Whereof One Can Speak 🇺🇦 🇺🇦 🇺🇦

Nothing special, one post at a time since 2012

Law and Order Comes to Mar-a-Lago (Plus a Knock Knock Joke)

FZrPPgiWIAMh-36

Sophisticated humor aside, nobody knows what’s going to happen to the 45th president (otherwise known as a dangerous, buffoonish cancer on America). Maybe the DOJ and a DC jury of his peers will finally LOCK HIM UP. Maybe the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney will get it done. If she does, maybe the governor of George will pardon him. Maybe he’ll run for president from prison, get enough Electoral College help from fascist officials around the country and then pardon himself. Maybe he’ll get probation and agree not to run for political office again. Maybe he’ll abscond to Moscow and run for president from there. Maybe he’ll have a debilitating stroke. Maybe he’ll go straight to Hell. The big questions remain: how is it that a major political party chose this “person” and might easily choose him again?

Amid right-winger calls for elimination of the FBI or immediate civil war, one of my favorite columnists, Paul Waldman of The Washington Post, had a few thoughts on the hysterical Republican reaction to yesterday’s FBI visit [among which I asserted a few italicized ones of my own]:

In his recent speeches, D____ T____ has taken to saying that he is “the most persecuted person in the history of our country.” The millions who lived and died in slavery? Native Americans who endured the Trail of Tears? Sure, they suffered. But did they get kicked off Twitter?

Now that the FBI has executed a search warrant at T____’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the former president can indulge what has become his most important impulse, his driving motivation, his very reason for being: to whine and complain.

The gleeful enthusiasm with which his party has rallied to his defense shows how invested Republicans have become in T____’s personal narrative of oppression, one that is notable for its distance from anything that might affect the lives of the Americans whose votes T____ might soon be seeking again.

Let’s keep in mind one vital fact about the FBI’s action Monday: No one you see commenting on this matter — not the angry members of Congress, TV hosts or the pundits aplenty — knows precisely what crime the bureau is investigating or what evidence was presented to the judge who approved the search warrant [although the ex-president could make the search warrant public if he wanted to].

That hasn’t stopped T____’s defenders from assuming [no, saying, not assuming] that he can’t possibly have done anything that would justify the search. After all, we know how careful he has always been about following rules, particularly with regard to classified information.

… In order to get a warrant, the FBI had to convince a judge that it had probable cause to believe a search would locate evidence of a crime. One would like to think that if T____ had committed crimes, even Republicans would admit that it would be appropriate to investigate.

But the nearly universal [fascist] response has been that the search can only have been politically motivated, despite the fact that no one commenting knows what the FBI was looking for or what it found [Republicans are fond of politicizing the Department of Justice, so figure Democrats do it too].

“I stand with President T____ against this outrageous action of the FBI,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). “The Biden Admin has fully weaponized DOJ & FBI to target their political enemies,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, “The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.” On Fox News, the hosts and guests all but lost their minds in rage. Kari Lake, the T____-endorsed GOP nominee for governor of Arizona, thundered in a statement that “We must fire the Federal Government,” whatever that means…..

There’s no question that this was an extraordinary action for the Justice Department to have taken, which is why it’s almost certain that it came after lengthy deliberation and in the belief that a crime (or multiple crimes) had been committed. The department [including the FBI Director nominated by T____] had to be fully aware of the political firestorm that would erupt.

Attorney General Merrick Garland is hardly some kind of hothead, and the other top Justice Department officials likely to have been part of the decision-making aren’t the collection of knaves and buffoons T____ had gathered around himself…. In this Democratic administration, the officials in charge are serious people.

And of course, the reaction of T____’s defenders was going to be political. But the way that they’re making their case shows how profound a hold T____’s cult of personality still has on his party.

… What are Republicans saying to you right now, besides “D____ T____ should be above the law”? [And everything bad in the world is Biden’s fault while he’s had nothing to do with anything good.]

… Some did make a halfhearted effort to link T____’s personal oppression to some hypothetical future oppression you might experience yourself [note that these are House Republicans with a special interest in the proper functioning of the legal system]:

What’s the “it” here? Execute a search warrant approved by a judge to investigate unlawful seizure of classified materials, and perhaps other crimes as well? … The federal government might do that to me or you, but I confess I’m not particularly worried.

He Tried to Pull a Mussolini

Will Bunch of The Philadelphia Inquirer asks what would have happened if the Cancer on America had made it to the Capitol on January 6th and what’s going to happen next:

The nation’s right wing — swelled by disgruntled military veterans and those with a penchant for violence — had grown increasingly restless that fall, with occasional street clashes between these reactionaries and anti-fascists on the left. Finally, the leader of the right bloc — a big man who strutted on stage, sometimes buffoonishly — massed his followers and urged them to march on the capital and fight for their country, even though in the end he didn’t march with them.

Instead, Benito Mussolini would get in a car and drive to Rome in October 1922, where he again met up with the throng of as many as 60,000 who’d marched there after the future dictator’s speech to them in Naples. This was the-now notorious March on Rome, and the intimidation of Italy’s ruling elites by this large, angry mob and its “strongman” leader worked beyond anyone’s wildest dream. By month’s end, King Victor Emmanuel III had ceded all political power to Mussolini and the fascists, who would not relinquish it for two decades.

Just four months before the 100th anniversary of what is now seen as the lift-off of modern fascism, we have seen in dramatic fashion how the concept and underlying terror tactics of Mussolini’s March on Rome never went away, but lived on to be modernized by a reality-TV star who’d faked his way into the White House and was determined to stay there.

Tuesday’s riveting testimony before the House Jan. 6 Committee by former D___ Trump White House insider Cassidy Hutchinson … revealed just how close T____ came to a true Mussolini moment: His own plan to “march” on the U.S. Capitol.

The now 26-year-old Hutchinson — deputy to T____’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, embedded in the then-president’s inner circle on Jan. 6, 2021 — testified under oath that T____ knew that his supporters were heavily armed when he exhorted them to march from a rally near the White House to the Capitol, where the ceremony to certify President Biden’s win was beginning.

… Hutchison confirmed prior suggestions that the 45th president had demanded to go to the Capitol, where he would have stood among Proud Boys and others launching a violent assault on democracy.

I’m the effing president — take me up to the Capitol right now,” T____ is said to have bellowed at the head of his security detail, as Hutchinson said was related to her that afternoon by Secret Service-connected deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato in the presence of that security head, Robert Engle. But the president was overruled by aides who insisted his security could not be guaranteed at or near the wild and increasingly violent melee.

To experts on authoritarianism — who’ve been some of the most reliable tour guides during the long, strange trip of America’s last seven years — T___’s scheme was an effort to create a legend, reassert his leadership, and reverse his embarrassment over losing the election to Biden by 7 million votes.

As Hutchinson was testifying, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the New York University historian who’d specialized in Mussolini and wrote the book Strongmen, tweeted that “of course T____ was trying to get to the Capitol. A coup leader must be there to bless the new order birthed by violence and be acclaimed as savior by the crowd.”

I reached out to Ben-Ghiat to follow up on this. She told me that Jan. 6 was essentially “a cult leader rescue operation,” in which T____ “prepped his followers for months to be outraged at their hero being robbed of what was rightfully his, and then summoned them to the Capitol to save America by saving him.” She had written recently that the moment T____ hoped to achieve — restoring his movement’s warped sense of justice and order — is what is known as “the pronunciamiento.”

June 28, 2022, was a devastating day for T____ … Over just a couple of hours, Hutchinson laid out a compelling case that he and his closest aides knew the potential for violence on Jan. 6 and knew that morning of dangerous weapons, yet still sought mayhem at the Capitol when the votes were to be counted. She showed how T____ not only had no real interest in calling off the insurrectionists but supported their chants to hang Mike Pence. Most aides, she testified, knew what they were doing was against the law, either from their in-house legal advice or the pathetic last-minute begging for pardons….

But … what if the Secret Service and other aides had indeed kowtowed to “the (expletive deleted) president” and driven him to the Capitol? How might that have changed the course of the attempted and ultimately failed coup that was underway?

… T____’s physical presence could have intensified the violence [and] prolonged it…. If that had happened, it might have been unsafe for Vice President Mike Pence and Congress to resume Biden’s certification. T____ might have declared the national emergency that the worst of his advisors had been urging.

Simply put, Hutchinson’s testimony showed how close … the American Experiment came to bursting into flames.

Which is why “what next?” is so important. Just how, exactly, will the slow-moving Justice Department of Attorney General Merrick Garland respond to the increasingly mapped-out-for-them case that T____, his lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, and others took part in a criminal conspiracy in fomenting the insurrection?

The Magic 8 Ball is very cloudy…. There are understandable reasons to fear indicting T____, which would surely heighten the partisan divisions in America…  But recent events, from political violence to a rogue Supreme Court that was molded by T____, suggest that unrest is happening, no matter what. The real pressure is not to keep a false calm but to do the right thing, with the future of America on the line. D____ T____ [and his co-conspirators] must be brought to justice.

They Wanted To Assassinate a Troublesome Reporter

President Richard Nixon avoided impeachment or a jail cell by resigning. This strange story from 50 years ago made me wonder what plots were discussed in the White House more recently and whether that president will ever be punished. From The Washington Post:

Nixon’s hatred for the news media long predated his election as president. Where other politicians shrugged off public criticism, Nixon believed he was uniquely the target of journalistic vilification. When he entered the White House in 1969, he vowed revenge.

As president, Nixon ordered illegal wiretaps on newsmen who criticized his administration and instructed FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to compile a dossier on “homosexuals known and suspected in the Washington press corps.” Nixon’s Justice Department filed antitrust charges against television networks that criticized him and went to court in an unprecedented attempt to legalize government censorship. Nixon’s aides even put together a list of “enemies,” including journalists, to be secretly targeted for government retaliation.

The journalist Nixon despised most was crusading columnist Jack Anderson, then the most famous and feared investigative reporter in the country. Anderson had a hand in exposing virtually every Nixon scandal since he first entered politics, and he escalated his attacks once Nixon was president, uncovering Nixon’s deceit in foreign policy, and his political and personal corruption.

Nixon railed that “we’ve got to do something with this son of a bitch,” but nothing seemed to stop Anderson. The president’s reelection campaign planted a mole in the newsman’s office, but Anderson’s secretary discovered the snooping and ejected the infiltrator. A top White House adviser tried to discredit Anderson by leaking him forged documents, but he figured out they were bogus and didn’t fall for the ruse. The CIA illegally wiretapped and surveilled Anderson, but his nine children chased the spies away and Anderson mocked their incompetence in his column. The president even ordered his staff to smear Anderson as gay, but the allegation was as false as it was ridiculous and went nowhere.

Finally, in March 1972, the Nixon White House turned to the one method guaranteed to silence Anderson permanently: assassination. After meeting with the president in his hideaway office in the Old Executive Office Building, White House special counsel Charles Colson contacted his top White House operative, E. Howard Hunt. The “son of a bitch” Anderson “had become a great thorn in the side of the president,” Colson told Hunt, according to Hunt’s later Senate testimony, and the White House had to “stop Anderson at all costs.” (Hunt also corroborated this story in a 2003 interview.)

According to Hunt, Colson proposed assassinating Anderson by using an untraceable poison, perhaps a high dose of a hallucinogen like LSD. Colson instructed Hunt to “explore the matter with the CIA,” where Hunt had previously worked as a spy. Although he never explicitly stated that Nixon gave the order, Colson told Hunt that he was “authorized to do whatever was necessary” to eliminate the reporter.

Hunt brought in his White House sidekick, G. Gordon Liddy, who was “forever volunteering to rub people out,” as Hunt put it. Liddy was enthusiastic: It would be a “justifiable homicide,” he later said in media interviews, because Anderson was a “mutant” journalist who had “gone too far” and “had to be stopped.”

On March 24, 1972, Hunt and Liddy met with a veteran CIA poison expert, Edward T. Gunn, in the basement of the Hay-Adams Hotel, a block from the White House. Gunn and Liddy, who didn’t know each other, used aliases.

Gunn later told Watergate prosecutors that Hunt said someone “was giving them trouble” and wanted an untraceable poison “that would get him out of the way.” Gunn replied that no poison was completely undetectable. But he said the CIA had success painting LSD on a car’s steering wheel; the drug was then absorbed while driving and could cause a fatal car crash. However, there was also the risk that others — such as Anderson’s wife or children — would be poisoned if they drove the car instead.

Of course, there’s always the old simple method of simply dropping a pill in a guy’s cocktail,” Gunn suggested. But Hunt pointed out that as a Mormon, Anderson was a teetotaler.

Aspirin roulette” was another option, Liddy said: slipping a “poisoned replica” of his headache tablet into his medicine bottle. Liddy and Hunt had already cased Anderson’s house for a possible break-in. But it would be “highly impractical,” Hunt argued, to “go clandestinely into a medicine cabinet with a household full of people and pore over all of the drugs … until you found the one that Jack Anderson normally administered to himself.”

Besides, Liddy realized, it would take too long: “Months could go by before [Anderson] swallowed it.” Not to mention the “danger than an innocent member of his family might take the pill” instead.

It might be simpler, Gunn suggested, to make Anderson’s car crash by ramming into it. Hunt and Liddy had already tailed Anderson as he drove between his home and office, and Gunn suggested a specific location along the route that was “ideal” because it was already “notorious as the scene of fatal auto accidents” in Washington.

But Liddy thought this method was “too chancy” and argued for simplicity: Anderson “should just become a fatal victim of the notorious Washington street-crime rate.” Liddy offered to stab Anderson to death and make it look like a routine robbery by stealing Anderson’s watch and wallet. “I know it violates the sensibilities of the innocent and tender-minded,” Liddy later told Playboy, “but in the real world, you sometimes have to employ extreme and extralegal methods to preserve the very system whose laws you’re violating.”

Hunt briefed Colson about these various assassination options. But a few days later, the hit was canceled. The White House had a more urgent assignment: bugging the Democratic Party’s headquarters in the Watergate office building.

A few weeks later, Hunt and Liddy were arrested for their role in the Watergate burglary. The scandal that toppled Nixon’s presidency began unraveling.

In the aftermath, a Senate committee investigated and confirmed the plot to poison Anderson. Liddy and Hunt eventually acknowledged their participation in the conspiracyColson never did. All three went to prison for Watergate-related crimes.

But not Nixon, whose role in the Anderson plot has never been definitively established. Hunt believed that Colson didn’t have the “balls” to order the assassination on his own and had acted at Nixon’s behest. Colson denied that. But it is hard to imagine Nixon’s closest advisers plotting to execute America’s leading investigative reporter without the tacit — if not explicit — authorization of the president.

PS: The Rittenhouse Case

Another observer, Kurt Eichenwald, makes a good point:

. . . the biggest villains here are the Kenosha police, who refused to protect protesters by treating right-wing, gun-toting civilians as adjuncts to law enforcement. THAT is where politics & white supremacy should be most condemned – it’s institutional and allowed the streets to be filled with thugs like Rittenhouse, whose mere presence created the potential for this. But the presence of these dangerous people was not a crime.

These Brief Words About the Rittenhouse Case Sound Right to Me

Seventeen-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, saying he wanted to protect private property. This was during unrest following an earlier incident in which a policeman repeatedly shot an unarmed black man. Confronted and pursued by demonstrators, Rittenhouse killed two and wounded another. He claimed his actions were self-defense.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo responded to Rittenhouse being found not guilty:

A few thoughts on this verdict. It’s probably obvious I think it was a bad verdict. But I think we have to look more broadly at the result. People disagree. Juries make bad decisions. There’s nothing new about that. But what we have in the country right now are three factors.

One is highly permissive self-defense laws. In some cases, the statutes are okay but they’re interpreted too heavily or entirely in the defendant’s subjective perception of danger. In other “stand your ground”-type cases, they’re just bad laws. But the upshot is similar.

You also have a situation where any yahoo is now allowed to bring a high capacity firearm into an already tense or potentially violent situation. Usually they come with a chip on their shoulder or a political agenda. Then if they get scared they can start shooting.

It didn’t get a lot of attention but the judge essentially threw out the law that bars minors from open carrying in Wisconsin. So literally a kid can now show up with an AR to “help” and that’s okay.

Finally we live today in a very polarized, very divided society in which some people’s lives and inner experiences count a lot more than other people’s. You can say that that really means white people’s count more. And that’s generally right. But it’s not only that.

As long as murder is okay as long as you were feeling the right thing at the moment you killed the other person, that makes something as foundational as killing wildly subjective and makes the decisions jurors make too dependent on their own private definitions of good guys and bad guys.

None of these factors are new exactly. But together they create something genuinely new in this political moment. Add in the increasingly public acceptability of political violence on the American Right and you’ve got a powder keg confluence of factors that will make resorts to violence and general murder safaris not only more common, but also acceptable under the law.

Unquote.

I’ll add two things. The first is that the extreme polarization in our society is the result of the right-wing’s descent into fantasy and authoritarianism. Countries with conservative political parties that are actually conservative, not insanely radical and not gun-crazy like the Republican Party, aren’t as polarized.

The second is that the judge dismissed the gun charge because the weapon Rittenhouse had wasn’t illegal, according to Wisconsin’s law. For whatever reason, “the law allows minors to possess shotguns and rifles as long as they’re not short-barreled. . . When [the prosecutor] acknowledged that Rittenhouse’s rifle’s barrel was longer than 16 inches, the minimum barrel length allowed under state law, [the judge] dismissed the charge (Associated Press). In other words, according to the letter of the law, it’s fine in Wisconsin for a minor to parade around with a dangerous weapon if its barrel is longer than 16 inches. The prosecutor could have appealed the judge’s decision, since it contradicted the spirit of the law, but didn’t bother. It wasn’t the prosecutor’s only mistake.

%d bloggers like this: