Red flags all over the place

The Mueller report concluded that there was no evidence the President and his team colluded with Russians to influence the election. But, they also concluded the Russians successfully influenced the election through social media and facilitating the hacking, modification and release of emails. That middle word gets overlooked, but per Thomas Rid (a cybersecurity expert at Johns Hopkins University who has closely studied Russian operations) in an interview on PBS Newshour, the Russian agents would modify things they leaked.

Further, per an article in MSN.com, entitled “Mueller report shows Trump campaign left itself wide open to Russians, officials say,” the Trump campaign naively opened themselves for being used. Here is a quote from the article which can be linked below.

“The Russians came up against a group of people who were not intelligence savvy and who were predisposed not to listen to the intelligence and counterintelligence community,” said Luis Rueda, who spent 27 years as a CIA operations officer. “The Russians made a very bold and aggressive attempt to take advantage of that — to try to compromise people, to try to leverage their access.”

More will come from the pending court cases, but this article notes the Mueller report paints a very unflattering picture of the Trump campaign and White House. I personally believe there was collusion, as they did not interview the President and they also did not dive as deep as they could have. To me, there was too much story changing going on, especially about financial ties to Russia, for there not to be some nefarious effort going on.

Setting that aside, even if there was no collusion, the Russians were invited in to play and they would not do this unless they had something to gain. I encourage you to read the attached brief article. Or, check out the PBS Newshour interview because the Russians will not go away in 2020.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/mueller-report-shows-trump-campaign-left-itself-wide-open-to-russians-officials-say/ar-BBWh5Sc?ocid=spartandhp

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/after-mueller-revelations-how-to-protect-election-integrity-in-2020

Maybe the GOP should consider impeachment

The Mueller report paints a pretty damning portrait of the current US President and his modus operandi. The many hours of testimony also validate the findings of two of the more thoroughly investigated books about the Trump White House – “Fear” by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward and “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff. To be frank, maybe the GOP should consider impeachment as they should be as concerned or more about the President.

These three investigative reports paint a picture of chaos and a mercurial man whose worst impulses must be managed. While he obstructed justice (to my way of thinking), it would have been even worse had his staff not refused to act on more than a few illegal or unethical requests. It is akin to the children hiding the car keys from an increasingly demented parent.

What should be of great concern is the fact 14 cases, two of which are now known, are recommended by Mueller and his team for prosecution. Anyone who has worked with the President should be very scared right now. Adding to that are the thoughts of Mark Shields and David Brooks who note with sadness the threat of Donald Trump on our democracy and institutions.

I also understand that criminal collusion is not being pursued, but I find it hard to believe we can sum up these actions to unwitting participation in Russian influence and horrible judgment. There are too many interactions with Russians – too many conversations, too many meetings, too many financial discussions and too much lying or not remembering to think that is all it is. Maybe that is where some of the future court cases will lead us.

I read yesterday a different way of thinking of Russian involvement. If we think of the attack as an actual bomb attack, wouldn’t we want to get to the bottom of this? All along, I have felt the Russia involvement with the US President is related to financial  issues. Trump has been not forthcoming about his financial relationship in Russia.

So, as more of the Mueller report impact rolls out, it is the GOP who will be harmed the most. The closer people fly to Trump, the more their reputations will be tainted. The question I often ask “is this the man you want to spend your dear reputation on?”

But, setting all of this aside, is this the person we want hold up as our leader? Our word is not trusted, as the man who is in that role is not trustworthy.

PS – This footnote was added on 4/24/2019 as it links to an excellent article where a member of Trump’s transition team is calling for his impeachment.

A Former Member Of The President’s Transition Team Calls For His Impeachment

A few Mueller takeaways and one question

Let me be brief. I have three key takeaways from the Mueller report news’ summaries. My sources are PBS Newshour and ABC News, since I have not read the report.

– the Russians successfully influenced the election and Trump officials were unwitting participants in the process and guilty of horrible judgment.

– the President did and tried to obstruct justice; he would have been even more guilty if colleagues acted on many illegal or unethical acts he asked them to do. They protected him from himself (note this is important as all of those folks are gone).

– there is a very interesting addenda item – there are 14 more cases that have been recommended for prosecution by Mueller and his team. That should scare many.

The key question that must be asked is a simple one. Why did the President obstruct and try to obstruct justice even more if he were not guilty of something? An innocent person would not have done so. Why questions need to be asked more often in Washington, especially with this President.

 

Saturday in the park (redux)

It is a beautiful spring day and we just got back from a walk. With due credit to the band Chicago, hum “Saturday in the park,” as you read on.

– Speaking of walking, there were multiple hundreds of thousands marching in London pleading for another Brexit referendum. Some of it has to do with Parliament’s inability to plan a smooth exit, but the large part is due to Brexit being a financially imprudent idea.

– The Mueller report is in and I encourage a large dose of patience. Let people read and digest the thing. Plus, this is just the end of one phase, with much more to come. Future indictments will likely come from the Southern District of New York and be of a campaign finance or conflict of interest nature. Spiking the ball in the endzone is premature, especially when dealing with such an untruthful man.

– Boeing is in a heap of hurt, with an order for 50 737’s being canceled. Training is everything and, apparently, it has been shortchanged on this unwieldy plane. A pilot said the switch from autopilot to pilot in some instances maximizes the worst attributes of both at the wrong time. Unfortunately, hundreds have died.

– Seeing the horrible flooding in the US and the cyclone damage on the east coast of Africa reminds me of a report sanctioned almost ten years ago by the largest pension trusts in the world on the financial impact of climate change. Between the increased severity of forest fires, drought, flooding and sea rising, they estimated a cost on the order of multiple tens of trillion dollar. I think that might be light as there will be an echo effect that is worse than predicted then.

– Kudos to New Zealand, its people and its  leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. From the heartfelt solidarity to the grieving Muslim community and nation to acting with seriousness of purpose banning assault weapons, Ardern showed what leadership looks like. As an American, I am envious of her leadership and proud we have such in our world.

Have a great weekend all. Best wishes to those in need or grieving their lost loved ones.

$60 Billion, James Mattis and ISIS

Here is a sample letter I posted to a few Senators’ websites. Please feel free to adapt and use with your Senators and Congressperson. I encourage people to reach out to their legislators, commenting on good work and needed efforts.

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Senator, three thoughts to chew on:

– the southern border wall will take $30 billion to build and $30 billion to maintain – it is not a just $5 billion issue. It also will do little to solve a problem which is blown out of proportion (per new Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney when he called it a “simplistic solution” in 2015).

– James Mattis’ resignation is very troubling as we lost a brilliant mind who understands the value of global relationships and the history behind them. We lost a key governor of a mercurial and ill-informed man and the world and our nation is a less safe place. A wall cannot overcome these concerns.

– I understand the reason for leaving Syria, but the work is not done and this was handled in a very offensive way, not conferring with allies, Congress and our military leaders. It shows a lack of good faith dealing which is par for the course with this ego-centric President.

Please protect our nation’s interests addressing real problems. Also, please safeguard Robert Mueller, as this investigation may be our best hope to remedy a major problem in the White House, which is fast-getting out of control. The Trump legacy will haunt our planet, nation and the Republican party, which has lost its footing.

A call out

In an effort to be diplomatic, but brutally frank, let me call out a few items.

– There have been five advisors to Donald Trump who have been found guilty of crimes and not one of them is a witch. From what I gather, there is more to come and the ones bandied about don’t seem like witches either.

– I have seen Bob Woodward, one of the most credible reporters in the world, interviewed three times about his book “Fear,” which is s best seller here and in Europe. The stories and anecdotes about the Trump White House are detailed, consistent and believable.

– An underreported story is Russia and China doing a joint military exercise, including the involvement of Putin and Xi making Russian pancakes for the participants. A reason cited for this effort is the anxiety over the tensions from the US President. The actions of this President have aided an ascendant China and allowed Russia to cheat others.

– It has been reported that both Scotland and Ireland are continuing to find anguish over a forthcoming Brexit. This is not new, but it has resurfaced as a concern. Given this knowledge, you would think a new Brexit vote might be in order. Just yesterday, the London mayor asked for a new Brexit referendum.

– Russia has now been accused of sending an electronic ear worm that debilitated US and Canadian embassy people in Cuba. I also learned yesterday that the Russians have been able to successfully jam communications of US soldiers in Syria. And, yet our leadership is pretty silent about this. The new war does not seem to be physical, it is cyber-warfare and through social media.

There is so much more to mention, but this is enough to call out for now.

The Buck stops wherever he places it

Harry Truman has been lauded as one of America’s best Presidents. He is famous for a line that exemplifies his accountability saying “the buck stops here.” Truman was a man of quiet, but steely determination.

When I hear how supporters of the current US President define him as tough, I do not see that. I see a man who talks tough with a large sense of false bravado. It is akin to an ape beating on his chest before a fight.

What I also see is a lack of accountability. When the President has made a bad decision where push back occurs, he rarely, if ever says it is his fault. He is not accountable. He places the blame on others or he says he did not do what he is accused of. Yesterday’s press conference with Theresa May is a prime example where he denied saying things that he was recorded saying.

My favorite example occurred before he was President. After several years of promoting the “birther” issue saying Obama has not proven he was born here, Trump held a press conference just before the election to come clean. Rather than say he is wrong, he blamed it on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Clinton is not a perfect person, but she did not go on TV like Trump did for years saying Obams was not born here.

Sadly, this lack of accountability continues to this day. I think the above example reveals his lack of character through his lying and not saying he was wrong. A man who does not accept his culpability is not my definition of tough. To me, it means he is acting like a weasel.

Let me close with there is an accountable and responsible man leading an important effort in the US. He does not beat on his chest and served as a US Marine and a public servant to several Presidents. He is also a Republican. His name is Robert Mueller.

So, like Truman and Mueller, be aware of the quiet, tough guy. A man who has to tell you how tough he is does not exhibit toughness. It is false bravado.

Ain’t no witch hunt, but this witch better watch out for falling houses

President Richard Nixon resigned in August, 1974 because his Republican confidantes said he would be otherwise impeached. He said two things over and over before his demise. The first was “I am not a crook.” He was. The second was to refer to the Watergate investigations as a “witch hunt.” They were not.

President Trump uses the same second phrase over and over again, with his confidantes, sycophants and subordinates echoing the line. The Russian thing is a “witch hunt” or it is a “Russian witch hunt.” As with Nixon, this is not a witch hunt. Robert Mueller has indicted thirteen Russians and five people, four of whom have some relationship to Donald Trump. Three of the four have confessed to lying to the FBI, with one serving jail time. The most egregious offender per the indictments thus far, will stand trial.

But, as we consider the thirteen Russians indicted, help me understand that if this was a witch hunt, why did the US government include those thirteen people in specific sanctions when the President finally succumbed to pressure to act? Call me crazy, but that seems to be a direct admission by this administration that Russian meddling occurred. So, how could that be a witch hunt?

One of the sad truths about what is transpiring is the House Intelligence Committee making intelligence gathering political. The leader of this committee, Congressman Devin Nunes, has done several unethical things and had to step aside for awhile as one action was investigated as a breach. While cleared of wrongdoing, it did not erase the lack of ethics in the first of several questionable actions by Nunes to mask the truth.

His lack of ethics was the subject of a conversation between Senator Richard Burr, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committee and Speaker Paul Ryan. Burr told Ryan his committee did not support the conclusions or the release of the famous Nunes’ memo on a report he never read. Burr also said that Nunes had defamed with false accusations another Senator who happened to be a Democrat.

Yet, the purpose of Nunes’ politically partisan efforts was to give the President a prop to waive and tweet about. Fortunately, the Senate committee has been far more thorough and bipartisan. And, the Senate Judiciary committee has passed a bipartisan bill to give a fair hearing to Robert Mueller if he is fired by this President. It is sad the Mitch McConnell won’t bring this bill to the floor for a vote, which is highly political as well.

But, the one clear action of the President over the last sixteen months is to consistently change his story about things related to the Russian meddling. Why? Quoting Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, “if the President is innocent, it would help his case of he acted like it.” Gowdy answers his own statement in the first part of the phrase.

Just paying attention to this issue and what the President and his confidantes have said, I see a man who is guilty of obstruction of justice at a minimum. His own words and changing story to as late as yesterday indicate this. I see a man, at a minimum, who is an unwitting participant in Russian meddling, so says a CIA agent who testified in front of Congress. Yet, I will not be surprised if he is guilty of worse. A man who cares about his image and what people think of him would be interested in what was going on around him to get elected. Plus, there are those many financial relationships between Trump and Russian investors.

So, this is not a witch hunt. The FBI and Justice Department are not the bad guys. I find Trump’s attack on honorable law enforcement people a disgrace. But, I will say, if someone has done witchy things like this President does and appears to have done, he may want to watch out for falling houses.

Senate Judiciary Committee moves Mueller Protection Bill forward

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed 14 to 7 the bipartisan bill to give Robert Mueller a fair hearing should he be fired by the President. I admire their political courage to protect the rule of law. I give special kudos to Senators Tillis, Graham, Coons and Booker for pushing this bill forward and Senator Grassley, the Commitee chair for his role.

Their efforts deserve a full hearing and vote on the Senate floor, yet Senator McConnell is refusing to let this happen. I encourage you to support such a vote and call upon your Senators and Senator McConnell to bring it to the floor. The American people are owed such a vote.

As an Independent and former Republican voter, I feel it is extremely important to let Mueller and team finish their work. I also find it highly offensive that legislators, including the President, are trying to mask the pursuit of truth by denigrating honorable and hard working law enforcement professionals. As GOP Congressman Trey Gowdy said, if the President is innocent, it would help his cause if he started acting like it.

Mueller is a man of integrity and has served our country as a Marine and as leader of the FBI. The only negative I have read about him from reliable sources is he can be gruff. Since he comes across as a no nonsense kind of person, that lone criticisms fits. A gruff man of integrity reminds me of my grandfather.

I have made multiple calls and sent emails to several Senators and my Congressman. I have applauded the political courage of those involved. Standing up to your own party is difficult, but it is even harder with an untruthful, tempestuous and vindictive man such as the President. We, the people, are owed the truth.

Letter from Senator Thom Tillis regarding Mueller

I received the following letter in response to my calling and writing Republican Senator Thom Tillis to compliment him on his bipartisan  legislation to make sure Robert Mueller is given a fair hearing if he is fired. The letter speaks for itself.

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Thank you for taking the time to contact me about S. 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. I appreciate hearing from you.

I believe in the rule of law, regardless of who occupies the White House or which party leads the Justice Department. That is why in August I introduced a bill to create a judicial-review process to prevent the removal of a special counsel without good cause.

Over the past several months, Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) and I have been working with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), who introduced a similar bill, to reconcile the differences between the two proposals. On April 11, 2018, we introduced the compromise, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act.

Last May, when the Justice Department named former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel, virtually all lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — praised the choice. Mueller has had a distinguished career in law enforcement and public service, and he has a well-earned reputation for impartiality. I have confidence that he will follow the facts, wherever they may lead. I also have confidence that he is leading the investigation without bias toward either side of the political spectrum.

Letting his investigation run its course is in the best interest of the country, and it is the only option to ensure that the American people have trust in the process. This is critically important because it means when the investigation concludes, our country can move forward together. Our bill will help ensure that happens.

I have received a good deal of criticism from my own party for introducing special-counsel legislation, with the common refrain being that it is harmful to President Trump. It isn’t, for two main reasons.

First, if the president actually removes the special counsel without good cause, it would likely result in swift, bipartisan backlash and shake the country’s faith in the integrity of our legal system. Talking heads and pundits on television encouraging the president to make such a drastic and counterproductive move most certainly do not have his best interests at heart. The result would not be good for the American people, my own party or the president.

Second, the constant headlines and rumors that President Trump is considering or has considered removing Mueller — “fake news” or not — are a distraction from the president’s agenda and successful policy initiatives. While the president is understandably frustrated with the investigation, I don’t believe he would ultimately remove Mueller, and the White House and the president’s legal team have indicated that he does not intend to do so. This bill becoming law would remove that narrative from the conversation.

Political grandstanding requires no courage — independence and compromise do. The focus needs to be on achieving a legislative outcome, not a talking point. There are members of my conference who want to get to “yes,” and can get there, especially because the bill will be subject to an amendment process in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the bill can be improved. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle who support the bill for the right reasons and want a result will be working hand-in-hand to build consensus and get us closer to 60 votes.

The Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act is about protecting the rule of law and producing an outcome that is good for our country. It’s not about producing an outcome for one political party.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. Please do not hesitate to contact me again about other important issues.

Sincerely,

Thom Tillis
U.S. Senator