Trump's Desperate New Low
Apparently the stock market felt left out of the Trump roller-coaster ride so it decided to go a little bit crazy on Monday: The Dow Jones average dropped by 1,500 points before climbing back just a bit to settle at a loss of 1,100 for the day. Whee! We have had many such days that were more significant in terms of percentage, but it was the largest single-day point drop in history.
What made it even more dramatic than usual was the fact that President Trump, who has repeatedly taken credit for the market's steady rise, was giving a televised speech on his glorious economic success while the stock ticker in the corner of the screen told a dire tale. There are myriad factors behind the plunge, but one possible contributor is that tax-cut euphoria is wearing off and investors are realizing the freak show in Washington might just be a little bit destabilizing.
The Nunes memo and all the congressional shenanigans may be a nice distraction for the president, but there is a little matter of another possible government shutdown this week and a budget that doesn't seem likely to come together, largely because the GOP leadership doesn't want anyone to see the new debt projections. In other words, the mess is getting messier.
In the midst of all this excitement, the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo -- if Trump approves the release, that is. Cable news pundits all seem to believe that part is a slam dunk, because the White House has said it wants transparency. I have to wonder if they've been watching the same Trump administration as I've been watching. I think it's entirely possible that Trump will refuse to release it, if only for the chance to demand the arrest of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., if it were to leak. Don't think he wouldn't do that:
Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washingto… https://t.co/7csaXTJLoO— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1517834350.0
As I mentioned Monday, House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (whom Trump recently declared on Twitter was an American hero) has announced that he plans to produce more memos exposing people within the Department of Justice, FBI and State Department for vague acts of partisan wrongdoing. Nunes is calling this "Phase Two" of his operation, although Schiff wryly corrected the record in a press conference, pointing out that it's really Phase Three of Nunes' pro-Trump skulduggery, the first phase being the congressman's harebrained "midnight run" last year.
A bit more information emerged Monday about just what Nunes has in mind. According to Natasha Bertrand at the Atlantic, Republicans are now homing in on a State Department official named Jonathan Winer, who was the Obama administration's special envoy to Libya and a longtime aide to former Secretary of State John Kerry. Bertrand reports that "Winer received a memorandum from political activist Cody Shearer and passed it along to Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence official who had compiled his own dossier on Donald Trump."
It appears that Nunes will have some company in this phase because Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are also involved, having previously referred Christopher Steele to the FBI for allegedly failing to tell them about all the journalists he spoke to. Those two are also pretending to be in a tizzy about this contact between Winer, Shearer and Steele -- as if it had any bearing on anything. All of this is likely happening because Steele stuck a handwritten Post-it note on the Shearer document saying that the author was a contact of longtime Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal, whose name is guaranteed to set off a collective primal scream among right-wingers.
This obviously has no real bearing on anything, since it doesn't matter where information comes from during an investigation if it turns out to be true. As has been pointed out a thousand times, the Russia investigation now overseen by Robert Mueller was not precipitated by anything in the Steele dossier. It was all the other evidence of attempted Russian infiltration and coordination with the Trump campaign, along with the hacking of the Democratic Party computer system by Russian agents and their subsequent deployment of propaganda in many forms. If there had never been a Steele dossier, it wouldn't make much difference.
As ridiculous as this obsessive focus on Steele may be, there actually is a method to the Republican madness, which I saw coming some months ago when I wrote a Salon column about Hillary Clinton’s “real Russia scandal.” Monday night on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, Devin Nunes came right out and said it:
We have a clear link to Russia — you have a campaign who hired a law firm, who hire Fusion GPS, who hired a foreign agent, who then got information from the Russians on the other campaign. It seems like the counterintelligence investigation should have been opened up against the Hillary campaign when they got ahold of the dossier. But that didn't happen, either.
This would be known in intelligence circles as the "I know you are but what am I" strategy. But Republicans aren't stopping at that. Axios also reported Monday that Trump's lawyers have "approved the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate the FBI and Justice Department's actions during the 2016 presidential campaign." I'm not sure why their "approval" would be sought or required, but there you have it. As wacky as that is, it's nothing compared to this nugget reported by Howard Fineman at NBC:
Trump is even talking to friends about the possibility of asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to consider prosecuting Mueller and his team. "Here's how it would work: 'We're sorry, Mr. Mueller, you won't be able to run the federal grand jury today because he has to go testify to another federal grand jury,'" said one Trump adviser.
Basically they are building a case that Hillary Clinton, along with top leadership of the Department of Justice, the FBI and the State Department, colluded with the Russian government -- and all of them, along with special counsel Mueller, should be locked up. That sounds extreme. But consider what the president said on Monday about Democratic members of Congress who didn't applaud him at the State of the Union address last week:
They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, "treasonous." I mean, yeah, I guess. Why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country that much.
With a leader like that, is it such a stretch to believe that his Attorney General might actually appoint special counsels to investigate the FBI and the State Department to ferret out the Democratic traitors? Would we really be that shocked to see them try to prosecute Hillary Clinton or Bob Mueller? I'm afraid it's getting easier to believe every day.