North Korea? NFL? Oh Wait – Russia Probes Are ‘Closing In’ on Donald Trump

For much of the past week Donald Trump has been tweeting in a frenzy over subjects not previously in the news. He has escalated the debate over professional athletes expressing themselves on matters of significant social importance. And he has also created a crisis situation with North Korea that wasn’t an issue until he starting mouthing off.

Carl Bernstein

Both of those issues are newsworthy on their own now. Certainly the message behind the movement that quarterback Colin Kaepernick started needs to be addressed. Systemic racism in America continues to cause real harm. And Trump’s overtly bigoted contribution has had the unintended effect of getting the issue more positive attention. As for North Korea, Trump’s childish feuding with Kim Jung Un has thrust the world into a rhetorical firestorm. And this one has frightening, nuclear overtones. The media can hardly ignore that.

And that may be the point. Trump is trying to control the news cycle to keep it clear of something that he’s truly afraid of. By injecting new and melodramatic subjects into the media, he hopes to prevent further revelations about his own scandals. To some degree it’s working. But in a segment on CNN’s Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter and famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein were not fooled. (Video below):

Stelter: It was reported this week that special counsel Robert Mueller is asking the White House to provide documents related to Trump’s actions as president. Not just pre-campaign or pre-election day, but issues recently. That request includes at least thirteen areas in which investigators are seeking information. Including statements made about former FBI Director James Comey made in the presence of Russian officials. Also the firing of Michael Flynn. And the meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump, Jr. As you recall, he sought to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton from a Russian individual.

That introduction covered a broad swath of the potential criminal behaviors emanating from the White House. And Carl Bernstein’s response closed the circle with a concise summary of the President’s unsavory avtivities:

Bernstein: Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is looking at the conduct of President Donald Trump and members of his family, especially Jared Kushner. Also his closest campaign aides in terms of their dealings with Russia, ethno-Russians, during the campaign and before. And in business. But there’s a much larger context that now informs the whole investigation. And that is the conclusion of the American intelligence community – under Donald Trump, not under Obama – that now is certain that the Russians were very, very, effective at undermining the campaign of Hillary Clinton and specifically helping Donald Trump.

And we keep hearing the word collusion, which is not a legal term. What Mueller is focused on is quite different than the simple idea of collusion. It’s whether or not Donald Trump, and perhaps his family and business associates, knew that the Russians were trying to help his campaign. And if they knew that, why didn’t they blow the whistle on the Russians? Did they try to cover it up? Are they continuing to try and cover up that knowledge? That’s the real question. Not the word “collusion,” which Trump and the White House keep trying to focus on.

Finally, Bernstein proposed what might be the motivations driving Trump and his more recent scandal mongering:

Bernstein: But the reason is these investigations are closing in on him, his family, and his aides. And if indeed there’s nothing there and it’s a hoax, then why has Donald Trump tried to undermine, demean and obstruct – not necessarily in terms of the legal obstruction of justice – these investigations for six months at every turn? He’s done everything that he can, as have those around him, to keep these investigations from succeeding.

That pretty much says it all. Trump is engaging in a fierce effort to divert attention from himself and his possible prosecution and/or impeachment. And he’s using other news events, some serious, some fabricated, to achieve that goal. Hopefully more journalists like Bernstein and Stelter will demonstrate that they cannot be tricked into serving as his propaganda merchants.

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

With Grand Jury Looming Trump Whines That ‘They’ Are Trying to Cheat You (VIDEO)

It’s getting a little old to say that Donald Trump has just suffered through his worst week yet. Because that appears to be true every damn week. That said, this past week has dropped some bombshells that will ring in his ears for quite a while.

Donald Trump

Most notably, there was the news that special counselor Robert Mueller has impaneled a Grand Jury to escalate his investigation of Trump and Company. But there was also news that subpoenas were issued in connection with Don Jr.’s meeting with Russian operatives. And then there was the release of the transcripts from Trump’s phone conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. They confirmed just how dishonest and embarrassingly narcissistic he is.

But when Trump gets overwhelmed with bad news that makes him look – in his words – “like a dope,” there is only one cure. Get him back on the campaign trail in front of throngs of slobbering, glassy-eyed disciples. His unquestioning cult followers are the best prescription to rebuild his fragile ego. And that’s where he went Thursday night. The speech he delivered was chock full of the hits his fans have come to know and love. They literally sing along: “Lock her up,” “build the wall,” “make America great again.”

Included in the repertoire was a new number inspired by the Grand Jury. Trump didn’t explicitly reference his legal jeopardy, but he did hint at it in a fairly obvious manner. It’s a typically whiny number that will make a superb addition to his Greatest Emo Hits album (video below):

“They can’t beat us at the voting booth, so they’re trying to cheat you out of the future and the future that you want. They’re trying to cheat you out of the leadership you want with a fake story that is demeaning to all of us. And most importantly, demeaning to our country and demeaning to our Constitution.”

Let’s explore the deeper significance of this ditty. First of all, Trump keeps referring to “they” without ever defining who he’s talking about. And with him it could be anyone from Mexicans to Martians. All of whom he would accuse of being illegal bad hombres (or whatever is Martian for hombre). But here he is asserting that “they” can’t beat him at the polls. Apparently he’s forgotten that Hillary Clinton did beat him, by more than three million votes. Of course, he hasn’t really forgotten, because he’s been bringing it up every day for eight months.

Trump’s complaint that “they” are trying to cheat his cultists is also a peculiar position to take. After all, he is the only one who is credibly charged with cheating in the election. And it’s the Democrats who were cheated by both the Russian interference and the anachronistic and undemocratic electoral college. The leader that America wants is hiking in the forests outside of her New York home.

As for Trump’s incessant blathering about fake news, he refuses to acknowledge that he is the biggest beneficiary of it. The Russians unleashed millions of social media postings that disparaged Hillary Clinton and advanced Trump’s campaign. It was that activity that was demeaning to the country and the Constitution. Mueller’s investigation seeks to correct that.

But Trump will never recognize the reality of that because it doesn’t square with his delusional world view. And it’s much easier for him to imagine an evil “they” that he can exploit to frighten his already screwy supporters. The rest of “us” can only wait and hope his term comes to an abrupt end before he causes too much more harm.

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

FACT CHECK: Trump Tells Fox News that Mueller’s Staffers are ‘All Clinton Supporters’

The constant stream of falsehoods that emanate from Donald Trump has made no sign of slowing down. This weekend Trump, who has not had a TV interview in over a month, gave two to Fox News. And not surprisingly, he provided some new nuggets of dishonesty to the pile he has amassed since becoming president.

Donald Trump

In an interview with Ainsley Earhardt of Fox and Friends, the Fox News host unleashed a barrage of brutal softballs at the President. She prefaced her inquiries with flattering language about how smart he was for pretending to have tapes of himself and James Comey (which is potentially unlawful witness tampering). And she comforted him with partisan assertions that “Democrats are in denial.” But Earhardt laid it on extra thick when the issue of Trump’s collusion with Russia came up:

“Robert Mueller, do you think he should recuse himself? He is good friends with James Comey. He’s hired some attorneys that were part of Hillary Clinton’s foundation and have given money to President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns. Should he recuse himself?”

Could Earhardt have composed a more fawning, servile, obsequious question? She must be so doubtful that he could come up with a coherent response, she provided one for him. Trump eagerly embraced the leading question and blindly agreed that Mueller is “very, very good friends with Comey.” Then he whined that “there has been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that.” Everybody? Well, that’s if you don’t count dozens of legal experts, intelligence professionals, and investigators currently researching the matter. But then he went even further over the edge:

“I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters, some of them worked for Hillary Clinton. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous, if you wanna know the truth.”

Indeed, it is ridiculous. But not in the way Trump thinks. PolitiFact reviewed his remarks and found them top be “Mostly False.” As it turns out, only three of the eight attorneys hired by Mueller were Clinton supporters. And any associations that any of them had were incidental and fully permissible under the “Rules of Professional Responsibility.” That assessment, by the way, came from Peter Carr, a spokesperson for Jeff Seesion’s Justice Department. And it was consistent with the summary ruling by PolitiFact:

“Three of the eight available Mueller hires made campaign contributions to Clinton, which undermines Trump’s statement that all are Clinton supporters. Furthermore, none of them have worked for Clinton directly. Two represented either the Clinton Foundation or an aide, never her, and working for WilmerHale, which has also represented key members of Trump’s White House.”

So Trump’s allegations (and that of many of his media surrogates) that the investigation is biased politically and motivated against him, is a bald-faced lie. If only that were an isolated incident in this presidency. Unfortunately it is the rule, rather than the exception. And anyone who takes Trump at his word is shamelessly begging to be made a fool of and deliberately deceived.

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

Trump Sinks to Historic New Low in Approval Due to His Asinine Actions on Climate Change

There seems to be no bottom for Donald Trump in the minds of the American people. His job approval rating continues go down with almost every action, statement, or tweet that he excretes. He is a political avalanche that is hurtling down the mountainside crushing weak-kneed Republican defenders it its wake.

Donald Trump

Gallup’s latest tracking poll shows that Trump fell six points to thirty-six percent in just the last week. Needless to say, there are lots of pending calamities facing Trump and his administration. Most notably the ever-tightening noose that is his unsavory relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Not only is that not going away, it is getting more treacherous with the investigation by special prosecutor, Robert Mueller. But the week just concluded had a couple of specific anchors dragging Trump ever deeper underwater.

The most prominent news event last week was Trump’s highly promoted address in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday. (Excluding the terrorist attacks in London on Saturday that occurred to late to impact the poll). He gathered the media to announce that he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Accords on Climate Change. His interminably long and rambling speech was ridiculed and riddled with factual misrepresentations and outright lies. And it appears that the public didn’t buy any of it.

The American people are more concerned about Climate Change now than ever. Unlike Trump, they do not believe it’s a hoax perpetrated by China. And specifically with regard to Trump’s actions, there is overwhelming support for remaining a part of the Paris Accords. Even a new poll by Fox News showed that Americans fear Climate Change more than Terrorism.

Consequently, it should come as no surprise that Trump’s approval rating took another dive. Following his rebuke of 147 nations who signed onto the accords, Trump seems petty, ignorant, and rabidly nationalistic. It’s a position that can only be explained as pandering to his wingnut base and corporate, fossil-fuel benefactors. Conversely, it’s a slap in the face to rest of the country – and world.

And speaking of the world, it plays a role in another news event from last week that is likely affecting Trump’s dismal polling. He just returned from his first trip overseas as president. To put it mildly, it didn’t go especially well. He praised Saudi Arabia as a “magnificent” kingdom without any mention of its severe human rights abuses. The sold them billions of dollars of weapons that previous administrations explicitly withheld from them. When he landed in Israel he mentioned to his hosts that he was just returning from the Middle East. Then he posed for some of the most awkward photos ever with the Pope. And finally, he insulted our NATO allies with ignorant rants about how awful they are.

That misadventure surely had some impact on Trump’s plummeting popularity. And along with his short-sighted, boneheaded move on Climate Change, he is assuring that his ratings will remain in the cellar for the foreseeable future. That isn’t going to help his floundering legislative agenda either. His attempt to repeal ObamaCare was rejected by the public and went nowhere in Congress. The tax proposal he put forward was equally disliked and there’s no sign that Congress will even consider it.

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

All of this is going to make it much easier for Republicans to abandon him when Mueller concludes his investigation. If impeachment hearings are in order, the GOP will have free reign to go along in order to save their own skins. Trump won’t have any leverage to bully them or even beg for help. He is in a downward spiral of his own making and likely already knows that there is no way out. So look for him to get even more desperate and irrational. And fasten your seat belts. It’s gonna be bumpy ride.

Greatest Witch Hunt in History? Trump Contradicts His Own Statement on Russia Special Counsel

On Wednesday the precarious fate of Donald Trump’s presidency took a turn for the worse. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the President’s connections with Russia. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was tapped for the job. The scope of his inquiry will likely encompass Trump’s campaign and short residency in the White House.

Donald Trump

It’s only been a few hours since this news broke, but that’s all it took for Trump to demonstrate a troubling incoherence on the subject. The first response from the administration was a formal written statement that had an atypical restraint and decorum. It said:

“As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.”

Not surprisingly, that composure didn’t last long. Thursday morning Trump must have regained control of his phone and let loose another of his patented Twitter tantrums:

The original White House statement itself was likely written by staff. It lacked Trump’s familiar voice that is generally infused with rage and ego. Nor did it directly address the numerous legal breaches that are expected to comprise the core of the investigation. But it did misstate what was already known about his potential collusion with Russia. And the pretense of Trump looking forward to any of this is manifestly absurd. What’s more, it’s peculiar that Trump is accusing Rosenstein of conducting a witch hunt just a couple of months after appointing him to his current post.

However, Trump’s tweets were much more recognizably consistent with the bitter tone for which he is infamous. He lashes out at any criticism as being a deliberately hostile attack on him. And it isn’t just an unwarranted attack, it’s the worst ever. This charge comes the day after Trump told the graduating class at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy that “No politician in history … has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

Needless to say, there have been scores of politicians who have suffered more than Trump. They begin with Abraham Lincoln and continue through to Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. And in Trump’s case, at least he was deserving of the treatment he has been receiving. Ironically, his second tweet was an example of two other politicians who were victims of far worse witch hunts. Hillary Clinton underwent repeated and relentless congressional inquiries into her emails and Benghazi. Yet the Republican led inquisition never produced any evidence of wrongdoing. President Obama was accused of being ineligible of office due to ludicrous assertions that he wasn’t born in the U.S. Trump himself led that witch hunt.

Somebody really needs to check on the President. He might be having a stroke. His tweets flagrantly contradict the official White House response to the special counsel appointment. They indicate that he is not actually looking forward to a “thorough investigation.” Neither does he seem particularly confidant that he will be cleared of the potentially impeachable charges. To the contrary, they suggest the fear of a guilty man who maligns the pursuit of justice. And in desperation he points accusing fingers at others to take attention away from himself. But to be fair, he does have good reason to be worried.

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