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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Steele yourself

On CNN a short while ago, Wolf Blitzer quoted a White House spokesperson who offered a reaction to the released transcript of Comey's prepared statement (which the former FBI Director will deliver in person tomorrow). I apologize for not being able to name the spokesperson or to quote his words precisely. To be honest, I was mowing the lawn while listening to the news, and must therefore speak from memory.

Basically, the spokesperson fixated on the Christopher Steele dossier, which I prefer to call the Orbis dossier. The spokesperson said that the dossier had been "debunked" -- and that Steele himself had debunked it!

Really? Where and when and how?

As I see it, we're dealing with three big, basic lies here.

Lie 1: Trump and his supporters to make everyone believe that this investigation is entirely about that dossier. This is ridiculous. Even if Christopher Steele had never been born, Trump and his cronies would be in a lot of trouble.

Lie 2: The Trumpers want people to believe that the dossier contains nothing of interest except for the claim involving prostitutes and urination. Republicans understand the way average working Americans think. Life is tough, and most people don't want to follow complicated stories about money laundering, the oil market and the funding of skyscrapers. Average Americans can focus on stories about sex. The weirder the sex, the more fascinating the story. Thus, the Trumpers want everyone to think that Russiagate is entirely about a pee-pee video which may or may not exist, even though that particular claim constitutes just one page of a 36-page document. Even if the video does exist, Putin will never release it. The world will never see the evidence.

Lie 3: The Trumpers keep saying that the dossier has been debunked. In this instance, they have claimed -- falsely -- that former MI6 man Steele has disavowed his own work. The Republican party line is, as usual, based on a hallucination. While it is true that many statements in the dossier remain unverified, it also true that unverified and debunked are two different concepts. Many statements within that dossier have been verified.

I'm pretty dispirited right now. The leaders of the intelligence community who testified today stonewalled their interrogators, even though (as one admitted) they had no legal basis to do so. We know that Trump demanded loyalty of James Comey, in a scene that calls to mind the famous "baseball" disquisition in The Untouchables. Although Comey refused to say the words that our Thug-in-Chief wanted him to say (and received a response from Trump not entirely unlike DeNiro's demonstration of his skill with a baseball bat), I strongly suspect that Coates, Pompeo and Rogers decided to recite the desired words. Moreover, we may presume that Christopher Wray is willing to say that which Comey would not; were the situation otherwise, Trump would never have picked Wray.

What I'm trying to say is this: We're screwed.

There has been far too much cocksure presumption that impeachment is in the bag. Get real. The Republicans still retain nearly all of the power; when Wray takes over, the only uncontrollable factor will be the special counsel. Mueller probably won't finish until well after the 2018 elections, and even then, he probably will offer no more than a report. If the Democrats controlled Congress, the stonewallers who faced the committee today might well have suffered legal consequences. As things stand, the Trump loyalists can do as they please without fear.

We've been through this before. At the beginning of Iran-Contra, giddy Democrats allowed themselves to think that Reagan could, and probably would, be impeached. We were all so damned naive! After North's testimony, Reagan's popularity increased and public support for the contras topped 50% for the first time. By the time Walsh released his report, even Democrats had stopped paying attention.

A Republican-controlled "investigation" will always degenerate into a propaganda exercise. Right now, Trump's approval rating is low -- but Bill Clinton's number was even worse at a comparable point in his presidency. Clinton went on to win re-election.
Meanwhile, Trump's son says Dems aren't even human, emboldening the rethugs who are threatening and assaulting Dems out of races: literally throwing things at a candidate while he was holding his baby so he'd drop out of the race (in Alambama).
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