Wonder if there’s anything about the president in the news today…
Hmmm, a lawyer who worked for Donald Trump in his private company before he became president, and I guess for a little time after he became president, pleaded guilty to some bank fraud charges today…oh, but also to some federal election law violations. Michael Cohen admitted to arranging payments to two women to keep them from telling secrets that would damage the campaign of Dona…well, he doesn’t actually name the candidate whose campaign would have been harmed, but it’s clear who it was. (It was Trump.) Those are the payments to Karen McDougal and to Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels), women who claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump, relationships which he still denies…although his lawyer now admits in court to making the payments to keep the stories of those affairs quiet (hell of a lot of good that did!) and says that Trump repaid him, although Trump denies even knowing anything about the payments. Something doesn’t quite synch up here. Those bank fraud charges were about his other business operations, nothing to do with Trump.
Oh, the guy who was the Trump campaign chairman for a few minutes in 2016 was found guilty by a federal jury of eight tax and bank fraud charges (and got a hung jury on ten other counts)…looks like all those crimes had nothing to do with Trump, either, except maybe give us another data point on Trump as a judge of character. Let’s see, along with Paul Manafort and Cohen, we have:
- Michael Flynn, retired general who was fired as national security adviser over “trust” issues, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his pre-inauguration contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
- Rick Gates, another former Trump campaign official and inaugural committee official, and Manafort business partner, who has admitted committing crimes with Manafort
- George Papadopoulos, a one-time Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his attempts to set up meetings between the Trump campaign and representatives of Russia
- Twelve Russian intelligence officers indicted for hacking the Democratic National Committee
- Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies indicted for interfering in the American political system
…and those are just the people collared, so far, by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. (Never before seen a witch hunt that came back with so many witches in just a year’s time, have you?) Can Trump have been that bad a judge of character? Maybe he’s actually a really good judge of character, and found what he was looking for: like all those people that Mr. Mueller has taken an interest in. Maybe like his pal Omarosa, who he loved so much before he said mean things about her.
Trump’s argument is Manigault Newman:
- Was only hired because she begged for a job, and he acquiesced.
- Was not smart.
- Was broadly disliked and mean to people.
- Constantly missed meetings and skipped work.
- Struck [Chief of Staff John] Kelly so negatively he suggested she be fired, and, perhaps most damningly.
- Was of such questionable quality as an employee that she failed to win his reality show three times.
But she kept her job, even after Kelly complained—Kelly, whose job was to guide Trump’s White House staff. Why? What is the one quality Manigault Newman possessed that was sufficient for Trump to argue she keep her job?
She praised Trump.
Maybe he’s getting what he got because he looked for people who reminded him of him, or who at least were willing to swim in the same pool as him.
The problem with being Donald Trump isn’t just being Donald Trump. It’s all the other, lesser Trumps around you. It’s the versions of yourself that you create, the echoes of yourself that you inspire. They’ll devour you in the end.
I don’t mean his biological offspring, though they’re no picnic. I mean his spiritual spawn. I mean the knaves, nuts, schemers and dreamers who have taken their cues from him or turned his lessons against him. This is their moment. This is their month.
What was that other thing about Manafort I just saw? Oh yeah:
I’m reading that people from the Trump Administration who at his West Virginia rally tonight are reportedly busy reminding people that a president can’t be indicted; wonder why they think that’s important to say right now? (My understanding is that it’s Justice Department policy not to indict a sitting president, but not a law.)
Remember when the former Navy Seal who ran the mission that got Bin Laden wrote a letter to Trump that said “revoke my security clearance” after the president did that to John Brennan, the former CIA chief who’s been very critical of Trump’s actions as president (to say the least)? In that letter Bill McRaven said something that was echoed the next day by more than a dozen other former high-ranking intelligence agency officials who criticized Trump for playing political games with the country’s security:
Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.
A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.
Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.
If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.
(I think he’s being polite with that very last bit there…)
Well, there was a weird next chapter in that story today: with his very own thumbs (I think, given the odd capitalization) the president wrote on his Twitter that former director of national intelligence James Clapper “admonished John Brennan for having gone totally off the rails. Maybe Clapper is being nice to me so he doesn’t lose his Security Clearance for lying to Congress!” Not sure what Clapper actually said, but what University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck said about Trump’s Tweet ought to be talked about:
I think I’m ready for the sports section now…