Republicans — hoping to refocus on getting tax cuts and Obamacare repeal through — will use the existence of the special counsel as cover for evading pressure on them to exercise meaningful oversight.
Trump’s conduct further devolves into truly unhinged autocratic madness
.. It is plausible Trump might start attacking Mueller on Twitter
It is even plausible Trump could try to get Mueller fired, by appealing to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein
.. If somehow Republicans lose the upcoming House special elections in Georgia and Montana — which seems unlikely but not impossible — that might really focus their minds.
.. Republicans are doing nothing to try to compel Trump to release his tax returns or otherwise be transparent about his business holdings, even as he advances a tax plan that could deliver him and his family an enormous windfall
.. reports that Trump called Comey a few weeks after the inauguration and asked him
I am confident that these incidents … sketch a trajectory in which Trump kept Comey on board only as long as it took him to figure out that there was no way to make Comey part of the team. Once he realized that he couldn’t do that — and that the Russia matter was thus not going away — he pulled the trigger.
Sensing Chaos, Russia Takes A ‘Wait-And-See’ Approach To Trump
David, you say in this new piece that Vladimir Putin’s resentment of the West is rooted not in ideology but in his experience of the decline and fall of Russian power and pride. So can you explain what that sense of the loss of Russian power and pride is about?
.. And Vladimir Putin was not a liberal intellectual. He was somebody who volunteered for the KGB as a teenager, whose father was a badly, badly wounded veteran of the – what’s called the Great Patriotic War, second world war in Russia. And he experienced that as a KGB officer who saw that Moscow had lost its grip not just on Warsaw and Budapest and Berlin, but also on Georgia and Azerbaijan and Armenia. And even within Russia there was talk of Russia itself breaking into smaller components. This is the drama he experienced.
And then in the ’90s, he saw the Yeltsin government, under the name of Demokratiya – Demokratiya kind of fail on its promise in so many ways. And an economic depression came along that for many people was incredibly painful, like the ’30s in the United States. So, again, a lot of people in Russia, exemplified by Putin, saw this as a crash followed by chaos, followed by poverty. And that’s a very different view than most Americans see 1991 as.
.. And Putin was blessed, you know, when he came to power in 2000 and eventually in 2003, 2004 not only by an increasing stability in society but also oil prices shot through the roof. And that benefited the Russian economy, especially the cities, especially people in the main industry, which is oil and gas. But it’s proved illusory because the Russian economy, once oil and gas prices have declined, showed its weakness. And so eventually, Putin not only became more and more disenchanted with the West, he also decided that he needed an operating ideology.
.. And I don’t know how sincere he is in this. But it’s certainly – there’s a greater sense of conservatism, that’s what that anti-gay legislation was about, to put it in opposition to the libertine, you know, decadent West, and growing nationalism, patriotic pride. You go turn on Russian television any night, there’s an enormous sense over and over of Russian-ness, of Russian pride, of patriotism in a way that there was not in the ’90s.
.. So when Americans giggle at him doing the butterfly in the middle of a roaring river or strip to the waist on a horse or, you know, kind of like a James Bond villain, you know, in some sort of weird craft in the ocean, Russians see that as a kind of machismo version of Russian statehood.
.. Here is our man. He speaks bluntly to the West. He doesn’t take any guff from the West. He’s not swallowing stuff the way Yeltsin did. He is standing up for us, for Russian-ness. And everything that we’re doing to them is something that they’ve been doing to us for generations. So the title of our piece is called “Active Measures.” This is not a one-way street. The United States has been fooling around in – it doesn’t take propaganda to say this is true.
.. Yes, it’s true that Russians have been involved in all sorts of Cold War missions, but so have we. We have given ample evidence to Russia and else and the world to show that in the past, the United States got involved in elections, got involved in regime change. And, you know, Iraq and Libya are only the most recent evidence of it. So as Ben Rhodes, a Obama administration official said to us, you know, we give him enough rope to hang us, in a certain sense.
.. What Vladimir Putin fears most of all is internal chaos. So when he looks at Tahrir Square…
GROSS: Like people defying him…
REMNICK: Absolutely. So when he looks at…
GROSS: …Rebelling against him.
REMNICK: When he looks at Tahrir Square in Cairo, when he looks at Maidan uprisings in Kiev, closer to home, and when he looked at the demonstrations in Moscow on the Bolotnaya Square, what’s called Swampy Square in 2011, he sees those as rehearsal for the – for a regime change in Moscow. And he thinks that not only is the United States a part of this and behind this, that Hillary Clinton gave, quote, unquote, “the signal” to demonstrators in Moscow in 2011. That’s why – that’s part of why he despised Hillary Clinton so very much.
.. He wants no more expansion of NATO to say the least, and he would like to see greater dissent and dissention within Western institutions.
He is delighted to see the rise of not only Donald Trump in the United States, which I think he sees as causing us chaos and for us to look more and more inward and to be more and more divided. He also is delighted to see the rise of nationalist politicians in France, in Germany, in Holland because what happens as a result is that there’s more, therefore, fractiousness and chaos within those countries. And institutions like NATO, the European Union are called more into question. That’s his motive.
.. But when it comes to television, it is neo-Soviet. There’s no question about it, and there are certain people that are just never going to be invited on television, and you are not going to hear Vladimir Putin criticized. That’s that’s the be-all and end-all.
And so when people go on and on, as does Trump, about how unbelievably popular Putin is and he has an 85 percent popularity rating, no small part of that is the information space of television. Now, there are other elements of it too. I have to readily admit his popularity is not just rooted in propaganda, but that’s a big element of it.
.. On February 17, he tweeted (reading) the fake news media, failing New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, CNN, is not my enemy. It is the enemy of the American people.
REMNICK: Yeah, what a phrase, the enemy of the people.
GROSS: Yeah, I know. That goes back to Stalin, right?
OSNOS: I recognize that from somewhere.
REMNICK: Well, it goes back to Robespierre. It is an ugly, ugly phrase. I don’t know how self-aware Donald Trump is of that kind of phrase. I guarantee you Steve Bannon knows what enemy of the people means. Stalin used it to keep people terrified. If you were branded a vrag naroda, an enemy of the people, you could guarantee that very soon there would be a knock in the middle of the night at your door and your fate would be horrific.
To hear that kind of language directed at the American press is an emergency. It’s an emergency. It’s not a political tactic. And if it’s a political tactic, it’s a horrific one. And that needs to be resisted not just by people like me who are, you know, editors or writers but all of us. This is part of what distinguishes American democracy. And it’s untenable, immoral and anti-American.
.. it’s the kind of language that autocrats use in the beginning. And where it will go, we don’t know yet. But he is obviously – this is beyond dog whistles. He is signaling to the base that your enemy, your enemy is those people.
That’s how autocrats behave. They create an other. Whether it’s the press, whether it’s ethnic or otherwise, it’s the creation of an other. And I find it – I just, you know, it has to be stood up against.
.. Some of the worry of people who are concerned about our behavior vis-a-vis Russia now is who’s going to talk up about human rights? When Alexei Navalny, the one person who seemed to be ready to run against Putin in a presidential race in 2018, was eliminated from consideration by a court, which is very much under Putin’s control, and his political possibilities were erased – and by the way, Navalny’s brother is in a prison right now – when that happened, did the White House say a single word about this? Not a word, not a word.
.. It was very interesting to see George W. Bush, who was criticized quite a lot in the pages of The New Yorker for eight years and more, go on “The Today Show” the other day and in no uncertain terms – and this is a guy who was hammered by The New York Times, by The Washington Post, by The New Yorker and God knows who else – speak up for a free press, speak up for the role the press plays in the functioning of a flawed, yet healthy American democracy or any kind of democracy.
No, Mr. President, you can’t do what you want
There are many reasons to stand against Trump, but the one that should take precedence — because it is foundational for decent governance — is his autocratic assumption that he is above the expectations that apply to us normal humans.
- .. Should Trump separate himself completely from his business interests, as presidents had been doing for more than four decades? His implicit message is always: No, I can do what I want.
- .. Should we know the full cost of his gallivanting and how many of the millions of dollars involved are circulating back to his family through the charges Trump’s resorts impose on the government?
- .. Should we know why it is that, according to The Post’s Greg Miller, Trump “appears increasingly isolated within his own administration” in calling for warmer relations with Russia even as almost everyone else in his government issues “blistering critiques of Moscow”?
- .. Did Trump express concern about democracy? Nope. He called Erdogan to congratulate him. Why?
- .. Asked about Turkey in a December 2015 interview with, of all people, Stephen K. Bannon — now his chief strategist who back then hosted a radio show on Breitbart — Trump admitted: “I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.” He also described Erdogan as “a strong leader”
.. If Hillary Clinton had done any one of the things described above, is there any doubt about what Republicans in Congress would be saying and doing?
.. It’s said that Trump always skates away. Not true. Those he ripped off in his Trump University scam stuck with the fight and forced Trump to settle a lawsuit he said (in an untruth typical of his approach) he would never settle. The country’s citizens can prevail, too, if we insist on calling out a self-absorbed huckster who treats us all as easily bamboozled fools.
Yes, Donald Trump ‘lies.’ A lot. And news organizations should say so.
When Donald Trump lies, is he telling a lie? Not if we cannot prove an intentto mislead, apparently.
.. unlike Clinton, most of the time Trump’s campaign felt no obligation whatsoever to back up his claims when they were called out as false. And to a far greater degree, Trump would simply continue repeating those lies after they’d been exposed. It is the nature of Trump’s dishonesty — the volume, ostentatiousness, nonchalance, and imperviousness to correction at the hands of factual reality — that became the issue.
.. This gets at why Baker’s response is so worrying: It suggests an unwillingness or an inability to entertain the possibility that we may be looking at something new and different here.
.. Take the example that Baker himself chose: Trump’s claim that “thousands and thousands” of American Muslims celebrated 9/11. This was not some casual falsehood — this lie was key to a months-long campaign of vilification and scapegoating of Muslims that in turn was central to his broader appeal.
.. Trump repeatedly refused to entertain any evidence to the contrary even when it was directly presented to him. Indeed, his campaign team responded to media efforts to present that contrary evidence by accusing the media of covering up the truth.
.. In this and many other instances, Trump barely even tried to make a fact-based case for his version of reality. Rather, he seemed to be trying to obliterate any possibility of shared agreement on what constitutes an authoritative source, and even on reality itself.
.. Take Trump’s biggest lie of all — his racist birther claim.
.. In these cases, was Trump lying? The standard that Baker adopts — that there must be a provable intent to mislead
.. If we don’t call that “lying,” or if we don’t squarely and prominently label these claims as “false,” don’t we risk enabling Trump’s apparent efforts to obliterate the possibility of agreement on shared reality? We’re already seeing a preview of how this will work in practice when Trump is president. On multiple occasions, Trump has dubiously claimed credit for jobs he has supposedly “saved,” and the headlines have tended to reflect his claims without also informing readers that those claims are unverified or open to doubt.
.. Trump’s approach to information — or disinformation — looks like a hallmark of Putinesque autocratic rule, in which the autocrat is trying to “assert power over truth itself,” and convey the message that his “power lies in being able to say what he wants.”