Even for a presidency that almost constantly yields a machine-gun spray of headlines (look at this visual breakdown of news alerts in just the last month–an average of 44 every day), the past week and a half have been overwhelming.
In the words of Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain. No, there is too much–let me sum up.”
Last week Donald fired FBI director James Comey, the man leading the criminal investigation into whether his administration colluded with Russia to manipulate the last election that resulted in his presidency, offering an array of shifting explanations of why, which finally yielded from Donald’s own mouth the fact that it was to stifle that investigation. The very next day Donald met with Russian officials in a private confab from which he excluded American media but invited Russian journalists. And in which he revealed top-secret classified info from our ally Israel (subsequently endangering the life of an intelligence source). (Here’s a time line of all that.)
Since then (grab a cup of coffee–this will take a minute), we’ve learned that Donald tried to demand Comey’s loyalty upon taking office, despite the FBI being intended to function as a nonpartisan, independent entity, pressured him to end the investigation into Michael Flynn and instead pursue leak sources, and suggested the FBI jail journalists. When it was revealed that Comey kept detailed (and legally admissible, FYO) memos of his meetings and conversations with Donald, the president of the United States threatened the former director of the FBI on Twitter, suggesting that Donald made a practice of recording conversations (sound familiar?).
More fun facts:
Turns out Donald knew weeks before the inauguration that Michael Flynn was under federal investigation for alleged inappropriate paid lobbying for Turkey during the investigation…and they hired him anyway. Donald has since expressed hopes that Flynn–who may be facing charges of federal crimes possibly including treason–might rejoin the White House in some capacity–despite revelations that while still national security adviser, Flynn halted an anti-ISIS military operation months in the making, a decision that aligned with the interests of Turkey–a country that we have now learned had paid him $500K that he failed to disclose to represent their interests in the U.S.
During his campaign, Donald’s team had at least 18 previously undisclosed contacts with Russians–6 of them between Michael Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
But wait, there’s more! The president of the United States has since called the former director of the FBI “crazy, a real nut job” and said that firing him relieved great pressure that Donald was under (in Donald’s defense, I’m sure it IS stressful when the nation’s intelligence watchdog is investigating your campaign for criminal collusion with our country’s greatest adversary).
And finally, in perhaps the most chilling and astonishing development, the Washington Post broke a story that a senior White House official–a close adviser to Donald–has been identified as a person of interest in the investigation of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign (his identity has not yet been released).
If your head is spinning, you’re not alone. Here’s a link to a succinct (inasmuch as possible) breakdown of recent developments in the (Pulitzer Prize-winning) New York Times.
Past tweets can be so embarrassing…
Now on to the raft of good news amid all this morass…
How Our Voices Made a Difference This Week:
- The Department of Justice has finally named a special prosecutor to oversee the FBI investigation into the possible collusion between Donald/Donald’s campaign and Russia. Former FBI director Robert Mueller is widely seen as nonpartisan and is respected on both sides of the aisle (his term as FBI head was even extended) as honest, trustworthy, and dogged.
- If you worry that the relentless stream of toxicity pouring out of the White House will erode the will of the American people to fight back, fear not: Apparently the Republican administration and White House staff are equally exhausted and perhaps even more demoralized. From a highly sourced NYTimes article about the growing disillusionment with Donald inside the White House: “A dozen of Mr. Trump’s aides and associates…spoke candidly, in a way they were unwilling to do just weeks ago, about the damage that the administration’s standing has suffered in recent weeks and the fatigue that was setting in after months of having to defend the president’s missteps, Twitter posts and unpredictable actions.”
- Republicans’ blind support of Donald is beginning to crumble. Republican Senators John McCain and Bob Corker have sharply criticized the president and called for investigation. Even Mitch McConnell has expressed exasperation with all the “drama” coming from the White House and said Comey needs to testify before the Senate publicly. Other MoCs continue to fall away from their willfully blind support in an effort to bail off the Titanic of this administration.
- In a sudden flurry of action, the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees have asked the White House for all existing records of interactions between Comey and Trump, including transcripts of any tapes, after Donald threatened that some might exist. The Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees have asked for all Comey’s notes relating to the Russia investigation, and asked Comey to testify; as has the House committee that has called a hearing (finally) to find out whether Donald interfered in the FBI investigation. James Comey has agreed to testify in an open (read: public) hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
- Rep Eric Swalwell has introduced a bill on the House floor called the Protecting our Democracy Act, which would establish an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate Russian interference. So far it has 199 cosponsors (but only two are Republicans).
- When Donald’s administration put out a public call for people to state which EPA regulations they’d like to roll back, more than 55,000 people spoke out–overwhelmingly in support of the EPA and its current regulations, many even asking for more stringent measures to protect the environment.
There are many pressing issues I’ll talk more about next week, including alarming rollbacks of the financial regulations put in place to protect us after Wall Street’s meltdown of our economy; attacks on women’s reproductive rights that are resulting in setbacks like the closure of 10 more Planned Parenthood locations (leaving some states without a single one); and health care, as the Congressional Budget Office prepares to release its analysis of the hasty and ill-considered House health care bill passed a few weeks ago. But for now I’m focusing on one key issue–guess what? 🙂
Believe it or not, during the Watergate revelations and hearings, a good portion of the population defended Nixon then as well, and attacked the media. See an excellent explanation and breakdown here. But as the article concludes: “Nixon’s approval rating by the time he left office was at 24 percent, down from 67 percent at the time of his second inauguration. After July 1973 — when Nixon refused to turn over to the Senate investigation tape-recorded conversations from the Oval Office — his approval rating was never again above 38 percent. That’s where President Trump is today.” [Emphasis mine.]
Hang in there, folks–we need to keep the pressure on, even as the GOP and right-wing media try to undermine our efforts as a witch-hunt or paranoia. We know it isn’t. They know it too–which is why they are panicking.
Call (or fax or text) your MoCs. Call Mitch McConnell (202-224-2541). Call the Senate Intelligence Office (202-224-1700). If your Congressperson is on the Senate Intelligence Committeee especially, call the daylights out of him/her (numbers below). Ask them all to demand an independent bipartisan investigation committee. We must have investigators who do not answer to the White House for the truth to come out.
Here are some specific reasons you can cite::
The already understaffed, underactive Senate investigation is contracting now that Robert Mueller has been named special prosecutor. His appointment hampers Congressional efforts and douses public access to hearings and findings.
The House investigation has long been compromised, thanks to Devin Nunes’s partisan sharing of info with the White House under investigation, and now chairman Jason Chaffetz, at best an erstwhile and lackluster spearhead of the investigations, will retire next month, further confounding any efforts at a cohesive, intelligible investigation.
Mueller reports to Rosenstein–who reports to Donald–and who himself now has a possible conflict given his role in writing the memo used to justify the firing of former FBI director Comey in the Russia investigation.
Possible conflicts of interest may arise: for the past three years, Mueller has been a partner in the Washington office of WilmerHale, whose attorneys represent former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
You can also ask your representative to sponsor and support Eric Swalwell’s Protecting our Democracy Act, which would establish an independent commission to investigate Russian interference.
If you prefer, I have pasted a template for a letter I sent to my 3 congressmen, all of whom opposed or stayed silent at calls for a special prosecutor. Feel free to amend if yours were among those calling for this all along (or you are not quite as snarky as I chose to be).
Here’s an excellent New York Times article–with handy graphics–showing the interconnected links of the several Russia investigations being conducted by various arms of the government. It’s a clear representation of how twisted and potentially compromised the efforts to dig out and publicize the truth may be.
Here’s the roster of the Intel Committee–call your MoC if (s)he is on this list!
- Richard Burr (R-North Carolina): (202) 224–3154
- James Risch (R-Idaho): (202) 224–2752
- Marco Rubio (R-Florida): (202) 224–3041
- Susan Collins (R-Maine): (202) 224–2523
- Roy Blunt (R-Missouri): (202) 224–5721
- James Lankford (R-Oklahoma): (202) 224–5754
- Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas): (202) 224–2353
- John Cornyn (R-Texas): (202) 224–2934
- Mark Warner (D-Virginia): (202) 224–2023
- Dianne Feinstein (D-California): (202) 224–3841
- Ron Wyden (D-Oregon): (202) 224–5244
- Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico): (202) 224–5521
- Angus King (I-Maine): (202) 224–5344
- Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia): (202) 224–3954
- Kamala Harris (D-California): (202) 224–3553
I end each of my days with a silent prayer for my country. It has been a ritual for some time, but as of late I feel an anxiety gripping my heart and a sadness permeating my soul that seems unlike anything I have felt before.
I hope against hope as I slip off to sleep that our rapid descent into governmental chaos has hit a nadir – only to awaken to a new set of incoherent tweets or explosive headlines from top-notch reporters. And with that, we are falling once again. As I …fall, we fall, even further, I pray again that our Constitutional government, the great gift of our Founding Fathers, will provide a safety net to catch us before everything we hold dear is no more. I believe that is the case, but the slowly rising level of uncertainty is not to be ignored.
I see recklessness where we need leadership… and I am deeply saddened.
I see politicians putting power and politics over principle… and I am incredulous.
I see lies treated as truths… and I am disgusted.
I see justice denied and likely obstructed…. and I am fearful.
I see norms flaunted… and I am angry.
I see global challenges going unaddressed… and I am worried.
I see the press under attack… and I am furious.
I see this, and more, so much more… and I am exhausted.
I find myself returning in my mind to dark days from the past, trying to remember how we as a nation felt, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, when Kennedy was shot, when Watergate took down a President, when terrorists rained terror from the skies. We somehow overcame. And I do believe that we shall overcome, someday. Perhaps, hopefully, someday soon.
But in the end, prayer will not be enough. Action, sustained action, will be required.
We are the staunch patriots who must take that action–sustain it. If we do, the truth will come out and we will win.
Independent commission letter for Russia investigation
Good afternoon, [Senator/Rep. X].
I am pleased to finally see the appointment—after overwhelming public outcry for it—of a special prosecutor in the ongoing criminal investigation into whether the current administration colluded with Russia in our last election.
While you did not display the courage or patriotism to demand this yourself, you get a second chance to put our country first and show that you care more about it than about politics, partisanship, or your personal career, by now asking for an independent commission to carry on an investigation as well, as we had for Watergate, 9/11, and other major issues of national security.
Having the reputable and principled Robert Mueller heading the investigation in an excellent first step—but it isn’t enough. The already understaffed, underactive Senate investigation is contracting now that Robert Mueller has been named special prosecutor. His appointment hampers Congressional efforts and also—importantly—diminishes necessary transparency by dousing public access to hearings and findings. The House investigation has long been compromised, thanks to Devin Nunes’s partisan sharing of info with the White House under investigation, and now chairman Jason Chaffetz, at best an erstwhile and lackluster spearhead of the investigations, will retire next month, further confounding any efforts at a cohesive, intelligible investigation.
Most important, Mueller reports to Rosenstein–who reports to Donald Trump–and who himself now has a possible conflict given his role in writing the memo used to justify the firing of former FBI director Comey in the Russia investigation.
For those reasons—as well as the fact that the latest Quinnipac poll showed that 66 percent of Americans want an independent commission—we need one appointed. I hope now you will act in the best interests of your country and democracy by insisting on an independent investigation committee. You can go down in history as the man who colluded with the obstruction of justice at the highest levels, or as one of courage who helped restore this nation’s confidence in its government and close the widening gap between its citizens.
[include your full name and zip to be tallied]