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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

 

"Nobody could be so foolish" except ...

by Tom Sullivan

The "failing New York Times," as Donald Trump prefers to call it, certainly seems to be getting the better of his failing administration this week.

The Times Editorial Board this morning summarizes where we are after yesterday's events in two paragraphs:

All along, the truth was right there in the emails — Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, that is, which he released publicly on Twitter Tuesday morning after learning that The New York Times was about to publish their contents.

In language so blunt and obvious it would make a Hollywood screenwriter blush, the emails confirm what the president, his son and others have denied repeatedly for more than a year: that top members of the Trump campaign met with representatives of the Russian government in the expectation of help in damaging Hillary Clinton and getting Donald Trump elected.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday had called the meeting a "nothing burger."

Now This provides a quick Twitter recap of just some of the other denials going back to July 2016:

If there were a jury impaneled to rule on the evidence so far, it would still be out. While some opponents are tossing around the T-word loosely to describe the Trump campaign's pursuit of Russian oppo-research, it is unclear what laws clearly have been broken. Dahlia Lithwick polled several experts for Slate:

To the extent there is a credible criminal claim to be made against Trump Jr., it’s likely under campaign finance law. As Fordham University School of Law’s Jed Shugerman lays out, 52 U.S. Code Section 30121 provides that:
It shall be unlawful for—

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—

(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election …

(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) … from a foreign national.
This law regarding “contributions and donations by foreign nationals” bars candidates and their associates from “soliciting,” accepting, or receiving anything of value that would benefit their campaign from any foreigners. According to most of the folks I queried, it now appears the elements for a criminal violation of this statute have been met.
But that is still somewhat thin. Stanford Law School’s Robert Weisberg dissented on whether opposition research of unknown quality and quantity constitutes a “thing of value.” Nevertheless, Lithwick writes, "As 'nothing burgers' go, this one looks like a whopper."

Called to weigh in on the legal issues raised by the email, Carlton Larson from the UC Davis School of Law told NPR this morning that the Trump email, "was so extraordinary, I thought, this is probably fake because nobody could be so foolish as to respond to that email and go to the meeting." Nobody except Donald Trump Jr. And Jared Kushner. And Paul Manafort.

"They aren’t rookie mistakes. This is a team that never should have taken the field," writes the Times' Dana Milbank.

The Trump administration has fallen into self-parody of the sort Andy Borowitz lampooned back in March:
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a fiercely defiant statement on Tuesday, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, denied that any member of the White House staff has ever worked "in any way, shape, or form" for the benefit of the United States.

[...]

"At no time during the transition or afterward did any member of the Trump team have meetings, conversations, or any other contacts that furthered the interests of the United States of America," Spicer said. "In the thousands of communications that took place, the United States never came up even once."
Describing the Trump administration as "a writhing ball of snakes pretending to be a government," Charlie Pierce yesterday put the situation bluntly:
The government of the United States is a shambles. An incompetent administration headed by an unqualified buffoon is now descending into criminal comedy and maladroit backstabbing. It is an administration that not only self-destructs, but glories in the process. There seems to be no end to it, and no desire to end it by the people who actually have the power to do so. That, in itself, seems curious, and it probably should remind us all that Paul Ryan's Super PAC was hip-deep in the borscht itself. Ryan, who really is the person best situated to close the circus down, seems to be afflicted with one of his periodic bouts of invisibility, poor lad.
Meanwhile — and don't lose sight of this — at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, by postponing the start of the August recess Sen. Mitch McConnell is still trying desperately trying to salvage a health care bill that will throw millions of Americans off their health insurance. At Daily Kos, Joan McCarter wants to know what I want to know: What did Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell know about Trump/Russia collusion and when did they know it?
Here's what CIA chief John Brennan told then Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid in a private, classified briefing: "Russia’s hackings appeared aimed at helping Mr. Trump win the November election," and that "unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election." It's too incredible to believe that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not get that same briefing, did not know that the CIA had solid enough intelligence that the Russians could possibly be in the Trump campaign, trying to influence the outcome of the election.

In September, intelligence officials had a secret meeting with the Gang of 12—including the House and Senate leaders and the chairmen and ranking members of both chambers’ committees on intelligence and homeland security. That meeting was intended to get leadership behind a "show of solidarity and bipartisan unity" publicly condemning Russia for interference.

Who stood in the way? "McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics."
"Republicans are failing at governance. And they know it," Carl Hulse writes about the delayed recess, also in the "failing New York Times."

As Mr. Spock once said to Captain Kirk, "Your logic was impeccable, Captain. We are in grave danger."