Trump’s Conflict With China.

With the help of William Barr, Trump was able to dismiss the Mueller investigation’s findings that he conspired with Russia to win election and committed obstruction of justice to avoid the consequences. And, with the help of a compliant GOP-controlled Senate, Trump was able to avoid removal from office through impeachment over his unconstitutional actions with Ukraine.

Now desperate to distract from his failed response to the coronavirus that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans and left nearly 37 million unemployed, Trump is calling on his administration and his allies to place blame on China.

Certainly, China is not blameless for the pandemic. Its government downplayed the seriousness and the extent of the outbreak in Wuhan, even punishing the doctor who called attention to the threat and who later died from COVID-19. But China eventually did cooperate with the World Health Organization (WHO) and provided information on the virus before it was found in the US.

And the Trump administration is no less at fault. It has been reported that the administration ignored the pandemic playbook left by the Obama administration. In 2018, it disbanded the Pandemic Response Team. Even before that, GOP members of Congress refused to provide funds to refill the Strategic National Stockpile. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refused to use a readily available test preferring to make its own failed version. And, during the early days of the pandemic, Trump dismissed concerns of the coronavirus as a Democratic hoax.

To be fair, there were some things beyond the administration’s control. Over a period of many years, US manufacturers of medical equipment, like many other industries, outsourced much of their production to China. And, facing economic stress, hospitals had embraced the “Just In Time” mentality of other industries to reduce inventory and cut expenses.

Obviously, with regard to the pandemic, there is plenty of blame to go around. But, instead of trying to affix blame, we should be trying to make necessary changes so that it never happens again. The last thing we need is to defund the WHO, the organization best suited to prevent pandemics. And we certainly do not need to escalate the ill-conceived trade war with China into a cold war or worse. But it seems the Trump administration is determined to do just that.

After Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated by the Obama administration and began alienating governments around the globe, China has stepped in to fill the void left by the US. It has invested heavily in emerging countries. And it has worked to expand trade with Europe. That has made China more powerful, more confident, and less dependent on the US. In addition, US tariffs on Chinese goods have hurt US consumers, US farmers, and US companies. They have also strained relations between the two nations.

Now, after long ignoring China’s ethnic cleansing of the Uighurs, the brutal occupation of Tibet, and the crackdown in Hong Kong, the Trump administration seems to have decided that it is now in Trump’s interest to demand information about the location and well-being of Tibet’s Panchen Lama. And it has decided to place sanctions on Chinese companies involved with surveillance of Hong Kong protestors. Not surprisingly, China has threatened to respond in kind. Alarmingly, some congressional Democrats have gone along with Trump’s escalation of the conflict.

This cannot end well.

After the Trump administration’s treatment of Latin American refugees, the US no longer has the high moral ground on human rights. So, China is unlikely to respond to demands from the US. And we may not get much support from the international community. Further, to a great extent, the Chinese and US economies rely on each other. Escalating the conflict will be damaging to both economies, and the US economy is already more vulnerable than at any time since the Great Depression.

Finally, since WWII, the US has focused on projecting its military might around the globe. That is extremely difficult and expensive, requiring many military bases, aircraft and naval carrier groups. But China has focused on building its military to defend the eastern hemisphere – a task far less daunting. So, any military conflict with China will be difficult for the US to win. Both are nuclear powers. And, unless China attacks the US, the US will be forced to fight against superior numbers on China’s home turf.

In reality, neither side can win a military conflict. Therefore, the only solution is diplomacy – a task the Trump administration is particularly unsuited for.

The Coming Great(er) Depression.

In the US, we are quickly approaching 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 combined with 36 percent unemployment. The losses have been staggering – akin to combining the pandemic of 1918 with the Great Depression of the 1930s. Even “reopening” the economy is unlikely to change our future other than accelerating the death rate.

At this point, we have no reliable treatment for COVID-19. No vaccine. No equitable answer for unemployment. And inadequate safety nets.

But, by far, our greatest deficiency is leadership at the national level. So far, our “Dear Leader” and wannabe dictator has only led us to the abyss. Instead of preparing for a pandemic, he ignored the playbook given him by his successor and dismantled our response team. Instead of reacting to the onset of the pandemic in China, he dismissed it as the Wuhan flu. When the first cases appeared on our shores, he dismissed it as a partisan hoax. As the pandemic spread, he abdicated his responsibility and placed it in the laps of state governments. And he continues to claim that “no one could have handled it better.”

Really? Let’s look at his administration’s response.

He and his incompetent underlings stated that the national stockpile of medical supplies was the federal government’s – that states would have to find their own sources of ventilators and personal protection equipment (PPE). They even ignored a US manufacturer who had the manufacturing capability to make millions of N95 masks before the pandemic spread. All the manufacturer needed were government assurances and federal funds to restart his production lines that had been forced to close by lower cost foreign competition.

As a result, states were forced to engage in bidding wars for equipment – much of it substandard – often against the federal government. At the same time, large federal supplies of masks held by TSA went unused. In the meantime, healthcare providers were left to treat COVID-19 patients without proper protection, resulting in unneeded stress and, in some case, unnecessary deaths. And their reward from Dandy Donnie? He accused them of hoarding or wasting masks, shields, and gowns.

He continued to treat the pandemic as a partisan issue, using it to further divide our nation. He called for the economy to reopen while deaths soared. He took the advice of his propagandists on Fox News against his own medical advisors to promote unproven drugs as a “cure” for COVID-19. He also suggested that COVID might be treated by injecting or ingesting disinfectants or somehow getting ultraviolet light inside patients!

Only when the polls showed him trailing his political rival did he begin to take the pandemic seriously.

Nevertheless, he continues to push for Americans to go back to work despite the danger. He ordered meat-processing plants to stay open as more and more of their employees tested positive for the virus. His administration failed to provide guidance for safety measures leaving employees exposed. Yet, he quickly enacted safety measures for his own place of employment when one of his staff tested positive for the coronavirus. It seems he expects other Americans to risk their lives to restore the economy to improve his re-election prospects.

But the economy isn’t coming back soon.

It’s painfully obvious that Donald J. Trump is completely unsuited for dealing with a crisis, especially one that demands reason and science. He can’t bully a virus. He can’t sue it or con it. It won’t succumb to his vulgar threats. Sure, he can rile up his base into a frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy. He can expect Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh and his other propagandists to create distractions and more conspiracy theories. He can continue to try to place the blame on others. And he can expect Vladimir Putin to meddle in our elections. But creating more anger, more hatred, more division, more racism will not end the pandemic and bring back our economy.

The only thing that can save us now is real leadership. Something that is sorely lacking in the White House and in the GOP.

Barr’s Latest Attempt To Rewrite History.

Even before Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College, it was clear to US intelligence agencies that Russia had intervened in the 2016 election on his behalf. They had not only barraged social media with lies about Hillary Clinton. They hacked the DNC website, delivering Democratic strategies and internal polling to the Trump campaign, which helped sway key battleground states. In addition, Russian oligarchs funneled millions into GOP campaign coffers through the NRA.

These were not the unsolicited acts of a foreign rival. As revealed by the Mueller investigation, they were done in concert with the Trump campaign. For example, just hours after Trump looked into a camera and said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing,” Russian operatives began attempts to hack the Clinton campaign.

The investigation documented dozens of meetings between Russians and Trump associates. It also knew of dozens of communications between Russia and the Trump campaign that were either destroyed prior to the investigation or encrypted. It even documented an attempt to set up a so-called backdoor line of communications between the campaign and Russia. Though the Mueller team concluded that there was insufficient evidence to press charges of a criminal conspiracy due to the campaign’s lies, missing communications, and the unwillingness of Russians to testify, it wrote: “…the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events detailed in the report.”

Contrary to Trump and his puppet Attorney General, William Barr, the investigation did not exonerate Trump. Nor did it rule out collusion.

The fact that Trump can continue to lie about his “exoneration” is the result of Barr’s successful attempt to mischaracterize the results by sending a misleading letter to Congress and holding a press conference before releasing the report itself. Further, Barr has continued to undermine the investigation’s findings by raising questions about the investigation’s origins and the FISA warrants issued to collect information.

It’s an old trick. If you can’t dispute the evidence, raise questions about how it was gathered. Cast the investigators as biased, incompetent or both.

Barr is an expert in the art of deception. In 1989, as Assistant Attorney General, he wrote a legal opinion justifying rendition – the arrest of fugitives on foreign soil without consent of a sovereign government – resulting in the US invasion of Panama and the arrest of Manuel Noriega. When Congress asked for a copy of the document, Barr refused to provide it, offering a “summary” instead. When Congress eventually subpoenaed the full document, it discovered that Barr had omitted key findings from the summary. Sound familiar?

Far from acting as an impartial advocate of justice, Barr has used his position to push for destructive and partisan policies under false pretense. To a great degree, he is responsible for mass incarceration, while claiming it would be good for black Americans. He launched an illegal surveillance program which gathered international phone records of innocent Americans. He pushed President George H.W. Bush to pardon Casper Weinberger for the Iran-Contra affair. And he was given the monicker “Coverup General Barr” by conservative columnist William Safire for his refusal to appoint a special counsel to investigate the scandal known as Iraqgate over the US role in the Iran-Iraq War.

It is precisely because of his ability to deceive and coverup that Barr was nominated to become Trump’s more than willing enabler. Having honed his abilities to undermine justice to a fine art, he once again sits atop a Department of Injustice. Using his power, he not only undermined the Mueller investigation. He began a partisan investigation of the FBI and US intelligence agencies. He has attacked the Affordable Care Act. He has even threatened governors for daring to invoke their emergency powers to shutdown businesses in response to the pandemic. (How dare they place the safety of their citizens over the re-election efforts of his Russian-loving, pussy-grabbing, child-caging, environment-destroying, money-grubbing, pandemic-ignoring, wannabe dictator!)

And just in time to help resurrect Trump’s failing re-election campaign, Barr has ordered a federal court to ignore Michael Flynn’s guilty plea of lying to the FBI. If the court agrees, the former National Security Advisor, conspiracy theorist, and leader of “Lock her up” chants will go free. Moreover, Trump will again be able to claim that the entire Mueller investigation was without merit. Never mind the evidence. Pay no attention to the many other convictions. Forget about Junior’s meeting with a Russian operative expecting to collect dirt on Hillary. And, by all means, ignore the incompetent response to the pandemic, the multi-trillion-dollar deficit, and the 33 million unemployed.

It’s all a Democratic hoax.