This Trump Tarbaby Will Leave a Permanent Stain on the GOP
John Hanno June 16, 2017
The best all of Trump’s apologists, just like Sen. Marco Rubio, can muster in defense of the Trump administration’s run-away train wreck, is that he’s not a typical politician. All the stumbling and bumbling is only because he doesn’t do things like Presidents have always done in the past; in spite of the hundreds of times Trump had denigrated “all” politicians because they really needed to conduct themselves more like successful businessmen like Trump.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says of Trump, after it was discovered Trump tried to get FBI Director Comey to shut down the Russia investigation: “The President is new at this….he’s new to government….he probably wasn’t steeped in the long running protocols that established the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses….he’s just new to this….”
But did Ryan and these Republican apologists in Congress and in the far right media give President Obama the same consideration and latitude? Would they have afforded the same courtesy to Hillary, if she had been elected but were conducting herself like Trump is now? The answer is a resounding no. These highpocrits would be conducting dozens of congressional hearings, 6 days a week and on Sundays and holidays.
No one first elected as President of The United States, has previous experience for the job; but they typically hire consultants and cabinet members who do have previous experience. And they council with experts and rely on career government employees to get them up to speed.
The Republicans handed Barack Obama an economy in free fall. Banks, the housing industry and businesses were collapsing and we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. Obama put his nose to the grindstone, hired capable experts and with the help of a Democratic controlled Congress, eventually dug us out of the Great Recession, all in spite of the Republican conspiracy to oppose him at every turn. He worked hard (and actually studied and read books) and based his corrective policies on facts, not the flawed alternative reality and conspiracy theories or conflicted and disproved dogma Trump and the Republicans rely on.
But Trump has so denigrated, and has such a low opinion of, politicians and career federal employees, that he’s clearly shot himself in the foot by hiring sycophants and family members to run the most complex organization on earth. He thinks he knows more than anyone, more than the intelligence community, more than the generals, more than budget experts in the Congressional Budget Office, more than the scientists, more than legislators and their staffs, more than the judiciary, more than leaders throughout the world, especially our historical democratic allies. His self promotion and aggrandizement is boundless.
But when have you ever heard of an American President’s spokesperson (Sarah Huckabee Sanders) actually deem it necessary to come out and say: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar and I think it’s frankly insulting that question would be asked;” probably because a vast majority of Americans and folks around the world are convinced Trump has lost any shred of credibility and believe he’s the most dishonest person they have ever encountered. Its not surprising his approval ratings are in the mid 30’s and disapproval ratings are more than 60%.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that Trump’s business acumen and aura is as symbolic and unsubstantial, as the TRUMP brand displayed on properties around the world. He’s obviously not as rich nor as savvy as he claims and was probably on the verge of another business bankruptcy, until the Russian devils bailed him out and sunk their fangs into his business empire and soul. This Russian/Trump saga could be the next Coen Brothers sequel to the current Season 3 Fargo series on FX.
His campaign boasts and promises as a great builder, is as credible as the real estate properties that someone else actually builds and then pays Trump to put his name on. He’s spent the first half year of his first and only term tearing down President Obama’s programs and accomplishments. Trump Inc. should be more appropriately, in the demolition business. He’s not a builder; he’s a destroyer. What has he actually built or accomplished?
Trump fired United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, because he was investigating Russian money laundering in the New York real estate business. He fired FBI director James Comey because he was stepping up the Russian hacking and collusion investigation of Trump’s campaign and administration. Trump obviously has a lot to hide. All he’s clearly building is a classic case of obstruction of justice that closely resembles the Watergate cover-up.
Everyone seems to agree that the most remarkable and telling theme, is that Trump hasn’t once asked or tasked anyone in his cabinet or the intelligence departments to get to the bottom of the Russian interference in our election. Its seems he couldn’t care less.
Trump said he would be “100% willing to testify under oath” about his meetings with James Comey. I guess I’ll believe it when I see him in front of the cameras, taking the pledge to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
As in the past, and in spite of the Trump brand accruing a patina of tarnish and scandal, Trump personally, will probably survive America’s national disgrace financially in tact, as he did from his six bankruptcies and the Trump university scandal (minus the $25 million). Trump’s conflicts of interests, and entanglement with the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, are already paying dividends to his failing empire.
Unless all these investigations are able to prove Trump and his family engaged in Russian money laundering schemes or shady real estate deals, Trump will end up bloodied, bruised and thoroughly defrocked, but probably not broke or in prison. That probably can’t be said for all the Trump administration folks caught up in the scandals and cover-up shenanigans. They’re already hiring defense attorneys. Even their defense attorneys are hiring defense attorneys. Trump voters didn’t know the jobs Trump promised were all going to Washington lawyers. Historical note: Nixon was able to resign but dozens (I think 59) of the conspirators in his administration went to jail. And all those millions in legal fees are probably still not paid off. I’m guessing the plea deals are already in the planning stages.
Trump will call it all fake news and blame the media. He and his apologists will stonewall and obfuscate, they’re even attempting to somehow implicate Hillary Clinton in the Russia Thing; and Trump may even try to fire Special prosecutor Robert Mueller. But sooner or later, we just might get the whole truth.
In the mean time, the folks who went all in on Trump will suffer. Obamacare will get worse and may ultimately fail because of Republican tactics to defund the Affordable Care Act. Trump and the Republican controlled congress will go to any extreme to give the super rich their tax cuts by cutting Medicaid and health care subsidies for the poor, elderly and disabled. Workers and the middle class, even those with employer subsidized health insurance, will get the same crappy substandard health insurance they had before the ACA was passed, with double digit increases, skyrocketing deductibles and cancellations because of pre-existing conditions. And the insurance industry will be back to skimming 30% off the top of America’s health care costs instead of the 15% mandated under Obamacare. And good luck with any legitimate type of tax reform or infrastructure plan. And I wouldn’t count on those coal jobs coming back. Hillary and Bernie at lease had a plan to replace those lost jobs.
These pretenders and evil doers will try to reverse the progress the Obama administration made towards sustainable energy and slowing climate change and global warming. They’ll embarrass America in the eyes of the world by exiting the Paris Agreement, they will bend over backwards for fossil fuel and corporate polluters, they will try to turn back the clock on progress made in the Cuba accord and try to overturn Dodd-Frank, but the 2018 elections are right around the corner. Hopefully they will be so bottled up with the criminal investigations, the amount of damage they do will be limited.
And the loyal Trump supporters may be very slowly coming to their senses. Its reported that the super die hard Trumpers have gone from 30% down to close to 20%.
Unfortunately we can’t say the same for the Republicans in congress. What will it take before they find the courage displayed by Republicans during the Watergate and Iran Contra scandals? It could be the damage done to the Republican party by this Trump Tarbaby will be far worse than Watergate. John Hanno
Neil Buchanan: Is Trump Naive? Stupid? Evil? Or All of the Above?
Neil H. Buchanan, Newsweek June 18, 2017
This article first appeared on the Dorf on Law sire.
Donald Trump is wrong almost all of the time about almost everything.
He lies constantly, and even though he is constantly being caught in his transparent lies, he never admits error, pressing ever forward on his destructive path.
Does he do this because he knows nothing about the world? (That is, is he naive ?)
Alternatively, maybe it is because he is incapable of logical thinking. (Is he stupid ?)
Or is it instead because he has horrible policy goals? (Is he evil ?)
All three of those explanations fit, and then some. As Michael Dorf argued in a recent column, normal human beings can be “evil, stupid, or ignorant,” but “Trump is not a normal human being. He is not even a normal but evil, stupid, or ignorant human being. Trump is Trump.”
In order to understand how Trump is different, we first need to understand what it means to be normal yet wrong in one of those three ways —naive, stupid, or evil. Because those three categories should be sufficient to explain every bad decision, it is important to understand how Trump is a category unto himself.
When Professor Dorf and I were much younger men, we frequently discussed the many ways in which the nation’s then-new president, Ronald Reagan, was wrong. It was a frustrating experience to watch a touchingly naive fool lead the nation in harmful directions, but it certainly created a need to understand exactly what was going wrong.
For me, the issue that helped to clarify how to think about all of this was Reagan’s opposition to imposing economic sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime. Led by protests and boycotts on college campuses, politicians on the left at that time were beginning to pressure our reactionary president to force the Botha regime to change its shockingly racist legal and social system.
Reagan resisted, arguing at one point that South Africa was simply in the process of evolving into a civil rights-friendly nation, just as the United States had evolved in the fifties and sixties. This was jaw-droppingly wrong, so much so that it took a great deal of effort to tease out Reagan’s many errors.
One possibility was that Reagan simply did not have the facts necessary to see the situation clearly. As bad as the Jim Crow era had been in the United States, it was obvious that South Africa was not “merely” going through what the U.S. had experienced.
Moreover, Reagan seemed not to know how bad things had been here, even though he had lived through those decades. Saying, “They’ll be fine, just like we figured it out,” could have been explained by complete ignorance about one or both countries. The problem was that, even if Reagan himself believed these fantasies, he surely had access to advisors who should have known otherwise.
If ignorance about the facts was not at work, it was possible instead that Reagan knew the facts but was not smart enough to draw logical conclusions from them. Was there something like 2 + 2 = 5 error at work in Reagan’s head, a reasoning error along the lines of “All men are mortal, Socrates was mortal, therefore all men are Socrates”?
Reagan argued that sanctions would do no good, even though it was clear that South Africa’s government (notwithstanding its claims to the contrary) was being forced to respond to world pressure. The civil rights leaders in South Africa also rejected Reagan’s argument, saying that outside pressure was key to reaching the goal of ending apartheid.
In any case, Reagan’s policy errors did not seem to fit into the category of mere logical folly. What seemed much more likely was that Reagan, who had been supported by American racists and who had perfected Richard Nixon’s ” southern strategy ” to scare white voters away from Democrats, was simply not particularly concerned about the evils of white supremacy (and maybe actually supported racist goals).
In short, Reagan’s bad policy views could be explained by one of three possibilities. He was naive, or he was stupid, or he was evil. He might also have been some combination of the three.
Being a young man, I thought that maybe I was onto something with the naive/stupid/evil framing of policy debates. Admittedly, there was nothing genuinely new in my taxonomy. People have often said things like, “He’s either a fool or a liar,” when trying to explain their opponents’ errors.
Moreover, one has to decide how to treat things like willful ignorance. Is that a fourth category? It turns out, however, that it is easy to explain this as a version of evil, because a person who decides not to gather facts must be doing so in order to avoid facing the consequences of that knowledge. (This is currently seen, for example, in Republicans’ blocking government statisticians from gathering facts about gun violence.)
The naive/stupid/evil taxonomy can also be expressed with different synonyms—ignorant/illogical/malevolent, uninformed/irrational/malicious, and so on—and the order can be changed. Hence, Professor Dorf’s “evil, stupid, or ignorant” rendering of the taxonomy.
In any case, I have noticed over the years the many ways in which people who are unaware of this taxonomy struggle to identify and understand what they are seeing. Sometimes a shorthand is valuable simply for being a shorthand. And the Trump era has left many people struggling to understand what in many cases boils down to that simple triad.
For example, the conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post recently offered an excellent critique of Trump’s ill considered Muslim ban, concluding with this:
One might conclude that the administration is too incompetent or lazy to make [its case in court]. We prefer a different theory: These orders have no national security or other justification, but rather are blatant appeals to prejudice that have no factual, rational basis. No lawyer in the world can defend that in court.
In short, Rubin first considers whether the administration is incompetent or lazy, which are somewhat fuzzy concepts because incompetence can refer either to stupidity or ignorance, and laziness is most likely (at least in Trump’s case) a version of willful ignorance, that is, evil.
By saying that Trump has “no national security justification,” Rubin means that Trump’s argument is not actually “stupid.” That is, there is no logical argument from Trump’s people that says that A (the ban) causes B (less terrorism). They simply assert their conclusion, as opposed to offering a logically fallacious if-then argument.
Why do they do that? Rubin reasonably concludes that Trump is evil because he is appealing to prejudice. He is so focused on getting to an evil outcome—discriminating against people on the basis of religion and national origin—that he will deny reality and not even bother with logical arguments.
An interesting variation on this method of framing the Trump problem was recently offered by the editorial board of The New York Times : “Stupidity, paranoia, malevolence—it’s hard to distinguish among competing explanations for the behavior of people in this administration.”
Paranoia is a particular form of ignorance, because it means that Trump’s people are living in a different reality from the rest of us. (Using “naive” here would sound too much like an excuse, which is why I am calling it ignorance, with all of its connotations.)
As I wrote above, however, I agree with Professor Dorf that Trump is not simply the unique case of a normal person who is somehow always dealing with an incomplete or incorrect set of facts, or who makes logical errors, or who is always acting in bad faith —naive, stupid, or evil. He is his own category.
The reason Trump is different is that there is always the sense (or hope) that the normal people who have supported Trump are making one of more of those three errors—and, most importantly, that they might be open to fixing those errors.
A person who thinks that there was a “war on coal,” for example, might be persuadable if she exited the Fox New alternative fact zone and saw that it is the simple economics of cheap natural gas and other non-conspiratorial factors that explain the decline of coal.
Also, a person who thinks that Trump will bring back manufacturing jobs might, if prompted, notice that Trump has no actual logical argument regarding how he will make that happen.
Even people who are acting on what I am calling evil motivations are not always beyond reach. Many people are able to confront their demons and say, “Wow, I didn’t realize that I was motivated by hatred.”
That is one of the reasons that same-sex marriage has gained such wide acceptance so quickly. Many people thought, “What was I so scared or angry about?” And the world became a meaningfully better place.
It is impossible to imagine anything like that happening with Trump.
Many of us do hold out some hope every day that even some of Trump’s closest advisors will say, “I can’t do this anymore. I tried to deny to myself what was happening, but this is too much.” It is safe to say that that will not happen with Steve Bannon or some others, but some people have said that even hard-core Trumpists like Kellyanne Conway might harbor doubts.
But Trump? Not a chance. He is ignorant, both as a matter of never having learned anything and because he likes it that way. He is stupid, usually not even bothering to make an argument, but making incoherent arguments when he tries. (We will, he says, just start winning again, somehow.) His goals are racist, sexist, and in other ways bigoted, and he is corrupt to boot.
What are we to think when we learn that Trump does not care about whether the Russian government is undermining American democracy? He only cares about whether he will look bad and lose power if the truth comes out.
“Trump is naive, stupid, and evil” simply does not cover it. Trump is Trump, and heaven help us all.
Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a professor of law at George Washington University. He teaches tax law, tax policy, contracts, and law and economics. His research addresses the long-term tax and spending patterns of the federal government, focusing on budget deficits, the national debt, health care costs and Social Security.
Donald Trump’s Attorney Marc Kasowitz Hit With Ethics Complaints
Mary Papenfuss, HuffPost June 17, 2017
Complaints have been lodged with the District of Columbia and New York City Bar Associations against President Donald Trump’s personal defense attorney Marc Kasowitz, calling for an investigation to determine if he has breached rules of professional conduct.
Separate complaints were filed over the week against Kasowitz by the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit government watchdog organization, and by attorney Neil Goldfarb, a former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union. They both allege that Kasowitz may have inappropriately counseled other White House staffers while representing the president, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.
In addition, the CAF complaint alleges that Kasowitz is not currently authorized to practice law in Washington, D.C.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Kasowitz, dismissed the complaints in a statement to Law.com, calling them “obviously politically motivated” and “based on press reports, which were based on anonymous sources.”
Trump has called on his longtime personal attorney to represent him as investigations heat up into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump acknowledged Friday that he is now a target of a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible obstruction of justice linked to the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Last week, Kasowitz issued a statement characterizing Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as very positive for the president (which he spelled “predisent”). He threatened to file legal complaints against Comey because of Comey’s admission that he had given a memo about a meeting with Trump to a friend and asked the friend to give it to a reporter.
Kasowitz, a member of the New York bar, has been advising Trump and reportedly other members of the president’s staff, even though he is not currently authorized to practice law in the District of Columbia, according to the CAF complaint. He told White House aides it was not yet necessary to hire their own private attorneys, The New York Times reported, citing anonymous sources. Such behavior could be construed as a conflict of interest.
“By meeting with White House staff within the White House complex and offering the legal opinion that those staffers need not hire counsel, [Kasowitz] may have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law,” the CAF complaint states. “In addition, by advising White House staff members, who are not represented by counsel and who have a reasonable possibility of having interests that conflict with those of Mr. Kasowitz’s client, President Trump, Mr. Kasowitz appears to have violated” a rule of professional conduct concerning conflicts of interest.
Goldfarb similarly pointed out in his complaint that “there is obviously a very reasonable possibility that [aides’] personal interests are in conflict with those of President Trump’s.”
The complaints from CAF and Goldfarb come as another of Trump’s private attorneys, Mark Cohen, confirmed to The Washington Post that he has hired his own lawyer to represent his interests during federal investigations into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign team.
International Business Times
Trump’s Lawyer Broke Ethics Rules, Complaint Claims
Josh Keefe, International Business Times June 17, 2017
President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney is the subject of a complaint filed by a watchdog group Thursday with the disciplinary body in charge of Washington attorneys, allegedly for dispensing legal advice to unrepresented White House staffers, a violation of bar rules and legal ethics.
Campaign for Accountability, a government ethics group, filed the complaint with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals’ Office of Disciplinary Counsel in response to a story in Sunday’s New York Times that said Marc Kasowitz, who has represented Trump for 15 years, told presidential aides they did not yet need to hire lawyers in response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
By telling White House aides they did not need to hire lawyers, Kasowitz dispensed legal advice to people who not only weren’t his clients, but whose interests in the coming legal storm might be contrary to the president’s, the complaint alleges. The complaint, which asks the office to open an investigation, comes as Mueller’s investigation reportedly has expanded to examine whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.
“It was really concerning to read he was providing legal advice to White House staffers,” Daniel Stevens, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability, told International Business Times. Stevens is an alumnus of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington, the watchdog group that filed suit against the president just days after his inauguration over his foreign business dealings.
“They weren’t his clients and they might take heed of that advice and it might not be in their best interest. [Kasowitz] needs to be held accountable for giving that advice,” Stevens said.
The D.C. bar, as well as the American Bar Association’s model rules, which have been adopted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia, forbid attorneys from giving legal advice to people who don’t have lawyers, other than recommending they retain counsel, if the “interests of such person are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the lawyer’s client.”
Kasowitz’s discussions with White House staff reportedly bypassed White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, a departure from previous protocol that worried former attorneys who have held that position.
“The president’s private lawyer is representing only his interests, not the interests of the United States government or the individual interests of the White House staff,” Robert F. Bauer, who was White House counsel under President Barack Obama, told the Times.
The White House declined to comment and directed IBT to send questions to Kasowitz, who did not respond to IBT’s inquiries. A spokesperson for Kasowitz previously said the Times’ categorization of the meeting was “inaccurate,” but, according to the Times, “would not specify how.”
Campaign for Accountability copied the complaint to the New York State Bar. Bar. Court records indicate Kasowitz is not a member of the D.C. Bar but is a member of the New York Bar. The committees in D.C. and New York that evaluate complaints would not confirm they received the complaint, as complaints against attorneys are confidential unless a complaint ends in disciplinary action, which can run the gamut from requiring attorneys take continuing education classes to disbarment.
The Committee on Character and Fitness for Manhattan and the Bronx, which has jurisdiction over Kasowitz’s law practice, told IBT that Kasowitz has never been disciplined by the courts for misconduct since becoming a member of the New York Bar in 1978.
Trump hired Kasowitz to represent him in all matters connected to the Russian investigation at the end of May, shortly after the Justice Department tapped Mueller as special counsel.
After FBI Director James Comey testified to a Senate panel June 7th about his interactions with Trump, Kasowitz attacked Comey and defended Trump at the press.
“From before this president took office to this day, it is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications,” Kasowitz said. “Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.”
Trump’s legal team has said it is planning on filing a complaint against Comey for leaking conversations with the president. The team initially planned to file the complaint this week, but the legal team’s spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday the complaint would most likely be filed next week. It’s unclear with which office in the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, the legal team will file the complaint.
Kasowitz has represented Trump in a variety of matters since the turn of the century, including defending the president in the Trump University lawsuit, keeping the president’s divorce records sealed, restructuring Trump casino bondholder debt and suing a Trump biographer in 2009 for citing unnamed sources claiming the real estate mogul wasn’t actually a billionaire.
ProPublica has reported Kasowitz bragged to friends about convincing Trump to fire Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Brahara, who was investigating Tom Price, Trump’s secretary of health and human services, at the time of his firing.
Kasowitz’s firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, employs former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, whom Trump briefly considered for FBI director after he fired Comey. Trump tapped Kasowitz’s partner, David Friedman, to serve as ambassador to Israel prompting the firm to change its name (until late March, Kasowitz’s firm’s name was Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman). In addition to Trump, Kasowitz also represents Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, which counts the Russian government as a majority shareholder.
Vice President Mike Pence has also retained counsel to represent him in the Russia inquiry, the Washington Post reported Thursday. Pence hired Richard Cullen, a former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, a Pence spokesman confirmed to the Post.