This post might not be popular. It’s also not concise. Oh well. Blogs in 2020 aren’t exactly a raging popularity contest, though, so I don’t think I’ll upset too many people. The very few people who drop by regularly know they can safely offer a counter-argument in the comments or in person. I’m right sometimes, definitely not all the time.
Trump is corrupt, dishonest, and greedy. The response I hear to that assertion from his supporters (interviews, FOX News, etc.) is almost always a redirection. They all are. When it comes to DC, I’m sympathetic to that argument. It’s still a bad argument. We were cautioned against that line of reasoning as children.
I can’t take anyone seriously who argues that Trump was trying to fight corruption. Hunter Biden’s actions were a classic example of corruption and greed, but Trump and his children are fellow travelers, that’s speaking their language. Trump was attempting to leverage the military, diplomatic, and economic might of the United States to get a foreign leader to do something that would benefit Trump, not America.
We all know that or should. Impeachment shouldn’t be necessary. There should be an overwhelming, unified citizen reaction – that shit doesn’t fly, vote him out.
There are a lot of reasons we don’t solicit foreign investigations or reports on U.S. issues. So many that it’s hard to know where to begin. Even though I think Trump was more interested in the announcement or appearance of an investigation, I’ll offer up some of those reasons.
1) Our justice system is incredible and incredibly flawed. We have our hands full evaluating cases here, within a judicial framework that people know, and that in theory applies across the board (we also know that theory is different than practice, a topic for comments or a separate post).
2) We probably won’t know the ins and outs of a foreign judicial system or investigation. We get what we’re told. Our insights into the investigation will be zero.
3) What is the cost/benefit analysis of the foreign partner? We talk daily about U.S. politicians making political decisions or playing politics. We have some ability to spot that. Funny thing about foreigners – they’re a lot like us. They have their political calculations to make. Pretending otherwise is foolish.
4) I’m not calling foreigners liars. I should have led with that. But we have such a limited ability to navigate a foreign entity’s investigations that in general we have to make the decision to not rely on their information. That’s probably just a repeat of #2.
The sharpshooters out there are licking their lips. What about Hillary Clinton, Steele, and GPS Fusion? Didn’t Clinton solicit outside interference? What about the cooperation with foreign intelligence services and law enforcement agencies? Fair questions.
The Clinton team’s decision to work with Steele and Fusion GPS was a bad idea, another in a long line of indicators showing Clinton as a bad candidate. Amazingly intelligent, terrible judgment. But I think there is a difference.
I saw that the internet responded harshly to the Democrats’ assertion that there was a difference – the Clinton team purchased the information. Don’t quote me. I hope that’s not what they said, because that’s dumb. So what’s the difference, then? In both cases, one of the preferred outcomes is the acquisition of information that reflects negatively on a rival’s character or actions.
For starters, scale, sourcing, optics, and the misuse of taxpayer-funded resources.
The Clinton team sought opposition research. I don’t know how much Steele knew about who was footing the bill. I also don’t know how objectively Steele approached the research. From what little I’ve read, it sounds like there was a lot of rumor, gossip, and questionable sourcing. Sketchy. Worse, I think the Clinton team used that trick of paying for the investigation and then shadily (word?) mentioning that they heard there was an investigation. I’m not sure what the Clinton team thought they’d get that would be useful to them, something they could use transparently and that could be verified. Again, bad idea.
How did Steele view the transaction? I imagine the primary driver was financial. X work for Y dollars. Did he see any benefit for doing work for a candidate favored to win the election? It’s always good to have powerful connections, but I’m missing the implied future rewards or penalties.
Trump withheld U.S. taxpayer funded resources, resources approved for use (wisely or unwisely) by Congress, for personal gain. He claims that there wasn’t any pressure. Ukraine echoed his assertion. But that’s ridiculous. The United States is one of a few world superpowers. The U.S. president’s ability to influence future rewards and penalties is significant. That would be implicit in any discussion with Trump.
Sourcing. Having a large European country announce an investigation into activities related to the Bidens can’t really be compared to a former British spook talking to contacts we know little about. The audience, reach, and exposure are on different levels.
The logic behind comparing the two acts doesn’t hold up. We are allowed to question the actions of our president without having to weigh those actions in relation to the actions of others. If Obama or Clinton had done the same thing as president, it would have been equally unacceptable.
What about the interactions with foreign intelligence services? There is absolutely the potential for abuse. I believe we need those relationships, though. We need the ability to discreetly and quickly convey information to foreign governments. Threat reporting is the classic example. We have rules, laws, and oversight that are meant to prevent those abuses. They didn’t work in this fiasco. They should have, but they didn’t. I haven’t got any easy solutions for that. I found the IG Horowitz’s report reassuring in that it demonstrated the ability to uncover those abuses. Granted, that won’t be much consolation to Carter Page, and it makes you wonder how many things were done wrong in cases drawing less scrutiny.
Do I think Trump should be removed from office? No, at least not through impeachment. His corruption and dishonesty have been on display for decades. It doesn’t bother his supporters. I think our last best hope for righting this ship is to vote him out of office.
That’s a disjointed piece. I’ve looked at it a few times and don’t think I can improve it. I should have scrapped it 1/2 way through. I initially started writing something else related to a Matt Taibbi twitter thread I looked at that discussed our strange criteria for impeachment. It focused heavily on Bush, who deceptively launched a disastrous war in Iraq based on possible actions and capabilities and bad intelligence (slam dunk). We’ve been there 17 years. How many deaths and permanent injuries? I’d forgotten that there were calls for Bush’s impeachment. Now that would have sent a signal.
(I’m at my folks’ place in Phoenix. I think the neighborhood has a cat in heat. Lots of weird cat in heat sounds throughout the day and night. It’s night/morning now. That cat is on the prowl. Dangerous zip code, cat in heat. I went to get my phone out of my car last night late. There was a lone, beautiful coyote across the street looking at me. Shit where is my camera. It turned to run but hesitated and saw that I wasn’t moving. We both hung out for a minute. In my head I was thinking, cool, I’m about to be Grizzly Adams, coyote sidekick on the drive back to Seattle. Coyote might have been wondering if it called for its pack if they could get a few meals out of me. I’ve never seen a coyote that big. I immediately looked up coyote vs. wolf. Be careful, cat in heat.)
“The FBI Scandal”, Eli Lake, Commentary Magazine.
At first, Fusion was retained by the center-right Washington Free Beacon to find negative information on Trump and his campaign and to brief reporters. (Full disclosure: I received one of those briefings at the time). After Trump won the nomination, Fusion took its anti-Trump brief to a new client, Marc Elias, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm, who hired Fusion on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Steele was not hired by Fusion until the project was being financed by the Clinton campaign.
“Did the media botch the Russia story? A conversation with Matt Taibbi.” Sean Illing, Vox.