|CHRIS MALBON / VOX|
I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true. ~ THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK
Is the ground moving under our feet and the Russia scandal is entering a new and perhaps penultimate phase with Donald Trump and his handlers, as well as the Vichy Republican congressional sycophancy, turning up the volume on bizarre double talk and no longer denying campaign contacts with Russians but instead falling back on the Through the Looking Glass claim that because there is no law against collusion per se, there was no collusion?
Or is this wishful thinking by those of us who believe Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has the president trapped and is only another round of indictments away from recommending his impeachment?
No, it's the real deal, and look no further than the president, his allies and their effort to move the goalposts on what constitutes indictable and impeachable conduct for proof that there is widespread panic in Trumpworld.
This was further accentuated on Wednesday when Trump called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the special counsel's investigation, an extraordinary appeal to the nation's top law enforcement official to end an inquiry directly into the president. Trump's lawyers quickly tried to walk back his tweet, saying it was not an order to a member of his cabinet, but merely an opinion. Session would be unable to comply if he could because, to Trump's everlasting anger, he recused himself from the inquiry because of his own lies about meetings with Russians during the campaign.
But the goalposts have not merely been moved, they've been obliterated, especially by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is acting out like a man with a syphilitic brain.
This sea change is nudged along with all the subtlety of an anvil falling on the Roadrunner (meep! meep!) because of the knowledge that Trump is as guilty as sin and as the evidence piles up in the "fake news media," the Chicken Little cries of "hoax" and "witch hunt" are not resonating with the midterm election voters who will decide whether Democrats take over Congress.
(The Washington Post's Fact Checker says Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading statements in 558 days, almost doubling his one-year total in the last six months.)
Speaking of sea changes, an unpatriotic number of Republicans are okey-dokey with election meddling by Moscow. But then again, for many of these people Trump can do no wrong and the GOP's historic Cold War role as a staunch defender of America is obsolete as the VCR.
A Yahoo Finance/SurveyMonkey poll of 2,509 Americans conducted July 25-27 found that 11 percent of people who identify as Republican or lean Republican say it’s "appropriate" for Russia to help Republicans keep control of Congress and another 29 percent say it’s "not appropriate, but wouldn't be a big deal" for the Russians to help undermine a bedrock of American democracy as they did in 2016 in handing the keys to the national car to the man with the peculiar hair and small hands.
Nor do they mind that Trump shows more interest in picking dandruff off the suit jackets of the foreign leaders with whom he meets than making cybersecurity a priority despite the shocks and alarums of the intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security over the probability that Russia will interfere in the midterms. And seems to come up with an endless stream of brain farts that pass for policy, including the assertion that auto gas mileage standards shouldn't be raised because that would mean more people would drive and there would be more accidents.
As Paul Waldman well put the legalistic parsing over collusion in the WaPo on the eve of former campaign manager Paul Manafort's first of two trials:
In a very strict sense, Giuliani is right that there isn’t a particular crime called 'collusion." But that's kind of like saying that if you walked into an Apple Store, stuffed an iPhone in your pants and walked out, you're innocent because the criminal code makes no specific reference to "stuffing an iPhone in your pants."
Now it's possible that Trump himself, or someone on the Trump campaign, could have "colluded" with Russia to commit an act that is not illegal and, therefore, they wouldn’t be guilty of any crime. For instance, they could have colluded to find the best taco truck in Manhattan. They could even have discussed some kind of policy initiative that they would cooperatively pursue if Trump became president. But the real problem with the "collusion is not a crime" argument is that if they cooperated to do almost anything that helped Trump in his election campaign, then it would have been illegal.
It hardly seems worth noting at this juncture, and if you get your news on Fox News then it is suggested you should skip ahead a couple of paragraphs, that there are multiple crimes under which any cooperation between Russia and the campaign -- collusion in everyday speak -- could fall.
If the campaign sought and/or received damaging information on "Lock Her Up" Hillary from sources connected to Vlad the Impaler's government, which it did, it would almost certainly be in violation of 52 U.S. Code § 30121, an unambiguous statute that prohibits "a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution" from a foreign national for the purpose of a political campaign. A contribution could be money, but it could also be any other "thing of value," and dirt on Clinton qualifies. Then there is the crime of conspiring to accept the contribution in violation of election laws or with aiding and abetting another person doing so.
The peregrinations of Giuliani, among others, over the infamous June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting called by Donald "If What You Say Is True I Love It" Trump Jr. recalls to mind Bill Clinton's statement regarding Monica Lewinsky. Bubba legendarily remarked that "there's nothing going on between us" was truthful because he had no ongoing relationship with the Blue Gap Dress Gal at the time he was questioned by Mueller predecessor Ken Starr. To which he added, "It depends upon what the meaning of the word is is."
While I'm piling on, there's also the matter of Michael Cohen, Trump lawyer and fixer turned family man and patriot.
Misha's lawyer (who happens to be former Bubba lawyer Lanny Davis; it is indeed a small world) says he was present when Trump was informed of the June 9, 2016 sitdown and green-lighted it. Davis last week released a tape secretly recorded by Cohen on which he and Trump discuss hush payments to Trump's various mistresses to buy their silence as the 2016 campaign swirled toward a climax.
No surprise there, but it was pleasantly jolting to hear a little later in the tape that Cohen tells Trump "I've spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up," a reference to the shell company used to launder at least one of the hush payments.
"So, I'm all over that. And, I spoke to Allen about it," Cohen adds.
Weisselberg is the Trump Organization's longtime chief financial officer and ran the troubled Donald J. Trump Foundation. At age 70 , he is now staring a grand jury subpoena in the kisser and is ripe for becoming a cooperating witness, as is Cohen himself.
As MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace deliciously put it in citing a White House source, "Cohen may know where the bodies are buried, but Weisselberg buried them."
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and related developments.