One of the many lingering mysteries of Watergate concerns burglar James McCord, the former CIA employee turned CREEP agent who -- some say -- intentionally blew the operation in order to screw Nixon. Back in the 1970s, major publishers offered big bucks for his insider's account of what really happened. Instead of going for the payday, McCord went with an unknown publisher ("Washington Media Services") and produced a small book called A Piece of Tape
, which received hardly any publicity or distribution.
I've read it; you haven't. I've never encountered another book (outside the ouvre of A.E. Waite) which managed to be simultaneously so weird and so dull. Without revealing anything interesting about Watergate, McCord keeps repeating TAPE TAPE TAPE in all caps, as though the incantatory power of that word could reveal the mysteries of the parapolitical universe, but only to those few initiates who vibrate on McCord's level. Perhaps this strange book contains a Dan Brownian code. If so, I couldn't find it.
You can guess why that book has been on my mind lately. Stories like this one
have me flashing back to McCord and those chants of TAPE...TAPE...TAPE...
A tweet from President Donald Trump on Friday suggesting that he might have taped phone conversations from the White House made waves in Washington, but some former employees and a former associate said it wasn’t a surprise to them that he would mention taped conversations.
As a businessman, Mr. Trump sometimes taped phone conversations with associates and others from his Trump Tower office in New York, according to three people who say they have direct knowledge of the recordings.
Mr. Trump had one or more recording devices that he used to tape his phone calls from his office, the three people said. All are former high-level employees who worked for Mr. Trump over a span of three decades. They said they saw devices in use recording phone calls.
A fourth person said he knew that Mr. Trump had recorded a phone conversation with him because it was later entered into evidence in a lawsuit.
Also see here
The photo reproduced above made the rounds yesterday. Let's take a closer look at one of the items on Donnie's desk...
That's a digital voice recorder next to the iPhone. I've been trying to identify the model: It resembles my own Olympus (purchased in happier days), although mine has a retractable USB plug in the bottom. Could this be one of those cheap Chinese knock-offs you get on Ebay? If it is, how...Trumpy!
Many people, including some high-level observers, seem to be under the impression that Donald Trump's threatening "tape" tweet refers to a specific conversation which Trump had with Comey on the night when loyalty oaths were allegedly demanded. (I picture the scene as a modern version of this image
No. Donald Trump's tweet was not so specific. His precise words:
"James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."
In other words: "If you reveal my secrets I will reveal yours." We have no clue as to what those secrets are or when they were discussed.
To me, the most obvious reading is that they concern Comey's pre-election 11th hour revelation of the emails on the Weiner laptop. We've all heard the reports that Comey went public as a result of ill-defined pressure put on him by a cabal of agents close to Giuliani. The full story remains untold.
Conceivably, the "taped" conversations could help to explain why Comey gave such bizarre testimony just before his firing. As you may recall, he claimed that there were "hundreds or thousands" of emails on that laptop, when such was simply not the case. Note that Trump fired Comey directly after a flurry of stories appeared correcting Comey's mistake. At the time, I wondered if Comey himself might have been a source for those corrections. In other words, I theorize that Comey -- as a condition for keeping his job -- was directed to "misspeak" in such a way as to justify a new Clinton probe, a plan which went south when corrections appeared in the press the next day.
Is that theory too outlandish? Perhaps so. Nevertheless, I am persuaded -- perhaps not convinced, but persuaded -- that the great unspoken issue underlying Trump's tweeted threat to Comey comes out of THAT realm. Trump still hopes to lock her up.
President Orrin Hatch!
Claude Taylor and Louise Mensch are spreading an amazing rumor throughout liberal-land. They say that Donald Trump will be brought down soon -- very soon, maybe tomorrow, maybe a little later, but soon soon soon
-- and that the scandal will also engulf Mike Pence.
So that means President Paul Ryan, eh? Not so fast.
Mensch and Taylor say that Ryan is on tape admitting that the GOP coffers contain laundered funds. Next in the line of succession would be President pro tempore of the Senate, Orrin Hatch -- who is 83.
Remember when liberals considered Hatch unimaginably far to the right? How things have changed! Nowadays, many Dems would thank God for the chance to say "President Hatch."
As you may have guessed, the only sources for this fantasia are unnamed. Louise Mensch has her own sources, while Claude Taylor has a separate set of sources. Mensch and Taylor say that the Unnamed Ones tell stories that converge.
Mensch goes so far as to say that Orrin Hatch is already receiving security briefings. At this writing, if you type "Orrin Hatch" into Google, the first suggested autocompletion is "president," followed by "security briefings."
This is from Taylor's twitter feed
@LouiseMensch and I are reporting that a sealed indictment has been issued against Trump by FISA court to serve as the basis of Impeachment.
Now let us look at one of their joint story
in Patribotics -- yes, Mensch has actually signed one of her stories!
Separate sources with links to the intelligence and justice communities have stated that a sealed indictment has been granted against Donald Trump.
While it is understood that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution means that, until Mr. Trump is impeached, he cannot be prosecuted, sources say that the indictment is intended by the FBI and prosecutors in the Justice Department to form the basis of Mr. Trump’s impeachment. The indictment is, perhaps uniquely, not intended or expected to be used for prosecution, sources say, because of the constitutional position of the President.
That's the full story. Dare I ask a logical question? What would be the purpose of a sealed indictment under these circumstances?
Impeachment proceedings will occur only when the public demands impeachment, and the public will make that demand if the world learns about the indictment.
Thus, the Mensch/Taylor story of a secret
indictment makes no sense. I'm reminded of the Doomsday Device in Dr. Strangelove
: The device works only if it is not
Defenders of Mensch and Taylor will quickly point out that they've both been right before -- in fact, at times they have been miles ahead of mainstream journalists. My response: For precisely that reason
, they have made themselves likely targets for a disinformation plot designed to discredit everything they've said.
Many years ago, I had lunch with...well, let's just say that he was a writer who thought that he could play the kind of game that Louise Mensch is playing now. Call him Alan. I think he meant well, just as I now think that Louise Mensch means well.
Like Louise, Alan thought -- at first -- that he had been made privy to a wonderful and exciting world of insider information. Over time, Alan realized that his "sources" were using him, playing games with him. In the end, they more or less ruined his life.
Over lunch, Alan told me something I've never forgotten. When someone "on the inside" leaks information (Alan used the example of an Air Force guy leaking Top Seekrit material to Aviation Week
), the leaker is usually caught. Often, he is not prosecuted, although he is threatened
with prosecution. The leaker is instructed to meet with the same writer and to provide certain information which may be genuine or bogus. Bogus information will eventually be exposed as such, thereby discrediting the writer forever.
In my opinion, that scenario explains a number of mysteries discussed in these very pages over the past thirteen years. To cite an obvious example, consider some of the things that Jason Leopold wrote during the "Fitzmas" season. (Remember this?
Another one of those "sealed indictments" that turned out to be hallucinatory. Poor Jason Leopold is still
getting shat upon for that one.)
I can guess what Louise Mensch would say in response, were she to read these words: "But Claude Taylor and I have received the exact same information from separate sources!" Right now, I have no pressing reason to doubt that such is the case. But this congruence does not, in and of itself, mean that the "President Hatch" claim is accurate. Coordinated, multi-sourced disinformation is still disinformation. And the naive writer who makes the disinformation public without any maybes
will end up wearing the same expression Princess Leia displays when Grand Moff Tarkin tells her "You're far too trusting."
Incidentally, Mensch's own lawyer
doubts this "Hatch" tale.
I've said it before and I've said it again: Louise Mensch's great error is her refusal to address the many indications that our own
spooks played a role in electing Trump, using psy-war tactics honed since the heyday of Paul Linebarger. Cambridge Analytica may have Russian connections, but it also has far stronger wires leading directly to MI6, the CIA and environs. Moreover, Mercer's psywar shop is locatable within the Tory Establishment. Being a Tory herself, Mensch simply cannot accept that this Establishment might be dirty. Her basic framework -- "Heroic western spooks versus Evil Putin and his puppet Trump" -- was always simplistic, even if that construct does contain elements
of the truth.
forecast: Orrin Hatch will not be president.
I'd love to be wrong about that, but I'm probably not. If the last laugh belongs to Mensch and Taylor, I'll be giddy with joy. If the last laugh is mine, I will be as depressed as Eeyore writing his suicide note. In other words, situation normal.
(Actually, Eeyore -- lacking opposable thumbs -- would have to dictate
his suicide note. Maybe he can borrow Trump's voice recorder...?)
A final point:
What will happen if and when the "Orrin Hatch" claim proves false? Should we assume that all
of the claims about Trump's Russian adventures are false?
Of course not. In fact, we should presume the opposite. The presence of disinformation indicates that something real
is being protected. As a notable British conservative once said: "In wartime, the truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
For the sake of argument, let's say that Hatch is offered the presidency. If he declines to serve due to age, the next in the line of succession would be Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State.