Tuesday, May 01, 2018

What's going on?

There are days when I follow the news obsessively. On other days, paying attention to each fresh Trumpian atrocity is an onerous duty that I put off as long as possible.

I have fallen behind on the atrocity parade. Let's catch up.

The Mueller "leak." You've probably already seen the NYT story about the leaked Mueller probe questions for Trump. The controversy over how the leak occurred is of more interest than the questions themselves.

The NYT has stated that the list "was provided to The Times by a person outside Mr. Trump’s legal team." According to the WP,
It appears the leak did not come from Mueller’s office. The Times reported that the questions were provided to Trump’s lawyers as part of negotiations over the terms of a potential Trump interview. The list was then provided to the Times by a person outside Trump’s legal team, the paper said.
Trump, in his usual Trumpian way, responded with a lying tweet:
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see...you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!
The wording barely makes sense, although I appreciate the fact that he twice spells "collusion" with a capital C, as if it were the name of a deity he fears. The actual list, of course, contains a number of questions about collusion.

Is Trump referring to the current NYT story when he refers to the "an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information"? I don't think so. The operative word is "begun." The list obtained by the Times did not create the investigation.

Perhaps Trump is making a garbled reference to the Steele dossier? That text was written by a private citizen and a foreign national, who is free to provide his findings (whatever you may think of them) to whomever he likes. Any attempt by any branch of the American government to classify the thing would be ridiculous. You have as much right to claim ownership of Michelangelo's Pieta.

Given the circumstances, a number of people suspect that the leaker acted under the orders of David Dennison, or perhaps John Barron. But why? Why would Trump want such a thing leaked to the NYT?

Perhaps he intends to give the Fox Newers a talking point. The Fox propagandists do not need to offer their viewers a logical, consistent story. They have proven their ability to transform any turn of events into a narrative in which evil liberals are persecuting poor Donald Trump. 

Is the list even real? Michael Zeldin, a former Mueller assistant, thinks that the text has been misrepresented.
He explained that the way the questions are written make it pretty obvious.

“Because of the way these questions are written,” Zeldin explained his methodology. “Lawyers wouldn’t write questions this way, in my estimation. Some of the grammar is not even proper. So, I don’t see this as a list of written questions that Mueller’s office gave to the president. I think these are more notes that the White House has taken and then they have expanded upon the conversation to write out these as questions.”
Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio does not think that the leaks occurred with Trump's approval. D'Antonio believes that someone leaked the questions in order to bait Trump: "Like a matador waving a red cape, someone is torturing President Donald Trump..."

These words would seem to buttress the "Mueller's team did it" theory. But D'Antonio has a different idea...
And yet, given the disciplined behavior of the special counsel's team, which has been the very model of integrity, it seems almost certain that the list of questions was leaked by someone who is supposed to be on the President's side. Why would someone who works for Trump do such a thing?

The likeliest answer is that the President's staff or lawyers are trying to get his attention. He is, after all, notoriously impatient with briefings but also a compulsive consumer of mass media. This reality means that a leak to the press might be the best way to get a message through to him.
Although I'm not sure that this argument makes a whole lot of sense, I can't claim to have a better one.

Contrary to Trump's false assertion that the list contains no questions about collusion, we can glimpse a truly new avenue of investigation:
What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?"
That, my friends, is a question about collusion. No ifs, ands or buts.

The word "outreach" indicates an operation that goes far beyond the Trump Tower meeting (which in and of itself is proof of collusion) or that strange business involving Eric Prince. It seems clear that Rick Gates -- who played Robin to Manafort's Batman -- has spilled a few beans.

Hypocrisy on parade. I was quite amused to hear dear old Bibi thunder about Iran's alleged secret nuclear program. Israel hardly has the right to complain about a secret nuclear program.

Even Pompeo admits that there is no such program now. So here we have yet another example of right-wingers pretending that old news is new news. What's next? Will Bibi act shocked to learn that the Donation of Constantine was a hoax?

As for Michelle Wolf's routine at the White House Correspondents' Dinner: Historians will say that she was too tame. Trump is the most vulgar and insulting quasi-humanoid being in the history of American politics, and his entire movement caters to the lowest impulses within our national psyche.

Them what dishes it out had better be ready to take it, says I

The Tester Gambit was a McAlpine gambit.
At least one of my readers misunderstood my basic point about the falsity of the claims leveled against Dr. Jackson. I'm not claiming that Jackson is innocent of all charges; I'm saying that Trump derived a benefit from inventing false charges.

The following quote has appeared in four or five previous posts, but perhaps we need to look at it again. These words came from Lord Alistair McAlpine (a close friend to Margaret Thatcher), who wrote a book about Machievelli:
First, create a situation where you are wrongly accused. Then, at a convenient moment, arrange for the false accusation to be shown to be false beyond all doubt. Those who have made accusations against both the company and its management become discredited. Further accusations will then be treated with great suspicion.
Stormy watch. I don't understand why Avenatti filed that defamation suit. Yes, I think that Trump defamed Avenatti's client -- but only if we use the word "defame" in a casual, everyday sense. Will a court agree that Trump is guilty of defamation in the legal sense of the word? Defamation requires the demonstration of actual harm to someone's income and/or reputation. Can a porn star claim injury to her income and/or reputation?

I once knew a famous porn actress, a beauty who somewhat resembled Natalie Wood. I met her before she entered the business; she was as fine a lady as I've ever encountered, and nothing she has done since has changed that assessment. (Wish I could reveal her name, because most of her fans would be stunned to learn that she was once an MP in the Army.) So I would say that, yes, an adult film actress has a right to damages if a sitting president speaks about her falsely.

At least, such would be the case in a fair world. But do we live in a fair world?

I can't see the cards in Avenatti's hand, so I don't know how he intends to play this. Perhaps he's bluffing. But his most recent statement seems quite germane:
“What’s interesting, Alisyn, is, if he didn’t have anything to do with Stormy Daniels and he didn’t know about anything that happened in 2011 or anything about the agreement, which is the nonsense they’re trying to sell the American public, then how would he know whether there was a nonexistent man or not?” Avenatti asked.
Cohen brings out Pecker. The National Enquirer's attack on Michael Cohen has everyone wondering: Does Trump now view Cohen as the enemy? Has Cohen flipped?

Everyone seems to have forgotten that the National Enquirer turned on Flynn in precisely the same fashion. Yet Flynn's stint as "Darth Flynn" did not last long; Hannity -- who is Charlie McCarthy to Trump's Edgar Bergen -- openly calls for Flynn to be pardoned.
Outside the Great White Dope's legal team?
I was ready to put money as Rudy Giuliani as the leaker since the questions were raised prior to his joining Team Trump.
Given the grammar were they notes scribbled during a Mueller and Trump attorney meeting?
Speculation on Mueller leaking to tweak Trump?
He's too professional.
Your quote, "A number of people suspect that the leaker acted under the orders of David Dennison. Or perhaps John Barron. But why? Why would Trump have an underling offer such a thing to the NYT?" end quote.

Is this a joke? I thought Dave Dennison and John Barron were Trump aliases. Or was that the joke?
That was the joke.
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