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Thursday, May 24, 2018

THE HALF TIME SHOW


I think the time has come to step back from the daily frenzy of news and form some judgment of where things stand in the investigation of Trump, his campaign, and his administration.  Mueller and his team are investigating four possible violations of law:  a criminal conspiracy by Trump and his campaign to seek, abet, and receive illegal foreign assistance in the 2016 presidential campaign;  criminal efforts by Trump and his administration to obstruct the lawful investigation of that conspiracy; criminal efforts by Trump and his family to use the office of the presidency for personal enrichment; and criminal efforts by Trump and his family to solicit foreign monies in return for specific official policy decisions of the United States.  What do we now know about these investigations?

1.         The criminal conspiracy is established by facts now public.  The Russian government offered assistance of various sorts.  Trump’s son welcomed the offer.  The Russians provided the assistance. Trump publicly asked the Russians to provide additional assistance.  The Russians did so.  That by itself is enough to establish a conspiracy.  In addition, the Trump campaign altered the Republican platform to conform to Russian interests.  As President, Trump sought to shape official American sanctions policy to favor Russian interests, and for many months refused to enforce new sanctions voted overwhelmingly by the Congress and signed into law by Trump.

All of that is on the record.

2.         The criminal effort to obstruct the investigation into the conspiracy has been confirmed by Trump’s public statements, first to Lester Holt on national television, then to Russian government officials in the Oval Office, on national Russian television.

3.         There is a good deal of suggestive evidence of the efforts by Trump and his family to use the presidency for personal enrichment but until bank records are made public the evidence is not decisive.

4.         There is a good deal of evidence, as yet not decisive, that Trump has sought to shape official U. S. policy in return for monies paid to Trump, to his company, and to his son-in-law.

That is what we now know, beyond doubt.  In the vernacular current on cable news, Trump, his campaign, and his administration are guilty of collusion and obstruction at the very least.  What will happen in the future?  The future is notoriously difficult to predict in politics, so what follows are my speculations and gut instincts and should be considered as such.

1.         Prior to the 2018 election, the Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress will do nothing to sanction Trump in any way, regardless of what further evidence emerges, up to and including video and audio evidence of Trump explicitly stating that he has engaged in a conspiracy, obstructed justice, enriched himself by the presidency, and sold US policy to foreign bidders.

2.         If the Democrats take control of the House in the 2018 elections and impeach Trump, he will be tried in the Senate with the Chief Justice presiding, and he will be found not guilty, regardless of the evidence presented.  There is no way in the world that enough Republican senators will vote for conviction to bring the number to the constitutionally required two-thirds.  Even though some may be tempted to swap out Trump for Pence, they will be fearful that an ousted Trump and an aroused phalanx of Trump supporters will cost them their seats in 2020.  Trump will treat the failure to convict as a vote of confidence and will run for re-election in 2020 as an insurgent man of the people.  He will be difficult, but not impossible, to beat, unless the Democrats run a centrist, in which case Trump will be re-elected.

3.         If the Democrats take the House in November 2018, there will be two months between the election and the swearing in of the new House.  During that time, Trump will abruptly emerge as a progressive Democrat.  In return for not being impeached, he will offer to support stabilization and expansion of the Affordable Care Act, legalization of abortion on demand, imposition of a $15 an hour minimum wage, re-establishment of Obama era clean air regulations, increased taxes on the rich, nomination of liberal judges, and anything else the Democrats want.  He will sign a DACA bill, drop his demand for a border wall, and do anything else Chuck Schumer wants.  The Democrats will then be faced with a terrible choice:  Either to pursue an impeachment process doomed to failure in the Senate and pin all their hopes on 2020, or take everything they want as public policy in return for legitimating and normalizing Trump.

That, in a nutshell, is where we are at, in my view.

10 comments:

Jerry Fresia said...

With regard to No. 1, you say: and "The Russians provided the assistance." What did you have in mind with regard to "assistance?"

I doubt that the Democratic establishment, even if they were to take the House in November, has the stomach for impeachment. Nor do I see Trump capitulating should the Democrats take the House, given that I think he has more to fear from Republican hardliners than spineless Democrats, majority status not withstanding.(Think "public option" in 2009-10 or "the Resistance" post January 2017.)

My fear is that Mueller won't indict Trump and will eventually issue his report and that will be the end of it.

But all of this is moot if Democratic leaders don't start representing the precariat. In which case, turnout won't be robust and the odds of retaking the House will be unlikely.

Anonymous said...

While the evidence is more than compelling for an impeachment, I'm unsure if there are any real democrats left to pursue an impeachment that has more cause than the last time when Republicans went after stains on a blue dress. By real democrats, it is hard to argue that Schumer is one.

David Palmeter said...

#3 is pretty close to my idea of heaven, and I don't think it has a ghost of a chance.

Ed Barreras said...

The assistance the Russians provided was, primarily, the stolen emails from the DNC and Clinton campaign. We know the Russians provided these emails because George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser, has entered a guilty plea admitting a Russian agent told him of them in April, 2016. This was months before anyone else in the world knew of these stolen emails. No explanation makes sense other than that these emails were hacked by the Russians and fed to Wikileaks, which itself was caught red-handed conspiring with the T***p campaign. This is in line with what multiple independent cyber-security experts have concluded. What this means is that the T***p campaign is, at the very least, guilty of abetting computer crimes, a major offense.

My prediction is that the Mueller report will be much more explosive than most are anticipating. It will show conclusively that the current occupant of the White House knowingly and willingly committed high crimes. And although I am sadly not optimistic that even this will lead to his removal from office, the report will at least force Republicans off this tight-rope they’ve been walking trying to balance, on the one hand, fealty to the current occupant of the White House with, on the other hand, an acknowledgment of the integrity and legitimacy of the Special Council investigation (which acknowledgement we’ve heard repeatedly from Graham, Hatch, McConnell, and a few important others). Something will have to give. Either Mueller will be accused of framing the the current occupant of the White House or the latter will be condemned as the traitorous criminal he so obviously is.

We will see what happens.

And I know we’re supposed to always place blame for our current troubles on the elites — in particular the Democratic elites, since the other party is hopeless — and I try to do that. I really do. I want to believe that all it will take for the noble peasantry to flock home is the Democrats finally having the good sense to put up a true-believing progressive candidate. Still, I can’t shake the realization that half the country remains in the grip of a kind of madness, an ugly fever that shows no signs of breaking. Add to that a hefty helping of low information voters, and we have the makings of a long-term disaster. Do the elites ultimately bear responsibility for creating this situation? Certainly they do. But small comfort finger-pointing is in these dark days.

(By the way, it’s likely Mueller will conclude that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Therefore he will refer the matter to the acting AG, Rosenstein, who in turn will refer it to Congress.)

Jerry Fresia said...

Ed,

You wrote: "We know the Russians provided these emails because George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser, has entered a guilty plea admitting a Russian agent told him of them in April, 2016."

I don't think this is true. Papadopoulos was told by his friend Mitsud that the Russians had "dirt" on Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails." Papadopoulos then contacted numerous people in the campaign with this information probably thinking that it would serve his interests. He then lied to the FBI about this, that was the crime.

You also say that "No explanation makes sense other than that these emails were hacked by the Russians." Here's an explanation: a disgruntled DNC employee leaked the emails to Wikileaks. In fact that makes better sense given the data transfer rate involved which would have made "hacking" impossible. So Wikileaks was not caught "redhanded" - just red baited.

The famous intel "assessment" untruthfully (and endlessly) proclaimed by HRC and such notables as Bill Maher that 17 intel agencies "concluded" was also shown to be bogus. It was only 3 intel agences (coordinated by a fourth) that produced an "assessment" which like all assessments stipulate that they are not the basis on which "conclusions should be drawn." Even Obama, before he left office, pointed this out.

Here's my prediction: when it is all said and done, Mueller will have provided no evidence that the Podesta emails were hacked by Russians and yet "everyone knows" that the Russians hacked our election. In terms of ideology, that is a niffy trick.

David said...

"Still, I can’t shake the realization that half the country remains in the grip of a kind of madness, an ugly fever that shows no signs of breaking. Add to that a hefty helping of low information voters, and we have the makings of a long-term disaster."

Ed Barreras, I don't know that it's half the country, but I agree that some large portion of the country is gripped by a kind of pestilence or "fever," as you say. I also don't see an end in sight. I would use the Shakespearean word "distemper" to describe this plague: a widespread pathology that constitutes a distemper of the times.

I remember reading in Victor Klemperer's diary that in the first months of the Nazi takeover in 1933 he was so distraught that he didn't think he would survive. Yet, he came through it and lived to stand on the other side of that disaster.

My point isn't that the Nazi example has anything to tell us about our distemper of the times. Rather, my point is about the necessity of endurance. If there is to be an "other side," it may be a long way off. There are people in this country who have endured terrible injustices for their whole lives, and they have managed to do it with courage--that virtue so much discussed by Plato and so much needed now.

Ed Barreras said...

Jerry,

What I meant was, Papadopoulos confessed to to the Mifsud meeting as part of his guilty plea.

And how could Mifsud, a Russian agent, have known about the “thousands of emails” before anyone else did?

You and I had an exchange on this once before, and at that time I pointed to reports that, to my mind, firmly debunk the “data transfer rates” talking point. Several cybersecurity firms — not tied to the US gov’t — have endorsed the conclusion about Russian hacking. The hacking group, Cozy Bear, has long been known about. Dutch intelligence alerted the US to attempts by this group to hack into the DNC in 2015, a full year before the election. And by all evidence, Wikileaks is deeply in bed with the Russian government.

The “17 intelligence agencies” line was indeed bad information. But I don’t think it has been repeated “endlessly” as you say. In fact, I haven’t heard anyone repeat it since it was debunked.

In any case, I consider that peripheral noise. In a story this massive, it’s inevitable that some bad information will circulate. Another example would be the false report from late 2016 that Russians hacked into a Vermont power grid. This was quickly debunked and then forgotten about. But people like Glenn Greenwald still cite it as evidence of mass hysteria surrounding Russiagate. This is silly. We should focus on what the preponderance of evidence tells us.

David, you’re righ that it’s not half the country. It is, though, a not insignificant portion of voters.

Ed Barreras said...

P.S. to Jerry,

I just ran across today’s report that Assange could soon be extradited, and it made me remember that I forgot to mention something in my last reply to you.

When I said that Wikileaks had been caught redhanded, I meant something very specific. You may have missed this, but last November it was revealed that Wikileaks (Assange) was in contact with Don Jr. during the campaign via twitter direct messaging. In one message, Assange encourages the campaign to provide him with the candidate’s tax returns and allow Wikileaks to release them, on the reasoning that these will probably leak anyway, and letting Wikileaks do it will lend them an air of impartiality; thus when Wikileaks attacks Clinton it won’t be seen as coming from a pro-T***p source. Another message is even more damaging to my mind. It was sent on election night, and it shows Assange encouraging the campaign to contest the results of the election (he assumed T***p would lose) on the grounds that it was rigged. Whatever good Wikileaks may have done in the past, no one could claim that they’re a benign organization. The documented evidence of their connections to Russia can be seen on the “Wikileaks” Wikipedia page.

s. wallerstein said...

I lived through 10 years of the 17 year Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, and there is always "another side".

However, you can't go home again, and the other side will never be the status quo ante.

Generally, social pestilences leave their mark. At the end of the dictatorship 44% of Chileans, in a fair election, still voted to keep Pinochet in power for 8 more years.

People like Trump or Pinochet, very different from each other, but both totally noxious, change the social climate, become role models for certain types of people, destroy the sense of social trust, do away with positive social and welfare legislation ( that for many reasons are never put back in force), empower the worst elements in the police and the military, wage often successful war on value of truth, etc., etc.

David said...

Thank you, s. wallerstein, for your perspective, sobering as it is.