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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why Trump is a wrinkled tomato dying on the vine

Update: There's a report that Vladimir Putin is now bragging that he has a recording of Trump's meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov. Good Lord. I don't know what to say. For now.

So let's get back to our post as originally published...

I suspect that we're going to see more than one Comey memo. I think that they are gonna keep drip-drip-dripping out.

The one that everyone is talking about arguably reveals an attempt to obstruct justice. It also reveals that Trump had told the FBI Director that the Bureau should imprison reporters who publish leaks. This, from the same man who said "I love Wikileaks" during the campaign, who welcomed any leak that could harm an adversary.

The scandals now plaguing Donald Trump would be survivable if he were more politically adept, if he did not possess the instincts of a crime boss, and if he did not habitually lie about smaller matters, thereby destroying his credibility in a my-word-vs-Comey's situation. Trump is haunted by his past, and by our collective distaste for his impulsive and imperious personality.

In short: If Trump had a different history, he'd have a different future.

Take, for example, the current contretemps over the Comey memo, in which Agent Orange expresses a hope for the end of the investigation into Michael Flynn. I honestly don't think that it ever occurred to Trump that his words could be construed as an obstruction of justice. Being a New York thug by nature, the non-Teflon Don probably thought that he was being polite and statesmanlike in his communications. If Donnie had intended to obstruct justice, his words would have been more along the lines of Do as I say or else.

One could say something similar about Trump's revelation of classified material in his meeting with the Russians. Ronald Reagan could have gotten away with spilling those particular beans, because Reagan was a better politician. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan nervously bragging "I get the best intel"? Of course not. That phrase (and no-one denies that Donnie said it) reinforces the perception of Donald Trump as a swaggering oaf with poor impulse control and a puerile need to impress.

If caught out, Reagan would have found a way to justify revealing code-word intelligence to his adversaries. In somber tones, he would have told the public that a humanitarian need to save lives overwhelmed other considerations. It's easy to imagine how Peggy Noonan would have sold that product -- hell, Reagan's approval numbers probably would have shot up.

I was hardly a fan of Ronald Reagan. But no-one can imagine him tweeting a thuggish threat to a fired FBI Director. If Reagan had a thuggish streak, he kept it hidden. Even during the Iran Contra scandal, Reagan's adversaries usually pictured him as a dolt, not as a conspirator or a crime lord. There was a famous SNL sketch (glimpsed here) in which the public Reagan seems genial and slow-witted, while the behind-the-scenes Reagan becomes a devious, fast-talking mastermind. This sketch got laughs because portraying Reagan as cunning and manipulative struck the audience as funny.

By contrast, nobody considered Nixon a dolt. He always seemed like the sharp lawyer for a crime family who had finagled his way into the Godfather's chair.

Trump has the worst of both worlds: He is seen as both a dolt and a mob boss. He still possesses the ability to fool paranoid rubes; he knows how to talk to gun-totin' Illuminati-spotters who want something done about the cannibalistic Sasquatches prowling our national forests. But that audience is limited, and Trump has lost whatever ability he once possessed to speak to other kinds of people.

For all the non-rubes out there, the truth is pretty plain: Trump wanted -- wants -- to squelch the Flynn probe because such a probe could reveal some serious Trumpian dirt. If the Donald were innocent, he wouldn't act so guilty.

My current TOT (Theory of Trump) is that the relationship between Donnie and the Russian oligarchs tightened around 2005, when he regained control of his Atlantic City casino after coming up with $100 million from...well, somewhere. At that time, Putin and his pals were siphoning billions out of Russia; the money needed cleaning and casinos provide excellent laundry services. Trump, for his part, needed banks who would loan to him. That's when certain Russian-linked banks (Deutsche Bank, the Bank of Cyprus) stepped in.

Why else would even a crooked bank loan to such a poor businessman? Trump must have offered a service which justified the risk.

If I may boast: Toldja it was Israel. As a rule: Whenever the WP or the NYT becomes skittish about revealing the name of a Middle East nation, the correct answer is either Israel or Saudi Arabia.

David Corn had a couple of quotable tweets yesterday.
There's been way too much winning today. Please make it stop.
Spoke to a DOJ lawyer. He said obstruction of justice cases have lower bar than other cases. Not always so hard to prove "corrupt" intent.
A Corn reader offered a filk which I shall slightly improve:

And now, the end is near
And so I face the prosecutin'.
My crime, I'll say it clear,
was when I climbed in bed with Putin

Comments:
"I honestly don't think that it ever occurred to Trump that his words could be construed as an obstruction of justice. Being a New York thug by nature, the non-Teflon Don probably thought that he was being polite and statesmanlike in his communications. If Donnie had intended to obstruct justice, his words would have been more along the lines of Do as I say or else."

So funny and strikes me as SO true.
 
Trump has a weird sense of sensibility that I think I understand. No matter what he said to his Russian guests, who was it that leaked it to the world? Was it the Russian media?
 
Quoted without comment:

Sochi (Russia) (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow could provide a recording of the exchange between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US President Donald Trump, but his aide later suggested he had meant a written transcript.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Now it's safe to say that any person who didn't vote for Hillary should be stripped out of h/her citizenship.
 
I was sure impeachment was never on the table but now Rod Rosenstein (Deputy AG) has appointed as special counsel (not prosecutor :-) to the Russian investigation: one Robert Mueller. Wow. Unless there is some unknown falling out with Comey, Trump is burned bread.
 
Al-Jazeera says the source was Jordan, not Israel. http://www.timesofisrael.com/intel-trump-gave-russians-was-from-jordan-not-israel-report/ If it was Jordan, it would make sense that there would be an attempt by Israel and Jordan to hide that fact. Jordan is more vulnerable to ISIS attacks than Israel. Furthermore, there are no doubt high level security arrangements between Israel and Jordan.
Sherman Skolnick was quite the man in Illinois in the 1869s. After he got screwed in court, he investigated Supreme Court judges and two wound up resigning. He really didn't clean up the courts, but at least exposed the corruption. Public memory being about two weeks, we forgot and did nothing about it. Skolnick, however, remembered what he had done and became somewhat full of himself. He had a bunch of goofy theories about everything, including the Kennedy assassination.
 
The Al-Jazeera article, by Ali Younes: "Jordanian spies provided ISIL bomb intel: officials".

"According to several US media reports, Trump's disclosure of sensitive intelligence to the Russians may have endangered an Israeli spy inside Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ABC News reported on Tuesday 'the life of the spy is now at risk'."

"But several Jordanian sources who spoke on condition of anonymity doubted this assertion. They said they don't believe Israel has any high level spies inside ISIL and depends instead on 'intelligence sharing with Arab spy services partners'."

Poor old Israel, then, eh? If a faction in Daesh did decide it wanted to strike Israeli interests - not necessarily in Israel - then as far as humint goes they're totally reliant on whatever Arab agencies tell them? Seriously?

Note that Al Jazeera reports that unnamed Jordanian officials say that the information came partly from Jordanian agents in Daesh, but they don't dispute that the information was given to the US by Israel. Stuart Winer at the Times of Israel omits to mention that.

I am not at all convinced by the reasoning Ali Younes attributes to one of her informants, a senior Jordanian Salafist sheikh.

"The sheikh who has first-hand knowledge of how groups like ISIL operate said Israel might be able to recruit spies in Gaza, because it has tight control over its lifelines, 'but not in Raqqa or Mosul'."

"Israel has the most sophisticated electronic surveillance collection in the region, however, which gives it the ability to intercept communications throughout the Middle East region."

But militants have gone to Syria from several countries to fight in the Daesh forces. Israel would not need to control all the lines of entry to Raqqa in order to ensure that some of the Daesh militants there are its agents.

 
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