The administration has refused to release the Democratic report. We are told the reason is that it has classified information and needs to be cleaned up. In other words, it. needs to be redacted. Part of the problem politically is the optics of this. The Nunes Memo was released with no issue. In fact, President Donald Trump was caught on a hot mike the night of the State of the Union saying that he would release the memo, before he had even read it.
This battle of the memos is about Trump, not the nation. From what has been reported, the Democratic rebutal is a point by point challenge of the Nunes memo. It makes the President look bad. It also raises the real question, what is the president trying to hide? Nor was this necessarily a surprise to any paying attention. In this highly polarized environment though, hyper-partisans are looking at this through team jerseys, not the necessary hard questions.
The Issues at Play
The first thing is that this duel of the memos is part of a pattern. The president could care less for institutions or norms. All this is about one man: Donald J. Trump. Nothing else matters. This man is paranoid. He also is an authoritarian, and reportedly has an enemies list. He has attacked law enforcement, in the form of the F.B.I. This was with the firing of James Comney. His attacks have not stopped. He sees them as the enemy. Those attacks persist. He has also openly gone after Assistant Attorney General Rob Rosenstein, and the number three at the department quit her job on Friday February 9. If Rosenstein was driven out, or fired, she would have taken over supervision of the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller. The next in line is the Solicitor General of the United States. Currently this is in the hands of Noel Francisco who has significant conflicts of interest given that his former firm is working for the president in this matter. He should recuse himself.
What we might be witnessing is a Saturday Night Massacre in slow motion. Like Watergate, the president wants to stop this investigation. In his mind Russian interference in the election makes his electoral victory Illegitimate. Legally, Trump won. He used the electoral rule book exceptionally well, and understood he needed an electoral college win, not the popular vote. But, Russian interference makes this less legitimate in his mind, and to be fair this is also the view of many Americans and foreigners alike. Ergo, he is doing all he can to stop the investigation. There is more to this than just his large ego.
He is also afraid of what the investigation might dredge out. Trump built his business in real estate. He also sent his business into bankruptcy a few times. This means that at one point American banks did not lend to his organization. He was considered too high of a risk for American banks. There were two organizations that lent to the Trump organization. The first was Deutche bank. The second, it is believed, the mafia. Not just the Italian mafia, but it is believed there are ties to the Russian mafia.
Trump, or for that matter the Kushner organization, would be hardly the first to have links to the mafia. This is old hat for the New York developers. Michael Wolff made that precise point in *Fire and Fury.* This is one reason why developers usually do not get involved in politics. Especially at the presidential level.
This is why the family finances are a red line for Trump. This is also why, I believe, Trump is desperate to stop the Mueller investigation. Special prosecutors tend to look at all, and all includes financial dealings.
Enemies list and the Deep State
The president believes that there is a deep conspiracy that wants to destroy his presidency. By extension his followers believe this as well. This is almost out of a James Le’Carre novel. Dark forces are out to destroy the presidency, and preserve whatever old order that Trump threatens. This is the same deep state that destroyed the presidential hopes of Hillary Rotham Clinton. The fact that both contradictory facts can exist in the same mind is not just bizarre, but fits the paranoid nature of many Americans.
The Russian Federation took advantage of these deep divisions, and distrust of the government. (This matters, the Russian Federation is not just sowing hate and discontent in the United States. They are running similar operations in Europe and Latin America.)
Then there is the Nunes memo which is not minor. it betrays the politicization of intelligence. It also, wittingly or not, helps Russian goals to weaken American institutions. Trump is dividing the country and is using the tools of intelligence to weaken the courts, the media and law enforcement. He is trafficking in conspiracy theories and injecting fear. This is not just fear of the other, as he does with immigrants, but fear of institutions. Representative Devin Nunes is helping, with a group of Republicans who are putting their party before the country.
The Deep State has taken over the imagination of many Americas who traffic in conspiracy theories. This is independent of political ideology. Americans have embraced with gusto this idea that there is group of people who resist any changes and work for dark forces that are against the interest of the American people. These dark forces do change depending on the flavor of the theory. While there is a grain of truth, there is such a group of quiet profesionales in government service, who stay at their post regardless of who is the president, these people are not partisan. They are the civil service, which became career and removed from political interference at the end of the 19th century. Many Americans do not understand that at one time government workers at all levels changed from administration to administration, and followed closely the election of a president.
Some government posts are appointed. For example, every cabinet and sub-cabinet post, and some ambassadors. Others are career employees who serve the country, not a party. Incidentally, trump wants to weaken the backbone of the civil service, starting with the Veterans Administration. He stated in his state of the Union that he wants to be able to fire employees, career professionals, with ease. At its heart this is the nugget of truth in the deep state nonsense.
Democracy is a veneer that can easily be subverted and. destroyed by strong leaders who seek ultimate power. The president has help, and now we. must ask a critical question. How. deep does the real conspiracy, likely involving Russians, go? How wide. spread. is this. conspiracy? Point of order, I refuse to use he term preferred by administration supporters, and enemies alike on the TV. There is no collusion. Mostly, the term does not exist legally. It is a trap. So, if you want to use the term, realize that legally, what they are looking at are two things. Obstruction of Justice, and conspiracy, and both exist in the legal code.
Will the. White. House. release this report? We shall see. What is clear is that the president believes the Republican memo vindicated him. He had no problem releasing the Republican version, never mind that there were real concerns
raised by the intelligence community, and our British allies.
The game that defenders of the president are playing, as well as the president very dangerous. There is a clear winner in all this. It is not the American people, but Vladimir Putin snd the Russian Federation. The fact that people like Nunes are playing this game, or that many others in the Republican Party are unwilling to put country before party leads to sn unavoidable question. How deep does this go?
We know that in 2013 Trump ran the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. It is that visit that is at the heart of the Steele Dossier. Cody Shearer wrote a second dossier that backs many of the allegations in the Steele document.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/30/trump-russia-collusion-fbi-cody-shearer-memo?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other. This matters.
If the Russians have what intelligence agencie call Kompromat, it might explain the reluctance on the part of the president to dig into Russian interference in the 2016 election. This is the best case scenario.
There are far worst scenarios than this. What if the president is working on behalf of another nation state? What if this extends to other members of the power structure? And chiefly, why? There is a corner of the GOP that is hyper-nationalist. This corner also believes that the U.S. can go at it alone, and better withdraw from the world.
We cannot say for sure. What we know is that Republicans are protecting this president to any extent possible. There is another explanation, and just as likely. Trump is the ideal president for Republicans. Give him a pen. He will sign anything you put in front of him. Better yet, if you stroke his ego, he will sign even faster if you tell him how great he is. This man is not into policy. From what we can tell, he is not into reading. However, while Republicans control both chambers of the Hill, and the White House, they have not been able to advance all their policy goals. Yes, the tax cut was passed. It is already exploding the deficit, and inflation is rising faster than it should, as expected.
There is no doubt, we are living though very dangerous times. Oh and the Russians are expected to continue their long game. It seems the administration, and the Republican Party, are unable or unwilling to realize the danger.