Friday, May 31, 2019

Mueller Has Made It Much Harder For Democrats To Go Slow On Impeachment

The damage inflicted by Trump’s naïveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. ~ JOHN McCAIN
Although it is equal parts presumptuous and wishful thinking, I'm going to suggest that the hidden message of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's farewell soliloquy was that he believes Congress should impeach Donald Trump because the damage cited by the president's late nemesis -- yeah, the guy whose naval namesake was hidden during Trump's recent Japan misadventure -- is immense. 
"If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so," Mueller said in the money quote of his nine-minute statement on Wednesday in which he conveyed accurately, if briefly and in achingly institutional terms, the findings of his 448-page report, which unlike Trump or that whitewashing William Barr, is the ultimate authority on the Russia scandal. 
Neither Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski nor Bill Clinton nemesis Ken Starr were coy about speaking to the incriminating nature of their findings.   
Starr, in fact, couldn't stop blabbing as Clinton's overtly partisan impeachment sank in the Senate.  We may have to leave it to historians to figure out why Mueller, as devoutly apolitical as he may be, fell back on circumlocution rather than stating the obvious.  And we probably can expect more of the same if he is forced to testify before Congress, leaving the pundits to again parse his comments for hidden meanings.  Me, too. 
Yet the soon-to-be former special counsel was not being obtuse when he answered a question no one asked him since, after all, he refused to take questions: 
If Mueller couldn't indict Trump because he was a sitting president and did not believe he could even file an indictment under seal for when he left office, why then did he bother to investigate him so vigorously and thoroughly for obstruction of justice? 
Mueller answered this unasked question thusly (emphasis mine):
First . . . because it is important to preserve evidence while memories are fresh and documents are available . . . and second, the opinion [barring indictment] says that the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal-justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.
That process would be impeachment, and thus the door is now opened wide to finally begin proceedings. 
But barely two hours after Mueller had left the podium at the Justice Department, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement in which she said, "Congress will continue to investigate and legislate to protect our elections and secure our democracy," but nothing about impeachment, while Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which would initiate impeachment proceedings, merely said the option was "on the table" even as the Democratic leadership's go-slow strategy had just been made harder to sustain by the outgoing special counsel himself.  
Meanwhile, Trump, whose Vietnam era bone spurs must have been acting up, accidentally acknowledged for the first time that Russia helped "me to get elected" and then retracted the statement in the course of a series of furious diatribes and widely debunked lies involving Mueller.   
This included calling impeachment a "dirty, filthy, disgusting word," which was something coming from the Potty Mouth in Chief. 
Impeachment is indeed a nasty business and Pelosi's go-slow strategy has had merit since there are numerous cracks in Trump's dam, any one of which could rupture.  But if the impeachment clause of the Constitution wasn’t written for a president like Trump, asks The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, then why is it there?  
Indeed, and at this point Democrats have no choice but to begin what is a long and drawn-out process to try to take down Trump that would last well into next year and the heart of the 2020 presidential campaign, which on balance is bad for Trump. 
This is because only impeachment -- and the theatrics of televised hearings, with or without Mueller, that would demolish the Trump-Barr narrative -- remotely stands a chance of slowing yet alone stopping the president in his authoritarian power grab. 
At this point, the most probable articles of impeachment (there are so many high crimes and misdemeanors to choose from) probably would be obstruction of justice, perjury, violation of the Constitution on emoluments, and possibly campaign finance law violations and tax fraud.  
Impeachment confers on the House Judiciary Committee certain legal powers it otherwise would not have. 
Chief among these is that it gives the committee a right to information otherwise protected by grand jury secrecy rules, which is key because that information, including damning witness testimony before Mueller's grand jury, was redacted by Barr with one of the swipes of his whitewash brush. 
In a little noticed decision last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that courts may let outsiders, like members of Congress, see grand jury information, in effect upholding a Nixon-era precedent permitting the grand jury investigating the Watergate scandal to share its evidence with the House Judiciary Committee, because such sharing is permitted  when it is needed for "judicial" proceedings, which impeachment is. 
Democratic fears that the Trump administration might try to use lengthy court battles over their subpoenas to run out the clock before the 2020 election may be overstated because an impeachment inquiry is so serious that it could help persuade judges at each stage in the appeals process to expedite their rulings.  That has been the case so far concerning two sets of subpoenas -- one compelling Trump's accounting firm to turn over its records and another compelling Deutsche Bank and Capitol One to turn over its records on loans to Trump, his elder children and family business. 
Less easy to dismiss is that even if the House were to impeach Trump, which is probable, it is unlikely that enough Republicans in the Senate would be willing to vote to convict him. 
The conventional wisdom is that Clinton was politically strengthened by Republican-led impeachment proceedings, and some Democrats fear that the same would be true if they open proceedings but fail to remove Trump, allowing him to claim they had overreached and that Congress had exonerated him. 
It is notable that the White House recalibrated its claim that Trump did not obstruct justice after Mueller's statement. 
No longer are the president’s mouthpieces asserting that Mueller himself in his report found no obstruction, which of course was not the case.  They are now pinning that conclusion on Barr, who had said in his initial summary of the report that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein found Mueller’s evidence of obstruction insufficient to act on.   
If there is a wild card in all of this, it is Roger Stone.  (Go figure.)
Republican dirty trickster Stone, Trump's longest serving political adviser, is scheduled to go on trial in November, and in conjunction with impeachment hearings trial testimony could be hugely damaging to the president because Stone can implicate him directly in Russian election interference, specifically WikiLeaks' coordination with the Trump campaign of its release of emails damaging to Hillary Clinton.   
Alternately, if Trump pardoned Stone, that action could be criminalized by House Democrats in the form of an article of impeachment on abuse of pardon power.  
Click HERE for Mueller's full statement. 

Click HERE for a searchable version of the Mueller report. 

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Mueller As Superman Myth Is Vanquished, But At Least He Didn't Clear Trump

Will the real Robert Mueller please stand up? 
Well, he did on Wednesday morning in nine minutes of no-questions-allowed farewell   remarks from the podium at the Justice Department, only his second public statement since May 18, 2017 when he was appointed special counsel in the wake of Donald Trump's axing of FBI Director James Comey and took over the Russian scandal investigation, briefly remarking then that "I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability." 
Beyond the mild shock of what Mueller's voice actually sounds like, we were reminded that he is first and foremost a gentleman, a rarity in an era of charlatans and rogues, but alas not a superman riding to the rescue of liberals who foolishly believed his 448-page final report on the scandal would save the republic by driving Trump from office. 
The departing special counsel, his work completed and return to private life imminent after two extraordinarily leak-free years, says he will not say anything to Congress, if compelled to testify, beyond what his report says.  Democratic congressional leaders, undoubtedly dismayed by that pledge, said that they hoped to not have to compel Mueller to testify, but a subpoena remains an option.   
Mueller did reiterate what the report does say, which has been obscured by Trump's tweetstorms and Attorney General William Barr's whitewashing, which included his unsubstantiated claim that there was "no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia. 
In conveying accurately, if briefly, the findings of a report that is the ultimate authority on the scandal but most Americans nevertheless have not bothered to read, Mueller said that:
* Russia made multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. 
* If he did not believe Trump committed a crime, he would have said so. 
* While a sitting president cannot be indicted, Congress has a follow-up role. 
* He had the right to investigate the issue of obstruction of justice. 
He does not question Barr's decision to not initially release the report.  
Mueller said he was "speaking out today because our investigation is complete," adding that he hoped "this will be the only time I will speak to you in this manner." 
"I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systemic efforts to interfere in our election," he said in an allusion to the 2020 election and the indifference of Trump and congressional Republicans to ongoing and future Russian meddling.  "And that allegation deserves the attention of every American."
Trump yet again claimed vindication, tweeting shortly after Mueller spoke that "Nothing changes from the Mueller Report.  There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent.  The case is closed!  Thank you." 
Meanwhile, Republicans circled their wagons around Trump.  
"Today's statement by Mr. Mueller reinforces the findings of his report.  And as for me, the case is over," said Senator Lindsey Graham, a critic turned reliable ally of the president.  "Mr. Mueller has decided to move on and let the report speak for itself. Congress should follow his lead." 
Mueller, of course, was not suggesting any such thing, and Congress does have a clear, constitutionally-mandated option.  It's called impeachment, and on Wednesday afternoon Corey Booker and Julián Castro joined six other Democratic presidential candidates in endorsing that avenue. 
The special counsel's investigation was not a witch hunt by any stretch of the imagination. 
It found that Trump and 18 of his associates had at least 140 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the campaign and presidential transition.  Longtime lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen had at least 25 contacts, Donald Trump Jr. at least 17, and Trump himself at least 13.  
It involved 2,800 subpoenas, 500 witnesses and 500 search warrants leading to 199 individual criminal counts obtained against 34 people, 26 of them Russian intelligence agents, hackers and trolls, and three Russian companies, admissions of guilt by six individuals and still outstanding indictments covering identity theft, money laundering, obstruction, witness tampering, lying to investigators and conspiracy.  
Cohen and former campaign manager Paul Manafort are in prison and Roger Stone, Trump's longest-serving political adviser, is headed there, while there are 29 ongoing congressional, federal and state investigations.  Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 former federal prosecutors signed an open letter saying that Mueller laid out sufficient evidence in his report to make an obstruction case. 
In the end, perhaps a gentleman who deeply values integrity really is a hero -- if not a super hero with super powers -- in this day and age.   
But the problem is that Donald Trump has not been driven from office and could well be reelected.  Robert Mueller's reluctance to appear before Congress because he has discharged his official responsibilities, albeit with admirable rectitude, is based on a vision of an America that pretty much no longer exists. 

Click HERE for Mueller's full statement. 

Click HERE for a searchable version of the Mueller report. 

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.

Richard Codor's Cartoon du Jour

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Trump Says Congress Can't Legislate & Investigate, But How About Impeach?

While we live in and suffer through an era of profound uncertainty, one thing is certain: So long as Donald Trump remains president, nothing will get done in Congress beyond keeping government huffing and puffing along, and even that is in peril.   But then doing nothing has been the coin of the congressional realm since Barack Obama became president 10 years ago and Mitch McConnell infamously declared that the Islamofascist from Kenya would be a one-term president because Republicans would obstruct everything he tried to do.   
So what's different now? 
What's different, to belabor the obvious, is that while Obama was level headed and a decent if flawed president who ended up treading water for two obstructive terms, Trump is a paranoiac, indecent and deeply flawed. 
And obsessed with the many congressional and other inquiries into his criminality, which has resulted in his blanket defiance of subpoenas and consequent court battles to the point where not only is nothing getting done but America is in the throes of a full-blown constitutional crisis that makes Richard Nixon, his own paranoia and the Watergate scandal seem like quaint relics from a long-ago time.  
The nut of that crisis is Trump's disdain for the Constitution, rule of law and separation of powers, which resulted in his extraordinary declaration last week following an orchestrated temper tantrum directed at the Democratic leadership that Congress could not legislate with him and investigate him at the same time. 
"President Trump is quite willing to sacrifice his agenda to defend himself,” says Tom Daschle, another relic, this one of a somewhat gentler -- or perhaps less vicious -- era who was the Democratic Senate leader during Bill Clinton's impeachment trial.  "That takes priority over any legislative issue." 
This, in its own perverse way, is a not bad thing because the legislative issues that matter to Trump are shot through with his own brand of vitriol.  In other words, they are bad. 
These include delivering a death blow to Obamacare, an even more draconian immigration policy and border wall funding, additional tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, making it easier for Wall Street to engage in the excesses that led to the 2008 financial collapse, and further packing federal courts with far right-wingers.  So what if the nation's deeply ailing infrastructure -- its bridges, highways and power supply -- continues to crumble? 
"He does outrageous, nasty, destructive things, knowing full well he's crossing a line, and then he pretends he didn't,” says Trump biographer Tim O’Brien of the president's feigned ignorance over the altered Nancy Pelosi video brouhaha, which our patriotic comrades at Facebook refuse to take down even though they know it's fake.  "He doesn’t care what people think about how mean or dumb he is." 
And like an Energizer Bunny, this one with rattlesnake fangs, horns and a pot belly instead of cute teeth and floppy ears, he just keeps going and going. 
In a truly remarkable scene that should not be forgotten at least until it's overtaken by another truly remarkable scene, the president of the United States assembled his senior staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House last Thursday after that orchestrated temper tantrum and name-checked them one by one. 
"Kellyanne, what was my temperament yesterday?" Trump asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway of what had obviously been a meltdown.   
"Very calm.  No temper tantrum," Conway replied. 
Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications: "You were very calm and you were very direct." 
Economic adviser Larry Kudlow: "Very calm and straightforward and clear." 
And so on and so forth. 
But the greatest praise for Trump came from . . . Trump, who declared for the gaggle of agog reporters who were present,  "I'm an extremely stable genius. OK?"  
If you detect some tail chasing in this post, then you're paying attention, which is more than can be said about most of us, who could care less about Trump's latest outrages -- planning to pardon war criminals and denigrating his own intelligence officials by downplaying North Korean missile tests and then joining with dictator Kim Jong Un in attacking front-running 2020 rival Joe Biden.  
So how to begin to end the stalemate between Trump and Congress? 
For openers, I've been very wrong about Trump in several instances: His improbable ascendancy to the Oval Office, the unwavering support of his base and his ability to sanitize the highly damaging Mueller report, although I do not dare predict his defeat in 2020.   
But all three of my misapprehensions have a common thread.   
Trump stole the election with help from Russia, his base sticks with him primarily because they love how he games the system, and he has slithered out from under the Mueller report thus far because his purpose-picked attorney general has lied about it with bold strokes of the whitewash brush.       
Anyhow, end the stalemate by letting that word-slurring Pelosi know that it's time to stop winding up Trump, which is incredibly easy because of his victimhood obsession but at this point has become a distracting exercise in stooping to his own infantile level. 
And begin impeachment proceedings. 
Clinton's impeachment was about partisan overreach and Nixon's impeachment about restoring the appropriate checks and balances between executive and legislative branches. Trump's impeachment, lest we need reminding, is about saving American democracy.   

Click HERE for a summary of ongoing Trump-related investigations. 

Richard Codor's Cartoon du Jour

Thursday, May 23, 2019

It's About The Law, Stupid: Latest Court Rulings Reveal Trump's Abject Ignorance

We certainly can expect the two lower court rulings this week upholding House committee subpoenas involving Donald Trump's mysterioso financing to be appealed to Kingdom Come.   
The rulings lay bare Trump's ignorance of the law and a concomitant flaw in the reasoning of his lawyers that provide a glimmer of hope that he will be scuppered in the end: Attempts to block the subpoenas are being made on political grounds -- as in Democrats are beating up on and want impeach a beleaguered president just trying to do his job -- but to Trump's surprise, political grandstanding takes a back seat in federal courts.
On Monday in Washington, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta fast-tracked a decision on Trump's attempt to keep Mazars USA, his longtime accounting firm, from turning over his financial records, ruling that it is legally bound to honor a subpoena to do so.
On Wednesday in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos blocked an attempt by the president and his elder children to prevent Deutsche Bank and Capitol One from honoring subpoenas seeking information about their loans.     
And in between, Trump went on a temper-tantrum rant that was notable even by his standards. 
He blew up a White House meeting with Democratic congressional leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, or "Crazy Nancy" as Trump calls the speaker of the House in one of his many insults, before it had even started and then stormed into the Rose Garden for a spittle-infused declaration that he wouldn't work with Democrats on a massive infrastructure bill unless they stop investigating him.   
The common denominator of the subpoenas that Mehta and Ramos refused to block, as well as others pertaining to Trump's taxes and his other financial shenanigans, is that he is desperate to keep everything secret pertaining to his "private affairs," as his lawyers term them, by running out the clock until the 2020 elections.  This is because these private affairs are certain to show the same pattern of lying, unethical conduct and outright criminality that pervade his more transparent endeavors. 
All, of course, are messes of Trump's own making and not Democratic overreach, which Ramos addressed in an hour-long reading of his ruling from the bench. 
In rejecting the entirety of Trump's lawyers argument, Ramos drew a distinction between the political ramifications of an investigation into a president's finances and what a judge must consider.   He said that "any delay in the proceedings may result in irreparable harm to the Committees. . . .  Courts have long recognized a clear public interest in maximizing Congress's power to investigate." 
"Propriety of legislative motives is not a question left to the courts,"  Ramos concluded.  It is a question "left to voters, not judges." 
Mehta's decision to fast-track the Mazars injunction pleading, which took only days between hearing and ruling and not weeks or months, and Ramos drawing attention to the timing of the Deutsche Bank-Capitol One injunction pleading point up a factor that should temper any excitement over the rulings. 
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said on Thursday that it will expedite its review of the Mazars case, and it is probable that courts at the next level will sustain the rulings on appeal because these courts are generally liberal in outlook.  Additionally, both Mehta and Ramos crafted rulings as appeal proof as possible, and Ramos in particular seemed to be looking beyond the District Court level.   But a judge or panel of judges might not buy into the timing argument and an appeal at the next level or higher could take weeks or months before there is a ruling, something that would help Trump and his lawyers. 
Then there is the ultimate question: When and if these or any other cases reach a Supreme Court with a decidedly conservative bent, including two far-right Trump-nominated justices, how will it rule? 
Trump acts like he is convinced that the high court will effectively serve as a rubber stamp, clearing the way for his agenda.  Most importantly, he believes the court can save him from impeachment. 
But I continue to believe that the court will not "save" Trump, to use a word that his senior advisers have bandied about since Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, for two interconnected reasons:
The tactic of Trump's lawyers blaming the Democrats and not arguing the law -- which would be futile -- is further evidence that Trump doesn't understand the basics of American governance and civics, including the reality that the Supreme Court has no authority to help or hinder impeachment proceedings.  
* Even with Trump nominees Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, a ruling by a high court led by John Roberts, a devout constitutionalist, will fail for the same reasons that Richard Nixon failed during Watergate -- the elemental reasons enshrined in that very Constitution that Trump loves to hate.  
Trump's blowup before the Democratic leadership and his Rose Garden theatrics quickly backfired as Democrats called his bluff for yet again making it all about him, not the good of the country.   
The Extremely Stable Genius was left to whine that what obviously was a stunt was not a stunt as he lined up several aides during a press conference to aver that he was not stark raving mad.  Besides which, everything is the Democrats' fault because of all those damned investigations, something he said repeatedly on Thursday.  For good measure, Trump on Thursday night tweeted out a fake video of Pelosi making the rounds on alt-right websites that makes her appear drunk.
All of this is leaving Republicans up for reelection in swing states next year with a queasy feeling because they have very little to show except for a lot of wheel spinning. 
Meanwhile, Pelosi has passed more than 250 pieces of legislation since January, including some major bills that are stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate, and all the while courts are siding with the opposition as threat of impeachment against their stark raving mad leader grows.   

Click HERE for a summary of ongoing Trump-related investigations.

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Impeachment Dam Must Break If There Is Any Chance Of Stopping Trump

Are we there yet?   No, we're not even close 
Not even close to ridding America of that abomination in the White House as his scorched-earth strategy of defying Congress and the courts in the face of multiple investigations into his criminality rumbles on, leaving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with an unmistakeable deer-in-the-headlights look as she in turn defies the increasing numbers of her own leadership and backbenchers who have had quite enough, thank you, and are demanding that she greenlight impeachment proceedings. 
For those of you who still have room on your scorecards, quite enough now includes -- three days into this week alone --  Trump's defiance of a lower court ruling that his accounting firm must turn over his financial records to the House Oversight Committee and ordering former White House counsel Donald McGahn, an eyewitness to criminal obstruction in the Russia scandal, to refuse to honor another subpoena and testify before the House Judiciary Committee.   
Behind that curtain where nothing is going on, you know, "No Collusion, No Obstruction," Attorney General William Barr is frantically trying to reverse engineer the Constitution to provide cover for his master's lies, obstructions and executive overreach.   
Barr's apparent agreement on Wednesday with the House Intelligence Committee to release some of the intelligence findings in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia scandal investigation would seem to be a positive development, but should not be taken at face value, and a few minutes later Trump abruptly blew up a scheduled meeting with Democratic congressional leaders, lashing out at Pelosi for accusing him of a cover-up and declaring that he could not work with them on a massive infrastructure bill until they stopped investigating him. 
Barr had the temerity to say on Tuesday that he believed "the rules" had been changed to intentionally hurt Trump.  But the Constitution is intact, Trump's demolition efforts notwithstanding, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia scandal probe was conducted with a by-the-book scrupulousness, and congressional Democrats also are hewing to well-established procedures in striving to fulfill their constitutionally-mandated oversight role in the face of attacks from a rogue president.    
Meanwhile, the cracks in Pelosi's Coalition of the Unwilling are heartening, if overdue. 
At least five members of Pelosi’s leadership team — four of whom also sit on the Judiciary Committee, including chairman Jerrold Nadler — joined backbenchers who have long advocated impeachment in unsuccessfully pressing Pelosi in closed-door meetings on Monday evening to allow the panel to start an impeachment inquiry, which they argued would help investigators obtain the documents and testimony that Trump has blocked. 
"We should be having the conversation about ... how this will help us break through the stonewalling of the administration," said Representative Ted Deutch, a Judiciary Committee member.  "If the answer is, 'No, you can't talk to anyone, you can't have anything, we're simply not going to cooperate,' then at that point the only avenue that we have left is the constitutional means to enforce the separation of powers, which is a serious discussion of impeachment." 
"Yes, we do need to start an [impeachment] inquiry," said Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, one of a number of Judiciary members who have sharpened their stance in the face of Trump's stonewalling.  "I think we're at an inflection point.  We're no longer dealing with a president who obstructed the Mueller inquiry.  He's now obstructing Congress at every turn, including telling witnesses who no longer work for the government that they cannot speak about public documents." 
There also is a growing fear among Democrats that Mueller will decline an invitation to testify before Congress because the special prosecutor and his aides would prefer to let his written report speak for itself rather than get pushed into a partisan firefight. 
Make no mistake.  Impeachment will only further harden Trump's resolve to defy, witness his leading deranged "Lock them Up!" chants at recent stadium rallies.   
If the reason for not initiating impeachment proceedings in the Democratic-dominated House is that conviction after trial in the Republican-dominated Senate will never happen so long as Mitch McConnell is captain of that Ship of Fools, then Pelosi might as well go home. 
Impeachment gives the Judiciary Committee additional powers, will compliment but not interfere with other House investigations, and most immediately and importantly it is the only possible brake on Trump's lawlessness. 
This moment in Trump's presidency is his Reichstag fire.   
I do not mean that in the sense that Trump is Hitler, although there are discomfiting similarities.  But like Hitler in his successful quest for absolute power, Trump is creating false narratives, advocating violence and  saying his opponents are guilty of "treason." 
Taking this analogy further, congressional Republicans are Trump's Brownshirts and McConnell is his Albert Bormann.   
A conspicuous exception is Ship of Fools deckhand Representative Justin Amash, a libertarian and longtime pop-off, who declared on Saturday that Trump has engaged in "impeachable conduct."  Amash's apostasy was harshly criticized by Trump, who predictably called him a "loser," as well as other Republicans, whom Amash argued are "resting their argument on falsehoods." 
The most welcome news that we've had in a long time -- as in since the Green Wave midterm election victories last November, which were because of Democratic promises to stop Trump in addition to kitchen table issues -- is that Pelosi's impeachment dam may be about to break. Whether Pelosi gets swept away in a power struggle is incidental. 
Barr, McGahn and others will be held in contempt of Congress, threats will be made to arrest them for contempt and there will be welcome if passing lower court victories as Pelosi's more methodical approach plods on.  But we've run out of "smoking guns," especially since Trump and Barr so effectively coopted the devastating-in-the-details Mueller report.  As Dahlia Lithwick notes, Trump's infamous boast that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot a man without losing support "has spooked Democrats to the point of paralysis."   
It is impeachment and not the 2020 election that is the last line of constitutional self-defense against a president who believes he is a king and acts like one, which of course was the Founding Fathers' greatest fear even if it has finally come to pass some 236 years on.   
It is long past time to get a move on.

Click HERE for a summary of ongoing Trump-related investigations.

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.   

Monday, May 20, 2019

Richard Codor's Cartoon du Jour

Trump Needs A War With Iran. The Big Question Is Whether He Can Be Stopped.

A war would be the ultimate public and news media distraction for the beleaguered Donald Trump, whose encyclopedic criminality and corruption have now prompted no fewer than 29 federal, state and congressional investigations.  Despite there not being evidence that the U.S. is being provoked, when and if that war comes, it will be because the world's biggest schoolyard bully has targeted Iran. 
And so instead of a steady diet of Trumpian malfeasance, there will be commentators breathlessly talking over footage of Tomahawk cruise missiles being launched against the Tehran regime, massive troop deployments to the Middle East (120,000 so far), and the first trickle of American casualties, which inevitably will become a flood because Iran's military is no pushover, a ground war would be catastrophic and Iran can rely on Hezbollah and other groups to launch terror attacks abroad and target U.S. troops in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 
The big question is whether Trump can be stopped.   
A second question almost as big is whether a country that has become inured to war (Afghanistan has been going on three times as long as World War II, dude), keeping the Pentagon humming and politically hotwired defense contractors fat and happy, can be weaned from its addiction. 
The answers to both questions are not encouraging. 
Trump came into office determined to destroy the status quo between the U.S. and its allies regarding Iran, undoing an imperfect but workable rapprochement hammered out by the Obama administration.  And after some stumbles, Trump finally has assembled a team of jingoistic war hawks who worship at the altar of American Exceptionalism.  The team is led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, both willfully blind to evidence that Iran has put its nuclear program on hold in return for an easing of economic sanctions. 
There is a common denominator among Trump, Pompeo and Bolton: None understand the concept of restraint and all are practiced liars.   
So Trump's recent protestations that he doesn't want a war with Iraq are uncredible, as George W. Bush might say, and all the more so after a single rocket attack, probably launched by an Iran-backed Shiite militia, slammed into Baghdad's Green Zone on Sunday, prompting Trump to tweet that a war between Washington and Tehran would result in "the official end of Iran.  Never threaten the United States again!" 
Complicating this volatile mix is that there does not appear to be a consensus among the three as to what U.S. policy should be except the vague belief that Iran must remake itself into a nation of which the U.S. can approve, the Islamic Republic's national sovereignty be damned.  If that sounds familiar, it is exactly the tack the Bush administration took so disastrously in Iraq, where it could muster the support of only a few allies because it was so obviously the wrong response to 9/11 -- the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. 
Given Trump's policy of alienating even America's most important allies, beyond Israel and Saudi Arabia, he can expect to go it alone this time.  Long story short: The lessons of Iraq have not been learned any more than the lessons of Vietnam. 
Oh, and Trump can't be stopped although there will be Republican defections in Congress. 
This brings us to the answer to the second question and what I call the Doctrine of Perpetual War.  
To the extent that political pundits even address the matter, the blame for this collaborative Pentagon-defense industry madness is correctly yet shortsightedly put on Dubya.  But when taken in the larger context of 70 years of war in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and, lest we forget, those big evildoers in little Grenada, Americans -- and Democratic pols -- seem to be okey-dokey with war even if they tell pollsters that they're tired of it. 
A war with Iran will take a familiar course.  
Pardon the term in Trump's case, but the commander in chief will experience a healthy popularity spike.  At least until the casualties mount, the battlefield images become too grisly and the economy tanks.  And the realization dawns that starting a war is much easier than ending one, especially in the volatile Middle East, which prompted military historian and  conservative Washington Post columnist Max Boot to opine that a war with Iran "would be the mother of all quagmires."