Wednesday, March 22, 2017

'shadows of the indignant desert birds'

It's getting harder and harder to deny something is happening.

WaPo watched the same hearing Howard Fineman did:

But in Monday’s remarkable, marathon hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey said there was no such evidence. Trump’s claim, first made in a series of tweets on March 4 at a moment when associates said he was feeling under siege and stewing over the struggles of his young presidency, remains unfounded.

Comey did not stop there. He confirmed publicly that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and associates with Russia, part of an extraordinary effort by an adversary to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election in Trump’s favor.

Questions about Russia have hung over Trump for months, but the president always has dismissed them as “fake news.” That became much harder Monday after the FBI director proclaimed the Russia probe to be anything but fake.

“There’s a smell of treason in the air,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mind-boggling event.”

Although, to be honest, WaPo still can't see the forest for the trees:

Furthermore, the FBI’s far-reaching Russia investigation show no sign of concluding soon and is all but certain to remain a distraction for the White House, spurring moments of presidential fury and rash tweets and possibly inhibiting the administration’s ability to govern.

Any reasonable person, looking at the last two months, would be forced to ask:  "What 'ability to govern'?"  Trump's one governing effort, the travel ban, has been struck down twice in the courts.  His Cabinet Secretaries are being overseen by a sort of "loyalty guard," a commissariat straight out of Soviet Russia ("commissar" is the name given by the staff of the Secretary of Defense, being the title of such officials in the old USSR).  He has insulted France, Germany, and Great Britain, undermined NATO, and appeared to threaten war against North Korea.  His efforts to drum up support for the AHCA have largely consisted of rallies where he still talks about his margin of victory in the electoral college, and he has yet to withdraw either his unsupported claims that Obama surveilled Trump Tower or that 3-5 million illegal votes gave Hillary Clinton her popular vote margin of victory.

Of course, there is the GOP whistling past the graveyard:

“All that really matters this week is Gorsuch moving forward and the House passing step one of Obamacare repeal,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist who works for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “All the rest is noise.”
But the "noise" is coming from inside the house; inside the White House, specifically.  No one forced Sean Spicer to read a list of news articles he said supported Trump's unsupportable claims.  No one forced Sean Spicer to cite Napolitano (since suspended by Fox News, which couldn't support Napolitano's rant) and insult the British government.  No one forced Trump to do those things either, anymore than anyone forced Trump to make his outlandish claims in the first place.  During the Comey hearing Trump and his staff couldn't stay off Twitter, distorting and misrepresenting what Comey and Rogers said in testimony.  That wasn't "noise" from the Democrats or misguided questioning from the  news media.  This isn't the result of a bad week and unforeseen events.  For Trump this is a feature; and that's the bug.

Which is why Paul Ryan is whistling loudest of all:

"It is very clear that we’ve seen no evidence and have been presented with no evidence that Donald Trump or his staff were involved in this with the Russians," he said.

He's right.  And he's just playing a True Witness to say so.*  We haven't seen any evidence, but that's because the investigation hasn't ended in any indictments yet.  But an FBI investigation ongoing since July 2016 and not expected to end anytime in the foreseeable future, an investigation so sensitive the FBI didn't inform leaders of Congress of it, or the White House, until very recently, is not an investigation running solely on innuendo and suspicion.  There may never be sufficient evidence to prove criminal guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; but there is clearly some evidence "that Donald Trump or his staff were involved in this with the Russians."  Which should be a good enough to establish the appearance of corruption (again, Nixon was never presented with evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of his corruption; but there was enough evidence for a Congressional investigation, and to persuade him to resign).

But go back to what Douglas Brinkley said, in the quote WaPo drops in and then runs from:  that's the turd in the D.C. punchbowl.  Keith Olbermann is right:  any other President would have resigned by now (even Nixon never had the FBI testifying about their investigation of him before Congress); any intelligent President would have fled the country.  Sure the GOP needs Trump to push the Obamacare repeal, but what if that doesn't happen?  Trump's only real power is leverage, and his approval rating is already at historical lows.  His ability to influence the votes in Congress seems to be non-existent.  It won't get any stronger as he continues to entangle himself in the Russia story and the wiretapping fiasco.  The bill has precious little support in the House, and none in the Senate.  What does Trump bring to the party, except an FBI investigation?**

*Heinlein, as I mentioned, invented the concept for Stranger in a Strange Land.  If memory serves, he exemplifies it by one character asking the True Witness in his employ to describe the color of a nearby house.  She identifies the color of the one wall she can see, but refuses to make even the reasonable extrapolation that the rest of the house is the same color, as she can't see the other walls.  We haven't seen evidence of collusion, but a reasonable extrapolation can be made. if only because the FBI is still investigating.

**Trump thinks he brings the threat of a Democratic House if AHCA isn't passed; which is a weird threat for a sitting GOP President to make as an attempt to motivate his own party.  He even made specific, personal threats:

“I’m gonna come after you,” Trump threatened Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-NC, the congressman confirmed to reporters.

The threat, however, apparently rung hollow.

“I’m still a no,” Meadows said afterwards, “because the bill that we’re currently considering does not lower premiums for the vast majority of Americans, and that’s what we need to do.”

And no, Trump didn't distinguish between primary opponents and losing in the general election.  It was up for grabs where the axe would fall.  Dale Carnegie would be so proud.

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