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.

Trump Is A Case Study In The Failings Of News Media.

No, I’m not referring to the right-wing accusations of “Fake News.” As a journalist, I have great faith in the accuracy and integrity of most news reporters. I’m referring to the extraordinary amount of news coverage afforded to Trump from the time he was a two-bit developer and hustler in the early eighties; from the time he used undocumented Polish immigrants to demolish New York’s treasured Art Deco Bonwit Teller building to make way for his garish Trump Tower.

Reviled by many New Yorkers, Trump was embraced by the news and entertainment media because, in journalistic terms, he was good copy. He served as his own publicist using his inherited millions to gain publicity for his gaudy buildings, which all bear his name in gigantic, oversized letters. And, if he believed the coverage to be unflattering, he used his father’s mob-connected lawyer to bully the writers and producers.

If the media chose to ignore him, he called reporters while disguising his voice and using one of many aliases to heap praise on himself and his projects. He portrayed himself as a self-made billionaire claiming that he received a very small loan from his father, which he quickly repaid. He claimed that he was far richer than he really was. He lied…a lot…to make himself seem important.

In reality, his approach had all the class and sophistication of a street pimp. Only, instead of gold rings, chains and a custom Cadillac, his bling consisted of gold-plated lobbies, golden faucets, and gold-plated toilets. And, like the pimp, Trump almost always had some eye-candy hanging on to his arm.

More than anything else, Trump adhered to the age-old prescription for fame: The belief that there is no bad publicity as long as your name is spelled correctly.

His efforts paid off. The real estate and gossip pages were soon filled with his lies about his wealth, his development plans and the names of women he claimed were obsessed with him. He gained even more coverage when he placed a full-page ad calling for the execution of the Central Park 5 – five young men who were ultimately proven innocent for the assault and rape of a female jogger.

Still considered a minor player in New York’s real estate market, in 1987 he hired a ghost writer to author The Art of the Deal to promote his business acumen, which he, of course, believed to be extraordinary (it’s not).

Eventually, the national news media took notice and, in 2004, he was cast as the business mogul for NBC’s Apprentice. Though the TV show made him out to be a business genius, in fact, he had very little to do with it. He simply read the scripts (badly) and delivered one memorable line: “You’re fired.”

When his fame began to wane, he embraced the “Birther” conspiracy along with some of the nation’s most questionable, and arguably, most despicable political operatives, such as Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi. When his right-wing toadies encouraged him to run for office, the notion appealed to his massive ego. Unfortunately, it also appealed to TV networks and newspapers desperate for ratings and readership.

As a result, beginning in mid-2015, he was on cable television news shows almost 24/7. When he appeared at a rally in Phoenix that same year, his speech dominated the news cycle. The media dutifully reported his claims that his followers filled the convention center despite the fact that the local fire marshal reported a much smaller number. By comparison, when Sen. Bernie Sanders appeared at a rally in the same building in front of an overflow crowd of several thousand more people, the news media hardly took notice.

The Trump coverage only grew from there. The airwaves were filled with his speeches and interviews. They feigned outrage as he taunted his GOP primary opponents, while making wild, undeliverable promises and threatening Hillary. Indeed, the lies, the self-aggrandizement, the threats and the publicity continue unabated to this day.

It’s not that the majority of the news media ever really supported Trump or that they ever believed his unbelievable claims. In fact, they’re now doing the job they’re expected to do by exposing his prolific lies and holding him accountable.

Make no mistake – he’s still good for ratings and readership. He’s still good copy. But because of the media’s fascination with a sensational story, our democracy is paying a horrific price.

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.

Some Political Conspiracies Are More Than Theory.

It seems that every week conservative politicians, media pundits and, especially, President Trump come up with another unfounded conspiracy theory. On a regular basis, they have attacked the press, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the CIA, and others as operatives of the “Deep State” intent on undermining the Trump administration.

In order to foment fear before the midterm elections, they trotted out the wild conspiracy that George Soros and the HIAS (Hebrew Immigration Aid Society) organized a caravan of “terrorists” to “invade” the United States. And, following the midterms, they have claimed that Democrats are committing election “fraud” by counting all of the votes, including mail-in votes from military personnel serving oversees.

Such crazy claims are not new. Nixon and Agnew claimed that they were victims of the “liberal” press even as they ordered the break-in of the Democratic National Committee and organized dirty tricks to frustrate and damage their Democratic rivals. But they really took root during the Clinton administration when, after the end of the Fairness Doctrine regulating broadcast media, Rush Limbaugh and others took to the airwaves to claim the Clintons defrauded investors in a real estate development named Whitewater. They claimed that Hillary Clinton ordered a contract killing of Vince Foster (he committed suicide) to cover up another fake conspiracy labeled Travelgate.

And the conspiracy theorists worked overtime during the administration of our nation’s first black president. They famously claimed that President Obama was born in Kenya making him ineligible to hold the office. They claimed he “palled around with terrorists.” They claimed he was only elected as the result of massive voter fraud aided by ACORN. They claimed the New Black Panthers intimidated GOP voters at the polls. They claimed he was working with the UN to take away Americans guns. They said that Agenda 21, the UN plan to prevent climate change and feed the planet, was a “black helicopter” operation to sell out the US. They claimed that Jade Helm 15, military exercises in the southwestern US, were an Obama plot to institute Sharia law, jail dissenters and to take over the US (never mind that it would be unnecessary since Obama, as president, already controlled the US government).

Then, of course, there was Benghazi, the supposed betrayal of a US ambassador by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the belief that Hillary’s use of a private email server for unclassified communications compromised US security. (Interestingly, the GOP is silent on President Trump’s use of an unsecured mobile phone for his Tweets and private conversations.) There was Pizzagate, the theory that Hillary was trafficking children out of the non-existent basement of a DC pizza parlor. And, perhaps, the most dangerous theory is the ongoing belief in QAnon, the fictitious anonymous operative (or operatives) within the Deep State who releases supposed classified information revealing the conspiracy against Trump.

All of these theories are not only wholly unfounded. They defy logic. Moreover, they may indicate a serious mental health crisis in the US.

On the other hand, there are GOP actions once believed to be conspiracy theories that have since been proven true beyond doubt. The most famous of these is Watergate. But there is also then GOP-candidate Nixon’s treasonous interference in the Vietnam Peace Talks that resulted in his election, but cost thousands more lives. (Nixon’s actions are documented in the upcoming program “Betrayal” on MSNBC. Similarly, the Reagan campaign is known to have interfered in the Carter administrations negotiations with Iran for the release of US diplomatic hostages.

There is the Iran-Contra affair, which consisted of the Reagan administration illegally selling arms to Iran, despite sanctions, in order to fund the anti-socialist Contra rebels in Central America. There is George W. Bush’s 2000 election “victory” in Florida that has been proven the result of voter suppression and outright election fraud orchestrated by his brother. There are the false claims of Iraqi WMD that led to the Iraq War. There is 2016 theft of emails from the DNC, the DCCC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager that were used by GOP candidates to gain power. There are the proven connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. There are the multi-million dollar donations to the NRA by a Russian oligarch to help fund GOP candidates in 2016. And there is the Russian interference in the 2016 elections for the benefit of Trump.

There are the ties between Trump administration officials and white supremacist groups revealed by Trump’s comments following Charlottesville. There is the obvious violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause by Trump and his family. And, of course, there is the cover-up of Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels culminating in a Trump-ordered payoff in exchange for her silence.

The point is, when you hear a conspiracy theory, consider the source – especially if it comes from the Trump administration, Fox News Channel, InfoWars or any other conservative pundit. More likely than not, it will be nothing more than an attempt to deceive or GOP wishful thinking.

The True Enemies Of Democracy.

Many Republicans, led by Donald J. Trump, have labeled the press “enemies of the people.” In addition, they have called the Democratic Party an “angry mob.” But the facts are abundantly clear that Republicans are the true enemies of the people. Indeed, today’s Republican Party represents a greater threat to our democracy than any other enemy, foreign or domestic.

That is not a claim that I make lightly.

Take, for example, the 5-4 decision by the conservative majority of the US Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Immediately following the decision, 846 polling places closed or were moved, especially in areas with large minority populations. And, by 2016, more than 2,000 polling places had closed. Most of these were within states that previously had been under federal oversight.

The attack on the Voting Rights Act was quickly compounded by an onslaught of strict voter ID laws that have disenfranchised thousands of voters – mostly minorities and the elderly who are unable to travel to faraway Motor Vehicle offices to obtain proper IDs. Some are too poor to pay for copies of their birth certificates in order to obtain the new IDs. Some are unable to take time away from work. And some do not have access to transportation.

To more fully understand the impact of these laws, in North Carolina, the Charlotte Observer reported that, at the time the state’s new voter ID law was passed, as many as 800,000 registered voters lacked the necessary ID to allow them to vote! And with similar laws in at least 19 states, imagine how many American citizens can be denied their right to vote!

Another decision by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority allowed states to purge their voter rolls of citizens who have not voted in two consecutive elections. Not surprisingly, the purges have mostly occurred in Republican-controlled states.

More recently, the US Supreme Court ruled that North Dakota (another Republican-controlled state) could deny citizens the right to vote if they did not have a voter ID with a current street address. Since Native Americans living on reservations do not have street addresses, the result is to disenfranchise most of the state’s Native American population. And, in Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State who is running for governor, has put on hold 53,000 voter registrations for inconsistencies with IDs such as differences in abbreviations (Ave vs. Av) and even differences in punctuation. 70 percent of those registrations are for minorities who are most likely to vote for the Republican’s opponent.

In many states, the Republican snakes who control legislatures have drawn serpentine congressional and legislative districts in their own image with the intent of marginalizing Democrats and minorities. In North Carolina, when a Democrat won the governor’s race, the GOP-controlled legislature even passed laws to minimize the governor’s power before he took office.

During the Obama administration, Republicans in the Senate blocked dozens of nominees for judgeships, including Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Most, including Garland, never even received a hearing. As a result, the then-Democratic-controlled Senate changed the rules to end filibusters of judicial nominees. And now that Republicans are in control, they have stacked the courts with two conservative Supreme Court nominees and 84 federal court nominees who will decide cases based on the Republican ideology.

In addition to these threats to civility and majority rule, we must consider the fact that 2 out of the past 5 presidential elections were won by Republicans despite losing the popular vote. The first was stolen with the help of George W. Bush’s brother and the last one with the help of Vladimir Putin.

As evidenced by Trump’s response to Leslie Stahl’s questions about cruelly mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: “Who cares? We won,” it’s clear that Republicans will do anything to win. Even destroy our democracy.

The “Enemies Of The People” Versus The Enemies Of Democracy.

Since he began his campaign for the White House, Trump has lied to the media. Then, when they have fact-checked and reported on his lies, he has attacked them. Among other things, he has called them horrible, disgusting people. He has labeled the media “fake news” and, most recently, “enemies of the people.”

These so-called enemies are the people who risk their lives in war zones so that we might know the truth. They are the people who dig through stacks of financial documents in order to ferret out the cheaters and criminals. They are the people who sit through hours of mind-numbing meetings to report the actions of local governments to their citizens. They are the people who endure constant abuse to report on the actions of this corrupt and abusive administration.

The only media that seem exempt from Trump’s wrath are Fox News (Shepard Smith and Chris Wallace excepted), Breitbart, the Daily Caller, InfoWars and both Sputnik News and Russian TV. All of which report Trump’s legion of lies without question.

For the most part, the so-called patriots who identify themselves as Republicans have gone along with Trump’s attacks in order to accomplish their Koch brothers funded goals of reshaping the judiciary, further cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations, eliminating environmental and financial regulations, rewriting the Constitution, privatizing schools, and privatizing or eliminating Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the VA. If institutions such as news organizations stand in the way, so be it. Apparently, in the minds of Republicans, the sacrifice will be worth it.

In a recent poll, fully 43 percent of Republicans would give Trump the power to shut down media that he dislikes. Never mind that such action would be unconstitutional. Never mind that it would eliminate one of the very few institutions in a position to hold a corrupt administration accountable.

To far too many Republicans, it seems the ends justify the means. Even if those ends are achieved by destroying our government and, indeed, our democracy.

Thankfully, the vast majority of our news organizations and reporters are exercising their First Amendment rights. In defiance of Trump and his GOP enablers, more than three hundred newspapers across the nation have joined forces on this day to publish editorials in support of a free press and against anyone who would seek to diminish their responsibility to report the truth no matter how ugly.

And, given the actions of this administration, in the history of our nation, it has never been uglier.

So, today, in honor of real journalism, take some time to read the newspaper editorials and to explore reports from news media you don’t often read, watch or hear. Open your minds to the truth whatever it may be. It certainly isn’t coming from the White House.

To My Trump-Supporting Friends.

Your hero continues to deny any “collusion” with Russians to interfere with the 2016 election. He implies that the interference could have come from anyone. He calls the Mueller investigation a “Witch Hunt.” And he labels anything that conflicts with his statements as “Fake News.”

So let’s look at what we know. These are not suppositions or fake news. They are proven facts.

1 – Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did interfere with our elections. They hacked the emails and websites of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. They also successfully hacked the voter registration data for at least 3 states and tried to hack voter data for many others. The intelligence community presented detailed information about the interference two days before the inauguration.

2 – About the same time, Russian operatives also tried to attack US nuclear, aviation and power grid infrastructure. Our intelligence agencies say Russia is continuing the attacks. And they say that the system is “blinking red” that Russia intends to interfere with the mid-term elections. Despite the warnings, Trump announced that he believes Putin’s denials – that there is no on-going threat – and he eliminated the position of National Cybersecurity Coordinator.

3 – 12 Russians have been indicted by the Mueller investigation for election meddling. Thus far, the Mueller investigation has also obtained indictments or guilty pleas from 3 companies and 20 more people, including four former Trump advisers.

4 – The Mueller indictments revealed that the Russian hacking began the same night that candidate Trump said at a press conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.” After the Russian hacks of DNC analytics, the Trump campaign clearly changed campaign strategies.

5 – There have been at least 50 documented contacts between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign team at the highest levels, including campaign chair Paul Manafort, campaign adviser and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, campaign adviser and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and many, many more . And a number of those people lied about their Russian contacts under oath.

6 – We know about the infamous meeting in Trump Tower between Donald Trump, Jr., a lawyer representing Russia and others. Emails show that the ostensible purpose of the meeting was to reveal dirt on Hillary Clinton.

7 – Shortly after the Trump Tower meeting, Donald Trump announced that he would soon reveal “big news” about Hillary Clinton.

8 – It is now known that President Trump dictated the false and misleading response to the Trump Tower meeting on Air Force One.

9 – It has been documented that Russian oligarchs close to Putin have purchased approximately $100 million in property from the Trump organization. At least 13 people with links to Russia lived in Trump properties prior to the election, including one who ran an illegal gambling ring in the apartment below Trump’s.

10 – Trump adviser, convicted felon, and part of Putin’s inner circle, Felix Sater, helped set up shell corporations and arrange funding for Trump projects, including plans for Trump Tower Moscow. (Interestingly, 77 percent of the apartments in Trump Soho were purchased by shadowy shell corporations.)

11 – The financial backing for Trump Tower Toronto came from a Russian-Canadian with proceeds from the sale of a Ukrainian steel mill. The chair of the bank that financed the deal is none other than Vladimir Putin.

12 – One of the Trump casinos was found in violation of federal money-laundering rules 100 times. (Money-laundering is popular among Russian oligarchs so they can turn their ill-gotten gains from crime into “clean” money that they can invest in the West. This is even more necessary due to US and EU sanctions on Russia.)

13 – For most of his career, developer Donald Trump proudly called himself the “King of Debt.” He bragged about building his empire with others’ money. But during the Great Recession, no US banks would loan him money because of his large debt. As a result, Trump casinos filed for bankruptcy with $1.8 billion of debt. Despite that Deutsche Bank loaned hundreds of millions to Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. (Deutsche Bank was fined $450 million for helping Russian oligarchs launder more than $10 billion.)

14 – About the same time, both Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump were on record saying that the Trump organization didn’t need to rely on US Banks, “We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

15 – Beginning in about 2014, the “King of Debt” mysteriously began purchasing golf courses in the UK, eventually spending about $400 million in cash.

16 – When the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) received documents listing the names of clients using off-shore tax havens, the Trump name was listed 3,540 times.

17 – Trump is accused of demanding loyalty from FBI director James Comey and asked him to go easy on Michael Flynn. When Comey refused, he was fired. Trump later told Russian officials in the Oval Office that the pressure was off after firing that “nutjob” Comey.

18 – It has been documented that, in 2016, Russian oligarchs who are friends of Vladimir Putin funneled $30 million through the National Rifle Association (NRA) to benefit Republican candidates.

19 – The Department of Justice (separate from the Mueller investigation) indicted and arrested Russian national, Maria Butina. She is accused of cultivating GOP contacts through the NRA, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), and the National Prayer Breakfast. She was photographed with a number of GOP candidates and conservative leaders.

20 – Butina and her Russian handler (a friend of Putin’s) led a delegation from the NRA (including some connected to the Trump campaign) to Russia.

21 – In a television broadcast seen nationwide in Russia, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a Russian lawmaker and leading member of Putin’s United Russia Party boasted that Russia stole the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump.

22 – Sean Illing, the editor of a Russian newspaper stated that the Kremlin considers Trump “a stupid, unstrategic politician.” He continued, “Putin is confident that he can manipulate Trump to his advantage and he should be.” That was obvious for all the world to see in Helsinki. And it came after he insulted our allies.

23 – Trump unilaterally instituted tariffs against some of our leading trading partners. Not surprisingly, they responded with matching tariffs on our exports. Now Trump says he is considering more with no plan for ending the trade war he began.

All of these are documented facts. They are not suppositions. They are not “fake news.” And we’re likely to see much more revealed in the coming weeks and months. Yet Trump continues to raise questions about Russian interference. He refuses to confront Putin or say anything negative about him. He seems intent on weakening NATO and the EU – two of Putin’s most obvious goals. He continues to divide our nation by promoting cruel and hateful policies against refugees, immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, and women. And that’s not even considering his personal indiscretions with porn stars and Playboy models, his admission of sexual assaults on Access Hollywood and the Howard Stern Show, or rumors of pee-pee tapes.

Add all of that to the questions that remain unanswered.

Why was nominee Trump’s only change to the GOP platform to reduce the sanctions on Russia? Why did he allow Russian diplomats into the Oval Office along with Russian media while keeping US media out? Why his deference to the world’s worst dictators? Why did he delay further sanctions against Russia after they were passed by Congress? Why did he recommend that Russia be allowed to rejoin the G7? Why has he stated that Crimea logically belongs to Russia because many of its citizens speak Russian?

There are still more questions.

Why has he twice arranged to meet Putin in private with no diplomats or staff allowed? What was discussed between the two men in private? What agreements were made? Why did his joint press conference in Helsinki appear to be that of a Russian leader with his asset? Why does Trump seem unable to confront or criticize Putin? Why his reluctance to support the findings of US intelligence agencies? Why his refusal to accept warnings that Russia is still attacking us? Why does he lie to us so often?

Of course, there is an even more important question. What if our president really has been compromised by our greatest global rival? I know Trump supporters enjoy punishing liberals – the so-called “libtards.” But is that worth sacrificing our democracy?

Views Versus News. Facts Versus Truths.

When a Facebook friend recently shared a news story, a woman responded by saying “Gosh, I wish I was smart enough to find news I want to read but obviously you don’t think anyone else is smart enough to find the news they want to see and make their own decisions.” She inadvertently hit upon the very thing that divides us: What we define as news.

Far too many Americans seek the news they want – news that conforms with their long-held beliefs. They dismiss any news that conflicts with those beliefs. And, far too often, they confuse news reporting with political punditry. This is at the very heart of our national problem.

Before the end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, Americans had a shared version of news. For those of you too young to remember, the Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was – in the Commission’s view – honest, equitable, and balanced.

When the Fairness Doctrine was ended, we suddenly saw an onslaught of radio programs and TV networks that presented opinion as legitimate news. And those very same people boosted their ratings by telling their viewers and listeners that the “Mainstream Media” are lying – that only they present the real story.

That is, in fact, what most of them present: A story.

As a trained journalist (I have a journalism degree and, early in my career, I worked as a news reporter), such people offend me. I know that real journalists spend many hours sitting through tedious meetings, poring over financial records, combing through documents, uncovering secrets and often risking their lives in war zones and dictatorships to report the truth. They are not intentionally biased. Indeed, their work is usually reviewed and scrutinized by a team of editors who are tasked with ensuring that the reports are substantiated. Even when, as humans, they inevitably make mistakes, they are held accountable. They not only offer retractions. They can be sued for defamation or libel.

The mainstream news media depend on these people.

Many political pundits and commentators, on the other hand, sit behind desks offering opinions and bias while pushing a variety of conspiracy theories not based on truth or reality. They are seldom held accountable. They are concerned about one thing and one thing only: Their ratings. The higher their ratings (or readership, or clicks) the more money they are paid.

Too often, that same goal drives politicians and their political parties. They believe that, by creating anger, resentment or fear, they can generate more support, more donations and more votes. In order to do that, they often make statements loosely based on facts. Some rely on no facts at all.

One of the all-time great journalists, Walter Cronkite, once said, “My job is not to tell you the news you want to know. My job is to tell you the news you need to know.” He also said, “Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.

If we are ever to unite as a nation, we must inform ourselves with the truth. Not just facts and opinions that support our point of view. We must make an effort to inform ourselves. We must consume news and information from journalists – real journalists. We must look at both sides of a story. We must seek the truth, wherever it leads us. And we must vote for politicians and officials who honor that truth.