What the Mueller Investigation Was Always About

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This is one of the best I have seen. In the search for criminality, we’ve lost site of the real problem. Below is the Adam Schiff / Mueller interaction documented in the SLATE article:

From SLATE, 7/25 by Dahlia Lithwick.

In the partisan warfare that dominated Wednesday’s hearings, we’ve forgotten the point: Our elections are under threat, and the president doesn’t much care.

Schiff: Director Mueller, I want to close out my questions, turn to some of the exchanges you had with Mr. Welch a bit earlier. I’d like to see if we can broaden the aperture at the end of the hearing. Receiving assistance during a presidential campaign is an unethical thing to do. 

Mueller: And a crime. 

Schiff: And a crime. And to the degree that it undermines our democracy and institutions, we can agree it’s also unpatriotic?

Mueller: True. 

Schiff: And wrong. 

Mueller: True. 

Schiff: The standard of behavior for a presidential candidate or any candidate shouldn’t be whether something is criminal, it should be held to a higher standard, you would agree? 

Mueller: I will not get into that, because it goes to the standards to be applied by other institutions besides ours. 

Schiff: I’m just referring to ethical standards. We should hold our elected officials to a standard higher than mere avoidance of criminality, correct? 

Mueller: Absolutely. 

Schiff: You have served this country for decades, you’ve taken an oath to defend the Constitution, you hold yourself to a standard of doing what’s right. 

Mueller: I would hope. 

Schiff: You have. I think we can all see that. There are times where your reward will be unending criticism, but we are grateful. The need to act in an ethical manner is not just a moral one, but when people act unethically, it exposes them to compromise. Particularly in dealing with foreign powers, is that true?

Mueller: True. 

Schiff: Because when someone acts unethically in connection with a foreign partner, that foreign partner can later expose their wrongdoing and extort them? 

Mueller: True. 

Schiff: And that conduct, that unethical conduct can be of a financial nature, if you have a financial motive or illicit business dealing, am I right? 

Mueller: Yes. 

Schiff: If you are lying about something that can be exposed, then you can be blackmailed? 

Mueller: Also true. 

Schiff: In the case of Michael Flynn, he was secretly doing business with Turkey, correct? 

Mueller: Yes. 

Schiff: That could open him up to compromise that financial relationship. 

Mueller: I presume. 

Schiff: He also lied about his discussions with the Russian ambassador and since the Russians were on the other side of the conversation, they could have exposed that, could they not? 

Mueller: Yes. 

Schiff: If a presidential candidate was doing business in Russia and saying he wasn’t, Russians could expose that too, could they not? 

Mueller: I leave that to you. 

Schiff: Well, let’s look at Dmitry Peskov, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, someone the Trump Organization was in contact with to make that deal happen. Your report indicates that Michael Cohen had a long conversation on the phone with someone from his office. Presumably the Russians could record that conversation, could they not. ****

Mueller: Yes. 

Schiff: And so, if candidate Trump was saying, I have no dealing with the Russians but the Russians had a tape recording, they could reveal that, correct? 

Mueller: Yes.

Then Schiff, still sadly and soberly, concludes:

Schiff: When this was revealed, that there were these communications, notwithstanding the president’s denials, the president was confronted about this, and he said two things. First of all, that’s not a crime. I think you and I have already agreed that shouldn’t be the standard, right? 

Mueller: True. 

Schiff: The second thing he said was, why should I miss out on all those opportunities? I mean, why indeed, merely running a presidential campaign, why should you miss out on making all that money was the import of his statement. Were you ever able to ascertain whether Donald Trump still intends to build that tower when he leaves office? 

Mueller: Is that a question, sir? 

Schiff: Yes. Were you able to ascertain, because he wouldn’t answer your questions completely, whether or if he ever ended that will desire to build that tower? 

Mueller: I’m not going to speculate on that. 

Schiff: If the president was concerned that if he lost his election, he didn’t want to miss out on that money. Might he have the same concern about losing his reelection? 

Mueller: Again, speculation. 

Schiff: The difficulty with this, of course, is we are all left to wonder whether the president is representing us or his financial interests.

Mueller – The Essential Facts

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From Mother Jones 7/24 On The Mueller Testimony:

But here’s the biggest takeaway you might not see elsewhere in the media: The man tasked with pursuing a criminal investigation of the president of the United States spelled out for Congress that the highest officeholder in the land betrayed the country he was sworn to serve.

Mueller didn’t say those words, but David Corn, our Washington bureau chief, does in summarizing the facts of the case as they were laid out, in great detail, from Mueller’s report and testimony: “A US election was hijacked. Trump stood by as it happened and profited from it. And ever since he has attempted to cover up this original sin of his presidency.”

David points out that Mueller was cautious in his choice of words, as everyone expected him to be. But, he notes, “In the quiet way of an institutionalist who respects norms and rules, Mueller made it clear: Trump engaged in treachery.”

Those are the facts.

Trump may scream otherwise (in fact, even as Mueller testified under oath, his campaign blasted out an email claiming, “NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION, COMPLETE AND TOTAL EXONERATION!”), but David and the rest of our newsroom will stay focused on the truth, every single day with everything we’ve got.

And you can help us push back against the spin and misdirection by sharing our reporting on Facebook or Twitter, and if you want to go further and support our hard-hitting journalism on this monumental day, we’d be grateful. It’s what makes everything we do possible.

Today was a good day for the truth, and there will be more of those to come.

Thanks for reading, and for everything you do to advance truth and transparency.


Monika Bauerlein, CEO
Mother Jones

Running Against a Bad Man

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Good Advice from Krugman:

The Setup:

The great majority of Americans consider Donald Trump unpresidential. A plurality consider his recent Tweets racist; half believe his campaign coordinated with Russia. It’s fair to say that most of America finds Trump pretty vile.

The question for Democrats is what to do with that reality. The thing is, it’s a lot less relevant politically than you might imagine. Most of the people who consider Trump vile would never have voted for him anyway, and many of the rest will vote for him despite their personal distaste, because they hate liberals more.

Yet it would also be wrong to say that Trump’s unique awfulness is irrelevant. His approval rating is remarkably low given growth over 3 percent and unemployment under 4 percent. And perceptions of character do drive votes: the Clinton email “scandal” — yes, it was fake, but it was relentlessly hyped by the media and fueled by James Comey’s misbehavior — almost surely swung the 2016 election.

The Details – Read the article.

The Bottom Line:

So can Democrats walk and chew gum at the same time? Can they run mainly on things Americans want, like guaranteed health care, while also reminding voters that a terrible person occupies the White House? The fate of the republic may hinge on the answer.

Our Racist President

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Trump is and has been a racist for a long time. It is also clear that a large number of the republican lawmakers and Trump’s base are also racists. Reading the evidence is sickening.

David Leonhardt – The president of racism: “President Trump doesn’t just make racist comments. He is a racist. He’s proven it again and again, over virtually his entire time as a public figure. His bigotry is a core part of his worldview, and it’s been central to his political rise.”

Donald Trump’s Racism: The Definitive List, Updated

A final word: in this blog I am not going to address the Trump racism topic again.

“Racism Pure and Simple”

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In recent statements trump is waving the flag that represents himself and apparently a large part of the republican party:

The dog whistle days are apparently over.

As everyone knows, on Sunday Donald Trump attacked four progressive members of Congress, saying that they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” As it happens, three of the four were born in the U.S., and the fourth is a duly naturalized citizen. All are, however, women of color.

Sorry, there’s no way to both sides this, or claim that Trump didn’t say what he said. This is racism, plain and simple — nothing abstract about it. And Trump obviously isn’t worried that it will backfire.

As evidence of the implicit and not so implicit support by republican politicians, consider the strong, shocking and unsupported assertion by Sen. Lindsey Graham in an interview on Fox & Friends on Monday morning, “We all know that [Ocasio-Cortez] and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country.”

“Is It Cruelty, Or Is It Corruption?”

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Trump and the Merchants of Detention

Selected quotes:

Is it cruelty, or is it corruption? That’s a question that comes up whenever we learn about some new, extraordinary abuse by the Trump administration — something that seems to happen just about every week. And the answer, usually, is “both.”

For example, why is the administration providing cover for Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, who almost surely ordered the murder of The Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi? Part of the answer, probably, is that Donald Trump basically approves of the idea of killing critical journalists. But the money the Saudi monarchy spends at Trump properties is relevant, too.

And the same goes for the atrocities the U.S. is committing against migrants from Central America. Oh, and save the fake outrage. Yes, they are atrocities, and yes, the detention centers meet the historical definition of concentration camps.

One reason for these atrocities is that the Trump administration sees cruelty both as a policy tool and as a political strategy: Vicious treatment of refugees might deter future asylum-seekers, and in any case it helps rev up the racist base. But there’s also money to be made, because a majority of detained migrants are being held in camps run by corporations with close ties to the Republican Party.

Which brings us to the issue of private prisons, and privatization in general. Privatization of public services — having them delivered by contractors rather than government employees — took off during the 1980s. It has often been justified using the rhetoric of free markets, the supposed superiority of private enterprise to government bureaucracy.

This was always, however, a case of bait-and-switch. Free markets, in which private businesses compete for customers, can accomplish great things, and are indeed the best way to organize most of the economy. But the case for free markets isn’t a case for private business where there is no market: There’s no reason to presume that private firms will do a better job when there isn’t any competition, because the government itself is the sole customer. In fact, studies of privatization often find that it ends up costing more than having government employees do the work.

Nor is that an accident. Between campaign contributions and the revolving door, plus more outright bribery than we’d like to think, private contractors can engineer overpayment on a scale beyond the wildest dreams of public-sector unions.

How much of a role has this played in policy? It would, I think, be going too far to claim that the private-prison industry — merchants of detention? — has been a driving force behind the viciousness of Trump’s border policy. But the fact that crony capitalists close to the administration profit from the viciousness surely greases the path.

And this fits the general pattern. As I suggested at the beginning, cruelty and corruption are intertwined in Trump administration policy. Every betrayal of American principles also seems, somehow, to produce financial benefits for Trump and his friends.

Quotes from Paul Krugman, Opinion NYT

 

Imagine This

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Imagine if in 2020 we elect a president who

…and a Senate who doesn’t kiss his ring

Source:

Trump Facts & Tariffs – Revisited

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A prior post, March 2018, addressed this topic, Trump Facts and Tariffs. Since then Trump has learned nothing. He does not read or listen. He just plays to his base and uniformed gut.

A tariff on Chinese goods is pure and simple a tax. Likewise a tariff on US goods  is a tax. The question is who pays the taxes and by extension are tariffs a good policy?

Krugman has two recent editorials that address these question,  one published May 7 and another March 3, How Goes the Trade War?

The bottom line: Consumers, not foreigners, are paying the Trump tariffs. Read the editorials. Below are selected quotes:

Trump’s tweets over the past few days may well be featured in future economics textbooks as perfect illustrations of how people misunderstand the basics of international trade and trade policy. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it, since I’m the co-author of two textbooks.

… enough time has passed for economists to look at the actual results of Trump’s trade policy so far, and the Chinese are not, in fact, paying the tariffs. As I wrote a couple of months ago, “to a first approximation, foreigners paid none of the bill, U.S. companies and consumers paid all of it.”

So if you’re trying to make sense of what’s happening on trade, you should start with the basic point that Trump has no idea what he’s doing, that there isn’t any coherent U.S. policy goal.

About The Mueller Report

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Frank Bruni, NYT’s Opinion Columnist, April 17, 2019. Well Said:

Do you — does anyone — really need the work of Mueller and his team to come to a conclusion about …  [Donald Trump’s presidency]? How important is evidence not yet revealed when so much of what Trump does is conspicuous, when the essence of his character is proudly unhidden? You know it from his words, spoken and tweeted and intemperate to the point of viciousness. You know it from his aides, current and former, whose nagging senses of patriotism and propriety lead them to leak about the extreme requests that he has made and that they have thwarted.

You know it in your bones.

And that’s the problem with the Mueller obsession. It implies that Trump is defined by whether he actively conspired with Russian officials to attain power. It suggests that the jury on his integrity is out, that the puzzle of his full nature is unsolved.

Are there missing pieces, without which exact degrees of malfeasance can’t be determined? Yes. And some of them will probably be missing forever.

But they’re not necessary, not to appraise him morally as opposed to criminally.

News Flash (April 1)

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Trump’s Remorse (on April 1)

From the Rose Garden:

Then, nearly breaking down, Mr. Trump expressed remorse “for sowing hate and division” in America.” He said “I have put a cloud over this presidency and disgraced this great country, for which I will feel ashamed for the rest of my life.” He then announced he was resigning the presidency effective immediately. “I hope my decision begins a process of healing,” he said, brushing away tears. “I hope April 1, 2019 will be remembered as the day I came clean.”