Tag Archives: Politico

Don’t keep the findings secret, Mr. Special Counsel

There’s some chatter developing about the conclusions that special counsel Robert Mueller might reach at the end of his investigation into what Donald Trump referred to as “the Russia thing.”

It goes something like this: There might not be an explosive finding that spells the end of Donald Trump’s administration; moreover, Mueller might not allow the findings to be made public.

None of us can control the first part. The second part, about secrecy, we can. I want to urge the special counsel to make damn sure the public gets to see the conclusions he draws.

My goodness! The Department of Justice charged Mueller with determining whether there was any “collusion” between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives who hacked into our electoral system and sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. The DOJ is our agency. It runs on our tax money. We are the bosses. We have a right — if not a need — to know the investigation’s outcome and how Mueller and his legal team reached it.

As Politico reports: “That’s just the way this works,” said John Q. Barrett, a former associate counsel who worked under independent counsel Lawrence Walsh during the Reagan-era investigation into secret U.S. arms sales to Iran. “Mueller is a criminal investigator. He’s not government oversight and he’s not a historian.”

But he is operating on the public’s time and on its dime.

To my way of thinking, that entitles the public to know the outcome and how Mueller’s team reached its conclusion.

Mueller’s ratings take a dive? Imagine that

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s negative ratings have spiked to an all-time high. What a revoltin’ development that is … even though it shouldn’t surprise anyone at all.

Mueller is now in his second year investigating whether Donald J. Trump’s campaign for president “colluded” with Russians seeking to influence the election outcome in 2016; he’s also looking into other matters relating to the Trump campaign.

Let me offer a brief suggestion as to why I believe Mueller’s standing has taken a header.

Trump has assailed Mueller from the get-go. Sure, he says “there is no collusion.” He keeps harping on his innocence, meanwhile labeling Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” masterminded by the “13 Democrats” who are working on Mueller’s team of legal eagles.

The president’s criticism has been relentless, unending and persistent.

Politico has an extensive story on the poll results. Read it here.

Mueller’s response? He’s been quiet. You hear the term “crickets” when talking about political response. All we hear from Mueller are the proverbial “crickets.” Why is that? Because unlike the president, Mueller is careful and is dedicated to preserving the integrity of his probe.

Put another way: Mueller isn’t going to say a word in public until he is finished with his investigation. He is a former FBI director and lawyer known for meticulous evidence-gathering. He is not going to upset that effort by responding to every ridiculous assertion that comes from the Trump camp.

Trump is winning the shouting match so far but only because he and his minions are the only ones doing the shouting.

I’m waiting for the final report to come out.

As for the president’s constant yammering about witch hunts, “fake news” and bogus allegations, if there’s no “there” there, let Mueller’s probe reach that conclusion — without interference.

Something suggests to me — I cannot quite tell what it is — that Mueller is likely to reach a different conclusion.

Oh, that POTUS is such a comedian

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has mounted a curious defense of Donald Trump’s penchant for profane name-calling.

He said the president “likes making funny names.”

Hey, Trump’s latest funny-name tirade this week included these two knee-slappers. He referred to “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd a “sleeping son of a bitch.” Oh, and then — at the same political rally in Pennsylvania — he described Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters as a “low-IQ individual.”

I cannot stop laughing. The president just cracks me up. What a card, a comedian. He needs to take his act on the road. Oh, wait! That’s what he did when he hurled those insults at (a) a prominent broadcast journalist and (b) a leader of the congressional Democratic caucus.

Mnuchin’s defense of Trump came, interestingly, on “Meet the Press,” the program Todd has moderated for the past several years. I didn’t watch it in real time. I’m quite sure that Todd didn’t crack up at Mnuchin’s defense of the president. Oh, no. Todd is too much of a pro to do something so stupid.

As Politico reports: “I’ve been with the president and at campaigns. You know, he likes to put names on people,” the Treasury secretary said. “He did that through the entire presidential election, including all of the Republicans that he beat. … These are campaign rally issues.” 

That is supposed to excuse the kind of hideous language that Trump spews? Give me a break.

“Campaign rally issues” often produce free-form rhetoric. However, we are talking here about the president of the United States of America. Isn’t this individual supposed to elevate the quality of political discourse?

What’s with the GOP war against the FBI?

Up is down, black is white and Republicans who used to revere the FBI have declared war on the agency.

What in the world has become of us, of our political dynamic and of the natural order of things?

The conservative media are sounding the battle cry against the FBI, referring to something called a “secret society,” not to mention the “deep state.”

Here’s the genesis, as I understand it.

Conservative media personalities are so enamored of Donald J. Trump that they simply cannot tolerate the idea that the FBI and other agencies would be examining such things as “collusion with Russians,” or “money laundering” or any conduct that might be construed as “treasonous.”

So, to protect the president’s flank, these media types are attacking the FBI, a once-sacred agency in the eyes of the Republican Party.

The command and control of this attack appears to be inside the Fox News Channel, with its bevy of conservative media personalities. The New York Times reported this week that Trump actually ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller, but backed off when White House counsel Donald McGahn threatened to quit; other media outlets have corroborated the Times’ account.

Fox News blowhard Sean Hannity is dismissing the report out of hand. He just won’t accept what reputable professional journalists are reporting.

Politico reports that there’s something even wider going on: But Hannity’s coverage was just part of a wider trend, observers say. For the past week, Fox News opinion hosts have seized on claims by some Republican lawmakers about a “secret society” at the FBI and “deep state actors” to fashion unproven narratives designed to protect Trump and delegitimize Mueller.

Secret society and deep state actors? What in the world is that all about?

I am afraid to admit that even some of my very own Republican friends have bought into that “deep state” crap. One of them told me this week that the FBI has been “crooked” for far longer than anyone has known.

I am happy to tell you that not all GOP operatives have swallowed the Fox News swill. Again, according to Politico: “The network is increasingly engaged in a misinformation campaign aimed directly at the American people for the purposes of sowing confusing and spinning a web of protective armor around the president, who is being investigated,” said Steve Schmidt, the Republican political strategist who ran John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

What is normal has become abnormal in just about any context imaginable.

I’ll just posit the notion that this is a consequence of electing Donald Trump as president of the United States. A man who thrives on chaos and who revels in being the center of controversy — if not outright scandal — is fomenting this hysteria among his most fervent supporters.

He isn’t “telling it like it is.” He is stoking, in the words of conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, a “whole new level of crazy.”

By all means, it’s the ‘Trump Shutdown’

A headline on Politico.com sought to say how media outlets are “struggling” to assign blame for the current shutdown of the federal government.

Are you kidding me? I know who’s to blame. Someone just needed to ask me.

It’s Donald John “Deal Maker in Chief” Trump Sr.! He’s the man. He’s the one. He’s the guy who’s got to shoulder the blame.

How do I know that? Because the president of the United States laid the previous shutdown, which occurred in 2013, at the feet of Barack H. Obama, his presidential predecessor.

He said the president has to lead. He’s the one elected by the entire country. The president has to step up, take charge, bring members of Congress to the White House, clunk their heads together and tell ’em shape up, settle their differences and get the government running again.

Trump said all that. He was right.

But now that Trump is the man in charge, he has retreated into the background. Trump is pointing fingers at Democrats. He says they are to blame solely for the shutdown.

Give me a break!

A president is supposed to lead. We elect presidents to run the government. They stand head and shoulders above the 100 senators and 435 House members. When the government shudders and then closes its doors, we turn to the president to show us the way back to normal government functionality.

Donald Trump hasn’t yet shown up to lead the government out of its darkness.

Who’s to blame? It’s the guy who called it in 2013.

This is Trump’s Shutdown. Pure and simple.

If only he’d kept his trap shut when he was a mere commercial real estate mogul and reality TV host …

Sexual harassment accusation takes weird turn

I never thought sexual harassment could become such a, um, creative endeavor.

I am not making light of it, but the case of former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has taken this saga down a strange, dark and bizarre path. He quit the House of Representatives effective immediately after reports surfaced about how he reportedly wanted to impregnate a congressional staffer so she could become a surrogate mother.

Reports surfaced a few days ago about Franks “discussing” surrogate pregnancy with female staffers. He announced his decision to quit in January. Then he changed his mind and walked away now. He’s gone.

Politico reported the new developments, citing “sources” close to the situation. According to Politico: The sources said Franks approached two female staffers about acting as a potential surrogate for him and his wife, who has struggled with infertility … but the aides were concerned that Franks was asking to have sex with them. It was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating the women through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization. Franks opposes abortion rights as well as procedures that discard embryos.

Aides fretted over Franks’ intentions

Franks has run for the House while proclaiming his deep religious faith. To be candid, I kind of smell a rat here. If he was referring to IVF, that would something he could clear up with a simple, declarative statement. Yes?

If he meant something else, well, is that why he decided to vacate his office much sooner rather than later?

Yep. This sexual harassment matter is likely to claim a good many more powerful men.

Public shouldn’t foot the bill for these settlements

This one not only doesn’t pass the smell test, it is downright putrid in the extreme.

A Texas congressman reportedly paid an $84,000 settlement to a former staffer who sued him for sexual harassment. Where did Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, get the dough to pay the settlement? From your pocket. And from mine.

That’s right. Rep. Farenthold reportedly dipped into a taxpayer funded cash drawer to settle a dispute brought against a member of Congress who allegedly mistreated a female staff member.

Does it stink? Like a dirty dog!

According to Politico: House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) told GOP lawmakers in a closed-door Friday morning meeting that only one House office in the past five years had used an Office of Compliance account to settle a sexual harassment complaint. Harper said in that one instance, the settlement totaled $84,000.

In a statement for this story, Farenthold would neither confirm or deny that his office was responsible for that $84,000 payout.

Let me venture a guess. Farenthold paid the settlement with the public’s money.

If I were King of the World, I would strip Congress of that Office of Compliance fund and force any member of Congress to pay any such settlement out of his or her pocket.

I am aware that Farenthold denies sexually harassing his former press aide. The Office of Congressional Ethics sided with Farenthold. See the Politico story here.

Still, if there’s going to be a settlement in a complaint filed against a member of Congress, I happen to dislike intensely the notion of dipping into taxpayers’ pockets to pay the bill.

That POTUS, what a card!

I can’t stop laughing out loud over the “joke” that Donald J. Trump told about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Maybe you’ve heard it.

Trump was being interviewed by Forbes magazine and he suggested that he and Tillerson take IQ tests. The president, as you might imagine, was suggesting he possessed more intellectual firepower than the secretary of state.

The statement came in response to Tillerson reportedly calling Trump a “moron” earlier this summer. The president will have none of that, as you might imagine. Thus, he told Forbes about the IQ test.

Now we hear from the White House that Trump was joking. He didn’t really mean it. He didn’t really question Tillerson’s intelligence. He didn’t really mean that he’s smarter than the average bear.

As Politico reports: Trump told Forbes in his interview that he did not believe Tillerson had called him a “moron,” which NBC News reported he had, but that if he did, “we’ll have to compare IQ tests.”

“I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump said.

There’s also this, also from Politico: President Donald Trump was making “a joke” when he challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test in an interview with Forbes, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday afternoon.

“The president certainly never implied that the secretary of state was not incredibly intelligent. He made a joke, nothing more than that,” Sanders said. “He has full confidence in the secretary of state. They had a great visit earlier today. And they are working hand in hand to move the president’s agenda forward.”

The “full confidence” and the “great visit earlier today” would seem to belie what has been reported widely throughout Washington since the “moron” comment became known. Which is that Trump and Tillerson don’t trust each other as far either of them can throw the other guy.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t believe that the president was joking. If he was, he needs to work on his comedic timing.

More bombs did not produce ‘victory’ in Vietnam

“The Vietnam War” is coming to a close this week. I refer, of course, to the landmark public television series, not the actual war.

What are the takeaways from this epic production directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and broadcast on PBS? I have so many of them, but I think I’ll focus briefly here on just one of them.

It is that the Vietnam War required us to redefine victory.

We fought the communists in Vietnam for more than a decade. We killed many more of the enemy than we lost so very tragically. We emerged victorious from many more battlefield encounters than the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese. As we have learned in the Burns-Novick epic, U.S. commanding Gen. William Westmoreland was obsessed with “body count”; he insisted that the media report that the enemy suffered far worse than our side did.

Merrill McPeak, a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War who later became Air Force chief of staff, noted correctly in the documentary that the United States dropped more ordnance on the enemy than we did in all the combat theaters of World War II. Think of that for a moment. American air power dropped more explosive tonnage on the Vietnam communists than we did against the Nazis, the Italians and the Japanese.

What we didn’t do and the reason we “lost” the war was because we lost our political will. The Vietnamese were fighting on their turf, defending their homeland, battling an enemy they considered to be “invaders.” They had more to lose — and to gain — than we ever did. Thus, it was their fight to win.

Are there lessons to carry forward as we continue to fight an even more elusive enemy, those terrorist organizations that have declared “death to America!”? Yes, certainly.

One profound lesson should be for U.S. politicians — or one in particular — to cease implying that defeating an enemy is “easy.”

We cannot just keep dropping bombs and sending young Americans into cities, killing enemy fighters and then expect the enemy simply to give up. We tried that in Vietnam. It didn’t work out well for us.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have provided a masterful piece of documentary television. Just as Vietnam was the first war to be fought “in our living rooms,” my hope is that the educational benefit that’s being delivered to us via PBS will assuage some of the pain we felt as the fighting raged.

***

Politico has provided a fascinating look at a conversation involving President Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Sen. Richard Russell. The Burns-Novick documentary doesn’t report on it.

Take a look at the story here.

Trump keeps fomenting anger

Donald Trump seems to have found his latest lodestar.

It is to pump up his base, to use a flashpoint argument that keeps ’em fired up, as angry as he is. The target now happens to be highly paid professional athletes who are demonstrating — peacefully, I should add — against law enforcement treatment of African-Americans.

The consequence of the president’s ongoing battle against the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and anyone else who sides with the protesting players is to foment more anger, more division and more rancor.

I mean, it’s not as if we don’t have enough of it already simmering out here across the land.

NFL players are kneeling at the start of their games when the band strikes up “The Star Spangled Banner.” Trump calls them SOBs. He is getting lots of cheers from many Americans. He is getting consternation and condemnation from many other Americans. He is listening only to the cheering squads and is ignoring the rest of the country.

As Politico reports: Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend, said on Monday that the president is focused on the patriotism angle of the debate and is brushing off the charges of racism.

“He’s in a bubble here because he knows he’s not a racist. His friends know he isn’t,” Ruddy said in an interview. “He sees himself standing on the high ground of the truth. But the media are telling the rest of the country a different story about him.”

I get that the president sees himself as standing on moral high ground. Except that it’s not realistic for him to keep believing it.

Trump must see what is happening out here. As for the “media telling … a different story about him,” the media merely are reporting the fiery rhetoric that keeps pouring out of the president’s mouth.

The consequence is continued division — and rancor that seems to be quickly approaching hatred.

That’s not how you “unify” the country, Mr. President.