Sunday, November 17, 2019

If another president did (even one of) these things

            The GOP explanation, with an attempt at correct punctuation:

            "He didn't do it, but if he did, it was perfect; but why should we believe he did it? This is all second- and third-hand testimony, except for the transcript you might have read, and anyway he was just doing the job we elected him to do, which is to pressure foreign governments to find dirt on the offspring of political rivals.

            "Oh, and what was that whistleblower up to? Who is he or she, and what was his or her game?

            "And what about those diplomats? What are they trying to accomplish other than to prevent him from doing his job, which is to dangle millions in military aid before a foreign government to get the dirt that we Americans demand he obtain about the offspring of political rivals?

            "And anyway, that whistleblower is a traitor, and so are those diplomats. And you know what they do to traitors."

            That explains it.

            And that's enough apparently for Republicans in Washington, except possibly for Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski.

            The latter, the senator from Alaska, says she is keeping an open mind on impeachment, and offers this equation:

            "If this set of facts were to be in front of me and the president was President Hillary Clinton as opposed to President Donald Trump, would I be viewing this a different way? Because if I do, that's wrong."

            We can be assured that Lindsey Graham was not within hearing distance as Murkowski said this, for the once-principled, now dog-collared senator from South Carolina would have burst into flames.

            Graham, full-throated during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, is the Prince of Equivocation now.

            Graham clearly stated that evidence of a quid pro quo would arouse his dismay in the case against Trump. Since then, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has acknowledged it. Hey, it's just standard operating procedure. Just ask him.

            It is clear now that no amount of evidence of said quid pro quo – easily translated as bribery, for those Article I junkies -- will sway Republicans on Capitol Hill.

            Well, let's just ignore that evidence for a moment and hypothesize with Sen. Murkowski. If President Hillary Clinton:

            -- Fired the FBI director because he was investigating her.

            -- Fired the attorney general for recusing himself from that investigation.

            -- Saw a raft of her associates indicted, including her national security advisor.

            -- Watched as her former personal attorney went up the river for the crimes of carrying out her wishes.

            -- Had another close associate convicted on charges surrounding his role in harvesting stolen campaign information. What if President Hillary had her own Roger Stone on speed dial?

            -- Offered pardons to underlings who worried she was asking them to break the law.

            -- Obstructed at every turn Congress's lawful authority to investigate her as president.

            -- Engaged in a campaign aimed at intimidating witnesses by tweet during a lawful inquiry into her actions, and then defended herself by saying it was her right to have an opinion.

            -- Attempted to bribe the leader of a foreign country (she would have many from which to choose) to produce dirt on the compromising business activities of Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka or Ivanka's husband.

            -- Made her personal attorney -- the one not already behind bars, a person completely unaccountable to you and me -- in charge of back-channel foreign policy in regard to that country whose leader was being bribed.

            -- Said that Article II of the Constitution means she could do anything, absolutely anything, she wanted. 

            To those who will explain away this president: Tell me what you'd be demanding if even one of these things were done by President Hillary Clinton.

            Even one.

            Former newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Trump defenders' forked offensive

           With markers of Trumpian corruption amassing like a superbug strain in a petri dish, the Republican motorcade arrives at a fork in history's road.

            Ethical government? It's thataway. Extending Trump's reign? The other way.

            Honesty? Legality? Basic decency? They went thataway.

            Funny. I remember when the Republicans were all about ethics – way back in the mists of 2016.

            (Then: nonstop chirping of innuendo about the Clinton Foundation. Now: a $2 million fine for the closed-by-court-order Trump Foundation and a cricket chorus.)

            Now that ethics officially are out the window. Republicans want us to salute a strongman who does what he wants to get what he wants. Call him the Article II Kid. Or to quote Rudy Giuliani, just "Shut up."

            Regarding the extorting of Ukraine, the case for impeachment has grown from a pea under Trump's mattress to a papaya, or a whole lumpy bag of them.

            "No ambiguity," said witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, about the political dirt Trump desired and the taxpayer funds dangled before Ukraine's eyes.

            It didn't sound ambiguous when Trump Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that's what happened, except for a everybody-does-it explanation, then a retraction, then a . . .

            (By the way, if no use of our tax dollars to manufacture dirt about the son of a political rival -- Explanation No. 1 -- why an attempt to rope the son of the political rival into impeachment proceedings?)

            Yes, since those early days (OK, three weeks ago) when the president and his defenders were saying, "No quid pro quo," we've seen the defense of Trump – or whatever you call it – whip and spew like a Water Weasel.

            Trump's defenders on Capitol Hill really need to align their scripts. There's Mike Pence saying sure he pressured Ukraine but, um, in the interest of curbing its corruption. That Trump -- always thinking of the Big Picture.

            Then there's the "hoax" defense of Devin Nunes. What's the hoax, Congressman? That we've read the transcript of the phone call in question and tend to believe our lyin' eyes?

            There's this-administration's-too-inept defense courtesy of Lindsey Graham, specifically, "They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo."

            (Sort of like that image of a 12-year-old pushing buttons in the air-traffic controller tower: dangerous, but somehow precious.)

            There's the "it's not impeachable" defense. "It" may not be if bribery is legal where you live.

            There's the "look, a baby deer" defense – anything to distract.

            Consider the Fox-ified effort to tarnish anyone who steps forward to testify about what this president is doing with our tax dollars.

            We see the wholly evil (meaning you, Donald Jr.) bid to identify the whistleblower whose report started this.

            How absurd. And did I say evil? Considering what we know now, the tide of credible corroboration, that person's identity is as relevant as a certificate from Trump University, not to mention wholly dangerous when you start guessing who it is and release that guessed-at name.

            Face it, folks. He did what we know he did. It wasn't principled, Mr. Vice President. It was criminal. It wasn't "perfect," Mr. President. It was removable.

            "Read the transcript" is the new cry from Trump and his supporters. Um, we did that. Or did you think we were too busy or indifferent to read and would accept your excuses?

            So it goes. And so his supporters will parrot his phony claims of innocence and being pursued by enemies of democracy.

            One of the forked defenses is, "The radical liberals have been trying to get him out since his first day in office."

            I'll not challenge that assertion.

            With his likely illegal business practices, his campaign's benefiting from a hostile foreign power, his obstruction of the probe of that, his hush money and "catch and kill" exploits, his refusal to cut business ties that compromise the presidency -- that's easily, justifiably two years and 11 months of stuff to investigate.

            The investigating should have begun many months earlier.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Un-American to boo him? Well, lock us up

            Forever it will be my image of Election Night 2016.

            Homeward bound just as the polls were closing, I was passing through the placid and aptly named city of Loveland, Colo.

            Deep in contemplation about the fate of our nation, I was stunned as I arrived at a street corner jammed with red-clad people yelling something.

            Then I got near enough to see their signs and hear the chant: "Lock her up."

            By now I realize I shouldn't have been surprised. That moment, however, I was stunned.

            I'd heard that chant on TV -- in rallies fit for torch-bearers with shoulder patches. This time it sent my mind reeling -- to see this rhetoric had filtered down to where I presumed all to be civil and civilized.

            I'm sure that not a single one of the people I saw there that night believe at this point that Donald Trump has done anything wrong as president. Nothing. Not one thing.

            He always tells the truth. About hush money. About contacts with Russians. About compromising business entanglements. About attempting to extort political favors from a besieged nation with our tax dollars.

            Similarly:

            These people were unanimous, I know, in calling it un-American the other night to damper Trump's World Series with boos and a "Lock him up" chant.

            Clearly this is a legal dispute.  Doesn't Trump own the copyright to that line?

            I agree with Trump supporters. Booing debases the presidency. Additionally, after nearly three embarrassing years, Trump owns exclusive rights to debasement of his office.

            Those who stood at the corner that night undoubtedly exhausted a month's worth of rage last year when NFL players took a knee to express their concerns about this nation.

            Those players love this country every bit as much as any sunshine patriot – surely as much as one who would prostrate himself before Vladimir Putin and claim that his name in golden chrome atop a tower in Moscow was the last thing on his mind.

            The ludicrous moral equivalency of the "Lock her up crowd" – and the hypocrisy -- is staggering. The bid this week to trash administration insiders who testified to what they saw regarding Trump's pressuring Ukraine is shameful.

            This is particularly true since all they are attesting to is what is clearly evident in the phone call that set off the current round of investigations.  Yes, what we have seen with our own eyes.

            But these efforts at character assassination are par for the course. They hark back to the "swiftboating" of John Kerry, who shed blood in Vietnam and whose service there somehow was called into question to benefit the campaign of one who pulled strings to never serve.

            We now witness the Fox News chorus try to slime a decorated veteran, Alexander Vindman, for telling what he saw and what he knows to be true regarding Ukraine. Compare his character to the billionaire's son who took his bone spurs to the bank. No comparison

            Something similar was afoot in the (too successful) effort to paint Hillary Clinton as "crooked," when the Republicans were nominating a con man who showed how bankruptcy can be the road to fortune and fame.

            Lest we recall that one of the people shouting "Lock her up" before a red-clad crowd was one of the first Trump figures to be indicted, Michael Flynn, who engaged in illegal diplomacy with Russia before he was even employed by us.

            One person in the background was Trump fixer Michael Cohen, now behind bars for, um, being Trump's fixer.

            Yes -- sent to prison for doing things at the behest of a man who roundly deserves all the derision bystanders to his activities can muster.

            Lock whom up?

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Terrible Infant waddles his way into history

          Don't you know that every day when he looks at his morning news feed, Lindsey Graham wishes he could just send Donald Trump to boarding school until the noisy little irritant grows up?

          The South Carolina scion wouldn't have to go before the cameras on a sorry Tuesday morning, for freakin' instance, and explain why "lynching" is a proper term for what the Terrible Infant is trying to say with his words.

          Graham wouldn't have to explain why the "quid pro quo" threat to Ukraine which he, Lindsey Graham, said would justify impeachment, isn't quite a quid or a pro or a quo -- though the acting ambassador to Ukraine describes it as just that.

          Graham wouldn't have to explain away children in cages, or border detainment without soap, or the daily dose of unconscionability from this president.

          He wouldn't have to explain away meetings with Russians bearing dirt, or Team Trump's engagement with Russian conduit Wikileaks, or the plenitude of clear obstruction authenticated by Robert Mueller.

          The only problem with the boarding school idea: Such institutions are for those who graduated from diapers.

          Trump isn't there yet.

          Trump and his presidency are still in the Terrible Twos, where a slobbery tantrum is the highest form of expression.

          Sadly, his fellow partisans have joined him. Nothing else could explain Republican congressmen storming a closed House hearing room as investigators are getting a handle on what Trump did regarding Ukraine.

          Secret hearings? That would be true only if 47 Republican committee members were not part of them, which they are. In fact, 12 of the 30 congressmen who "stormed" the committee already had permission to attend meetings.

          I imagine these very same congressmen would storm a grand jury and order pizza. They would if Trump asked them.

          Trump has dumbed down his party's discourse to the point where any procedure that might cause a dyspeptic fit in the White House is called illegal.

          But, of course, one doesn't need to go many pages into the Constitution – no further than at Article 1 -- to find the legality of what's transpiring: the first steps of impeachment.

          Of course, what the House is doing is entirely legal, wholly appropriate and supported by most Americans. Check any poll you desire.

          It looks bad for Lindsey's custodial case. So, let's all throw a tantrum. It will get Fox News' attention and render sympathy from a base that has lost any sense of shame but seems to thrive on high drama.

          Those base-liners no doubt are convinced that Mexico must have annexed New Mexico while they slept, and so, by gum, we do need to build that wall at the Colorado border.

          They, and his enablers in Congress, will put up with anything the infant says. After all, "We're building a wall in Colorado" drew applause from his hand-sorted audience.

          The feedback Trump gets from his flock is like the youth sports I once heard conservatives deride. You know, when every gesture wins a ribbon.

          The Trump story is assuming the look of Monty Python's "Life of Brian," in which a sad-sack walking around with but one shoe somehow comes to be perceived as the savior and his followers start limping around with one bare foot.

          Life imitating art, we see Republicans saying and doing things that respectable people never did before the Terrible Infant became their savior.

          Build a moat with alligators. Shoot refugees in the lower extremities. Dissolve families that brave a border crossing. Trump's supporters are all in.

          Any Republican openly embarrassed by these ideas and more, says the great leader, is human "scum."

          Big word for a little man.

          Whatever the diaper-powder chorus says to keep Trump comfortable, this is not what history will say.

          What history remembers won't be tax cuts or the (temporary) carving back of environmental protections, Trump's sculpting of a court system in his own image. It will remember the horrible rhetoric, the misspelled tweets, the infantile threats.

          Come to think of it, I went too far with my toddler analogy. To compare this man to a 2-year-old is to insult every child on the threshold of 3.

          Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

So our guy's corrupt; so get over it!

            Behold the new rallying cry of Donald Trump, his enablers in Congress and his evaporating coterie of con men.

            Just get over it.

            Chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said the latter three words after acknowledging that Trump withheld your tax dollars from Ukraine for political purposes. Mulvaney then used what appears to be the "Everybody Does It" defense.

            Everyone, he means, who believes he has the power to withhold $400 million from a desperate nation under siege by Vladimir Putin's forces.

             Behold the new rallying cry of Donald Trump, his enablers in Congress and his evaporating coterie of con men.

            Just get over it.

            Chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said the latter three words after acknowledging that Trump withheld your tax dollars from Ukraine for political purposes. Mulvaney then used what appears to be the "Everybody Does It" defense.

            Everyone, he means, who believes he has the power to withhold $400 million from a desperate nation under siege by Valdimir Putin's forces.

            It's fascinating to see Trump's enablers assert that his cause in Ukraine was just -- just doing his job to root out corruption way over there. What a claim, particularly since it seeks to absolve one who's as corrupt as his tie is long.

            A number of legal experts have said that were Trump not president, the concerns listed by Robert Mueller would have wrought multiple indictments for obstruction of justice.

            Whatever Mueller's case, and it was mighty, the impeachment inquiry should have begun the moment former Trump fixer Michael Cohen opened his mouth before Congress.

            We aren't just talking here about sexcapade hush money – a check with a sitting president's name on it.

            We're not talking about the "catch and kill" arrangement reportedly made with the National Enquirer to buy a story just to bury it alive.

            We're not talking about Cohen's threatening universities not to spill the beans about Trump's scholastic record.

            That's all peanuts.

            Most serious are Cohen's statements that Trump evaded taxes with deceitful claims about his holdings, and that he committed bank fraud and insurance fraud.

            We all know that Republicans weren't inclined to listen to a word Cohen said, as he was being sent to prison in part for lying.

            Republicans looked right past the fact that the lies were made on behalf of Cohen's boss.

            They cupped their ears to not hear the central truth in Cohen's testimony, that Donald Trump is as corrupt as his tie is long.

            One group of onlookers took Cohen's words seriously: New York prosecutors.

            The long battle to un-shield Trump's tax records appears to be coming to a close with court victories on behalf of the people who employ him -- you and me.

            ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news source, reports that those records show much that would fit neatly into a criminal trial, such as fraudulent numbers to lower Trump's property taxes and insurance premiums, and to boost his chances to obtain loans for his properties.

            For those assuming this all pertains to things Trump did as a civilian, and "everybody does it anyhow," ProPublica reports that in 2017 Donald J. Trump, while serving as your president and mine, told a lender that on one building that year, he got double the rent he reported to tax authorities.

            If true, New York Times reporters would affirm it is a continuation of Trump's life story, or at least his life harvesting and hiding his daddy's millions.

            The Times last year reported how Citizen Trump used a host of highly dubious tax schemes to shield $400 million in inheritance from the IRS.

            It's good work if you can get it. Imagine, then, that Daddy's boy went on to file bankruptcy six times.

            Hmmm -- $400 million: the same amount dangled before the eyes of Ukraine's president. Good leverage if you can wield it.

            Republicans have framed Trump's now-impeachable deeds as acting on concerns about "corruption" in Ukraine. So lofty a matter.

            Corruption? If Donald Trump is truly concerned about that, he should look within his own house. And tweet his resignation.

            Then, maybe, the people can get over it.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Trump v. Every Law Ever Made

           Chief Justice Roberts: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me. I, Donald John Trump.

            Donald Trump: I, Donald John Trump.

            Roberts: Do solemnly swear.

            Trump: Do smirkingly swear.

            Roberts: That I will faithfully execute.

            Trump:  What is this "faithful" garbage?

            Roberts: The office of the president of the United States.

            Trump: The operations of the Trump Organization.

            Roberts: And will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend . . .

            Trump: Wait. What? I have a draft deferment.

            Roberts: The Constitution of the United States.

            Trump: Oh -- that legal BS. Whew. Saw myself in uniform for a moment there.

            Roberts: So help me God.

            Trump: So help myself.

            We cannot go verbatim here, not without an actual thought-stream transcript. However, I dare anyone of any stripe to counter this depiction.

            Because from the very moment he strode into the light as the 45th U.S. president, Donald Trump has performed according to this script.

            He is the president to whom no laws would apply, no moral standards would affix; no shame would ever tarnish his gold leaf.

            Impeachment is in his future, written into that Constitution for when a president does unconscionable things. No problem. Trump says impeachment is unconstitutional.

            He's going to resist it – the Constitution -- every step of the way, though obstructing Congress would be an article of impeachment in and of itself. It was for Richard Nixon.

            As with the scores of actions he's taken that have defied the law, he trusts that he can hide behind the black curtain he and Mitch McConnell built – the robes of a GOP-stacked Supreme Court majority.

            We shall see.

            It's just one of many Supreme favors he'll seek to cash in for his patronage now that one court orders his financial records surrendered to Congress, another says he can't defy Congress on funding his "beautiful wall," and one says he can't make refugee status contingent on one's bank balance.

            As it is, Trump will continue to misappropriate Article II of the Constitution to assert that he can do anything he wants.

            Judges who owe him nothing are having none of that.

            In ruling that Manhattan prosecutors could proceed with their request for eight years of Trump's personal and corporate tax returns, federal Judge Victor Marrero called Trump's assertion that he is immune from prosecutorial review "repugnant to our nation's government structure."

            "Consider the reach of the president's argument," wrote Marrero. Trump's claim of immunity "would stretch to cover every phase of criminal proceedings."

            The Trump Standard, he wrote, "would encompass any conduct, at any time, in any forum whether federal or state."

            Well, yes, say Trump and his enablers. And they'll go looking for any court that'll say so.

            We stand on the precipice of a Supreme Court ruling that would affirm – or unimaginably cast away – the 1974 ruling under which Nixon was ordered to hand over the White House tapes.

            Brett Kavanaugh didn't know he was auditioning for elevation to the nation's highest court in a 1999 roundtable discussion when he said:

            "Should U.S. v. Nixon be overruled on the ground that the case was nonjusticiable intrabranch dispute? Maybe so."

            We can assume that right after their handshake, Trump's first question to Kavanaugh was, "Now, explain that word 'nonjusticiable.' I like that word."

            Or maybe, "Any dirt on Joe Biden? OK. Hillary?"

            His defenders say the Democrats want to relitigate the 2016 election. But listen to Trump's rallies. The man our Electoral College chose has yet to turn the calendar from that Election Night.

            These concerns all depict and summarize Donald Trump's chief priority in office: occupation.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.