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?

America’s On-going Unnatural Disaster.

It has been nearly a year since a former student walked into the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, pulled out a military-style weapon and shot 34 students. 17 of those students died. 17 more were seriously wounded. And many of those who escaped will likely suffer from PTSD for the rest of their lives.

Let that sink in for a moment.

High school students who were merely sitting in a classroom now share a disability with many of our military personnel returning from war zones! Even worse, Parkland was only one of 340 mass shootings that took place in the United States in 2018. Including Parkland, those shootings claimed 354 lives and wounded or injured 1,341.

Still worse, according to GunViolenceArchive.org, in 2018, there were 56,768 incidents in which an American pointed a gun at another and pulled the trigger. That’s an average of roughly 155 shootings per day, or about 6.4 shootings an hour!

In total, an astounding 14,600 people were killed by guns in the US last year. And that doesn’t even include gun suicides, which amount to almost twice the number of people shot by others. We see reports of these shootings in the news every day. We learn of the domestic violence killings; of the murder-suicides; of the road rage killings; of those being killed by stray bullets; of the children who discover a gun and unintentionally kill themselves or a playmate.

And what do we do about all of this?

We simply move on to the next news story or turn the page because we’ve come to accept this slaughter as normal. Or we accept it as the penalty our society must suffer in order to protect the 2nd Amendment.

But let me remind you. This is far from normal in the civilized world. No other advanced nation experiences such slaughter. Indeed, there are more casualties in the US from guns than there are in some nations that are considered war zones!

Let me also remind you that the Founding Fathers never intended the 2nd Amendment to allow US citizens gun down each other. It was only included in the Constitution to provide a mechanism for the defense of our nation. We did not yet have a standing army – indeed, the Founders were exceedingly wary of authorizing one – so they included the right to bear arms as part of a “well-regulated” state militia.

Further, as interpreted by the courts, the 2nd Amendment was not without limitations. The courts have consistently ruled that various jurisdictions can ban certain types of guns and ammunition. They have also ruled that certain people can be legally prevented from purchasing or owning firearms.

If our nation experienced even a small percentage of these deaths and injuries from other causes, there would be a loud uproar. People would be calling for the heads of the executives or politicians responsible. For example, in 2014, much of our population was panic-stricken over two deaths from Ebola in the US. Two! Allow me to do the math for you: That’s 14,598 fewer people who died from Ebola in the history of the US than died as the result of shootings last year alone.

And many of our citizens are willing to spend tens of billions of dollars and compromise the very fabric of our nation to prevent refugees from crossing our borders for fear a tiny percentage of them might commit a crime. But gun violence? Many of those same people won’t lift a finger or spend a dime of taxpayer money to reduce it.

Seriously, does that make any freaking sense?

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.

It’s Now Clear That One Of Our Political Parties No Longer Believes In Democracy.

For most of our history, the US has been dominated by two political parties. Though they have been fiercely competitive, they have always seemed willing to agree on the relative infallibility of the Constitution. And they have been willing to put their faith in the electorate. But over the past few decades, something changed.

The Republican Party – the Grand Old Party that led the fight to end slavery; the party that staked its future on holding the nation together following the secession of the South; the party of Abraham Lincoln – has seemingly abandoned its faith in democracy. Instead of fighting for the right of every American citizen to vote, they have falsified claims of widespread voter fraud as an excuse to create numerous obstacles for college students, the elderly and minority voters.

Prior to the midterm election, North Dakota’s GOP-controlled legislature passed a law requiring voters to have IDs with street addresses knowing that those living on the state’s Native American reservations have none. In Georgia, the GOP gubernatorial candidate who held the office of Secretary of State used his office to purge legitimately-registered voters, to shutter polling places in predominately minority areas, and to stall roughly 53,000 voter registrations based on alleged inconsistencies with their voting registration information.

In Texas, there were accounts of electronic voting machines changing votes from Democratic candidates to Republicans. In Florida and numerous other GOP-controlled states, the voting rolls were purged of tens of thousands of voters for failure to vote in previous elections or failure to update their voting information following a move. Many students were not allowed to vote where they attend college, instead being required to vote in their parent’s state of residence.

Want more evidence of the GOP’s contempt for democracy?

Consider the fact that, as a result of extreme GOP gerrymandering, Republicans were able to elect more candidates to legislatures despite Democrats receiving substantial majorities of votes. Or consider that, as Arizona, Florida and California continued to count legal votes following Election Day – many of them absentee and mail-in ballots that were dropped off at polling places – Republicans screamed fraud. They demanded the counts be stopped. They even claimed that election officials put in place by Republican governors and legislatures were attempting to steal the election for Democrats. Meanwhile, Democrats insisted that every vote count regardless of party.

And, in at least three states where Democrats were elected governor, GOP-controlled legislatures have pushed laws to diminish and restrict the power of the governor’s office before the governors-elect can be sworn into office! Can there be any greater affront to the will of the voters? To democracy itself?

Republicans must be held accountable for their actions. Voters should demand that all states commit to automatic or same-day voter registration such as Minnesota. They should demand an end to gerrymandering through the implementation of independent redistricting commissions such as those in Arizona, California, Idaho and Washington. They should demand modern, reliable and tamper-proof voting machines that create a paper trail for recounts. And they should punish any political party that tries to undermine the will of the people.

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 Wannabe King.

The president’s actions on the day following the 2018 midterm elections will long be remembered as a window into his disturbing mind. He not only forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He replaced Sessions with a conservative ideologue. (As I’ve previously noted, that gives the president an acting Attorney General who is openly hostile to the Mueller investigation.)

Hmmmm…why do you suppose he would want to do that?

Prior to the announcement of Session’s “resignation,” the president presided over a press conference during which he courted a confrontation with a CNN reporter leading to the suspension of the reporter’s White House press credentials. When an NBC reporter stood up for his press colleague, Trump all but threatened him. And when a PBS correspondent understandably asked if the president’s labeling himself as a nationalist would be a welcome sign to white nationalists, Trump called the question “racist” and admonished the African-American correspondent for asking such a “horrible” question.

All of that was highly disturbing. But even more worrying was the president’s performance at the beginning of the press conference when he threatened “war” with Democrats after they wrested control of the House away from Republicans. More alarming yet was the fact that Trump ridiculed the Republicans who lost their bids for re-election. He mocked GOP candidates Mia Love, Barbara Comstock, Peter Roskam, Erik Paulsen, Carlos Curbelo and Mike Coffman for refusing his “embrace” saying, “They did very poorly.” “Mia Love gave me no love,” he continued, “And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.” (Interestingly, at the time he was heaping scorn on Love, the race had not yet been called.)

The president’s comments should cause everyone to pause. Not just the members of his party. Every single one of us.

It’s clear that Trump believes that those he considers underlings should pay tribute to him above all else. Above the electorate. Above the Constitution. Above the nation. No previous occupant of the White House has ever expressed similar beliefs. Nor have they likely even entertained them. Nixon was a self-centered bully who thought he was above the law. But I think such beliefs were even beneath him.

Trump is now entering dictator territory.

It is Trump’s Me First attitude that has led to his view of the office as a money-making opportunity. To ignore the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause; to vacation at his own properties in order to generate income from his Secret Service detail; to cut trade deals with foreign governments that benefit his family’s business interests.

After China’s Xi Jinping made himself president for life, Trump said “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll want to give that a shot someday.” Was he joking? Or was he serious? Given his performance at the press conference, we can’t be certain.

Democrats’ Dilemmas.

Now that Democrats have overcome the Republican’s extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression to take control of the US House of Representatives, they face a serious dilemma. If they reach across the aisle and cooperate with the president to pass legislation on behalf those who elected them, Trump will take credit for it. (No one is better at claiming credit for others’ efforts.)

On the other hand, if Democrats obstruct Trump’s sinister agenda, Republicans will call them obstructionists and use their propaganda networks to undermine the Democrats’ chances of re-election. (Seemingly, only Republicans are able to obstruct without paying a price.)

And, as of today, Democrats are faced with an even more serious challenge following the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. By passing over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to install one of his compliant lackeys, Trump is clearly obstructing justice by taking responsibility for the Robert Mueller investigation away from Rosenstein. As the new Acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker will not have to recuse himself. Moreover, he will be able to block any further indictments or, worse, prevent the Special Counsel’s report from becoming public. Of course, this comes on the heels of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court likely based on Kavanaugh’s belief in the supremacy of the presidency – that the president is above the law.

The result is a constitutional crisis most Americans have been wanting to avoid – the modern equivalent of Watergate’s Saturday Night Massacre which ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation.

Lest you dismiss Trump’s actions as mere politics as usual, you should consider the fact that the Trump campaign’s conspiracy involving Wikileaks and Russia is actually far worse than Watergate. Both consisted of interference in a presidential election. Both were break-ins – one into an office, the other into computers. Both involved the theft and use of Democratic documents. Both involved dirty tricks. And both led to indictments and convictions of the presidents’ campaign operatives. The difference is that Watergate did not involve a foreign government hostile to the United States.

All of this means that the new, Democratic-controlled House will be forced to take measures to ensure that the Mueller investigation continues unimpeded until we get to the bottom of the Trump campaign’s conspiracy. And to determine, once and for all, whether or not the president was directly involved and aware of the conspiracy.

How Democrats go about these tasks may determine the outcome of the 2020 elections. If they do not protect Mueller and do not let the investigation continue to its conclusion, they will be punished at the polls by Democratic voters who will be understandably infuriated at their failure to hold Trump accountable. But, if their actions seem too partisan, and if they ignore the many other serious issues facing this nation, they will be punished by independents and swing voters.

Democrats will be walking a tightrope. It will take much thought, foresight and balance to attain their goals. Let’s all hope they are up to the task.

Will Election Winners Live Up To Their Promises?

Over the past year, Americans have been subjected to non-stop campaigning by national, state and local candidates. They and their affiliated Political Action Committees fueled by billions of dollars have papered our cities with flyers and ads. They have held thousands of campaign rallies. They have run tens of thousands of commercials on television and social media. And many of those commercials and ads have tried to create fear about the opposition.

We have been told that an invasion is coming – an invasion of MS-13 gang members, terrorists and thugs from Central America. We have been told that, if the angry mob of Democrats win, they will turn the US into a socialist country, and we will forever lose our democracy. We have been told that many of the candidates are corrupt. We have been told that if the opponents get to Washington, they will raise our taxes, bankrupt our nation and turn our health care over to a government bureaucracy.

Both sides have told us that they, and they alone, can end the division.

Both sides have told us that they will preserve our access to affordable health care. Both sides have promised to protect those with pre-existing conditions. Both sides have promised to preserve Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Both sides have promised to improve education and the economy. Both sides have promised to create jobs. And, ironically, many on both sides have promised to be independent and to reach across the aisle for our benefit.

Really?

To the last claim, I’ll simply respond this way: If every candidate who promised to work across the aisle actually worked across the aisle, Congress and our country would not be so divided.