Donald Trump is worried about going to jail if he loses. Yeah, ya think?

In a piece describing Donald Trump's incessant whining to his staff about election woes and his staff's continued efforts to gaslight him into thinking he's ahead in the polls rather than face another one of his screaming fits, the Trump whisperers at The New York Times bring us this tidbit from inside Trump's team: "In unguarded moments, Mr. Trump has for weeks told advisers that he expects to face intensifying scrutiny from prosecutors if he loses. He is concerned not only about existing investigations in New York, but the potential for new federal probes as well, according to people who have spoken with him."

Yeah. Ya think? Ya THINK?

There's all the investigations that Attorney General William Barr has personally squashed or slow-walked in an attempt to let Trump's various crime-doing loyalists off the hook. There's four years worth of press reporting on things in Trump's taxes that look, smell, and taste like fraud. There's the charges brought up in impeachment—which implicate a few of Trump's cabinet members in an international extortion scheme, and that’s not going to just go away if Trump slouches off toward Mar-a-Lago.

Unfortunately for Trump, even though he knows that keeping the presidency is the only way to hold back a tide of criminal investigations, he's still too scatterbrained and incompetent to mount a reelection bid not dependent on mass public delusion. Yeah, that stuff is going to come up just as soon as you lose presidential immunities. Golf clap for you, buddy, for figuring it out.

If Trump loses, and let us presume for a moment that he does, it seems almost certain that his close-of-office action will be blanket pardons to himself, his family, everyone he knows, and anyone who's ever cut him a check for eeeeeverything. That'll be what's on the pardon proclamation: "I pardon myself and these other people for absolutely all crimes, including all the stuff nobody found out about yet."

It might actually work, for federal crimes. The states? Not so much.

I still say there is a damn good chance Donald J. Trump becomes the first American president to flee prosecution and ask for foreign asylum. Air Force One could make it to Moscow without refueling, right? Honestly, we'd probably tell Putin to keep the plane while he's at it—we'd just be that thrilled to be rid of him.

Then again, there are other possibilities as well:

FWIW I’ve repeatedly heard a theory that Trump’s refusal to say he’d commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost is really a ploy to negotiate no future investigations/prosecutions of him and his businesses https://t.co/OX7NBLcxCZ

— Evan Siegfried (@evansiegfried) November 2, 2020

That seems literally too stupid a premise to believe, but this is Donald Trump we’re talking about. He is an accused rapist, tax cheat, pedophile, money launderer, and extortionist already; using the U.S. Army to hold the nation hostage for immunity negotiations isn’t quite out of the realm of possibilities for this fascist jackass.

California Republican Party says it won’t take down illegal ‘ballot boxes’ despite state orders

On Monday, it came to light that the California Republican Party was placing what they called "official ballot drop off boxes" in locations deemed to be Republican-friendly (such as, no kidding, "gun stores") in apparent efforts to make it easier for Republican voters to vote than not-Republican voters.

There are two problems with this. First: It's not legal. California law allows voters to designate a person to drop their ballot off at an official location rather than going themselves; it does not allow the "designated person" to be an unattended cardboard box. (And yes, some of the "official ballot drop off boxes" are merely "simple cardboard boxes with no locking security mechanism.")

The second problem is, yes, ballot security. Voters may not be aware that these very much not official "drop off boxes" are managed by unknown Republican operatives, and there's no guarantee the ballots collected in such boxes won't "accidentally" be, to use a recent Trumpian example, dumped into a river. (I kid. Here in California we don't have rivers. They could be dumped into storm drains, though, which would be problematic because all the aspiring sewer actors do not need more lines to practice.) There's nothing to say the ballots the Republican Party claims to be collecting won't be sorted through, perhaps to weed out non-Republican looking names, or otherwise disposed of. That's why California ballot-harvesting laws require a designee.

California officials have now warned the state Republican Party that what they're doing is illegal and may even result in prison time. The Republican Party has responded in the expected way: They don't care, and won't be complying with state demands to remove the boxes.

More specifically, the California Republican Party intends to continue the operation while daring state officials to do anything about it. Party spokesperson Hector Barajas noted that a 2018 state law prohibits election officials from rejecting a ballot solely because it was returned without the required designee signature or relationship to the voter, signaling that the party intends to collect ballots however they want, handle and turn them in however they want, and dare election officials to throw those votes away. Election officials will almost certainly not do that, so here we are.

It's another case of the party's all-encompassing insistence that laws don't matter if bending the law would benefit the party. See also: Dinesh D'Whateverguy, and literally every member of Donald Trump's inner circles, past and present, indicted and not, and the Republican gutting of the Federal Election Commission, and the nullification of election-related impeachment charges against Dear Leader, and take your pick.

And yes, everyone involved is aware of the dichotomy of the Republican Party going to furious lengths to restrict voting access in Texas and other Republican-led states while bending restrictions that they believe are harmful to their own voters. It's not irony, it's fascism.

What California voters need to know right now, however: Do not use those boxes. Don't. California is mailing ballots to all voters; follow the instructions provided to the letter and mail them back. Do not put your ballot in a cardboard box, or a burlap sack, or into the mouth of a large wooden horse that has appeared, overnight, in the empty parking lot of an abandoned mall. Just mail them in, or turn them in where the state itself tells you to.

There's no guarantee that the local Chuckles' Gun Club and Shoebox Votin' Booth will be handling your vote, as America decides between authoritarian rule and democracy, with anything resembling care. The Republican Party is playing fast and loose with the votes of their own most loyal supporters, and that is not something you want to get involved in.

Mike Pompeo is now brazenly campaigning for Trump using his federal post

Prior to ex-House Republican Mike Pompeo becoming Trump's secretary of state, it was generally understood that U.S. secretaries of state were not allowed to use the tools of their office for rank partisan politicking. Using government resources to campaign is illegal; turning the top diplomatic job in the country into a tool of partisanship damages U.S. credibility abroad by signaling, to world counterparts, that the U.S. diplomat is In This For Themselves.

All of that is gone now because Donald Trump simply chose to ignore those constraints, and Republicans—with the singular exception of one Mitt Romney, exactly once—wholeheartedly adopted the same merging of party and state as the new way things are done. This was helped along immensely by Trump's surrounding of himself with hard-right ex-House Republicans contemptuous of the rules from the outset. Mike Pompeo is a poster child for this. He continues to assist Trump in the cover-up of a criminal Ukrainian extortion scheme—one timed to allow Russian incursions into that country to proceed and be solidified while much needed U.S. aid was used to pressure for Trump reelection favors. He continues to abet Trump's incompetent dismantling of U.S. foreign policy infrastructure.

And, of course, Pompeo is using his State Department role to campaign aggressively for Trump and Republicans throughout the country. The premise is that key Trump-supporting demographics and swing states just happen to need conservative foreign policy priorities explained to them by, literally, the top U.S. diplomat—one who admittedly has little else to do since all such policy decisions have been stripped from him and his government agency in favor of the new policy, Whatever Trump Last Said. The reality is that Pompeo is touring the country giving campaign speeches to, as the AP reports, a white evangelical church in Plano, Texas; the hard-right Value Voters Summit; and other appearances in Wisconsin, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and of course his home state of Kansas. Pompeo has famously been eyeing higher office himself—a plan that briefly looked scuttled when Pompeo was implicated in impeachable crimes, but one Pompeo appears to be inching back to with hopes that voters no longer remember or resent him for that now that the Trump administration has delivered at least a half-dozen other scandals and death-dealing clusterfucks for them to chew on instead.

The important thing to remember here is that Pompeo is crooked. He is crooked in the William Barr way, and fairly precisely: He has been caught directly assisting in Trump's impeached-for acts; he has been caught in a campaign to cover up those acts and his involvement for Trump's benefit and his own; he has done each of these things in service of elevating Republican power regardless of legality or institutional norms; and he makes no particular effort to hide the use of his office as explicitly partisan, to be used for shoring up allies and punishing enemies.

While Barr pressures his underlings into producing documents meant to portray Trump's detractors and investigators as the "true" criminals of Russian election hacking while undermining further investigations into Trump and all allies, Pompeo weaves through the country on a heavy campaign schedule to tell conservative audiences that they should "go to the polling place and express your preference" for his hard-right claims and declarations, as AP quoted him telling his Texas audience.

Without dwelling on it: Again, Mike Pompeo using his government perch to address the Republican National Convention—from Israel, no less—was such a grotesque insult to supposed diplomatic nonpartisanship that it would have likely ended with Pompeo's removal from his post during any of the last half-century's worth of presidencies. Republican lawmakers, however, are embracing Pompeo's acts as they are Trump's, and Barr's. There is no Republican caucus demanding Trump adhere to the rule of law, or the Hatch Act, or basic expected decencies.

The whole point of immunizing Trump during impeachment was to enable further corruption. It was the expected outcome. It clearly worked, as Trump's rapid gutting of oversight offices and inspectors showed. We are now at a point where Trump and Barr are openly crafting plans to eliminate votes if the November elections do not go his way, and continue eliminating votes for as long as it takes until the Republican Party can claim a crooked victory.

The reasons are not just to retain power, though; Trump's team and Trump's allies need a victory for more personal reasons. There has been a mountain of criminal acts, cover-ups, ethical violations, and rank corruption from Barr, from Pompeo, from Trump himself, and other Trump cabinet members past and present. The moment they lose power, there is a danger that the remaining shards of true, neutral law enforcement will come for them—and those ex-officials will no longer have means to block those investigations.

Every investigation currently being blocked and corrupted can only be blocked or corrupted so long as the corrupters remain in power. Republicans like Pompeo, still identified as having played a role in international extortion whether his Republican Senate allies are supportive or are not, has no time to worry about laws or norms as he scurries around the country to protect himself from the consequences of his own corruption.

It’s propaganda, not hypocrisy: Republicans use lying as primary governing technique

There is no point in accusing Republican senators of hypocrisy. Absolutely none. Only hours after the death of Supreme Court icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans—who had previously gnashed their teeth at the audacity of the suggestion that the nation's first nonwhite president had the constitutional power to make nominations to the court at any point during the final year of his term—began declaring that this time around, obviously that new rule no longer applies. And obviously the president of their own party, impeached and transparently corrupt, must be granted a scrambling court even as voters line up to cast early ballots.

Hypocrisy implies there’s a previous ideology being upset; there wasn't one, and isn't one, and no serious politics-watcher ever thought otherwise. The principle being upheld by Sen. Mitch McConnell and clan then and now was more simple: Retain power using all available tools, and deny the opposition power using all available tools. There is no "ideology" inside the modern conservative movement, either before Trump's arrival or afterwards, that can survive its first brush with expediency. Each argument lasts only as long as the soundbites require and will be replaced with a new one immediately, without hesitation, when required.

Expediency as ideology is not a senate-only device. Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia practiced it with aplomb, often resulting in lawyers and courts using his past words against him in new cases—a futile gesture. Of his "originalist," "textualist," or "institutionalist" allies, the same approach is used by All Of Them.

It's not hypocrisy if the principle all along was "whatever best increases power." And it is irrelevant if it is.

The relevant part is that it is accomplished by lying. The practitioners claim some bold new notion of how the world should work, and it is an absolute, baldfaced, bullshit-laden public lie. Those who watch McConnell or Sen. Lindsey Graham in their public appearances can easily identify, at this point, the schtick that makes up their entire persona.

They look the American public in the eye, and they simply lie to them.

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination." pic.twitter.com/quD1K5j9pz

— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) September 19, 2020

It was a lie from the moment he uttered it, and there was not a person in the room who didn’t know it from the outset. The movement is devoted to lying as governing principle. It works because there are countless channels through which those lies can be disseminated, and amplified, and praised. It will continue for as long as it works.

Over and over. About everything, all the time. The Moscow Turtle has never cried a sincere tear in his life, but according to him all Democratic actions are Devastation, all Republican actions are Sorrowfully Required Due To Democratic Existence, and the rest is puppet show. Graham is superb at being outraged in showy defense of the outrageous. Sen. Marco Rubio's usual deployed device is to respond to each act of corruption or depravity with a Bible verse, typically as non sequitur, and wiping his hands of the rest of it. Sen. Susan Collins is forever concerned by gross incompetence or criminality within her movement, and remains equally as concerned the next time around, and will make good on that "concern" exactly zero times as she votes to enable each concerning act one-by-one-by-one.

It's not hypocrisy. They're just liars. Conservatism is a movement of fictions, a series of nonsense falsehoods deployed like a squid ejects ink. Nobody asks the squid whether it stands by the cloud ejaculated in the last crisis. It would be pointless. The squid doesn't remember, and can't tell you.

It is not that the nation is run by a movement of "hypocrites." The nation is run by a collection of liars.

Propagandists.

Those who issue false statements and make false claims relentlessly in order to deceive the public, or to stir their base into new heights of feverishness, or—and this is rather more to the point in this particular year—to justify and endorse criminality in service to the movement. Incompetence, if in service to the movement. A quarter million deaths, if in service to the movement.

The lies are consequential. McConnell and his allies lied their way through the impeachment of a president, simply insisting that the evidence was not evidence and the testimony not testimony. The movement has lied its way through a pandemic, turning even the most rote of pandemic safety precautions—masks, even—into conspiracies and partisan litmus tests.

When Michael Caputo and his aides insisted that children were nearly immune to the virus and could not spread it, it was not ideology. It was a lie meant to keep more of the "economy" open even if the more pertinent metric—deaths—was multiplied.

When the movement claims "antifa"—a group that does not actually exist—is behind police reform protests, it is a lie. It is propaganda intended purely to discredit protestors, and better facilitate state and militia violence against them.

When Sen. Ron Johnson pipelines the work of known Russian operatives into his committee to declare that he has discovered very serious doings, doings that suggest his opponents are secretly corrupt in ways no American law enforcement has ever been able to find, he is fully aware of his own actions. He is not stupid.

When Attorney General William Barr releases a document that grossly undermines a report on Russian election interference that benefited his party, and follows up by launching conspiracy after conspiracy all premised on the notion that it is American law enforcement that is corrupt for going after Republican targets, he is lying to the public for the sake of the party.

The movement of Republicanism is propagandistic in nature. Lies are deployed towards political ends. All involved know they are lies. All involved spread the lies willingly. Fox News exists as propaganda factory. Donald Trump exists as propaganda factory. McConnell exists as propaganda factory. The sitting attorney general, the president's odd private lawyer—the only through line is relentless lying to the public about everything, all the time, for power.

There's no textualist in conservatism. Nonsense about precedents and institutions is barely even given lip service. There are no "deficit hawks," or "small government" idealism. None of those things have survived. The only takeaway from White House press briefings is a single, fundamental point: These are today's lies. If you don't like them, there will be others tomorrow.

There is a word for all of this. Declaring that your leaders are allowed to commit crimes while demanding the arrest of enemies on false charges; the rejection of facts and the explicit declaration that the free press is an enemy of the people for presenting information that conflicts with the state's own preferred interpretations; the altering and realtering of supposed norms so that the opposition is, invariably, declared to be out of control in their requests, so out of control that it is now necessary to alter the rules of government to properly constrain them:

It is authoritarianism. The party is a propaganda movement devoted only to self-preservation. There is not a stitch of prior ideological principle that will survive from 2016 to 2020—or from 2018 on a Monday to 2018 on a Tuesday. The rules are whatever they need to be to suppress the movement's perceived enemies. Not merely for a desperately needed Supreme Court seat, but for the now-existential election and all its myriad details.

House Democrats ponder throwing in the towel on Trump oversight, letting voters bail out the nation

House Democrats are not exactly presenting profiles in courage these days, generally putting the impetus for stopping Donald Trump on voters. Well, gang, we're all exhausted. But you can't just count on voters to bail you out. There's real impetus against Trump right now, yes, but motivating people to vote for something is just as important.

It's important because it sets up the momentum for a Joe Biden/Kamala Harris administration to jump in full throttle in January. It's also important because they're letting Team Trump get away with murder, literally and figuratively. Some investigations into the cozy deals Clown Prince Jared has been making using taxpayers’ dollars to fight the coronavirus would be one place to start. Attorney General William Barr's systematic dismantling of the rule of law is a pretty important one, too. So is enforcing the House's own subpoena power over Trump officials who aren't even legally officials! But House Democrats are projecting an entirely bad attitude.

Daily Beast reporter Sam Brodey says a question posed to Rep. Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, about Trump administration efforts to paper over Russian interference in the election lead to a "disbelieving chuckle. Which then morphed into a full-on fake sob, played up for effect." And then this statement: “Impeachment is the tool the Constitution gives us to deal with serious abuse of power in between elections. […] When you're two months from an election […] the American people are going to have their say very, very soon.” So you don't raise holy hell about Russian interference in an election that's very, very soon because that election is so soon? Bullshit, not to put too fine a point on it.

At the suggestion that the House has reached the limits of its oversight powers, Michigan Democratic Rep. Dale Kildee said that “It feels that way sometimes,” then gave this contradictory explanation: “but I obviously think we still have to pursue every avenue, turn over every rock […] I mean, right now, it's pretty much in the hands of the American people.” Which is it? Turning over the rocks and exposing what we all need to see, or handing it over to voters? The House is the only institution we've got right now that can put Trump's malfeasance on display every single day until the election and prove to voters that 1) he's got to go; and 2) we need a Democratic Senate as well as House to tackle the enormous destruction he's wrought.

An unnamed Democratic aide was less careful about expressing the attitude in the caucus. They told The Daily Beast that Democrats are "finally confident" Trump will be voted out, and thus are mostly trying to "avoid Trump shit." Apart from trying to get further COVID-19 relief passed, doing much else is not on their radar, "even among members of the key committees that have led oversight for the past two years. 'The election is a month out. […] Most members are focused on putting their heads down and getting reelected.'"

The exhaustion is certainly understandable, but the certainty that Trump will be voted out is taking a little too much for granted and maybe, just maybe, the Democratic base needs to see Democrats keeping up the fight. For one thing, exposing Trump's corruption and keeping it in the spotlight could act as a deterrent for Trump to fight the election results, one thing that House Democrats are increasingly alarmed about. Maryland's Jamie Raskin is one of them. “In the age of Donald Trump, if we have learned nothing else it is that we must be prepared for the worst,” said Raskin. “We have to just go out and fight. We need to create a landslide election that cannot be stolen, and then we need to counter all of the propaganda and disinformation, and then we need to put all of our best lawyers in a position to block the efforts to obstruct the election.”

Both of those things are necessary. Preparing for that is necessary. Putting all of Trump's wrongdoing out in front of the public before, during, and after Nov. 3 is a key way of doing it. It's also giving a head start on what has to happen next year: prosecutions of Trump officials who have misused public funds and betrayed the public trust.

There's also the part about how the people's branch of government has to become that again, reassert its coequal power, and start fighting an out-of-control executive branch. It failed to do that with the Bush/Cheney regime and look where we ended up. There is going to have to be a reckoning and there's no time like the present to start preparing for it.

Registered foreign agent Pam Bondi and her large lobbying fees attacks Biden for … corruption?

Former Florida Attorney General and corrupt government official Pam Bondi was one of the speakers on Tuesday night’s fear and terror revisionist history broadcast by the RNC. As with every single person speaking for the Trump administration, the cosmically lazy writing of their personal narrative brings to mind the phrase “the banality of evil.”

Bondi spent her convention time telling viewers that Joe Biden had only enriched his family during his many decades in public office. She said this while the chyrons below her literally promoted the next three speakers for the RNC being Tiffany Trump, Eric Trump, and Melania Trump. The irony of Pam Bondi telling anyone anything about other people being corrupt was not lost on anyone with at least three brain cells to rub together.

More specifically, Pam Bondi’s Fox News’-level expertise on the matter of corruption, according to her, makes her uniquely qualified to point fingers at Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Of course, Pam Bondi’s job for the past year or so has been to act as a lobbyist for foreign business and government interests. She gets paid to bring political power and influence into our government on behalf of people and organizations that are not citizens of our country. That’s what she does. For money. In fact, according to the Foreign Agent Registration form, filled out by the White House, Ms. Bondi has pulled in almost $1.5 million in lobbying fees from these foreign entities over the past year.

Of course, the government interest for whom she works on behalf of, Qatar, was just implicated, along with Russia, by Trump’s own Department of Justice in an enormous corruption scandal involving the 2018 World Cup.

According to the prosecutors, representatives working for Russia and Qatar bribed FIFA executive committee officials to swing votes in the crucial hosting decisions of world football’s governing body.

After coming from her work on behalf of the government of Qatar to help with the sewage plant that is the Trump White House, Bondi was somehow able to leave this past March to restart her work with that government. In an utterly unsurprising turn of events, Donald Trump’s supposed executive order banning former administration officials from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments doesn’t apply to Bondi. Pam is right when she says she’s knows all about corruption.

Alexander Vindman was attacked for telling the truth, the same thing is happening to his brother

When Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified at Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing, he reassured his Soviet-born father that he would be fine. “Dad, I’m sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected professionals,” said Vindman. “It’s proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth." As it turns out, his father was right to worry. Alexander Vindman left the military in July after expertise in Eastern Europe was discarded and his career was crushed in an act of petty revenge by Donald Trump. 

And now it seems that Trump’s revenge wasn’t limited to Alexander Vindman, because his twin brother is the subject of a letter between four House committee chairs and the acting inspector general of the Department of Defense. Yevgeny Vindman is also a Lt. Colonel. He also worked in the Trump White House. And it seems that, during the course of the last two years, he has also voiced concerns—though he did so quietly, through channels, dealing with the attorneys at the National Security Council and Department of Defense (DOD). Even so, the Trump White House appears to have come down on Yevgeny Vindman hard. Hard in the sense of writing a demeaning evaluation designed to destroy his career. 

What’s particularly interesting about the letter is not just how much Trump continues to be driven by revenge. The letter from the House also reveals part of the complaint that Yevgeny Vindman filed earlier with the DOD Office of General Counsel. Because that complaint goes beyond just Trump and anything he said in a phone call. Both Vindman brothers provided information in what were supposed to be protected environments—but there is no real protection from corruption.

Chair of the House Oversight Committee Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, Chair of the Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, and Chair of the Subcommittee on National Security Stephen Lynch all signed onto the letter formally asking the DOD acting inspector general to open an investigation into whether one or both Vindman brothers had been persecuted for disclosing information through protected channels.

In the case of the new information on the complaint filed by Yevgeny Vindman, these were serious violations of rules that he was required to report. In fact, failure to report these violations would have made Vindman subject to punishment. His concerns included passing along what he called “reasonable and in good faith concerns” about the phone call that Donald Trump placed to the president of Ukraine on July 25, 2019. But much of what he sent to the DOD was not directly connected to Trump’s phone call, or even to the broader attempt to suborn false allegations against Joe Biden.

Several complaints concerned Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Robert O’Brien. Specifically, Vindman raised concerns that:

  • O’Brien, along with National Security Counsel (NSC) Chief of Staff Alex Gray, “engaged in demeaning and demoralizing sexist behavior against … female NSC professionals” including comments on their appearance and excluding women from meetings.
  • O’Brien was using government resources for his personal business, traveled for personal business on the government dime, used government staff to perform personal errands, and became “agitated and angry” when informed that he shouldn’t be accepting gifts from private entities related to his role in government.

Yevgeny Vindman’s complaint details violations committed by White House officials that he personally witnessed, as well as events that he was informed about as a legal advisor to the NSC. As a result of what he was seeing, Vindman wrote a note to the DOD saying: “I remain gravely concerned that the climate in the NSC is toxic and that leadership does not have regard for rules and standards. If this situation persists, personnel will depart and national security will be harmed.” 

In short, Yevgeny Vindman appeared to understand the importance of allowing laws and regulations  to govern the behavior of those working for the government. O’Brien and others at the Trump White House did not. 

The result of Vindman providing what was supposed to be protected information following the actual law had a definite result—but not on the people violating the law. Here’s Yevgeny Vindman’s review from just before Trump’s phone call to Ukraine.

Yevgeny is the epitome of an Army officer and lawyer. He is a hardworking, disciplined, tough-minded team player who manifests the Army Values. He is unremittingly honest in delivering legal advice, without concern of repercussions. Yev does the right thing and is approachable and personable. … Yev is a top 1% military attorney and officer and the best LTC with whom I have ever worked. Functioning at the executive level, he advises White House senior staff with skill, tact, and judgment on matters of geostrategic importance. Sought by White House staff regularly, he can do any job in the legal field under unusual and constant pressure and scrutiny. Select now for Senior Service College and promote immediately to Colonel. Absolutely unlimited potential!

Here is the evaluation that Yevgeny Vindman received just eight months later.

During the prior reporting period and early portions of the reporting period, LTC Vindman performed his duties satisfactorily. Over time, LTC Vindman displayed increasingly poor judgment and failed to learn from his mistakes. On multiple occasions,his unprofessional demeanor made NSC staff feel uncomfortable. Despite express guidance from his supervisor, he continued to add himself to meetings with senior NSC staff where he did not add value. LTC Vindman’s substandard performance—his lack of judgment, failure to communicate well with his superiors, and inability to differentiate between legal and policy decisions—caused him to lose the trust of NSC senior leadership. … With additional counseling and experience, LTC Vindman’s performance may improve. He would benefit from additional experience in a slower paced work environment subject to less pressure and scrutiny. In time, he may become a better attorney

It shouldn’t be surprising that everyone who had already ignored all the other rules also ignored the rules about retaliating against information that was relayed in what was supposed to be a protected space, by someone who was trying to explain the importance of being consistent and honest.

The two evaluations actually say the same thing: Vindman is “unremittingly honest in delivering legal advice, without concern of repercussions.” The only thing that changed was the people getting the advice.

House Democrats summon Trump Postmaster General to explain sabotages, may return from recess early

The sudden collapse of the United States Postal Service's ability to do their core job—deliver mail—is now so widespread a problem as to be stoking widespread public outrage. This may finally result in substantive congressional action—sort of. Perhaps.

House Democrats are now asking (but not subpoenaing) Trump Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on August 24th to explain his actions. DeJoy, who remains heavily invested in for-profit competitors to the USPS even as he guts federal mail delivery capabilities, was previously scheduled to appear on September 17; moving his appearance up by several weeks is an indication that Congress no longer thinks waiting until mid-September is defendable. Democrats ask that DeJoy confirm his plan to appear by tomorrow; DeJoy has also been asked to deliver requested documents by Friday, August 21.

The House is putting off the "urgent" hearing until August 24 "to give Committee Members adequate notice to prepare for your testimony" but also "to avoid conflicting with the Republican convention" beginning later that evening." Which is nice, given that DeJoy is a Republican megadonor who no doubt needs to (virtually) mingle at the now-virtual gathering.

While House Democrats' non-subpoena-based request for DeJoy's testimony gives mixed signals as to just how "urgent" Congress believes the intentional pandemic sabotage of the USPS truly is, there are other signs Congress may begin to move more rapidly. CNN reports that House Democrats are "seriously" considering calling the House back into session "as early as" this week to take actions to protect post offices. "Members are getting heavily criticized in their districts during this recess period for not coming back and trying to do something," notes CNN.

It is not clear what remedies may be plausibly available to the House. The Republican-held Senate is likely to continue to back Trump's sabotages of the USPS, moves he has explicitly said are meant to harm mail-in voting efforts, for the same reason the Senate refused to examine impeachment charges against Trump for using federal funds to extort a foreign nation into providing election help: to assist their own re-elections.

But that's becoming a more and more dangerous move to make. The United States Postal Service is one of the government services Americans most interact with, and the sabotage is creating nationwide problems that Americans are now witnessing in large numbers. Urgently needed medication taking weeks to arrive; "overnight" deliveries of live animals being delayed by over a week; checks, bills, and packages that once took mere days to ship now delayed for a month, or longer; it is untenable for both businesses and individuals. And people are getting furious.

Republican estimations that restricting vote-by-mail will prevent more Americans from casting ballots than are spurred in anger to vote against Republican incumbents come hell or high water or pandemic—it is certainly an all-or-nothing play.

Democrats are also requesting Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, currently engaged in an intentional effort to pipeline Russian election disinformation to benefit Trump, to summon DeJoy to testify about USPS sabotage to his own controlling Senate committee. Johnson, however, is a traitor to this nation, and is therefore certain to refuse.

Trump and the corrupt lackeys in his government need to know they will be prosecuted

For purposes of the following, let’s stipulate that Joseph Biden is elected president. Of course, we have a long road ahead to make that happen, but if it doesn’t happen, everything written below will be moot.

Given that scenario, and based on their past conduct, it’s fair to assume that the dominating, prevailing impulse among most if not all of Donald Trump’s appointees—and of Trump himself—will be to loot or otherwise exploit the vast resources controlled by our federal government for their personal ends. The lame-duck presidency will permit Trump’s appointees and their hires in nearly all of our federal agencies approximately 75 days of zero accountability, where their only goal, as they perceive it, will be to extract as much wealth as feasible for themselves, and to do favors for the interests that have placed them in that position to begin with.

Trump has surrounded himself with self-interested sycophants and corrupt grifters who have wielded enormous power within our government structure. The entire tenure of Betsy DeVos, Andrew Wheeler, Ryan Zinke, and Wilbur Ross (to name just a few), whom Trump placed in charge of our federal agencies over the past four years, has been dedicated to siphoning as much as possible from the taxpayer’s coffers and redirecting it for their own benefit or the benefit of interests they represent.

There will be no thought whatsoever by these people as to what type of future they are leaving the American people, or what kind of condition the country will be in after their loot-fest is completed. These are not people who entered public service out of any sense of responsibility or altruism; that is simply not the way they think. Trump carefully and deliberately constructed a kakistocracy—a government of the worst, most unscrupulous, most unqualified people—for which destruction of the government agency to which they were appointed was their primary qualification. Most of them could have drawn far greater salaries in the private sector, but they agreed to participate in government insofar as it served their own financial (or in some cases, purely ideological) interests, both during and after their tenures. So assuming Trump loses on Nov. 3, in addition to a spree of looting we can expect massive deletions of data from hard drives, probably outright destruction or theft of government property, shredding of documents, and more as they try to cover up what they’ve done.

In 2018, The New York Times compiled a comprehensive list of the administration’s corruption and conflicts of interest as of then—a list now rendered so incomplete that it seems quaint. 

Compiling the list made us understand why some historians believe Trump’s administration is the most corrupt since at least Warren Harding’s, of 1920s Teapot Dome fame. Trump administration officials and people close to them are brashly using power to amass perks and cash. They are betting that they can get away with it. So far, Congress has let them.

Two years later, the Trump administration has become a systematic web of conflicted interests and blatant theft more prevalent than any administration in history. Its tentacles have now enveloped the Department of Justice in the persona of William Barr, who is now utilized as a willing tool to conduct sham investigations, pressure foreign states to manufacture false evidence to serve Trump’s political interests, and reward Trump’s loyalists such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone with sentence reductions and outright dismissals of their criminal convictions.

Because Trump’s corruption of our federal government is pervasive at this point, and because it has gone almost entirely unpunished and unexamined, the question of accountability on the part of members of the administration should be addressed now, before the final looting begins. Up to this point, any attempt to unveil this morass of corruption was stymied by a complicit Republican Congress for the first two years of Trump’s tenure. Now that the House is in Democratic hands, the favored response of the administration is to stonewall and “run out the clock.” His appointees engaged in the actual corruption—Barr, for example—are similarly insouciant, in effect thumbing their noses at attempts to investigate or punish their behavior.

Like all criminals, they clearly believe they’ll “get away with it.” It’s our duty to make them understand they won’t.

Michelle Goldberg, writing for The New York Times, frames the issue as one of accountability, which is simply vital if this country is to move forward. She observes that although former Vice President Biden has not ruled out criminal prosecution of Trump himself, he has deliberately avoided the subject. Goldberg also acknowledges that it would be highly unwise for Biden himself to be leading the charge.

Biden’s reticence is understandable, because a president who runs the White House as a criminal syndicate creates a conundrum for liberal democracy. In a functioning democracy, losing an election should not create legal liability; there was a reason Trump’s “Lock her up” chant was so shocking.

But you can’t reinforce the rule of law by allowing it to be broken without repercussion. After four years of ever-escalating corruption and abuses of power, the United States cannot simply snap back to being the country it once was if Trump is forced to vacate the White House in January. If Biden is elected, Democrats must force a reckoning over what Trump has done to America.

Senator and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have both expressed the view that criminal prosecutions of Trump officials and Trump himself are likely unavoidable. While Trump officials will enjoy qualified immunity in the performance of their job functions, there are limits to that immunity when the conduct impugns the Constitution, or otherwise consists of acts not officially contemplated or made discretionary by their employment in government. The law itself, therefore, is not an impediment to prosecutions for gross corruption or other blatant acts of criminal behavior on the part of Trump’s appointees and their hires.

The much thornier question is whether pursuing criminal charges against these officials will be perceived as so political that it will create a precedent for whichever party is in charge to conduct investigations and criminal prosecutions, however frivolous, of the opposing political party. As pointed out in this report, prepared by the Center for American Progress (CAP), the issue of “creating a precedent” is actually moot. The fact is, as William Barr has amply demonstrated, that abuse of the nation’s law enforcement power against political opponents is now our current reality.

[T]he concern that law enforcement could be used to target political opponents is not a future hypothetical—it’s the current reality. The problem is how to respond to the way the Trump administration has used law enforcement to protect its friends and target its enemies. The precedent has been set; what is still to be determined is the nature of the response.

Any investigations should be driven by career officials following the facts where they lead. The only way to address the politicization of law enforcement is by eliminating it, which means that people in the Trump administration, or those with connections to the administration, do not receive special treatment.

Importantly, the authors of the CAP report point out that failure to hold these criminals accountable will set a far worse precedent: “If a free pass is provided to those who broke the law and subverted democracy, it will embolden them and any illiberal politicians or administrations in the future to show even greater disregard for the rule of law.” Further, a failure to insist on accountability will inhibit people who do have integrity—career, non-political employees—to stand up against corruption in the future.

The CAP report also addresses the  objection that such prosecutions will be “divisive.” Essentially the rejoinder is that the entire administration has been divisive—it is in fact completely predicated on dividing Americans. But all Americans (including even Republicans, presumably) are—or should be—united in their fealty to the rule of law.

But one of those shared ideals is the primacy of the rule of law: that people in the United States should be treated equally, and that there should not be one justice system for the politically well-connected and one for everyone else. Having a rule of law means that it applies at all times and in all places—not only when an administration chooses to enforce it. The law applies right now to the Trump administration; that the administration refuses to acknowledge that fact is all the more reason that a future administration must reassert it. That means holding people accountable for their wrongdoing.

The report also emphasizes that the investigations should be conducted without any White House involvement by career DOJ officials selected for their integrity and experience rather than their ideological and political leanings.

Goldberg quotes Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island to make the point that a Truth Commission of sorts was warranted after the Bush administration took our country to war in Iraq based on lies and phony, manufactured evidence, resulting in a geopolitical disaster from which that region has failed to recover, not to mention the massive loss of life.

Whitehouse was one of the Democrats who, in 2009, called for some sort of Truth Commission to examine the legacy of the last Republican to wreck the country. George W. Bush’s presidency left America “deeply in debt, bleeding jobs overseas, our financial institutions rotten and weakened, an economy in free fall,” Whitehouse said then. His administration took the country to war based on lies and authorized torture. There was a “systematic effort to twist policy to suit political ends; to substitute ideology for science, fact, and law; and to misuse instruments of power.”

But no Truth Commission was ever created. There was no accountability for Iraq, or for Guantanamo, or waterboarding, or “renditions,” just as there was no accountability for the Wall Street banks and financial behemoths that caused the financial crisis of 2007-2008. As a result, as former Obama senior adviser Ben Rhodes, quoted by Goldberg, states:

The “lack of accountability that people felt around the financial crisis and around torture didn’t go away,” said Rhodes. “It metastasized.” A generation of Republicans learned that there was no price for flouting the rules.

The point is that there is a direct line between the failure to hold Bush and Cheney accountable and the widespread, systematic corruption of the Trump administration. People like Stephen Miller, like Bill Barr, honestly believe they’re going to skate away and live happily ever after—perhaps, like Sean Spicer, even being invited to go Dancing with the Stars. They feel they are untouchable, and that’s why they continue with their corruption and illegality. After all, no one has ever been held to account; why would they be the first? 

With regard to Trump himself, in his mind, assuming he can somehow escape the prosecutions pending in the Southern District of New York, he clearly believes he has a future that doesn’t involve a jail cell for the rest of his life, possibly in some country without an extradition treaty with the U.S. The Trump crime family is now far more than Trump himself—it consists of his branding and the coercive power he has exerted by virtue of his office to benefit himself, clearly with a view towards pursuing additional ventures after he leaves office. If we allow that to happen, we’ll simply be setting ourselves up for another Trump.

The list of Trump’s crimes, grifting, and self-dealing, is of course inexhaustible. But Goldberg has a few suggestions on how to deal with this criminal. For starters:

The administration’s failure to contain the coronavirus — exacerbated, according to reporting in Vanity Fair, by Trump’s hostile indifference to hard-hit blue states — deserves something akin to a 9/11 commission. So does the wholesale corruption of American diplomacy, only a small part of which was addressed by impeachment. Just last month, The New York Times reported that Trump instructed America’s ambassador to Britain to press the British government to hold the British Open golf tournament at Trump Turnberry, the president’s money-losing golf resort in Scotland. But we have little visibility into how fully American foreign policy has been perverted to serve Trump’s personal interests.

It’s also certainly worth considering the prosecutions of Miller, ICE, and Border Patrol officials, if applicable, as proposed by Sen. Warren during the Democratic primary. As reported in Pacific Standard last year:

Warren states correctly that, as president, she could ask the Department of Justice to investigate and consider bringing charges against individuals from the Trump administration who violated the laws by detaining and criminally abusing immigrants," says Margaret Russell, a constitutional law professor at Santa Clara University. "This is within a president's authority even if the past administration defended its actions as permissible under the immigration laws."

As Goldberg points out, holding these people accountable does not simply mean “airing” or “exposing” their criminality. There is no benefit to that other than to encourage others by letting them know what they can get away with. What she is calling for are explicit legal sanctions—prison time for Trump’s criminal cabal. Of course, the right will call it a political vendetta. Fox News and every right-wing media outlet will call their minions into the street to protest, screaming at the top of their lungs. So? Just another reason to restore the Fairness Doctrine. It certainly couldn’t be much worse than what we’re experiencing right now.

Of course, the Biden administration—like any Democratic Administration coming out of this nightmare—will want to look forward, particularly since it will be attempting to rebuild what is likely to be the most damaged economy in American history. They will consider it a secondary matter to prosecute these people, secondary to saving the country itself from the disaster that Trump is leaving them to clean up. But in this circumstance, they may have no choice. As pointed out by Andrew Feinberg, writing for the Independent, Trump is a special case:

[G]ood government advocates, legal experts, and some prominent Democrats say the broad range of alleged violations of law by Trump administration officials and allies, ranging from misuse of government resources for personal gain; to the abuse and mistreatment of persons — including minors — in immigration detention; to obstruction of justice and making false statements to Congress; means a Biden administration effort to simply “turn the page” on the Trump years would be a dangerous concession to lawlessness.

It is a near certainty that Trump will contest any election result that goes against him, but assuming that our governmental institutions manage to thwart any attempts by Trump to evade that outcome, the timeframe between Nov. 3 and Jan. 20 will become the last opportunity for Trump’s cadre of appointees to indulge in a final spate of looting the public coffers.

The only way they are going to be deterred is by knowing that they will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.

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Asked whether Trump wants election delayed, will accept foreign help, Trump team refuses to say

It was another typical day on the Sunday shows, the place where America's most powerful people congregate to, for the most part, brazenly lie to us. Today's version came with one thing that the Trump team Very Much wants to talk about—banning social media app TikTok—and several they very much did not.

The two things they didn't want to talk about: Whether Donald Trump has asked his staff about delaying the November elections, and whether Trump's White House and/or campaign will accept foreign "assistance" in defeating former Vice President Joe Biden.

WATCH: Trump adviser Jason Miller is asked three (3) times whether the Trump administration or campaign would accept foreign assistance in this election. Three (3) times, he refuses to say no. pic.twitter.com/Kcgm021pHP

— DNC War Room (@DNCWarRoom) August 2, 2020

That Trump campaign creature and deadbeat dad Jason Miller was so aggressively unwilling to answer straight-up whether the Trump team would be willing to accept foreign election assistance to beat Biden, on Fox News Sunday, is probably not surprising. Miller instead called it a "silly question," which to his credit is true: Trump himself faced impeachment for extorting a foreign government to provide such help, using the tools of his office, so pretending there is some remaining doubt about whether Trump and his team of people who did such a thing would do such a thing is indeed "silly."

This one is on Fox host Chris Wallace. If you book the oozing gastropod Miller on your show, you know what you're going to get: Lying. Gaslighting. Dear Leader-isms a-plenty. And you would still talk to him ... why? The point of bringing on a spokesperson who you can be absolutely sure will lie about anything and everything pertinent is what, exactly?

Newest Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, plucked from his House seat after a campaign of vigorously defending Trump from both the thing Trump was impeached over and every last thing he wasn't, had his own moment of not-gonna-answer-that when asked on Face the Nation whether Trump, after suggesting in a tweet that the presidential election be delayed, asked "you or anybody else in the administration to look into" delaying it.

Meadows couldn't answer that one. Or rather, wouldn't answer that one, instead swerving to attacks on pandemic vote-by-mail efforts with the usual aplomb of a treasonous dirtbag man with no particular attachment to seeing those elections happen. He can't answer whether Trump administration members were specifically asked, by Trump, if there was a way to delay the elections? Really now?

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows doesn't answer John Dickerson's question about "did the president ask you or anybody else in the administration to look into the idea of delaying the election day?" pic.twitter.com/dclXhW8ZcE

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 2, 2020

If you can't give an emphatic no to that one, we can all read between the lines. All right then, so it's come up.

None of this bodes very well for the elections, of course. Meadows was among the House Republicans most willing to be crooked on Trump's behalf back in Congress; presumed foreign agent Rep. Devin Nunes has been getting anti-Biden packets from pro-Russian Ukrainians while ex-House Republican Mike Pompeo, of the same vintage, uses his State Department perch to distribute anti-Biden materials to House Republicans while hiding it from Democrats.

There's a coordinated Republican strategy to manufacture foreign dirt, using pro-Russian foreign forces, to attack Biden with conspiracy theories in the final months of the election so that the best American pal foreign autocrats ever had can cling to power for another four years. From Pompeo to Barr, from Nunes to Meadows to Giuliani to Miller, they're sifting through disinformation to see what they can plausibly use before the press, the American people, intelligence services and federal investigators catch wind of it.

It'll probably be very stupid things, given what Giuliani has presented so far, but that doesn't mean they won't go all-in on the effort. If Trump and his team cannot be bothered to form even a mediocre plan for combatting the pandemic that has now killed 150,000 Americans and which may kill 250,000 before November—and they clearly can’t—then arguing that whoever Trump’s running against would be even worse is the only remaining play.