Drama or Civility: The Mueller Hearings

From a Google image Search – Cassidy in The New Yorker

Mueller in the House

While the drama  we experienced in the Mueller Hearing on this Wednesday, July 24, 2019 appeals to our nature the civil approach of the Democrats was far more professional, Congressional, cognizant of the nature and the legal stance of Robert Mueller as a prosecutor and far more pertinent to the actual content of the Mueller report. 

Republican questioners, sticking to their elaborate conspiracy theories that implicate Hillary Clinton and clear Trump in the Russia matters, knew that their points had nothing to do with the Mueller report and were in fact intended to destroy the credibility of the entire Mueller investigation. 

But if we ignore the things we learned from the Mueller investigations then we will pay a price in terms of allowing the infiltration into our business by Russia and any other foreign nation that decides it can benefit from being able to interfere in our politics and stay under our radar. And we will turn our government into a seat for liars and manipulators and those who grasp power for whatever reasons they enjoy being in control, and that will end our republic.

Drama

Watching the Mueller Hearings today was an exercise in blood pressure control. Republicans are able to capture the attention of the Americans who are listening to these hearings in real time because they have some theories about how the President was supposedly railroaded and how the Republicans were shafted by a team assembled to conduct the investigation which was highly partisan. Mueller is a well-respected prosecutor who worked for Ronald Reagan and two Bushes. He reminded us all that good prosecutors never ask potential hires about their political affiliation and said that he has never asked for that information. He chooses mostly from people available in the Department of Justice who may have arrived during a number of administrations. Republicans continue to insist in that they were victimized.

In addition Republicans have a theory that Hillary Clinton got the Russians involved in the 2016 election and that she paid Fusion GPS to have Christopher Steele produce the Steele Dossier which contained “dirt” on Donald Trump. They kept pushing this unverified and thinly veiled piece of theory although they knew it was currently under investigation by the Department of Justice and that Mueller could not give testimony about it. They were talking through this hearing to their Fox “News” audience. Mueller’s answers suggest that he never even considered the Steele Dossier part of his investigation.

The Republicans said also that, since Trump denies any interactions on his part with the Russians, this investigation should never have been conducted. They ignored evidence that this President has so far lied over 3,000 times, both great big fat lies and tiny lies intended to confuse the records in the media over what is fact and what is fiction. Michael Cohen, the President’s lawyer, although admittedly tarnished by his own lies, tells us that Trump never does his own dirty work. He likes to have deniability. He tries not to ever be implicated in the things he orders his employees to do. That is why at least five of Trump’s campaign staff members are either in prison or under indictment.

Then there is the whole issue of why Mr. Joseph Mifsud was never indicted and the incredulity Republicans express, however disingenuously, that Mueller was never able to get him to testify although he was in and out of America a number of times during the pertinent time period. This whole issue of Mifsud and Papadopoulos and who Mifsud actually represented is another Republican conspiracy theory. 

In fact, especially in the afternoon session, Republicans claim there are many things Mueller should have investigated that he didn’t that would have been exculpatory to Trump. Well since these things were not investigated it is strictly a Republican theory that these things will fall out in Trump’s favor, but they are currently under investigation in the DOJ at Republican insistence. Given that Democrats consider William Barr, the Attorney General, a Trump toady it seems unlikely Dems will feel they can trust the outcome of the most recent investigations into Republican talking points.

Although Mueller was never able to tie Trump to the Russian intervention in the election, it is certainly interesting to note that his campaign had about 140 interactions with Russians which certainly seems excessive. 

Another Republican belittles Mueller’s accomplishments by saying that he cites the media over 200 times in his evidence so it appears that this report could have simply been compiled from what was in the media. However, we have a President who conducts his Presidency in the media, and who refused to testify before the Mueller investigation. Even when the President tries to keep secrets he is usually unsuccessful; someone leaks private discussions to the media either from the prodding of their conscience or perhaps even as directed by the President. The media used in the Mueller report consists of actual quotes of things Trump said either to the media or on Twitter (social media). Since these are direct quotes, things we all heard and know about, things the President owns as things he has said, they offered the only testimony from Trump that was available at the time. Although there is an Appendix that tells what the President said in his written statement with his lawyer, those answers were made after-the-fact and the President either could not remember or refused to answer many of the key questions put to him. 

Civility

The Democrats, on the other hand, appeared dry as paper, but that was because they stuck to what was in the report instead of constantly trying to criticize what was not in the report that they thought should be in the report as the Republicans did all day. The Democrats understood what Mueller would be willing to say and what he wouldn’t be able to say. The Democrats treated Robert Mueller with the respect he deserved. Clearly, the Dems would have liked Mueller to be even more definitive than he was about whether Trump stepped over the line with Russia and moved into the area of treason, which many of us believe he did. However Mueller insists that he could not make such a judgment based on the evidence, but he also said that the fact that so many of the witnesses lied to the investigators and even the Grand Jury did hurt the investigation. Mueller does say that there is clear evidence of Russian interference in our election and he does not soft pedal the seriousness of this nor the fear that this interference has not ended and probably will be a factor in the 2020 election.

What the Democrats tried to do is go over the most egregious examples of obstruction in Part II of the report and show how each met the three requirements of the Obstruction charge. They looked at the firing of James Comey, which the President admitted to Lester Holt was because of the investigation into Trump and Russia before the American people in a television interview, very publicly. We heard the things that Trump said to Cohen and Manafort and Flynn and Roger Stone which alternatively hinted at future pardons or issued veiled threats that harm might come to their families. These things are in the public record, the videos are out there and can be searched. Trump may think he speaks in code, but his coded statements are crude and easy to decode by even the least educated among us. We cannot help but wonder how it is that the only people unable to get Trump’s thinly veiled points are the Republicans and Americans who get their news from the Fox channel. We have physical evidence of the checks Trump wrote to pay off women he had affairs with who he feared would add to the flames of the “pussy” incident aired during his campaign. This President, for some reason, can convince people to deny the evidence that they can see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears. 

Whether or not one person’s mind was changed relative to the findings of the Mueller report by today’s hearings is going to vary once again by the party you give your allegiance to. This should not be true but it is. I doubt that people who pledge allegiance to Donald Trump will be swayed by such wonky legal evidence or such a respectfully conducted set of questions as the Democrats offered. This will most likely be the end of the Mueller report, but the proceedings did nothing to overturn the historical moments documented in the report. Trump may be reelected and may run out the legal clock and thereby escape indictment or conviction for his crimes, but what our historical documents say about Trump and his Presidency will not be kind or in any way respectful, if our historical record is allowed to say anything honest at all. This President likes to rewrite history to erase the negative things he does. What version of history survives will tell us whether our democracy made it through the Trump years.

Rachel Maddow

I will remind anyone who watches Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that she taught us what we needed to know to understand the Mueller Report before it was ever completed. She did not have spies on the Special Prosecutor’s investigation; she put everything together with journalistic talent and meticulous attention to detail. She always knew the current target of the investigation and with the help of her staff was aware of all the relevant news reports and articles by reputable news writers. She was apprised of all Trump’s many statements and all his tweets and offered us quotes that were also echoed in the press. She read us transcripts of trials, showed us footage of arrests, kept us informed of future court appearances and speculated about the identity of witnesses mentioned only by monikers like Individual 1 or 2. If anyone should get an award for coverage of the Mueller Investigation it should be Rachel Maddow. It is small wonder that Democrats who watched MSNBC knew immediately that Bill Barr (AG) was lying about the conclusions Mueller reached in his report and American’s who watched Fox News were unprepared to accept this reality. 

Pretzel Brain Syndrome

Pretzel Brain Syndrome

Sometimes when I listen to Republicans (especially Conservative Republicans) talk I find myself in the grip of Pretzel Brain Syndrome. Conservatives, for example, love to remind us all, ad infinitum, that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. It’s odd that they would be proud of this because they sometimes sound like a bunch of racists who keep sacred in their hearts the memories of the Old South and who never forgave the Yankees for winning the Civil War. They celebrate Abe but they are not quite sure that ending slavery was a good idea. It trashed a once thriving economy in the Southern states and even though the Southern economy has experienced spotty boom effects since the Great Migration of our factories, this has not benefited all Southern states equally. It’s easy to get the feeling, every time you hear a Congressman with a deeply Southern accent, that buried deep within that guy is a “gentleman” farmer who yearns for a Plantation culture to rise again. I know this is a prejudice, but I do not think it is always totally undeserved.

These Abe Lincoln Republicans (who got their info from Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly who have written books about this stuff) (in other words their sources are Talk Radio and Fox News) then mention that there were virulent racists who were members of the Democratic Party during the days when we finally were forced to deal with our continuing discrimination against Americans of African Descent by Martin Luther King and many other brave and peaceful demonstrators. We were presented by the evening news coverage, night after night, with the footage of peaceful people of color and their white supporters faced with violent dogs straining at their collars and policemen, with those now iconic and frightening mirror-finish sunglasses, and those fire hoses pushing peaceful people to the ground, sometimes with injuries. (You need to watch Eyes on the Prize.)

And this information is correct. There were racists, vocal nasty racists, who had been Southern Democrats for years, although Thurmond always claimed that his opposition to the Civil Rights Act was actually about his beliefs in States rights (This is still the argument Republicans use to this day.) Reading Strom Thurmond’s obituary from the New York Times is a good place to get an overview of the long career of this man.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/27/us/strom-thurmond-foe-of-integration-dies-at-100.html

“Mr. Thurmond first came to national attention in 1948 as the States’ Rights candidate after Southerners walked out of the Democratic convention to protest the party’s new commitment to civil rights. Mr. Thurmond finished a distant third to President Harry S. Truman that year, but his million votes cracked the once-solid Democratic South and helped set the stage for political realignment.

In 1964, Mr. Thurmond switched parties to back the Republican nominee for President, Senator Barry M. Goldwater….Despite the role of civil rights in his political evolution and his record-breaking filibuster of 24 hours and 18 minutes against the civil rights bill of 1957, Mr. Thurmond always insisted he had never been a racist, but was merely opposed to excessive federal authority.” (Echoes in the Cliven Bundy incident show many still claim such opposition.)

Really? Watch Strom Thurmond in action in this short clip.

So it is true that Strom Thurmond was a Democrat and then he was a Republican. I will say, however, in the interests of honesty, that George Wallace was a Democrat and did not leave the party although he was also registered to the American Independent Party.  In case you don’t remember the man, get a load of George Wallace in this YouTube video.

https://youtu.be/6C-kBVggFrs

My point is that Republicans throw this information out as a simple fact when it is not at all a simple matter and they throw it out as an indictment of the Democratic Party and of liberals and they do it to destroy the credibility of any argument that the left might make that favors human rights by suggesting that the party is hypocritical and to claim a human rights stance for the GOP, even though we can see them opposing human rights every day in our media. And there it is, Pretzel Brain Syndrome. Even though you know they are deliberately telling history wrong, our brains are temporarily confused and some of our brains are happy to accept this simple explanation of party affiliations of racists as the only explanation, I know well-educated people who have read Glenn Beck’s and Bill O’Reilly’s books and who have a eureka moment and ask themselves, why didn’t I ever notice this before?

A More Modern Instance of attempted Pretzel Brain Syndrome

Now my Pretzel Brain Syndrome is being activated again by this whole issue of the Russian interference in the 2016 election and by the way 45 conducts himself in the White House. Donald Trump likes to tie our brains in knots. I don’t know if he does this as a conscious strategy or if it is just a pattern he found useful in his business negotiations and still uses. He does seem to be a sort of one trick pony. He does not have the same understanding of the word transparency as the rest of us do because he thinks that keeping his adversaries in the dark about his plans is the central feature of his that keeps them wrong-footed and gives him the all-important “win”.

Although Donald’s son Donald, Jr. apparently did take a meeting with Russians because he thought he would get some juicy information about the imagined crimes of Hillary Clinton we are told the following by our President:

  • Donald, Jr. is a good boy.
  • The meeting was unproductive (in other words, how can you collude if you don’t get any useful information). Of course taking the meeting at all is still collusion.
  • The meeting was about the ban on American adoptions of Russian babies (which sounds innocent enough until you realize that the issue of adoptions is tied to the issue of sanctions, i.e. they discussed sanctions against Russia in this meeting.)
  • The Democrats set this up. Hillary Clinton’s campaign laid this trap for Donald’s campaign so the Democrats are bad, Republicans are the victim, Republicans good.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/07/14/media/trump-russian-lawyer-veselnitskaya-theories-obama/index.html

*Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting a Democratic plot? Pro-Trump media wants you to think so

 

Oh my aching brain. Pretty soon there will be a new drug for this. Pharmaceutical companies love conditions that can be given 3 word titles. Of course treating Pretzel Brain Syndrome will be difficult as their will be some side effects that may change the way your brain is wired forever and in ways you might not like. Buyer beware!