Thursday, March 02, 2017

Drip, Drip, Drip

Donald Trump regularly boasts that he's the product of an Ivy League education. Very, very smart. He knows all the best words. There's a story about how DJT was allowed to transfer into Wharton but that's for another day.

Whether he was Ivy League material or not, you might have thought that Trump would have learned a bit about his own government and its history, especially the stuff about perhaps its greatest president, Abraham Lincoln.

Abe actually had a priceless bit of advice for Donald when he said, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

Trump is demonstrably good at fooling people. Ask his creditors, especially the tradesmen he stiffed on his development projects. The American voters, they were pushovers to a guy like the Great Orange Bloat.

Trump's problem is time. He operates on quick, in and out deals. Only not this time, not the Russia business. He's going to have to carry that millstone around his neck for a good long time and it's just going to keep getting heavier and heavier.

Think of it as the Obama administration's inauguration gift to Donald Trump. Not Obama personally but "senior officials" in the former administration. Joe, what in hell have you been up to?

In the closing months of the Obama administration, a wave of intelligence and analyses poured in detailing the close involvement of the Trump campaign with top Russian officials. There was also intelligence about extensive business dealings of Trump senior officials, Paul Manafort, Rex Tillerson, Wilbur Ross, with Vlad Putin and various oligarchs, suggestions of dirty money, rubles, laundered into US dollars and buried in curious real estate deals in America. There was intelligence from American agencies, intelligence from Britain, intelligence from Germany.

They didn't trust Donald Trump to investigate himself and his closest aides and the Obama team didn't have time to do it before they left office. They faced the prospect that the Trump team might bury the intelligence, make it disappear. They weren't about to let that happen.

And so they gave the stuff the lowest security classification they could which meant the greatest possible number of government officials could be given copies of the intelligence. They "seeded" the federal bureaucracy with the information.

Trump doesn't know, even his top officials don't know just who has the intelligence. The genie is out of the bottle. It's no wonder Trump has been raging about government leaks, especially from the intelligence/security agencies including the FBI. He's under investigation and he knows it. Now if Trump and his besties were clean they would probably want this all out in the open so they could get out from under this cloud just as fast as possible. Only that's the last thing they seem to want. Where there's smoke, there's fire.

The first aide to spontaneously combust was ex-general and conspiracy theorist, Mike Flynn, toppled from his perch as national security agency chief in less than a month. Drip.

Now, before Flynn's chair is even cold, it's Jeff Sessions' turn. Sessions is an order of magnitude different than Flynn. He's an old hand, a pro. After a stint in the state government in Alabama, Sessions logged twenty years in the Senate. And now he's trapped, having given sworn evidence at his confirmation hearing that he had no involvement with the Russians during the Trump campaign even though he met twice with the Russian ambassador, once in a closed door meeting in his Senate office.

Flynn out, Sessions gored, possibly fatally. Drip, drip.

How did the Washington Post learn of Sessions' dalliances with the Russian ambassador? Best guess is that was a leak and it probably came from the intelligence documents spread wide and far by Obama officials.

Trump was getting out from under the Flynn fiasco but Sessions has really put the millstone around Donald's neck. It's the weight he's going to have to carry and it could get a lot heavier as this investigation continues.

Sessions was the exception to the Trump team. There's not a lot of political depth in the Trump White House, especially not when it comes to federal politics. Mike Pence had a dozen years in the House before he went home to Indiana to serve as governor. As for the rest, Trump included, there's little to no "hands on" government experience.

The Trump junta (there are a curious number of generals) is slowly turning toxic. Recruiting A-list talent is getting ever tougher. When Trump had to fill the Flynn vacancy his first two choices, retired Navy admiral, Harward, and controversial former Army commander, Petraeus, both turned him down. The guy who did take the job (he was still on active duty, pretty hard to say "no"), general H.R. McMaster has moved to sanitize the National Security Council, removing Flynn's operative inside the agency.

This is giving Congressional Republicans a coronary. With their hold on the House and the Senate at stake in the mid-term elections, they're as vulnerable to leaks as the White House. They can't thwart a full investigation into the Russia scandal. They've also got a powerful faction of senior Republicans who are willing to offer Trump no quarter, none.

Drip, drip, drip.

The Sessions leak shows how powerful this information might be and how vulnerable it leaves both the White House and Congress.


Dana said...

Are you familiar with Josh Marshall?

Owen Gray said...

In the end, Mound, it's all going to catch up to Donald.

rumleyfips said...

There is talk of Republicans eager for President Pense. It would be no surprise if he is not caught in the ol Russian drift net as well. That leaves Ryan and we know how ineffective he has been.

rumleyfips said...

Didn't Obama, in November, tell the FBI , CIA etc. to have a report on the Russian connection on his desk before Jan.20 ? I guess they declined and this is how it was handled. Maybe the upper levels of the security establishment will also be tarred by this brush.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks for the link, Dana. That was an insightful article. I think he's at least pretty close to right.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Owen. Do you recall how the Watergate scandal unfolded. I remember being in a newsroom the day Nixon announced his resignation. I landed my first job as a reporter the year before and so Nixon and
Woodward and Bernstein were the biggest thing in my eyes. At first it was just some burglary in D.C. and then it grew and grew and spread in this direction and that, dragging in this whole cast of miscreants - Nixon, Mitchell, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean, Liddy and then the Pentagon Papers. What a mess. I'm wondering if we're witnessing the early onset stage of another massive scandal capable of taking down a sitting president?

The Mound of Sound said...

Rumley, I think the report was completed and, as I recall, both Obama and Trump were in attendance when it was presented. Trump angrily denounced the findings as untrue.

Purple library guy said...

If Trump goes down over the Russia thing rather than the racism thing or the economy thing (when in the end his touted economic stuff ends up just siphoning more money to his buds) it will be just one more piece of evidence that the US polity is dying. Russia is the only area where Trump's policy is sane, so of course that's what will bring him down in the US, where nuts and evil is OK but a glimmer of sanity is what will turn out to be beyond the pale.

John B. said...

Ah, yes. That familiar face from upper levels of the security establishment.

“I would say at this point we know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows. ...

“I appreciate we had a long briefing and testimony from the director today, but in order for us to do our investigation in a thorough and credible way, we’re gonna need the FBI to fully cooperate, to be willing to tell us the length and breadth of any counterintelligence investigations they are conducting. At this point, the director was not willing to do that. ...

"Those walls are going to have to come down if we are going to do our job. And we're better off getting that through the voluntary cooperation of the FBI than having to contemplate whether we need to subpoena the FBI."

- Adam Schiff

“Somebody is leaking this crap, and it’s putting people like me in a terrible spot. So, I’m going to meet with the FBI director today, and I’m going to look him in the eye and he’s going to tell me there’s an investigation or there’s not.

“And if he doesn’t tell me, he’s going to have a hard time.”

- Lindsay Graham

Why don't they just ask Rudy?

When I listened again to the question that Franken posed and reconsidered the response that Sessions gave, the thought that came to mind was, "He who excuses himself accuses himself."

The Mound of Sound said...

PLG - I'm not brave enough to contend that I know what any of Trump's policies actually are. From what I've seen that's a cluttered field of moving targets. Recalling the legendary Groucho Marx who said, "those are my principles and, if you don't like them ...well, I have others."

The Mound of Sound said...

John I suspect the House committee members want inside the FBI investigation because they're worried about how vulnerable Trump is but also how this is going to impact themselves. If you were Comey would you trust congressmen, Republican or Democrat, with details of an active investigation of this magnitude before it was complete? I wouldn't.

What they really want to know is how far they should go in defending their president. They're after political information - or ammunition. And so they're trying to put the squeeze on the FBI. The CIA will probably be next.

Northern PoV said...

imho. Purple library guy nailed it today!

The Mound of Sound said...

PLG might be right, NPoV. I only hope we get to find out if that's so.

Anonymous said...

Trump said this afternoon that he had “total” confidence in Sessions. My money says Jefferson Beauregard's gone by Sunday.


Anonymous said...


John I suspect the House committee members want inside the FBI investigation because they're worried about how vulnerable Trump is but also how this is going to impact themselves.

This rings bells.
Politics aside; any investigation into Trumps business dealings and taxes would likely open a pandora's box of tax evasion and bad business practice by most US politicians.


John B. said...

The Pandora's box reference reminds of this reflection by John Dean in discussing the Bill Clinton perjury trap and impeachment:

"If truthfulness about extramarital affairs had been a requisite for everyone in Congress to hold their seats before they voted to oust Clinton, neither the House nor the Senate could have formed a quorum."

Northern PoV said...

more grist for the mill

"A Trump official’s least egregious quality ends up being portrayed as his most egregious quality. There were any number of reasons to be highly worried about the presence of Mike Flynn in the Trump administration, from his bellicose posture toward Iran, to his outlandish views on the alleged threat posed by Islam. Conversing with the Russian ambassador about reducing tensions would very clearly not have been on the “reasons to be worried about Flynn” list. Likewise, Jeff Sessions is a troubling figure for a whole host of reasons, ranging from his hawkishly retrograde attitude about Drug Prohibition to his dicey history on racial matters. That he spoke to the Russian Ambassador in September 2016 would not be on the “reasons to be worried about Sessions” list."

Dana said...

The Mound of Sound said...

There's a logical disconnect, NPoV. Is someone suggesting that Sessions, Flynn et al should have been given a pass. Politics is a blood sport and if you're not set up for a killer hook but the uppercut is available, you take it. That's how fighting works whether it's on a battlefield, in politics, in a courtroom or in a boxing ring. Unfortunately "our side" often forgets that.

So, sure, there are other reasons to be worried about Flynn, Sessions and the rest. You fight "in the moment" with everything you can throw. Or, you lose.

Purple library guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Purple library guy said...

That's a point, but there's "The Fight" and there's "The Truth". If this blog is primarily part of "The Fight", to the point where "The Truth" will be an acceptable casualty if it isn't convenient to "The Fight" then I should adjust my expectations accordingly. Blurring those lines is a good way to end up believing one's own propaganda.
On the other hand, if this blog is more about telling things like they are, then sure, celebrate Trump going down however it's accomplished, but let's not pretend it's on a legitimate basis if, as it happens, it isn't.
Finally there's that "you're" part. The United States Democratic Party hate Trump. Many portions of the United States Mainstream Media hate Trump. I also hate Trump. Nonetheless, I am not part of the US mainstream media, much less the US Democratic Party. I am not on their side, and they most assuredly are not on my side. To the contrary, the process of emphasizing Russian scares and individual peccadilloes tends to focus attention away from the politics of climate change or the ravages of neoliberalism, as well as increasing international tension between nuclear powers. So it is not my uppercut, it is their uppercut, and its action simultaneously tosses an elbow to the gut of my side. So I'm willing to give a few golf claps if it hinders Trump, but I'm not willing to adopt its propaganda as my own and pretend like things are so when they ain't.

Anyway, IMO, the politics of lying actually pretty much always turns out to be toxic to my side--usually in the short term, pretty much invariably in the medium to longer term. For an egalitarian who wants to, like, empower the masses, lying to 'em by definition disempowers them, and then requires maintaining structures that will allow lies to stand--ie ones that defeat my purposes. Works fine for the Dems because they're a bunch of scumsucking corporate weasels in the first place, so no contradictions of purpose there.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sorry, PLG, I don't accept that you have to abandon one for the other. That's your construct, not mine. Then again there are many areas on which you and I agree to disagree.

I understand you want to be egalitarian and "empower the masses" but, absent some clear means of achieving that, your wishes are merely sentiments, visions to nowhere.

Purple library guy said...

Not saying that's a politics you have to embrace. Just saying that since it's a politics that I do embrace, lying for the Democrats doesn't help my cause much.

Even well short of my particular radicalism, the US Democrats are a worthless formation for, say, the purposes you espouse such as saving the planet. Much like Trudeau, they are destined to talk a mediocre game and deliver nothing, and their commitment to empire is largely a by-product of their commitment to an elite-controlled status quo for whom any environmentally useful change to the way the economy works is anathema. So it may be convenient for the Dems to pick the terrain for their fight as "Evil Russkies" so as to avoid having to grapple with any real issues, but lining up behind them on that particular line is unlikely to be any handier for the politics you normally advance than for mine.

But even if you decide no, this is too important, it's worth it to parrot dubious claims that will strain international relations and push the American political agenda towards their insane foreign policy and away from domestic issues such as the economy or climate change, as long as it's the best shot at bringing down Trump . . . that's fine for you, but I have no motivation to pretend along. I'm willing to offer the Dems a "Good show, good show, well lied that man!" but not to pretend I believe what they're saying or agree with their egregious perspective on foreign relations.

Dana said...