Donald Trump Goes Full Fredo

But unlike the Godfather character, the president of the United States is backed by powerful people enabling him.

.. The Corleone family had the awareness and vigilance to exclude Fredo from power. The American political system did not do so well.

.. Until now, Trump’s worst moments have occurred behind closed doors, and have become known to the public only second-hand, leaked by worried officials, aides, and advisers. Yesterday and today, we have seen a Trump temper-tantrum in real time on Twitter

.. the most important moment in Wolff’s book are words attributed at second or third-hand to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the time of Donald Trump’s election. “He will sign anything we put in front of him.”

.. Who and what Donald Trump is has been known to everyone and anyone who cared to know for years and decades.

  • Before he was president, he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist.
  • Before he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist, he was a celebrity gameshow host.
  • Before he was a celebrity gameshow host, he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate.
  • Before he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate, he was the protege of Roy Cohn’s repeatedly accused of ties to organized crime.

.. Instead, since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015, Donald Trump has been enabled and protected.

The enabling and protecting not only continues. It accelerates.

.. The Senate Judiciary committee—the Senate Judiciary Committee! The committee that oversees the proper enforcement of the law!—formally filed a criminal referral with the Department of Justice against Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier about Trump’s Russia connections. The referral was signed by the committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, without even notice to Democrats on the committee, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said; a startling abuse of majority status and a sharp departure from the norms of the Senate, especially a 51-49 Senate.

.. It’s ominous, however, that on the very same day, the FBI obeyed Trump’s repeated demands and reopened a long-closed criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

.. the important thing about Trump is not the man; it’s the system of power surrounding the man.

.. What sustains Trump now is the support of people who know what he is, but back him anyway.

Republican political elites who know him for what he is, but who back him because they believe they can control and use him;

conservative media elites who sense what he is, but who delight in the cultural wars he provokes;

rank-and-file conservatives who care more about their grievances and hatreds than the governance of the country.

.. he is indeed the “very stable genius” he claims to be: Trump understands how to mobilize hatred and resentment to his own advantage and profit. He has risen higher than Joe McCarthy or Charles Lindbergh or Theodore Bilbo—and he has lasted already nearly a full year in office, holding the approval of one-third of the country

.. without the complicity of other power-holders, Trump would drop from his central position like a tooth from a rotten gum. What we need to do now is widen the camera angle beyond Fredo Trump to the hard-faced men and women over his shoulders. Those are the people who put Trump where he is, and keep him there, corrupting the institutions of American democracy and troubling the peace and security of the world.

 

Not All Foreign-Influence Scandals Are Created Equal

a similar story — this one involving Communist China — that developed during Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign. The Washington Post reported in 1998 that “evidence gathered in federal surveillance intercepts has indicated that the Chinese government planned to increase China’s influence in the U.S. political process in 1996.”

.. Many people still believe that a major cover-up of that scandal worked — in part because the media expressed skepticism and devoted only a fraction of resources they are spending on the Trump–Russia story. Network reporters expressed outright skepticism of the story, with many openly criticizing the late senator Fred Thompson, the chair of the Senate investigating committee, for wasting time and money.

.. congressional hearings on the China scandal in the summer of 1997 were dwarfed by reports on the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace and the death of Princess Diana.

.. The Chinese fundraising scandal involving DNC finance vice chairman John Huang first came to light in the final weeks of the 1996 presidential campaign. A former Commerce Department official, Huang was a top fundraiser who scooped up suspect foreign cash for Team Clinton.

.. The DNC was forced to give back more than $2.8 million in illegal or improper donations from foreign nationals.

.. Chung confessed that at least $35,000 of his donations to the Clinton campaign and the DNC had come from a Chinese aerospace executive — a lieutenant colonel in the Chinese military.

.. A total of 120 participants in the fundraising scandal either fled the country, asserted their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, or otherwise avoided questioning. The stonewalling worked — and probably encouraged Hillary Clinton in her own cover-up of her private e-mail server and her ties with the Clinton Foundation.

.. Indeed, much of the media basically gave the Clintons a pass on evidence that special-interest donors to the Clinton Foundation frequently managed to score favors from the State Department. Journalist Peter Schweitzer revealed in his book Clinton Cash that State had helped move along an infamous deal that granted the Russians control of more than 20 percent of the uranium production here in the United States.

.. The company involved in acquiring the American uranium was a very large donor to — you guessed it — the Clinton Foundation.

.. But a little humility and honesty on the part of the media would be appropriate. Much of the breathless and constant coverage of the Russia scandal is motivated by the media’s hatred of Donald Trump

.. When it came to the Clintons, the media tended to downplay or even trivialize many of their scandals. But, to be fair, a little bit of self-awareness is beginning to show up in the Russia coverage. Last Thursday, Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC noted that when it came to “opening the door” to lowering the standards of conduct by a modern president, Bill Clinton led the way with his lying and scandalous behavior.

Trump pledges to stay Trump

The billionaire is still exaggerating, generalizing, blaming and tweeting.

.. Why would a candidate who pledged to “drain the swamp” of Washington insiders add so many D.C. lobbyists to his transition team? Change, Trump said, takes time.

.. He will continue to exaggerate, to generalize, to obfuscate, to blame and to tweet.“It’s a great form of communication,” Trump said of his Twitter feed (Sunday morning, hours before the interview aired, Trump fired off three tweets slamming the New York Times).

.. His approach to Twitter mirrors his general boardroom-style approach: everything is open to negotiation. And his behavior and rhetoric are likely to remain every bit as malleable as his ideological leanings—which is to say: dependent on the situation and the role he is attempting to play at the time.

.. He also sought to allay the anxieties of gays and lesbians when he asserted that same-sex marriage is the law of the land: “It’s done. These cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And I’m—I’m fine with that,” he said.

.. And Trump acknowledged the possible reality of appointing a pro-life Supreme Court majority that could overturn Roe v. Wade, but seemed reluctant to consider the implications. When pressed by Stahl, he agreed that some women will “perhaps have to go—they’ll have to go to another state.”

“And that’s OK?” Stahl responded.

“Well, we’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “It’s got a long way to go, just so you understand. That has a long, long way to go.”

.. Asked about asking the government to continue to investigate Clinton, Trump seemed conflicted about doing so yet unable to completely close the door.

“They’re, they’re good people,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt them.

“And I will give you a very, very good and definitive answer the next time we do ‘60 Minutes’ together.”