Trump’s lies betray his desperation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE)

 

Column: 

Trump’s lies betray his desperation

Here’s what I hope Robert Mueller will conclude when he is done investigating Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign: The president is innocent of criminal wrongdoing. He did not know of or approve contacts with Russians to influence the election. His interactions with FBI Director James Comey and other Justice Departmentofficials never rose to the level of obstructing justice.

But it would require an extraordinary faith in Trump’s character and a stubborn disregard for his behavior to expect that outcome. If there is one inference to be drawn from everything he has done with respect to the investigation and the Russian government, it’s that he suffers from a powerful consciousness of guilt.

The latest came in a tweet expressing bitter regret that he didn’t choose someone other than Jeff Sessions for attorney general — because Sessions recused himself and therefore can’t send Mueller packing. Trump doesn’t want a fair and impartial investigation; he wants no investigation.

He insists over and over that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians. But we already have evidence there was — in the form of guilty pleas by Trump aides Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI about their contacts with Russians.

We have evidence in the 2016 meeting hosted by son Donald Jr. and attended by son-in-law Jared Kushner with a Russian lawyer who had promised information from the Kremlin incriminating Hillary Clinton. Meeting secretly with Russians in hopes of cooperating for mutual benefit is collusion, whether illegal or not.

This week, we got confirmation that the statement Donald Jr. issued — claiming the meeting was primarily about adoption issues — was dictated by his father. When The Washington Post reported that last year, the White House denied the story. In a memo to Mueller obtained by The New York Times, however, Trump’s lawyers admitted it was true.

Yet he has insisted that “nobody’s found any collusion at any level.” The assertion is not only false; it’s flagrantly, obviously false.

Over and over, Trump has resorted to complaints, attacks and deceptions. He fired Comey ostensibly because of how the director mishandled the investigation of Clinton. But Trump went on to say repeatedly that he did it because of the Russia probe. Recently, though, he tweeted, “I never fired James Comey because of Russia!” Lying is generally not a manifestation of innocence.

His shifting position on being interviewed under oath by Mueller likewise betrays him. When the question first was posed, Trump declared himself “100 percent” willing. Or maybe it’s zero percent. In January, his lawyers sent a letter to Mueller rejecting the idea.

“Your office clearly lacks the requisite need to personally interview the President,” they told him. “Having him testify demeans the Office of the President before the world.” One of his lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, added another reason for this reluctance, expressing concern that Mueller might “trap him into perjury.”

But someone who tells the truth is in no danger of committing perjury. What Trump might be in danger of is admitting to crimes that could lead to his indictment or impeachment.

Giuliani, however, has not ruled out that Trump, if subpoenaed, might invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. (Trump in 2016: “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”) Nor has Giuliani ruled out refusing to submit to a subpoena.

If that weren’t enough to indicate the president has a large pile of things to hide, Trump now claims the power to grant himself a full pardon. But a pardon would be necessary only if he is guilty of specific crimes.

It’s impossible to exaggerate his lawyers’ claims about his impunity. They say a president may not be indicted. Giuliani said Trump could not be indicted even “if he shot James Comey.”

The president can’t obstruct justice, his team insists, because the president has complete power over federal law enforcement. Anything he does in that realm is therefore legal.

Maybe his pattern of chutzpah and untruth is just the essence of his toxic character, which bubbles over no matter what. But more likely, the conduct of Trump and his attorneys reflects their knowledge that he is guilty of serious offenses and their fear that he will be exposed and punished. He looks like someone terrified of going to prison.

Even congressional Republicans say he won’t do anything so foolish as to fire Mueller or pardon himself. But desperate men do desperate things.

Steve Chapman, a member of the Tribune Editorial Board, blogs at www.chicagotribune.com/chapman.

[email protected]

Twitter @SteveChapman13

Trump’s legal memo to Robert Mueller is a recipe for tyranny

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

Trump’s legal memo to Robert Mueller is a recipe for tyranny

A clear and present danger to the rule of law

Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Essentially all presidents sooner or later end up commissioning lawyers to put forward an expansive view of presidential power, but those lawyers take pains to argue that they are notmaking the case for a totally unchecked executive whose existence would pose a fundamental threat to American values.

Donald Trump, however, is a different kind of president.

In a 20-page memo written by Trump’s legal team and delivered to Robert Mueller, as reported by the New York Time’s this weekend, they make an unusually frank case for a tyrannical interpretation of presidential power.

Trump’s lawyers say he has unlimited power over criminal justice

The key passage in the memo is one in which Trump’s lawyers argue that not only was there nothing shady going on when FBI Director James Comey got fired there isn’t even any potentialshadiness to investigate because the president is allowed to be as shady as he wants to be when it comes to overseeing federal law enforcement. He can fire whoever he wants. Shut down any investigation or open up a new one.

Indeed, the President not only has unfettered statutory and Constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, he also has Constitutional authority to direct the Justice Department to open or close an investigation, and, of course, the power to pardon any person before, during, or after an investigation and/or conviction. Put simply, the Constitution leaves no question that the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch officials responsible for conducting those investigations.

This is a particularly extreme version of the “unitary executive” doctrine that conservative legal scholars sometimes appeal to (especially when there’s a Republican president), drawing on the notion that the executive branch of government — including the federal police agencies and federal prosecutors — are a single entity personified by the president.

But to push that logic into this terrain would not only give the president carte blanche to persecute his enemies but essentially vitiate the idea that there are any enforceable laws at all.

Donald Trump’s impunity store

Consider that if the memo is correct, there would be nothing wrong with Trump setting up a booth somewhere in Washington, DC where wealthy individuals could hand checks to Trump, and in exchange Trump would make whatever federal legal trouble they are in go it away. You could call it “The Trump Hotel” or maybe bundle a room to stay in along with the legal impunity.

Having cut your check, you’d then have carte blanche to commit bank fraud or dump toxic waste in violation of the Clean Water Act or whatever else you want to do. Tony Soprano could get the feds off his case, and so could the perpetrators of the next Enron fraud or whatever else.

Perhaps most egregiously, since Washington DC isn’t a state all criminal law here is federal criminal law, so the president could have his staff murder opposition party senators or inconvenient judges and then block any investigation into what’s happening.

Of course, as the memo notes, to an extent this kind of power to undermine the rule of law already exists in the form of the essentially unlimited pardon power. This power has never been a good idea and it has been abused in the past by George H.W. Bush to kill the Iran-Contra investigation and by Bill Clinton to win his wife votes in a New York Senate race. Trump has started using the power abusively and capriciously early in his tenure in office in a disturbing way, but has not yet tried to pardon his way out of the Russia investigation in part because there is one important limit on the pardon power — you have to do it in public. The only check on pardons is political, but the political check is quite real (which is why both Bush and Clinton did their mischievous pardons as lame ducks) and the new theory that Trump can simply make whole investigations vanish would eliminate it.

This issue is bigger than Comey or Mueller

Much of the argument about Trump and the rule of law has focused rather narrowly on the particular case of Comey’s firing and the potential future dismissal of Robert Mueller.

These are important questions, in the sense that an FBI Director is an important person and a special counsel investigation is an important matter, but the memo is a reminder that they offer much too narrow a view of what the real extent of the problem is here.

One of the main purposes of the government is to protect the weak from exploitation at the hands of the strong by making certain forms of misconduct illegal. Trump’s assertion that he can simply waive-away investigations into misconduct because he is worried that the investigation might end badly for his friends or family members is toxic to that entire scheme. Trump, like most presidents, has plenty of rich and powerful friends and a much longer list of rich and powerful people who would like to be his friends.

If he really does have the power to just make anyone’s legal trouble go away because he happens to feel like it, then we’re all in a world of trouble.

The West is ill-prepared for the wave of “deep fakes” From AI

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

ORDER FROM CHAOS

The West is ill-prepared for the wave of “deep fakes” that artificial intelligence could unleash

Chris Meserole and Alina Polyakova

Editor’s Note:To get ahead of new problems related to disinformation and technology, policymakers in Europe and the United States should focus on the coming wave of disruptive technologies, write Chris Meserole and Alina Polyakova. Fueled by advances in artificial intelligence and decentralized computing, the next generation of disinformation promises to be even more sophisticated and difficult to detect. This piece originally appeared on ForeignPolicy.com.

Russian disinformation has become a problem for European governments. In the last two years, Kremlin-backed campaigns have spread false stories alleging that French President Emmanuel Macron was backed by the “gay lobby,” fabricated a story of a Russian-German girl raped by Arab migrants, and spread a litany of conspiracy theories about the Catalan independence referendum, among other efforts.

Europe is finally taking action. In January, Germany’s Network Enforcement Act came into effect. Designed to limit hate speech and fake news online, the law prompted both France and Spain to consider counterdisinformation legislation of their own. More important, in April the European Union unveiled a new strategy for tackling online disinformation. The EU plan focuses on several sensible responses: promoting media literacy, funding a third-party fact-checking service, and pushing Facebook and others to highlight news from credible media outlets, among others. Although the plan itself stops short of regulation, EU officials have not been shy about hinting that regulation may be forthcoming. Indeed, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared at an EU hearing this week, lawmakers reminded him of their regulatory power after he appeared to dodge their questions on fake news and extremist content.

The problem is that technology advances far more quickly than government policies.

The recent European actions are important first steps. Ultimately, none of the laws or strategies that have been unveiled so far will be enough. The problem is that technology advances far more quickly than government policies. The EU’s measures are still designed to target the disinformation of yesterday rather than that of tomorrow.

To get ahead of the problem, policymakers in Europe and the United States should focus on the coming wave of disruptive technologies. Fueled by advances in artificial intelligence and decentralized computing, the next generation of disinformation promises to be even more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

To craft effective strategies for the near term, lawmakers should focus on four emerging threats in particular: the democratization of artificial intelligence, the evolution of social networks, the rise of decentralized applications, and the “back end” of disinformation.

Thanks to bigger data, better algorithms, and custom hardware, in the coming years, individuals around the world will increasingly have access to cutting-edge artificial intelligence. From health care to transportation, the democratization of AI holds enormous promise.

Yet as with any dual-use technology, the proliferation of AI also poses significant risks. Among other concerns, it promises to democratize the creation of fake print, audio, and video stories. Although computers have long allowed for the manipulation of digital content, in the past that manipulation has almost always been detectable: A fake image would fail to account for subtle shifts in lighting, or a doctored speech would fail to adequately capture cadence and tone. However, deep learning and generative adversarial networks have made it possible to doctor imagesand video so well that it’s difficult to distinguish manipulated files from authentic ones. And thanks to apps like FakeApp and Lyrebird, these so-called “deep fakes” can now be produced by anyone with a computer or smartphone. Earlier this year, a tool that allowed users to easily swap faces in video produced fake celebrity porn, which went viral on Twitter and Pornhub.

Deep fakes and the democratization of disinformation will prove challenging for governments and civil society to counter effectively. Because the algorithms that generate the fakes continuously learn how to more effectively replicate the appearance of reality, deep fakes cannot easily be detected by other algorithms—indeed, in the case of generative adversarial networks, the algorithm works by getting really good at fooling itself. To address the democratization of disinformation, governments, civil society, and the technology sector therefore cannot rely on algorithms alone, but will instead need to invest in new models of social verification, too.

At the same time as artificial technology and other emerging technologies mature, legacy platforms will continue to play an outsized role in the production and dissemination of information online. For instance, consider the current proliferation of disinformation on Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

A growing cottage industry of search engine optimization (SEO) manipulation provides services to clients looking to rise in the Google rankings. And while for the most part, Google is able to stay ahead of attempts to manipulate its algorithms through continuous tweaks, SEO manipulators are also becoming increasingly savvy at gaming the system so that the desired content, including disinformation, appears at the top of search results.

For example, stories from RT and Sputnik—the Russian government’s propaganda outlets—appeared on the first page of Google searches after the March nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom and the April chemical weapons attack in Syria. Similarly, YouTube (which is owned by Google) has an algorithm that prioritizes the amount of time users spend watching content as the key metric for determining which content appears first in search results. This algorithmic preference results in false, extremist, and unreliable information appearing at the top, which in turn means that this content is viewed more often and is perceived as more reliable by users. Revenue for the SEO manipulation industry is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

On Facebook, disinformation appears in one of two ways: through shared content and through paid advertising. The company has tried to curtail disinformation across each vector, but thus far to no avail. Most famously, Facebook introduced a “Disputed Flag” to signify possible false news—only to discover that the flag made users more likely to engage with the content, rather than less. Less conspicuously, in Canada, the company is experimenting with increasing the transparency of its paid advertisements by making all ads available for review, including those micro-targeted to a small set of users. Yet, the effort is limited: The sponsors of ads are often buried, requiring users to do time-consuming research, and the archive Facebook set up for the ads is not a permanent database but only shows active ads. Facebook’s early efforts do not augur well for a future in which foreign actors can continue to exploit its news feed and ad products to deliver disinformation—including deep fakes produced and targeted at specific individuals or groups.

Although Twitter has taken steps to combat the proliferation of trolls and bots on its platform, it remains deeply vulnerable to disinformation campaigns, since accounts are not verified and its application programming interface, or API, still makes it possible to easily generate and spread false content on the platform. Even if Twitter takes further steps to crack down on abuse, its detection algorithms can be reverse-engineered in much the same way Google’s search algorithm is. Without fundamental changes to its API and interaction design, Twitter will remain rife with disinformation. It’s telling, for example, that when the U.S. military struck Syrian chemical weapons facilities in April—well after Twitter’s latest reforms were put in place—the Pentagon reported a massive surge in Russian disinformation in the hours immediately following the attack. The tweets appeared to come from legitimate accounts, and there was no way to report them as misinformation.

Blockchain technologies and other distributed ledgers are best known for powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum. Yet their biggest impact may lie in transforming how the internet works. As more and more decentralized applications come online, the web will increasingly be powered by services and protocols that are designed from the ground up to resist the kind of centralized control that Facebook and others enjoy. For instance, users can already browse videos on DTube rather than YouTube, surf the web on the Blockstack browser rather than Safari, and store files using IPFS, a peer-to-peer file system, rather than Dropbox or Google Docs. To be sure, the decentralized application ecosystem is still a niche area that will take time to mature and work out the glitches. But as security improves over time with fixes to the underlying network architecture, distributed ledger technologies promise to make for a web that is both more secure and outside the control of major corporations and states.

If and when online activity migrates onto decentralized applications, the security and decentralization they provide will be a boon for privacy advocates and human rights dissidents. But it will also be a godsend for malicious actors. Most of these services have anonymity and public-key cryptography baked in, making accounts difficult to track back to real-life individuals or organizations. Moreover, once information is submitted to a decentralized application, it can be nearly impossible to take down. For instance, the IPFS protocol has no method for deletion—users can only add content, they cannot remove it.

For governments, civil society, and private actors, decentralized applications will thus pose an unprecedented challenge, as the current methods for responding to and disrupting disinformation campaigns will no longer apply. Whereas governments and civil society can ultimately appeal to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey if they want to block or remove a malicious user or problematic content on Twitter, with decentralized applications, there won’t always be someone to turn to. If the Manchester bomber had viewed bomb-making instructions on a decentralized app rather than on YouTube, it’s not clear who authorities should or could approach about blocking the content.

Over the last three years, renewed attention to Russian disinformation efforts has sparked research and activities among a growing number of nonprofit organizations, governments, journalists, and activists. So far, these efforts have focused on documenting the mechanisms and actors involved in disinformation campaigns—tracking bot networks, identifying troll accounts, monitoring media narratives, and tracing the diffusion of disinformation content. They’ve also included governmental efforts to implement data protection and privacy policies, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, and legislative proposals to introduce more transparency and accountability into the online advertising space.

While these efforts are certainly valuable for raising awareness among the public and policymakers, by focusing on the end product (the content), they rarely delve into the underlying infrastructure and advertising marketsdriving disinformation campaigns. Doing so requires a deeper examination and assessment of the “back end” of disinformation. In other words, the algorithms and industries—the online advertising market, the SEO manipulation market, and data brokers—behind the end product. Increased automation paired with machine learning will transform this space as well.

To get ahead of these emerging threats, Europe and the United States should consider several policy responses.

First, the EU and the United States should commit significant funding to research and development at the intersection of AI and information warfare. In April, the European Commission called for at least 20 billion euros (about $23 billion) to be spent on research on AI by 2020, prioritizing the health, agriculture, and transportation sectors. None of the funds are earmarked for research and development specifically on disinformation. At the same time, current European initiatives to counter disinformation prioritize education and fact-checking while leaving out AI and other new technologies.

As long as tech research and counterdisinformation efforts run on parallel, disconnected tracks, little progress will be made in getting ahead of emerging threats.

As long as tech research and counterdisinformation efforts run on parallel, disconnected tracks, little progress will be made in getting ahead of emerging threats. In the United States, the government has been reluctant to step in to push forward tech research as Silicon Valley drives innovation with little oversight. The 2016 Obama administration report on the future of AI did not allocate funding, and the Trump administration has yet to release its own strategy. As revelations of Russian manipulation of digital platforms continue, it is becoming increasingly clear that governments will need to work together with private sector firms to identify vulnerabilities and national security threats.

Furthermore, the EU and the U.S. government should also move quickly to prevent the rise of misinformation on decentralized applications. The emergence of decentralized applications presents policymakers with a rare second chance: When social networks were being built a decade ago, lawmakers failed to anticipate the way in which they could be exploited by malicious actors. With such applications still a niche market, policymakers can respond before the decentralized web reaches global scale. Governments should form new public-private partnerships to help developers ensure that the next generation of the web isn’t as ripe for misinformation campaigns. A model could be the United Nations’ Tech Against Terrorism project, which works closely with small tech companies to help them design their platforms from the ground up to guard against terrorist exploitation.

Finally, legislators should continue to push for reforms in the digital advertising industry. As AI continues to transform the industry, disinformation content will become more precise and micro-targeted to specific audiences. AI will make it far easier for malicious actors and legitimate advertisers alike to track user behavior online, identify potential new users to target, and collect information about users’ attitudes, beliefs, and preferences.

In 2014, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released a report calling for transparency and accountability in the data broker industry. The report called on Congress to consider legislation that would shine light on these firms’ activities by giving individuals access and information about how their data is collected and used online. The EU’s protection regulation goes a long way in giving users control over their data and limits how social media platforms process users’ data for ad-targeting purposes. Facebook is also experimenting with blocking foreign ad sales ahead of contentious votes. Still, the digital ads industry as a whole remains a black box to policymakers, and much more can still be done to limit data mining and regulate political ads online.

Effectively tracking and targeting each of the areas above won’t be easy. Yet policymakers need to start focusing on them now. If the EU’s new anti-disinformation effort and other related policies fail to track evolving technologies, they risk being antiquated before they’re even introduced.

A how-to guide for managing the end of the post-Cold War era. Read all the Order from Chaos content »

So, Trump Is Mad At The FBI For Them Doing Their Job, Are You Mad At Them Too?

So, Trump Is Mad At The FBI For Them Doing Their Job, Are You Mad At Them Too?

 

I am not a fan of Donald Trump nor am I a fan of Hillary Clinton, personally I believe that these two should have gotten married, they are just alike. In November of 2016 we the people of the U.S. knew going in to election day that we were all going to end up with an habitual liar as our next President, the only question was, male of female. I have no doubts at all that both of these people as well as several of the people who are close to them are nothing but liars and crooks. It is my personal belief that Hillary, Bill, Donald, Donald Jr, Erick, Jarred Kushner and Ivanka should all be forced to live out the rest of their lives in one 4×8 jail cell in the basement of Leavenworth Prison in Kansas. In that last election I voted for the third-party candidate Gary Johnson, not because I thought that he could win, I never even knew what he said he stands for, I just couldn’t drag myself to have to say that I voted for Donald or for Hillary.

 

Now to the main part of this article. As most everyone who lives here in the States probably knows President Trump is very mad at the FBI because he strongly feels that they should never ever have been investigating reported crimes being committed during the election cycle by himself and his indentured whores. Yet he does feel that they should have been investigating crimes he says that the Hillary Campaign were/are guilty of. I have no doubt that Hillary and her campaign committed many federal, state and local crimes, yet Trump feels that his campaign should get a free pass from the FBI for their crimes. It appears to me that Donald and his henchmen committed about every election crime that is possible to be committed including treason with several foreign and even hostile governments. Personally I would be very upset if the FBI and several of the other ‘Policing Agency’s’ weren’t still investigating Hillary and Donald’s crimes, after all, that is their job! How do you feel about this issue? Should the FBI just give political campaigns a free hand to do any thing with anyone no matter how many laws they are breaking?I still strongly believe that the Special Council should be working hard on ‘the money trail’ and this would include the filed taxes of these fore mentioned players. Remember, Donald still has not made his taxes public, there is a reason for his lies on this matter. On just one issue, one business, his golf club in Ma-largo Florida shows how crooked his is and how willing he is to commit tax fraud. He tells his visitors and golfing buddies that this business is worth over a 100 million dollars yet when he filed his property taxes on it he reported that it was only worth 1 million dollars so that he would only have to pay 1% of the taxes due. Folks, almost all of the houses around this club are valued at more than one million dollars. Donald, just like Hillary, is nothing but a fraud a thief and a liar and he should be in prison, not the Oval Office!

Following the Money in Trumpland Leads Ugly Places

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘NEW YORKER’ MAGAZINE)

 

 / THE NATIONAL CIRCUS

Following the Money in Trumpland Leads Ugly Places

By 

Michael Avenatti is doing what Woodward and Bernstein did: exposing the money trail. Photo: MSNBC

Most weeks, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich speaks with contributor Alex Carp about the biggest stories in politics and culture. Today, the meaning of Michael Avenatti’s disclosures, Trump’s decision to kill the Iran deal, and Rudy Giuliani’s media tour.

With Michael Avenatti’s revelation that the shell company Michael Cohen used for the Stormy Daniels payoff also received money tied to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg (as well as payments from other companies with government business), it looks like the two main threads of Donald Trump’s legal troubles may be part of the same story. Has Avenatti found the “collusion” that Trump has spent so much energy denying?

Avenatti, whose revelations have since been verified by the Times and others, is doing exactly what Woodward and Bernstein did in Watergate — following the money. By doing so he has unveiled an example of collusion so flagrant that it made Trump and Rudy Giuliani suddenly go mute: a Putin crony’s cash turns out to be an essential component of the racketeering scheme used to silence Stormy Daniels and thus clear Trump’s path to the White House in the final stretch of the 2016 election. Like the Nixon campaign slush fund that Woodward and Bernstein uncovered, this money trail also implicates corporate players hoping to curry favor with a corrupt president. Back then it was the telecommunications giant ITT, then fending off antitrust suits from the government, that got caught red-handed; this time it’s AT&T. Both the Nixon and Trump slush funds were initially set up to illegally manipulate an American presidential election, hush money included. But the Watergate burglars’ dirty tricks, criminal as they were, were homegrown. Even Nixon would have drawn the line at colluding with Russians — or, in those days, the Soviets — to sabotage the Democrats.

5 of the Most Blatantly Unethical Moves by the Trump Administration

I know some accuse Avenatti of being a media whore, but he’s the one media whore I can’t get enough of. He knows what he’s doing, he has the goods, and he is playing high-stakes poker, shrewdly, with what appears to be a winning hand. It is also entertaining to imagine how crazy he is driving Trump. In personality and presence he’s exactly the kind of take-no-prisoners television defender that Trump would want appearing with Sean Hannity in his defense. That was the point of the Mooch. That is the point of Rudy. Apparently that was even once the point of Michael Cohen. If Avenatti, as others have noted, is Billy Flynn from the musical Chicagothen Trump is left with Larry, Curly, and Moe.

Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. from the Iran deal has drawn condemnation from European alliesBarack Obama, and scores of other experts. Will Trump face any political penalty for his choice?

Honestly, I doubt Trump will still be in office when the full fallout of this blunder is felt. The blunder, one should add, is not only to pull out of a deal that was working but also to have no “better deal” (or policy at all) to take its place. But the interesting political piece about both this decision and the onrushing summit with Kim Jong-un is that Trump has persuaded himself that big bold foreign policy moves, however harmful to America and its allies, will rescue him from the rampaging scandal at home. This, again, has a Watergate echo: As the revelations of White House horrors piled up during the midterm election season of 1974, Nixon decided to travel to Moscow, ostensibly a diplomatic mission in the cause of détente. This stunt didn’t stave off the wolves closing in on him in Washington, and the current regurgitation of this tactic won’t save Trump either.

At least Nixon had foreign-policy expertise. He wouldn’t have given away the store to the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. By contrast, there’s every reason to fear that Trump’s ignorant foray into Korea will make Neville Chamberlain’s performance at Munich look Churchillian. Kim is not an idiot; he will keep playing the American president for all he can, knowing that Trump needs a “win” abroad to counterbalance all his losses at home. And Trump’s desperation to make a “deal” with North Korea for his own personal political salvation gets visibly greater with every Michael Avenatti television appearance. Witness the president’s decision to turn up at Andrews Air Force Base at 2 a.m. tomorrow to personally greet the three American detainees that North Korea released today. That Trump thinks this photo op will be effective counterprogramming to Stormy Daniels suggests he’s now lost one talent he unassailably did possess, an intuitive knack for show business.

Even in non-corrupt modern presidencies, there’s little evidence that foreign-policy achievements sway voters. (Foreign-policy debacles — wars that devolve into quagmires, for instance — do move voters, but not in a good way.) In Trump’s case, his America First base could not care less if he wins one of those suspect foreign Nobel Prizes as meaningless as the one awarded Obama. The majority of Americans who are not in Trump’s base won’t care either. Meanwhile, nuclear proliferation and possibly war hang in the balance.

After subjecting the country to a week of the Rudy Giuliani media tour, Donald Trump is now considering sidelining the lawyer. Has Giuliani done more damage to his own reputation or to Trump’s defense?

Both Trump’s legal strategy (if there is one) and Rudy’s reputation were in tatters well before this frequently hilarious and wholly unhinged media tour. It’s an indicator of how much the Trump defense is in disarray that the White House thought it was a good idea to send Giuliani to last weekend’s Sunday shows even after nearly a full week of screwups. And the debacle just keeps rolling along: Just hours before Avenatti posted his bombshell yesterday, Rudy was firmly declaring that Michael Cohen “possesses no incriminating information about the president.”

There’s clearly not just a screw loose in Giuliani but a missing link in his story with Trump. Rudy was a fierce Trump defender during the campaign and lobbied vociferously for a Cabinet position during the transition. Twice he was considered for both secretary of State and secretary of Homeland Security, and twice he was rejected. What does that say about him when you consider that those who did make the cut to top Trump administration jobs included Michael Flynn, Ben Carson, Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, and Ryan Zinke? What does Giuliani have for — or on — Trump that brought him into the fold now? Inquiring minds would like to know.

In any case, Trumpism has bequeathed America not merely a post-fact but post-rule-of-law culture. Rudy, like his boss, claims nonexistent extralegal privileges for presidents, dismisses FBI agents as “stormtroopers,” and endorses “rumor” as a legal strategy. I’d say his record for mad-dog lunacy is perfect were it not for the moment when he told Hannity that Jared Kushner is “disposable” — a judgment that no doubt reflects the view of Kushner’s father-in-law and is surely correct. That is our national Godfather replay at its best.

Records Show Trump Lied To FBI About Spending Nights In Moscow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Flight Records Disprove Trump’s Claim About ‘Pee Tape’ Weekend Whereabouts

The president insisted he didn’t spend a night in Moscow. Records show he did.

President Donald Trump reportedly told former FBI Director James Comey — twice — that he didn’t spend a single night in Moscow when the infamous “pee tape” was allegedly made.

But Bloomberg and Politico have obtained flight records for Trump’s jet that indicate he actually spent two nights in the Russian capital when he traveled there for the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013.

A dossier of information about Trump collected by former British agent Christopher Steele claims that Russian agents secretly filmed Trump at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton that weekend as he instructed prostitutes to urinate on a bed that then-President Barack Obama had slept in.

The New York Times reported last year that Trump traveled to Moscow on a plane owned by casino mogul Phil Ruffin. Bloomberg and Politico obtained flight records for a Bombardier Global Express jet owned by Ruffin Development Expositions that left the U.S. on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 and landed at Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport the following day. The jet left the city early Sunday at 3:58 a.m. after Trump attended the pageant.

Ruffin’s spokeswoman Michelle Knoll confirmed to Politico that Trump used the aircraft for his trip.

It’s not known which night the tape was allegedly recorded, but Trump’s bodyguard Keith Schiller testified last year that he turned down an offer from an unknown Russian to send five sex workers to Trump’s Moscow hotel room at some point that weekend, sources told NBC. Schiller said he kept an eye on Trump’s hotel room for a while, then went to bed himself.

Trump’s own social media accounts seem to support the argument that he was in Russia at least overnight. In one Facebook post, Trump poses in a photo outside Nobu Moscow on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013. The pageant was held on Saturday. On Sunday evening, Trump tweeted that he’d “just got back from Russia.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

I just got back from Russia-learned lots & lots. Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place! U.S. MUST BE VERY SMART AND VERY STRATEGIC.

 

After Trump became president, Comey said he warned him about Steele’s dossier, which had been turned over to the FBI. Trump denied spending a single night in Moscow. Comey told ABC this month that Trump responded by asking, “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” (Comey added: “I assumed he was asking that rhetorically.”)

Trump also said he’d “spoken to people who had been on … the trip … and they had reminded him that he didn’t stay over night in Russia,” Comey recalled in a memo. Trump insisted again later in the Oval Office that he “hadn’t stayed overnight in Russia during the Miss Universe trip,” Comey wrote.

In addition, Trump told his FBI director that he could never go for the “golden showers thing” because “I’m … a germaphobe,” Comey wrote in his memoir A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.

If Trump deliberately lied to Comey, it could indicate “consciousness of guilt” and could bolster a case against him by special counsel Robert Mueller, former federal prosecutor Pete Zeidenberg told Politico.

Trump’s Miss Universe pageant has posed multiple problems for the president. The New Yorker reported earlier this year that Trump has used the pageant to cultivate potential business partners, including in Russia, where he hoped to build a Trump tower. In 2013, he cemented an alliance with father and singer son Aras and Emin Agalarov, who hosted the pageant in Moscow.

In the summer of 2016, a publicist for Emin Agalarov emailed Donald Trump Jr. offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Donald Jr. replied: “I love it” — and later attended a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, among others.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

U.S. Presidents And Scumbags

U.S. Presidents And Scumbags

 

In this past week we have heard the term ‘scumbag’ bantered around in the national media quite a bit. First we heard that this term was used in the book that will be being released tomorrow April 17th from the former Director of the FBI, James Comey. In his book Mr. Comey reportedly used this term in describing President Trump. Fittingly Mr. Trump then has repeatedly used this term in targeting Mr. Comey. As if we weren’t already aware of it, Mr. Trump like in his recent post Syrian missile attack tweet where he copied George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” disaster after he illegally invaded Iraq has shown that he is incapable of thinking up his own terms/words, he has to use others words. So, being the word ‘scumbag’ seems to be the word of the moment I thought that I would try to make a list of the biggest scumbag Presidents, at least that I could personally think of. Now, such a list is arbitrary as each one of us may well have a differing opinion on this matter. This list is about people/Presidents, whom I believe were/are the 10 worse scumbags, not simply whom I think were the 10 ‘worse’ overall Presidents.

 

It should be no surprise that 7 of the 10 on my list are men who have been Presidents during my personal lifetime as these would be people that I have known better than the earlier Office Holders. After I give you my list of ‘scumbags’ from ten down to number one I am going to give you another list, one that is my opinion on the Presidents within my personal life time. This list will start from my birth year (1956). This list will simply be my opinion of the worse to the best overall Presidents during this last 62 yrs. Both of these lists are just for fun, it is not as if my opinion matters or means anything more than anyone else’s opinion. Maybe you can just for the fun of it compile your own list to see if maybe we agree on anything concerning our lists. Okay, enough banter, now for the lists.

 

(SCUMBAG PRESIDENTS 10 DOWN TO NUMBER 1)

10) Jerry Ford   1974-1977   38th President

9) Bill Clinton   1993-2001   42nd President

8) James Buchanan  1857-1861   15th President

7) Andrew Johnson  1865-1869   17th President

6) Lyndon Johnson  1963-1969   36th President

5) George W. Bush 2001-2009   43rd President

4) George H.W. Bush  1989-1993  41st President

3) Richard Nixon   1969-1974   37th President

2) Andrew Jackson   1829-1837   7th President

  1. Donald Trump   2017-2019   45th President      (I believe that after the 2018 mid-term election is over and the Democrats have taken over control of both Houses of Congress from the Republicans that then and only then will the Republicans get the guts to vote with the Democrats and impeach Mr. Trump. We shall see what we shall see!)

(Now, this is my list of the Presidents in my life time 1956-2018 of how I personally rank them as far as the best to the worse. Please take a moment to compare them with what you think.) During my lifetime there have now been 12 different Presidents so I am going to rank them from the best (1st) to the worst (12th).

1) Ronald Reagan

2) Dwight Eisenhower

3) John Kennedy

4) Barack Obama

5) Jimmy Carter

6) Bill Clinton

7) Jerry Ford

8) Lyndon Johnson

9) George W. Bush

10) Richard Nixon

11) George H. W. Bush

12) Donald Trump

 

So, there are my two lists for what little they are worth. If nothing else it can be banter for around the water cooler this week. I am a registered Independent voter who has voted for some Democrats and for some Republicans throughout the years. In my lifetime as I said earlier there have been 12 Presidents, 7 have been Republicans and 5 Democrats. What I have noticed from this list I made the 5 Democrats hold mostly all of the ‘middle of the road’ spots.  This means that the top 2 spots went to Republicans and that the bottom 4, the worst 4 are all also Republicans. Just fodder for the thoughts, I hope you all have a good week, stay safe, God bless, Shalom.

 

The 11 most eye-opening lines in James Comey’s ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ ranked

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The 11 most eye-opening lines in James Comey’s ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ ranked

(CNN)Days before its official release, excerpts of James Comey’s memoir about his time as FBI Director under President Donald Trump have leaked. Actually, flooded.

There’s a lot of pieces of the Comey book — “A Higher Loyalty” — kicking around the media world at the moment. Some are salacious, others are stunning and some are just plain surreal.
I scanned through all of the available excerpts and plucked out the lines that are most devastating for Trump. Then I ranked them by level of damage they are likely to cause. Here they are, ranked from least to most problematic for the President of the United States.

11. “His face appeared slightly orange with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his…..As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”

This is, in a word, dumb. Or, in another word, petty. If Comey wanted to build the narrative with this book that he is truly committed to the good of the country rather than in selling books or scoring partisan points, he’d have been better served to leave this stuff out. Noting the size of Trump’s hands or the fact that he tans feels beneath the broader stated mission of the book: To reveal why Trump is simply not fit for the office he currently holds. Comey also mentions that Trump was shorter than he looked on TV. First off, everyone is short to the 6’8″ Comey. Second, who cares?

10. “I stared at the soft white pouches under his expressionless blue eyes. I remember thinking in that moment that the president doesn’t understand the FBI’s role in American life.”

Again, the fact that Trump has “soft white pouches” under his “expressionless blue eyes” feels more like an unnecessary jab than an essential insight. BUT, Comey’s next sentence is important — because he’s right. Trump has demonstrated time and time again that he simply doesn’t understand — or doesn’t care about — the unique role the Justice Department plays within the federal government. Yes, they work under him. But they don’t exactly work for him. He’s never seemed to get that.

9. “I had often wondered why, when given numerous opportunities to condemn the Russian government’s invasions of its neighbors and repression — even murder — of its own citizens, Trump refused to just state the plain facts…Maybe it was a contrarian streak or maybe it was something more complicated that explained his constant equivocation and apologies for Vladimir Putin.”

There’s no question that prior to the last week or so, Trump has been largely unwilling to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country as a whole. (The Syrian chemical attack and Russia’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to have changed how Trump thinks about Putin.)
But, we already knew that. And everything else in this excerpt is pure speculation. “Maybe it was something more complicated” isn’t exactly hard and fast evidence.

8. “Another reason you know this isn’t true: I’m a germaphobe. There’s no way I would let people pee on each other around me, no way.”

This one is more salacious than anything else. But, that Trump feels the need to convince Comey that he never watched two prostitutes pee on one another is, um, something else.

7. “He brought up what he called the ‘golden showers thing’ . . . adding that it bothered him if there was ‘even a 1 percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true….In what kind of marriage, to what kind of man, does a spouse conclude there is only a 99 percent chance her husband didn’t do that?”

Don’t be too quick to dismiss this as simply salacious. Yes, there is that. But it is absolutely telling about the state of Trump’s marriage that he was asking the FBI director to prove the falsehood of the “pee tape” to his wife — almost certainly because she wouldn’t believe him.
Then there’s the fact that Trump seems to believe that proving the tape doesn’t exist to Melania Trump is a worthy use of the FBI’s time. Which is, um, something.

6. “It is also wrong to stand idly by, or worse, to stay silent when you know better, while a president brazenly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement institutions that were established to keep our leaders in check.”

Comey here is echoing people like Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake who have castigated their fellow Republicans for refusing to condemn Trump when he attacks the Justice Department or the Intelligence Community. The argument is that silence is essentially assent. Only by saying, “No, what Trump is doing is wrong and should stop immediately” can Republicans hope to have a party in the post-Trump era.
Amid Trump’s ramped-up rhetoric on deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and special counsel Robert Mueller, it will be interesting to see what Republican reaction will be if the president decides to fire either (or both) of those men. Will Republicans speak out?

5. “Asking — rhetorically, I assumed — whether he seemed like a guy who needed the service of prostitutes. He then began discussing cases where women had accused him of sexual assault, a subject I had not raised. He mentioned a number of women, and seemed to have memorized their allegations.”

Two things are at work here — one not terribly problematic for Trump, the other potential more so. The first is that he demonstrates he has a massive ego and believes that he is so appealing to women that any story about him frequenting prostitutes simply can’t be believed.
The second is that he is intimately familiar with the details of the bevy of accusations made against him by a number of women during the 2016 campaign. That level of interest/obsession belies the public face of dismissal and unconcern Trump and his people have presented when confronted with the allegations.

4. “Now it was pretty clear to me what was happening. The setup of the dinner, both the physical layout of a private meal and Trump’s pretense that he had not already asked me to stay on multiple occasions, convinced me this was an effort to establish a patronage relationship.”

This is very important. What Comey is alleging here is that Trump, from the start, saw his relationship with Comey as entirely transactional. I’ll let you stay in your job as FBI director but I want something for it. That something, as we now now, was a loyalty pledge that Comey refused to give.
Trump’s approach to every encounter appears to be similar to what Comey describes here. Let’s make a deal where you get something but, far more importantly, I get something.

3. “[Kelly] said he was sick about my firing and that he intended to quit in protest. He said he didn’t want to work for dishonorable people who would treat someone like me in such a manner. I urged Kelly not to do that, arguing that the country needed principled people around this president. Especially this president.”

This anecdote is going to make chief of staff John Kelly’s life even harder than it already is. Rumors of him clashing with Trump and/or being on the way out are everywhere. Now, he’ll have to face a barrage of questions over whether Comey’s recounting of the moments right after Trump fired him are accurate. And if Kelly says they are, how can he stay in his job? If he says Comey got it wrong, will Trump even believe him?

2. “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

In this excerpt, Comey is comparing Trump to a mob boss. Which is a tough comparison to make when you are dealing with the President of the United States. But, Comey is right in the main when it comes to how Trump sees himself and how he leads his team. Trump must always be the strongest and toughest one in any room. He expects total loyalty from those who work for him — and works to rid his inner circle of those he believes have shown even a speck of disloyalty to him. He doesn’t tell the truth about things that are easily and provably false — largest inauguration crowd ever, millions of illegal votes cast — and then dares those around him to question him.
I don’t know any mob bosses personally but there’s not question that Comey nails Trump here.

1. “This President is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

These two sentences are the most damaging thing to Trump so far in the Comey excerpts because they speak to a number of demonstrated truths. We know that Trump said more than 2,000 things in his first year in office that were either partially or entirely untrue. We know he looks at every situation as a chance to extract something for himself. That he is immensely self focused to the point of a blindness as to how his actions might be perceived by people who aren’t him. We know that he either misunderstands or chooses to ignore traditional norms for how a president acts, what he says and how he treats those who work for him.

Trump likened to mob boss, called ‘unethical and untethered to truth’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWSPAPER)

 

James Comey book: Trump likened to mob boss, called ‘unethical and untethered to truth’

https://uw-media.usatoday.com/video/embed/33783779?sitelabel=reimagine&continuousplay=true&placement=uw-smallarticleattophtml5&keywords=james-comey%2Cdissolution%2Ctorment%2Coverall-negative&simpleTarget=&simpleExclusion=disasters&pagetype=story

Police are investigating a “prior relationship” between the gunman who wounded two students inside his Maryland high school Tuesday morning and a female victim. The shooter died during a confrontation with a school resource officer. (March 20)AP, AP

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James Comey’s tell-all book details his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and private interactions he had with President Trump, a man he blasts as “untethered to truth,” according to multiple reports.

Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, is set to hit shelves on Tuesday but copies were obtained by several media outlets, including the Associated Press, The Washington Post and New York Times. 

Comey likens Trump to a mob boss while writing about his career as a prosecutor and highlights “loyalty oaths,” one of which he claims Trump asked of him. The former FBI director describes Trump as creating a “cocoon of alternative reality that he was busily wrapping around all of us,” according to The Washington Post.

The book is filled with vivid details of his encounters with many of Washington, D.C,’s elite — both Democrats and Republicans, including members of Trump’s Cabinet. It details Comey’s career and “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency” that he says led to the end of it.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes in the book, according to The New York Times. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

In one of the more salacious tidbits, the book alleges Trump asked Comey for an investigation of the alleged “golden shower” tape to reassure his wife that it was fake, according to a report by the New York Post.

The unsubstantiated allegations, which were described in a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, say that Trump hired prostitutes to urinate in front of him in a hotel room in Moscow.

“He brought up what he called the ‘golden showers thing’ … adding that it bothered him if there was ‘even a one percent chance’ his wife, Melania, thought it was true,” Comey wrote, according to the Post.

Trump continued unprompted, Comey said, “explaining why it couldn’t possibly be true, ending by saying he was thinking of asking me to investigate the allegation to prove it was a lie. I said it was up to him.”

More: Comey’s book promises ‘truth’ about troubled FBI tenure

Related: Comey: ‘Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon’

Comey cautioned the president that any probe might “create a narrative” that the FBI was investigating him, the Post reported.

Privately, Comey wrote, he wondered why there would even be a 1 percent chance Melania Trump would believe the allegations.

“In what kind of marriage, to what kind of man, does a spouse conclude there is only a 99 percent chance her husband didn’t do that?” he wrote in the book.

Comey also talks about his inner battle with how he handled the Clinton email investigation, even talks he had with President Obama and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

“I picked you to be FBI director because of your integrity and your ability. I want you to know that nothing — nothing — has happened in the last year to change my view,” Obama told Comey in a private Oval Office meeting, according to The Washington Post. 

Comey describes Lynch as having a “tortured half-out, half-in approach” to the Clinton investigation and that she had asked him to refer to the probe as a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”

‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

(Is The ‘Teflon don, Trump’ About To Go Down In The Flames Of Impeachment?)

Right Turn

Trump melts down after Cohen raid — and only hurts himself

  
 April 10 at 9:00 AM 
 2:01
Trump fumes ‘attorney-client privilege is dead’ after FBI raid

President Trump tweeted his outrage at an FBI raid of his personal attorney Michael Cohen’s home and offices, calling it a “witch hunt.”

In an extraordinary series of events, the FBI executed a no-knock raid on President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen’s office, home and hotel. The president, seated alongside his top military and civilian national security advisers to discuss a response to the Syrians’ use of chemical weapons, launched into a rant in which he did not rule out firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, accused law enforcement of bias, whined that Hillary Clinton was not being prosecuted, suggested Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had behaved improperly in signing off on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, railed again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself (and thereby allowing the investigation proceed) and deemed execution of a warrant signed off on by a federal judge and approved by a U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general, both of whom he appointed, to be an “attack” on the country.
Let’s start with the raid. The Post reports:

Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney of President Trump, is under federal investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations, according to three people with knowledge of the case.
FBI agents on Monday raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about Cohen’s clients and personal finances. Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to another person familiar with the investigation.
Investigators took Cohen’s computer, phone and personal financial records, including tax returns, as part of the search of his office at Rockefeller Center, the second person said.
In a dramatic and broad seizure, federal prosecutors collected communications between Cohen and his clients — including those between the lawyer and Trump, according to both people.

Let us not understate how extraordinary a development this is. The standard of proof required to raid any attorney’s office is exceptionally high. To authorize a raid on the president’s lawyer’s office, a federal judge or magistrate must have seen highly credible evidence of serious crimes and/or evidence Cohen was hiding or destroying evidence, according to legal experts. “The FBI raid was the result of an ongoing criminal investigation *not* by Mueller but by the interim US Attorney personally interviewed and selected by Trump himself, pursuant to a warrant issued under strict standards by a federal judge, subject to approval by the head of the Criminal Division,” said constitutional scholar Larry Tribe. He warns that “firing Sessions or Rosenstein (or reining in Mueller) would trigger a crisis for the Constitution and our national security but wouldn’t even extricate Trump from criminal investigation of his innermost circle.” In short, Tribe concludes, “This is every bit as shattering as many have surmised.”

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What we don’t know is whether the suspected wrongdoing extends to Trump or is solely attributable to Cohen. (By referring the matter to the New York prosecutor, Mueller may have signaled this is not germane to the Russia investigation; however, any possible crimes concerning Stormy Daniels, for example, may or may not implicate Trump.) Whatever the FBI sweeps up may very well further enmesh Trump in an investigation in which what seemed like a series of separate topics — Trump’s personal finances, potential obstruction of justice, possible Russian collusion and hush money paid to a porn star — have begun to bleed into one another. Trump is as vulnerable as he has always been, in part because he plainly does not know what federal prosecutors now have in their possession and because intense pressure may be brought to bear on Cohen to “flip” on Trump.
Trump cannot take much comfort in the attorney-client privilege. For one thing, it applies to legal communications; if Cohen is acting as a businessman/”fixer,” no privilege may attach. Moreover, the attorney-client privilege cannot apply to communications that are part of a crime (e.g., a conspiracy to obstruct justice). Trump once said investigating his finances were a “red line” for Mueller; the latest move in raiding Cohen transgresses any limitation Trump could possibly have dreamed up. His reaction reflects his fury in not being able to fend off Mueller.
Trump’s response was disturbing on multiple levels.
First, Trump in essence declared war on the rule of law. “It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for,” said the president, who now equates the operation of the criminal-justice system under the rule of law to be an attack on the country. He is the country in his eyes. Those who challenge him are enemies of the country. There is no better formulation of his authoritarian, anti-democratic mindset than this.

 3:03
Opinion | Trump can fire Mueller, but that won’t get rid of the Russia investigation

Opinion | If President Trump fires the bane of his legal troubles, he could spark a legal and constitutional crisis.

Second, his tirade against Sessions should rekindle concerns that he is contemplating firing him and putting in a flunky to protect himself. “The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself,” Trump said. “Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a — put a different attorney general in. So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country.” That, too, is a picture-perfect distillation of his warped view of the presidency. He hands Mueller another admission that he thinks the DOJ should protect him from, instead of conducting investigations into criminal and counterintelligence matters.
Third, Trump’s attempts to discredit Mueller’s team and the FBI should highlight the necessity of Congress protecting the special counsel. (“This is the most biased group of people. These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.”) When he says the investigation is a “witch hunt,” he may be plowing the way to fire Mueller and/or Rosenstein or refuse to cooperate with an interview. In either event, we would face a constitutional crisis.
Fourth, Trump’s insistence that his campaign has been exonerated from “collusion” (“So they find no collusion, and then they go from there and they say, ‘Well, let’s keep going.’”) is baseless. More than 70 different contacts between Trump team and Russian-related figures have been found. Multiple indictments and plea deals have been struck. The investigation continues. His false certainty that there is no evidence of collusion can now be seen as the motive for his attempts to discredit and derail the investigation, to obstruct justice, in other words.
Finally, Trump’s rambling, unhinged reaction — after his attorneys no doubt counseled him to keep quiet — should shake his supporters. The pressure of the investigation and vulnerability to prosecution and/or impeachment are not going to vanish. His family and his fix-it lawyer won’t stop Mueller. His TV friends cannot keep the FBI at bay. He lashes out like a cornered animal. The angrier and more panicked Trump becomes, the greater chance he will behave in extreme and destructive ways.
“The president cannot help himself,” former White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen told me. “Instead of doing his job as our chief federal law enforcement official and allowing the rule of law to operate unimpeded, he lashes out when he feels personally threatened.” He adds, “The president’s words were more befitting a mob don when the feds are closing in. Given Michael Cohen’s role in Trump’s past, perhaps they are. The American people will not stand for any Trump attempt to match his hostile words with aggressive action against Mueller, Sessions, Rosenstein or other DOJ officials. If he does, it will be the beginning of the end for his presidency.”
Now would be a good time for Republicans to find their spines, remember their oaths and act to insulate Mueller and Rosenstein from Trump. A simple declaration that firing either would be an impeachable offense would, frankly, be a help to Trump. He could use some outside restraint.

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