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Two questions for Comey

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What are we to make of Trump’s statement (unconfirmed by Comey) that Comey told him “three times” that he (Trump) was not a target of the investigation? He made that claim to Lester Holt yesterday.

Trump’s assertion raises two serious questions.

First question: How many times have we heard law enforcement officials say they can’t reveal who may or may not be under investigation? It’s routine for them to say that. So, if a law enforcement official can’t publicly reveal if someone is under investigation, why is it okay for them to reveal it in a private conversation, and to the very person who may or may not be the target of the investigation? Curious and troubling. So, Mr. Comey, did you actually say that to Trump not once, not twice, but three times?

Second question: Even assuming that Comey did tell Trump he’s not under investigation, how would Comey have reached that conclusion before the investigation has been completed? How would Comey have known that, for instance, Trump didn’t collaborate on some level with the Russians, or that Trump did not order his subordinates (Page, Manafort, Flynn, etc.) to collaborate with the Russians? Those questions are fundamental to this investigation; we are led to believe that the House and Senate Committees, and the FBI, are getting into the details, but all three are far from reaching conclusions. So, Mr. Comey, how could you reassure Trump he’s investigation-free before the investigation is finished?

You know, all we have for this assertion, without Comey’s input, is Trump’s word for it—and a pathological liar’s “word” isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.

One would hope that these questions will be answered next Wednesday, when Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee. That hearing, unfortunately, will not be open to the public, which raises another troubling issue: far too much information that the public is entitled to know is kept secret in closed hearings. I can understand why some hearings need to be closed; after all, you don’t want to reveal the names of American agents, or the particulars of, say, how we combat cyberwarfare. But why can’t the public hear Comey answer my two questions? He wouldn’t be revealing national secrets, or endangering anybody except, obviously, Trump.

Right after the Lester Holt interview aired, I checked out Trump’s @realDonaldTrump twitter feed, and he was attacking Richard Blumenthal, Roger Stone, Democrats in general, Comey, Chris Murphy, Chuck Schumer, Sally Yates and Jim Clapper with his usual combination of anger and hysteria. With all the problems piling up (North Korea, Syria, Iran, the economy, jobs, tax reform, healthcare, just to mention a few), how is it that Trump spends so much time ranting on Twitter? It really makes you think that Comey was right when he said Trump is “outside the realm of normal” and “crazy.”

Speaking of Trump’s mental state, I’m noticing a lot more reference lately, from posts on social media, to the 25th Amendment to the Constitution—specifically Section 4: “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to…the Senate and the…House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

Notice that no hearings are required, no congressional votes, no judicial ruling. The process is automatic and “immediate.” Pence couldn’t do it alone; he would need “the principal officers” of the administration (presumably, senior Cabinet members) to go along, but he could do it without executive branch members if he got senior leaders of the legislative body (presumably, the Speaker and the Majority Leader, and perhaps certain committee chairs). All it would take would be two letters (to the Speaker and to the President pro tempore of the Senate) and that would be it. No more Trump. What could he do, surround the White House with federal troops and refuse to step down? Wacky, science-fictiony stuff, but we have a POTUS straight out of a Hollywood horror movie about a madman in the Oval Office, lending further credence to the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.


From the fog of the Comey firing, a few things are clear

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In my post yesterday, after news of the Comey firing broke, I declined to take a position, because I didn’t have enough information to make an informed judgment. Too many people react to situations like this in a kneejerk way, before they have the facts. I’m trying to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.

After paying close attention since then, and listening to a variety of sources, left and right, here’s my take, although I will admit that I still find the thing pretty obscure. Anyhow:

Trump and his compliant Republicans are arguing that it’s hypocritical for Democrats to be upset by the firing, since Dems were angry at Comey for handing the election to Trump, and many of them (including me) had called for him to be fired, or quit. According to Republicans, Dems hated Comey then, but now they’ve become crybabies and his biggest defenders.

Let me explain this to the GOP.

Yes, we Democrats hated Comey. He did something awful: writing that stupid letter to Congress less than three weeks before the election. That most certainly caused enough voters to switch at the last minute from Hillary to Trump.

And yes, Democrats now are enormously upset at Comey’s abrupt firing by the subject of his investigation, Trump. So how do Democrats get around the hypocrisy charge? Easy. Comey appeared to be leading a fair, impartial, independent investigation into Trump/Russia—which is all that Democrats ever wanted. I may have questioned his motives and independence prior to the election. But I was prepared to let History be the judge, and to let Comey, using the FBI’s vast resources, do his job now.

And then came the firing. The White House is said to have been “surprised” at the reaction of Democrats, whom they apparently thought would celebrate the firing. That just shows how politically inept and tone-deaf Trump and his enablers are. Why should it be so hard for them to understand that, while, Democrats were royally pissed off at Comey, at the same time they were gladdened by the way the FBI investigation was going? Democrats can walk and chew gum at the same time.

There are also new reports that Trump has been “screaming at the TV” whenever reports about RussiaGate come on, which is most of the time on the cable news networks. I’m sure he’s frustrated. All I can say is that he brought this upon himself, and has no one to blame except the man in the mirror.

The battle is now on for the hearts and minds of the American public. I think this represents a turning point in their assessment of Trump. Obviously, hardcore Trumpistas won’t care. As Trump himself once said, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and they’d still support him.

But the loosy-goosy percentage in the middle who voted for Trump and whose minds are actually open to reality are starting to rethink their assessment. It is becoming increasingly evident that Trump has something to hide concerning his Russia ties, and the revelation that Trump fired Comey just days after Comey asked for more “resources” for the investigation strongly suggests a determined effort by a frightened, angry Trump to stop it or at least postpone it until he figures out how to regroup. I’m guessing there’s plenty of bewilderment among Republicans, and that it will show up in the next polling cycle.


Five issues, besides RussiaGate, to attack Trump

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[I wrote this post yesterday, shortly before the news broke about Trump firing Comey. I’m not going to comment on that bombshell, yet. It doesn’t look good for Trump; maybe this is the beginning of the end. But I don’t pretend to understand it at this point. So here’s my original post.]

Here are five issues Democrats can use to chip away at Trump’s support. It’s not that RussiaGate isn’t a good one, for now. It distracts him—keeps him off-balance and on the defensive. It could actually lead to downfalls, if not of him personally then of some of those around him. But Democrats should not put all their chips on RussiaGate, which may, ultimately, be a big yawn. Here are five other issues Trump is vulnerable on.

  1. His taxes. By a wide majority, Americans are concerned about Trump not releasing his taxes. They are unconvinced by his repeated lie that “no one cares.” They do care. Americans instinctively understand that Trump is getting away with something they could not. Because he’s rich, and can hire the best lawyers, he can thwart laws that would ensnare them. It’s fundamentally unfair. So #ReleaseYourTaxes has traction.
  2. The family’s financial conflicts of interest. Even the most diehard free marketer and tea party stalwart has got to be concerned by seeing Jared, Ivanka and various Trump relatives and in-laws running around the world, trading on their name, opening new hotels and golf courses, and getting even richer. Everybody knows that the family’s businesses are helped immeasurably by the fact that “Trump” is not only a brand, he’s President of the United States. This rubs Americans the wrong way; they believe that success should be due to hard work, not family connections. And Trump devolving power on his family smacks of something Americans hate: nepotism.
  3. TrumpCare. We’ll have to see what the Senate does, but right now, Americans are concerned with what the House has done. Their healthcare rights are about to be stripped away, their out-of-pocket costs increased. Whether you’re a Republican or not, it’s hard to watch Grannie’s diabetes coverage taken away by a gigantic insurance company that doesn’t give a damn about her. Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. Keep your eye on those town halls.
  4. Trump’s moral fitness and character deficiencies. Everybody knows he’s a bad person: a liar, a boaster, an insulter, an adulterer, a pussy groper, unhumble, a bully. Christians ought to be especially concerned at how Trump trashes every moral and ethical scripture in their Bible. Most of them, I think, also know that his claim of being a believing Christian is bogus. So far, they’re standing by their man. But the message needs to be hammered home: You would not let your daughter near this predator. He’s the opposite of Christian. Pagan, is more like it.
  5. Trump’s connections to white supremacists, survivalists, xenophobes and other domestic menaces. We Democrats understand this. Too many in the Rust Belt do not. We have to assume, however, that those angry white men have a conscience–a sense of decency, if not patriotism, that can be appealed to. As some level, they understand the danger of thousands upon thousands of Timothy McVeighs, David Dukes and Dylann Roofs, encouraged by Trump’s and Bannon’s white nationalism, joining forces and readying themselves for warfare with “liberals.” Even Republicans who hate Hollywood liberals don’t want to see another Civil War.

(You’ll notice I didn’t include Trump’s war on science and the environment. This is because, while these things infuriate Democrats, I don’t think Republicans, even moderate ones, care very much about them. “By their fruits you will know them.”)

These are five lines of attack Democrats ought not to forget, in the giddiness of RussiaGate. That each of them has the power to inflict damage on Trump is proved by the fact that Trump consistently rails against them—if he wasn’t afraid, he wouldn’t care–and that the various branches of Rupert Murdoch’s empire—especially Fox “News” and the Wall Street Journal—barely mention them; and, when they have to write about them, they downplay their significance. Heimoff’s Law: Whatever Murdoch is afraid of is exactly what Democrats should pursue.


Why did Trump take so long to fire Flynn? A theory

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I actually thought yesterday’s hearing with Yates and Clapper was pretty inconsequential, in terms of learning anything we didn’t already know. If there was anything new, I’m not sure what it was. As far as I can tell, Flynn is kind of an asshole who, for whatever reason, didn’t tell the truth to Mike Pence—which certainly isn’t Pence’s fault—and then didn’t step forward to give the veep a heads-up when Pence went around repeating an untruth.  For that reason, maybe Flynn broke a law—I don’t know, and I’m happy to leave it to the Justice Department to determine if that’s the case. Either way, Flynn’s reputation is garbage, and that’s fine with me. After his “Lock her up!” psychotic slur, he deserves to be tarred and feathered.

As for the Trump administration, I’m willing to accept—with a caveat—their explanation that they simply did a lousy job of vetting; they hadn’t expected to win the election, and so they didn’t have a mechanism in place after the election to begin to tackle the enormity of work that started piling up. So maybe that’s the way it went down.

I did say I had a caveat, and it’s a big one. There is the interesting question, which I didn’t hear raised during the hearing, concerning why the Trump administration took so long—nearly three weeks—to let Flynn go. After all the warnings—not just from Sally Yates, but President Obama—that Flynn was bad news, Trump not only chose to go ahead and hire Flynn, but to procrastinate in firing him. Very strange. Why? Just sloppy staff work in the early struggling days of a new administration? Or maybe Trump wanted Flynn as National Security Advisor so badly that he was willing to risk a mini-scandal, on the chance that Flynn would be able to stay.

Now, Trump is a gambler. Why would it be so important for him to have Flynn in there that he (Trump) would risk blowback, intense criticism, more negative press? Well, there is one logical theory: Flynn was the National Security Advisor that Putin wanted, and Putin has something on Trump. Flynn was perfect for the job: both he and his new boss, Trump, were huge fans of Putin and of Russia. They were all on the same side: Trump had his little bromance with Putin, Flynn was being paid by Putin, and Putin wanted Trump to win the election. A perfect ménage-a-trois, with multiple hands scratching multiple backs.

This now moves the theory to more interesting areas of speculation. Was this simply a reflection of Trump’s desire to have better relations with Russia? Nothing wrong with that. So did Obama. We all want America to have a better relationship with Russia. But why was Trump willing to go so far in keeping Flynn, against everyone’s advice? And why was he willing to go so far over the last year in insisting what a fine leader Putin is, when everyone else knew Russia had interfered in the election? Obviously, this gets to Trump’s real motives, and since he won’t tell us—and given his pathological lying, we shouldn’t believe anything he told us anyway–we have to do some inferring. Who or what is Trump working for? America? Russia? Himself and his family? Some combination of the above? We don’t know. But you have to admit there is at least a logical explanation: Trump was willing to endure the embarrassment and ignominy of the Flynn affair in order for him, Trump, to collude with the Russian government and do Putin’s bidding, in secret ways. If this is the case, Trump is guilty of treason.

Well, that’s probably just my imagination running wild, right? Occam’s razor: the simplest explanation is just that Trump and his staff were incredibly sloppy, to the point of irresponsibility. There’s no way Trump could actually commit treasonous acts against America. Is there?


Trump claims credit for Obama jobs recovery

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It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Donald J. Trump, the world’s most infamous liar, takes credit for things he had nothing to do with. He did it with the stock market, which he claimed shot up because of his election when, in reality, it has been steadily going up for the last eight years without his help. And he did it again the other day, with his bogus boast of being responsible for the new unemployment numbers, the lowest in a decade.

The Trump narrative, which his credulous Republican base will happily swallow, is that the jobs situation was horrible until he took the oath of office. Unemployment (according to their fantasy version) was spiraling out of control. And yet, take a look at this graph, from the weekend’s Wall Street Journal, which ran a story on the unemployment numbers. It shows the U.S. jobless rate since 2000.

You don’t have to be a Nobel laureate in economics to notice some very obvious trends:

  1. From 2000 until about 2008 (i.e., most of the George W. Bush administration), the unemployment rate (the blue line) remained more or less steady.
  2. Around 2008, it soared upward, hitting nearly 10 percent during the Great Bush Recession.
  3. And then, around 2009, it began a steady and significant decline, heading downward at a dramatic 45% slope, which continues to this day.

In other words, anyone who credits this current president for today’s unemployment rate is blowing smoke out of their rear end. The decline in unemployment has been going on for eight years—coterminous with the two Obama administrations—and would have continued throughout the first five months of 2017 even if America had elected Lady Gaga. But, as Dana Bash, on CNN, noted, “President Trump will try to take credit for a better-than-expected Friday jobs report ‘whether he deserves it or not.’”

Well, we’ll never be able to stop the boaster-in-chief from his fake claims. As long as Republican congressmen get out there and repeat his lies to the news cameras, and as long as evangelicals and tea partiers believe everything Bill O’Reilly, oops, Sean Hannity tells them, Trump will get away with this stuff.

Now, the sickening thing in the Wall Street Journal article is that you’d never realize unemployment has been dropping since 2009. In the long article (by Eric Morath), there’s not a word, not a hint about the rate declining under Obama’s watch. No credit whatsoever to Obama; it’s as if the unemployment rate suddenly began going down at noon on Jan. 21, 2017. I’ve written before how the Wall Street Journal’s reporters (as opposed to their op-ed propagandists) are said to be pissed off at the paper’s horrible reputation for putting Republican partisan politics before objective journalism. The Morath article is the poster child for this unprofessionalism. Real journalists not only reports facts, they put them into context. Morath has utterly (deliberately?) failed to do that. It just shows why doubts about the Wall Street Journal’s integrity remain. The Murdoch family is still instructing reporters, or their editors, to exaggerate Trump’s “successes,” to impugn anything any Democrat does (especially Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama), and to obfuscate “news” in such a way as to further Trump’s false narrative. As a certain celebrity often tweets, #Sad!


A political lynching

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Republicans, led by their president, Donald J. Trump, would have preferred to lynch Barack Hussein Obama—strange fruit in Jeff SessionsLand. That’s what they would have done with uppity types like him back in the good old KKK days. But, for various reasons, hanging black men isn’t an option anymore, so the GOP did the next best thing: If you can’t kill the one you hate, humiliate him. But rest assured, their little vote yesterday in the House was the political equivalent of a lynching.

It capped a few months of “will they or won’t they?” drama, but the result should not have surprised anyone. “Repeal and replace” was the Republican mantra for years, the dog whistle heard by every white supremacist and ignoramus who didn’t understand that the Affordable Care Act (which covered Grandma’s diabetes) and Obamacare (which was a “disaster”) were the same thing. In the end, Trump bribed just enough House members to score a narrow victory.

I try and put myself into the mind of Obama. How is he taking this? Is he humiliated, as a vindictive Trump—pure alpha male–intended him to be? Well, he’s had plenty of time to prepare for it. And there’s still a Senate vote whose outcome no one can predict. Obama is usually the most guarded of men, holding his emotional cards close to his vest. But this has to hurt—has to force him to see it in perspective. He has got to be looking to the future, not the present, to vindicate him: that History will reveal him as the great POTUS I’m sure he believes himself to have been (and I do, too), while also nailing Trump as a catastrophe for America and the world.

The problem is that we are now living in a post-truth world, courtesy of Trump. Things like “facts” that, once upon a time, we all believed in, now are open to debate. Did Obama wiretap him? Nobody really believes it–except his followers, who will believe anything he tells them: He had the biggest inaugural crowd ever; Hillary only won the popular vote because of illegal immigrants voting in California; he never groped any woman’s pussy; RussiaGate is fake news.

And so the Affordable Care Act is on the chopping block. The executioner dons his black mask and prepares. If it were simply a matter of a few Obama laws being overturned or trimmed back, America could get through this. But it’s not just a few Obama things. It’s the way America has been since the founding: rational, progressive, steady. The tea party loves the change. They came to disrupt, overturn, destroy, and they’re doing it. They know almost nothing of the particulars of what’s being destroyed, or how it will affect them, but that’s irrelevant. They like the feeling of destruction. The tea party is the political equivalent of soccer hooligans. Running amok feels great. Smashing things is fun. Blowing everything up is good for the soul. Sowing confusion is something they can relate to: they’re confused, so why should everybody else not be? And in Trump, they have the confuser-in-chief.

One despairs. But never give up, never give in. In times like these, the fact of The Resistance is the only heartening thing. Tens of millions of Americans are determined not to let this bloody fool continue his path of cynicism and fury. I am almost salivating at the thought of him using a nuclear weapon someplace. At least that will lance the boil and force Republicans to ask: Has Trump really been worth it?


Keep your eye on these three Congressional districts in California

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California is a big state, 800 miles north-to-south and 500 miles wide. Politically, the common wisdom is that the Coast is blue and inland is red. This is true, but there are pockets of blue inland and bastions of red on the coast.

There are 14 Republican members of Congress from California (plus 38 Democrats). There was a lot of pressure on these Repubs to vote against killing Obamacare, even in red districts, but in the end, all caved, and sided with Trump/Ryan. The GOP list follows, below; I include also the percentage by which each won in 2016.

The Coast, from the Oregon border down to L.A., is solidly blue, but below L.A. you come to Orange and San Diego counties. These are reliably conservative: white, Christian, older, affluent, with many retired military people. Their elected representatives naturally reflect their constituencies.

Of the fourteen Republicans, eleven appear immune to challenge by Democrats. Their 2016 pluralities ranged from Kevin McCarthy’s 69.2% to David Valladao’s 56.7%. It would appear to be futile for Democrats to invest in these districts in 2018.

Of the remaining three Republicans, two barely survived the 2016 election. Darrell Issa—one of the most violent Hillary bashers in the Congress, and that’s saying a lot—got only 50.3% of the vote in his Orange County district; it was the closest congressional race in the country.

Far to the northeast and inland, in the northern San Joaquin Valley city of Turlock, Jeff Denham did only slightly better, with 51.7% of the popular vote. A third Republican, Stephen Knight, was safer, with 53.1% of the vote in his north L.A./Ventura County district, but that is not insurmountable for a Democrat.

Issa is particularly vulnerable. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that his poll numbers fell by ten points following Trump’s election, and [his] support for President Donald Trump is likely one of the reasons…”. In another Union-Tribune article, following Thursday’s vote, the paper wrote about the violent reaction against Issa’s vote in his home town, noting that “speculation over what this vote means for Issa’s political future had already begun before Republicans celebrated in the White House Rose Garden.”

Jeff Denham also seems like he’s in trouble due to his support of Trumpcare. He was one of the infamous Republicans who heard plenty from their constituents during an April town meeting, where chants of “Do your job!” came from a “rowdy crowd.” Denham, the local Fox News affiliate reported, “struck a decidedly centrist posture, saying he’d work to protect…the Affordable Care Act.” But he voted to kill it. Many of the suburban voters in his district, some 100 miles east of San Francisco, work in the Bay Area, including Silicon Valley; they are likely to hold him to account. On Friday, his home town newspaper, the Turlock Journal, reported that a large number of comments on [Denham’s] Facebook page were condemning his actions.” Meanwhile, the nearby Modesto Bee, the biggest paper in the region, slammed Denham’s vote, accusing him of lying, and charging that “Denham…can’t cover up harm he’s done by voting to repeal ACA.”

Knight, in the 25th, also could face problems. Los Angeles and Ventura counties are pretty Democratic; the 25th is therefore an anomaly. An increasing percentage of Hispanics (35.3% and rising) comprises the population. The district hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1990, but the Republican winning percentage has been steadily dropping for years, from a high point of 74.6% in 1998 to Knight’s 53.1% last year. The Los Angeles Times called Knight possibly “California’s most endangered Republican,” and despite Knight’s narrow victory last year, there are now 3,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the district.

Republicans won the vote on repealing Obamacare by four votes, 217-213, meaning if three votes had shifted, the measure would have gone down. If Democrats can take these three districts—the 49th, 10th and 25th—next year, it’s likely they’ll pick up other Republican districts across the nation. That’s not enough for Democrats to take back the House—the current numbers are 238 Republicans and 193 Democrats. But it may be enough to keep other radical tea party bills from passing.

14 CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS WHO VOTED TO REPEAL OBAMACARE, AND THEIR MARGIN OF VICTORY

Jeff Denham – 10th district, Tracy/Manteca, 51.7%

Ken Calvert – 42nd district, Corona, 58.8%

Paul Cook – 8th district, Yucca Valley/Victorville, 62.3%

Duncan Hunter- 50th district, San Diego, 63.5%

Darrell Issa – 49th district, San Clemente/Oceanside, 50.3%

Steve Knight – 25th district, northern LA/Ventura, 53.1%

Doug LaMalfa – 1st district, Redding/Chico, 59.1%

Kevin McCarthy – 23rd district, southern San Joaquin Valley, 69.2%

Tom McClintock – 4th district, Sierra Foothills, 62.7%

Devin Nunes – 22nd district, Fresno/Tulare counties, 67.6%

Dana Rohrabacher – 48th district, Huntington Beach/Costa Mesa, 58.3%

Edward Royce – 39th district, Fullerton/Yorba Linda, 57.2%

David Valadao – 21st district, Fresno/Kern/Tulare counties, 56.7%

Mimi Walters – 45th district, Riverside County, 58.6%


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