DNI emerges as new favorite among Trump team

Dan Coats today emerged as a new favorite of mine among those who serve on Donald J. Trump’s national security team.

The director of national intelligence sat down for a lengthy interview with NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell; he is attending that policy forum discussion in Aspen, Colo.

He spoke honestly with Mitchell about the president’s meeting this week in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin. He said he would “do things differently” in terms of setting up such a meeting. He is uncomfortable with the two leaders meeting privately with no senior staff aides present.

Mitchell then surprised the DNI with news that Trump had asked Putin to come to Washington in the fall for a second summit meeting.

The idea that the most indispensable intelligence official wouldn’t know about such a meeting is appalling on its face. Coats didn’t hold back on his surprise. “Say that again,” he said to Mitchell, who repeated the news. Coats raised his eyebrows, commenting finally on how interesting the meeting is going to be.

Coats served as a Republican member of Congress. He is a staunch and dedicated partisan. He also is a dedicated public servant who has given the public his candid appraisal of what the intelligence community has concluded: The Russians attacked our electoral system in 2016.

Defense Secretary James Mattis is my previous favorite among Trump’s senior aides. He remains highly regarded by yours truly.

So, too, does Dan Coats.

‘It’s time to impeach the president’

Jason Villalba has climbed way out on a limb. I mean, way, way out there.

He is a Texas state legislator from Dallas, and a Republican to boot. He also is saying — in no uncertain words — that Congress has to impeach Donald J. Trump, the nation’s 45th president.

Holy cow, man!

I ran across his essay in the Texas Tribune. Villalba has mounted a pretty damn stout argument for his case.

Read the essay here.

Here is just a bit of what Villalba has written:

I am a Republican today because of Ronald Reagan. He instilled in me the principles that have guided my life, personally and politically. I believe in fiscal conservatism, American exceptionalism, a moral rubric based on Judeo-Christian values, and on a basic fealty to the essential standards set by our forefathers: truth, liberty, self-sacrifice and basic goodness.

And yet, today, our own president of the United States mocks these basic tenets. Since Donald J. Trump has been president, he alone has increased the national debt by over $1 trillion. Yes. One trillion dollars. The fastest any president in U.S. history has accrued that level of debt.

Our president has mocked and belittled our immigration laws, our intelligence agencies, our foreign policy strategy and even the American people. We have been called “stupid,” “weak,” “a joke” and “pathetic,” all by our own president.

Our president has reveled in sexually engaging with those actively trafficking in the pornography industry and he has ridiculed those religious leaders who would deign to question him for doing so. He mocks and laughs at those Christians who would question him.

I don’t think impeachment time has arrived. I am waiting for the conclusion of the special counsel’s report. Robert Mueller has been conducting an exhaustive investigation into whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our electoral system. He also might determine an obstruction of justice through the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

As for the practicality of impeaching Trump, the numbers don’t lie: Republicans still control both congressional chambers. Congress needs only a simple majority to impeach the president in the House; the Senate trial requires 60 votes to convict a president and remove him from office.

If there’s an impeachment and a trial to take place, I think we need to wait just a while longer.

Happy to make this guy laugh

It should surprise no one that High Plains Blogger isn’t universally loved, admired, worshiped, glorified … whatever.

It has its critics. I heard from one of them this week. He lives in Amarillo, Texas. He is a Trumpkin/Trumpster/Trump-o-file.

He doesn’t like my continual barrage that this blog keeps leveling at the president of the United States, Donald John Trump Sr.. I once told him he was free to read others’ blogs, that he wasn’t obligated to read High Plains Blogger.

He acknowledged that and said he reads High Plains Blogger for the “humor” it provides.

Great! I am happy to put smiles on readers’ faces. I don’t know if he’s grinning when he reads my spewage.

This is no surprise, either: I have no intention of relenting on my criticism of the president. It goes with the territory. It goes with this blog’s territory … and … it goes with the president’s territory, too.

Except that the 45th president of the United States doesn’t like reading criticism, not that he sees these blog posts. I doubt he does. I’m just a little ol’ blogger out here in Flyover Country, far beyond the Beltway. Then again, maybe someone on his staff clips this stuff for him.

I once pledged to write positive blog posts when the president deserves them. I have done so, although I admit the positive musings have been few compared to the negativity that comes from High Plains Blogger as it pertains to Donald Trump.

I suppose I should lay down the predicate here and now for all who read this blog. I cannot in good faith demand that you read this blog if you disagree with yours truly’s world view.

I am glad that you do. I am glad that the fellow with whom I am vaguely acquainted does, too, even if it only makes him laugh.

Mary Lou Robinson Courthouse? Yes!

My hunch is that you can take this to the bank: Congress is going to attach a revered federal judge’s name on a courthouse in Amarillo, Texas.

I want to offer my heartiest applause from afar.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, both Republicans, have introduced legislation to rename the federal courthouse building in downtown Amarillo, the Marvin Jones Federal Building and Mary Lou Robinson United States Courthouse.

Yes, it’s a mouthful. However, Judge Robinson long ago deserved this honor.

The House of Representatives passed House Resolution 5772 by a voice vote this week. It’s headed to the Senate, where Sen. Cornyn is carrying this legislation.

I am honored to have made Judge Robinson’s acquaintance. She and I served in the Rotary Club of Amarillo together, which is where I got to know her.

She remains the gold standard for judicial candidates who seek elected office in the Texas Panhandle. I know that from my job as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, a job I held for nearly 18 years. Almost to a person, whenever I would ask a candidate after whom they might model their judicial performance, they would mention Mary Lou Robinson. She set the bar high and judicial candidates for county or state district benches would declare their intention to emulate her.

As the Globe-News reported: “Judge Robinson is a legal pioneer who is universally respected and admired,” Thornberry said in an email. “She has always set high standards for herself and others, and our system of justice has benefited. Having the name of these two outstanding public servants on our federal building and courthouse will be a perpetual reminder of their high standards and outstanding contributions to our nation.”

If enacted, this would be the first federal courthouse named after a woman within a five-state area.

She served Potter County’s judicial system, as a court at law judge and as a state district judge; she gravitated to the 7th Court of Appeals. Then in 1977, she received a federal judicial appointment from President Carter.

The building that eventually will carry her name is now known as the Marvin Jones Federal Building and Courthouse.

With all due respect to the great Marvin Jones, he will have to move over to make room for a true judicial giant.

I am delighted to hear about this pending name change.

Will there be an ultimate insult with a Putin visit?

Let’s try to wrap our minds around this scenario, if we dare.

Vladimir Putin appears to have been invited to visit the Donald Trump this fall at the White House. The president has sent the invitation in the wake of that hideous press conference in Helsinki, an event that has prompted bipartisan condemnation over the president’s failure to stand up to Putin’s attempt to interfere with our 2016 presidential election.

One of the customs of these state visits is to have the visiting “dignitary” speak to a joint session of Congress.

Do you suppose it is possible that Trump — along with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who extends the invitation — would have the gall to invite Vladimir Putin to darken the door of the Capitol Building?

Think about that for just a moment.

Putin sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. He launched an attack on our democratic process.

Do you think the president has any hint, any glimmer of understanding of what that entails? Do you believe he understands the hideous irony of having his pal Putin speak to the nation from that chamber?

I don’t know this as fact, but my strong hunch is that Trump hasn’t a clue. He has no idea of how such an insult would play to many of us out here in the country he was elected to lead.

Vladimir Putin is a killer. He is a trained spook. He once described the fall of the Soviet Union as one of the darkest episodes of his life. He is an enemy of the United States. He wants to undermine our system of government. He wants to tear apart our alliances.

If this thug is allowed to stand at the podium in the House of Representatives, he will leave an indelible stench in the halls of the very government he has attacked.

Trump asks Putin to White House? Wow!

Donald J. Trump’s ignorance is on full display for all the world to see.

Think about this for a brief moment.

The president of the United States disgraces himself at that press conference in Helsinki. He disparages the intelligence agencies’ view that Russia meddled in our election. He takes Vladimir Putin’s side. The media go ballistic. So do politicians on both sides of the divide.

Then he tries to take some of it back. He does so clumsily at a Cabinet meeting, reading from some prepared text, only to ad lib that “others may have” interfered in our election. Politicians keep going nuts. Same for the media coverage.

With the president being pilloried and pounded, what does he do? He orders national security adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to the White House for another summit in the fall. White House press flack Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the world about that gem via Twitter.

Oh, and then there’s the surprise sprung on his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who found out about the invitation while being interviewed on TV. NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell told Coats about the invitation on live TV. Coats did not know about it. The nation’s top intelligence officer was left in the lurch.

I am left to wonder: Is the president operating in a hermetically sealed booth? Does he not hear anything … at all?

What in the name of electoral collusion is going to occur if Putin accepts this invitation, comes to the White House and meets — presumably in private yet again — with his presidential puppet?

Putin surely ordered the ’16 election attack

Donald J. Trump has been fielding some direct questions to which he is offering some strangely oblique answers.

CBS News anchor Jeff Glor asked the president whether he thinks Vladimir Putin is “responsible” for the 2016 attack on the U.S. electoral system by Russian goons.

Trump’s answer has me scratching my noggin. Sure he’s responsible, Trump said, because “he’s the leader of his country” just as Trump is the leader of this country.

Huh? That’s it?

Actually, the consensus among the nation’s intelligence community has been pretty forthright: Vladimir Putin ordered the attack; he called the shots.

The CIA, FBI, National Security Agency … all of ’em … say the same thing. Putin was up to his armpits in this undeclared war against the U.S. electoral process.

So, for the president to pass it off solely as a function of Putin’s standing as the “leader of his country” once again demonstrates what many of us already have feared. Putin has cast some sort of spell over the Trump.

Or, he’s got some goods on the president. Allegedly. Maybe. Possibly.

I’m getting antsy. I hope the special counsel, Robert Mueller, finishes his investigation sooner rather than later.

ESPYs honor courageous athletes, coaches

It’s not always fashionable for athletes to make political statements. They expose themselves to criticism — much of it shrill and strident — as some pro football players might acknowledge.

However, the ESPYs — the awards provided by ESPN, the nation’s premier sports and entertainment network — hit it out of the park Wednesday night during its annual award ceremony.

Why? The ESPYs spoke to the politics of the moment. The statements were profound and powerful.

The Arthur Ashe Courage Award went to 141 young women who had the courage to stand up to Michigan State University and to a physician who abused them sexually. You’ve heard of the former MD, Larry Nasar , who’s now spending the rest of his life in prison for what he did to those athletes.

All the women stood on the stage, covering it in the courage exemplified by the man whose memory is honored. Tennis great Arthur Ashe died 30 years ago of complications from HIV/AIDS, but exhibited tremendous courage before he passed.

The women stood tall they stood strong. They are the faces and the voices of the “Me Too” movement. They so richly deserve this honor.

Then we have the Coach of the Year honor. Who got that one? It went to three high school coaches, and not necessarily for the leadership they showed on the field of competition — but the selfless courage they demonstrated this past Feb. 14 when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The coaches all died protecting their students. They threw themselves into harm’s way to save the lives of the youngsters they promised to keep safe.

Chris Hixon, Aaron Fies and Scott Biegel paid the ultimate price on behalf of their students. Their names are now memorialized forever to remember the heroism they exhibited during a terrible spasm of gun violence.

It’s not all that often when you have the perfect juxtaposition of politics and sports. We saw it Wednesday night at an annual award ceremony.

Well done, ESPN.

POTUS won’t take the bait: Yes, Putin lied

CBS News anchor Jeff Glor sat right in front of Donald J. Trump and asked him directly this week: Did Vladimir Putin lie when he denied the Russians meddled in our 2016 election?

The president had just declared in his conversation with Glor that he believed — finally! — the U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia attacked our electoral process.

So, Glor asked the obvious question about the Russian president’s veracity. Trump wouldn’t go there. He wouldn’t call Putin a liar.

Hmm. OK, I’ll do it for him. Yes, Mr. President, Vladimir Putin lied when he denied the Russians’ culpability. Indeed, he has crafted his entire career as a KGB agent and as a politician by lying. He has turned lying into an art form.

Putin is a pro at prevarication.

Indeed, Vladimir Putin is far better at lying than — dare I say it — Donald John Trump.

Did the walls have ears in that Trump-Putin meeting room?

This inquiring mind wants to know and I suspect I am not alone.

What in the world did the presidents of the United States and Russia talk about in that Helsinki meeting room when they were alone, except for their respective translators?

We heard what Donald Trump said he Vladimir Putin discussed. Do we believe the president? Should we believe him? Umm. No and no.

So, how do we — the public, the citizens Trump represents as the president — learn what was discussed?

Hey, here’s an idea: Summon the U.S. translator to Capitol Hill and have that individual talk to members of Congress; have the translator take an oath and then question the translator vigorously.

Now, having said that, I am willing to let the translator conduct a “classified” briefing. There’s no particular need to open the hearing up to the public if the translator is going to discuss security-sensitive issues.

Donald Trump disserved the public dramatically at the jaw-dropping press conference with Vladimir Putin. Officials in both major political parties have called it the “most disgraceful performance” by a president in their memory. I concur with that view … and my memory goes back a good while. Ike, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama never sucked up the way Trump did to the leader of a foreign hostile power in front of the world — and in the presence of that hostile leader.

Trump and Putin spent a couple of hours out of the world’s earshot. There were no national security aides present. No secretary of state, no foreign minister, no defense ministers. Just the two of them — Vlad and The Donald.

What did Trump promise Putin? What does Putin have on Trump? Why in the world would Trump denigrate our intelligence agencies’ view that Russia meddled in our 2016 election while accepting Putin’s “strong and powerful” denial?

Inquiring minds want to know.

They need to know.