Everyone knows, including Republicans, that all Donald Trump has done since taking office is tell lies and commit crimes. The Washington Post has tried to keep up with Trump’s lies. In April, the Post reported that he had passed the 10,000 mark. A special counsel, Robert Mueller, was appointed to try to keep up with Trump’s crimes. In March, Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr. In April, Barr released a heavily redacted version of the report, revealing that Mueller determined Trump attempted to obstruct justice no less than 11 times.
This article first appeared in Salon.
We passed the “what did he just say?” moment with Donald Trump years ago, about the time we passed the “what did he just do?” moment. Everyone knows he’s a thief. How many times has it been reported that he stiffed contractors when he built every single building he ever put up? That’s theft of services, a crime. How many times has it been reported that he stiffed the banks that loaned him money on his real estate deals that went bankrupt? That’s bank fraud. How many times has it been reported that he treated his personal foundation like a piggy bank? That’s tax fraud.
Nobody can keep up with the man. He lies as he breathes. He steals money. He conspires with foreign powers – Russia and Saudi Arabia anyone? — to do deals that would benefit himself, his family, and people close to him. He has charged the government tens of millions of dollars so he can travel to his own resorts to play golf. He charges the government rent for the Secret Service agents who protect him. He charges the government for meals for the agents eat which is prepared by his resorts because there are no other sources of food nearby for his protection detail. He refused to divest himself of his personal businesses or to put them in blind trusts and continues to run them as president for his own benefit. We are paying to enrich this man every single day he is in office. He loves it. Being president is the only job he’s ever had where he can’t go bankrupt.
I’m sitting here trying to remember all of the shit he’s done since taking office, and I’m failing. I have paid as much attention as one human being possibly could pay to Trump and his crimes and his lies, and I can’t keep up. Sitting right here next to me on my desk is a stack of 13 reporters notebooks in which I have written down notes about the lies Trump has told and the crimes he has committed, and all of those notes just run together in a river of shit.
I just randomly opened one of the notebooks and started reading. Look at this: “Sam Patten…Moscow office of International Republican Institute . . . Konstantin Kilimnik . . . Patten pleads guilty . . . laundering $50,000 to Trump inauguration committee . . . lying to Senate committee . . . destroying documents . . .”
Do you remember Sam Patten? I didn’t. I had to read further in my notes and Google the guy. Turns out he’s just another grifter in the Trump orbit, one more operator moving money around for Trump. They raised more than $107 million for Trump’s inauguration, more than had ever been raised for a presidential inauguration in history. Do we know where those millions went? Nope, we don’t.
What else was Patten doing? Well, like so many of Trump’s henchmen, he was associating with shady Russians who had connections to Russian intelligence. Whose name pops up in my notes about Patten? Kilimnik. Why do we remember that name? Let’s see . . . oh, right! He was the shady character who sat down with Paul Manafort, yet another shady character in the Trump orbit, in the infamous “cigar bar” meeting when Manafort passed Kilimnik polling data from the Trump campaign.
And what the hell is the International Republican Institute doing in there? Well, it so happens I know a little about this seemingly legitimate sounding outfit. It’s a so-called “non-partisan” non-profit organization founded during the Reagan administration to help “build democracy” around the world. The Congress established something called the “International Endowment for Democracy” in 1983 to funnel taxpayer dollars to the International Republican Institute and three other nifty sounding outfits: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Center for International Private Enterprise, and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity. Most of the taxpayer dollars going to the International Republican Institute and the other groups comes from USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.
You know what all of that high-minded shit amounts to? Spooks. Many, many spooks. They are the kinds of front organizations through which the CIA moves money and agents around the world. The very best way to put spooks in place in hostile foreign nations like, say, Russia and Ukraine — where Kilimnik worked for the International Republican Institute alongside the indicted and convicted Sam Patten and Paul Manafort — is to go into the country and say, we’re here to help you with “democracy” and we’ve got money to give away free!
And where do these nincompoops end up? In the crowded pages of my notebooks, in the blizzard of other Trump-connected thieves and shady operatives, so lost down my own memory hole that I’ve got to dig further in the notebooks and haul out old faithful Google just to remind myself of why their names appear and what they had to do with Trump. They were laundering money for him, of course? And taking polling results from the Trump campaign back to Russia where they belonged!
See how blindingly confusing and twisted it all is? We’ve spent the last tw months obsessing over the Mueller report and the 11 instances of Trump’s obstruction of justice it lists, and we’ve forgotten all about the little schmucks like Kilimnik and Patten who were out there running around spreading CIA funny money and working with shady grifters like Manafort, who ended up at Trump’s right arm when he was running for president, along with former spook Michael Flynn, who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency and was the main contact man between Trump and Putin through Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
You want to impeach Trump? Where the hell do you even begin? Do you remember the so-called House Managers of the Clinton impeachment? They were the 13 Republican congressmen in charge of presenting the articles of impeachment against Clinton. There were 11 articles in all, charging him with perjury, manipulating witnesses, and obstruction of justice. Sound familiar?
Who are the Democrats going to appoint as the House Managers this time? The fools who impeached Clinton were in the headlines and on cable television news practically around the clock for months in 1998 leading up to Clinton’s impeachment. There were wars going on around the world, famines, problems with immigration on our southern border, hurricanes, forest fires, but what did you see on your tv? The grim visages of Bob Barr and Lindsey Graham and Henry Hyde and Bill McCollum — and that’s when you weren’t looking at the grinning face of Newt Gingrich, who was right in the middle of his own illicit affair and about to lose his office as Speaker of the House over it, and Bob Livingston, who replaced Gingrich as Speaker and left office just hours later after his own marital infidelities were exposed.
The impeachment of Bill Clinton dominated the news throughout the election cycle of 1998, right through the elections in November, into the lame duck session of Congress, when the Republicans passed two articles of impeachment, which led to a trial in the Senate in January, and votes acquitting Clinton on February 12, 1999.
If you think the impeachment of Clinton was a gigantic clusterfuck, just wait for the Trump impeachment, if the House decides to hold its hearings and issue its articles and vote on them.
And just wait to see what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does with it. You know what word pops up in the impeachment clauses in the constitution again and again? “Shall.” The House “shall” have the power of impeachment. The Senate “shall” have the sole power to try all impeachments.
Do you know where we saw the word “shall” as it was cited from the constitution recently? The president “shall” have the power to appoint supreme court justices, “by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate…”
The name Merrick Garland sound familiar? Seems I recall that Mitch McConnell decided that he would interpret the constitution to say that “shall” didn’t mean the Senate actually had to do anything once the president, in that case Obama, appointed a supreme court justice, in that case Merrick Garland. The constitution doesn’t say anything about holding hearings, so he didn’t hold any. It doesn’t say the Senate had to hold a vote, so he didn’t hold one.
Similarly, the constitution doesn’t say how the Senate has to go about handling articles of impeachment, other than “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” There’s that word again, “shall.” Doesn’t say the Senate “must” hold a trial. It simply says “when.”
Do you think if the Democrats impeach Donald Trump that Mitch McConnell is going to hold a trial and a vote in the Senate?
Ask Merrick Garland about the vote he got in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.