Barack Obama 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe on MSNBC (screengrab)
David Plouffe, the mastermind behind Barack Obama's historic 2008 presidential campaign who later became a Senior Advisor to the President, is urging Democrats to take action to stop President Donald Trump's attacks on the United States Postal Service. Trump on Thursday at least twice admitted his goal in blocking funding for the USPS is to stop Americans from voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We’ve never needed Democrats in Congress more than we do now," Plouffe writes. "The whole enterprise is on the line. The Biden campaign has no oversight or fiscal power. Neither does the press. Letters, statements, outrage are not enough. Time to go to the mattresses. Now."
Speaking with MSNBC's Jonathan Lemire on "Way Too Early," McQuade stated that, based on what she has heard about the still-sealed indictments, the inclusion of a charge tied to the Espionage Act takes Trump claim that the documents in question were declassified by him off the table.
"We know his explanations and justifications for having classified documents have changed quite a bit including the idea he just declassified them just by thinking about them,' Lemire prompted. "It also seems his defense is trotting out a strategy of prosecutorial misconduct noting this is a charge brought by the Department of Justice that was underneath the president of the United States, Joe Biden, who is Donald Trump's top rival for the White House next year. Walk us through the assessment of potential defenses, and do you think it could work?"
"I don't think either of these defenses are going to work," the former prosecutor replied. "They might sound good in the court of public opinion, and imagine I Trump will hammer them as he has, but as [MSNBC legal analyst] Danny Cevallos just said, this idea Trump declassified the documents is really off the table if the charge is the Espionage Act because there's no requirement under the Espionage Act the documents be declassified."
"They must merely pertain to the national defense," she elaborated. "If they're talking about military capabilities or attacks on Iran or whatever they are, that would qualify. So I think this completely neutralizes that defense."
According to a former top adviser to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, the ex-president is bypassing the traditional fundraising apparatus at the state level and is using what they called a "Ponzi' scheme" to raise cash now that his legal bills have exploded due to his legal woes.
As the Daily Beast's Jake Lahut is reporting, Trump, who was slammed with a 7-count Federal indictment late Thursday, is skipping over paid organizers in multiple states and has set up a pyramid scheme that relies on unpaid volunteers who are expected to recruit ten contributors who are then expected to do the same and so forth.
"There’s a reason presidential campaigns tend to rely on paid talent for the most important organizing gigs. In 2016, Trump ponied up for those positions. While he personally shirked from the nitty-gritty of retail politicking in New Hampshire, his paid field organizers built an effective voter outreach operation that carried the campaign to a resounding victory," the report states.
This time around, he's cutting out the middle man and that has some GOP organizers at the local level fuming.
One former senior Trump adviser cast a jaundiced eye at how the former president is using people.
“It sounds like a Ponzi scheme. My guess is they’re using these people for optics while they spend money on legal bills… What a f--king s--tshow,” they complained.
During previous campaigns, local staffers were hired at rates like $15.75 an hour, but this time they have been cast aside for a volunteer army of supporters with limited fundraising skills.
One New Hampshire Republican complained, "Let’s be honest, other than the hardcore Trump people, the majority of people now wanna get paid,” before adding, "While we had followers, they were not the intensity that they are now. We had a lot of diversification. Now the Trump people are very hard Trump people with little tolerance for anybody else, so it’s gonna be a hard sell.”
Donald Trump has been indicted on seven federal felonies.
Most Americans view Donald Trump as an aberration, a one-off, the exception. He’s our first “criminal president” they think, the first to have committed crimes to get into office, while in office, or both.
Most Americans, in this regard, are wrong, and it’s a tragic statement about both the way we teach American history in our schools and the way our corporate media deals with past presidential crimes.
If previous Republican presidents had been held to account for their crimes the way it appears Trump is about to be, Trump may well have not been as brazen in everything from his violations of the Hatch Act to the Espionage Act to his explicitly asking Vladimir Putin to intervene in the 2016 election.
Everybody knows that Richard Nixon got caught orchestrating and then covering up a break-in at the DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex, and that he avoided going to prison by resigning his office. Yet it’s no secret that Nixon committed a far more serious crime — naked treason — just to get into office in the first place.
When the LBJ White House tapes were released in 2013, the world learned that Johnson had negotiated a secret deal with the Vietnamese to end the war in the late fall of the election year of 1968.
Nixon got wind of it and, through a campaign aide during a meeting in his New York apartment, reached out to the South Vietnamese ambassador offering inducements to pull out of the peace talks and scuttle the deal, which they then abandoned just as it was about to be signed.
The FBI was bugging the Vietnamese ambassador and conveyed the plot to President Johnson, who then called Everett Dirksen, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, to ask for help in stopping Nixon (you can listen to the entire conversation here):
President Johnson: “Some of our folks, including some of the old China lobby, are going to the Vietnamese embassy and saying please notify the [South Vietnamese] president that if he’ll hold out ’til November 2nd they could get a better deal. Now, I’m reading their hand. I don’t want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn’t to be doin’ this, Everett. This is treason.” Sen. Dirksen: “I know.”
Polling showed that Vice President Humphrey was going to easily win the election so LBJ chose not to disrupt the process by publicly accusing Nixon of treason; knowledge of the crime went with Johnson, Humphrey, and Dirksen to their graves after Nixon won the election in an unexpected upset.
But we’ve now known about Nixon’s double-dealing for a full decade. We’ve known that Nixon’s treason led to the death of an additional 22,000 Americans and more than a million Vietnamese. All entirely unnecessary and the fruit of a monstrous crime just to seize the White House.
Imagine what Republicans would be saying to this day if it was proven that JFK, for example, had committed treason to beat Nixon in 1960. Everybody in America would be able to recite chapter-and-verse of the story. (Republicans are still so committed to the idea that Chicago’s Mayor Daley stole that election for JFK that the New York Times saw fit to publish a review debunking a 2022 book re-asserting that claim.)
If Nixon’s crime was at least frequently referenced by the media and Democratic politicians, Trump may have thought twice about all his campaign’s secret meetings with Russians and his open solicitation of their help. Or of hiring a Putin agent to run his campaign.
Similarly, just three months ago the world learned for sure what the former Iranian President had been trying to tell us since 2013: that Reagan committed a similar treason to win the White House in 1980.
During the Carter/Reagan election battle of that year, then-President Carter had reached a deal with newly-elected Iranian President Abdolhassan Bani-Sadr to release the fifty-two hostages held by students at the American Embassy in Tehran.
“I openly opposed the hostage-taking throughout the election campaign…. I won the election with over 76 percent of the vote…. Other candidates also were openly against hostage-taking, and overall, 96 percent of votes in that election were given to candidates who were against it [hostage-taking].”
Carter was confident that with Bani-Sadr’s help he could end the embarrassing hostage crisis that had been a thorn in his political side ever since it began in November of 1979. Reagan’s campaign surrogates had been ridiculing Carter, calling him weak and ineffective.
But behind Carter’s back, the Reagan campaign worked out a deal with the leader of Iran’s radical faction — Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini — to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 presidential election. Khomeini needed spare parts for American weapons systems the Shah had purchased for Iran, and the Reagan campaign was happy to promise them.
The Reagan campaign’s secret negotiations with Khomeini — the so-called 1980 “Iran-Contra October Surprise” — sabotaged President Carter’s and Iranian President Bani-Sadr’s attempts to free the hostages. As President Bani-Sadr told The Christian Science Monitor in March of 2013:
“After arriving in France [in 1981], I told a BBC reporter that I had left Iran to expose the symbiotic relationship between Khomeinism and Reaganism.
“Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the ‘October Surprise,’ which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”
The Iran hostage crisis continued and torpedoed Jimmy Carter’s re-election hopes. And the same day Reagan took the oath of office — to the minute, as Reagan put his hand on the Bible — by way of Iran’s acknowledging the deal, the Ayatollah released the American hostages.
Keeping his side of the deal, Reagan began selling the Iranian regime weapons and spare parts in 1981 and continued until he was busted for it in 1986, producing the so-called “Iran Contra” scandal.
The New York Times confirmed the crime in March of this year, when former Republican Speaker of the Texas House and Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes — the guy who got George W. Bush into the Texas Air National Guard to keep him out of Vietnam as a favor to then-Congressman George HW Bush — laid out the story.
He’d known about it because he was on the trip with former Texas Governor John Connally to France where the deal was cut.
“History needs to know that this happened,” Barnes, now 85, told the Times. “I think it’s so significant and I guess knowing that the end is near for President Carter put it on my mind more and more and more. I just feel like we’ve got to get it down some way.”
Or sending Rand Paul on a private mission to hand-deliver still-unknown secret documents to Putin’s people in Moscow in 2017.
Similarly, if Nixon and Reagan had been prosecuted — or at least outed — Jared Kushner may have been less enthusiastic about sharing top-secret information with MBS that helped him stage a palace coup and take over Saudi Arabia, an apparent crime for which MBS appears to have rewarded both Kushner and Trump with billions of dollars.
“Kushner, who is the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, and the crown prince had a late October meeting in Riyadh.
“A week later, Mohammed began what he called an ‘anti-corruption crackdown.’ The Saudi government arrested and jailed dozens of members of the Saudi royal family in a Riyadh hotel – among them Saudi figures named in a daily classified brief read by the president and his closest advisers that Kushner read avidly…. “According to the report, Mohammed told confidants that he and Kushner discussed Saudis identified in the classified brief as disloyal to Mohammed.”
The day before, both CBS and The Intercept quoted MBS as gloating that Kushner was “in his pocket.”
“Recently ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster expressed early concern that Kushner was freelancing U.S. foreign policy and might make naive mistakes, according to people familiar with their reactions.
“… [National Security Advisor] McMaster was concerned there were no official records kept of what was said on the calls. “Tillerson was even more aggrieved, they said, once remarking to staff: ‘Who is secretary of state here?’”
Weirdly, our media is so invested in “both sides” narratives that unless they can point to a crime by a Democratic president, they seem to have no interest in reporting on Republican presidential crimes. The result is that Trump thought he could get away with whatever he did in office and afterwards.
As Donald Trump faces the music for a small slice of the crimes he committed against our nation and our democracy, let’s not forget that he’s not the first. He didn’t do this alone.
He was simply carrying on a Republican tradition that stretches all the way back to 1968.