Wednesday, March 20, 2019

BTRTN: A Most Uncivil War... What Will Happen in America When the Mueller Report Drops?

As the nation awaits Robert Mueller’s judgment, Steve wonders what societal mayhem may follow.

There’s been a pattern over the course of the Mueller investigation: indictments come down on Fridays, often after regular business hours.

There has also been the widely-aired conjecture that Robert Mueller will time his final report to coincide with his final indictments. The reasoning? Those indictments may be the final straws, accusing Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner of significant crimes. Mueller is shrewd enough to know that if he indicts family members, Trump will go even more bonkers than this past weekend’s twitter fusillade and demand the firing of the special counsel. So Mueller, the theory has it, will time his final indictments to land only after the final report has already been forwarded to the Department of Justice.

The best story going around of all? That Mueller did not want to file his final report last Friday, because it was the Ides of March. Only this time Marc Antony actually does intend to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

So maybe, just maybe, this will be the week. Friday, March 22, 2019. Friday Night Lights Out. The Friday Night Massacre.  Or maybe it is Friday, March 29. Who knows. But soon. Possibly. Maybe. Probably...

All I know is that I’ve got Fridays on my mind.

Oh, sure… all that technically happens at first is that Mueller sends his report to the Department of Justice, where the Attorney General will decide its fate and redact passages for national security reasons. But when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution on March 14 by a vote of 420 to 0 demanding public disclosure of the report, it suddenly seemed more likely that the report will be released.

If you thought that the pace of breaking news was already at a fever pitch – Dems in droves announcing their candidacy for the presidency in 2020, government shut-downs, emergency declarations of non-emergencies, more mass murders in tiny, peaceful countries -- then strap in and pull down the oxygen mask. Our country is about to fly into a category five shit storm and let’s just pray that we are not on a 737 Max.

Today we look boldly into the future – maybe all of a couple of days  – and imagine just how large the headline type is going to be on The New York Times when Mueller's final report explodes all over our national consciousness. 

As Donald Trump was bleating hasty re-tweets over the weekend, you get the sense that the President is well past nervous on his journey to panic. He has to be imagining matching indictments for the boys, and the Nixonian “unindicted co-conspirator” for Dad.

Obstruction of justice? Yeah, it’s a fair bet that Mueller’s going to pin that tail on the big ass. The evidence in plain sight is damning, and we have to figure that Mueller knows ten times what we know. Collusion? It is hard to come up for another word for the Trump Tower meeting.

But did the Big Mafia Donald know about any of it? Were his lackeys acting under his directiton? Can Mueller prove it? If so, there is a very real chance that Mueller will file charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States by collaborating with a hostile foreign power against a couple of guys named Donald Trump… Junior gets his in public, and POTUS as an unindicted co-conspirator. 

In just days, Robert Mueller could effectively charge the President of the United States as a participant in crimes that sound one heckuva lot like – gulp! – treason.

Boy, oh, boy. Can you imagine? The frothy explosion of righteous vindication among leftists? The millions – billions – of emails, texts, and phone calls in which that annoying uncle is told in no uncertain terms: “SEE? DO YOU SEE, UNCLE FRED? I WAS RIGHT!” The screams for immediate impeachment?

Ah, but then again, maybe not

Does the investigation die inches from the goal line, its oxygen cut off by blood loyalty, the absence of a taping system or an email trail, and the dangling of pardons to those who serve the code of omerta?

Maybe Robert Mueller decides that he’s got nothing he can take into a court. Having failed to flip Manafort, Mueller could well decide that any testimony about collusion provided by Gates would be viewed as uncorroborated gas from a guy looking to avoid prison. Maybe Mueller decides – with incredibly irony, as it would be identical to Comey about Hillary – that there was a great deal of sloppy behavior, ignorance, arrogance, and deceptiveness – but that no charges can be filed against the President or his family.

It is entirely possible that Mueller renders an opinion that makes the whole thing look like it was a witch hunt, after all. And those Congressional committees carpet bombing Washington with fresh subpoenas? Talk about killing their mojo. If Mueller concludes that he cannot find a crime, then America may decide that prolonging the agony in Congressional oversight committees actually is a witch hunt. Democrats will slink away, terrified of damaging their hopes for the White House if they are perceived to be persecuting Trump with a form of double jeopardy in Congress while the still-active investigations in the Southern District of New York linger on.

The bottom line: Donald Trump, proclaiming to be wholly vindicated, walks free with a fresh head of steam going into 2020.

Does Mueller open Door #1 or Door #2? Treason Trump or Free Trump?

In other words, which half of America is going to explode in anger?

Because no matter what Mueller decides, somewhere between 30% to 50% of the United States is likely to be rip-roaring pissed off.

Light the match, Mr. Mueller. Then pick which bone-dry pile of kindling you are going to toss it on.
It seems that everyone is so intently focused on the arrival of the Mueller report that not enough thought is being given to what actually happens after it arrives. 

Whatever goes down, it is likely to trigger protest. Real protest. Maybe even massive protest, the likes that this country has not seen in decades.

If Trump is spared from criminal charges, perhaps the protest will be relatively orderly marches on Washington and Trump Tower. But don’t kid yourself: the left is plenty capable of screaming, outrage, contempt, and angry, bitter assertions that a corrupt President stole an election and got away with it. The left will interpret such a finding not to be saying that the president is innocent... merely that Mueller was unable to establish iron-clad proof of guilt. The left will seethe as Donald Trump pompously and erroneously claims that he has been wholly vindicated.

The other outcome, however, seems both more likely and more scary. If Trump and/or his family is accused of crime by Mueller, Trump’s base is now well programed to believe that their guy is getting screwed by the Deep State, the patrician Washington establishment, the elites, and the fake news media. The Trump population is likely to feel the rage.  Hard to predict the form that might take, but – turbocharged by Fox and perhaps by the President himself – a dark and ominous force may well be unleashed.

Protesters alone – however vehement – are not a problem. The problems will emerge when counter-protesters assemble… some to gloat, some to deride, and some simply to lance two years of pent-up anxiety, disgust, and antipathy toward the other side. 

Protesters and counter-protestors are tinder looking for a match. Perhaps we should expect angry clashes. But in the fire this time, the confrontations are instantly viral on a zillion iPhones, sparks on gasoline all across the country. What could rapidly ensue: a most uncivil war with no geographic boundaries, only sectarian regions with prevailing influences. We become our own private Iraq, with the potential for violence to explode in communities around the nation. It is not a war of Red States and Blue States. It is Red people and Blue people sharing restaurants, bars, and stadiums, overhearing conversations, feeling cheated, and looking for trouble.

Who is thinking about all that?

Who will be urging calm? Who is going to diffuse the rage?

We sure know who is supposed to be considering all that. Once upon a time, great leaders stepped into times of great turmoil to soothe boiling tempers and outrage. Think of Robert Kennedy’s perfectly-pitched extemporaneous expression of grief and hope in Indianapolis the night that Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. And to be appropriately bi-partisan on this point, George W. Bush was at his very best in the days following the 9/11 attacks, whether speaking with a bullhorn to firefighters at Ground Zero, or making a point of visiting the Islamic Center of Washington to send a clear message that the United States did not hold Muslims or Islam responsible for the acts of terrorists. 

No, it does not appear that the current President of the United States is making– or apparently planning – calming words to the nation about allowing the legal process to work through to completion.

Quite the opposite: he appears to be getting his troops ready to rumble. 

Not enough attention was paid to this quote from Trump, made on Saturday in an interview with Breitbart:

“You know, the left plays a tougher game. It’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. O.K.? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

Say what, Mr. President? Are you actually stoking the cops, the army, and a bunch of motorcycle thugs to spring into “very bad” action at a “certain point?” And does the Mueller report qualify as a "certain point?"

Should we be surprised? Violence is a recurring leitmotif in Donald Trump’s ongoing efforts to arouse his base. Video clips of his stadium shows are filled with his lusty shouts to deal with protestors with violence ("I'd like to punch him in the face!”... "Knock the crap out of him, would you? I promise you, I will pay your legal fees!") Who can forget Trump’s August 9, 2016 campaign rally, when he seemed to blatantly invite gun owners to take matters into their own hands if Hillary Clinton was elected President: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks… Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Trump has long been signaling to his base, giving permission to consider violent action if they believe that dear leader has been wronged.  

Yes, we are idling at the end of a runway, waiting for clearance from the tower, knowing that there is a low cloud ceiling and only the certainty of sustained and potentially terrifying turbulence from the moment of lift-off.

Friends, you might want to find a quiet corner and take some time for a bit of soul-searching. 

How will you respond if Robert Mueller tells you that there are insufficient grounds to bring criminal charges against Donald Trump and his family?

Will you be enraged? Will you vent your anger on Facebook? At Trump Tower?  Will you attempt to discredit the investigation?

Will you say that there must have been a bias? A fix? A political motive?

Will you call it phony, and reject its conclusions?

Will you, in other words, behave functionally identically to how you expect Trump and his base to react if Mueller reaches the opposite conclusion?

Sure, take your time. You can say that you won’t know how you will react until you actually see the specific conclusions Mueller reaches. 

But think very carefully. If we are to live in a democracy that is centered on the rule of law, we must pledge our allegiance to that ideal by respecting Mueller’s conclusions rather than protesting them. 

We cannot allow any pre-determined certainty that we are right cause us to attack Mueller and accuse him of being wrong.

When your ends start to justify your means, that means you're near the end... of your ideals, your aspirations, and your values. 

Let’s take a moment now and listen to the voice of our better angels. 

Then, buckle your seat belt.

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