Trumpster Diving

* Amid all the White House high-fiving over the Mueller Report, there remain caveats. The words “total exoneration,” now a rallying cry for this Administration, is self-servingly inaccurate. While special counsel Robert Mueller did not find conclusive evidence of Russian collusion, he reached no such conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice. According to Attorney General William Barr’s summary, Mueller indicated that “while this report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does NOT exonerate him.”  

There’s also this. The prosecutorial focus has now shifted from Washington to New York–to the notably aggressive Southern District of New York, sometimes referred to as the “Sovereign District.”

“The important thing to remember is that almost everything Donald Trump did was in the Southern District of New York,” pointed out retired federal Judge John S. Martin, who was the U.S. attorney in the Southern District during the Carter and Reagan Administrations. In other words, Trump ran his business there and he ran his campaign there. And he could still run into trouble there.

Maybe in the end, we will be left merely with the unalterable realization that all we have–still–is an unethical, unhinged, duplicitous narcissist as president, one who has always surrounded himself with sleazy Soprano sorts. From Roy Cohn to Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. Why surround yourself with liars if there’s nothing to lie about?

* “Total loser.” President Donald Trump’s tweet directed at George Conway, Kellyanne’s bitter half.  “You. Are. Nuts.” George Conway’s tweet directed back at Donald Trump. Another day at the orifice.

* U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, a Trump lackey, is suing Twitter for $250 million over a parody account that allowed”defamatory” attacks on him. It involves unhappy cows living on one of Nunes’ farms attacking the California Republican as, among other things, “udder-ly worthless.” Some of the humor is crude. Courts generally hold that satirical works are opinion–and therefore not subject to libel and defamation laws. The burden of proof is even higher when a public official is involved. In the case of Nunes, a Trump-transition-team member and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he was known for being Trump’s mole and released a memo in 2018 alleging FBI conspiracy against Trump. Ironically, Nunes co-sponsored the Frivolous Lawsuits Act last year. He is what he is. Maybe he should be sued for definition of character.

* We know, alas, that the U.S. is part of the international pattern of increasingly popular right- wing leadership. Trump’s recent welcoming of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, AKA the”Trump of the Tropics,” was just the latest reminder. And this just in. Among those courted for advice by Vox, Spain’s first far-right party since the end of the Franco dictatorship in 1975, was former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon.

 * Trump keeps doubling down on Israel and its embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s more than pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Now Trump backs Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights. His official pronouncement came within hours of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasizing that America’s longstanding policy had not changed. Oops. Rex Tillerson would understand that this is what you get with a president who, until recently, wouldn’t have known the Golan Heights from Washington Heights or “Wuthering Heights.”

* And what’s next? Look for Jonathan Pollard, an American intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel in the 1980s, to be back in the news cycle. He spent 30 years in prison and was released in 2015. His parole keeps him from leaving the U.S., but that could change. Look for an announcement on Pollard being allowed to travel to Israel, where he has citizenship, as soon as the Trump Administration needs another serious media diversion. Also look for the U.S. to ask the Israelis not to spike the geopolitical football when Pollard finally arrives.

* “A Night At the Garden” was one of this year’s Oscar Short Documentary nominees. It is footage compiled from a 1939 German-American Bund, pro-Hitler rally at New York’s Madison Square Garden that featured prominent swastikas and 20,000 Nazi celebrants. The film shows the German-American Bund leader Fritz Kuhn decrying “the Jewish-controlled press” and demanding “a socially just, white, gentile-ruled United States.” “A Night At the Garden” is also a reminder that nothing can be absolutely precluded when it comes to nationalism and cult-figure leaders.

* “Fake News” is not merely some self-serving Trump gambit meant to demonize America’s media and characterize himself as a tell-it-like-it-is victim to his base. It’s also a classic staple right out of the authoritarian playbook. No surprise, then, that Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump’s de facto handler, just signed into law a set of bills that will make it illegal to spread, yes, “fake news.”

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