The Latest Pickup: Joseph diGenova

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

US President Donald J. Trump after a group photo on the second day of the G7 Summit at the Hotel San Domenico in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, 27 May 2017. (Photo: Angelo Carconi/ANSA)

Steve Benen suggests—

Obviously, diGenova’s track record of pushing strange, right-wing conspiracy theories on television makes it difficult to take him seriously, but because Donald Trump is Donald Trump, the opposite is true in the White House: this president loves those who push strange, right-wing conspiracy theories on television. The same qualities that make Joseph diGenova appear foolish in the eyes of the American mainstream are the very qualities that make him appealing to Trump.

Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, ca. 2016 (Image: C-SPAN)—and that is all well and fine insofar as it goes. One need not protest, though, in order to recall general questions of White House morale and who might wish to work for the Trump administration, and from there specifically point out that eventually there will only be diverse manners of true believers left to answer the call. In this context, Joe diGenova might not be the best man for the job—

For those who support the president and want him to succeed, none of this is good news. Trump is facing a serious scandal of historic significance, which may very well bring his presidency to a premature end. He needs the best legal defense possible.

I’m not sure he’s getting it. Trump—who already had to replace the former head of his legal team, who seemed completely out of his depth—has assembled a group of attorneys who haven’t necessarily served him especially well, and he’s now adding a conspiracy theorist whom the president probably saw on Fox News, peddling a strange tale with no basis in fact.

—but could well be the last best attorney to take up President Trump’s defense.


Image notes: Top —President Donald Trump. (Photo: Angelo Carconi/ANSA)  Right — Attorney Joseph E. diGenova (Image: C-SPAN)

Benen, Steve. “Trump’s new defense attorney burdened by a controversial past”. msnbc. 19 March 2018.


Your Tweet of the Day: McCabe Memos

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid): "Republican source to me just now: 'The McCabe Memos are the new Pentagon Papers.' #MuellerTime" [via Twitter, 17 March 2018]

This is the thing about melodrama and hyperbole:

Republican source to me just now: “The McCabe Memos are the new Pentagon Papers.” #MuellerTime

Joy Reid

For all the times Republicans bawled about the Obama administration as a Watergate-valence scandal, it is easy enough to be wary of an invocation so spectacular as the Pentagon Papers. Nonetheless, we might recall that melodrama and hyperbole are precisely #WhatTheyVotedFor, even if it hurts who they voted for.

And this does not begin to account for the long Republican habit of challenging thresholds, because the hard part about explaining that is found in the aspect of what is appropriate or not to speculate, project, conclude, or otherwise say about our neighbors.


A Note Aside: Something About Perspective

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image.

This is called a digression, and it is not hard to guess its provenance. The other name for this exercise is, writing yourself into a hole. Still, the brazen stupidity of the Trump administration is mystifying unless we reconcile ourselves to some aspect of the irrelevance of norms insofar as we are dealing with a phenomenon akin to the nexus of gaslight and sincerely held belief and overlooking some aspect of perspective that would otherwise explain why the grace of subtlety, or even the tired comfort of basic competence come to seem anathema in #DimensionTrump.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempts to demonstrate the difference between government and the Republican health care agenda during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 7 March 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Note aside: It is hard to figure what to do with an inchoate question having to do with the idea of new and old guards, or, such as it is, institutional traditionalism and institutional insurgency. Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has already spent time with the Mueller investigation; while his reputation as a low-skill bullshit artist was well-established during his time as RNC flak, he still bore some connection to an older way of doing things in the Republican Party. That is, with the jig up, it appears he told the Special Counsel’s Office what they wanted to know, and might well end up with no greater culpability than his reputation already earns him. It is hard to imagine how Sarah Huckabee Sanders would answer the Mueller investigation, but appearances, as such, are what drive the amorphous question about generational differences among conservatives. Where the old guard parses carefully and others might seethe at the appearance of will, there is a newer phenomenon by which people simply give voice to their violations as if it has never occurred to them that such behavior is problematic.

White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway speaks to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, 22 January 2017. (Detail of frame from NBC News)Remember the proposition of alternative facts; it is one thing to wonder if we are laughing at absurdity or genuine malady. This is #DimensionTrump; the President will hang his comms shop to boast of obstructing justice; Donald Jr. hands over emails that appear to convict him. With Hope Hicks on the record, apparently, that part of her job was to lie for the White House, and one former Press Secretary having already spoken with and given documents to the Mueller investigation, it starts to feel impossible that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would avoid the Special Counsel’s Office, and we might wonder what happens if she works to evade under question. One need not be Sam Nunberg to suggest the White House Press Secretary “does Trump’s dirty business”, or that, Huckabee Sanders is “terrible”, at her job.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)Perhaps it is a difference of cognizance. Some will rail against criticism or even criminal charges because they must, despite their culpability. There are those, however, who will never understand why their culpability is culpability. If we recall a time not so long ago during which conservatives fixated on the proposition of “sincerely held beliefs” entitling exemption to obligations under law—e.g., discrimination in bakeries, hospitals, &c.—then we might propose, in the moment, to witness what we might otherwise hope is the crest of that wave: Can we imagine Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempting to hold out under scrutiny from the Mueller investigation, according to sincerely held beliefs in alternative facts?

At some point, someone in the #trumpswindle is going to throw down explicitly that, certainly, they said this and did this other thing but it’s not illegal because they say so.

At what point does it occur to these people that, yes, they really can get in trouble for what they are doing? How many will recognize the danger before Mueller calls them in? How many will never understand why this is happening to them?


Image note: Top — Composite of President Donald Trump (Photo: Reuters) and Puti-Toots (Credit: Unknown).  Right — Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters); White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway (Image: NBC News); White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Nuzzi, Olivia. “Sam Nunberg on Mueller, His Media Spree, and His Message for Trump”. New York. 6 March 2018.

Not Exactly Subtle

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

#PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016.

This is all ritual, right?

When asked—three times—at a White House press briefing about Russia’s link to the poisoning or any possible repercussions for the country from the U.S., Sanders carefully did not say “Russia”—or otherwise address who may have been responsible for the attack. She characterized it as an “indiscriminate” attack, although British authorities have concluded that Skripal was clearly targeted.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)“We’ve been monitoring the incident closely, take it very seriously,” Sanders said. “The use of a highly lethal nerve agent against U.K. citizens on U.K. soil is an outrage. The attack was reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible. We offer the fullest condemnation.”

“So you’re not saying that Russia was behind this?” a reporter asked.

“Right now, we are standing with our U.K. ally,” Sanders said again. “I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that.”

Pressed a third time, an annoyed Sanders answered, “Like I just said, we stand with our ally and we certainly fully support them and are ready if we can be of any assistance.”


That is, just to be clear: We put up with the lying farce that is the Trump administration every day according to some pretense that we all recognize what is happening and it ought to be over, eventually, when Mueller and the American Way of Truth and Justice finally come through.



Not a Word Game: The Seychelles and the Mercenary

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

This is not a word game. I dare you to put all these words and strings of words together in some way that makes sense:

• Mercenary
• Brother of future Secretary of Education
• Unofficial Trump envoy
• Secret meeting
• The Seychelles
• Russia
• United Arab Emirates
• Qatar
• Failed loan negotiation
• President’s family
• Blockade
• UAE hired mercenary army to invade Qatar

And remember: This is how the news cycle has gone over the last week, in terms of what we learn about the #trumpswindle.

In the moment we might pause to imagine a photo of Erik Prince tacked to a wall amid a network of yarn connecting him to other photos of people in some vast conspiracy theory, we could easily also admit it is rather quite a strange prospect to say, So that’s what he was doing in the Seychelles.

It might also behoove us to wonder at the spectacle of such intrigue; to some degree it really does seem melodramatic adventure complete with villanous buffoonery—or is it buffoonish villainy?—is #WhatTheyVotedFor.

Something About Sam Nunberg

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

“Let him arrest me. Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday.”

Sam Nunberg

This is, y’know, one of those things. Josh Daswey brings the lede for the Washington Post:

Sam Nunberg. (Photo: Uncredited)Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg said Monday that he has been subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal grand jury investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election but that he will refuse to go.

In a nutshell, Mr. Nunberg’s rationale runs, approximately, that “Putin is too smart to collude with Trump”, “I’m not spending eighty hours going over my emails”, and, “there is nobody who hates [Donald Trump] more than me”.

Constitutional precedent is, admittedly, unclear on these points, but still, we might expect such arguments will fail to suffice. Still, though, the impressively unimpressive Nunberg did say, “Let him arrest me.”


Image note: Top — Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)  Right — Sam Nunberg (Photo: Unknown)

Dawsey, Josh. “Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg called before grand jury, says he will refuse to go”. The Washington Post. 5 March 2018.

Who Chris Christie Calls Awful

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), at left, joins Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump during a press event at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on Super Tuesday, 1 March 2016. Christie, who suspended his own presidential campaign in February has been widely ridiculed for endorsing Trump.

It is easy enough, given the plethora of news media options we might choose to attend or ignore, that we might somehow manage to forget about Kellyanne Conway, or Chris Christie, and even to the degree that it should be strange not only to encounter those names, but even more so at once.

“She has this unique position that she’s earned,” said former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who worked closely on the opioid crisis with Ms. Conway and credited her with urging the president to personalize the issue through his brother’s experience with addiction. “She’s gotten a bad rap at times, but I think that’s because of some of the really awful people inside the White House who have been trying to hurt her, as opposed to anything the press came up with on its own.”

In recent months, Ms. Conway has watched, somewhat from the sidelines, as John F. Kelly, the president’s current chief of staff, came in and pledged to bring order to the West Wing, dispatching a number of aides who had once envied the access Ms. Conway cultivated with the president.

(Rogers and Haberman)

To the other, this is the Trump administration.   (more…)

A Tremor in the #TrumpSwindle

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, attends an American Leadership in Emerging Technology roundtable in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 22 June 2017.  (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

This is just one of those moments worth noting, because it will either be important or not.

Asked about the loans Jared Kushner received after meeting in the WH with the execs who approved those loans, Sarah Sanders says the WH has no comment and refers reporters to Kushner’s lawyer.

(Caroline O)

It is in the moment tempting to wonder if we witness some manner of disengagement beginning as the Special Counsel’s Office swirls around one of the most obvious exposures in the White House. To the other, disengagement is possibly impossible by circumstance of who has done what, and, furthermore, it seems very much an extraordinary proposition to watch the Trump family cabal fracture down this particular fault line.


The Panama City Trumps

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

This is a lede from Associated Press:

One of President Donald Trump’s family businesses is battling an effort to physically evict its team of executives from a luxury hotel in Panama where they manage operations, and police have been called to keep the peace, The Associated Press has learned. Witnesses told the AP they saw Trump’s executives carrying files to a room for shredding.

And then there is the detail:

Representatives of the hotel owners’ association formally sought to fire Trump’s management team Thursday by hand-delivering termination notices to them at the Trump International Hotel and Tower, according to a Panamanian legal complaint filed by Orestes Fintiklis, who controls 202 of the property’s 369 hotel units. Trump’s managers retreated behind the glass walls of an office where they were seen carrying files to an area where the sounds of a shredding machine could be heard, according to two witnesses aligned with the owners. The legal complaint also accused Trump’s team of improperly destroying documents.


A Matter of Perspective (Poodlefinger Mix)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

This is important:

When Donald Trump makes ridiculously untrue comments, few are surprised. The president has a reputation for breathtaking dishonesty, which is well deserved. Making matters much worse, however, is the degree to which his White House makes no real effort to be more trustworthy.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)For example, the White House issued a formal written statement late Friday responding to the federal indictment of 13 Russian operatives who are accused of attacking our elections to help put Trump in power. A Washington Post analysis described the statement as “extremely dishonest,” and documented several demonstrable falsehoods—none of which has been corrected.

But West Wing officials weren’t content to stop there. On Twitter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Unlike Obama, [Trump] isn’t going to be pushed around by Russia or anybody else.” That might be slightly less laughable if Obama hadn’t imposed sanctions on Russia, which is the opposite of what Trump did.

In a certain way it does not matter what the esteemed Steve Benen finds laughable. There is a long story, of course, behind the statement that, brain chemistry is brain chemistry, or that brain chemistry will as brain chemistry does, but the proposition of laughability depends on circumstantial norms observably not in effect.

When the Press Secretary says President Trump will not be “pushed around by Russia or anybody else”, we need to consider what that means to her. Because either Sarah Huckabee Sanders believes what she says or she does not. The latter is actually the extraordinary alternative, so the question becomes how she believes such a seemingly ridiculous statement.

And to this the answer is actually straightforward:

• President Trump will not be pushed around by Russia because Russia is not pushing him around.

• President Trump will not be pushed around by anybody else because he will not be pushed around by Congress or the Special Counsel’s Office.