Trump claims ‘no collusion’

Donald Trump has claimed there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians.

That is incorrect. No collusion has been shown or claimed in the FBI investigation – yet. But the investigation also hasn’t shown that no collusion occurred.

In his notice to the Court on the Michael Flynn charges deal Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated:

“These facts do not constitute all of the facts known to the parties concerning the charged offenses. They are being submitted to demonstrate that sufficient facts exist that the defendant committed the offense to which he is pleading guilty.”

So what the Special Investigation knows is not known to the public – nor to Trump. Mueller may or may not have evidence proving collusion or pointing to possible collusion.

An ABC News report that a Flynn confidant said he would testify that Trump directed him to contact the Russians during the campaign has been corrected, citing a clarification from the source.

The ABC report Flynn prepared to testify that Trump directed him to contact Russians about ISIS, confidant says now states:

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised “full cooperation” in the special counsel’s Russia investigation and, according to a confidant, is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.

The confidant provided ABC News with new details on Friday about Trump’s instructions to Flynn. During the campaign, Trump asked Flynn to be one of a small group of close advisors charged with improving relations in Russia and other hot spots. The source said Trump phoned Flynn shortly after the election to explicitly ask him to “serve as point person on Russia,” and to reach out personally to Russian officials to develop strategies to jointly combat ISIS.

The confidant told ABC News that Flynn felt abandoned by Trump in recent weeks, and told friends about the decision to make the plea deal within the last 24 hours as he grew increasingly concerned about crippling legal costs he would face if he continued to contest the charges.

“Flynn is very angry,” the confidant told ABC News Friday. “He will cooperate truthfully on any question they ask him.”

Of course the ‘confidant’ cant be sure what Flynn will testify.

Meanwhile Stuff reports: Kiwi spies knew of Donald Trump’s ‘collusion’ with Russia as it unfolded – book

New Zealand spies knew about Donald Trump colluding with Russia in the lead-up to the extraordinary 2016 US election, an investigative journalist says.

Luke Harding is a Guardian journalist and author of Collusion, a new book exploring the US president’s longstanding ties with Russia.

It was the evidence of European spy agencies and, according to one source, the Australians, that helped nudge an initially reticent FBI into investigating the Trump-Russia ties that continue to unfold.

Five Eyes intelligence partners, including the New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau, were monitoring the meetings between Trump associates and “known and suspected” Russian agents in the year preceding the US election, Harding says.

“This information would have been shared with New Zealand’s spooks, and they will have a clearer picture, privately, of what degree Trump colluded,” Harding says.

The book goes deep into the publication of the Steele dossier, Russian hacking of the Democrats email servers, failed bids to build a Trump Hotel in Moscow, and the dealings between Trump’s associates and Russians now subject to FBI scrutiny.

It’s more damning than Watergate, Harding says, but he doesn’t expect it to topple the White House.

His prediction: Trump will last the four-year term. “Impeachment is a political question. So, I think he’ll tough it out.”

That’s just guessing.

The investigation appears to be far from over and more is almost certain to come out. We will need to wait and see whether collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia can be proven or not.

 

 

Developments and implications of Flynn’s guilty plea

A long thread from US attorney Seth Abramson on Twitter, as the news of Michael Flynn pleading guilty and helping the FBI investigation into Russia/Trump and it’s implications.

…is far and away the biggest development thus far in the Trump-Russia probe, and likely the biggest development in U.S. politics since President Nixon resigned from office during the Watergate scandal. This is historic.

And later as more was revealed:

This scandal not only has international implications but profound implications for the future of the Republican Party. I don’t write much about the “domino” effect this case involves—but we’ll be hearing about it more very soon.

So this is several times bigger than Watergate.

And later:

MSNBC just spoke to one of Trump’s close allies—who called this “very, very, very bad” for Trump.

It can’t be overstated how bad today’s news is for the president and his presidency.

1/ First, it’s important to understand that Mueller has entered into a plea deal with Flynn in which Flynn pleads guilty to far less than the available evidence suggests he could be charged with. This indicates that he has cut a deal with Mueller to cooperate in the Russia probe.

2/ We’ve already seen Mueller do this once before in the probe, with George Papadopoulos—who was charged with the same crime as Flynn, Making False Statements, to secure his cooperation with the Russia probe. The Papadopoulos plea affidavit emphasized facts were being left out.

3/ Flynn is widely regarded as dead-to-rights on more charges than Making False Statements—notably, FARA violations (failing to register as a foreign agent of Turkey under the Foreign Agent Registration Act). There’s recently been evidence he was part of a kidnapping plot, too.

4/ Getting charged with just one count of Making False Statements is a great deal for Mike Flynn—it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll escape incarceration, but a) it makes that a possibility (depending on what the parties and judge say and do), and b) any time served may be minimal.

5/ What this suggests is Flynn brings substantial inculpatory info (info tending to incriminate others) to the table. Unlike Papadopoulos, Flynn was going to be—because of his position in the administration—a primary target of the probe. So he had to offer a lot to get this deal.

6/ Deals like this are offered *only* when a witness can incriminate someone “higher up the food-chain” than them. In the case of the nation’s former National Security Advisor, the *only* people above him in the executive-branch hierarchy are the President and the Vice President.

7/ There may be other targets in the Russia probe—such as Attorney General Sessions—at Flynn’s same level in the hierarchy, but unless he could incriminate two or more of them, a deal like this would not be offered to him. And there *aren’t* two or more at his level in this case.

8/ What this indicates—beyond any serious doubt—is the following: Special Counsel Bob Mueller, the former Director of the FBI, believes Mike Flynn’s testimony will *incriminate* the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, or both of these two men.

9/ For this reason, what’s about to happen in 50 minutes is far and away the biggest development thus far in the Trump-Russia probe, and likely the biggest development in U.S. politics since President Nixon resigned from office during the Watergate scandal. This is historic.

10/ The Papadopoulos plea paled in comparison to this because Papadopoulos was a top national security advisor to Mr. Trump, but still at nothing like Flynn’s level of access and authority. The Manafort indictment pales in comparison because it was just an indictment, not a plea.

11/ The range of crimes for which Flynn can incriminate the president is unknown, but we have *some* sense of what could be involved. The first thing to understand is that Flynn had access to—and influence with—Trump on national security issues beginning in the Summer of 2015.

12/ The last *known* contact between Trump and Mike Flynn was late April 2017—meaning the two men were in contact for approximately one year and nine months. Given that these twenty-one months make up almost the entirety of Trump’s political career, this is a huge swath of time.

13/ During their last known contact—April 2017—we know Trump told Flynn (at a minimum) to “stay strong,” after which Flynn stopped cooperating with investigators. So the first thing Flynn can tell Mueller is all Trump said—and if he obstructed justice—during that April 2017 call.

14/ But of course the “story to tell” that Flynn’s attorney bragged the ex-NSA had—back in late March of 2017—goes *well* beyond Obstruction allegations. Flynn was at the center of numerous contacts with Russia that he can report the president knew about and perhaps even ordered.

15/ Flynn met with the Russian ambassador and Jared Kushner in early December 2016 to discuss a “Kremlin back-channel” that some have argued would have constituted an act of espionage. Did Mr. Trump know about this? Did he direct Flynn and/or Kushner to pursue this back-channel?

16/ This December 2016 event underscores that Flynn’s a threat not just to Trump but to others. It’s easy to forget that, just because Flynn—it appears—can incriminate the president, doesn’t mean he can *only* incriminate the president. Many others are at risk, including Kushner.

17/ Indeed, today’s plea coming so close on the heels of Mueller asking Kushner to come in and talk about Flynn suggests Kushner is also a target of the Russia probe. Perhaps Mueller didn’t think Kushner would flip on family, so he set him up to Make False Statements about Flynn.

18/ This is critical: Flynn pleading guilty today means he was cooperating with Mueller *before* this. You don’t offer value to a prosecution *after* you plead, you offer it beforehand—via what’s called a “proffer” of info (that incriminates others). That’s what earns you a deal.

19/ So it’s entirely possible that when Mueller called Kushner in to talk about Flynn, he already had everything Flynn planned to give him—meaning he was *testing* Kushner to see if Kushner would lie about events Mueller was already fully informed about via Flynn’s prior proffer.

20/ That proffer may have incriminated not just Trump and Kushner and—perhaps—Pence, but any number of Trump NatSec (or simply “top”) aides: Manafort, Sessions, Clovis, Hicks, Lewandowski, Page, and Gordon, to name a few. We may not know, however, until someone else is indicted.

21/ Mueller isn’t obligated to tell the public what Flynn told him. We’ll first learn of it (for all but Trump) via future indictments of those Flynn incriminated. As for Trump, he can’t be criminally tried as POTUS, and probably can’t even be indicted, so it’ll work differently.

22/ What Flynn told Mueller about Trump will first appear in an indictment of a third party—quite possible, if the third party was/is close enough to Trump—or else in the final report Mueller is tasked with giving Rod Rosenstein at the DOJ (though that may take a while to come).

23/ How long it will take Mueller to issue indictments based on Flynn’s proffer? It’s hard to say: it depends on what evidence was given, what evidence Mueller already had, what additional investigation he wants to do on that person (perhaps to bring further charges), and so on.

24/ But Mueller may act on Flynn’s proffer at any time, which means—and here’s another critical point—the daily, harrowing watch to see if Trump will attempt to fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller begins in earnest *now*.

If Trump moves to fire Mueller, all hell will break loose.

25/ I’ve long said that Trump *will* move to fire Mueller—simply because doing so would quickly become one of his only options for self-preservation when/if Mike Flynn or another top associate entered into the cooperation deal with the Special Counsel. Well, we’re finally here.

26/ As I’ve said, we now have reason to believe—to a near-certainty—Flynn can incriminate Trump. And as noted, the range of potential crimes is vast. Did Flynn tell Trump and/or Pence the truth about his Russia contacts as they were happening—despite what the White House claimed?

27/ Remember, besides a long course of conduct involving both Obstruction of Justice and Witness Tampering—of Sally Yates, of Comey, of Jr., of Flynn himself, of Sessions, and of various Congressional investigators—Trump is being looked at for Aiding and Abetting Computer Crimes.

28/ In the Aiding and Abetting Computer Crimes probe, the question is a) when Trump knew Russia was committing crimes against the United States, and b) whether and how Trump offered Russia anything of financial or political value ostensibly for “free” after he had this knowledge.

29/ If Donald Trump learned Russia was committing crimes against America and subsequently offered—unilaterally—policy shifts of political or financial value directly to Russian agents either himself or through intermediaries, he’s guilty of a crime as great as the underlying one.

30/ We know Trump knew there was a “high likelihood” (the legal standard in this case) Russia was committing crimes against America as of August 17, 2016, when he received his first security briefing as a presidential candidate. A speech in late July suggests he knew it earlier.

31/ But given that Mike Flynn dined with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in December of 2015—after he’d been a key Trump campaign foreign policy and national security advisor for four months—it’s possible Trump had this knowledge as early as the fall of 2015 or the winter of 2015-2016.

32/ This is the key information Mike Flynn can offer: what Trump knew about Russian crimes, and when; and also, what actions he directed his national security advisory apparatus to take—possibly in response to this knowledge—and when. For instance, secret sanctions negotiations.

33/ We know Flynn was engaged in secret sanctions negotiations with Russia that Trump—rather oddly—said he “would have told him” to engage in throughout December of 2016. But we’ve *no* idea if this was the first time such negotiations occurred. Flynn will have this information.

34/ Flynn will also know exactly what occurred as the White House tried to cover up these illicit December 2016 sanctions negotiations—or any earlier ones—including what Trump and Pence knew of them, and when, and how and when they coordinated lying to American voters about them.

35/ Remember that Trump *not only* tried to get Comey to drop the case against Flynn—suggesting he was scared about what that case could uncover—he *also* tried to convince his aides to let him *re-hire* Flynn after his firing and *then* called Flynn to tell him to “stay strong.”

36/ While Trump also exhibited some fear about what Manafort could reveal to investigators—keeping him on as an unpaid advisor through February 2017 after “firing” him as an unpaid Campaign Manager in the summer of 2016—he’s shown much *more* concern about Mike Flynn’s situation.

37/ A quick pause while I read the court documents for today’s plea—they’re just coming out now.

38/ One thing is clear: Mueller charged Flynn with the most innocuous lies he could to shield from the public—and far more importantly, from President Trump and his allies (at least for now)—the extent of what Flynn has told him. A longer charging document would reveal too much.

39/ The first allegation in the single-count charging document is that Flynn lied about asking Russia to moderate its response to the US decision to level new sanctions in December 2016. Presumably, Flynn made this request on a representation Trump would undo those new sanctions.

40/ The second allegation, dating from 12/22/16—the first was from 12/29/16—involves Flynn asking Russia to take a particular stance on a UN resolution. While both these acts violate the Logan Act—private citizens can’t negotiate with foreign governments—they’re just appetizers.

41/ For Mueller to be *so guarded* in what information he’s willing to reveal in his single-count indictment—as we know Mike Flynn lied to the FBI about far more serious things than Mueller has disclosed—confirms, indirectly, that Flynn’s proffer to the FBI was *quite* explosive.

42/ That said, the UN resolution had to do with Israel—and we know Israel had reached out to Kushner about that same resolution, so there’s a possibility that the second allegation against Flynn will give the lie to things *Kushner* told the FBI about his contacts with Israel.

43/ But remember, when the FBI sat down to discuss Flynn’s Russia contacts with him, they would have asked him about *all* his recent Russia contacts—including, for instance, his December ’15 trip to Moscow to dine with Putin. So the topics Flynn lied about could date back years.

44/ (When I get a number of new readers—as today—people ask me to restate my bona fides: Harvard Law School, 2001; public defender for eight years in two jurisdictions; trained at Georgetown/Harvard as a criminal investigator; represented 2000+ defendants in cases up to homicide;

45/ have worked at 3 public defenders since 1996—one federal—and have testified in federal criminal cases as a defense investigator; current member in good standing of the New Hampshire bar and the federal bar for the District of New Hampshire; I now teach legal advocacy at UNH.)

46/ Another key point many will forget: Flynn was so scared about the extent of his criminal liability as Trump’s pre-election advisor and post-election NSA that in March 2017 his lawyer took the *extraordinary* step of *publicly* offering to cooperate with federal investigators.

47/ Usually, this sort of offer is made privately—and usually it’s made somewhat further along in a federal investigation than was the case with Flynn, who made the offer just a few weeks after he was fired by Trump. It was after that offer that Trump told him to “stay strong.”

48/ At the time, Flynn’s lawyer said he had “a story to tell.” It was clear Flynn and his attorney believed enough *other* potential witnesses had similarly inculpatory information about Trump that they needed to “race to the courthouse” (as we say) to get a deal *before* others.

49/ It can’t be overstated that Flynn had been assumed to be one of the primary targets of the Trump-Russia probe—so him being given a sweetheart deal by federal law enforcement means the “story to tell” that he had was a very, very good one in Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s view.

50/ UPDATE: CNN confirms Flynn has now plead guilty. Technically, he pled to *four* false statements, though they were paired—he lied about two statements he made to the Russians *and* their responses to those two statements, one about U.S. sanctions policy and one about Israel.

51/ It’s *very* telling that U.S. media has received *no official response* from the White House about this. Remember how quickly they came out with a party line about Papadopoulos’ plea, and even the Manafort and Gates indictments? This is so bad there’s nothing for them to say.

54/ *Don’t* listen to the White House if it claims the only thing Flynn is offering the Special Counsel is evidence that Trump ordered him to violate the Logan Act (which prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments) pre-inauguration. This is *far* bigger.

55/ I’ve been saying for many months now that the publicly available information we have *strongly* suggests that Trump ordered certain of his subordinates to make contact with Russia *pre-election*—which is an entirely different matter than making such contact *post-election*.

56/ With the plea Flynn just entered minutes ago, something significant has died in public discourse: *any possibility* that the Trump-Russia probe is, as Trump and his allies have long claimed, either a “witch hunt” or “sour grapes” or a “nothingburger.” This is all 100% real.

57/ Those of us in the “reality-based community” always knew this was real, and all the media reporting on it confirmed it was real, but it now becomes unthinkable that the White House—the world’s foremost bastion of “fake news” right now—could keep claiming this is all bollocks.

58/ Minutes ago, someone connected to the White House was, CNN reported, saying that Flynn was acting on his own. Even *fewer* minutes ago, ABC reported that Flynn was acting on Trump’s orders. *That’s* how quickly this administration’s network of implausible lies is unraveling.

59/ What Flynn pled to carries a maximum penalty of 1 to 5 years—very light for the federal system, again suggesting a “sweetheart” deal. He could’ve been charged with more; could’ve faced *more* counts of the same charge; and he could still be eligible for a “downward revision.”

60/ Mueller allowed argument on a downward revision for George Papadopoulos—due to his lack of a prior record—and it appears that could allow Papadopoulos to do six months in a federal prison or even no time at all. So we don’t know what Mueller and Flynn agreed to on that score.

61/ While Flynn is getting a substantial benefit by being deliberately *under*-charged, if his evidence is very strong Mueller may also have made an agreement regarding the amount of prison time the government will ask the judge for and how much time it’ll allow Flynn to ask for.

62/ Another reason the government *under*-charges a witness it intends to use at trial is to give a future defendant’s defense team less material to work with on cross-examination. Obviously Flynn is shown to be a liar—but you don’t want him weighted down with *many* convictions.

63/ The next move for the White House is this one: to try to convince the American media, and American voters, that the only thing Mueller has on Flynn is what Flynn just pled to. Don’t be deceived; that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this (cooperation deals) work.

64/ UPDATE: Court documents show Flynn now says he was in contact with top officials on the transition team as he was discussing US sanctions and the UN Security Council resolution on Israel with Russia. All the information we have says one of those officials was *Jared Kushner*.

65/ Kushner was working with the Israelis on the Security Council resolution and—in early December—with multiple Kremlin agents on (it now appears) the sanctions issue. And Kushner was the one who brought Flynn onto the transition—so he’d have been Flynn’s critical contact there.

68/ Note that the events of today *further confirm* that Mueller brought Kushner in to talk about Flynn a couple weeks ago as a ploy to see if he (Kushner) would make (additional) false statements to federal investigators—a felony.

69/ So what we’ve learned today is (a) Donald Trump, the President of the United States, is a target of the Mueller probe (as I and many attorneys have long said); (b) Jared Kushner is almost certainly also a target; (c) Kushner needs a new lawyer; (d) Pence may also be a target.

70/ Pence was nominally the head of the transition, and Flynn is now saying he was in contact with members of the transition—high-level members—about his conversations with Russia. If Mike Pence was one of them—and he lied about it publicly—he could face Obstruction charges, too.

71/ It’s too early to know *all* the dominoes that will fall as a result of what just happened with Michael Flynn, but we know (a) there will be international effects and consequences, and (b) the Trump presidency (including *all* his policy initiatives) is now gravely imperiled.

72/ While we can’t know what they will do, to legal observers I think the idea that the Republicans would push forward with Trump’s political agenda as though he *isn’t* now the *known target of a federal criminal investigation* is almost unthinkable. But we’ll see what happens.

73/ But as I say this, understand something else—this is the beginning of the end for Trump, but it is *not* the end. The number of additional shoes that will be dropping in the days, weeks, and even months to come will cause substantial alarm to all Americans of good conscience.

74/ UPDATE: U.S. media has just televised the perp walk of the former National Security Advisor to the President of the United States.

75/ BRIEF MEDIA UPDATE: I’m expecting to be on BBC Newsnight, BBC Radio, and Sky News (UK) later on this evening to discuss today’s breaking news.I will post audio and/or video when or as available. I’ll update this list of appearances as things are added/changed during the day.

76/ Many will forget that Rep. Conaway (R-TX) yesterday said he expected to finish his probe of Trump-Russia ties in February—and implied the findings were already known: that there was no Trump-Russia collusion. Now Flynn (per ABC) says Trump secretly told him to talk to Russia.

80/ This scandal not only has international implications but profound implications for the future of the Republican Party. I don’t write much about the “domino” effect this case involves—but we’ll be hearing about it more very soon. So this is several times bigger than Watergate.

81/ Putin’s election interference, as Harding notes, was part of a years-long campaign to destroy the EU, NATO, and, yes, the United States. Complicity in that campaign is complicity in an attempt by Putin to reinstate the Cold War and demolish Western democracy. It’s that big.

82/ Trump, Flynn, and many others had—as late as August 17, 2016, but certainly much earlier than that—clear knowledge of what Putin’s ambitions were. And they not only played footsie with him after that but *actively conspired with him* and his agents in secret. It’s *that* big.

83/ Before this ends, the GOP will have no choice but to disavow Trump as one of the greatest traitors in our history—we’re getting only the first inkling of that eventuality today. But Trump won’t go quietly—he’ll take about half the GOP with him to form a new political party.

84/ So yes, the Roy Moore situation is very much about certain members of the GOP, Trump particularly, apologizing for and/or enabling a pedophile. But understand this: Roy Moore will also be a key leader in the political party Trump eventuality forms once the GOP kicks him out.

85/ I won’t go too far down this line of analysis now, but suffice to say that when I say today’s plea is the beginning of the end for Trump’s presidency—though we’ve a long way to go (well into ’18)—it’s also the beginning of the end for many other things. And the start of some.

86/ More immediately, we have to talk about Pence. If Flynn told Pence anything about his Russia contacts and Pence then lied to America to cover it up, I hope it goes without saying neither Congress nor America will stand for Pence assuming the presidency. This is *that* big.

87/ We know Pence ran the transition; we know he discussed Flynn’s Russia contacts with Flynn; we know Pence has lied about big things before; we know Flynn said he revealed his actions to a “top transition official”; we’ve no reason to think Trump or Flynn hid things from Pence.

88/ So we must consider that Flynn’s full proffer—the one we have barely an inkling of so far—imperils the political and possibly legal future of *both* the President of the United States *and* the Vice President of the United States. So we’ll eventually have to talk succession.

89/ I want to underscore: we should *not* get ahead of this story to that degree. But anyone reading this thread and understanding the full implications of today’s news has to *begin* thinking about (and preparing emotionally for) some possible (and quite historic) eventualities.

90/ These eventualities are *so* encompassing that for the moment we must say this: (a) many people in the White House appreciate them, and therefore (b) literally *nothing* that comes from the White House on Russia going forward can be credited *in the slightest*. And I mean it.

91/ The correct action for the White House to take—as a matter of *national security*—is to say absolutely nothing about what’s happened. Anything else a) threatens to destabilize the nation, and b) immediately becomes possible evidence in impeachment and/or criminal proceedings.

92/ The amount of disinformation coming from Fox News and Trump allies right now will be written about in history books for years to come as constituting an infamous domestic disinformation campaign. Americans of good conscience in the White House must *refuse* to participate.

93/ If you are in the media right now saying this isn’t a big deal, or at the White House or other political venues saying that, you are deliberately impeding the orderly administration of justice the nation will rely upon to expose this presidency for what it is and always was.

94/ Every attorney with experience in criminal law now presumes—and factors into their analyses—that Mueller has sufficient information to indict the POTUS. He wouldn’t have given Flynn this sort of deal otherwise. All of us should be acting carefully, with that thought in mind.

95/ None of us know for certain what will happen, but legal experts can certainly tell us what is *likely* to happen—and it’s likely *enough*, now, that those in positions of responsibility in the media and in government must think *very* seriously about what they do and say now.

96/ If you’re reading what people like Andrew McCarthy are saying now in National Review—people who have been *wrong* at *every stage* of this investigation as to the direction it was going in—you’re not preparing yourself or your family/friends for any future political upheaval.

97/ Sadly, we’re at a point at which those inclined to read National Review would do better to listen to anonymous Trump allies than read articles by named conservative columnists.

MSNBC just spoke to one of Trump’s close allies—who called this “very, very, very bad” for Trump.

98/ I don’t think people like McCarthy believe what they’re writing; I think they suspect this presidency is disintegrating. What I think they want is for as much of Trump’s radical political agenda to slip through Congress without debate as possible—and as *quickly* as possible.

99/ This, then, is the key *political*—rather than legal—debate of our moment and perhaps our time: conservatives trying to squeeze as much political value as possible out of a presidency that will end in not just disgrace but public acceptance as the worst America has ever seen.

PS2/ This means that—during a presidency legally established via national vote—Jared Kushner was working secretly with a hostile foreign nation to stop the proper operation of that duly-elected president and presidency. This on its own would be harrowing. But it’s just the start.

PS5/ No word on how Flynn Sr.’s deal affects potential charges against Flynn Jr., but I’d have to say—contra Star Wars—”this deal is getting better all the time” if Flynn gets 1 charge, a chance at no jailtime, and no charges for his son. That’d mean he had a *big* story to tell.

101/ The Statement of the Offense recently released on the Flynn case is astounding. Flynn made *multiple* phone calls to “senior” officials (“officials,” plural) on the transition team about his sanctions negotiations and he received clear marching orders from those “officials.”

102/ It’s already been reported that Kushner is one of the senior transition officials who secretly instructed Flynn to participate in clandestine sanctions negotiations with Russia and then never revealed those orders to anyone outside the campaign. The other could be Pence.

103/ Or, there could be more than two. Just as Trump Jr. met Kremlin agents in Trump Tower and says he never went upstairs to tell his dad, we now have transition officials *at Mar-a-Lago* while Trump was there who will presumably claim they didn’t inform Trump of their actions.

104/ Obviously no one will believe *multiple* transition officials who were with the president at Mar-a-Lago gave orders to Flynn on how to negotiate with the Russians on sanctions and *didn’t* tell Trump—that’s not at all consistent with what we know of Trump’s management style.

105/ But in any case, we can note that Mike Pence was the head of the transition, and that the Statement of the Offense says Flynn told *someone* at the top of the transition team *besides* Jared Kushner what he was doing. The list of people that could be is vanishingly small.

106/ Flynn and Kushner knew what they were doing was wrong—they would *not* have widely spread information about their secret (and illegal, under the Logan Act) negotiations with Russia. So the second (or third and additional) “senior” officials had to be *very* senior indeed.

107/ If you imagine for a moment that Kushner told his father-in-law what was going on—spoiler alert: everyone knows that we’ll discover he did—this means that, *at best*, Trump lied to the Vice President and to the nation about his (illegal) actions regarding Russian sanctions.

108/ It can’t be overstated how bad today’s news is for the president and his presidency. I was asked on Bloomberg TV what I would offer as Trump’s best defense and I said, “remain silent.” Which is the advice you give a guilty person who’s dead-to-rights and about to be charged.

109/ I’ll be taking a brief break to appear on BBC Newsnight (for those in the UK or those who have it on cable). I’ll return immediately thereafter to further analyze what’s going on right now.

Again, this is a *historic* day in the United States that will be long remembered.

110/ (I do want to briefly note that—as to the lies Flynn told about the Security Council resolution—the Statement of the Offense said he spoke to “very senior” rather than merely “senior” transition officials. And the Statement *does* reference lies Flynn told relating to FARA.)

Trump Twitter train wreck continues

President Donald Trump seems to be getting worse on Twitter. You could almost think he had nothing better to do than watch media and respond stupidly. Some supporters no doubt like the entertainment, but there must be growing concerns from those who prefer a serious White House administration.

But Trump obviously thinks his online antics are a good thing and that he can continue without adverse effects. The accumulative effects of his pettiness and distraction must be growing though.

He has overstepped the lines of presidential prudence and basic decency so many times

Washington Post: Trump veers past guardrails, feeling impervious to the uproar he causes

President Trump this week disseminated on social media three inflammatory and unverified ­anti-Muslim videos, took glee in the firing of a news anchor for sexual harassment allegations despite facing more than a dozen of his own accusers and used a ceremony honoring Navajo war heroes to malign a senator with a derogatory nickname, “Pocahontas.”

Again and again, Trump veered far past the guardrails of presidential behavior. But despite the now-routine condemnations, the president is acting emboldened, as if he were impervious to the uproar he causes.

If there are consequences for his actions, Trump does not seem to feel their burden personally. The Republican tax bill appears on track for passage, putting the president on the cusp of his first major legislative achievement. Trump himself remains the ­highest-profile man accused of sexual improprieties to keep his job with no repercussions.

Claims of his own ‘sexual improprieties’ are bad enough, but his support of others accused of similar must be problematic.

Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president.

The reality seems to be that he can’t be controlled, or won’t be controlled.

For years, Trump has fired off incendiary tweets and created self-sabotaging controversies. The pattern captures the musings of a man who traffics in conspiracy theories and alternate realities and who can’t resist inserting himself into any story line at any moment.

“In an intensely polarized world, you can’t burn down the same house twice,” said Alex Castellanos, a GOP campaign consultant. “What has Donald Trump got to lose at this point?”

Quite a lot actually. Credibility amongst his base who may not all keep supporting him as he offends on a wide range of things. The presidency.

The USA has already lost quite a bit due to Trump’s behaviour, and could suffer for it a lot more.

Castellanos added that for many voters, and especially Trump’s base, there’s an “upside” to his bellicosity. “A strong daddy bear is what a lot of voters want,” he said. “Right or wrong, at least he’s fighting for us.”

Fighting for whom? He’s a selfish self obsessed arse who looks like he would turn on anyone.

Trump retweets inflammatory and unverified anti-Muslim videos

That will no doubt please some no mater how inappropriate it is for a President, there are still some of ‘us’ who like him and support him, or support him because the alternative is politically grave, but I don’t see Trump as a fighter for anything but his own ego.

He manipulates people and media for his own gratification.

He puts Republican politicians in a very difficult position.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans struggled Wednesday to defend the president. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Trump’s retweets of the videos were “particularly unhelpful.”

“We don’t want to take a fringe group and elevate their content,” Graham said. “I think it also is not the message we need to be sending right now where we need, you know, Muslim allies.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), an outspoken Trump critic, agreed: “I just thought it was highly inappropriate. Not helpful.”

GOP strategist John Brabender said Trump’s tweets distracted from his agenda to pass a tax cuts bill and focus on the nuclear threat from North Korea. But, Brabender said, “this is not new in Donald Trump’s world.”

“We’re seeing the message hijacked by the messenger,” Brabender said. “That’s been problematic for a long time and it’s still problematic. . . . Sometimes we all just scratch our heads.”

There may not be much else they can do about Trump, until wait until he stuffs their re-election chances.

As the train engine blunders onwards carriages are likely to fall off the wreck.

Trump versus CNN

President Trump has continued in his praise of Fox News and his condemnation of CNN, via Twitter of course, and just after his Justice department filed a lawsuit to block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, which owns CNN.

Huffington Post: Fox News Is ‘Much More Important’ Than CNN, Trump Tweets

Donald Trump’s favorite news network is “much more important” than the often critical CNN, the president tweeted Saturday.

Just days earlier, Trump’s Justice Department filed a contentious lawsuit to block AT&T’s purchase of CNN’s parent company, Time Warner. The action raised concerns that the federal government is trying to silence CNN’s critical coverage of the president, rather than fears about a powerful media monopoly.

The tweet, and a response from CNN:

In a meeting before the lawsuit was filed, sources told The New York Times that the Justice Department had warned AT&T that either CNN’s parent, Turner Broadcasting, or DirecTV would have to be sold before the federal government would allow the planned $85.4 billion merger. CEO Stephenson has said he has no interest in selling CNN.

Earlier this year, Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Time Warner executive Gary Ginsberg and said that 20 percent of the CNN staff should be fired because they were so “wrong” about the Trump campaign, sources told The Wall Street Journal. A White House official said the comments were not intended to be taken seriously, but they rattled Time Warner, the Journal reported.

The Justice Department says it is taking legal action because the combination of AT&T and Time Warner would create one of the biggest media monopolies in American history.

Jake Tapper noted that the timing of Trump’s tweet about CNN coincided with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signing of a law that allows American media outlets in Russia to be registered as “foreign agents.” The law is in retaliation for the U.S. government’s request that the American office of the Russian TV network RT be registered as a foreign agent.

Norm Eisen, ethics chief for the Obama White House:

Friends of Trump:

Stream of revelations of abuse of power and women

The floodgates may not have opened fully on revelations of sexual harassment and misconduct of prominent men in the US, but a trickle seems to have become a stream.

On the current RealClear Politics front page there are numerous stories about men abusing power and abusing women.

The trickle started with Harvey Weinstein: After Weinstein, a Cultural Revolution (National Review):

It’s been nearly two months, and a geologic age, since the New York Times ran its initial report on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation.

It’s difficult to think of any piece of journalism that has ever wrought such an instant change in American life.

First, more allegations against Weinstein flooded in, and then against other Hollywood, media, and political figures, many of them rapidly defenestrated upon credible allegations of sexual misconduct.

A heightened awareness around sexual harassment is roiling multiple industries in what is a low-grade cultural revolution.

But the stage was set last year: Congress Should Investigate Trump’s Alleged Sexual Misconduct (RCP):

Powerful men with long histories of alleged sexual harassment or assault are finally being held accountable — except one. That would be President Trump.

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” Trump said on the “Access Hollywood” tape, referring to a woman he had just spotted. “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the [vagina]. You can do anything.”

Thirteen women have gone on the record to say that is how Trump operated, according to a tally by The Washington Post. Eight of them — who say that Trump kissed them, groped them or both, without invitation or permission — have corroboration, meaning they told other people about the incidents before going public. Similar stories told by the other five accusers are not corroborated.

Trump won election despite the allegations, but his victory did not erase his history. Now, virtually overnight, the paradigm for thinking about and dealing with sexual harassment has changed. A kind of Judgment Day has arrived for men who thought they had gotten away with their misdeeds.

And there’s ample history: Al Gore’s dark past is an inconvenient truth (The OCR):

It seems like every time you open the morning paper, more powerful men are being accused of groping, raping and generally treating their female colleagues in inappropriate and degrading ways.

You don’t have to look any farther than the pages of the New York Times or the airwaves of MSNBC to hear liberal voices openly opining that they blew it in the 1990s by not calling on former President Bill Clinton to step down after he admitted to an ongoing sexual relationship with a much younger intern.

However, one prominent name has managed to stay off of our radar, and I don’t know why. I am, of course, speaking of former Vice President Al Gore.

Back in October of 2006, a Portland, Ore. masseuse accused the former vice president of “unwanted sexual contact” while performing a massage on him in a hotel room.

Students: There Are No Safe Spaces (NewRepublic):

If we have learned anything from the ongoing, seemingly endless tide of sexual harassment allegations against famous, powerful men, it is that there is no space that is truly safe.

It is not a coincidence that this flood has come now, not just with Donald “grab ‘em by the pussy” Trump in the White House, but after years of public denunciations of the very idea of safe spaces. Liberal and conservative commentators alike have written reams of nearly identical columns lamenting the desire, on the part of today’s young people, for a place they might be safe from sexism, racism, and harassment.

A journalist: Charlie Rose, before and after the fall (News Observer):

North Carolina was proud of Charlie Rose. A native, a graduate of Duke University and the Duke law school, and someone who for a substantial two decades conducted perhaps the most thoughtful interview show on television through his own company.

Now, of course, Rose’s career has ended in flames after sexual harassment allegations from several women. It’s hard to imagine the 75-year-old New York-based media and social star will be able to restore his public image.

A Senator:  Al Franken vows to regain Minnesota’s trust after harassment allegations (Star Tribune):

Another politician: Capitol Police investigating whether nude photo of House Republican was a crime (The Hill):

The Capitol Police are investigating whether the unauthorized release of a nude photo of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) online was a crime.

A nude photo of Barton appeared on social media anonymously earlier in the week. Barton on Wednesday acknowledged that the photo was of him but said he did not release the photo and the person who did not only violated his privacy but may have committed “a potential crime against me.”

Barton emphasized that the women he was involved with in the past, one of whom may have shared the photo, were above the age of consent and willing participants.

“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women,” Barton said in a statement.

That may be just embarrassing rather than criminal.

And a candidate:  U.S. Senate candidate Moore’s spokesman resigns as allegations roil campaign (Reuters):

The communications director for U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has resigned amid the Alabama Republican’s efforts to combat allegations of sexual misconduct that have roiled his campaign.
News of the departure of John Rogers came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump defended Moore from accusations by multiple women that Moore pursued them as teenagers when he was in his 30s, including one who has said he initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14.

Moore has denied any wrongdoing and has accused the women of conspiring with Democrats, media outlets and establishment Republicans in an effort to tarnish his reputation. Reuters has not independently confirmed any of the accusations.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday, however, that he might yet campaign for Moore, who he said “totally denies” the misconduct allegations, and that Democratic nominee Doug Jones was a liberal who should not be elected.

The president’s stance stood in contrast to the reactions from most Republicans in Washington, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who have called on Moore to step aside.

Blaming the media and their opponents may be wearing a bit thin, especially when allegations of abuses are spread across the spectrum.

When the rot is defended from the top, and the top may be rotten as well, there is some way to go but the stream may become a floodgate that can’t be held back, even by Trump.

Back to Rich Lowry at National Review:

Now, it is the predators — no matter how entrenched and successful — who are in a precarious position. They can fall from grace within hours of credible accounts of wrongdoing. It doesn’t matter how abjectly they apologize or promise to get therapy and engage in self-reflection. They are powerless before their accusers.

This dynamic can go too far. It is important that accusations always are evaluated for credibility, and the accused get their hearing.

But the model, a disgraceful abuse of power too long tolerated, is ending. Good riddance.

The abuse of power bubble may at last be bursting.

While there are a growing number of accusations those in the firing line are only a small minority of politicians, journalists and movie moguls. The majority, possibly the vast majority, are innocent of abusing their power or abusing women.

But there must be a few others who are waiting, wondering if they will become the next headline.

Backroom chat becomes international news

If she has learnt anything from the last few days Jacinda Ardern will be now much more careful about what she says, and to whom. Casual chat in private has become international news.

The Guardian: ‘Not that orange’: New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern regrets gossip about Donald Trump

The New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has expressed regret over gossiping about a meeting with Donald Trump after it was reported the US president may have mistaken her for Justin Trudeau’s wife.

Ardern was visibly uncomfortable when asked about reports that she had revealed details of the encounter at the East Asia summit in Vietnam last week to a friend who later went public.

The friend – comedian Tom Sainsbury – revealed in a radio interview that Ardern had told her Trump was “not as orange in real life” and that he had been confused about her identity.

BBC: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern ‘regrets Trump story

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern says she regrets sharing an anecdote about her recent meeting with US President Donald Trump with her friends.

Washington Post: New Zealand leader regrets story that suggested Trump mistook her for Trudeau’s wife

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she regrets sharing an anecdote that suggested President Trump mistook her for the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“It was a bit of a funny yarn,” Arden told TVNZ on Monday morning, adding that it was “something that I don’t want to cause a diplomatic incident over.”

The reality of being Prime Minister – it’s difficult to trust anyone, even those you thought were friends. And one should expect the media to make headlines out of trivia.

The story was blown up on TVNZ’s Breakfast yesterday in a heavily criticised interview.

TVNZ (video of interview): Jacinda Ardern grilled by Jack Tame over whether Trump mistook her for Justin Trudeau’s wife – ‘It’s quite complicated’

ODT (NZME): Ardern interview slammed as being far from tame

Viewers have slammed Jack Tame as “rude” and “bizarre” over an awkward interview with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

One said Tame’s line of questioning was so “ridiculous,” he’d made her turn the TV off.

Tame has defended this morning’s awkward interview on Breakfast, saying it’s his job “to ask questions”.

Claire Trevett:  Mrs Trudeau, I presume? PM Jacinda Ardern clearly needs better work stories

Ardern had told Sainsbury backstage during the NZ Music Awards because he was a friend of hers. She had told a longer version of the tale to at least one other person.

Ardern has since said she possibly should have just stayed quiet about it. Too right.

Ardern has learned the difference between gossiping as Prime Minister – especially when it involves a controversial figure such as Trump – and gossiping as a backbench MP, or even simply a friend.

In their desperation for trivial headlines the media is forcing politicians to be less forthcoming with comment, and meticulously careful about what they say. This is a shame, but we seem to be stuck with the way things are.

The media have a habit of biting the hand that feeds them.

 

 

Farce news, when comedy becomes the headline

There are enough problems with passing comments on social media becoming ‘news’ stories, but now ‘claims’ by a comedian have hit the headlines.

Click bait headline at NZH: Did Trump mistake Jacinda for Justin Trudeau’s wife?

The question that no one seems to have asked apart from the Herald’s headline writer is answered in the article.

The article leads:

When US President Donald Trump first met Jacinda Ardern at Apec in Vietnam last week, he thought she was the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to comedian Tom Sainsbury.

Sainsbury, who is well known for his impersonation of National MPs on Snapchat, made the claim on Radio Live this afternoon.

How well known? I haven’t heard of him before.

He said he was chatting with Ardern while they were backstage at the Vodafone NZ Music Awards on Thursday night.

“I don’t know if I should be saying this, but she said that Donald Trump was confused for a good amount of time thinking that she was Justin Trudeau’s wife.”

Sainsbury said Trump eventually realised who Ardern was, and that Ardern had also said that Trump was “not as orange in real life”.

Comedians could have a lot of fun if media make a habit of turning their jokes into news.

In a statement, Ardern said: “Someone thought the President had confused us, but in all of the conversations we had it was clear to me he hadn’t, and recalled the conversation we had late last month.”

Ardern said she exchanged pleasantries with the US president and shook his hand, but did not have a substantive conversation.

That has been widely reported, including, I presume, by the Herald, so suggesting via a headline that a comedian joking is news is not a joke, it’s seriously suspect. I didn’t see if they ran it as breaking news or not.

Toby Manhire also pushed the comedian story at The Spinoff: ‘You’ve done well for yourself’: Did Trump mistake Jacinda Ardern for Trudeau’s wife?

This could be called farce news.

I wonder if Justin Trudeau’s wife has a name – but I guess an investigative jouranlist would be required to find that out.

US nuclear general discusses illegal order to strike

This seems to be hypothetical musing but it is seen as significant that a US General involved in nuclear strike decisions openly discussed what he would do if given an illegal order to launch nukes.

Reuters: U.S. nuclear general says would resist ‘illegal’ Trump strike order

The top U.S. nuclear commander said on Saturday that he would resist President Donald Trump if he ordered an “illegal” launch of nuclear weapons.

Air Force General John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia, Canada that he had given a lot of thought to what he would say if he received such an order.

“I think some people think we’re stupid,” Hyten said in response to a question about such a scenario. “We’re not stupid people. We think about these things a lot. When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?”

Hyten, who is responsible for overseeing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, explained the process that would follow such a command.

As head of STRATCOM “I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do,” he said in his remarks, retransmitted in a video posted on the forum’s Facebook page.

“And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I‘m going to say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options, of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works. It’s not that complicated.”

Hyten said running through scenarios of how to react in the event of an illegal order was standard practice, and added: “If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life.”

His job requires him to resist any president who might give illegal orders. This is one of the checks and balances on presidential power.

But why is the General being asked about this now?

They came after questions by U.S. senators, including Democrats and Trump’s fellow Republicans, about Trump’s authority to wage war, use nuclear weapons and enter into or end international agreements, amid concern that tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs could lead to hostilities.

Trump has traded insults and threats with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and threatened in his maiden United Nations address to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people if it threatened the United States.

Some senators want legislation to alter the nuclear authority of the U.S. president and a Senate committee on Tuesday held the first congressional hearing in more than four decades on the president’s authority to launch a nuclear strike.

Trump’s unpredictability and impetuousness seems to be raising concerns, as they should.

The world has raised concerns about the nuclear risk. As long as we can be assured a nuclear strike can’t be ordered via Twitter it may not be as bad as it seems.

Trump pot mocks Franken kettle

President Donald Trump has mocked Senator Al Franken after revelations of sexual harassment.

Trump wading into this has raised a few eyebrows given revelations and accusations involving him and harassment. And Franken has at least admitted bad behaviour, Trump attacked rather than acknowledged wrongdoing.

the exposure of Trump’s misconduct during last year’s presidential election campaign was a significant step towards the flood of revelations and accusations over the last month, started with the crash and burning of Harvey Weinstein.

NY Times: In Mocking Franken Over Claims of Sexual Misconduct, Trump Joins a Debate He Started

Last fall, Donald J. Trump inadvertently touched off a national conversation about sexual harassment when a recording of him boasting about groping women was made public at the same time a succession of women came forward to assert that groping was something he did more than talk about.

A year later, after a wave of harassment claims against powerful men in entertainment, politics, the arts and the news media, the discussion has come full circle with President Trump criticizing the latest politician exposed for sexual misconduct even as he continues to deny any of the accusations against him.

In this case, Mr. Trump focused his Twitter-fueled mockery on a Democratic senator while largely avoiding a similar condemnation of a Republican Senate candidate facing far more allegations. The turn in the political dialogue threatened to transform a moment of cleansing debate about sexual harassment into another weapon in the war between the political parties, led by the president himself.

Indeed, Republicans on Friday were more than happy to talk about Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, who apologized this week after a radio newscaster said he forcibly kissed her and posed for a photograph a decade ago appearing to fondle her breasts while she was sleeping.

Democrats, for their part, sought to keep the focus on Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate in Alabama who has been accused of unwanted sexual conduct by multiple women going back even further, including one who was 14 at the time.

It has embarrassed both Democrats and Republicans, with both being guilty of partisan attacks while turning a blind eye to their own transgressors.

But the notion that Mr. Trump himself would weigh in given his own history of crude talk about women and the multiple allegations against him surprised many in Washington who thought he could not surprise them anymore. A typical politician with Mr. Trump’s history would stay far away from discussing someone else’s behavior lest it dredge his own back into the spotlight.

But as Mr. Trump has shown repeatedly during his 10-month presidency, he is rarely deterred by conventional political wisdom even as he leaves it to his staff to fend off the cries of hypocrisy.

White House aides labored on Friday to distinguish Mr. Trump’s case from those of others, arguing that the president’s conduct was not at issue because he won the election last year after voters had a chance to evaluate both the claims against him and his denials.

That’s typical of the excuse making for their own, something that has more than tacitly approved of and enabled ongoing sexual harassment going back at least fifty five years to the abuses of President Kennedy.

“This was covered pretty extensively during the campaign,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “We addressed that then. The American people, I think, spoke very loud and clear when they elected this president.”

She added that Mr. Trump still maintained that the more than a dozen women who have said that he kissed or groped them against their will were all lying. And she acknowledged no double standard in the president chastising others for sexual misconduct.

“Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing and the president hasn’t,” she said. “I think that’s a very clear distinction.”

Yes, it is a clear distinction. Franken has admitted what he did was wrong, happening in an area that allowed it.

Of course Hillary Clinton has waded in to this.

But Democrats saw the distinction differently. Hillary Clinton said Mr. Franken’s apology and call for an ethics committee investigation “is the kind of accountability I’m talking about — I don’t hear that from Roy Moore or Donald Trump.”

Speaking with Rita Cosby on WABC Radio, Mrs. Clinton added, “Look at the contrast between Al Franken, accepting responsibility, apologizing, and Roy Moore and Donald Trump, who have done neither.”

There’s a high degree of irony there given that tacl of apology and accountability of her husband, Bill.

For her own part, the sexual harassment conversation has been uncomfortable for Mrs. Clinton as well. Conservatives defending Mr. Moore point to various allegations made against Bill Clinton when he was president, including sexual assault, and even some liberals said they should rethink their defense of the 42nd president.

On Franken versus Ttrump she has a valid point.

But the condemning of opponents alongside defending of their own politicians by both Democrats and Republicans is evidence of a morally corrupt political system in the United States.

Trump’s denials, now alongside his mocking of Franken, looks distinctly like a socially corrupt president. The worst rot, whether it be Kennedy, Clinton (Bill) or Trump, is clearly at the top.

Accusations and trials in public by media are far from ideal, and will be manifestly unfair to some.

But this rot has been allowed to continue for a long time, and actions outside the old way of doing things (blind eyes and under-carpet sweeping) needed something drastic and unconventional to break the cycle of harassment and abuse.

And apart from the nonsense of “the president’s conduct was not at issue because he won the election last year after voters had a chance to evaluate both the claims against him and his denials”:

RCP average Trump approval:

  • Disapprove 56.9%
  • Approve 38.4%

The US voters did choose a president with a highly suspect past, but that was over an opponent with her own suspect past plus the known poor sexual behaviour of her husband. That’s not a strong position from which one can claim the moral high ground.

There is evidence at least of Trump having an appalling attitude to women in the past. The pot should start by addressing that adequately.

Senator next target, sexual harassment reckoning floodgates

The Harvey Weinstein revelations and accusations seem to have opened the floodgates of accusations of sexual harassment in the US. Kevin Spacey has also been publicly disgraced, Republican candidate for the Senate Roy Moore is under fire and now  a Democratic senator, Al Franken, the latest to be accused publicly.

Sexual impropriety by politicians is nothing new in the US, with prominent examples John Kennedy and Bill Clinton, and the current president Donald Trump, but it now seems that accusations are being taken seriously and are getting traction.

The GOP has just been rocked by a string of accusations against a Senate candidate – Trump has distanced himself as more accusers emerge – Two more women describe unwanted overtures by Roy Moore at Alabama mall:

Gena Richardson says she was a high school senior working in the men’s department of Sears at the Gadsden Mall when a man approached her and introduced himself as Roy Moore.

His overtures caused one store manager to tell new hires to “watch out for this guy,” another young woman to complain to her supervisor and Richardson to eventually hide from him when he came in Sears, the women say.

Richardson says Moore — now a candidate for U.S. Senate — asked her where she went to school, and then for her phone number, which she says she declined to give, telling him that her father, a Southern Baptist preacher, would never approve.

Richardson says Moore asked her out again on the call. A few days later, after he asked her out at Sears, she relented and agreed, feeling both nervous and flattered. They met that night at a movie theater in the mall after she got off work, a date that ended with Moore driving her to her car in a dark parking lot behind Sears and giving her what she called an unwanted, “forceful” kiss that left her scared.

Moore’s campaign did not directly address the new allegations. In a statement, a campaign spokesman cast the growing number of allegations against Moore as politically motivated.

There is a possibility some accusations may involve political motivations but the number of people being exposed suggest the tip of a much bigger iceberg, an insidious iceberg.

And a sitting Senator has also just been accused: Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It:

On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL…we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time.

I walked away. All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth.

I felt disgusted and violated.

Unwanted advances are not uncommon at all levels of society, but it seems like the male political and media elite in the US are finally being exposed.

Prior to now acceptance and tacit approval of the actions of Kennedy, Clinton and Trump have been swept under political carpets, with power being seen as more important for both Democrats and Republicans than confronting and dealing properly with sexual harassment.

Jeff Greenfield writes: How Roy Moore’s Misdeeds Are Forcing an Awakening on the Left

Years of excusing Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct suddenly seems morally indefensible.

Watching the political contortions of Republicans to defend a candidate accused of sexually molesting teenage girls, Democrats and liberal pundits are reckoning publicly with their own history of fervid rationalizations on behalf of a recent president. But this should be just the beginning of a painful re-examination.

This new consciousness was glimpsed first in a tweet from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, a commentator of a stoutly progressive persuasion. “As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is,” he wrote, “it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.”

It was glimpsed in passing in a New York Times editorial, Ground Zero of conventional liberalism. “Remember former President Bill Clinton, whose popularity endures despite a long string of allegations of sexual misconduct and, in one case, rape—all of which he has denied,” it said.

David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, where coastal elitism is a badge of honor, acknowledged the elephant in the room this way: “That so many women have summoned the courage to make public their allegations against Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly—or that many have come to reconsider some of the claims made against Bill Clinton—represents a cultural passage.”

These allegations have long been a part of the right-wing media’s talking points. Sean Hannity invoked them on an almost daily basis during the 2016 campaign, and they were used by Donald Trump as a protective shield, to ward off the charges of serial sexual harassment and the boastful confessions of same on the “Access Hollywood” tape. During the 2016 campaign, Trump brought these three women to a presidential debate, as living, breathing arguments for “whataboutism.”

But from the political center leftward, those allegations never reached critical mass. Maybe it was the very way the Right not only seized on the stories, but made them part of a much broader, far less credible series of accusations. The late Rev. Jerry Falwell spent years peddling “the Clinton Chronicles,” a series of videos that charged the Clintons with complicity in any number of murders. A congressional committee chair used a rifle and a watermelon to try to show that White House aide Vince Foster had been murdered, rather than taking his own life; As late as last year, the fever swamps were rife with stories of a pedophilic sex trafficking ring operating out of the basement of a popular Washington pizza parlor. Any one of these flights of lunacy acted as the 13th stroke of the clock, casting doubt not only on itself, but on every other allegation.

So what changed? Three people: Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

At the height of the Lewinsky impeachment melodrama, Clinton’s defenders always argued that the president’s behavior was a private matter. To this day, you can find references to Clinton’s “dalliances” and “peccadilloes.”

People have long excused sexual impropriety and harassment as normal ‘red-blooded male’ behaviour, which has allowed what I think is a small minority of males to continue as sexual predators virtually unchecked. That seems to have suddenly change.

In the end, though, neither Clinton nor Kennedy can escape the “reckoning” of which Hayes and Flanagan refer. In the case of Kennedy, his treatment of women was not simply callous, but jeopardized his presidency. In the case of Clinton, his public policies cannot erase the serious doubts about whether a sexual predator occupied the White House for eight years. And even measured by partisan concerns, Clinton’s behavior materially, perhaps fatally, wounded the campaigns of Gore and Hillary Clinton.

For many of us, it is easy to look at Weinstein, Trump and Moore as case studies in pathological behavior. Looking closer to home is a lot more painful; it is also compulsory.

Unless and until partisans across the board stop justifying unconscionable behavior out of political self-interest, the more likely it is that the pervasive cynicism about the process, and everyone involved in it, will fester and grow.

Emboldened victims (mostly but not all female) may stem the festering. The dirty most male non-secret may finally be addressed.

There are risks of course – trial by media, false or exaggerated accusations, political agendas may all play a part in some cases of unfairness and injustice.

But they are likely to be small degrees of shall we call it collateral damage. For a long long time unfairness and injustice has been allowed to continue virtually unabated, creating a large number of victims. This has had a profound and damaging effect on our society.

While the direct victims are obviously the worst affected there has been a lot of damage done to families and partners and others too. Innocent males have been indirectly affected by association and suspicion – it is understandable that victims become suspicious of and can have difficulty with relationships with far more than the actual perpetrators.

Addressing this insidious problem properly – with some inevitable unfair damage – is overdue, and may have a massive effect on our society in the future. We will all benefit.