The past week has been an interesting time in US politics. Attorney General William Barr was given what I assume to be the final report from Robert Mueller’s investigation of the 2016 election. Barr wrote and released a four-page summary of the report, indicating that Mueller did not establish that members of the campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities. The memo also indicates that the question of obstruction of justice was considered and investigated, but explicitly decided against making a prosecutorial judgement. In the absence of that, the Attorney General made the decision that there was no obstruction of justice. The Trump team ran with this as a win, and has now started a full-throated attack on the media.
I know Josiah (“Jed”) Bartlet is a fictional character, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to use him as a role model, as an ideal version of what we could have. I am a Bartlet Democrat (not to be confused with anybody who idolizes the real Josiah Bartlett, with three t’s in his last name — a member of the New Hampshire delegation to the Congressional Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence). In the same way that kids use superheros as role models, I think it’s healthy to imagine what Barlet would do under real-life situations. Of course, this isn’t always possible and the situations we (or a president) encounter will be vastly different from those Bartlet would have faced. And, of course, this is all up for interpretation because nobody (except maybe the writers of the show) would know for sure what Bartlet would do. But there are some scenarios that are easier to imagine than others. His reaction to President Trump’s tweets fall into that category. Let’s play.
I got a new car a few months ago and it came with a subscription to Sirius XM. I had never had it before, except in a rental, and never appreciated it. Now I have it, and it’s fueling my news addiction. That only matters because it’s directly responsible for me writing something this morning, for the first time this month. A former Congresswoman, a republican, was on CNN. I was listening in the car, and didn’t recognize her voice, nor was I listening when they introduced her and told us who she was. Without the chyron below, showing her name, the piece ended and I was left not knowing who she was. She was asked about the difficulty being a republican in Congress in the time of Trump. She spoke, more frankly than most republicans do these days, about the clear evidence that there was bad behavior by the Trump campaign. She said something like, “honestly, we have to be concerned about the people surrounding the President who were involved with the Russians.” But, in the end, she drew the line and differentiated between what the President (then candidate) knew and did. It’s a funny line to draw, and leaves me with some competing narratives: dueling perspectives…which in my head quickly pivoted to Climate Change. Follow me for the ride.
There are conflicting narratives in the political world. This has likely always been true, but the separation of the narratives feels more palpable than any other time in my life. Sure, we’ve had conflicting narratives before: Reagan painted a picture of a world where the poor were living large on the handouts of the rich, and the counter-narrative was that nobody is “living large” and that people need help. There has been the belief that deregulation is good for us because regulations provide a costly burden, and this is countered by the cost is worth the protection that regulations provide. But these were issues of perspective, not issues of mutually exclusive views of the world. That feels quite different from what we have now, especially when it comes to Trump and Russia.
I read the memo, which the FBI has called misleading, and these are my thoughts:
In general, some takeaways:
Like most congressional democrats, and unlike most congressional republicans, I am concerned about the use of surveillance of Americans. I am happy that this is now a concern of republicans, most of whom voted to authorize this kind of surveillance of Americans. Welcome to the club. Maybe start caring about stuff before it affects things you like or care about next time, and care about things that affect others before it comes to haunt you.
I don’t really know what is news here. I’ve been following the story for a while, and all of these claims have been made already. Maybe not in any official capacity, but it’s been argued in the news that the Steele dossier was the critical evidence for the FISA warrant, and others have said that it was only a piece. It’s hard for me to imagine that seasoned folks at the FBI wouldn’t think carefully about stuff before going for a warrant, but I could be wrong about that.
The whole thing reads like a motion to dismiss filed by a defense team for Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. I’m not sure how that will play out, but it’s noteworthy that it never asserts their innocence, but seeks a means by which their cases should be dismissed on technicalities.
Here are my thoughts to the specific points, in order:
We’re in very strange waters, and this makes it so difficult to predict the future. The President has survived things that would have decimated politicians in the past. He insulted John McCain, and specifically attacked his experience as a war hero, yet supporters, even those in the military, stood by him. He bragged about sexual assault in a more vulgar way that we’ve heard from most politicians. He threatened to use the justice department to jail his political opponent if elected. He blamed President Bush for 9/11. And all of that was before he got elected. Any one of those would have destroyed the candidacy of any normal candidate, but Trump wasn’t a normal candidate. Likewise, there have been so many things that would have crushed a sitting president, and it doesn’t seem to be doing too much harm to him.
This is the fourth of a series dissecting the timeline of Trump-Russia connections that’s kept at Bill Moyers’s website. For a bit of intro, and the first subthread click here. This one is all cut and pasted, with the links included. None of the text is my own, not even paraphrased.
This is all about a man named Felix Sater, who I think we should get to know a bit. Follow past the jump for this one.