Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pardon Me! (And me! Me, too! Don't forget me!)

Wonder why nobody in TrumpWorld seems fazed about MoronGate? Steve reflects on the reason that the cold, hard evidence of Junior's intent to collude is being shrugged off at the White House.

The news that Donald Trump, Jr. recorded a mile-long email trail documenting his salivating eagerness to collude with the Russian government should not have come as a shock. Profoundly stupid as this appeared, it was still and all the act of a man whose most consequential life accomplishment to date has been emerging intact from the birthing canal, enabling him to coast his ensuing 39 years on a name that represents the pinnacle of taste to all those who possess no taste. This man makes one think that DNA is actually an acronym for Does Not Achieve. Of all the hypotheses as to why the younger Trump placed the smoking gun to his own temple, the one with that singular ring of truth is that he is an idiot. People say he is dumber than a box of hammers, but then again, hammers do not post wildly incriminating email trails on their Twitter feeds.

Trump proceeded to offer a most unlikely defense for having taken a meeting with a Russian government emissary that was essentially characterized as an opportunity for collusion: he willingly tweeted absolute proof of his intent to collude, but appeared angry and disappointed that there wasn’t anything worth colluding about. I went to that branch with every intention of robbing the bank, he seems to be saying, but when I demanded the money, they didn’t have much, so I left.  How much more innocent can I get?

To round out his day, Trump handled incoming lobbed softballs from Sean Hannity by taking his moron defense to the airwaves, arguing that in the he-man, testosterone-driven world of business, everyone is going to take a meeting in which they are offered juicy tidbits to take down their competitors. Funny how the Trumps appear to understand the differing standards between business and government when they are chanting “lock her up,” but are tripped up by those nuances when eagerly entertaining illicit offers from hostile sovereign nations.

A delicious side dish in Don Jr.’s comprehensive bungle was that when he learned from The New York Times that it was about to release the full text of his emails, he disingenuously raced to pre-empt the Times’ scoop by tweeting the full trail himself. The Trump White House’s entire strategy of dealing with bad news is to label any such bombshell as just so much fake news disseminated by a lying liberal press on the devil’s mission to delegitimize the Donald’s presidency. However, it became a bit harder to call it fake news when Don Jr. was the one actually sent the tweet.

Indeed, many in the liberal press cracked open the vintage Dom Perignon, believing that MoronGate would finally set in motion an inexorable chain of events that would bring the Presidency of Donald Trump to its knees. Time magazine’s cover headline was “Red Handed,” which seemed to capture the permanent delusion among progressives that anyone in the Republican Party gives a rat’s ass about what the liberal media says. 

But in the long view, the real implication of MoronGate has little to do with Donald Trump Jr.

As the foggy shroud of bullshit burned away from his initial claims of an innocent meeting about “adoptions,” the true significance of this event is that Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort found it worth their while to attend a meeting in June specifically billed as an opportunity to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.  The implications of this fact are seismic: while private citizen Donald Trump Jr. can very credibly retreat to the idiot defense, Advisor to the President Jared Kushner does not have that latitude.   

Make no mistake: it is Kushner’s reputation that Trump Junior’s tweet shredded. It was only two months ago that Kushner was forced to acknowledge that he had attempted in December to set up a secret “back channel” to the Kremlin. Then followed the disclosure that Kushner was a subject of the FBI’s investigation. More recently, Kushner had to amend his disclosure of meeting with Russians for the third time to acknowledge his attendance in Trump Junior’s meeting in June.  And now Trump Junior tweets that the specific intent of this meeting was to find out whether the Kremlin could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Jared Kushner is now in the position of being the senior-most official of the United States government who has acknowledged direct meetings with Russian government emissaries about highly questionable topics at a time when all U.S. intelligence and investigative agencies agree that Russia intentionally took actions to undermine the U.S. elections.  In Kushner, we now have reasonably concrete evidence of the means, motive, institutional authority, and now even intention to authorize collusion with the Russian government.

Indeed, it’s still early in the evidence-gathering game. Who knows how many more meetings, emails, and crazy Russian rock stars are going to emerge as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, the FBI, and the congressional committees continue to dredge the swamp? Will still more Kushner meetings with the Russians materialize? That sounds just about as risky as betting against the Knicks.

Which brings us all the way to the hardened, gnarly nut yet to be cracked open.

We have, on the one hand, the narrative of a President who micro-managed his campaign, making every single important decision himself, and taking counsel only from a tiny group of fiercely loyal aides and family members. On the other hand, we have those very fiercely loyal family members insisting that they never told the micro-managing candidate of a potential game-changing opportunity to gain information that could mortally wound Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.  It simply defies logic or common sense that none of Don Jr., Kushner, or Manafort  ever mentioned this meeting to Trump Sr.

Kushner, in particular, is at the center of every bulls-eye: it is simply unfathomable that Kushner had repeated substantive discussions with Russian operatives about a wide array of topics and yet did not discuss a single one of them with his father-in-law, which is essentially what President Trump has maintained throughout his “witch hunt” counter-attack.  How are we to believe that such a scenario was executed? 

  • Are we to believe that Kushner was free-lancing -- repeatedly engaging in unauthorized, rogue, and wildly dangerous secret meetings with Russian operatives at his own initiative and authority?
  • Or that Kushner took all these meetings believing that it is what the old man wanted him to do, all the while keeping Trump Senior insulated from any specific incriminating involvement or information?
  • Or, perhaps this: Kushner was man-Friday for every scheme Donald Trump wanted to explore, and was empowered to pursue clandestine and borderline-illegal activities because he had been completely reassured that he would never, ever be negatively affected by a single one of his actions.

The President of the United States has the power to grant whole, unreserved, and permanent pardons regarding any crime of any magnitude to any citizen he so wishes to bestow this awesome gift upon. Donald Trump received, among many other things, an endless supply of “Get Out Of Jail Free” cards when he received the gold-plated Monopoly Game from Vladimir Putin and James Comey in November, 2016.

Among the crimes that Jared Kushner need not worry about are treason, election tampering, and perjury. All he needs to do is stand up, raise his right hand, and swear that every meeting he ever took with Russians was his own idea, his own doing, his own initiative, and that he never told the boss.

Flynn? Same deal. Never told the boss a thing. Pardon me.

Manafort? Me? Tell Trump?  I beg your pardon!

And Donald Trump, Junior, the only one (so far) stupid enough to fully document and publish his intent to collude? Please pardon the behavior of my idiot son.

Make no mistake: the point here is not that Kushner and this gang plan to plead the Fifth or invoke executive privilege. Either of those routes would be interpreted as tantamount to a confession, and would risk sowing doubt among the party faithful. No, these people would be more likely to brazenly lie, knowing that no penalty -- perjury, treason, destroying evidence -- cannot be undone by a Presidential pardon. Lying is the lingua franca of Trump's motley crew, and it is the native form of communication of its cult leader. Why do we think any of them would stop in the face of sworn testimony?
Don’t be surprised when all these people materialize at the end of the Trump Presidency with the Kush-iest of jobs at Trump Enterprises. Go to prison? These guys are going to be paid millions for their cooperation.

The parade of testimony from each of these four players may be all that die-hard Republican representatives and senators may need to claim that there is no case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Think Trump wouldn’t have the audacity to promise a full pardon and fat reward to every flunkie who promises to lie under oath on his behalf? Perhaps you do not truly understand this man. He has already demonstrated a full willingness to use every power the office accords him, with no restraint born of custom, history, or patriotic behavior. Release my taxes? Respect the press? Ban immigrants based on religion? 

Let’s just hope that Special Prosecutor Mueller has already long-since gamed this one out.  A prosecutor’s usual approach is to attempt to flip the underlings in order to gain their testimony on the big target. Knowing that Trump has, in the power of presidential pardon, the ultimate trump card, Mueller may have to take an entirely different approach to this case.

We can hope that the administration has more idiots like Donald Trump Jr., who have created similar electronic trails that provide the hard evidence of collusion.

We can hope that the Mueller is relying on wholly separate sources of evidence and never needs to hear a word of testimony from anyone in the administration to make a case for collusion or obstruction.

But all we learned from Donald Trump Jr. last week is that this President isn’t even fazed by hard, tangible evidence of intent to collude by his son, his son-in-law and key White House advisor, and a top-ranking manager in his campaign.

Pardon me if I suggest that there is a reason why.

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