Friday, May 19, 2017

Crimes And Misdemeandors


Last week, I waited in line at O-Dark-Thirty for coffee at a [Redacted] near the Embarcadero Bart station. A half-dozen of us, corporate Sheeple, mildly sleepy, stood to the right of an open-fronted display case holding yogurt, hard-boiled eggs; sandwiches and bottled drinks.

As we waited, one of San Francisco's homeless pushed his way through the line to the cooler. With a badly shaved head and dressed in a long cloth jacket that had once been blue, he reminded me of the escaped convict, Magwitch, in Dicken's Great Expectations. The man bent down towards the display case, reached into it and began stuffing the pockets of his jacket with bottles and packages of food.

Alerted by some of the patrons ("Hey, this guy's stealing stuff"), the early shift manager -- a nice guy, in his late 20's whom I see almost every weekday morning -- came out from behind the counter. The homeless man -- his pantslegs rolled up to reveal badly swollen lower legs and ankles  -- had already hobbled out of the shop.

The manager caught up with him, but wasn't confrontational. "You can't just take stuff, man," the manager said quietly. "That's completely uncool."  With a wild, intense expression on his face, the homeless man took one wavering step backwards, spread his arms, and bellowed something spectacularly incoherent before hobbling away up Market Street into the dark. The manager watched him go, looked over at me, and shrugged.

Talking with the manager about the incident as he rang up my coffee, we agreed: The Man was a figure of pathos, straight out of Hugo: Jean Valjean and the loaf of bread. The man was ill, and hungry, and to make a larger issue out of the theft would be sanctimonious assholery of a particularly low order. Neither of us felt like Inspector Joubert that morning.

We spoke about other things. "Wish that had been Trump," the fellow laughed. "I would have called the cops on his ass."

I laughed back, and mentioned the early-days investigations by the FBI of Trump and his campaign's connections to the Russians. "We could get lucky," I said.

Then, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and, pushed along by a series of Tweets both pathetic and bullying by turns, the antics of his Clown Car government went into screaming, vibrating overdrive.

Down here in the trenches, everyone likes to try and read the Tea Leaves and divine the future. How does this all play out? There are a few broad categories, and all this is just one Dog's opinion.

1.) Impeachment

We all went through this less than twenty years ago, with Saintly Bill-O's lying about Monica and his What-Is-Is.  But getting there in 2017 would be difficult (this graphic may help explain why).

A Special Prosecutor conducts an investigation. It takes as long as it takes. Apparently, Robert Mueller will have broad investigative powers and independence from his putative boss, Assistant Attorney General Robert Rosenstein, author of That Memo.  Mueller will deliver a report to Rosenstein, and will have the ability to recommend criminal charges be filed.

Having a Special Prosecutor gives the appearance of a no-dog-in-this-fight neutrality necessary to "ensure Americans may have confidence the investigation is fair and complete". However, the efforts of Mueller's team will automatically take precedence over (one might say, trump) the congressional inquiries already in motion through the House and Senate intelligence committees, investigating the Trump campaign's Russian connections.

Let's say Mueller's team can't tie Trump to any High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Some lower-level apparatchiks would be found to take the fall (with promises they and their families will be 'taken care of' if they stick to their stories), while Trump remains in command of the nation, bloated and raving, Tweeting nonstop from the Bunker.

But, if someone breaks ranks (for example, if Michael Flynn were granted immunity and had a real story to tell), or other evidence surfaces which implicates Trump in a conspiracy or obstruction of justice -- then a Bill of Impeachment would have to be passed by the House. The Senate would have to agree to put Trump on trial. This spectacle goes on for months.

Senators may vote to impeach, or a vote could fail. They may, or may not, demand the President be removed from office. In Clinton's case, the political Right wanted to leave a wounded, sitting Democratic President, publicly soaking in his shame, ahead of the 2000 elections.

You can already see how high the bar has been set.  First, serious, unequivical proofs of Herr Trump's crimes must be found which meet evidentiary standards. Second, will Little Bobby Rosenstein (and in the background, crazy ol' Jeff Sessions) agree with Mueller and allow a criminal indictment, sending the matter to Congress? This could play out in a number of different directions. Then what?

More to the point -- will a Congress dominated by a Republican party (Rightist factions at war with each other, really) agree to a process that will drag out for over a year, and certain to damage the Republican 'brand' during midterm elections?

2.)  Resignation

Trump has revealed to us all, on an almost daily basis, the paranoid alt-Right universe which he lives in -- where Trump, like 'forgotten' Americans who voted for him, is an innocent victim of a vast conspiracy. Its tentacles are everywhere. Everyone knows it.

And he must fight that conspiracy, because he is a fighting fighter, who fights, and doesn't give up. He is the only one who can fight it, because he is Trump. Now he is in the White House, sometimes, surrounded by barely competent advisors who constantly disappoint him and must always be watched, Trump fights on and on and on. He does it all for you. He doesn't rest, except when he is in Florida. But he doesn't give up -- because he is Donald Trump.

That said: were Trump faced with incontrovertible evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Speaker-To-Animals Paulie Ryan, Sen. Yertle The Turtle, 'Bomb Bomb Bombin' John McCain and a few other GOP stalwarts would approach Trump at his More-Lego palace in Florida in the dead of night. They would tell him he should spare the country a wrenching Impeachment spectacle (read: please leave us our Republican party), and strongly recommend he resign.

Donny waffles; he shouts, he cries like a child. They wait. Then they offer him a one-time deal:  He will stay out of jail; his immediate family will be spared, but they all must go. Now. And like any leader of a Banana Republic where the mob is at the gates of the palace, it will take Trump five seconds to understand: He'll get to keep whatever he's looted from the nation during his time in office.  

In a Kleptocracy, it's still a Win if you are forced away from the table, but get to keep the offshore accounts. You can always claim in your ghosted biography that your downfall was someone else's fault; a forced error. In Trump's mind, Aber Natürlich, his numbers would still be all-time highs.

So, he accepts the offer. After a last, GBCW speech that rivals Nixon's blubbering farewell in its bitterness and surreality, Trump is whisked away to his anti-environment compound in Florida, faithful Melania at his side in a tasteful Victoria Secrets day dress.  Mike Pence is sworn in as the 46th President, and as his first Executive Order declares Jesus is his Co-President.

To bring this scenario to fruition, however, the traditional conservative, Old Money leaders of the GOP will have to win their bloody civil war with the alt-Right (the Tea Partei, their radical Billionaire financiers; and the Evangelical Brownshirts).  This has been a slow-motion hostile takeover over twenty years in the making: to borrow a term from The Soul Of America, it's one bunch of rich, asshole Triskellions against another. The prize is control of a corporation called "The Republican Party", and all the marketing associations with that brand. 

It is in no way clear who will win that battle. My guess is it will continue playing out for the next five or ten years, and that if Trump and his Familia Criminale have to be removed, some truce will be declared between the factions of the Right. A majority will support his being told to resign.  The longer he remains in office, the more the Republican brand suffers, and the more the alt-Right becomes the 21st century political equivalent of the Whigs, or the Monster Raving Looney Party.

3.)  Distraction, Manufactured Or Otherwise

As the Mueller investigation proceeds, some event in the world causes Trump to increase the Defcon level, start moving aircraft carriers and battle groups, and a manufactured military crisis begins -- North Korea is the most likely candidate, but any situation that would allow Trump to distract everyone's attention in a Wag The Dog effort could serve.

The world is volatile enough that it's also possible an actual crisis, one not engineered, may occur -- but which Trump & Co. will seize upon as a heaven-sent distraction: a regional conflict (India and Pakistan; Russia and Ukraine / The Baltics; China and Japan / Taiwan), or a pandemic disease outbreak (Ebola, H5N1) or Zombie Apocalypse, for example.

4.)  Very Bad Things

This is something that can't be spelled out because it might be misinterpreted. In his first speech from the Oval Office, President Pence will use the word 'God' 147 times, 'punish' 238 times, and 'Satan' 61 times.

Sidebar: Bob and Jimmy's Excellent Adventure

A story worth remembering: Robert Mueller and James Comey have known each other a long time, and both have spent their careers in 'official' Washington.  Both served in the Department Of Justice and both ended their careers as Directors of the FBI -- Mueller passing the baton to Comey under President Obama.

You may recall that in 2001, the Patriot Act was signed into law by George "Lil' Boots" Bush, after the September 11th attacks, giving intelligence agencies new powers to Hoover up all emails and telephone or digital communications conduct surveillance of everyone in America suspected terrorists. The Act effectively allowed warrantless wiretaps by the NSA.

The fact of domestic wiretapping had been leaked; members of Congress complained; Bush and others squeaked in protest that the surveillance was 'limited'. It was agreed the surveillance program would be 'reauthorized' on a regular basis over the signature of the Attorney General,  then John Ashcroft.  At the time, James Comey was Deputy Attorney General.

Ashcroft was deeply conservative but also very disturbed at the legal implications of a vast, warrantless wiretapping operation, and in the spring of 2004 made it known he would not sign off on reauthorization of those activities. Lil' Boots wasn't happy.

As he later testified to a Senate committee, in March, 2004, Comey received a telephone call from Ashcroft's wife, who was with her husband at a Washington, D.C. hospital after Ashcroft had gall bladder surgery -- which made Comey the acting Attorney General of the United States.

She was badly distraught: at Bush's direction, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, and Bush's Chief Of Staff, Andrew Card, had shown up at Ashcroft's hospital room to pressure the AG into signing the reauthorization document for the domestic surveillance program. Ashcroft refused and told them to leave, but they wouldn't. She pleaded with Comey to help.

Comey's first telephone call was to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller. They met at the hospital and sent Gonzales and Card, two despicable little men on an errand from another despicable little man, away. It was the position of the Department of Justice that the domestic wiretapping program was questionable if not illegal. Ashcroft had already made his position clear; Comey agreed.

This event started a battle between the Justice Department and Lil' Boots. In his Senate testimony, Comey noted that the domestic surveillance program was reauthorized at Bush's order the next day, without his approval as acting Attorney General.

Since Bush had shown he was willing to run roughshod over the Justice Department to achieve a legally questionable end, Comey, Mueller and several other officials planned to resign. Lil' Boots, petulant and mulish as always when his wishes were thwarted, reluctantly agreed to meet Comey and Mueller; after the meeting, Bush agreed the surveillance program should be restructured to make it more legally defensible. As a result Mueller, Comey and others dropped their plans to resign

The takeaway here is not that Mueller or Comey were necessarily such heroes by standing up to power in 2004 -- they didn't object to mass warrantless searches per se; but in order to allow violations of the Second and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution they wanted band-aids in place to provide the surveillance of the U.S. population with a legal fig leaf. And it would all still be secret, anyway.

Sidebar: The Fourth Estate

While there are journalists out there who want to uncover and report the truth of events, America's media (and in other countries) have been played like a harp when it suits people who wish it. The CIA has routinely planted information with 'friendly' reporters, under the guise of providing them an inside scoop, to discredit enemies, pass false information, or influence a debate.

The media has also been used for recent political payback: remember the stories about Saddam Hussein's Yellowcake Uranium, based on 'sheep-dipped' intelligence given to a reporter for Italian newspaper La Stampa, used by 'Dick' Cheney to justify invading Iraq but then shown to be false (rumor was, the intel had been manufactured by CIA officers opposed to an unnecessary war)?

(And, not only intelligence agencies get to have their fun: Rumor was that, through a cut-out, Karl Rove provided CBS' Dan Rather with forged documents about "Lil' Boots" Bush's weak point in the 2004 Presidential election: his ducking out of service in Vietnam by joining the Air National Guard. Lil' Boots was facing John Kerry -- both a decorated Vietnam Vet and one who had returned home to vocally and eloquently protest that war. 

(The worst of the Right went after Kerry's military service, head-on, suggesting he was a liar who never deserved a Silver Star or three Purple Hearts -- but, then in 2002 that fat ol' nightcrawler, Saxby Chambliss, had suggested Max Cleland, triple-amputee Vietnam Vet, was a traitor. So no one should be surprised.

(The charge that Lil' Boots' military service was a sham, an arrangement for his powerful Daddy, was true -- but the documents supporting it given to Rather were not. CBS broke the story, and was then forced to publicly recant when assailed by Little Rupert and Fat Roger, Lard Boy, and a chorus of Republican politicos. The story was no longer about Bush's military non-service; Rove had neutralized the entire topic for that 2004 presidential election, destroying Dan Rather's career and CBS News' credibility in the process. I'll bet Karl bought himself an extra dozen doughnuts that day.)

If you're a major American political figure, perhaps even a president, you do not want to make enemies out of the CIA and FBI (remember what happened to JFK). Trump knows this, but doesn't seem to care. By disrespecting the CIA and firing a highly respected FBI Director, apparently to save his own ass -- if there is evidence of Trump or his campaign's wrongdoing regarding the Russians, he should expect it to appear in the media, drop by drop. And, not just in America -- it could easily be a breaking story in the UK Guardian or Die Welt.

In fact, it's already begun: Tuesday, with reports of the Comey memos; and Thursday, a story of 18 separate contacts (all electronic intercepts) between Russians and the Trump campaign during 2016 has surfaced as an 'exclusive to Reuters'.

Somewhere, journalists may dream of being the next Woodward and Bernstein -- but they had their Deep Throat; and Mark Felt may or may not have been just an angry, principled FBI agent motivated to become a whistleblower.

Where this ends is anyone's guess.  It will either be a long string of embarrassing leaks which don't lead to prosecution, but wound Trump and his cabal for a time. It might allow the DNC to grab seats in Congress ... or, that string of embarrassments leads, like Watergate, to the Oval Office.

It's also possible that the media's revelations will cause Trump to finally pop -- a Macaca Moment, a full-on meltdown in front of the cameras, leaving no doubt he is unfit to hold office.  Invoking the 25th Amendment, Mike Pence becomes the 46th President and demands prayer be made mandatory in our nation's schools.


And they came unto him saying, Lord, we are confused greatly in our minds and hearts and there is the sounds of keening and the gnashing of mandibles in the land. And the LORD spaketh saying, I am reminded that Kayfabe is Kayfabe -- and the individual user's inability to discern fake Kayfabe from true-true Kayfabe is like he who stood waiting for that Uber ride which never came, for he was drunk and knew not. Go now, and do not buy into that crap, sayeth the LORD. Or, words to that effect.

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