Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Thirteenth Chime of the Clock

Harriet Tubman, c. 1885
H. Seymour Squyer, Source: National Portrait Gallery
If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there's shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.
-- Harriet Tubman

"It's the language of the underworld, it's the language of racketeering, it's not the language of a President who is supposed to be enforcing the rule of law. It's staggering. I mean for all the bizarre things that have happened in these 110 or 111 days, this is really like the thirteenth chime of a clock that makes the whole thing come apart." -- Harvard University constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe on Lawrence O'Donnell's Last Word, MSNBC (5/11/17)

Harriet Tubman knew. "Don't ever stop. Keep going."

If the U.S.A. (and its Constitution) somehow survive this crisis, it will be because so many among us found their own inner Harriet Tubman before it was too late, so far it has been a resistance led by intelligence officers, law enforcement officials, journalists, federal judges and a multitude of citizens from all walks of life flooding into the streets and into their representatives' town halls.

"Don't ever stop. Keep going."

This last few days deserves to be documented, they may prove pivotal.

On Monday, Sally Yates finally got to testify. Yates was the Acting Attorney General when she was fired by you know who, after twenty-seven years of exemplary service in the U.S. DoJ, because she refused to enforce his unconstitutional travel ban (her view was confirmed by the rulings of three federal court justices, BTW). But on this day, Flynn was testifying to the Senate on you know who's disgraced National Insecurity Advisory, Michael Flynn.
Jules Joseph Lefebvre - The Truth (1870)
On Tuesday, you know who fired FBI Director James Comey.
  • Not since Watergate. How else can one start an article about President Donald Trump summarily firing FBI chief James Comey? On March 20, Comey appeared before the House intelligence committee and took the unusual step of publicly disclosing that his bureau had been investigating interactions between Trump associates and Russians since last July. This was a historic moment. First Comey said that Trump's allegation that President Barack Obama had wiretapped him in Trump Tower was complete bunk. Then he noted the bureau had been conducting a top-secret counterintelligence operation targeting people close to Trump. So the FBI chief was calling the president a liar and saying his associates were being probed. He was a threat to Trump and the White House. "FBI agents value their integrity more than anything and if nothing else, this is a challenge to the integrity of whatever investigation Trump is trying to stifle," says former FBI agent David Gomez ... -- David Corn, Trump Goes Full Watergate—and Threatens Russia Investigation, Mother Jones, 5/9/17
On Wednesday, by all appearances (courtesy of a TASS photographer), you know who enjoyed a bizarre, celebratory moment in the Oval Office, with two high-ranking Russian officials.
On Thursday, you know who who sat down for an in-depth interview with NBC's Lester Holt, and doubled down on the bizarre by sharing his inner dialogue on Comey, the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, etc. Soon after, speaking through associates who in turn spoke to the New York Times, Comey almost instantly refuted you know who's "memory" of certain encounters.
  • Only seven days after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the F.B.I. director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief. The conversation that night in January, Mr. Comey now believes, was a harbinger of his downfall this week as head of the F.B.I., according to two people who have heard his account of the dinner. As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him. Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense. The White House says this account is not correct. And Mr. Trump, in an interview on Thursday with NBC, described a far different dinner conversation with Mr. Comey in which the director asked to have the meeting and the question of loyalty never came up. It was not clear whether he was talking about the same meal, but they are believed to have had only one dinner together. By Mr. Comey’s account, his answer to Mr. Trump’s initial question apparently did not satisfy the president, the associates said. Later in the dinner, Mr. Trump again said to Mr. Comey that he needed his loyalty. Mr. Comey again replied that he would give him “honesty” and did not pledge his loyalty, according to the account of the conversation. -- Michael S. Schmidt, In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey Demurred, New York Times, 5/11/17
On Friday, you know who's entanglements with a certain foreign power began to come into sharper focus. Journalists doing real journalism are the life-blood of democratic societies.

ABC News broke a damning story.
  • The lawyers who wrote a letter saying President Trump had no significant business ties to Russia work for a law firm that has extensive ties to Russia and received a “Russia Law Firm of the Year” award in 2016.Sheri Dillon and William Nelson, tax partners at the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which has served as tax counsel to Trump and the Trump Organization since 2005, wrote a letter in March released by the White House on Friday stating that a review of the last 10 years of Trump’s tax returns “do not reflect” ties to Russia “with a few exceptions.” ... According to the firm’s website, its Moscow office includes more than 40 lawyers and staff who are “well known in the Russian market, and have a deep familiarity with the local legislation, practices, and key players.” The firm boasts of being “particularly adept” at advising clients on “sanction matters." Following the release of the letter, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) noted the firm’s connection to Russia, calling it “unreal." -- Pete Madden and Matthew Mosk, Donald Trump's tax law firm has 'deep' ties to Russia, ABC News, 5/12/17
Zembla, the Dutch TV documentary program, released its Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part 1: The Russians,  Zembla, on You Tube, it had originally aired last week in the Netherlands.
  • Donald Trump's business partners have included Russian oligarchs and convicted mobsters, which could make the president guilty of criminal racketeering charges. That's one of the eyebrow-raising takeaways from a 45-minute Dutch documentary that aired last week, titled The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part 1: The Russians. The first installment of the investigative reporting series, produced by Zembla, does what no American TV network has yet dared to do—take a deep look at the organized crime links and corrupt international business strategies used by Trump and his partners in his properties. It starts with Trump's luxury tower in the lower Manhattan neighborhood of Soho, where his partner in building that highrise was Bayrock LLC, whose primary investor was a Russian mining oligarch and another major investor was a convicted Russian mobster named Felix Sater. "Why did 60 Minutes pass on the Bayrock story in 2016? Why did ABC News' Brian Ross pass on the Trump Soho [Tower] story in 2015? Why has no major network done any kind of documentary on what the Dutch just did?" asks James Henry, a corporate lawyer-turned-financial investigative reporter who writes for Henry is one of several investigative reporters whose work on Trump's shady business empire is profiled in the film. The documentary shows how Trump not only helped hide the identity of his mobster business partner, prompting an ongoing lawsuit accusing Trump of criminal racketeering, but also how Trump used that internal company crisis to demand more money. It goes on to show how Russian oligarchs saw Trump's properties as a way to get their money out of Russia, and describes the international financial networks that are akin to a pyramid scheme for money laundering. It also notes how the law firm of Trump's political adviser, former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani, helped set up a money-laundering account in the Netherlands used by Bayrock. -- Steven Rosenfeld, Donald Trump's Financial Ties to Russian Oligarchs and Mobsters Detailed In Explosive New Documentary from the Netherlands, AlterNet, 5/12/17 
NOTE: Zembla's Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part 1: The Russians You Tube video is embedded below.  

So what happens now? After these last few days? Is the Republican Party anything more than a Zombie Cult in thralldom to its Death-Eater Overlords? Is there any shred of conscience or empathy or true patriotism left?  Or is sociopathy as a philosophy of governance all they have to offer?

Consider Paul Krugman's sage ruminations on "Trumpistan."
  • Item: Trump demanded loyalty — not to his office, but to the person of the president — from James Comey. Item: Trump admitted on live TV that he fired Comey to stop the ongoing investigation into Russia’s connections with his campaign. Item: a woman was arrested for laughing at a Trump administration official. Item: Another Trump official has commended police for arresting a reporter who shouted questions at him. Item: Republicans in Congress show absolutely no inclination to do anything about any of this. So, has America already become an authoritarian regime where law enforcement serves the supreme leader, not the Constitution, where questioning or even ridiculing the regime’s officials has become a crime, and in which the legislature is just a rubber-stamping operation? We don’t know the answer yet; we’ll have to see how things unfold in the next few weeks. But future historians may well record that American democracy died in May 2017. -- Paul Krugman, Trumpistan, New York Times, 5/12/17
On Saturday, in the Washington Post, Laurence Tribe offered a compelling argument for impeachment.
  • Now the country is faced with a president whose conduct strongly suggests that he poses a danger to our system of government. Ample reasons existed to worry about this president, and to ponder the extraordinary remedy of impeachment, even before he fired FBI Director James B. Comey and shockingly admitted on national television that the action was provoked by the FBI’s intensifying investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia. Even without getting to the bottom of what Trump dismissed as “this Russia thing,” impeachable offenses could theoretically have been charged from the outset of this presidency. One important example is Trump’s brazen defiance of the foreign emoluments clause, which is designed to prevent foreign powers from pressuring U.S. officials to stray from undivided loyalty to the United States. Political reality made impeachment and removal on that and other grounds seem premature. No longer. To wait for the results of the multiple investigations underway is to risk tying our nation’s fate to the whims of an authoritarian leader. -- Laurence Tribe, "Trump Must Be impeached, Here’s Why," Washington Post, 5/13/17 
VIDEO: Zembla's Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part 1: The Russians
VIDEO: Laurence Tribe - A series of high crimes and misdemeanors (Lawrence O'Donnel's The Last Word, MSNBC, 5/11/17