Several thousand people turned out to Times Square in New York City on Tuesday, December 17, despite a cold rain to protest for the impeachment of Donald Trump. It was one of about 600 such protests and rallies organized by a coalition of more than 100 organizations including Rise and Resist, Moveon.org, and Indivisible, held across the country, in all 50 states, on the eve of the House debate and vote to make Trump only the third president in history to be impeached. Over 160,000 had responded their intention to participate in the historic mobilization.
This is what the #ImpeachmentEve #ImpeachandRemove
protest and march looked like in New York City (for a national overview, see New York Times, Rallies Spread on Eve of House Impeachment Votes).
House Judiciary Committee hearings beginning on the Mueller Report and the
possibility the findings might trigger hearings to impeach Donald Trump, it is
helpful to hear from Nick Akerman, who served as Assistant Special Watergate
Prosecutor with the Watergate Special Prosecution Force under Archibald Cox and
Leon Jaworski which ultimately led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. He is
an expert on criminal and civil application of the Racketeer and Corrupt
Organizations Statue (RICO), the Economic Espionage Act, the federal Securities
Laws, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and State Trade Secret and
Restrictive Covenant Laws. He also is an expert on computer crime and the
prosecution of competitively sensitive information and computer data. Akerman,
who appears regularly on MSNBC on subjects including the FBI’s ongoing investigation
into alleged Russian tampering with US elections, recently opined on the
comparisons between Watergate and Trump’s culpability during a talk on “The
Critical Issues Confronting Our Nation”
at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck. Here are highlights and some notes:
There is the obvious comparisons but differences: in Watergate, a bunch of American guys flew up
from Miami, burglarized Democratic National Committee, took documents. A low
tech operation and they got caught in a low tech way –they put tape over door
and cop caught them. What was insidious about what happened [in 2016 campaign] is
that it was a high tech operation against DNC, this wasn’t done by individuals
in the United States but by Russians, sitting at computers in Moscow, hacking
into DNC as referenced by fact 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted
by Mueller’s team.
In Watergate, we never knew what the burglars were trying
to get; by the time they were caught, they didn’t get much.
Here, Russian operatives were hacking into DNC on
multiple occasions, taking documents which they used and released during the
course of 2016 presidential campaign that clearly had impact on what happened
Back in Nixon era, had a conspiracy between Nixon and
a foreign power in 1968 – which we didn’t learn about until 40 yrs later [so it
never was part of the impeachment]- there was suspicion that Nixon had scuttled
the Vietnam peace process during the 1968 campaign because he was concerned
Johnson would settle and his lead over Humphrey would disintegrate –We learned
later from notes of H.R. Handelman, that Nixon orchestrated it– that Anna Chenault
interceded with the South Vietnamese government to keep them from coming to
peace table. [As a result], Nixon make the war go on for four more years and some
26,000 Americans were killed (after 1968; 58,000 Americans altogether. Johnson knew
of Nixon’s interference, confronted Senator Dirkson and said Nixon’s action
constituted treason, but Johnson couldn’t release the information publicly,
because would have revealed the US was bugging the South Vietnamese
government]. Johnson was concerned that if he released that information that
Nixon had interfered during campaign, it would appear that he was trying to
throw the campaign to Humphrey.
In that, it sounds familiar: Obama was also concerned
that it would appear he was exposing Russian interference to aid Trump in order
to tilt the election to Hillary Clinton. [But
it was also because when he presented the information to Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell, he refused to support it and Obama did not want to appear
What Mueller said destroyed Trump’s claim of total
exoneration based on Attorney General William Barr’s so-called summary of
Mueller report. Mueller said, “If we had confidence the president clearly did
not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
What kind of statement is that to make about the
president of the United States? This is not a ringing endorsement of innocence
by any means.
Mueller basically said he was tied to regulations
issued by Department of Justice that don’t permit DoJ to indict a sitting
In Watergate, we didn’t have that problem [the rules
governing Mueller as special counsel were very much constricted after the
renegade Starr, and more constricted that the Nixon special counsel]. Archibald
Cox was really independent, not part of DoJ, but careful to follow DoJ
guidelines and regulations. When he was fired and Leon Jaworski came in, the staff
believed Nixon should have been indicted but Jaworski overruled – in retrospect
he was right – Congress was involved, the American public was being informed.
His view: impeachment process was going on and he should provide evidence to
the House Judiciary committee. So he could do the job. That’s not what we have
Mueller in his statement said it was also important
to investigate a sitting president, to preserve evidence when memories are
fresh and documents available. [Documents have already been destroyed, or kept
out of the hands of investigators.)
What does that mean in prosecutor speak? Why is it
important to investigate while the trail is hot? It might be that the people
who conspired with the president could be prosecuted. More importantly, what
he’s saying is that if the president committed crimes, the evidence should be
put together, and if leaves office within statute of limitations (for obstruction
of justice it is 5 years), so if leaves after one term, he is subject to being
want to pass a law suspending the statute of limitations while a sitting
president can’t be indicted, if that is the DoJ policy; note: that is only
policy, not part of the Constitution or any law that prevents a sitting
president from being indicted.]
because under the current policy, a sitting president can’t be indicted, that
leaves the only remedy to Congress to impeach, especially since Trump has
blocked evidence and witnesses.]
Mueller report lays out a complete trial for obstruction
of justice- 8 instances of obstruction – any one of which anybody but a sitting
president could be, should be, and has been convicted of.
There is a statement by over 1000 former DoJ
employees and prosecutors (including me) who said precisely that: if this
evidence were out there on anyone else, that person would have been indicted
and convicted of obstruction.
For example, Trump requested [former FBI Director
James] Comey drop the FBI investigation into [National Security Adviser] Michael
Flynn – that purpose was to impede and stop the investigation.
Trump tried to stop Russian investigation by firing
Comey – he admitted that to Lester Holt on tv and to the Russians [in the Oval
He tried to stop the investigation by firing [Special
Counsel] Bob Mueller and asked [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions to limit the
scope of investigation into Russian meddling in the election to only focus on
future elections, and not 2016.
He attempted to influence and probably did influence
his former campaign manager Paul Manafort to refuse to cooperate with Mueller,
and that was extremely significant [because
Manafort had such critical insight into what happened during the campaign,
while Mueller was unable to get the Russians who were out of reach; recall
Trump also jumped at the suggestion of handing over the former Ambassador McFaul
in exchange for Putin extraditing the Russians, and allowing Putin to
interrogate Americans Putin suspected of interfering in his election, like
former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.]
Trump publicly attacked his former fixer Michael
Cohen and Cohen’s family, to intimidate him to not cooperate with Mueller
Why? Because there are practical problems with
respect to charge anyone in the Trump campaign: the US doesn’t have subpoena
authority in Moscow and other countries, so it is not an easy investigation. Whereas with Watergate,
almost everything happened in the US, we could subpoena records, witnesses, and
didn’t have to worry about foreign agents in foreign countries not subject to
But one huge problem: our federal criminal law does
not address this new digital age. We had no problem in 1973 finding crimes –
burglary was simple. Our laws have not kept up with new technology.
Page 167 of the Mueller report, right in the middle
of the redacted portion relating to dissemination of stolen docs and emails from
the DNC, right before the Democratic National Convention, is a whole series of
emails disseminated by Wikileaks at the direction of the Kremlin to sow
dissention of Sanders versus the Clinton supporters.
Within 30 minutes of the release of the Access
Hollywood tape [in which Trump gloated
over his ability to grab women by the pussy, because being a celebrity he could
get away with it], Wikileaks, with the Russians, was releasing the Podesta
emails to distract attention away. [It
also came out simultaneously to Obama Administration releasing information of
Russian waging a disinformation campaign on social media.]
This was pretty slick, sophisticated operation. But if
you look at the Mueller report, it ruled out charges on the theory that trafficking in receipt of stolen property under National Stolen
Property Act only covers tangible property, not intangible. Mueller couldn’t charge
beyond reasonable doubt the crime of trafficking in stolen property, because it
As for collusion, which is cooperation members of Trump campaign were cooperating in
accepting this help. That is an important distinction, because of the difficulty
in investigating crimes outside US – DoJ has no subpoena power in Russia, no
ability to extradite Russians indicted for hacking into DNC or other Russians
involved in use of social media to suppress Clinton vote – other major
makes no sense, since the government frequently prosecutes theft of
intellectual property, which this was, and because it is illegal for a campaign
to accept anything of value from a foreign country, which opposition research
and social media campaign surely had value. They have the evidence that they
could present at trial – even in absentia, if the Russians don’t want to defend
themselves, that is their choice. But the evidence would show that Don Jr.,
Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort learned at the Trump Tower meeting that Putin
wanted to help Trump win the election; that Manafort met on several occasions
and delivered polling data that would help the Russians target enough
communities in the swing states to suppress the Clinton vote and give Trump the
77,000 votes, across three states, that clinched the Electoral College. Kushner
met with head of sanctioned bank and likely promised overturning sanctions;
Michael Cohen and Felix Slater were negotiating the Trump Tower Moscow deal;
Roger Stone was the intermediary with Wikileaks, and Wikileaks was working with
the Russian hacker, Gucipher 2.0, and Michael Flynn met with Russians to
guarantee that Trump would overturn sanctions.
the thing: Trump, himself, probably only wanted to cement relationship with
Putin for when he lost the election, but Putin saw the advantage in having a
puppet in the White House who would overturn sanctions on Russian banks and
businesses and individuals, promote oil and fossil fuels (the foundation of
Russia’s economy) while dismantling the shift to clean, renewable energy; weaken
US support of NATO, Paris Climate Agreement, and Iran Nuclear Agreement, break US as a global power while Russia and China
become dominant political and economic powerhouses around the world including
the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Trump may not have cared to win the
presidency, but Manafort, Flynn, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Robert Mercer
certainly did and were serving as agents of Russia. Meanwhile, other Trump-connected
figures, like Broidy and George Nador, were working on behalf of Saudi Arabia
and UAE and not only did Trump support their embargo of Qatar, where the US has
its largest military base in the Middle East, but now is allowing Saudi Arabia
to have the technology for high-tech bomb components.
fact that Putin and others knew about the private dealings, and who knows what
from before, like money laundering for Russian oligarchs with Trump
Organization properties and tax evasion, that made him and many of his aides
like Michael Flynn all vulnerable to kompromat and doing Russia’s will.]
There are two buckets [of criminal activity]: the break
in at DNC, hacking emails, stealing documents, while a group another group of
Russian intel officers in St. Petersburg, was involved in social media
disinformation campaign to microtarget Clinton voters and suppress their vote
by passing fake news about Clinton – 13 Russian intel operatives were indicted
February 2018 on this use of social media. [But
what is not readily realized is how closely the Russian campaign dovetailed
with the Trump Campaign’s social media disinformation campaign operated by Brad
Parscale, now Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, who boasted about a disinformation
campaign designed to suppress votes by women, blacks and liberals; Parscale was
connected to Cambridge Analytica, a Steve Bannon/Robert Mercer entity, that
linked up with Russia, and in England, was connected to the Brexit
disinformation campaign. Facebook and Twitter had their own professionals
embedded in Parscale’s office, while both social media giants were also
disseminating the Russian bots.]
What we learn in Mueller report: Manafort provided [Russian agent Konstantin] Kilimnikwith polling
data multiple times, not just in cigar bar – but multiple times, on one
occasion, in context of talking about battleground states, PA, MI, WI. If you
take those three states with 66,000 votes among them, that’s how Trump won [the
Electoral College]. So we have evidence, from [Rick] Gates (Manafort’s right
hand man who revealed to Mueller), we have kalynick, Russian agent, getting
polling data, talking about 3 states in particular, and Russians micro-targeting
voters to suppress vote, but Mueller had to prove somebody in the Trump
campaign engaged in conspiracy beyond reasonable doubt.
the thing about surveillance and Trump’s charge of spying: they were monitoring
the Russians and these encounters with Trump-connected Americans came up. Trump
never said anything uncovered was untrue; to the contrary, his insistence that
he must have been spied upon is proof that what they uncovered was accurate.
The point of counter-intelligence is to determine if foreign agents have infiltrated
or turned Americans into agents or moles, witting or unwitting “useful idiots.”]
The three states that elected Trump, on multiple
occasions were talking about using data to send false news to potential Clinton
voters, but what you can’t do is execute search warrant on St. Petersburg, pick
up Russians for questioning. Mueller
knew the key to investigation was Paul Manafort
[so needed Manafort to turn and give evidence. That’s where Trump’s
obstruction comes in, dangling the possibility of a pardon if he would just
In the end Mueller had a failure of proof because Manafort lied to him. When Manafort appeared before judge in DC, Amy… she found he lied about polling data [so why didn’t Manafort get more time, or have cooperation deal torn up?]. He was covering up the campaign; he was given 7 ½ years [a tiny amount of time for a guy who committed some $50 million in tax and financial fraud and basically was paying off his debts by selling out the country, essentially handing over secrets to a foreign power]. He was also indicted by New York State. The issue is whether at some point will he realize he doesn’t want to spend full 7 ½ years and cooperate – if he does, the Mueller team is no longer in place, so we are left with AG Barr who is basically a political hack for Trump and has done everything to paint rosy picture of Trump’s involvement, lied about what was in Mueller report, setting up situation for a month before the report was released, giving the impression Trump was exonerated by the report, when he wasn’t.
So it is an open question: what happens if Manafort
decides to cooperate, if Roger Stone, right in the middle of dissemination of
stolen documents, interacted with Gucifer 2.0, what happens if these people
suddenly decide to cooperate? [More
likely Barr’s DoJ will stop any investigation or prosecution altogether so the
truth never comes out, the evidence is destroyed and Trump skates free.]
Impeachment, the “I” Word
That leaves us with the House of Representatives and the impeachment process.
Impeachment is a whole different animal – a political
process not a legal process [I always
hear that it is ‘political’ but what does that mean? Shouldn’t it be about Rule
of Law, not about which party is in power?] The House doesn’t have to show evidence
beyond reasonable doubt to start an impeachment case – doesn’t have to deal
with same standard, but the House acts as grand jury, in doing so, brings
charges, which then go to Senate, and it takes 2/3 of the Senate [67 votes] to
remove somebody from office, based on impeachment from House. The obvious
problem now is that 2/3 of Senate is not in any way, shape or form, going to
remove Trump from office and the public is just not there at this point [which is why Trump and new fixer Rudy
Giuliani have been undermining Mueller and the FBI, in the “court of public
opinion”]. I totally believe Pelosi is correct, the public just doesn’t
understand what Trump did.
it is chicken and egg- Trump has obstructed access to the evidence which would
change public opinion and force the Senate to vote to impeach or else look like
they support a criminal in the white House. In Watergate, the House finally was
able to force Nixon to give over the tapes that damned him.]
Barr purposely muddled waters when he issued the ‘summary’ of the Mueller report – Mueller
report over 400 pages, it is long and takes some background in knowing what
The other significant document is the New York Times
– the long [investigative] report they have done on Trump’s taxes. It is no
coincidence Trump doesn’t want to turn over taxes – they go through that long
history of tax avoidance, and what the Trump family did [and the fact he lost
more money than any other American] – but if boils down to a long history of
tax evasion – evading gift taxes, estate taxes, income taxes. Most of what was reported
in the Times is passed statute of limitations, 6 years – but other matters.
here’s where impeachment would come in –not for a crime that is avoided because
of statue of limitations, but shows unfit for office, unfit to be the one
issuing tax policy, financial protections for consumers that he wants to
overturn, shows he is vulnerable to blackmail from others who knows he
committed tax fraud, bank fraud, lying to mortgage companies and insurance
companies, as well as lying to the government, and the likelihood of money
laundering, as well. These practices make him vulnerable to blackmail and
collusion by anyone who knows, and the Russians could certainly have found
those documents, like any other secret document. It’s like when an old
drunk-driving offense is dug up during the campaign. But there are criminal
financial practices that Trump apparently engaged in within the 6 years, and
even during his time in office.]
In 2016 [during the campaign], we know that Trump
sold two properties at 100 Central Park South, to son Eric for $330,000, even
though the Trump Organization valued at $800,000 and $700,000, essentially
passing assets not at true value, just
like Fred Trump did to Donald to evade gift taxes.
Trump knows that the real vulnerability to him are
the tax returns. Also, he doesn’t want the facts of Mueller report to be
brought to life.
Keeping the Public in the Dark
One thing in Watergate: Cox was appointed in May 1973 and by June 1973, the Senate select committee was in full gear, there were TV hearings where people understood what happened, we had testimony that the burglary was connected to the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), John Dean [White House counsel] laid out the elaborate obstruction of justice plot, the hush money to Watergate burglars – so as of summer of 1973, the public was pretty well educated.
Watergate was essentially one crime at the center, the burglary, when Trump
campaign involved many different illegal, unethical activities, including the
tacit agreement with the Russians that would overturn sanctions, which
motivated the Russians to commit crimes on Trump’s behalf, which Trump
encouraged, egging on the release of Wikileaks, for example. In some ways,
Trump committed his offenses in the open, including saying on TV he fired James
Comey because of the Russia investigation giving the impression, ‘how could it
be illegal if he does it openly.’ But many more are surreptitious and
convoluted. But Trump is already named as Individual Number 1 in campaign
finance violations, which had it been any other president, would have been
sufficient on its own to initiate impeachment.]
We haven’t had that. Prior to the new [Democratic-controlled]
House, it was controlled by Republicans who kept everything out of the public [except when Nunes forced the release of
FISA materials, intending to signal to intelligence officers to back off], the
Senate didn’t do anything in public. What has to happen now has to be to bring the
Mueller report to life: get McGahn [and
Hope Hicks, Don Jr., Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner] to testify;
these are people who worked at the Trump White House or still do, who have
already provided testimony to the Mueller team.
One of things Trump administration tries to do –
same as Nixon – is to stonewall. By not providing witnesses, documents. The
recent court rulings are significant – tax returns. Most significant in last
the 10 days is that New York State can provide tax returns to the House
committees, and NYS tax returns mirror the federal returns.
Federal statute requires treasury to produce tax
returns [What makes you think was Trump
submitted to State jibed with Federal return?]
Where this is going will be a road to slog – court
actions, committees – their job is to bring life to 435 page report that most
American don’t have time or inclination to read.
stonewall? First place, to diminish the weight of the charges; second, to push
the process into the election campaign so he can argue that it is only
political, and get the DoJ to impose its policy, which Comey conveniently
ignored, of indicting or prosecuting someone during a campaign. That’s why
there was a hiatus before the 2018 election.]
Around same section, p 176 –there is a prosecution
decision Mueller explains that’s redacted –about whether or not to charge
federal computer crimes statute. But just as the same as Russian intel officers
who had hacked, Mueller concludes he doesn’t have enough evidence. The statute
is computer fraud and abuse statute – hacking statute – the only reason to
charge anybody would be if he were actually involved in the hacking done by
Russians. We don’t know what’s under the redaction, but it is significant.
You can pick up bits and pieces. It is important
that the public know about and be brought to attention.
AG Barr Muddies Waters
What Mueller writes about the law refutes that letter that Barr provided the White House and DoJ as a ‘job’ letter to be appointed as new AG. [It shows his ignorance of the law.] You wouldn’t want a first year law student to be writing, it’s just wrong. He says obstruction of justice doesn’t apply to anything other than a judicial proceeding which is wrong, the DoJ brings it up with FBI cases all the time. In Watergate, the principles in obstruction were charged with cover up of the FBI investigation, just like Trump did with Comey and Russia.
In the letter Barr provided to White House and DoJ [which is why Trump appointed him] Barr says that corrupt intent doesn’t apply because it’s an ‘amorphous’ statute. But there is a specific charge: simply acting with improper purpose to corruptly interfere, impede and obstruct a due administration of justice – straight forward. Yet Barr doesn’t buy into that. Barr was never a prosecutor, always a political appointee, and never tried a case. It’s disturbing for somebody who is AG supervising everyone else doing that.
Watergate was essentially simple, as you point out,
and reduced to one crime, a two-bit burglary and a cover up – Trump’s crimes
about security of voting systems? If Russians can hack into the DNC (and voting
rolls in 20 states), what protection is there?
That is a huge problem. The [Trump administration] has
said we don’t have evidence Russians hacked in [to voting machines] but the
systems are so antiquated, they don’t have means to capture audit trails to
know if anyone did.
the biggest problem: while the Constitution has a provision for Impeachment,
there is no provision to review an election that has been stolen. You can have
a criminal billionaire who pays hackers to flip switches to win the Electoral
College, pay them a cool million dollars apiece to sweat out a year or so in
jail, or pardon altogether.
circular – Trump will obstruct, stonewall, and don’t know that witnesses won’t
destroy evidence, docs, tapes, unless there is impeachment inquiry.
I don’t understand the confusion over prosecuting for collusion – or conspiracy
– when clearly, there were over 100 contacts between Trump, family, associates,
campaign aides, and the Trump campaign benefited from the social media disinformation
campaign to targeted districts, very possibly based on the polling data that
Manafort supplied; from telegraphing his interest in lifting sanctions,
weakening NATO, selling nuclear arms to Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea,
and knowing (from the Trump Tower meeting with Kushner, Manafort and Don Jr) that Putin favored his election. It makes no
sense that they can’t prosecute because data was stolen, not material, but data
is intellectual property and it is criminal to steal intellectual property –
which has value. So does the social media campaign waged by Russians based
on Trump campaign’s own polling data,
which by the way mirrored what Brad Parscale was doing – with an objective to
suppressing turnout by women, blacks and liberals – who is now Trump’s 2020 campaign manager. And
what about the Cambridge Analytica link which had Russia, Wikileaks (and Roger
Stone), the Mercers and Steve Bannon and Brad Parscale’s fingerprints.]
So now that Democrats have taken back control of the House, there is the internal (eternal) argument between the progressives and what I would call the pragmatists as to whether to act immediately to impeach Trump or use their powers for good and solve the ailing problems of the nation (health care, immigration reform, infrastructure, criminal justice reform, voting rights). As if that were even possible, given Mitch McConnell’s death grip over the Senate, and Trump’s likely veto.
But Democrats can do both – develop, debate and pass necessary legislation on health care, drug prices, protecting DACA recipients, rational immigration reform, gun violence prevention, campaign finance – and still hold the hearings and fulfill their Constitutional obligation for oversight and checks-and-balance on government.
Trump must be impeached. And it doesn’t matter if impeachment is likely to fail in the Senate where it is unlikely to get 67 votes. In the best of all worlds, the evidence would be so compelling, so damning, that even Republicans will go to Trump (as they did to Nixon), and say: resign or else (the “else” would be prosecution of Trump for high-crimes, along with his children; threats to prosecute his close associates would likely not bother Trump at all.) That is, if Republicans retain even a scintilla of actual patriotism and concern for the national good rather than retaining power, no matter how unscrupulously.
Certainly, Democrats should wait until the Mueller investigation is concluded – or re-start the hearings that should have taken place in Congress until sabotaged by the likes of Devin Nunes and others more loyal to Trump than to their oath of office. (Nunes, don’t forget, was on the transition team that brought Michael Flynn in as National Security Adviser.) Those hearings need to be held because the Republicans did a superb job of protecting and insulating Trump and preventing any real understanding or defense against what Russia did and how they did it, opening the way for others – be it China, Israel or North Korea, or a billionaire with a mission like Sheldon Adelson or the Kochs – to replicate the process with even greater sophistication and efficiency in the future.
Despite the fact impeachment would likely fail to get the 67 votes needed in the Senate, if Trump is not prosecuted for the slew of “high crimes and misdemeanors” already committed (violation of Emoluments Clause, repeated obstruction of justice, abuse of power, likely violations of Federal campaign laws and tax evasion, not to mention the likely conspiracy or collusion with Russia and other felons who hacked into the DNC), that sets a new standard for what a candidate and a president can do.
Either you have an Emoluments Clause or you don’t. Either you impeach for “high crimes and misdemeanors” or you say that actual “high crimes and misdemeanors” has nothing to do with it, impeachment is “political” with a political standard of criminality so that unless you lie about committing adultery when your opponents control Congress, nothing you do is illegal. You can violate Federal Elections law, hack voting machines, steal absentee ballots, but if you win and become president through such criminality, well then, tough luck for the rest of the world that has to abide by laws. If impeachment is only based on who has the majority, then there is no real Rule of Law, and no bedrock principle that “no man is above the law.” This would incentivize the next billionaire Mafioso who can offer $1 million and a pardon to a henchman to flip votes or hack or undertake a propaganda campaign (and shouldn’t there be some sort of “Truth in Advertising” standard for political messaging?).
In all of American history, there has never been a person endowed with the powers of the presidency who has been this blatantly corrupt and the very epitome of the monarch wannabe the Founders feared and thought they had inoculated the country against. It’s as if Trump things if he commits crimes openly, the outrageousness of it inoculates him. The Founders may have had their bouts with fake news but could not have anticipated data mining and Facebook and gerrymandering with the precision of knowing how to cut through a single block to produce an edge. They couldn’t have predicted black-box voting, the ability to hack into election rolls, to purge voter lists based on their propensity to vote for the other party, the mathematical calculations that go into shutting down polling places and devices.
The Justice Department has a “policy” against indicting a sitting president? Well, it’s just a policy. The Constitution actually requires the Senate to “advise and consent” on Supreme Court nominees, but that didn’t stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from doing the unprecedented thing of blocking Obama’s nominee for a year to save the seat for a radically right wing “justice.” The Justice Department has never been faced with a sitting president who has been named as Individual #1 in multiple felonies.
“Policy” didn’t stop the Supreme Court from ruling that a civil suit against President Bill Clinton having nothing to do with his presidency or crimes against the state, should go forward, or requiring him to give testimony under oath, or for that matter the Republican Congress from impeaching him, rather than censuring him, for lying about a consensual adulterous affair.
So far, Trump, who reacted to the sentencing memos against his consigliere Michael Cohen, and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, both of whom had pleaded guilty, that included him as “Individual #1” as if he had somehow been absolved because he wasn’t actually named, and instead of the word “collusion,” Mueller used a synonym, “synergy.” Trump may also be thinking that because Russia had worked with his flunkies, even for their own reasons (Manafort to pay off his debt?) or to enrich the Trump Organization rather than win, not realizing that Putin was out to win the presidency, that therefore he will be absolved of actual “collusion” or “conspiracy.”
“Totally clears the President. Thank you!” Trump tweeted, very possibly because he didn’t actually read the sentencing memos or doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “synergy.”
But if Trump is not impeached and his campaign’s criminal activity that amounted to stealing an election are not held to account, what will stop the next celebrity billionaire from buying his way onto the ticket, paying for a propaganda campaign, possibly paying off hackers to switch just enough votes with the promise of a hefty cash reward and likely pardon, or collaborating with a foreign power to use the full force of its intelligence/cyber apparatus? (Answer: Nothing. It will become the new modus operandi, and you don’t even need a foreign power to collude.)
The argument that Democrats need to be focused on “solving the problems” of the nation is sweet and sentimental, but the reality is anything that comes out of the Democratic-controlled House will be stopped in the Republican-controlled Senate, or by Trump veto. And when progressives realize that Democrats were ineffectual, instead of rallying in 2020, they will punish Democrats, as they did in 2010 (recall Sanders led that charge, then too, and got progressives to “protest” by staying home) and 2014 (when I bet Hispanics punished Obama for failing to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform through) despite McConnell having said right after Obama’s election that his priority was to make him one-term president. You can see it already in the way the progressive wing is determined to destroy any ability of Democrats to be successful by attacking Nancy Pelosi instead of advancing one of the young bucks into a different leadership position so they can be groomed when she does in fact step aside.
But if Trump is not impeached for high-crimes and misdemeanors, for obstruction of justice (firing Comey, Sessions, to list just two); abuse of power (sending US military to the border for a political purpose); campaign finance violations; violations of the Emoluments Clause and using foreign policy for personal enrichment (Russia, Qatar, UAE, China, India), tax fraud, money laundering, then what would be impeachable? Lying about adultery? (Oh, he did that too).
Malcolm Nance, the counterterrorism and intelligence expert seen frequently on MSNBC, was watching the early Midterm Election returns on November 6, 2018, and was frantic. “We are ‘x’ number of days from the end of American democracy,” he thought. “If we lose and Republicans keep control, Trump will be like Saddam Hussein” believing he could wield unbridled power.
“We saved democracy – put collective values together and decided not to let government go unchecked. Before, we were rather reserved about how bad things were – seeing our constitutional republic collapsing before our eyes,” he said, in a return visit to Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, December 7.
“The shock to our belief system came from Russia, but not the Russians alone. It had to include others,” said the author of “The Plot to Destroy Democracy.”
His book documents how Putin needed to make Russia – essentially a third world country with atomic bombs – great again by destroying, degrading the #1 country at top, the US. Russia, he noted, is a very poor nation, with a Gross National Product equal to Italy. “The US does more trade with Chile than Russia. Russia is a trailer park with atomic bombs – all they sell is weapons, oil, natural gas.”
Russia is led by Putin, an ex-KGB officer, who, when he left Russian intel service, was collapsing. “Putin became the controller, the enforcer of the Russian Mafia in St. Petersburg.
“What happened to Russia after Communism was unbridled, unabashed, crazy Mafia-like capitalism, out of control for 10 years. Russia sold off tanks, airports, took the money and put it into Western real estate – some to New York City – to launder money.
Putin became a billionaire, but something was missing. When Soviet Russia collapsed, what was the philosophy to replace Communism? Putin realized something fundamental – Russians are extremely conservative – religious – they don’t believe in the family values of the West.
The Russian society had to be built anew and Putin knew to steer it more deeply to the Russian Orthodox Church. As the first director of Russian intel, he rebuilt a church next to KGB headquarters (it had been torture center under Stalin) because he realized if he controlled the Russian Orthodox Church, he could bring the population in line. He started funding rebuilding of Russian orthodox churches. Russians are extremely [socially] conservative, so he introduced policies to cater to homophobes and racists [just as Trump is catering to anti-immigrant fervor].
So in 2010, American Conservatives started saying out loud that Russia was a better example of Christian Conservatism than the West. The National Organization of Families – an extremist group – started holding “Persecution of Christians” conferences in Moscow. “Aggrieved Americans who hated Muslims, would fly to Moscow, meet with people from the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian government, and talk about the persecution of Christians around the world.” By 2015, Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, was flying to Moscow and meeting with Putin.
“Russians understood this was part of America they could work with – they could co-opt. There is a lot of reporting about how Russians and Christian evangelicals in the US have been working together for the last decade.”
Another group, the NRA, was also vulnerable. Enter Maria Butina, who, by all definitions is a spy – a “honeypot,” a trained agent who will have sex to get what they want. She cultivated NRA leaders. In July 2015, she appeared at a FreedomFest Q&A session in Las Vegas featuring Trump and got to pose the first question, to describe his foreign policy and his views on “damaging” economic sanctions against Russia. “I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump said. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.”
[The FBI and Mueller are investigating whether the $30 million the NRA spent to elect Trump actually came from Russia.]
“David Duke has an apartment in Moscow. All the senior Alt-Right leaders, who organized the Charlottesville riot, believe Russia is bastion of Christian conservativism, the pinnacle example of how we should behave [in the US].
“Most important; Russia already co-opted virtually ever conservative group in Europe. Because when the Soviet Union fell and rejected Communism and brought themselves into strongman autocratic leadership, European conservative groups – ex-Fascists – were looking for leadership and money.
“The government of Austria is controlled by a political party organized in 1952 by two Austrian SS officers who later rose up in power. They had no chance of ruling in government until last 10 years. The rise of right wing fascist political parties in Europe is part of this story that will scare you – because these are same political groups [as the Nazis].” A warning that resonated profoundly in this audience in the synagogue.
“In Germany, the AFD – Alternative for Deutschland – is anti immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic. They are unabashed in their open racism, in their belief that liberal democracy should be supplanted by conservative groups in the West who will create an axis of autocracies, and make laws so no one has to vote anymore.
“Remember that Hitler was elected with 37% of vote – before Nazi Germany, it was the Weimar Republic. He was elected in a fair and free election, but once in power, he changed the laws.”
That movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Nance said, was about showing that people need to be held accountable. “When I saw the film later as an adult, I understood what the trial was – of the German Supreme Court justices who validated every law justifying rape, murder, sterilization. They justified execution through lethal injection of every mentally ill patient in the country. Then they authorized the mass murder of 6 million Jews, while Hitler’s wars around Europe killed 50 million more.
“The Supreme Court Justices of Nazi Germany were elected, the government was elected. People chose them. Then they changed laws to make everything they did legal in the Nazi German system.
“’Judgment at Nuremberg’ is about how it was amoral to human decency to do what they did. They needed to be held accountable. Even as a young guy, I understood it was wrong to hurt people using the legal system,” said Nance, who noted that he had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia, and had his understanding of the Shoah profoundly changed after visiting Auschwitz.
[One should note at this point that the perversion of law is exactly what the Indian Removal Act, the Dred Scott Decision, and Jim Crow were about. And now, how Republicans in lameduck session, are stripping power from incoming duly-elected Democrats in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina.]
Putin’s plan is simple: to get rid of democracy you don’t need to have a coup d’etat, you can do it through election that votes democracy out of existence.
Steve Bannon, former advisor to the president, is an adherent to the philosophy of Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin” by Breitbart News when it was run by Steve Bannon. Dugin advocates for neo-EuroAsianism, where the poles of power from Washington to the European capitals to the rest of world, should be eliminated, along with West. (See: The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin)
If figures in Putin’s efforts to shift Turkey’s alliance from NATO to Russia and to ally with Syria and Iran – moves that Michael Flynn, who was a paid lobbyist for Turkey’s Erdogan, was effecting.
“The election of Trump is the end state of what Russia doing in Europe- every major political party in Europe is owned by the United Russia Party that loaned money. The French candidate, Marine le Pen in France, got 50 million Euro loan from Putin. Her job was to break up NATO and the European Union on one day; she spoke about it openly and publicly.
Far right extremism was pushing across Europe. It was only the common sense of the French people in March 2017 [and reports of Russia hacking of social media, as in the 2016 election in the US] that saved European democracy from collapsing. The European Union would have broken up if France withdrew. It was a very near thing. But they got away with putting Trump into office.”
“It is very bad for the US if all our allies start collapsing one by one… If Britain doesn’t get its act together in next 90 days, they can face economic collapse.
“Brexit – the Leave group – are saying ‘Donald Trump will give us unilateral deal.’ The last time that happened was Lend Lease. The Atlantic was on fire, Europe fell under the Nazis. Who talks like that?
“Like Alexander Dugin, Trump uses ‘globalist’ as if a dirty word. We invented globalism when we started shipping all over world. We saved Britain, invaded France. Trump doesn’t understand any of that.
“How critical it is for you to watch what is happening in Europe – it is run by open fascists who come from ex Nazi party, who are close to Putin and also to Trump. This is why Steve Bannon went to Europe, where he said, ‘When they call you a racist, embrace it. Wear it as a badge of honor.’
“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.”
Nance, in response to a question, said that the Americans who were involved in the theft of the 2016 election committed treason.
As to whether Republicans would ever abandon Trump, he said that once the evidence is released, if it is so overwhelming, “this nation will end up in a Benedict Arnold moment. It will be so clear that Trump was to win at all cost, to make money and be master of the universe, and because he would control the government, he would be untouchable and still get the Ivanka Spa in the Trump Moscow Tower. It will be so clear, so overwhelming, this eclipses Benedict Arnold. We have a president under the control of a foreign power.”
But will he be impeached? Indicted? Or pardon himself and his entire family?
One possibility: at the point Republicans are convinced that Trump is damaging their brand, possibly even causing the party to disappear into a miasma of fascism, kleptocracy and bankruptcy, the leaders will come to Trump with an offer he can’t refuse: they will suspend prosecution of Don Jr., Ivanka and Jared Kushner, halt impeachment and promise not to prosecute him for the many felonies (campaign finance violations, tax fraud, money laundering, conspiracy with a foreign adversary) if he resigns. That would save the party for Mike Pence, who is in fact the president they wanted all along.