Coats Leaving, Mueller Departing

  • No surprise that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will soon be leaving his position. The surprise is that he has lasted this long. His input was routinely ignored by Donald Trump when it came to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. The frayed White House relationship had become a public, personal affront and departmentally demoralizing across the 17 intelligence agencies Coats oversaw–let alone all of those obvious implications for national security.

Coats was also an ongoing reminder to this narcissistic president that the implications of Russian interference on his behalf undermined his election validity even more than losing the popular vote did. Few things perturb this president like a vanity hit.

And no surprise that Coats’ replacement is likely to be Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe, a proven Trump acolyte and staunch congressional loyalist who’s notably credential-challenged on security matters. Obviously Ratcliffe passed his casting call with his snarky questioning of special counsel Robert Mueller.

One upside: We will now hear much more from Coats about the challenges the U.S.—not just Donald Trump—faces. You know MSNBC and CNN are already on the case.

  • Alas, Trump—for all that he is not in terms of being presidential—is right in the wheel house of modern media. He was pop-culturally good at “The Apprentice,” which was a major, albeit embarrassing, stepping stone to his presidency. Alas, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, decorated marine war veteran, avatar of rectitude, and government careerist beyond reproach, was not made for 21st century media, where optics and sound-bite facility and flair matter much more than they should. That was painfully evident in his recent House testimony. Mueller looked the part of post-prime prosecutor put in a reluctant-witness role. Hardly a character flaw, but awful timing for those who wanted—and needed–a riveting, passionate, center-stage performance.

How ironic that Trump had wanted him canned.

  • We kept hearing references to Watergate, but there are obviously a number of differences, including the lack of an ultimate “smoking gun.” Another difference: Leon Jaworski was not a witness. And, no, Don McGahn will not be the next John Dean.
  • Three final takeaways from the Mueller investigation that will never go away: First, why did Russia want—to the degree that it attacked America’s electoral process—Trump to be president in the first place? Second, amid all the “I’m not going to comment on that” and “I’m going to pass on that” terseness, Mueller did deliver a statement that should resonate far into our vulnerable democracy’s future. In acknowledging that the Russians interfered in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” in the 2016 election, Mueller actually underscored the ominous reality. “It wasn’t a single attempt,” he stressed. “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign.” If we don’t respond to that, it’s on us—not Mueller. And third, can anyone beyond the basket of deplorables truly conclude that there were not at least serious attempts at justice obstruction and witness tampering? And “attempting” is not exactly exculpatory, as was often noted. Remember Nixonian “plausible deniability”? It never seemed so credible.   
  • “The American people deserve more!” That was no less than Michael Cohen, penning one in from prison.
  • No one should be surprised—merely frustrated and worried—that the U.S. and key European allies, England and France, can’t agree on a united approach to Iran over the protection of ships passing through the Persian Gulf. It’s logical and counterproductive fallout from the Trump Administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Yes, poorly-informed, narcissistic, unhinged temperaments have consequences sooner or later.
  • “Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall.”—That was President Donald Trump celebrating over the Supreme Court’s (5-4) decision that helps clear the way for his Administration to tap billions of dollars in Pentagon funds to build sections of a border wall with Mexico.
  • “Wow! Another Big VICTORY on the Wall. Mexico’s Paying For It. Muchas Gracias, non-rapists!” That’s the White House celebration we will never hear.
  • Among Trump’s more enabling congressional henchmen is Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Here’s what Meadows recently said about Trump’s racist-immigrant rants, including the infamous “go back” recommendation: “He’s not a racist. I probably talk to him more than anyone else, and I can tell you he is certainly not a racist.”

No wonder they get on so well. Here’s a classic Meadows quote from 2012—aimed at then-President Barack Obama. “We will send him back home to Kenya or wherever it is,” he exhorted a home-state rally.

  • Parallels between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump will be increasingly noted and satirized–including on “SNL” this fall. That will be just in time for Brexit to be dominating news cycles—as well as the countdown to the 2020 election-alternative-to-impeachment: Trexit.
  • If you don’t want to revisit Dwight Eisenhower warnings about a military industrial complex, then it would be prudent not to have a defense secretary, as in Mark Esper, who is only two years removed from being Raytheon’s top government lobbyist. 
  • “A disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” That’s how Donald Trump characterized the majority-black, Baltimore area district represented by Rep. Elijah Cummings, House Oversight & Reform Committee chairman.
  • “Better to have a few rats than to be one.” That was the editorial response from the Baltimore Sun.
  • “When the president’s on the phone, you want your friends to hear it, because it gets the heart racing. … The power of that is pretty amazing. But you have to use it wisely. You can overdo anything.”—That was Sen. Lindsey Graham on Trump’s penchant for frequently phoning up legislators. Speaking of overdoing, that apparently doesn’t apply to former rivals who have sold their sycophantic souls to become regular presidential golf partners.
  • “Seven indicted Trump aides must be kicking themselves. If POTUS is totally innocent, why did they all perjure themselves? These guys too dumb NOT to be in jail.” No, that wasn’t someone weighing in on MSNBC or CNN. That was Gary Trudeau, channeling Roland B. Hedley Jr. in his “Doonesbury” strip. Another reason to further ponder what this commentary is still doing on the comics page with “Beetle Bailey” and “Blondie.”
  • For the hell of it: Boss Tweet. Boldfinger. Darth Taxe Vader. King Leer. Demander-in-chief. Adolph Twitler. Benedict Donald.

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