Category Archives: James Comey

Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and the Culture of Hysteria

As the establishment’s coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Donald Trump gathers momentum, readers are invited to read Ann Coulter’s latest book (Resistance Is Futile: How The Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind), which the author says is a “self-help book for liberals,” though their hysteria about Trump will insure that few of them read it.

Psychologists have been treating “Trump anxiety” for some time now, and judging by the reaction of liberals to Coulter, they may soon have to treat Trump Tantrum Disorder as well. As Coulter points out, liberals have grown furiously unhinged by isolating themselves in self-righteous bubbles of Trump haters that exchange indignant comments about his latest outrages, most of which are simply imaginary.

For example, whenever the specter of American fascism is raised (every five minutes) we are told that Trump is a virtual Hitler clone. Uh, right. We all remember from our history books how Hitler went around boasting of his opportunities to grab women by the pussy, promising to replace the Treaty of Versailles with “something terrific,” and engaging in fawning adulation of anyone he hoped to get something from. As Coulter puts it, “I don’t remember Hitler or Stalin going around saying, ‘These people are great. Incredible, outstanding, quality people.’ And who in the WWII era would have described Hitler as Coulter describes Trump: ‘[He’s] utterly undisciplined, runs his mouth, flatters everyone, and agrees with the last person he spoke to. Why, it’s right out of the Mein Kampf playbook!”

The rage against Trump is proof that the election of 2016 never really ended. In her first post-election interview Hillary Clinton declared herself “part of the resistance,” rather than the customary “loyal opposition.” If Trump had lost and declared himself part of the anti-Clinton “resistance”, Coulter notes, there would have been demands to put him in jail. “He’s issuing a call to violence! ‘Resistance’ is a military term! It’s a ‘dog whistle’ to the militias and the KKK!” Touché.

This attitude is simply a continuation of liberal hysteria during the campaign. Remember the Access Hollywood tape, somehow not a sleazy “October surprise” by the partisan media, which made no secret of its loathing of Trump? In spite of what was repeatedly claimed, there was no endorsement of sexual assault on the tape. Unless you are using a weapon, “they let you do it” means consent. Trump was simply uttering truisms about celebrity culture, not glorifying rape. Notes Coulter: “His whole point was to cite something axiomatically unacceptable — grabbing women by the P-word — in order to say that celebrity culture was so out of whack that a celebrity could get away with it.” One could quibble with the “out of whack” part of the comment, as on the tape it appears that Trump, in fact, found this benefit of fame both natural and desirable. What needed to be explained was not this reaction of a life-long egomaniac but the shocked indignation of the corporate media: after all, who knew that billionaires and other mega-stars enjoy sex on demand from beautiful women? Right, everyone. And as Coulter points out, Trump used the identical approach in saying his popularity was so great that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without losing voter support. “That’s not a confession,” notes Coulter, “it’s hyperbole.” Nevertheless, she goes on, “Nexis can’t perform a search for all the publications that have accused Trump of admitting to ‘sexual assault,’ because it retrieves too many documents.” Long live fake news.

And while we’re on the subject of fake news, how long has it been since Trump was last accused of being a racist? Five minutes? Surely we can do better than that. Don’t let up for a minute on claims that he’s giving aid and comfort to “white nationalists” and therefore obligated to condemn David Duke every three minutes and defend himself against the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has warned of an imminent neo-Nazi-KKK take-over of the U.S. on a more or less constant basis for nearly four decades.

The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville a year ago has been regarded as the definitive proof of Trump’s racism, though a New York Times reporter tweeted direct from the melee that left-wing Antifa protestors were just as aggressively violent as the racist right. Nevertheless, Trump’s observation that there was violence (and “good people”) “on both sides” has been used as confirmation of his alleged white supremacist sensibilities. By now, official memory has it that Antifa violence wasn’t violence, and only “Nazis” were guilty of such. In one of her book’s best lines, Coulter notes, “The more the rally recedes in time, the fresher a memory it becomes,” which is an excellent description of all kinds of propaganda induced “memory.” With all due regret for the death of Heather Heyer, we still don’t know anything about the state of mind of the man who ran over her, who may have been in fear for his life, and few “journalists” are even curious about the matter.

But on to the alleged Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 elections that is the main focus of Coulter’s book. The basic allegation is that Trump, according to liberals a boundlessly incompetent buffoon, somehow managed to engage in a byzantine international conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton. The original claim was that Russia hacked the e-mails of the DNC (after allegedly being invited to do so by Trump in a presidential debate with Clinton) and Hillary’s aide John Podesta, then gave them to WikiLeaks, and that this somehow predictably benefited Trump. But why the Russians would have hacked the DNC to retrieve “lost” e-mails that were no longer on their server is difficult to explain. Furthermore, how could the Russians have had any assurance that the Podesta e-mails would end up helping Trump? That leak mostly hurt the DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign.

More to the point, the Russian election meddling theme is simply a joke. The U.S. meddles in elections all the time, and when that fails, overthrows unwanted governments by force, often assassinating their democratic leaders as well. At William Blum’s excellent archive at www.killinghope.org, you can read until your eyes bleed about the C.I.A. undermining democratic elections around the world going back seventy years. In recent years George Soros alone has repeatedly manipulated election outcomes in Georgia, the Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, variously called the Orange revolution, the Tulip revolution, and the Rose revolution. And while we like to wax self-righteous about Russia interfering in our elections, we tend to forget that Boris Yeltsin would not likely have become president of Russia without a major intervention by the U.S. But perhaps the most ludicrous notion of all is that a relative handful of Russian bots posting on Facebook handed the election to Trump, which is like saying that a coke poured in the water supply prevented us from curing our diabetes epidemic.

The origin of the story alone should make us extremely skeptical about any Trump-Russia collusion, even apart from the absurd pretense that the U.S. has the moral standing to accuse others of such anti-democratic practices. Hillary Clinton invented the Russian collusion story in the summer of 2016 because she needed to neutralize the DNC’s e-mails having shown up on WikiLeaks. This was a classic Clinton maneuver: whenever she is caught in a scandal she diverts attention to all-pervading imaginary enemies — misogynists, unscrupulous political opponents, racists, a vast right-wing conspiracy, and now, Russia and Donald Trump.

So Clinton campaign chairman Robby Mook went on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos to tell the world about the Russian conspiracy on July 24, 2016, the eve of the Democratic National Convention. “Experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, took all these emails and now are leaking them out through these Web sites …. And it’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by — by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” The anonymous reference to “some experts” has not been cleared up to this day.

Of course, Hillary Clinton would have preferred to spin a web of conspiracy around Trump and ISIS or Trump and North Korea, but Trump didn’t have business interests with either of them, so she revved up a new Cold War instead. She somehow managed to convince herself that the press was dead set against her and her Russia-connection conspiracy, even though only two of the fifty-nine largest newspapers in the country had failed to endorse her. Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald were among the few liberal skeptics of the fantastic story.

In any event, by September 2016 the New York Times conceded that the consensus among government intelligence agencies was that WikiLeaks had no ties to Russian intelligence.

Two years and dozens of breathless claims later we still have zero evidence for the alleged Trump-Russia collusion. The FBI never investigated for the simple reason that the DNC wouldn’t allow the Bureau to examine its computers. As Glenn Greenwald noted in The Intercept, “there is no evidence . . . just CIA assertions over and over …”

Initial media response found the claim of a Russian conspiracy “remarkable,” and this held true until Hillary lost the election. Then it suddenly became a news story worthy of Watergate, replete with Congressional investigations, saturation media coverage, and an “independent” counsel. Obama reacted by meekly telling Putin to “cut it out,” but he imposed no sanctions, issued no major rebuke, and refrained from retaliation. This for something Thomas Friedman compared to Pearl Harbor and 911. In other words, after mild initial reaction, two years of intensive searching by the nation’s top investigative journalists and up to 100 FBI agents has yielded nothing like collusion.

What has passed for evidence in the case is a dossier authored by Christopher Steele, a British spy who offered Hillary Clinton and the Democratic national Committee dirt on Trump from the Russians. Did Hillary recoil in shocked outrage at this treasonous plot? Of course not. She paid Steele for the information. Yes, that’s right. Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians to discredit Trump, but Robert Mueller isn’t interested in that collusion. He’s looking for collusion between Russia and the victim of the plot.

Explains Coulter: “Hillary’s campaign and the DNC hired Steele, using a Seattle law firm as a cutout. The law firm hired Fusion GPS, which in turn hired the British spy, who paid current and former Russian government officials for incriminating information on Trump.”

Steele revealed his motive to Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr, saying he was “desperate that Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” OK, but motives aside, did he come up with anything? Not if you believe the New York Times, which says that the information in the Steele dossier “was not corroborated, and the New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims.” And remember that the New York Times, like the press in general, loathes Trump, and would gladly have reported substantiation of the claims in the Steele dossier had they found any.

In fact, so eager was the NY Times to discredit Trump that it flat-out stated that his firing of F.B.I. director James Comey had “echoes of Watergate,”when in fact it did not. For Comey himself admitted under oath to Senator James Risch (R-Ohio) that the F.B.I. hadn’t been investigating Trump at the time he was fired, so Trump couldn’t have been “obstructing justice” in an ongoing case against him. In point of fact, Trump fired Comey precisely because he wouldn’t stop publicly insinuating that Trump was under investigation when in fact he wasn’t. Meanwhile, journalists simply assumed that Trump was guilty of colluding with Russia, and that firing Comey was a transparent attempt to cover up criminal activity.

In short, the mountain keeps laboring, but brings forth but a mouse. The charges to date are a complete farce. Here’s a partial list:

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn: He talked to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations, and then didn’t disclose it on security clearance paperwork, which is not customary because such meetings are routine.

Paul Manafort — Briefly Trump’s “campaign” chairman, he was originally accused of violating the same (unenforced) lobbying registration law that ensnared Michael Flynn, but has since been charged with setting up offshore accounts to avoid taxes, which could make him guilty of practicing capitalism. In October 2017, journalist Ken Silverstein wrote that “I can say with certainty that the law, which Manafort is accused of violating, known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, is a complete joke.” The article in which this comment appeared was entitled, “I’ve Covered Foreign Lobbying for 20 Years and I’m Amazed Manafort Got Busted.” In any event, Manafort’s guilt or innocence hasn’t been demonstrated to have anything to do with Trump.

Carter Page — a non-entity whose name Trump appears to have lifted out of a hat when confronted by media claims that he didn’t have any establishment certified national security advisers on his team. Page was subsequently slapped with a FISA warrant, which proves he is appallingly guilty of something. For as Ronald Reagan’s former Attorney General Ed Meese memorably informed us, “If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.” What could be clearer?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions — He also met with Russian ambassador Kislyak, when he was a senator, and then didn’t record the dastardly deed on security clearance forms, which the FBI doesn’t want because such meetings are routine.

But wait! Didn’t former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pay Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her affair with Trump? That’s a violation of campaign finance laws! Possibly, but such violations are a dime a dozen, and if we run every politician who has paid off a mistress out of office Washington will be a ghost town.

There is much, much more in Coulter’s book, but check it out of the library rather than buy it, since Coulter herself is equally prone to slipping into political hysteria when the topic is Communism or Islam. She insists, for example, that Martin Luther King was under the control of Moscow when he made his (accurate) claim that the “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world [is] my own government.” And, of course, many of us remember her advice for dealing with the Islamic world following the 911 attacks, when she said, quite subtly, that “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

American politics is a tale of two hysterias. Rationality has been driven from the stage.

James Comey’s Testimony

A man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest.

— Simon and Garfunkel, “The Boxer” (1970)

No one could say that Donald Trump has not made politics interesting.  In so doing, he may well have distorted it, mangling its practice with ingredients of corrupting alt-reality. That same process has seen a distinct cheapening as well, but it could not be anything else.

Trump has revealed, within political practice, the virus that has afflicted it, the theatre that takes place from the White House, to Congress, to the Deep State.  Life may be a stage, but Trumpland is a flickering pantomime, destroying any pretence of virtue in politics. There are only positions, opponents, and resolutions through bullying force.

The entertainment reality show got another instalment on Thursday with the testimony of former FBI director James Comey before members of the Senate intelligence committee.  The various birds of prey wishing to find smoking carrion were left only partially satisfied.  The Republicans were left confused, and the right wing media felt that Trump had been exonerated. There was something for everyone.

Comey did serve a few titbits, and in a political environment rich with conspiracy and assumption, these were converted into main courses.  He did not, for instance, suggest that Trump was literally the subject of a counterintelligence investigation (go for the “satellites”, urged the former director), but garnished it with the following:

As I explained, the concern of one of my senior leader colleagues was, if you’re looking at potential coordination between the campaign and Russia, the person at the head of the campaign is the candidate.  So, logically, this person argued, the candidate’s knowledge, understanding, will logically become a part of your inquiry if it proceeds.

As for those circling satellites, one stood out as a rich prospect on the Russian connection: the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.  Comey’s testimony was notably slanted in that direction.  His recusal from the Russia-link investigation in March pointed to a deeper connection.

Then, the old suggestiveness about special facts, the sort that revealed as much as it concealed: “I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”

Whether the President’s plea on behalf of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to call of the dogs constituted an obstruction of justice was not something Comey wished to opine on.  “That’s a conclusion that I’m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that’s an offence.”

The whole occasion played into a reality show that has assumed monumental proportions.  Unwittingly, participants are playing to the Trump tune, following his direction.  For one, the president could triumphantly claim that Comey had himself leaked, and deserved investigating himself.  He may well have also lied, dangled Trump tantalisingly before the press corps, though he then claimed to have said nothing of the sort.

Trump also offered his “100 percent” willingness to testify under oath about his engagements with Comey to counter the former director’s claim. “I would be glad to tell him,” he said in the White House Rose Garden, “exactly what I told you.”

On cue, the impeachment brigades were also tossing a few confected ideas about, finding in the Comey revelations molehills fit for vast mountains.  Democrat Representatives Al Green from Texas, along with fellow Texan Sheila Jackson Lee and Brad Sherman of California have stated that their scribes are working on articles of impeachment.

Green, however, has taken the enthusiastic lead, calling the act of firing Comey an “obstruction of justice”.  “Obstruction of justice by the President is the problem.  Impeachment by Congress is the solution.” Green has been of such a persuasion from the start, and while he exudes principle on this score, he has already reached judgment on the matter. Constitutional lawyers, however, differ.

Green’s views received the backing of two anti-Trump resistance groups, MoveOn.org Civil Action and Invisible. The executive of MoveOn did not “make this call [for impeachment] lightly” but it is hard to imagine anything not having an element of lightness when dealing with the relentless Trump vortex.

Invisible, having concluded that Comey’s testimony was ample, accurate and sufficient, felt that Trump had, in fact “tried to obstruct justice.”  Stating the obvious point that obstructing justice was impeachable, the organisation did not pause to consider that ethical abuse and legal manipulation straddles a grey area.  But anger is the enemy of circumspection. “Impeachment takes time but we need to start the process now.”

Former ethics czar during the Obama years, Norm Eisen, provided another reading, claiming that the testimony was a “significant inflection point”.  Leaked and hearsay evidence had existed before but “for the first time, we had direct evidence of obstruction of justice.  It was a giant step towards accountability for Trump, but there will be many more giant steps necessary.”

The emphasis should be on the sheer gigantic nature of those steps.  In this postmodern theatre of competing views, each group stuck to their stubborn, already minted interpretations.  Prior to the testimony, minds had already closed.  Even Comey added a tantalising number to the tenor of the whole session, a nod to the Richard Nixon White House.  “I have seen the tweet about tapes.  Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

Chopping James Comey

Having refused to admit his errors, the [FBI] Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.

— US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

Any sense that Donald Trump had found some accord with James Comey of the FBI gathered from his investigative zeal regarding Hillary Clinton’s improper use of a private email server should always have been doubted.

Trump is not a president who likes matters accountable and clear, except in a jaw jaw sort of a way, the brute who wants to avoid surprises while always keeping one in reserve.  The language of the hectoring bully is never far, the turn that means genuine conversation is always going to be hard to have.

The language of dismissal regarding the FBI Director was that of an assassination.  Comey, came the announcement via Sean Spicer, “has been terminated and removed from office”.  The letter to Comey, penned by Trump, cited agreement with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions that “you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

Erratically, Trump had thrown in his weight behind Comey when things suited him. The political winds were favourable in November, when he had Hillary Clinton on the ropes.  “What he did,” claimed Trump on the issue of reopening the investigation into the Clinton emails, “brought back his reputation”.

The edifice of support was, however, a rotten one, and the Attorney General’s department was already hatching a plan to undermine and outflank Comey.  The Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, attempted to find some common ground across the spectrum regarding the FBI director’s yawning faults.  “Almost everyone agrees the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”

As for Rosenstein himself, he found it difficult to “defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails” and did “not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

From the other side of the stalls, Comey had been harangued over supposedly selective judgments.  The Democrats, still smarting from their election loss, found it inexplicable that Comey would first close the case against Clinton without prosecution in July last year only to then declare, 11 days prior to the election, that the inquiry had been reopened because of the discovery of more juicy emails.

The tune from Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer altered on Tuesday, modified by a less plaintiff voice and concern that the constitution was not so much being rocked as ravaged.  “We know that the House is investigating Russian interference in our election that benefited the Trump campaign.  We know the Senate is investigating. We know the FBI has been looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians – a very serious offence.  Were those investigations getting too close to home for the president?”

There is little doubt that Comey has been rattled by the attention, which has, for the most part, been negative.  In his May 3 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, hyperbole intruded to make certain claims questionable. One related to the material from Clinton’s aide, Huma Abedin, which ran, according to Comey, in the order of “hundreds and thousands” of emails. Among them were more than just smidgens of classified information.

As luck would have it, Comey’s claims that such a mountain of information had manifested itself were rebuffed by his own organisation.  There was nothing in the order of hundreds of thousands, merely two email chains containing classified information to husband Anthony Weiner.

The lack of faith shown in Comey by the Democrats packaged a few parcels of ammunition for Trump. The president naturally took to Twitter as the carnage unfolded.  “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer stated recently, ‘I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.’  Then acts so indignant.”

Such a sacking does show, with some clarity, that the affairs of this Republic are bound to get more sordid before they get better.  Trumpland is a truly fractious environment, one where battlegrounds and territory will be fought with primeval ferocity between the executive and its various arms.  “The administration of justice,” claimed Democratic Representative Eric Swallwell Jr., “must remain free of political influence, and President Trump just leaped over that line”.

This line has not so much been leaped over as redrawn.  The moment Trump entered the White House he made it clear that conflict with traditional agencies, bureaucracy and institutions was inevitable.  Draining the swamp, as he likes to term it, is akin to cracking a few skulls and breaking regulations in the name of reform.

This tarnishing episode has covered few in glory. The White House is hunkering down behind a wall of authoritarian protection, keen to immunise itself from disconcerting inquiries that might question its wisdom and probity. The Democrats, having also had their issues with the FBI, are now seeking a separate, independent office to target Trump. The politics of the Republic is moving into another ugly phase.