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.


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.



What They Voted For: Why Government Doesn’t Work (Educational Remix)

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Betsy Devos (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It is said, sometimes, that there are no stupid questions, and we all know better, but that really does not seem the problem challenging Steve Benen when his consideration of Education Secretary Betsy Devos would seem to wonder after the obvious:

There’s a reason Betsy DeVos doesn’t sit down for a lot of interviews.

My question, however, is for the 51 Republicans who put elevated her to her current post: any regrets?

Of course not; they’re Republicans. This is the party that tells us government does not work; we ought not be surprised, and instead remember that Secretary DeVos only “embarrasses herself (and the 50 senators who voted to confirm her)” according to contexts by which competence and functionality are considered admirable, desirable, or, at the very least, a necessary component according to purpose. To the other, it seems worth reminding that even into the twenty-first century it was inappropriate to presume so poorly of public servants as we would to account for the incompetence, corruption, and sheer stupidity of the Trump administration.

Sixty-two million nine hundred eighty-four thousand eight hundred twenty-five. This is what they voted for.


Image note: Betsy Devos (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “DeVos embarrasses herself (and the 50 senators who voted to confirm her)”. msnbc. 12 March 2018.

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.

Three People, or, Twit l’Iver

#lulz | #WhatTheyVotedFor

John Moe (@johnmoe): This is three people: Rick Gates, the bass player for a Canadian Bon Iver cover band, and your mom's third husband Steve. [via Twitter, 18 February 2018]

This is John Moe:

This is three people: Rick Gates, the bass player for a Canadian Bon Iver cover band, and your mom’s third husband Steve.

Alex Brandon’s photo for Associated Press is very possibly iconic.

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.


The Plot Twist (Squeaky Gates)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

This is hard to overlook. Los Angeles Times reports:

A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days—and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

Rick Gates departs U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case.

“Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty,” said a person with direct knowledge of the new developments, adding that the revised plea will be presented in federal court in Washington “within the next few days.”

Caroline Orr, meanwhile, rightly recalls that “Gates was still making regular trips to the White House through at least June 2017”, noting the Daily Beast, circa June last:   (more…)

What Rosenstein Said

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies to the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., 13 December 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Via Bloomberg:

Beyond the 13 people indicted, Mueller announced the Feb. 12 guilty plea of a California man for identity theft, Richard Pinedo, who is cooperating with prosecutors. The indictment of Russian individuals and companies also suggests a broader conspiracy than Mueller charged, saying grand jurors heard about others involved in the scheme.

Richard Painter, who was the chief ethics adviser in the George W. Bush administration, said the lack of any evidence of collusion in the indictment wasn’t the final word by prosecutors.

“They’re charging what they know,” he said. “The contact with the Trump campaign might be unwitting in this case, but that doesn’t mean that the collaboration issue is finished.”

Now, just to make certain: We should probably bear in mind that neither, really is the question of this or that contact being unwitting truly closed. It seems a tawdry hair to split, except there is also the part about how—

This “information warfare” by the Russians didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters. Trump and his Republican supporters have repeatedly denounced the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and have denied any collusion. The indictment cites no instances of Russians coordinating directly with the Trump campaign.

—and this is important: Rosenstein did not say the information warfare “didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election”.


What They Voted For: Jeopardy

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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

“Trump’s lawyers are cognizant of the fact that the president lies with such incredible frequency that allowing him to have a conversation with federal investigators would likely put him in legal jeopardy.”

Steve Benen

There are many standards by which we might consider the daily grind of life during the Trump administration, and perhaps some ought not complain so much if it is not a daily question of life and death, or, maybe, freedom, necessity, and serious impairment thereof; nonetheless, there is still just the general indignity of how long the spectacle must persist, and within that context we might note that circumstances do continue, as circumstances will, apace. Via msnbc:

Three weeks ago today, Donald Trump surprised White House reporters by making unscheduled comments about a provocative subject: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia scandal. More specifically, the president made a variety of comments about how much he’s looking forward to speaking to Mueller and his team under oath.

“I’m looking forward to it, actually,” Trump said, adding that he’d “love to” talk to the special counsel investigators. The president went on to say he’s “absolutely” prepared to answer questions under oath.

And, yes, President Trump did go on to say two or three weeks.