Monday, August 27, 2018

‘Cleansing the office’ of the presidency, eh?

            Of course Donald Trump colluded.

            He knew what soon-to-be National Security adviser Michael Flynn was doing when Flynn met with Ambassador Sergiey Kislyak to discuss easing sanctions placed on Russia for attacks on our democratic system.

            Who else would ease those sanctions? Ivanka?

            Of course Trump knew about a meeting involving a Russian delegation and key campaign figures, including his son and his son-in-law, in his tower.

            Of course he's obstructed justice.

            He dictated an explanation about that meeting that was a brazen and clumsy lie.

            He fired James Comey to blunt the investigation into Flynn's activities after pressuring the then-FBI director to back off. He also pressured other officials including his national security adviser Mike Rogers.

            Every day since, Trump has bullied investigators, while demanding that Attorney General Jeff Sessions serve his own interests and go after his political enemies.

            Of course Trump has engaged in illegal activities. His own then-attorney said so in pleading guilty to campaign finance violations. Trump is on tape doing so.

            If President Hillary Clinton or President Obama had been implicated in so much as a sliver of such scandal, this Congress would be on it like red ants on watermelon rind.

            Instead, House investigators "led" by Rep. Devin Nunez have done everything possible to undermine the investigation.

            This very well could change in November.

            Much is said about the House role in launching impeachment proceedings. Less is said about the House's general investigatory role – the power to subpoena the executive branch.

            In the two years of the Trump presidency, House Democrats have asked the Republican majority 52 times to issue subpoenas to the administration, each time refused.

            The 52 sought-after probes range far and wide, from foreign business arrangements with the Trump Organization to obscenely wasteful spending by Cabinet officials.

            They also include documentation of the Trump administration's response to the disasters in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and the Flint, Mich., municipal water debacle.

            This brings us back to impeachment, which is misrepresented simply as removal from office. No, it's a trial based on very serious accusations.

            Of course Trump should be impeached – tried over matters we already know about. Who knows what else we will need to know about when Robert Mueller makes his report?

            Impeachment is an evidentiary proceeding. It is seeking the truth, albeit in a political tribunal. Certainly, if Republican enablers control either or both chambers, removal of this president would seem out of the question.

            Nonetheless, it is the obligation of Congress to investigate what he has done.

            Once again, impeachment is about ascertaining truth. If the press is the enemy of the people, as Trump says, he has been, from Day 1, an avowed enemy of the truth.

            Back when he was in the House in 1999 and Bill Clinton was in Republican crosshairs for far less than what this president has done, now-Sen. Lindsey Graham said, "You don't even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role. Impeachment isn't about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office."

            Despite what was said then, Sen. Graham and his cohorts have no inclination to do something about the criminally corrupt man in the White House now. That is up to voters in November.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Monday, August 20, 2018

Beto and the blue wave

Ted Cruz, the man who went to Washington to make waves, is feeling an undertow back home.

The militantly self-assured Mr. Cruz went to Washington to splash salt water in others' faces. Now he squints into some nasty spray.

Could he be the first Texas Republican to lose a statewide office since 1994?

The odds against it remain great, but the polls, the crowds and – most amazingly -- the campaign dollars say, "Wait a minute."

A recent Texas Lyceum poll shows El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke trailing Cruz by 2 points.

Meanwhile, O'Rourke raised $6.7 million in the first quarter, more than twice Cruz's haul.

How so? To expedite matters, try one word: Trump.

The more truthful explanation is longer. It is two words: Beto O'Rourke.

The man is waging the most dogged campaign imaginable while impressing giant crowd after giant crowd with his presence and low-key eloquence.

O'Rourke has come a long way from an unknown to a major threat to Cruz. Relative to voter attitudes, he has a long way to go still.

Considering how close the race has become – another poll shows O'Rourke trailing by 6 points – the fact that most Texans already have an impression of Cruz and that 43 percent (according to a Quinnipiac poll in July) were still forming an opinion about O'Rourke shows that with his resources, O'Rourke can close that gap handily and more people get to know him.

Here are four good reasons why Cruz should worry -- some obvious, some not so obvious:

(1) A lying, racist, sexist president: He who makes sport of misrepresenting the truth, who inflames people of color, and who lives a life of misogyny is harming his party nationwide. To those skeptical of a "blue wave" in November: It's already happening.

In addition to high-profile pick-ups like Doug Jones' U.S. Senate victory in Alabama and Conor Lamb's taking the Pennsylvania's 18th District seat in Congress, Democrats have flipped 43 GOP-held seats in state and local races across the country.

            (2) Angry voters: The poli-sci rule of thumb is that in low-turnout elections, which off-year elections tend to be, the accent is on the angry vote.

We can attribute the GOP takeover of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 to that dynamic, with the angry white voters of the tea party the life force of the takeover of Congress.

We are seeing the same thing right now among angry progressive voters, with the revulsion toward Donald Trump and the sycophantic behavior of his Republican enablers the motivators.

According to Pew, turnout by Democrats in primaries this year is 84 percent higher than this point in 2014.

            (3) The Lupe factor: The outlook doesn't look good for Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lupe Valdez in her race against incumbent Greg Abbott. However, her nomination provides a silver lining for O'Rourke and other Democrats running.

To whatever degree it manifests itself, Valdez' presence on the ballot is going to boost turnout by Latinos in Texas, absolutely crucial to Democrats' chances.

            (4) The voter hassle boomerang: Could it be that Republicans' propensity to make it inconvenient to vote will blow up in their faces in November? Yes, it could.

When it comes to voting rights, Texas is one of the nation's greatest scofflaws. Just ask federal judges.

The latest run-up with the law: In April, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas had violated the National Voter Registration Act for failing to register residents to vote when they updated their drivers' license information online.

Generally it serves Republican interests to suppress turnout. However, in 2018, with swarms of Democrats ready to wade through molten lava to register their anger at the polls, it won't serve the party of Trump at all.

If off-year election history is our guide, Republicans soon could be asking, "Why didn't our people show up?"

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, August 13, 2018

Moment of truth for Trump’s EPA? No way

            James Hansen was stunningly prescient.

            Thirty years ago, 1988, the NASA scientist testified to Congress that the planet would warm 1.9 degrees by 2017.

            So, how close was he? You judge. NASA figures show global temperatures climbed 1.6 degrees since 1988.

            Yes, that's what one calls truth, as opposed to what Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency is pushing.

            It used to be that the EPA, like NASA, represented scientific authority. Then Trump fashioned it into a house of mirrors.

            Want legitimate information from its finely honed team of evaders and deniers? Watch them wriggle away and hide.

            Last week a federal court ordered the EPA to observe the Obama-era ban on the farm use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. The poison had already been banned for household use but remained a staple for many farmers.

            Pesticide maker Dow Chemical lobbied then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and donated $1 million to the Trump inauguration. It got what it wanted.

            The Trump EPA had an opportunity to show evidence for doing what it did, despite the suspected danger to infants that precipitated the ban. Basically the justification is: "We did it because we could," or more likely, "because Dow asked."

            The Trump EPA is not interested in providing evidence to support what it does. It is simply interested in undoing whatever Obama did. Because it's not a presidency, not running the country. It's a competition.

            One of the most important, and least-discussed, legal battles in the country right now is taking place in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where plaintiffs have called Team Trump's bluff on the issue of man-caused climate change.

            A group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the evidence former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt used to support his claim that human activity is "not a primary" contributor to global warming.

            Yes, Team Trump. Enlighten us.

            But – surprise: The Trump EPA isn't interested in shedding light on any evidence it might have but on sand-bagging, causing the senior judge on the court to threaten the administration with contempt of court.

            Yes, if the Trump EPA had "the goods" on this matter, this climate change claim made by experts like James Hansen, we could end all discussions post haste and get on to weightier matters like football players' taking a knee.

            But that's not this president's interest. Again, his interest is waging a policy vendetta against all things linked to his predecessor and, of course, ministering to the urges of his corporate supporters.

            It's pertinent to understand that Trump did not populate the EPA to protect the environment but to fit within the worldview of people who took a blood oath against it.

            The leader of that pack would be Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, who famously called climate change a hoax and produced a snowball on the floor of the Senate to bolster whatever case he had.

            Trump turned to Inhofe to pick the man to run the EPA, and that man was Pruitt, former Oklahoma attorney general, who spent most of his time in office in the Okie state suing the EPA.

            When Pruitt had to bail out of the EPA in a raft of scandal, Trump turned to next most (least?) qualified Oklahoman to do the job, former Inhofe chief of staff, former coal lobbyist, Tom Wheeler.

            So, understand, the EPA under Trump isn't interested in protecting the environment. It is interested in protecting business interests friendly to the president.

            It has no science to support its policies. All it has is political science.

            It is up to the voters this fall, and two autumns hence, to repudiate the latter.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Cyber-reality and he who cries ‘fake news’

Ah, fake news.

In determining that Russian actors went on a social media disinformation rampage in 2016, analysts cited many markers. One was that bogus pro-Trump, anti-Hillary posts featured "language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation" of our language.

Not to throw anyone off the trail, but that could either be Russians or it could be a U.S. president who writes like a third-grader.

Ah, fake news.

OK, give him credit. Trump is skillful enough to have replicated Donald Jr.'s syntax when he composed a letter to Robert Mueller claiming that the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians had to do with adoption.

News bulletin:  Trump just tweeted what we all knew was true all along, the solicitation of campaign dirt from foreigners -- the collusion he said over and over never happened.

OK, so it happened, but it's "totally legal."

So why lie about it?

Now his dodge is that he didn't know about a meeting in his own tower, with his own son, with his son-in-law, with his campaign manager. If it was "totally legal," why does that matter?

Fake news.

Trump feigned ignorance about that hush money over his sexploits. Then more audio magic: a tape from his former attorney betrays the truth.

Cash or check? Good question. Really good. It opens up the possibility that the people (ie. New York state prosecutors) might ultimately get to see Trump's taxes.

Trump likes to claim ownership of "fake news" in bashing the press, but at every turn, suspicions raised by reporters prove to be verifiable.

Yes, reporters have made errors and omissions in reporting all of this, errors to which news organizations dutifully owned up. When has Trump owned up to even one of his outright lies?

Trump accuses the news media of distorting what happened following his disastrous Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin. That was no distortion, Mr. President. That was the magic of video recording. You stood before cameras and said what you said. We heard it.

Back to the real story that underpins this matter and which has had Robert Mueller working overtime.

While Trump has called the Russia matter a "hoax," the clear consensus of the intelligence community is just the opposite. Russians not only hacked the computers of Trump's opponents but nosed their way into state voting systems.

Sens. Claire McCaskill and Jean Shaheen, both Democrats, say that Russians attempted to hack into their Senate computer systems.

Trump's own Department of Homeland Security just launched the National Risk Management Center to fight cyberattacks against critical infrastructure like credit card systems and the electric grid.

And yet, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee last week rejected $250 million to beef up state voting systems from cyberattacks.

Bad decision, said Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy: "As we focus on the past, we are missing what is happening and what will happen again."

Clearly Senate Republicans judge that we can't afford such things. And that may be true when we are saving our dimes to pay for that wall – costing $150 million a year -- it appears Mexico won't be buying for us.

And don't forget the need for that $12 million military parade Trump wants.

It's really quite fascinating. Trump assembled a now-defunct Presidential Commission on Voter Integrity, seeking information on every American voter, until states refused to play along. He's just riveted on vote security.

Yet when the whole of the national intelligence community identifies a foreign attack on voter systems, it's fake news, says the man with the tweeter toy.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: