar fashion to which is accustomed.

[UPDATE:] Scaramucci has been fired. Sources say that the new White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, wanted to select his own team. Translation: Get that vulgar piece af crap out of my White House.

Chief of Staff
And speaking of Reince Priebus, shortly after Scaramucci’s unhinged tirade, Priebus was ousted from his job. But like a good little sycophant, he praised both Trump and Scaramucci on his way out the door. Entering the Oval Office to replace Priebus was Gen. John Kelly, currently Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Trump announced Kelly’s appointment in glowing terms that highlighted the “spectacular” job Kelly did at DHS. It is, therefore, curious that Trump would take this star performer from his job protecting America, and selfishly limit his role to one of protecting just the President.

Secretary of Homeland Security
Of course, Kelly’s transfer leaves the vital post of DHS secretary vacant. It remains to be seen who Trump will offer as a replacement. Some Washington insiders have speculated that he might move Attorney General Jeff Sessions into the job. But you have to wonder why Trump would give such an important job to someone he has publicly said has disappointed him? The answer may be that Trump wants an excuse to remove Sessions as AG so that he can replace him as well. It’s no secret that Trump wants to fire special counselor Robert Mueller. Sessions can’t do that because of his recusal on matters related to that investigation.

FBI Director
Last May Trump shocked the nation by firing FBI Director James Comey. That impetuous and self-serving action set in motion many of Trump’s current problems. It’s why Sessions had to recuse himself. And it’s why there is a special counselor investigating Trump, his campaign, and his finances. In particular, Trump has exposed himself to impeachable charges of obstruction of justice. Comey’s department was investigating Trump’s unsavory connections to Russia. Trump even admitted that his reason for firing Comey was because of “this Russia thing.”

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

These high-level staff turnovers are unique for a presidency that’s only six months old. It speaks to the incompetence and erratic nature of this president. The rest of his cabinet is just as conflicted, corrupt, and unqualified as those that have been cast out. They just haven’t had their public meltdowns yet. And if anyone is surprised by the turmoil in Washington, they haven’t been paying attention. Donald Trump is the most conflicted, corrupt, and unqualified of the bunch. And his day will come as well. Hopefully before he has had a chance to do much more damage.

Hannity Orders His Trump-Cult Audience to Attack Journalists – Gets Slapped Back HARD!

Donald Trump’s First Amendment foes are assembling the troops in what they think is a massive show of force. They have a new general in the White House, Anthony Scaramucci, who unseated feeble Fibby Spice (Sean Spicer). The Mooch is already parroting the worst of Trump’s anti-media rhetoric. He is an avid supporter of the President’s Twitter tantrums and infantile assaults on free speech. And now he’s got some help from the Trump TV Network (aka Fox News).

Sean Hannity Fox News

Leading the way is Fox News Trump fluffer, Sean Hannity. Always a reliable soldier in the fight against honest journalism, Hannity has ordered a significant escalation. He’s taking the unusual step of enlisting his glassy-eyed audience into battle. On Monday night’s program he issued a call to the recruits to prepare to deploy for an all out offensive. And knowing his audience, they can be pretty damn offensive (video below):

Hannity began by praising the Trump administration for “ramping up one of the most effective tactics for combating all the fake news.” He was referring to the Propaganda Squad that has been fanning out to pick fights with their favorite media foils. They include Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, and Sebastian Gorka. Hannity lauded them for “standing up to pundits who treat the White House with hatred and disdain.” In reality they were just being jerks and insisting that the press accept Trump’s lies as truth. Then Hannity issued his orders to the troops:

“Members of the Trump administration, they’re beginning to shine a bright light on these dark corners of this fake news industry. And now thanks to social media, you can too. […] You can call out fake news right at the source. For example, you can tell fake news Jake Tapper exactly what you think of his interview with Anthony Scaramucci. You can do it on twitter.”

Tapper was only the beginning. Hannity also made juvenile insults aimed at CNN’s Brian Stelter and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. His diatribe was filled with childish taunts and ludicrous, debunked accusations against Hillary Clinton. And then he addressed those who might “want to take it to the next level.”

“Write a message to their bosses. Send a tweet over to [Jeff] Zucker over at fake news CNN or Andy Lack from NBC fake news. Right now the media is living in their little bubble. It is our job to remind them that there is an America way outside of New York, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco. Tonight, technology is now making it possible for you to take your point of view directly to the source and show America’s elites that the forgotten men and forgotten women of this country voted for this agenda and they want it completed and for them to stop lying to you. Take to the social media, and I think you’re going to have a positive impact.”

First of all, if Hannity is really concerned about the people’s position on Trump’s agenda, he should take notice that Trump is the most unpopular president in modern history. And that goes for his policies as well.

More to the point, Hannity is apparently aware that his viewers don’t already know about Twitter. He has the oldest skewing audience in cable news. Recent demographic studies show that “The median age of the average primetime Fox News viewer is 68 — five years older than MSNBC, and nine years older than CNN.” And the consequences of that disparity can be devastating when reaching out to a more youthful, social media capable, audience. So Hannity’s Twitter blitz produced predictably contrary results, as documented by the Huffington Post:

And as Tapper noted in his reply thanking those tweeters: “I don’t think that turned out the way he intended.”

Hannity will always lose on this battleground. He is too much of an ideologue who spins so furiously that reality is unrecognizable. And his followers are handicapped by being dumb enough to watch him in the first place. There are plenty of problems with corporate media outlets like CNN, but they pale in comparison to the rancid hostility and blatant dishonesty of Hannity and Fox News. And online communities on Twitter and Facebook will continue to let him know how irrelevant he is.

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

Kellyanne Conway is TOTALLY Oblivious to the Crisis in Trump White House

The Sunday Morning news fest was particularly exciting this week. Much of it was consumed by Donald Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. He made the rounds to demonstrate that he’s a sufficiently sizable asshole to represent this president. What America learned, for the most part part, was that he “loves” Donald Trump, which he said repeatedly. Plus, he gushed about Trump’s near divine perfection as a communicator and a leader. Good work, Mooch.

Kellyanne Conway

However, no Sunday is complete without the screwball antics of White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway. She was interviewed by Brian Stelter on CNN’s Reliable Sources. And she lived up to her low standards for honesty and rational discourse. The conversation focused on the many scandals that have dogged the White House. Conway was surprised at the very notion and refuted it fiercely. And in a shockingly candid appraisal of the President’s proclivity for bald-face lies, Conway served up a unique justification:

Stelter: The scandals are the President’s lies. About voter fraud. About wiretapping. His repeated lies about those issues. That’s the scandal.
Conway: He doesn’t think he’s lying about those issues, and you know it.

Stelter went easy on Conway. There are literally hundreds of other demonstrable falsehoods that Trump has shamelessly uttered. But Conway is adopting the “Costanza Principle,” famously introduced in an episode of Seinfeld. Jerry’s friend George was advising him on how to beat a lie detector test. “If you believe it,” said George, “then it’s not a lie.” And now that principle has been put to the test in the “real” world of Kellyanne’s “alternative facts.” Stelter pointed out that just because the President says something, even if he believes it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t still untrue. But that was a concept that would be over the head of any Trump advisor.

In the same interview, Stelter’s reference to the many scandals plaguing the Trump administration seemed to come as a surprise to Conway. That led to this exchange:

Stelter: This is a White House in crisis whether you recognize it or not.
Conway: Why? I work there. Where do you get that?

Conway’s oblivious response ignores the fact that Trump is under investigation by the FBI, the GOP-controlled Senate and House, and an independent counsel. She also appears not to have noticed that Trump’s attempts to kill ObamaCare have failed. Or that his border wall is still a wingnut fantasy. Or that his immigration policies are stalled. And nothing has been on done taxes or infrastructure, or terrorism. This is likely the least productive administration in decades, despite Trump’s ludicrous claims to the contrary.

What’s more, Trump has the worst approval ratings of any president in modern history. Conway had an explanation for that which made no sense whatsoever:

“Part of the disapproval are the independents who voted for him and want him to ignore all the nonsense, and all the noise, and all the Russia nonsense. That’s part of it. Part of it are people upset with Congress. The President’s approval rating is far higher than the approval rating of the media or the Congress, and there’s a reason for that.”

So Trump’s abysmal ratings are due to his own supporters giving him poor marks because they don’t like Congress? Yeah, that’s the ticket. As for Trump vs. the media, numerous polls have shown that, given a choice, majorities of voters trust the media more. That includes the “failing” New York Times and “fake” news CNN.

Conway was insistent that CNN and others were pushing the “phony” stories about Russia. She suggested that they should cover real stories instead. Then she gave as an example that “millions of Americans don’t have healthcare.” Which is an interesting choice since her boss is advocating a bill that would would take healthcare away from 32 million more Americans. And of course, that story has been covered extensively across the spectrum of media.

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

It’s morbidly entertaining to watch Trump’s staff and surrogates struggle to put his disastrous administration in a positive light. There are no plausible arguments that can make any of this sound less than catastrophic. Consequently, their efforts seem more and more absurd and desperate. You have to wonder what they think of themselves at the end of a day of this futile spinning. But then, since they work for Donald Trump, what could they think of themselves anyway.

Dumping on Trump: Spicer’s Replacement Caught on Video Slamming the President

Friday morning a bombshell announcement rattled the White House as another shake up hit the wires. Donald Trump’s acting communications director and press secretary, Sean Spicer unexpectedly resigned. The reason for his swift exit was that Trump brought in Anthony Scaramucci to fill the communications director position. Spicer was said to be unwilling to report to the totally inexperienced former hedge fund manager.

Fox News Scaramucci

The resignation of a key communications staffer only six months into the administration is emblematic of the disarray in the Trump White House. Spicer is only one of the top aides that didn’t last very long under Trump’s erratic and authoritarian control.

Another communications director, Mike Dubke, resigned in May. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn left under a cloud of lies about meetings with Russians. Monica Crowley barely moved in to the NSC when she turned and left due to revelations of rampant plagiarism. And two members of Trump’s legal team, Mark Corallo, and Marc Kasowitz, just quit. That doesn’t even count the hundreds of resignations/terminations from the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, the Pentagon, and more. Most of those positions remain unfilled.

Scaramucci has no experience in media relations whatsoever. He previously ran the Skybridge Capital hedge fund. He was also a Fox News contributor who appeared frequently on the Fox Business Network. It was in that role that he made some disparaging comments about his new boss a couple of years ago. On a panel discussing speculation of Trump’s presidential aspirations, Scaramucci candidly expressed his opinion (video below).

Among other things, Scaramucci accused Trump of being a “Democratic plant” for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Another current Fox News Trump shill, Charlie Gasparino, agreed saying “I’ve been saying that for a long time.” Scaramucci called Trump “divisive” and said that the only thing he would president of was the “Queens County Bullies Association.” He offered his prediction that Trump “is probably gonna make Elizabeth Warren his vice-presidential nominee.”

Then Dagen McDowell, another Fox News hack who breathlessly praises Trump these days, chimed in. “I like how you say that now,” she scolded him, “but I’ve had a problem with how he talks about women for years.” Scaramucci concurred, and went further to issue Trump a direct challenge.

“I don’t like the way he talks about women, I don’t like the way he talks about our friend Megyn Kelly. And you know what, the politicians don’t want to go at Trump because he’s got a big mouth and because [they’re] afraid he’s going to light them up on Fox News and all these other places. But I’m not a politician. Bring it. You’re an inherited money dude from Queens County. Bring it, Donald.”

Indeed. Trump is the beneficiary of having wealthy parents. He grew up spoiled and self-centered and developed a reputation for being a loud-mouthed bully. Scaramucci called it right at the time. And his assessment was aired on a Fox News network with concurrence from his right-wing colleagues. Now he will join the administration that already has several former Foxies on board. Among them K.T. McFarland, Ben Carson, Heather Nauert and Jonathan Wachtel.

The Trump administration is awash in chaos. Hundreds of critical jobs remain vacant. And many of those on staff are at odds with the president and/or each other. During the campaign Trump bragged that he would hire “all the best people.” But that appears to be just another phony promise that he can’t fulfill.

There appears to be a dearth of prospects who would even consider working for Trump. Particularly when he is under investigation for potentially impeachable crimes. Being connected to this administration is regarded as a resume killer. Consequently, that leaves only political bottom feeders as candidates. And with inquiries ongoing by the FBI, Congress, and special counsel Robert Mueller, it will only get worse.

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