Tag Archives: Donald Trump

William Barr: Trump’s newest ‘grownup’

William Pelham Barr has emerged — in my mind, at least — as Donald Trump’s latest “only grownup” in his administration.

Now that former Defense Secretary James Mattis has exited the Trump administration, it now falls on the attorney general-designate to assume the role of grownup.

Based on what I have heard during two days of testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr might be ready to step into that key role.

Barr would take over a Justice Department that supervises the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign “colluded” with Russians who interfered in our 2016 election.

Barr has hit several pitches out of the park. He vows to let Mueller complete his probe without interference; he pledges that he would not follow an unlawful order from the president; he stands by Mueller — with whom he has been friends for 30 years — as man of impeccable integrity; he says Mueller is not engaged in a “witch hunt”; he says he won’t be “bullied” by the president of the United States.

OK, with all that said, Barr did whiff on at least one pitch from the Senate Judiciary Committee. He won’t mess with laws governing whether a president can be indicted. Nor did he promise to make the Mueller report public, which I believe is imperative, given the public expense of the investigation.

In the grand scheme, I believe Barr should be recommended for confirmation by the Judiciary panel and the full Senate should confirm him. He won’t get the unanimous confirmation he got when he served as AG during the George H.W. Bush administration from 1991 to 1993. It’s a different era now. A different type of president has taken office and he has upset almost every single element of what we used to call “normal” in American politics.

Trump fired Jeff Sessions as AG only because Sessions recused himself from the Russia matter. Sessions did what he had to do under DOJ rules of ethics. There could no way for him to lead an investigation into a presidential campaign in which he played a key role as a national security adviser. So he backed out, enraging Trump.

Barr promises he won’t be bullied by the president. I hope he stands firm on that. He no doubt knows what he is getting into by accepting this job as attorney general.

Which to my mind makes him a serious grownup in an administration that is sorely lacking in them.

Let’s await Mueller report — and accept whatever it reveals

I have spent a lot of time, energy and emotional capital expounding on the virtues of special counsel Robert Mueller.

He’s a man of impeccable integrity. He is a meticulous prosecutor. Mueller once led the FBI. He has served under Republican and Democratic administrations. He is a former Marine and Vietnam War combat veteran.

Those of you who read this blog understand my feelings about Mueller.

That all said, I want to gird us all for the possibility — even though it might seem remote — that when Mueller finishes his investigation into alleged “collusion” between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russian operatives — he might come up empty. Mueller’s report might prove to be a serious anti-climax.

I fully intend to accept whatever conclusion Mueller reaches.

Do I want him to come up empty? No. I do not. I believe he has pored through a mountain of evidence of wrong-doing. There might be an absence of criminal activity. There even might be a lack of evidence that the president has committed an impeachable offense.

The way I look at it, if we’re going to stand by the special counsel’s integrity and his character, then we should stand by him even if he doesn’t deliver what many of us think he might — let alone should — deliver to curious Americans.

To be sure, Donald Trump’s supporters already have slung epithets at Mueller. Led by the president himself, they contend he is on a “witch hunt.” That he has surrounded himself with “Hillary-loving Democrats.” That he has found “no evidence of collusion.” Therefore, it appears that if Mueller does produce a damning report that they will shout “rigged!” and “phony hoax!” from the highest rooftops they can find.

I am hoping that those of us on the other side will refrain from that kind of sour-grape bitching if Mueller produces nothing at the end of this investigation.

To that end, I hereby declare my intention to accept whatever Mueller concludes, even if it fails to satisfy what I had hoped would be a different ending. If we believe that Robert Mueller is a stand-up man, then we need to stand by that belief.

SOTU delay might serve Trump’s best interests

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made a perfectly reasonable offer to Donald J. Trump: The president should delay his State of the Union speech until after the federal government reopens fully.

No word yet on whether the president will accept Pelosi’s request.

Why is it in Trump’s best interest?

Consider the following:

Democrats and Republicans are locked in a death match over The Wall. Trump wants it built. Democrats oppose it. The deadlock has produced the partial government shutdown that Trump once said he would be “proud” to own. The State of the Union speech is designed to give the president to declare whether the Union’s strength is strong, weak or somewhere in between.

Trump surely is inclined to declare that the SOTU is “strong.” Were he to do so, he would become the butt of jokes throughout the nation, if not the world.

Accordingly, perhaps the speaker has Trump’s best interests at heart by requesting a delay. I don’t know, obviously, what fueled the request. If you think about it, though, I find it a way out of the president exposing himself to national or international ridicule.

The speaker’s letter to the president talks about security concerns related to the shutdown. That’s legit, too.

The back story might lie more as a PR move. There’s no requirement that Trump deliver his SOTU speech on Jan. 29 as planned. He could do so in writing, as Pelosi has suggested.

He might do well to take Pelosi’s offer. Put the speech off until he can report that the State of the Union is in better shape than it is at the moment.

Check out Pelosi’s letter here.

Barr faces different Congress in a different era

William Pelham Barr surely knows that he is stepping onto political terrain that is a universe apart from where he once ventured.

President George H.W. Bush nominated him to be attorney general in 1991 and he sailed through confirmation, being approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and by the full Senate.

Another president, named Donald Trump, has selected him for the top justice job once again. Will he sail effortlessly to confirmation? Nope. It won’t happen.

This is a different time. We have a different type of man in the Oval Office. The climate in Washington is far more toxic than it was when the AG-designate strode upon the national scene back in the old days.

The government is partially shut down. Questions are swirling all around the president. The previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, got fired because he acted ethically by recusing himself from an investigation into a circumstance in which he was a principal player; he then incurred the president’s wrath for standing up for the rule of law and for DOJ ethics policies.

William Barr is facing tough questioning from Senate committee Democrats. He is handling himself well and I happen to believe he should be confirmed as attorney general, largely because he is now on record as committing himself to ensuring that a key investigation into Trump’s campaign is completed fully and without political pressure or interference.

Yes, there is plenty to concern Americans. I would prefer that Barr commit to letting the public view special counsel Robert Mueller’s report when he issues it. However, he has stated that Mueller — whom he has known for 30 years — is not engaging in a “witch hunt” and has expressed confidence in the integrity of his probe.

And . . . he has told senators that he won’t allow the president to bully him the way he did Jeff Sessions.

This confirmation process is going to be a lot tougher for William Barr than it was the first time. It’s merely a symptom of the era into which we entered upon the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

NATO pullout back on the top shelf

In 2018, when Donald J. Trump decided to scold the leaders of our most trustworthy military alliance, he sounded like someone who wanted to pull the United States out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Those leaders need to pay more of their share of the defense of Europe, Trump said, or else face the consequences, which might involve a U.S. pullout.

Now, against that backdrop we have The New York Times report about an alleged investigation by the FBI into whether Trump was an “agent” of Russia.

The connection? Well, Russia wants NATO weakened badly. He would prefer that NATO be destroyed. Why is that? Because NATO came into being after World War II as a military alliance to defend Europe against the Soviet Union’s bloc of satellite nations. Russia, you’ll remember, was known as the Soviet Union from 1917 until 1991, when it collapsed under its own weight.

But NATO remains as a bulwark against Russian aggression. Therefore, Russia wants NATO to go away.

So, what connection is there between Donald Trump’s implied threat and Russia’s stated aim of ensuring that NATO withers away and dies? Is there a connection? Trump says “no!” I do not believe Trump’s declaration on its face. I want to know the truth.

If only I could find where the truth is hiding.

‘I have never worked for Russia’

I suppose I’d never thought I would hear the president of the United States have to answer such a question.

“Have you ever worked for Russia?” came the question from a reporter.

Donald J. Trump — who had fielded that question from Jeannine Pirro on Fox News — didn’t exactly say “no” to Pirro. Then he had to say it to the reporter on the White House grounds.

I find it astonishing in the extreme that the president of the United States would ever ask the question. It has become necessary because of The New York Times story that disclosed that the FBI launched an investigation into whether Trump had become an “agent” of Russia. I just will not believe the FBI launched this probe because someone inside the J. Edgar Hoover Building wanted to “get” the president.

Do you recall the time Richard Nixon felt compelled to tell the nation that “I am not a crook”? He wasn’t very convincing at the time he said it in 1973. It turned out that while he wasn’t a “crook” in the classic definition of the term, he was corrupt enough to have to quit just ahead of a certain impeachment and trial by Congress.

This is the backdrop we might be facing yet again with the presidency of Donald J. Trump. He has called the NY Times report an “insult” and says the questions about whether he worked for Russia are “insulting.”

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller is finishing — reportedly — his report we hope will get to the truth about Trump’s relationship with Russia, if any exist. The president keeps telling us there is no relationship. He keeps yapping about the “hoax” and that Mueller is in the middle of a “witch hunt.”

It’s just frightening on its face that our head of state, our commander in chief is having to answer questions about whether he works for the nation’s No. 1 geopolitical foe.

Finish your work, Mr. Special Counsel Mueller.

King gets GOP reprimand; why not the same for POTUS?

U.S. Rep. Steve King has gotten slapped down hard by his fellow congressional Republicans, who have voted to strip him of all his committee assignments, essentially rendering the Iowa lawmaker a useless member of Congress.

That’s a good thing, yes? Yes, of course it is! King said he couldn’t understand why the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” have become offensive to Americans.

The House GOP caucus did the right thing.

But . . . wait a second! Another Republican politician has equated white supremacists and neo-Nazis with groups that demonstrated against them in Charlottesville, Va.; he said he didn’t anything about a widely known former Klan leader who had endorsed him for public office; he has continually refused to condemn in suitably stark language the actions and rhetoric that come from these groups.

The GOP congressional caucus has remained stone-cold silent about Donald John Trump!

It forces many Trump critics to question why the House Republican caucus that showed good sense in slapping down one of its members is so reluctant to do the same thing to the nation’s top Republican.

It could be argued that what the president said about the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville was worse than what King told The New York Times. Remember how Trump declared there was blame to go around for the violence “on both sides” and how there were “fine people on both sides” of the riot that left a counter-protester dead after one of the neo-Nazis ran over her with his motor vehicle?

Trump has derided the intelligence of some of his African-American critics. He referred to African nations as “sh**hole countries” and said we should encourage more immigration from places such as Norway.

The GOP congressional caucus has been silent. How come?

No way should Trump be allowed to ‘correct’ report

William Barr is saying the right things on his way confirmation as the next U.S. attorney general.

For instance, upon questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr said there is no chance that Donald Trump’s legal team will get a first look at Robert Mueller’s report before it is released to the public and to Congress. Trump will not have the chance to “correct” it, Barr assured senators.

Let the report stand on its own

What is that report? Most of us hope it answers some key questions, such as whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016. Barr said he believes the Russians interfered or sought to interfere. He also reaffirmed that he will allow special counsel Mueller to finish his job unimpeded by political pressure.

There you have it. Trump’s AG nominee is on record. I am going to trust him to be faithful to his word and that he won’t stand by if the president tries any Richard Nixon-like funny business in seeking to squash the findings that Mueller will produce in due course.

Surely the AG-designate knows the political consequences of any failure to keep faith with his pledge.

WH chief of staff gets a dose of Trump

Donald Trump selected Mick Mulvaney to be the acting White House chief of staff to succeed John Kelly, who resigned far ahead of his announced timetable.

Mulvaney, who runs the Office of Management and Budget in his real day job, said upon his hiring that he planned to “let Trump be Trump.” He had no intention, or so he implied, of reeling in the president while trying to prevent him from some of his more impulsive behavior.

Well, it’s being reported that Mulvaney got a serious dose of the real Donald Trump during a White House meeting with Democratic congressional leaders. The group met ostensibly to find a way to reopen the government, which has been shut down partially for three weeks.

Trump reportedly dressed Mulvaney down in front of those congressional leaders, telling him to “Stop, stop, just stop. What are you doing? You’re f***ing it all up, MIck.”

There you go. That’s Trump being Trump, per the White House chief of staff’s stated desire. Is this what he really intended when he took the job on an “acting” basis? I think not.

Don’t misconstrue me here. I don’t feel sorry for Mulvaney. He’s a grownup who likely knew about the loony bin into which he was entering when he agreed to run the White House staff.

Still, what I find astounding is that the president of the United States would (allegedly) treat the chief of staff in that fashion in front of a roomful of politicians and other staffers. Then again, given the president’s lack of decorum or dignity at any level, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised at all!

The White House chief of staff once was considered the plum of plum jobs in D.C. No longer. Not for as long as Donald Trump is president of the United States. He’s already burned through two chiefs of staff, Kelly and before him Reince Priebus. Kelly was brought in to bring a sense of order after Priebus was canned; indeed, Priebus couldn’t control the traffic in the Oval Office, just inflaming the chaos that dictates the flow within the White House.

Now we have Mulvaney perched in the White House hot seat. I’ve thought all along that an “acting” chief of staff cannot sustain himself over any length of time. I mean, Mulvaney already has a full-time gig at OMB, which is a huge job all by itself.

So now he gets pounded and pilloried by the president while the government remains shut down.

Great work if you can get it, right, Mick?

Cable news ‘addict’ hasn’t been ‘following’ this story?

Donald J. Trump’s affinity for uttering falsehoods knows no bounds.

Reporters asked him this morning for his thoughts on comments from U.S. Rep. Steve King, who told The New York Times he couldn’t understand why the terms “white supremacist” and “white nationalist” have become “offensive.”

The president’s response? “I haven’t been following” the story, he said.

Really. He said that. The individual who tweets his brains out in real time while watching Fox News, the guy who spends hours on end watching cable news shows before he saunters into the Oval Office often at mid-day, hasn’t been “following” the statement from Rep. King?

The lies never end

To be sure, King’s remarks are far from the first statements he has made regarding race-related matters. In fact, the only time this back-bench lawmaker ever makes news is when he blathers statements such as the one he made about white nationalists/supremacists.

So the president wants us to believe he hasn’t “been following” this latest tumult regarding King, a loudmouthed Iowa Republican.

Sure thing, Mr. President. You are so very believable!