“Patriotism Is The Last Refuge Of A Scoundrel.”

Samuel Johnson’s statement from the 18th century is just as true now as it was then.

When exposed, scoundrels will often claim patriotic intentions while questioning the patriotism of their accusers. For example, in order to hide their true beliefs, anti-government conservatives decorate their homes, their cars and their persons with the stars and stripes of the American flag. To disguise their racism, white nationalists also hide behind the flag. In an attempt to hide the treasonous complicity of his presidential campaign with Russians, Donald J. Trump questioned Hillary Clinton’s patriotism by alleging that she sold 20 percent of US uranium to Russia. And at this year’s CPAC, the traitor-in-chief waddled onto stage and made a show out of embracing the flag.

Now facing the pressure of a Democratic-controlled House Oversight Committee determined to fulfill its constitutional duty, Trump has built his re-election campaign around the same strategy by labeling his tormenters and potential opponents “un-American socialists.”

There are two distinct problems with that claim: One is that Trump doesn’t know the meaning of patriotism, and he doesn’t give a hoot about the majority of Americans. He has never tried to govern from the center in order to represent all Americans. He has done nothing to reach out to those who voted for his political opponents. Instead, he continually tries to pit his angry, loyal base against others – Democrats, people of color, Muslims and the LGBTQ population. He continues to call for investigations of Hillary by leading his followers in chants of “Lock her up.” He has refused to denounce neo-Nazis and white supremacists. In fact, he has embraced them. And he still maintains that President Obama was born in Kenya.

Second, he is mischaracterizing social democracy by calling it socialism in order to equate Democratic proposals with those of the failed Soviet Union and Venezuela. But, in fact, the “socialist” policies being proposed by Democrats are similar to those of Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Sweden and much of the developed world – policies such as universal health care, free or affordable education, the Green New Deal, higher marginal tax rates for the extremely wealthy, and higher rates for estate taxes. These are all necessary if we are to rebuild our infrastructure, our middle class and the American dream. Without such policies, we may soon find ourselves lagging behind other global powers.

At the same time, in the name of patriotism, Trump and his administration have gone to extremes to destroy or diminish our nation’s most important institutions. If successful, his declaration of a national emergency to build his wall will diminish the power of purse given to the House of Representatives by our Constitution. He has damaged the power of the press by convincing his followers that any news critical of his actions is “fake news.” He has convinced his followers that the FBI, the DOJ and most other government agencies are controlled by the “deep state” which is determined to undermine his decisions. He dismisses the findings of our intelligence agencies and takes the word of our nation’s greatest enemies, instead. He and the GOP-controlled Senate have filled our court system with ideologues with neither the experience, the objectivity nor the temperament to act as judges. In addition, he has undermined our relationships with our most loyal allies.

And, according to many of those who have known him longest, if impeached or defeated in the 2020 election, Trump will not relinquish his office quietly. Indeed, they fear a second civil war. If those people are correct, Trump and his followers will no doubt claim that they are declaring martial law out of a sense of patriotism.

Should Climate Change Be Declared A National Emergency?

In order to prevent Trump from declaring border security a national emergency in order to fund his idiotic border wall, Sen. Marco Rubio noted that it would set a precedent that could wind up hurting Republicans saying, “If today, the national emergency is border security…tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change.”

He’s right about the political implications. But he fails to recognize the real dangers of climate change and the fact that it will hurt everyone, even Republicans. And he fails to understand that climate change is a true emergency.

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have until 2030 to reduce carbon emissions in order to avoid a catastrophic increase in global temperatures of 3 degrees Centigrade (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit). As of today, that’s 11 years! The study warns that we must make dramatic changes to limit the global temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

The consequences for failing to act? In a word, disaster. Melting ice caps will raise sea levels displacing millions and causing mass migrations worldwide. Tundra and permafrost will thaw releasing millions of tons of methane and further accelerating climate change. Ancient organisms frozen in the ice and permafrost will be released perhaps leading to a resurgence of disease. Coral reefs will die creating famine for millions who rely on the oceans for food. Many of the world’s species of wildlife will become extinct. Much of the world’s farmland will become arid adding to the famine. And the changing weather patterns will create more numerous and severe storms.

Even if the human species manages to survive such conditions, the costs will be overwhelming. Mass migration and famine will lead to wars. And the financial costs will be unfathomable. The world’s 10 worst climate-driven events of 2018 killed thousands. And last year, in the US alone, there were 14 climate-related events – hurricanes, storms, floods and wildfires – costing 247 lives and nearly $100 billion.

Yet, despite the warnings, which become more dire by the month, the Trump administration has ignored them, even reversing much of the progress made in previous years and conducting a sell-off of oil leases on previously protected public lands. Indeed, we are now the only nation on Earth that is not part of the Paris Climate Accords. This is devastating for the planet, since the US ranks second only behind China in total carbon emissions. Per person, our carbon emissions are nearly eight times those of the Chinese! Yet China and much of the rest of the world are aggressively trying to reduce emissions, while only 20 states and a handful of US cities are doing so.

And, because the GOP has politicized climate science, in the US there is now a virtual media blackout of climate news. Many in the media consider it too controversial to report on environmental damage and, when they do, they try to present opposing viewpoints even though the science community is largely united that climate change is a real danger. As a result, only 45 percent of Americans say that global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetimes. Seriously? How many of you don’t expect to live another 11 years?

Despite all of this, there is a bit of good news, the most promising of which is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. Unlike many of her colleagues, she is not only speaking out about climate change. She is offering solutions that can improve our infrastructure, lead to a cleaner environment and create millions of high-paying jobs.

Her Green New Deal consists of the following:
• Government-led investment in energy and resource efficiency, as well as reusable energies and micro-generation
• Low-carbon infrastructure redevelopment in order to create jobs
• A directed tax on the profits of oil and gas companies with proceeds being invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency
• Financial incentives for green investment and reduced energy usage, including low interest rates for green investment
• Re-regulation of international finance, including capital controls, and increased scrutiny of financial derivatives
• Curbing corporate tax evasion through compulsory financial reporting and by clamping down on tax havens
• A Global Marshall Plan Initiative using “green quantitative easing” to create money to fund the “great transition” to a society free of fossil fuels and other measures that aim to preserve the biosphere

Several of these measures have already been implemented in Norway, South Korea, the UK, Germany, even parts of the US. Progressive environmental groups like 350.org, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have also signed on. And the movement is gaining support. A recent poll found 81 percent of US voters support the Green New Deal ― including 64 percent of Republican voters and 57 percent of self-described conservative Republicans. In addition, more than 300 state and local officials voiced support for the Green New Deal. Numerous Democrats in the new Congress have also backed the resolution, along with a number of Democratic presidential candidates. However, the support from congressional Republicans and the Trump administration amounts to crickets.

But we can fix that. By voting for Democrats in 2020, we can make them scream.

Where Was Trump’s Concern For Unity The Last Two Years?

During his State of the Union speech, Trump called for bipartisan unity in order to move the country forward. In reality, it came across as more of a threat. He all but said, “If you don’t end the investigations into my campaign, my business and my administration, and if you don’t build my wall, I will refuse to work with you.”

Ignoring the threat, it’s telling that only now, after two years in office, Trump is reaching out to Democrats calling for an end to revenge politics. He certainly has made no previous efforts to promote unity. Indeed, he has attacked Democrats at every opportunity calling them names and questioning their intelligence or patriotism. One can only conclude that he is worried about what the investigations might reveal. After all, the investigations have already resulted in numerous indictments, convictions and guilty pleas of members of his campaign, his staff and his long-time personal attorney.

In addition, the ongoing investigations are likely to reveal fraudulent activity by his inaugural committee, his cabinet members, his business and his family. These investigations should not be considered vindictive. They are simply the result of justice and appropriate oversight.

The investigations aside, Trump and the GOP have some nerve calling for unity now. Where was the call for unity when Mitch McConnell and his GOP comrades announced that their primary goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president? When they were determined to make his efforts fail? When they refused to hold confirmation hearings and votes on Obama’s judicial nominations? When they filibustered virtually every piece of Democratic legislation? When they held endless investigations into Benghazi and Hillary’s use of a private email server? When Trump and his supporters chanted “lock her up” during and after the campaign? When Trump made it his priority to undo and overturn virtually every accomplishment of the Obama administration? When he undermined the Affordable Care Act and rolled back environmental protections?

It seems clear that, despite the many Democratic efforts for bipartisanship, the GOP only seems interested in comity and unity when it serves their purposes and protects them from justice and oversight. Then, and only then, they are worried about revenge politics. And, too often, Democrats have accommodated them.

After Nixon committed treason by undermining the Vietnam peace talks and interfering with the 1972 election, Democrats let him resign and allowed his successor to pardon him. After Reagan committed treason by undermining the Iran hostage negotiations and illegally selling arms to Iran in order to fund the Contras in Central America, Democrats allowed George H.W. Bush to pardon those involved. And after Bush and the GOP took us to war in Iraq under false pretenses, Democrats let them off the hook for their lies.

This time must be different. Certainly, Democrats should work across the aisle in order to accomplish their campaign promises for the benefit of the nation. But they must not prematurely end the investigations. They must not abdicate their obligation to oversee the decisions of this administration. They must not bow down to this wannabe dictator.

And they absolutely must hold those who have committed crimes accountable regardless of the title before their names.

Where Are Those Patriots Now?

For many years, conservatives have portrayed themselves as some sort of super-patriots. They have displayed the flag and images of the flag at every opportunity – in front of their homes, on their cars, in the rear window of their trucks, on their hats and on their shirts. They have made a show out of saying the Pledge of Allegiance before every meeting. Like robots, they have recited “Thank you for your service” to every military veteran they meet. Without trying to understand the underlying cause, they have expressed their outrage at black football players who protested the treatment of African-Americans by kneeling for the national anthem. And they have told anyone who questions the decisions of our nation’s leaders, “If you don’t like it, leave.” (That is, except for when President Obama was in office.)

They have talked of American Exceptionalism as if the US has some divine right to rule the world. They have seemed to resent any foreigners who have crossed our country’s borders, especially if they are people of color or speak anything but English. And they have seemed all too willing to go to war with any nation that, in their view, doesn’t bow to our economic and military magnificence.

Most especially, these super-patriots despised the Soviet Union and totalitarianism echoing Ronald Reagan’s sentiment that its leaders “are the focus of evil in the modern world.”

My how things have changed.

We now have a so-called conservative in the White House who was put there with the help of Russian interference in our election. Since taking office, Donald Trump hasn’t even bothered to hide his affection and admiration for the Russian president – a former KGB member – who ordered that interference. And we have learned that Trump’s son, Don Jr., met with an Israeli company that presented a plan to use the interference of a foreign government to sway the election. As a result, it seems clear that the Trump campaign followed that plan in coordination with Russia.

In addition, it is known that members of the Trump campaign had at least 101 contacts with Russian officials during the campaign – several of them with the intent to set up a private back channel of communications between Trump and the Russian government. It is known that many of the campaign officials lied to Congress and the FBI about those contacts. And it is known that seven Trump campaign officials have been indicted or pleaded guilty.

It is known that Trump ushered Russian leaders and the Russian press into the Oval Office giving them classified information. It has been well documented that Trump has had multiple private meetings with Vladimir Putin. After the meetings, he collected the translator’s notes to keep the discussions secret. Moreover, Trump and his campaign staff are not the only Republicans with mysterious connections to Russia. It is alleged that some of Trump’s most ardent congressional supporters received campaign funds from Russian oligarchs which were apparently funneled through the NRA.

All of this is in addition to the many known financial connections between the Trump organization and Russian oligarchs.

It begs the questions: Why are those super-patriots not outraged by the Russian interference and Trump’s obvious obstruction of justice? Why are they not calling for Trump’s impeachment? Why do they even refuse to support any investigations into the apparent Trump-Russian conspiracy?

Obviously, Trump is pandering to them by giving them many of the things they have long wanted. They are thrilled with Trump’s nomination of ultra-conservative judges. They are pleased with his repeal of environmental regulations. They are happy to see Trump dismantle our federal government. And they are excited to see his hard-line response to his critics, the media, and people of color – most especially the immigrants seeking asylum from violence and crushing poverty in their own countries. But at what cost? Is any of that worth the damage to our electoral system? To our Constitution?

It’s time these self-described super-patriots consider the consequence of supporting a president who so openly cozies up to Vladimir Putin, a ruthless dictator who is obsessed with returning Russia to its former glory under the Soviet Union. They would do well to remember that Putin’s Soviet Union was our avowed enemy. A fact best expressed by former Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, who once said, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!”

Given current developments, I fear he may have been right.

The Shutdown Is Not A Negotiating Tactic. It’s The Goal.

It seems that most Americans and much of the media believe that the shutdown is the result of a failed negotiation between Trump and Congressional Democrats. But, in reality, the great dealmaker has not been negotiating in good faith all along. Indeed, his latest “proposal” was to offer Democrats things that he has previously taken away – DACA protections, immigration judges, etc.

Prior to this January, if Trump wanted $5.7 billion to fund his wall, all he had to do was ask. The Trump sycophants in the Republican-controlled House and Senate have given him everything he wanted. As evidenced by the Trump tax cuts, which have resulted in nearly $2 trillion in additional debt, they certainly weren’t worried about fiscal constraint. And, if Trump and the GOP really wanted to end the shutdown, they could do it today by voting on the budget bill that has already been passed by the House and was previously passed in the Senate by a unanimous voice vote. Or they could accede to the Democrats’ wishes and negotiate funding for increased border security where it would do the most good – at legal ports of entry. That, after all, is where the majority of illicit drugs enter our country in trucks, shipping crates and private vehicles. And they could use the funds to step up the monitoring of the people who enter our country legally and simply overstay their visas. Those people represent approximately half of undocumented immigrants. The Republicans’ failure to do so shows that the shutdown isn’t really interested in border security.

I believe the government shutdown is what Trump and his minions wanted all along.

For Republicans and this outlaw administration, the shutdown serves a variety of purposes. First, it is a distraction from the Russia investigation that is nearing completion. Second, it deprives the incoming Democratic House members the necessary funds to staff their offices, thus potentially impeding their investigations into Trump world. Third, it offers the bully in the White House an opportunity to frustrate and blame Speaker Pelosi. Fourth, in the twisted mind of Trump, the majority of government workers are Democrats, so it’s mostly Democrats who are suffering the consequences. Fifth, if as I believe, Trump really is beholden to Putin, a shutdown throws Russia’s greatest adversary into chaos.

Finally, and most important, Republicans despise government. So the shutdown allows them to call back only those workers that are necessary to their cause. For example, while many in the EPA and Interior are furloughed, Republicans have called back only those Interior employees who are responsible for issuing drilling and mining permits for public lands.

We must all face the reality that the shutdown is a right-winger’s wet dream. The most extreme among them believe the federal government should only be responsible for law and order, the protection of private property and national defense. Anything else – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, HUD, the EPA, public education – is, in their minds, a waste of money and an unwelcome intrusion into their ability to plunder the national resources and squeeze money out of the populace.

Suborning Perjury? That’s Where You Finally Draw The Line?

After learning that Trump ordered his personal attorney to lie to Congress about his continued attempts to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow, members of Congress are suddenly willing to speak of impeachment.

Seriously, that’s what finally caused you to grow a spine?

It wasn’t enough that Trump, his entire administration and his congressional supporters have lied to the American public on a daily basis? It wasn’t enough that he stole the election with the help of Russia? It wasn’t enough that Trump embraced dictators and thugs around the world? It wasn’t enough that leaders of his campaign had more than 101 known contacts with Russians during the campaign and accepted illegal campaign contributions from Russians? It wasn’t enough that members of his campaign have been convicted and pleaded guilty of illegal activities?

It wasn’t enough that he appointed a man operating as an unregistered foreign agent as his director of national security?!!!

It wasn’t enough that Trump bragged on tape that he has committed sexual assault? And that it is known that he paid hush money to cover up illicit affairs with a porn star and a centerfold model? It wasn’t enough that Trump has damaged all of our most reliable and necessary institutions, such as the FBI, the CIA and the EPA? It wasn’t enough that he regularly refers to the news media as enemies of the people? It wasn’t enough that Trump appointed a group of sycophants and unqualified toadies to positions of authority? It wasn’t enough that Trump and his cabinet squandered tens of millions on vacations and private interests? It wasn’t enough that his administration sold public and tribal lands to the highest bidders?

It wasn’t enough that Trump undermined NATO and our international relationships with our strongest and most loyal allies – that his administration has broken international laws and treaties? It wasn’t enough that he manufactured an international crisis at our southern border – that he separated thousands of refugee children from their families? It wasn’t enough that his administration’s actions resulted in the deaths of two young children who had survived a thousand mile trek from Central America?

It wasn’t enough that Trump and his supporters have supported racists and Nazis – that they excused racist violence and the death of an innocent young woman? It wasn’t enough that they gave billions in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy while denying the basic needs of the poor as an extreme act of cruelty? It wasn’t enough that those unnecessary tax cuts ran up approximately $2 trillion in additional debt?

It wasn’t enough that his administration pandered to the victims of disasters in Texas and the southeastern US, while turning their backs on the American citizens of Puerto Rico? It wasn’t enough that Trump blamed the victims of California wildfires for losing their homes and their lives as a result of the climate change he denies? It wasn’t enough that he created trade wars causing Americans to lose markets for their products? It wasn’t enough that he shut down the federal government in a childish temper tantrum?

It isn’t enough that there is abundant evidence that he engaged in treason in plain sight?!!!

But ordering his attorney to lie to you? THAT? That’s where you draw the line?

What Would A Russian Operative Do If He Ran For President Of The United States?

He would appoint a pro-Russian lobbyist as his campaign manager.
He would change the platform of his political party to make it more friendly toward Russia.
He would invite the Russian ambassador to his party’s national convention.
He would request and accept Russian help with his election campaign.
He would have his campaign manager provide polling data to his Russian handlers so that Russia could more accurately target US voters with its disinformation campaign.
He would have members of his campaign staff and transition committee try to open secret back channels with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
He would accept millions in donations from pro-Russian Ukrainians for his inauguration.
He would appoint a retired general who was acting as a foreign agent as Director of National Security.
He would appoint unqualified sycophants to key positions in his administration with the express purpose of dismantling the agencies they control.
He would refuse to fully staff most government departments, especially those in leadership positions.
He would refuse to fully staff the State Department.
He would refuse to appoint ambassadors to many US allies.
He would try to undermine American’s trust in all government institutions.
He would encourage and sign a bill to cut taxes that would result in unprecedented national debt.
He would fire the leadership of the FBI and diminish its standing among millions of his supporters.
He would dismiss the findings of all five US intelligence agencies and accept the word of Vladimir Putin, instead.
He would repeatedly deny that he received election help from Russian interference. “No collusion!”
He would try to block and derail any investigations into his connections with Russia.
He would constantly attack the opposing party with the intent of dividing our nation as never before.
He would promote and pursue racist policies to further divide our nation.
He would lie so often that citizens would have difficulty telling falsehoods from the truth.
He would call the media “enemies of the people” and blame our problems on them.
He would undermine the relationships and standing with America’s closest and most loyal allies.
He would undermine NATO.
He would attempt to delay and block economic sanctions on Russia that were passed by Congress.
He would welcome Russian diplomats into the Oval Office and provide them classified information obtained by a US ally. He would allow only Russian media to attend the meeting.
He would create chaos with the nation’s trading partners by imposing unwarranted tariffs that would cause damage to many of our key industries.
He would have secret meetings with his handlers and destroy any record of them.
He would suddenly, with no military reason, announce the withdrawal of US troops from Syria relinquishing control of the region to a dictator and Russia.
He would attempt to rewrite history by promoting Vladimir Putin’s version of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
He would shutdown the US government on a whim and refuse to negotiate in good faith to reopen it.

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if Donald J. Trump was actually recruited to be a Russian spy. He is acting as one.

Do We Really Need The Mueller Report To Know That Trump Colluded With Russia?

Here’s what we already know about Trump’s business ties to Russia:
1. When US banks refused to lend to his organization after his multiple bankruptcies, Trump sought and received funding from Russian investors.
2. Eric Trump told golf writer, James Dodson, “… we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”
3. A Russian mobster was among the first to buy luxury condos in Trump Tower. And David Bogatin purchased not one, but five condos. (Real estate is one of the Russians’ preferred ways to launder money illegally obtained.)
4. Two Russian mobsters are serving time in prison for running an illegal sports betting operation out of Trump Tower just a few floors below Trump’s living quarters.
5. Russian oligarchs have purchased nearly $100 million worth of real estate in Trump buildings in Florida.
6. A Russian oligarch paid $93 million for a Trump-owned mansion in Palm Beach, Florida – well over the market price – only to have it demolished and the property divided into three lots.
7. Trump made his first visit to Moscow in 1987 and he has pursued a deal to build Trump Tower Moscow ever since. His personal attorney was engaged in talks with Russian oligarchs about the proposed project through the first half of 2016.
8. In 2013, the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant was hosted by Moscow and a Putin ally.
9. A Trump business associate, Russian-born Felix Sater (born Felix Mikhailovich Sheferovsky), who has ties to Putin pleaded guilty to a $40 million stock fraud scheme orchestrated by the Russian mafia.

Here’s what we know about the Trump campaign connections to Russia:
1. In late 2015, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Putin ally who promised business and political synergy with the Trump organization and the Trump campaign.
2. In early 2016, a Russian with ties to Putin ally, Alexander Torshin, offered Trump a meeting with Putin.
3. In 2016, Torshin attended the NRA’s annual convention where he met with Donald Trump, Jr.
4. George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy advisor, spoke with well-connected Russians who proposed a Trump-Putin meeting.
5. Paul Manafort, a longtime consultant to the Russian-backed president of the Ukraine who was overthrown in 2014 and has a history of multi-million dollar deals with Russian oligarchs, was hired as Trump campaign manager. (Manafort has since been convicted on multiple counts of tax fraud.)
6. Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy advisor with business ties to the Russian state-owned oil company Gazprom, traveled to Moscow in July 2016 with the Trump campaign’s approval. While there, he gave a speech criticizing the US and other Western nations.
7. During the campaign, Trump foreign policy advisor Michael Flynn was paid $45,000 to speak at a Russia Today banquet in Moscow where he was seated at a table with Vladimir Putin.
8. In April of 2016, Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak attended a conservative event where Trump spoke. Kislyak sat in the front row and spoke with both Jared Kushner and then-senator Jeff Sessions, who led the campaign’s foreign policy team.
9. In May 2016, Trump consultants Michael Caputo and Roger Stone communicated with a Russian using the name Henry Greenberg who offered damaging information on Clinton.
10. Donald Trump, Jr. received an email requesting a meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton. His response was “I love it.” The meeting took place in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. (The lawyer has since been tied directly to the Kremlin.)
11. In July of 2016, Trump called for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email. Hours later, Russian intelligence targeted Clinton’s email account along with more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.
12. Trump campaign advisor and personal confidant, Roger Stone, claimed to be friends with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and seemingly tweeted advance knowledge of the release of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.
13. After Trump won the GOP nomination, the Republican platform was changed to remove references to US sanctions on Russia.
14. Russian ambassador Kislyak attended the Republican national convention in July of 2016 where he again met with Sessions.
15. During the campaign, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort offered briefings on US politics to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. (It is now known that Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data with Russia.)
16. Ambassador Kislyak had a private meeting in Sessions’ office in September 2016.
17. After Russians stole data from the Democratic National Committee which included information on more than 120 million voters, they began a Kremlin-sanctioned program to use social media for the benefit of the Trump campaign.
18. The Trump campaign changed its entire social media campaign within days after the Russians hacked the DNC voter data.
19. After the election, and before Trump’s inauguration, Russian ambassador Kislyak maintained regular contact with Kushner and Michael Flynn. The three met in Trump Tower December 1, 2016 where they discussed mitigating US sanctions on Russia. In addition, they discussed creating “back channels” between Russia and the Trump administration.
20. Investigators have found emails, text messages, phone calls and meetings between members of the Trump campaign and numerous other Russians including Evgeny Shmykov, a former military intellence officer, and Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.
21. The Trump transition team led by VP Mike Pence was warned by the FBI that General Michael Flynn was acting as a foreign agent. Yet they named him National Security Advisor anyway.
22. In January of 2017, Trump campaign advisor and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, traveled to the Seychelles to meet with a Russian oligarch where they reportedly discussed a back channel between Trump and the Kremlin.
23. Leonard Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire who is tied to Putin and a Russian bank, contributed $7.35 million to Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain.
24. Maria Butina, the young Russian operative with ties to the NRA and GOP politicians met with Don Jr. during the 2016 campaign to seek a back channel between Trump and Putin. (Butina has since pleaded guilty to conspiracy and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.)

Here are but a few of the yet-to-be-substantiated claims:
1. Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company, offered former Trump adviser Carter Page and his associates an opportunity to broker a 19 percent stake in the company in exchange for lifting US sanctions on Russia.
2. Computer scientists claim to have identified a computer link during the campaign between a Russian bank and the Trump organization.
3. Russia pressured Trump to not name Romney Secretary of State and instead he name Rex Tillerson, a Russian friend, to the office.
4. Russian oligarch Alexander Torshin funneled millions to the Trump campaign through the NRA.

Here is evidence of obstruction of justice by Trump and his administration:
1. Trump asked FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation of Michael Flynn.
2. When Comey refused, Trump fired him. He then told Russian visitors to the White House, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job.” He went on to say, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
3. During the Senate confirmation process, several of the Trump administration nominees lied under oath about their Russian contacts.
4. In his application for security clearance, Jared Kushner omitted his contacts with Russia.
5. Trump fired AG Jeff Sessions over his recusal from the Mueller investigation and installed an acting FBI director who has been outspoken against the investigation.
6. Trump committed witness tampering by calling Michael Cohen a rat for cooperating with the Mueller investigation and praising Roger Stone for saying he would never testify.
7. He helped craft a misleading public statement about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Don Jr. and the Russians.
8. He lied to reporters about his role in hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and others.
9. He dangled pardons to Manafort and others who might testify against him.

As you can see, there is abundant evidence that Trump is in the White House only because of Russian interference and a conspiracy between the Trump campaign, the GOP and Russia. Further, it is clear that Trump has made numerous efforts to obstruct justice.

The only question is: What are we going to do about it?

Where Is The Tipping Point?

Some political pundits, even party insiders, have cautioned Democrats against beginning articles of impeachment when they take control of the House in 2019. Their line of reasoning is that the occupant of the Oval Office should be determined only by election and that a GOP-controlled Senate would never convict Trump anyway. The result of impeachment, they say, could destroy our nation.

Really? What do you think Republicans would do if the roles were reversed? I think you know the answer to that question. They would almost certainly vote for impeachment. Indeed, many called for the impeachment of President Obama simply for saving our economy from a second depression.

And there are even more important questions. What would be the impact of allowing a man guilty of multiple felonies from serving out his term? What precedent would that set? What would prevent a president from committing far more serious crimes in office. Declining to vote for articles of impeachment would say to future candidates that, if you can convince enough Americans to vote for you, you can do whatever you want as president while in office.

Consider the following:

President Richard Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment for making false or misleading statements; for withholding relevant evidence or information; for condoning and counseling witnesses to give false or misleading statements; for interfering with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Congressional Committees; for approving the payment of substantial sums of hush money to witnesses; for making false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States; for causing defendants to expect favored treatment and consideration in return for their silence or false testimony.

And President Clinton was impeached for far less. After a 4-year investigation, he was impeached on one count of perjury for lying about a sexual affair and one count of obstruction for attempting to cover up that affair. He was ultimately acquitted by the Senate.

Now, let’s look at what we know about President Trump. With all of the chaos caused by his administration and the violation of norms, it’s easy to lose sight of the crimes he has committed. For example, he has been named as an unindicted co-conspirator for directing and participating in the illegal payment of hush money to two women with whom he had extramarital affairs. That means he has committed two counts of election fraud – both felonies.

During a televised interview, Trump openly admitted to obstruction of justice by saying he had fired FBI director James Comey for refusing to ignore Michael Flynn’s lies about his contacts with Russia – another felony. In a series of tweets, Trump indicated his admiration for Paul Manafort for refusing to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s office. That is witness tampering in plain sight – another felony. And we know that Trump has repeatedly lied to news reporters and the American public about his involvement in the payment of hush money – yet another example of obstruction of justice.

Additionally, we know that Trump has, on multiple occasions, violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by receiving money from foreign visitors to his Washington DC hotel and receiving foreign investments in his family business. He and many of his appointees have violated the Hatch Act by using public office and public funds to campaign for re-election. And we know that he and many within his campaign violated the Logan Act by negotiating with a foreign government (Russia) which has a dispute with the United States.

Even without knowing what the Special Counsel has found about Trump’s role in the Russian interference in our elections, and without knowing if Trump acted on behalf of Vladimir Putin to relax sanctions against Russia, we already know that Trump has committed multiple high crimes and misdemeanors. Indeed, he has far surpassed the crimes that led to Clinton’s impeachment. And he has even surpassed Nixon’s. In 1974, those crimes were enough to force a president from office. Is the standard so much higher now? And, if so, why?

Whether or not we allow Trump to remain in office is not just about politics. It’s about the law and what we should reasonably expect from a president. Trump took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has clearly violated that oath. And if Democrats fail to vote for articles of impeachment, they will have failed to carry out their duty.

Addressing Rural Decline And Our Political Divide.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, I visited my hometown in rural Iowa. Once a thriving community with a variety of cafes, grocery stores, a five-and-dime, a clothing store, 3 farm implement dealers, 3 car dealers, a couple of hotels and more, it now features more empty storefronts and museums than active businesses…casualties of interstate highways that bypass all but the largest cities, corporate farms that have reduced the farm population by roughly 90 percent, big box stores and online retail.

Is it any wonder that many of the few remaining residents of such towns are frustrated?

As they have watched their town fade away, they have seen job opportunities fade along with it. Their home values have declined. And the decreasing tax base forces them to choose between larger property tax assessments or declining infrastructure.

They mistakenly believe that their income taxes disproportionately benefit large cities (however an Indiana study found that taxpayers in 46 metropolitan counties paid 82.5% of the taxes but received only 76.7% of the expenditures). They feel that their economic futures are no longer in their own control, but in the hands of a group of greedy corporations and politicians. Many believe urban “elites” are the source of all their problems. After all, it was the millionaires and billionaires on Wall Street who used their money to gamble on derivatives leading to the Great Recession.

It’s largely because of their circumstances that they have become susceptible to fake news. They believe (rightfully so) that the mainstream media ignore those living in “flyover land” so they tune to rightwing blowhards who skillfully pander to them by channeling their frustrations and outrage against liberals, immigrants and urban welfare recipients. They have been led to believe that the sensational crimes reported on evening newscasts show that city dwellers are a violent and lawless bunch. Many believe the cities are filled only with criminals and people with advanced degrees who lack common sense. And far too many believe the fear-mongering politicians who tell them that our nation is being over-run by criminals and terrorists.

Instead of finding common ground with the millions of similarly underpaid, overworked and overstressed people who work in large cities, they have been led to believe that they are rivals…indeed, enemies.

I am convinced that, more than anything else, this is what has led to our political divide.

The people living in rural communities similar to my hometown – those that have been persuaded that big city elites are conspiring against them – have an outsized influence on our national politics. Though only 14% of the US population lives in rural areas, the rural population has a disproportionate representation in the US Senate and, therefore, the Electoral College. Indeed, it is primarily because of their frustrations that Donald Trump now sits in the Oval Office despite receiving nearly 3 million fewer votes.

Given this, how can we bridge the rural/urban divide? How can we improve the economic opportunities for rural Americans and help the struggling rural communities?

We can start by telling them the truth – that their cherished lifestyle isn’t coming back until they make some difficult choices and accept monumental change. Despite the promises of some politicians, it’s unlikely that manufacturing plants are going to return to many of these towns and, even if they do, most of the work will be done by robots. And small, independent retail stores are unlikely to return as long as most Americans prefer to shop online and in big box stores.

Ironically, the most likely scenario for rebuilding our rural communities and for bridging our political divide is to commit to an aggressive (and necessary) response to climate change. Decreasing carbon emissions will require less dependence on imports and more demand for local production. It will require that fossil fuels be replaced with sustainable energy sources. Finally, it will require a reduction in the amount of cropland devoted to corn, soybeans and cattle. Instead, much of the land will necessarily be used for locally-grown produce.

In other words, the side effect of heading off climate disaster is to stop arguing and improve the circumstances of all Americans, rural and urban alike.