Living Large In Carson City: Insanity Is A Legal Term. Crazy Is An Art Form. HST Edition

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I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. Jack Kerouac

I constantly struggle when writing my blogs thinking they are so negative and dismal that who would want to read them? It’s like the world has been turned on its head without hope or clarity anywhere to be found. Gone are the days of American exceptionalism, altruism, empathy, and the belief that the world works better when we all work together, or at least, with those who share the same values and insights as to what makes for a better world. Yet, every news cycle is just another day of the same roller coaster ride from hell with a sad queue of people committing horrible, clueless acts as if it is a game meant to fry our senses and put our heads spinning off our shoulders.

For instance, Roger Stone, contrary to a court gag order issued last week, tweets an image of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson (the imposer of said gag order) with a picture of the judge and bull’s eye placed just above her right ear with accompanying text,

. . . that included mentions of the “Deep State” and, of course, all of the usual conspiracy subjects and suspects: Benghazi, Hillary Clinton and Obama.  Rolling Stone

Either Stone doesn’t understand the concept of a gag order, or he is being willfully provocative. Time will tell since the judge has ordered him to appear in court later this week to discuss whether or not he will walk the streets as a free man until his trial or be given a ticket to the slammer immediately. What is it about Trump and his minions that makes them so clueless it’s funny and mystifying at the same time.

The toll these acts of stupidity accrue are now being felt on the international stage. This weekend at the Munich Security Conference, America got the equivalent of a bitch slap from world leaders that was too embarrassing to believe. Mike Pence was Trump’s point man at the conference and gave his typically unctuous comments. At one point he intoned in a near reverent voice these words,

“I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.”

Then nothing. Not a cough. Not an errant door slamming. No bodies shifting in their seats. Nothing. Pence, obviously expecting a roaring round of applause, merely stood looking down at his notes like a white headed step child before continuing with his prepared speech. The silence was deafening. For one tiny moment, I almost felt sorry for him. Then I remembered he is an integral part of the most ludicrous, evil, sham of a presidential administration ever seen in the United States, Sorry gave way to a delicious surge of something akin to the joy one feels when you are at the end of an LSD trip and the knowledge suddenly hits you that you are going to make it through without a serious mental breakdown. Bitter but triumphant. If you haven’t seen Mike Pence at the Munich Security Conference yet, go here to see the tape.

The fireworks were only beginning.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the podium and all but eviscerated the Orange One over his lack of understanding about trade and car production. Calling out Trump and his administration for claiming that German cars are a threat to American national security, Merkel was barely able to disguise her disdain. In a voice that dripped with incredulity, she noted that the largest BMW plant in the world is in South Carolina where BMW cars are built and shipped out to places as far flung as China. In closing she made the tongue in cheek observation that the cars built in South Carolina are no more threatening to American security than the ones actually built in Bavaria. The crowd loved it. Well, all except for one conference goer, Ivanka Trump, who sat stony faced throughout Merkel’s speech, eyes smoldering and lips set in a grim line across her scowling face. It was priceless. You can see Merkel and Ivanka here.

But the enormity of the over-the-top Trump shenanigans is compounded by the fact that the fuck ups not only occur in real time, but also emerge from the past. The New York Times published an article late yesterday with these surprising revelations,

Late last year, the Times reported, Trump called the acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker (who was just replaced by William Barr), to ask whether Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, could be put in charge of his office’s investigation into Michael Cohen. This would have required Berman—who worked on Trump’s transition, was appointed by Trump, and recused himself from the Cohen investigation—to un-recuse himself from the inquiry. (Trump, of course, wanted his previous Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to do the same with the Russia investigation.) The Atlantic

Two things are problematic about Trump’s actions. First, Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee in sworn testimony that Trump never coerced him to interfere in any ongoing investigation related to Robert Mueller Russia probe or any other ongoing case pertaining to the president’s personal business. The above statement clearly shows that Trump did indeed try to gain influence over the Cohen investigation by asking Whitaker if Berman could be put in charge of the case.  Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), invited Whitaker back to the Hill to sit before the committee to “clarify” his previous statements.

Second, it is quite possible that by asking Whitaker to put Berman back in charge of Cohen’s case that he committed obstruction of justice, or at best, attempted obstruction. One of the most telling discussions of the implications of this story comes from and unlikely place, Fox News.

Speaking with Fox News anchor Shepard Smith on Tuesday, Fox News commentator Judge Napolitano noted . . . the president’s reported phone call to Whitaker demonstrates “corrupt intent.”

“That is an effort to use the levers of power of the government for a corrupt purpose to deflect an investigation into himself or his allies,” he pointed out, adding that the SDNY has two ongoing Trump investigation and the Times reported that Trump wanted his ally Berman to oversee both.

Smith, meanwhile, wanted to know if this rose to the level of obstruction of justice.

“Yes. Well, attempted obstruction,” Napolitano replied. “It would only be obstruction if it succeeded. If you tried to interfere with a criminal prosecution that may knock at your own door by putting your ally in there that is clearly an attempt to obstruct justice.” Daily Beast

Confused? Yeah, me too. But there is more. Today, sources reported that Mueller’s investigation is supposed to be wrapped up by next week. It will then be up to Attorney General William Barr to write an official confidential report and submit it to Congress. It is still unknown how much of Mueller’s findings will be released to the public. So, theoretically, Mueller’s two year investigation at a cost of $25 million might very well never see the light of day as far as you and I are concerned. Granted, Trump is far from out of the woods yet. Depending on the source, there are between 6 to 17 ongoing investigations into Trump, his business, his foundation, his children and a raft of Southern District of New York federal investigations.

And it’s only Wednesday. Add to the mix, Trump’s upcoming tango with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, U. S. saber rattling in the Middle East, more European Union bating over sanctions against Iran, and a very real possibility of a military intervention in Venezuela, and it’s easy to see why we are confused and frustrated over the state of our democracy.

Twenty-twenty can’t come soon enough.

 

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