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.

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.

How Russia Stole Our Conscience.

Though the Robert Mueller investigation has not yet been completed, it’s clear that Russia meddled with our election. Disregarding possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, and the many meetings between Trump associates and Russian operatives, we’re already certain that Russia controlled the election outcome using a variety of techniques for the benefit of Trump and other Republican candidates.

Here’s what we know so far:

Russian hackers stole information from the email servers of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – information that was used by the Trump campaign and other Republican candidates. These crimes alone were far more serious than Watergate (the break-in and cover-up that resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon).

And the computer break-ins were just the beginning of Russian interference on behalf of Trump and other Republicans.

Russian oligarchs donated millions to Republican PACs and Super PACS to help the re-election of Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican candidates. Hundreds of Russian operatives secretly set up fake social media accounts designed to circulate anti-Clinton propaganda. Russians bought advertising on Facebook and Twitter to attack Clinton. Russia created dozens of “news” websites to publish false and misleading stories designed to undermine Clinton’s campaign. And Russia’s RT Television Network and Sputnik News Agency ran hundreds, if not thousands, of anti-Clinton “news” stories.

In addition, Russia hacked into voter data in several swing states, changing addresses and other information to cause registered Democrats to be turned away from the polls. There are even indications that Russia actually changed votes from Clinton to Trump in at least three swing states. (As Bill Palmer pointed out in his Palmer Report, it is statistically impossible that election results in those three swing states would all three go to Trump by the exact same one percent margin after all of the polls showed Clinton with substantial margins just days before.)

Russia’s actions not only prevented Clinton from winning. Their result was to install an occupant in the White House committed to the deconstruction of the government of Russia’s greatest adversary. Whatever you think of Der Gropenfuhrer himself, you must admit that his appointments have resulted in a kakistocracy – a government run by the worst, least qualified, and most unscrupulous citizens.

For example, the Department of Justice is led by a known racist. The Department of Energy, which controls our nuclear arsenal, is led by someone who previously called for dismantling the department without even knowing what it does. The Department of Education is led by a woman who never attended a public school and has spent millions to replace public schools with religious schools and for-profit private schools. The EPA is led by someone who prioritizes religion over science and who has repeatedly sued the agency he now heads on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. Most recently, Trump appointed a climate change denier with no background in science to lead the nation’s cutting-edge science agency – NASA.

The list of such appointees is quite lengthy.

In an act of extreme cruelty and hubris, the administration and the Republican-controlled Congress tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause more than 22 million Americans to lose access to affordable health care. Failing that, they sabotaged the health care law by cutting its funding.

They have withdrawn from the Paris climate accords, which puts our entire planet at risk. Trump has dropped protections for the LGBTQ community, women, minorities and immigrants who were brought to the US as children. He has vilified Muslims and banned refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations. He refused to hold Nazis and White Supremacists accountable for the violence in Charlottesville. And he ordered the deportation of women and children who are refugees from widespread violence in several Central American nations, placing their lives in serious jeopardy.

Further, Congress is poised to vote on tax reform that will give huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. At the same time, the proposed budget is expected to cut funding for numerous safety net programs, such as those designed to provide food for poor children, the elderly and the disabled.

Considering the impact of all these actions, one has to conclude that Russia not only stole our election. They stole our collective conscience.

Yet most Republicans still refuse to acknowledge Russia’s role in the election results, likely because doing so would undermine the legitimacy of their gains in 2016. Likewise, they refuse to implement changes in order to prevent foreign interests from dictating election results again. As a result, we can’t be certain that the same type of meddling won’t take place in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

One wonders how those same Republicans would react if such interference stole an election from them.

Worse Than Watergate.

During the 1972 presidential race, Republican operatives known as the “plumbers” were caught breaking into the Democratic National Party (DNC) headquarters. Working on behalf of President Nixon, their intent was to rig the election. The break-in and ensuing cover-up led to the threatened impeachment of the president and, ultimately, his resignation.

Embarrassed and furious at losing the White House, Republicans have been looking for payback ever since.

More than anything else, the Republicans’ desire for payback was what drove the sweeping and nearly decade-long investigation into Whitewater, “Travelgate”, “Fostergate” and “Filegate”, which culminated in impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about his relationship with a White House intern. And it didn’t end there. With each allegation against a Democratic official, Republicans are fond of saying that the actions are “worse than Watergate.”

That is especially true of any hint of scandal involving the Clintons.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Republican accusations regarding the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s use of a private email server have all resulted in the claim that the events are “worse than Watergate.”

Of course, those claims are entirely untrue. But there is one scandal that may, indeed, be worse than Watergate.

I’m referring to the hacks and subsequent release of emails from the DNC, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair – John Podesta. The hacks accomplished what Nixon’s plumbers failed to do – by allowing the GOP to sort through thousands of stolen documents in search of embarrassing details and their opponents’ campaign strategies. Worse yet, the NSA and CIA have determined that the hacks were executed by a foreign government – Russia – seeking to affect the outcome of our election.

Ignoring Democratic outrage, journalists have written relatively little about it. Other than Donald Trump’s call for Russia to hack Hillary’s private emails, Republicans have remained eerily silent about the matter. And, unlike the Washington Post’s sustained investigation by Woodward and Bernstein, the media briefly reported the story then refocused their attention on Hillary’s use of a private email server.

It’s almost as if the hacks, and a foreign government’s meddling in our presidential election, never really happened. Perhaps it’s because the media don’t know how to pursue the story. Perhaps they don’t feel they have the time or resources to do so. Perhaps they don’t know how to find and cultivate their own version of “Deep Throat.”

If so, that’s particularly troubling. Because a comedian did.

Despite lacking the resources of a major news organization, Samantha Bee and her crew were able to find and interview two Russians who could provide insight into the matter. They stated that they, and hundreds of other Russian hackers, have been hired by the Russian government to meddle in the US election by disseminating false information and memes on social media in support of Donald Trump.

Take a moment to reflect on that – a foreign government which is one of our long-time adversaries is meddling in our presidential election on behalf of one candidate. For what reason? What does Russia hope to gain? What should we know about that candidate’s relationship with Russia and its leaders? What impact would Trump’s election have on our nation’s foreign policy? What impact would Trump’s election have on our national security? What, if any, connection does the meddling have to do with the previous hack of the State Department’s email server (the government server that was hacked while Secretary Clinton’s private server was not)?

Is not the theft of private documents from one of our two major political parties a bigger story than a former Secretary of State using private emails to communicate with her staffers as her predecessors had done?

Many things have changed since Watergate. And few of the changes are good.

Will Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee Be “Borked?”

In case you aren’t familiar with the history of Supreme Court nominations, the threat refers to President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork, which was blocked by a Democratic-controlled Senate. But though you may think that turnabout is fair play, the Senate’s refusal to confirm the nominee involved a much different set of circumstances than what we are seeing today.

First, unlike the current Senate’s blanket threat to filibuster any Obama nominee, Democrats warned Reagan that Bork could not be confirmed if he was nominated. They hoped he would nominate someone less controversial. The reason was Bork’s firing of Archibald Cox, the first Watergate Special Prosecutor, as part of the Nixon cover-up of Watergate. Though Bork later claimed that, as the newly-appointed Attorney General, he was acting under orders of President Nixon, it was believed that he understood the implications of the firing and was trying to prevent the impeachment of Nixon. Bork was also considered an ideologue and a divisive figure in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia. Even the ACLU opposed his nomination.

So it was clear that the Senate was not blocking any Reagan nomination to the Court. They were singularly focused on blocking the nomination of a candidate they vehemently opposed.

Nevertheless, Republicans were furious, and they vowed to repay Democrats by blocking nominations of Democratic presidents. Of course, they forget that, before Bork, they successfully filibustered Lyndon Johnson’s nomination of Associate Justice Abe Fortas to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And later, they forced Fortas to resign from the Court over the fact that he had accepted a lifelong annual retainer for agreeing to provide legal advice to a friend and former client for a family foundation. Yet Fortas’ actions would seem to pale in comparison to those of current Justice Clarence Thomas. Not only has Thomas long been dogged by claims of sexual harassment of Anita Hill. Thomas failed to make legally-required financial disclosures for 13 years. He also refused to recuse himself from cases in which there were obvious conflicts of interest.

If the Republican-led Senate follows through with its threats to filibuster any Obama nominee, what will happen when the tables are turned? Will we see another tit for tat? Will Democrats seek payback? For more than 7 years, Republicans have blocked President Obama’s nominees. In fact, in 2010, they blocked a whopping 97 presidential appointments in a single day! Even today, there are 81 vacancies on federal courts with 39 judges waiting confirmation.

If Republicans continue on this path, Democrats will be faced with the choice of allowing the Republican dirty tricks to succeed. Or returning the favor.

Neither option benefits our nation.

The Attempted Destruction Of A Candidate.

Since she was Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has been the presumptive Democratic nominee for the office of president. And, of course, that has made her the prime target for Teapublican attacks. There is simply no other explanation for the continued investigation into the attack on our Benghazi consulate. In fact, few other incidents in US history have received such scrutiny. Not the attack on a Marine base in Lebanon during the Reagan administration. Not the sale of weapons to Iran during the Iran-Contra scandal under Reagan. Not the attacks on 9/11 during the Bush administration. Not even the run-up to our invasion of Iraq on false pretenses.

For nearly 3 years, there has been a near constant drumbeat of rumors and accusations by Teapublicans over the Benghazi attack. Only Obamacare has been the subject of more Teapublican rants than Benghazi. We even have a select congressional committee on Benghazi. Yet, despite no evidence of wrongdoing by Hillary or anyone in the Obama administration, the “scandal” persists. Indeed, it has grown into “e-mailgate” over Clinton’s decision to use her own e-mail and her husband’s computer server, instead of the one provided for her by the State Department.

Was she trying to hide something? Did she illegally use her husband’s server to receive and send classified information? Could the server have been hacked? More to the point, was she trying to hide what really happened at Benghazi from Teapublican congressmen?

Multiple investigations have proven that the answer to all of those questions is an emphatic no!

Clinton provided all of her e-mails from the server regarding State Department business – more than 30,000 – which have been poured over by the FBI and still there is no evidence of wrongdoing. But the purported scandal will not go away. It continues to expand. Each and every day, the so-called “liberal” media publish yet another story of a new Teapublican allegation. Now the FBI has been given access to all of Clinton’s personal e-mails. Of course, this is exactly what Teapublicans have been fishing for.

Be prepared for her private e-mails to be leaked to Teapublicans and then to the Press. Anything that can possibly be portrayed as negative, deceitful or unethical will show up in the media. And, if there happens to be one e-mail that can be construed as a “bombshell,” it will be released next summer during the peak of the presidential campaign.

We’ve seen this act before.

In 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president, there were numerous allegations and investigations into Whitewater, an ill-fated investment in which Republicans claimed that the Clintons had defrauded other investors, but, in fact, the Clintons lost money themselves. That “scandal” was followed by Troopergate, Fostergate, Billarygate and numerous other “gates.” All of them were simply fishing expeditions to find dirt on the Clintons. Only after expending 6-7 years and more than $70 million, did Republicans finally strike paydirt when Monica Lewinsky’s friend outed her relationship with Clinton leading to a congressionally-appointed Special Prosecutor who was freed to dig into every corner and crevice of the Clintons’ lives.

In fact, the Republican obsession had little to do with the Clintons themselves. Like the elephant that serves as the Republican logo, Republicans have long memories. They are still looking for payback over the threatened impeachment and resignation of Richard Nixon. They first tried to pin a scandal on Jimmy Carter and settled for the Iran hostage crisis which was extended by Reagan’s treasonous agreement with the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the presidential elections. They tried to pin anything and everything on Bill Clinton. And they failed at painting Barack Obama as a radical Muslim Kenyan unqualified to hold the office.

Now they’ve turned their attention to Hillary.

Of course, the Teapublicans could not have any success with such manufactured scandals if not for a compliant, corrupt and lazy Press; a Press that is all too happy to fawn over every bombastic word that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth; a Press that happily publishes accusations leveled at Hillary without any attempt to research the accusations and to put them into context.

For example, did you know that Hillary was not legally bound to use a government e-mail server? Did you know that the State Department’s server was hacked while Clinton’s remained secure? (It is, after all, a server shared with a former president of the United States.) Did you know that the previous two Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, also used private e-mail accounts while in office? And did you know that Karl Rove and the Bush administration funneled millions of e-mails regarding government business through a server owned by the Republican National Committee and, when asked to produce those e-mails, erased them?

Where was the outrage then? Where were the congressional investigations? Where was the Press?

Worse Than Watergate?

Every time there’s even a hint of a scandal in a Democratic administration, conservatives are quick to call it “worse than Watergate.” It’s obvious that they need a┬áhistory lesson. Because, nothing…I mean nothing…has approached the abuse of power that is now known as Watergate.

For conservatives and those too young to remember the Nixon administration, Watergate was more than just a single break-in at the Democratic headquarters in the office complex known as Watergate. It was a wide-ranging criminal enterprise directed by the President of the United States and the aptly-named Creep (Committee for the Re-election of the President).

Operatives known as the plumbers committed break-ins at the homes of reporters and political enemies. They set up illegal wiretaps. Nixon ordered the IRS to audit political enemies. He ordered the plumbers to spy on Democratic candidates, to use a variety of dirty tricks to disrupt their campaigns, and to leak embarrassing information. In short, he intended to use the full power of his office to short-circuit democracy and our electoral process so that he would be re-elected in 1972.

After a Watergate security guard interrupted the plumbers break-in at the Democratic headquarters, the repercussions resonated throughout the administration and the White House. Not only did Nixon resign under threat of impeachment, more than 40 operatives spent time in prison.

No president has so abused the power of the office and, had it not been for Watergate, Nixon would more likely be remembered for committing war crimes in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Chile. The only administration that has remotely approached the corruption of Nixon’s was the George W. Bush administration.

Corruption is corruption no matter who commits it, and it should be punished whether it was committed by a liberal or a conservative.

But let’s keep things in perspective: nothing in the Obama administration has risen to the level of Watergate. Not the imagined “scandals” of Solyndra and Fast & Furious. Not Benghazi. And unless it can be determined that the IRS was acting at the direction of the White House in scrutinizing Tea Party organizations, or that anyone above the level of the Assistant Attorney General ordered the phone records of AP reporters in order to track down a serious security leak, the Obama administration should not be compared to Nixon’s…except in contrast.