Stating the obvious

The last week and three days have been a whirlwind for our country and the US President. I am both incredulous and stunned at how the events and verbiage spilled out. Let me state the obvious.

The US reputation around the world is in tatters, with many allied leaders saying and thinking they can no longer trust the word of the US President. Some have said we must prepare to move forward without the US. It should be noted the EU and Japan just inked a trade deal yesterday. And, Germany is increasing its business relationship in China.

This has been happening for some time, but the President’s sojourn included the following lowlights:

– He belittled the German chancellor and country once again, this time for doing business with Russia. This is ironic as Trump wants to do more business with Russia.
– He bullied NATO and questioned its veracity. How about seventy years of no major European conflict Mr. President? Even when he has a point, his overbearing manner is both offputting and insulting.
– He insulted his host in the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May, in a recorded interview. Then, when questioned, he did not accept accountability saying it was fake news. The news organization stood by its story.
– He then met with the Russia President after an indictment was issued by Robert Mueller’s team for twelve Russians for meddling in our election. To make matters worse, he not only sided with the Russians on Putin’s defiance, he said Americans were to blame, in particular Democrats and the media. He threw his intelligence folks under the bus and like most bullies, he appeared weak in the heat of the moment.
– He then returned home and faced heat from his own party and a cadre of Fox News presenters for denying his intelligence people’s findings. He tried to weasel out of the mess, by saying he misspoke focusing on one line. But, he did not correct several other sentences where he sided with the Russians and even threw in that others also may be culpable, which also differs from the intelligence community’s findings.

Overall, this was as shameful a performance by a President that I have ever witnessed. It was worse than I expected. Specific to the Putin press conference, Senator John McCain called it disgraceful. Other Republican legislators chimed in with varying degrees of criticism.

I do walk away convinced of three major points. I have no doubt that Trump is guilty of more than obstruction of justice with respect to the Russian meddling. I believe he is a compromised asset as he is aiding and abetting Putin’s long term strategy of diminishing NATO and the US relationship with our allies.

I also am convinced that global leaders clearly see this man for his lying, bullying and lack of accountability. My guess is they talk among themselves and to other leaders in the US about working around this man.

Finally, I am convinced that most of his staff believe what Rex Tillerson was reported to say about this man last year. My guess is more departures will occur, as he is not listening to their advice and they have to cover for the scorched earth he leaves in his wake.

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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.

Thursday thumbnails

Thumbnail sketches is one of those terms that is often used without thinking about its source. Per Wikipedia, it was first used in the 17th century, but was more widely used in the 19th century as a small pictorial of an idea, the size of a thumbnail.  But, it is often used nowadays for a brief synopsis. So here are a few thumbnails of thuggish behavior on this Thursday.

In the Philippines, the iron thumb leader Duterte has released a list of 200 names of people who may be involved with drugs, including their addresses. This thug has just put targets on this people, so do not be surprised if we read of more deaths.

Speaking of thugs, it is not ironic that Vladimir Putin and Basher al Assad have stalled entry by the UN inspectors to the alleged chemical attack site. Why is that? The only rational explanation is they have something to hide.

Speaking of Duterte and Putin, why does the US President speak more highly of them than he does German Chancellor Angela Merkel? It may turn out he is more than beholden to Putin for his election, but why would a leader spend his cache on Duterte? As for Merkel, he may be jealous of her being looked to as a leader of the western world or it may be something superficial. His emulation of thug like behavior such as lying about most issues, condemning the media, attacking people who criticize him or to off-load his errors, squelching civil rights, etc. is not Presidential, but autocratic.

Finally, something that needs even more notoriety is the imposition of tariffs on allies and other trading partners by the US President. Tariffs usually backfire and throw water on global and specific economies. Yet, the bullying of allies is another key part. This President has introduced a huge amount of uncertainty and threats to businesses that must import certain products that are not made here. The uncertainty is showing up in the capital markets and watering down hoped for greater growth from the Tax Law change. His own party leaders have not been too keen on this path.

That is all for now. Have a great rest of your week and keep your eyes open,

 

Wednesday Wanderings Once Again

With a few thoughts bouncing around in my head, let me wander some on this Wednesday. Please walk with me down this meandering path.

Last spring, a certain boss known for firing people on a faux reality show, fired the FBI Director by having him find out via TV news report. I was reminded of this as the same boss apparently fired his Secretary of State by tweeting the world before telling him. The manner in which these folks were let go is simply not right and a window into someone’s character or lack thereof.

According to Vladimir Putin, he does not ever do what people believe he has done, Given his KGB training and bent to deny, diffuse, defray, distort and demean any allegation, he is less believable than the current President of the United States. He is better at lying which may be why Trump admires him so. It will be interesting to see if Trump actually backs Theresa May if she points the finger at Putin for this attempted poisoning in the UK and, unlike Trump, actually does something about it.

As for lying more locally, I have again asked Speaker Paul Ryan and my Congressman to remove Representative Devin Nunes as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee and censure him for his unethical, unprofessional and highly political efforts to discredit the Russian investigation. His sycophancy toward the President is obvious, but his libelous accusation toward a Democrat Senator drew the ire of Republican Senator Richard Burr. Burr, who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, shared his concern with Speaker Ryan. And, not only did Burr not support the Nunes’ memo, another Republican Congressman, Tom Rooney, who serves on Nunes’ committee disagrees with the Republican members announced report’s findings on Russian intent and collusion with the Trump campaign. Why is that?

The next shoes to drop on the real Russian investigation under Robert Mueller will be interesting. For me, Nunes’ efforts to clear Trump make the man look even more guilty. Mueller is following the money, which Trump has not wanted. I don’t know what Nunes was following.

Why Comrade Trump Why?

I am puzzled. For some reason, the President of the United States has made decisions that benefitted Russia. Why?

The decisions range from failing to condemn Russia once incontrovertible evidence was presented that showed they meddled and still are meddling with our democracy to failing to do anything about the continuing meddling to failing to sanction Russia as recommended by Congress with at least 98% votes in each Chamber. And, there are other examples, such as not including Russia in a list of countries on trading sanctions with North Korea. Why?

The possible reasons might include: significant long term financial ties to members of the Russian oligarchy, desire for future investment for his business, admiration for a dictatorial leader posing as a democratically elected official, unwitting and now embarassing participation in Russia’s meddling in our election, unwillingness to admit such as it would damage the veracity of his election, collusion with Russian meddlers or being a compromised asset of Russia.

Unfortunately, various combinations of the above reasons could be true. To be brutally frank, the financial ties and admiration of Putin are givens. I also think his ego is having a hard time with the fact he may have been aided in his win. What the Special Prosecutor will determine is whether he was just an unwitting participant, involved in collusion or a compromised asset. Given where he gets information, at a minimum he was and is an unwitting participant. The meddlers noted how delighted they were (and are) when the candidate parrots their words.

Given the above and his (and others’) fluctuating storytelling and obstruction efforts, I find it hard to believe Comrade Trump is not more culpable. I truly hope this is not the case, but we will have to see what transpires.

Crickets

Crickets. The sound you hear at night when other noises are not being made. Crickets are what we are hearing from the White House with respect to any condemnation toward Russian interference.

We, of course, are hearing a man with a fragile ego tell everyone that the “incontrovertible evidence” of Russian interference per his own director of national security, exonerates him of any collusion and did not affect the outcome. The indictment says neither.

Yet, what is indicting is he has not acted very Presidential and condemned Russia for its ongoing cyber attack on the United States. He has also not signed off on sanctions against Russia that were overwhelmingly passed by the Senate and House. He said the threat of sanctions are enough. He has not defined actions we will take to prevent further interference.

The key question we must ask is why? In my view, a man who is not compromised would be very vocally condemning Russia and putting forth sanctions. Crickets are what we are hearing, instead.

I am also dismayed that Congress is rather silent on this issue. I am further dismayed that Devin Nunes, head of the House Intelligence committee and author of a dubious memo, has declined to hold the annual intelligence briefing by directors of various intelligence agencies. These directors just briefed the Senate committee and all concurred that the Russians interfered with our election and will again. Why has no meeting been called? Speculation is he does not want these folks under oath to address the veracity of his memo.

As I mentioned in my previous post, coupling the above with the President’s hoax statement and story changing on this subject along with his overt attempts to obstruct justice, I will be surprised if he is not found guilty of being compromised. To me, it all goes back to significant financial ties to Russia, which this President has denied. Irrespective of this finding, to me it is clear he used his power to obstruct justice and has admitted as such,

Finally, for those who choose to still not believe Mueller or the intelligence agencies, several former Russians who worked for the troll factory echo the accuracy of the Mueller indictment. The President is begrudgingly agreeing to this, but thinks “me first” and wants to clear his name. Not so fast.

So, when a Trump diehard says this exonerates him, ask about the crickets.

A little bit of this and that – the sad and farcical

Political news is quite sordid these days in both a sad and farcical way. My purpose is to show how absurd politicians can be as they try to “unsay” things or just outright lie to distract from painful truths. This is not meant to diminish anyone’s pain caused by the underlying events. That is real and these politicians should be held accountable.

Here is “a little bit of this and that” to illustrate the farcical nature of various politicians’ statements. In no particular order:

– The US President said and tweeted many interesting things on his road trip. One of my favorites is his distaste for Kim Jong-Un calling him “an old lunatic.” Trump tweeted he did not like being called “old.” So, by omission, “lunatic” must not have been offensive to him. Trump said he would never call Kim something bad, yet he seems to forget he called Kim “Rocket Man.”

– A close second favorite set of comments by the President is when he said he believed Putin about not hacking one day (even calling our spy leaders “government hacks”) and then tried to explain all of that away the next day, after these so-called hacks stuck to their intelligence and said Putin is lying. Trump seems to not realize we heard him the day before. Call me crazy, but employees don’t like being called hacks by their boss.

– Ex-Judge and Senate candidate Roy Moore apparently had a period of time in his 30’s where he liked dating (and admitted to doing so) young women beneath the age of majority. He has been accused by two women for sexual assault on a minor and three others for his failure to understand that as an adult, he would have been guilty of statutory rape had he consummated these relationships. He said he did not know one woman, but she has his signature in her yearbook. Mr. Moore, you would do better by not talking. But, you will get more chances to consider what you say as more women come forward.

– A Trump staffer tried to show his indignation toward Moore saying there is a special place in hell for people who do what Moore has been alleged of doing. I find that interesting, especially when his big boss has been accused by eleven more women than Moore (so far) of sexual assault and has admitted on three separate occasions on tape that he liked to grope women because of his power and liked to walk in on undressed beauty pageant contestants because he sponsored the show and felt that gave him the right. It should be noted, that one of these pageants was Miss Teen USA. 16 women allege Trump sexually assaulted them. The other stories of admission come straight from the horse’s mouth.

– I do want to take the time to note that ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner is behind bars due to his propensity to woo women by sending a picture of his private parts via his IPhone. The women’s response were likely twofold. “Why would he think that would be a successful wooing strategy?” And, “Could he be that stupid to send this picture electronically where it could be traced?” Apparently, he failed to understand these points and he finds himself in jail.

Well, that is enough political entertainment news for now. Like the Trump accusations, this Moore thing is not funny, as this alleged pedophile could still win if too many Alabaman Republicans don’t remember where they put their conscience. My strong advice is to think of this issue as a parent or, in the case of the inane defenses I have heard from some men, as a father.

For those who say these women are being politically motivated, Moore told these teenage girls he was the DA and no one would believe them. They have come forward as this man is interviewing to become one of the 100 most important leaders in our country and they feel emboldened by the women accusing Harvey Weinstein. I believe them as their stories are quite detailed and painful.