2020|7|3 email to various friends:
From: Ray Gangarosa
Subject: Trump’s patriotic duty? Or has it just been just repayment of the debt?
Happy Independence Day, everyone!
My parents came across this great Mike Luckovich cartoon!
July 4, 2020
musical and literary interlude:
1. This is the way we always heard Hamlet, act 2, scene 2 in our teens:
Hair – What a Piece of Work is Man
2. This is the way it’s supposed to sound:
Branagh – What a Piece of Work.mov
3. Let’s introduce some music from the classical repertoire into these interludes:
Yulianna Avdeeva – Bach – Echo from Overture in the French Style BWV831 (encore)
It’s highly appropriate that Mike Luckovich depicted Putin thanking Trump for his service wrecking American democracy instead of the other way around! It seems like Trump has done 1,260 years’ worth of damage to our democracy in service to Russia, not 1,260 days’ worth! But who’s counting?
06/30 Mike Luckovich: In the driver’s seat
I think a better title for this cartoon would be
Trump’s patriotic duty? Or has it just been just repayment of the debt?
Why would Trump be beholden to Putin? It didn’t involve an act of prophesy that this would happen. There’s an explanation so obvious, inescapable, and consistent with the facts as to be almost certain.
Trump declared at least four huge, major bankruptcies during his business career — the last of which, by itself, comprised 4% of all business losses in the United States during fiscal year 1992 — in which he infamously stuck his creditors with the debts, wrote all the losses off in his personal tax returns, and thumbed his nose at the banks. The banks decided to let him off the hook because his name seemed to be worth more for attracting business partners than were his assets that could be liquidated. Shortly thereafter, he somehow managed to borrow two billion dollars from Deutsche Bank over the subsequent 30-year period. During that time, Trump speculated in golf resorts, which are usually considered very poor investments because they tie up such huge tracts of prime real estate that golfing and resort fees cannot come close to reimbursing the lost opportunity costs. For most rich investors, golf courses are a loss leader, reflecting enough love of the sport to justify sponsoring a loss leader. But apparently, Trump had some kind of silent partner, his own sugar daddy, unbeknownst to everyone else.
Some creditworthy person and/or entity must have cosigned Trump’s huge, flagrantly dubious loans. Otherwise, that loan application would have set any nearby passing bank official’s hair on fire, triggering a two-coast fire alarm that could have been seen and heard from geosynchronous orbit! Donald Trump’s sons commented that the family didn’t need banks during that time because it got plenty of money from Russia. When Vladimir Putin took over from Boris Yeltsin, he acquired the assets of the Soviet Union and set up a kleptocracy and state-sponsored criminal enterprise. Trained as a spy by the KGB, Putin also famously acted out of revenge against nations that had participated in the fall and fragmentation of the Soviet empire. What could go wrong with Trump running for president under those circumstances?
Deutsche Bank was an obvious instrument to mediate a deal between Trump and Putin. It incurred unprecedented fines for money laundering for the former Soviet states. Various Trump properties were implicated in such money laundering for Russian oligarchs. Trump got sweetheart deals far better than prevailing market prices on real estate transactions with rich Russians. Trump properties continue to get lots of business from Russian tenants. Even during the election campaign, Trump was trying to work out a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow but concealed those efforts from the American public. Trump’s first campaign manager, Paul Manafort, came out of nowhere back into American politics after having worked for years propping up Putin’s puppet in Ukraine, the prodigious kleptocrat Viktor Yanukovych, fomenting a relationship that Putin obviously hoped to repeat with Trump in the United States. Although Trump and his minions appeared not to be smart enough to coordinate their numerous and frequent contacts with Russians during the 2016 election campaign sufficiently to provide evidence of outright collusion with Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee computers and efforts to meddle in our election in Trump’s favor, it’s remarkable that his first choice of a secretary of state was also quite obviously Putin’s choice: Rex Tillerson, an Exxon executive whose only qualification for government service was having negotiated a $500 billion deal for oil rights with Russia that won him a Russia’s highest honor for foreigners, awarded by Putin himself. And among many other rather obviously corrupt Trump administration cabinet members, the secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, was on the board of directors of a Cypriot bank tied to Russian money laundering and had multiple other similar conflicts of interest, from which he pointedly refused to divest himself fully.
Americans doing business in Russia have long been warned that they can be targeted with kompromat, followed by blackmail and extortion. Trump was caught in a lie that he had not been in Moscow just before the Miss America Pageant, a period in which he was implicated in an episode of kompromat detailed in the Steele document. Admittedly, these specific events are speculative, but a deeper truth remains: Putin had money to lend in support of Trump’s loan with Russia’s favorite Western bank, but it would have been offered only with strings attached, and Trump has spared no effort lying, concealing, and protecting every shred of evidence of his financial dealings with Russia. And any other president would have reacted with indignation and unleashed endless investigations against a foreign power that had broken U.S. laws to attempt to influence our elections, yet Trump, who was the beneficiary of that meddling, still refuses to hold Russia accountable or even to prevent Putin from tampering with the 2020 election!
Russia has been emboldened to apply the same tactics to undermine the elections and democracies of our traditional allies, yet Trump does nothing to stop that aggression. Putin and Trump have together pioneered a new way to wage war on democracy without firing a shot. Russia’s economy is smaller than Italy’s and it has antagonized its way to having very few friends around the world, but Donald Trump has paid back the presumptive cosigner of his loans very well, giving Russia no pushback against meddling in Western elections or undermining democracies around the world. If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump would probably have hosted Putin in the White House during his final year in office.
How much proof do people need of a marionette manipulated by a puppet-master? Trump’s transition team, including his trusted son-in-law Jared Kushner, tried to establish back channel communications outside U.S. intelligence circles through the Russian embassy. Trump’s first national security advisor, Mike Flynn, sat next to Putin during a ceremony for the Russian state propaganda radio station RT during the election campaign, signaled the Russian ambassador that President Barack Obama’s sanctions against Russia for meddling in the 2016 election would not be continued under a Trump administration, and was initially not fired for lying about those communications to FBI investigators despite the obvious risk of kompromat. Without prior announcements, American news coverage, or subsequent press releases, Trump admitted a Kremlin contingent into the White House, accompanied by official Russian photographers and released confidential information that harmed an ally and compromised intelligence sources. Trump has pointedly ignored, neglected, and dismantled U.S. intelligence, attached more weight to rightwing conspiracy theories than to the best information any government in history has ever been able to compile, and has tried to remold the Justice Department to his own vision of his own desired dictatorship. Why shouldn’t he? With ambitions of becoming a dictator instead of just a president, he has every reason to fear the intelligence community, subvert its mission and turn it into a tool for his own use, and repurpose “justice” to extract vengeance against his enemies.
Witnesses to Vladimir Putin’s rise to power note that Donald Trump’s constant barrage of lies is following Putin’s playbook of gaslighting the public, making them question what the truth is or even if truth exists, and exhausting them with constant assaults on democracy and the rule of law. Trump has a perverse and perverted respect for dictators and gives plenty of indication he’d be much more satisfied with his current office if he could be a dictator, too. His pervasively corrupt administration recently concealed from oversight about $500 billion in coronavirus grants. How much evidence do people need that Trump is trying to set up a family dynasty of kleptocrats and replace our alliances with a cabal of dictators?
In 2016, an open mic conversation involving then-House speaker Paul Ryan, now-minority leader Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and other Republicans reached agreement that the group should avoid public disclosure that Donald Trump has been on Vladimir Putin’s payroll so the Republican party could enact its legislative agenda. They were laughing, and later claimed it was a joke — and maybe it was at the time. But how funny was it that the political allies of the person holding the highest office in the land could joke about such things when there was good reason to question his financial entanglements and his loyalty? I’m sure Putin laughed all the way to the Kremlin. He had installed his mole at the highest level of American government and Republican legislators not only knew, but they laughed and joked about it. Putin turned the whole Republican party into an instrument of Russian perfidy, proving that a mouse could stampede a herd of elephants.
It’s worthwhile to review the oaths that Donald Trump and all U.S. Congressional legislators took before assuming their offices:
the presidential oath:
I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
the Congressional oath:
I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
Despite the rigors and responsibilities of the presidency, the person currently occupying the White House has done little or nothing to prepare himself for the job, despite having run for the office since the 1990s. His first ex-wife relates that Donald Trump kept a copy of the collected speeches of Adolf Hitler at his bedside. There’s little evidence that he reads much else. Even the books that list him as author were all really penned by ghostwriters. He doesn’t read the famously authoritative and informative presidential daily briefings, and instead insists that all material presented to him be collapsed and grossly oversimplified onto one page, including pictures. He expresses a clear preference for presentations that justify his own preexisting views over nuanced analyses of different perspectives. Early during his administration, he hired a White House staffer to compile a scrapbook of news articles that presented him in a favorable light. I don’t know whether he has continued that practice throughout his administration. However, many people inside the White House staff have communicated to reporters that they consider him to be dangerously uninformed and superficial, so for the last four years, our nation has careened from crisis to crisis practically on autopilot, even as Trump eviscerated the institutions that kept it flying without his leadership.
Trump clearly intends for his own obvious hypocrisy to be utterly galling. That tactic, too, is right out of Putin’s playbook, perhaps through their friendly, unmonitored conversations, as Putin gives tips over the telephone or private asides at meetings on how to install a kleptocracy in the United States. Despite all I’ve related here about his own duplicity and treachery against his oath of office and much more, Trump impugns the patriotism of everyone who crosses him, protects corrupt cronies, and has threatened to jail political adversaries since the election campaign. Without any evidence, he accuses then-President Barack Obama of bugging his communications as a presidential candidate — and has the effrontery to call that act “treason”! He also considers as treasonous many other acts that fail to accord a president the deference usually demanded by a dictator. He blasts judges who cross his policies, athletes who kneel during the national anthem in silent protest against police brutality, peaceful demonstrators who protest against him, his opposition from the Democratic party, and so many more groups merely engaging in democratic discourse to be disloyal to the United States. Whereas Harry Truman displayed a famous sign in the Oval Office, “The buck stops here”, Trump accepts no responsibility, blames anyone else for his own malfeasance and wrongdoing, and has no moral compass. Trump tried to control federal employees around him, especially in the White House, by insisting that they sign nondisclosure agreements like those that have protected him from his own egregious wrongdoing throughout his sordid career — which also prohibit any critical comments against him or his family in perpetuity. The asymmetry of those contracts are so egregious they cannot stand in a democracy, but Trump wants to install a dictatorship that could enforce them.
His election was a testimonial to grievance politics, which he continues to whine about, even as he occupies the highest office and most powerful position in the world. He scapegoats vulnerable populations whose mere existence is an affront to a large fraction of his shallow and craven supporters. Early in his administration he copied a play from Adolf Hitler’s playbook: setting up a hotline to report crimes by immigrants, even though immigrant populations have a much lower crime rates, if only for fear of being detained and deported. He wields policies of deliberate cruelty to act as a deterrence against the mere act of seeking mercy, in the form of political asylum. He exploits the culture war to divide our nation and has never reached beyond his original support base to unite the nation. Even during a pandemic, he cannot unite people against a shared crisis, instead raising doubts about the wise advice of epidemiologists and infectious disease experts, thereby interfering with outbreak control measures, fragmenting public resolve, and, obviously worst of all, costing many tens or even some hundreds of thousands of American lives. Much more than the lives he is costing with his disinformation and mismanagement, he is only interested in revving up the economy and suppressing outbreak data so his “numbers” can “look good” and he can get reelected. He subjects his own support base to infection risk with political rallies lacking even the most basic precautions of social distancing and face masks, adding insult to injury by making them sign away their legal rights to sue him for any illnesses that occur. When word leaked out that members of his advance team for the rallies tested positive for coronavirus, instead of expressing concern for their wellbeing and safety, Trump was outraged that the reports would compete in the news cycle with coverage of his rally! He has been so obsessed with his own lifelong xenophobia that he oversees a national policy that contributes nothing to help other nations deal with the coronavirus pandemic — except, of course, for respirators he offered to send to his good buddy in Russia. No act of petty retribution is beneath his dignity. It’s to the eternal shame of fundamentalists that, in the name of what they falsely claim to be Christianity, they, more than any other group, have propped up his term in office. They even installed someone they deemed suitable as vice president in case his actions got out of bounds and could have ousted or controlled him just by acting in a single bloc. God will hold their souls eternally accountable for the propagating harm that Trump caused because of their support. Future generations will wonder how anyone could have supported such an absolute dolt.
But in addition to all that, now Trump refuses to hold Russia accountable for paying bounties to Taliban militias for killing U.S. soldiers — apparently accounting for $500,000 in payments for at least 3 such deaths and perhaps more for others involving allied forces. Instead, he contemptuously concludes, characteristically out of hand and without any supporting evidence, that the allegations were a “hoax” intended to make his administration look bad. To whom is he giving the benefit of the doubt? Putin or American soldiers? Russia or the grieving families? In attempting to control one news cycle, he thereby undermines future investigations of the findings uncovered by intelligence agencies and thus also our country’s ability to retaliate against Russian and the Taliban if the reports are true. Doesn’t that arrogant posture constitute “giving aid and comfort” to an enemy waging war against our country? Shouldn’t that be considered an impeachable offense, maybe even treason?
Trump’s responses to this news have been the actions of a desperate borrower beholden to a lender for a huge debt, not the obligations of a president to respond to what amounts to an act of war. Is there any other explanation for Donald Trump’s unending subservience to Vladimir Putin? Is there any other explanation for this particular evidence of duplicity and treachery, manifesting as among the worst conceivable derelictions of duty? Whatever kompromat Putin has over Trump, it has more weight as blackmail and extortion than any shred of patriotism or sense of duty that Trump feels for our country, even as he is perched at the head of our government. Doesn’t that situation make Trump an existential threat to our nation — a Russian mole, a Manchurian candidate installed by a foreign adversary who cheated in our last election, and now a puppet of an enemy dictator? Why else would this so-called president not object to Russian meddling in the 2020 election if he didn’t want Putin to help him get elected again — to stave off the inevitable official inquiries into and public revelation of his financial deals and ties, which he has managed to suppress while in office? What else, besides these suspected financial entanglements, would compel a president of our nation to excuse his likely foreign creditor, even in the face of bounties that Russia is reported to have offered on our troops in battle zones?
the definition of treason in the United States:
U.S. Constitution, article 3, section 3:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
18 USC Ch. 115: TREASON, SEDITION, AND SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES
From Title 18—CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
Historical and Revision Notes
Based on title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed., §§1, 2 (Mar. 4, 1909, ch. 321, §§1, 2, 35 Stat. 1088).
Section consolidates sections 1 and 2 of title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed.
The language referring to collection of the fine was omitted as obsolete and repugnant to the more humane policy of modern law which does not impose criminal consequences on the innocent.
The words “every person so convicted of treason” were omitted as redundant.
Minor change was made in phraseology.
1994—Pub. L. 103–322 inserted “under this title but” before “not less than $10,000”.
§2382. Misprision of treason
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States and having knowledge of the commission of any treason against them, conceals and does not, as soon as may be, disclose and make known the same to the President or to some judge of the United States, or to the governor or to some judge or justice of a particular State, is guilty of misprision of treason and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than seven years, or both.
Historical and Revision Notes
Based on title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed., §3 (Mar. 4, 1909, ch. 321, §3, 35 Stat. 1088).
Mandatory punishment provision was rephrased in the alternative.
1994—Pub. L. 103–322 substituted “fined under this title” for “fined not more than $1,000”.
misprision: the deliberate concealment of one’s knowledge of a treasonable act or a felony.
If Trump and Putin have developed a new form of warfare using social media and puppet kleptocrats, haven’t they also expanded the definition of treason to include that brand of levying and waging war?
It’s also significant that the Foreign Emoluments Clause, article 1, section 9, clause 8 of the United States Constitution was enacted to prevent foreign powers from bribing and/or extorting U.S. officials to take actions contrary to our national interests:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
The experiences of England in the previous century with King Charles II, who reigned from 1660 to 1685, were very much on the minds of the framers of the Constitution when they enacted the emoluments clause. In return for payments from France and Spain of his past and ongoing gambling debts, Charles II sold off parts of England to France and publicly converted to Catholicism.
In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington sternly stressed three points that presaged and repudiated in advance the Confederacy during the Civil War and Republicanism under Donald Trump: (1) the importance of unity among the states, (2) the pitfalls of partisanship, and (3) the hazards of foreign influence. Trump has been the only president in our history to defy all three of these warnings.
Washington almost prophesized the disastrous divisiveness of the Confederacy in the 19th century and Donald Trump in the 21st:
The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.
Washington went on to describe the shared fate and interests that he deemed should keep all the nation, North and South, East and West, on a common path.
Like a time capsule addressed to our era warning us of the partisan divisions that have plagued us over the last 30 years culminating in cult-like support of Donald Trump, Washington wrote,
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
Writing about foreign attachments, Washington warned,
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils? Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
I think the House of Representatives should consider another impeachment trial after the 2020 election, even if Joe Biden wins the presidency, which would remove Trump from the remainder of his time in office before his term is completed. Carrying out that impeachment would at least minimize any further damage he could do in office and force him to leave the White House. Since there is considerable question whether Trump would retaliate in one way or other against perceived enemies, create emergencies to usurp extraordinary powers, and/or even refuse to leave office, a second impeachment trial for even more serious crimes and misdemeanors would send a yet stronger message to Republicans and future generations that Trump’s actions in office have been utterly and completely unacceptable. Another impeachment would also put Republican legislators on the spot to reconsider their allegiances to Trump, exposing the hypocrisy of those who acquitted him before and putting them on notice that they will have to answer to the electorate, not Trump, in future elections — and to history and all future generations — for their longstanding support and for both impeachment votes.
P.S. I saw a headline that Trump’s “dark and divisive” speech at Mt. Rushmore accused “a new far-left fascism” of trying to wipe out our nation’s history. I really think Trump’s own brand of fascism is doing a stellar job of obliterating history among the ignoramuses who can’t recognize the contradictory terms “far-left” and “fascism”! I don’t think Trump is in any position to give history lessons — unless he can get Frederick Douglass (who, according to Trump, has continued to do an excellent job since Black History Month) to proofread all speeches and reports emanating from the White House!