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May 23, 2018

Orange Privileges, Immunities & Atrocities

Poised as we are just before a hallowed holiday weekend, and in further honor of the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars as well as our nation’s foremost motor-car race, reporting on the Trump-fueled daily disasters is just “coming in too fast.”

The clown-car demolition derby leading up to his first ill-fated big-boy trip, the emblematic nightmare CBO score for Trump’s signature legislative dookie, and the enshrinement of physical violence as acceptable alternative politics, all show shambolism keeps going and growing.

As opined by myself in these pages on election eve, “shambolism (is) a chaotic, scatter-gunning, spit-balling attack on convention, consistency, facts and logic. In shambolism, two entirely opposite ideas occupy the same space, truthfulness is rare, swift-boating reigns supreme, and the process operates as a sound cannon of illogic aimed at opponents, the press, and voters alike.” So, as modest tribute to the millions of men and women who’ve lost their lives for the First Amendment, let’s have at it.

The Irony and the Agony

Less than three break-neck weeks ago, on May 8 (also VE-Day), former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former DNI James Clapper testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee. Ms. Yates revealed she had informed White House Counsel Don McGhan as early as January 26 that disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn posed an enormous security risk  just by standing still; of course he wasn’t dismissed until the entire country learned what a craven hot mess Mr. “Lock-her-up” was nearly three weeks later.

For his part, Clapper punched a huge hole in the whole-cloth “Obama loyalists” conspiracy theory on Russia-gate, testifying he wasn’t even aware of the FBI’s Trump campaign investigation until all of us were, through FBI Director Jim Comey’s own public testimony March 20.

Then came the May 9 Tuesday-night massacre of Jim Comey, fired ostensibly at the direction of AG Jeff Sessions (when is a recusal not a recusal?) and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein for make-believe reasons. As an added bonus, the WH released a good luck letter from Trump himself, which mentioned Trump’s gratitude that Comey had pre-cleared Trump of any wrongdoing three separate times.

The very next evening, May 10, Trump brought Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a Kushner and Flynn buddy, into the holiest of holy(s), the Oval Office; to the exclusion of any American press, the Russkies brought their own TASS audio-visual entourage to capture the mooning and mugging for posterity.

Later that day, WaPo reported Rosenstein was upset at being used by Trump. And finally on that wacky Wednesday came a poll from Quinnipiac University showing Trump’s disapproval rating at 58 percent — a new high; just 36 percent approved of Trump’s job performance.

On May 11 came the fateful interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, with Trump smashing every canard that had been floated by every last WH meat puppet and cable apologist, including poor Mike “No-Sense” Pence. Making sure we all know who’s in charge, Trump crowed that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the memo; “I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”

At this juncture, the smart, grown-up, learned professionals, the faithful yet reviled bureaucrats of both the left and right, who may be saving this Republic one leak at a time, began frequent use of the phrase obstruction of justice. As WaPo’s Phillip Bump said “Firing the man investigating you seems, in the abstract, to fit the bill.”

On May 12 came yet another NYT scoop: Trump had requested Comey take the Trump loyalty oath at a private supper; Comey could only pledge his “honesty,” a scarce commodity of little to no value in Trumpworld.

Trump finished the week with a blatant threat to Comey, tweeting  “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” This tweet was in turn re-tweeted by 24,000 Trump followers and “liked” by nearly 76,000, because nothing makes America quite as great again as threatening the chief of the national police, who’s on to you and knows you’re guilty as sin. I know it, you know it, everybody knows it.

Right now, readers may take a break, ‘cause we still have the week directly prior to the Euro-disaster and some international travel to go (I’m tired too).

On Monday, May 15 WaPo reports that Trump’s gossip with Russians Lavrov and Kislyak in the Oval included highly classified information, originating from the Israelis; hapless WH stooges made desperate denials. Tuesday, May 16 Trump again hangs all his staff out to dry, tweeting that he has the “absolute right” to share information with the Russians, leading in turn to the smart folks on the TV lecturing us on the concept of “lawful but awful.”

On Wednesday, May 17, things finally improve or further degrade based on your proclivities. DOJ patsy Rosenstein appears to avenge being duped and taps former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to serve as special counsel investigating the Russian meddling and any links to the President’s campaign. With fatigue setting in and Dumbo and his circus about to leave town, Repubs are almost as relieved as Dems.

Also on this day comes the revelation that Comey had recorded contemporaneous after-action memos of his conversations with Trump, including that one time at band camp where Trump asks the FBI to drop its investigation of BFF Flynn. Lastly, NYT reports Flynn himself had informed Don McGahn prior to January 20th that he was under investigation for lobbying on behalf of Turkish interests.

Thursday, May 18, Reuters, yet another blue-chip news organ, reports Team Trump had at least 18 contacts with Russian interests that hadn’t been disclosed. NYT details just how alarmed Comey had been about Trump’s flippancy in pressuring the FBI over the Russia investigation. Also that day, Rosenstein appears before the Senate in a closed session and reveals he knew Comey was toast before the fake memo.

Friday, May 19, Trump finally packs his personal ketchup (for real) and flies off with nearly his entire immediate staff on board. And shortly after Air Force One leaves our airspace, more blood spatter sprays everywhere. NYT reports on an official transcript of the Russkie meeting featuring Trump calling Comey a “nut job” and, more to the point, that he “faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” The White House doesn’t bother denying it because Trump (fragment intended).

And lastly, WaPo chimes in with a super-scoop: the federal investigation into Russia includes a focus on a senior White House official, who we now know is Jared “Kush” Kushner, son of federal jail-bird and 18-time convicted felon Charles Kushner. But fear not, Jared is only Trump’s closest adviser, so there’s that.

Dunning-Kruger Tour 2017

Moving on to the speed rounds, Trump’s big adventure has had its own magic moments. There is of course Trump’s traditional Araby sword dance and glowing orb-grope with the Saudi King and Egyptian prez. We were also treated to the big reveal of a $110 billion arms deal with the Saudis. According to various reporting, including the Daily Kos, it turned out Jared squeezed a $100 million price-break out of Lockheed-Martin’s CEO which is coincidentally the exact figure the Saudis just donated to a TBD charity headed by Ivanka Trump.

In Israel for two days, Trump and PM Benjamin Netanyahu spent nearly the entire time sharing comb-over tips and tongue-bathing each other. For their part, the Knesset was “ordered” to the red carpet reception for the Trumps; when it became obvious Trump would be heckled by the same parliament members if he spoke in their forum, his speech was abruptly canceled.

Looking to quickly and simply resolve centuries of bitter strife, Trump expressed confidence son-in-law Jared could “do a deal” to end Palestinian-Israeli tensions over the West Bank, despite the Kushner family’s investment of millions in settlement/condo construction ever deeper into Palestinian territory.

Jetting on to sunny Italy, Trump paid an obligatory visit to Pope Francis in the Vatican, where a bemused Pontiff marveled at Trump and asked Melania “what do you feed him?” The Pope also blessed the First Lady’s rosary, and gifted a copy of his papal encyclical on climate change to Trump, a 192-page document which likely met its fate in a trash can within the hour. After a few awkward snaps taken without Sean Spicer, a devout Catholic who was sent home and into timeout for nothing, Trump told the Pontiff, “I’ll remember what you said,” Don Corleone-style, and the road show headed north to Belgium.

It was at the NATO conference in Brussels where Trump’s exceptionalism really burned bright, as he hit the trifecta-plus in diplomacy disaster. He opened with a speech which excluded any reference to Article 5 of the NATO Charter, the all-for-one-one-for-all part that prevented WW3 for over a half a century. He then went on to insult those nations he considered deadbeats for not paying enough tribute to the alliance, brusquely shoved the PM of Montenegro out of the way to get to the front row of a photo-op, and capped it all off saying “the Germans are bad, very bad,” before leaving the smoking wreckage for Sicily.

Rounding third and heading home, Trump et al stormed into Taormina, Italy where the POTUS just registered his refusal to work on, or even acknowledge, climate change. Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni stated “There is one open question, which is the US position on the Paris climate accords . . . All others have confirmed their total agreement on the accord,” as reported in Reuters.

Home Again, Home Again, Jigitty-Jig

Trying my best to complete a circle here, we must turn to Bozeman, Montana, where New Jersey (?) multi-millionaire Republican Greg Gianforte just inexplicably won a special election for the state’s one and only House seat. Inexplicable indeed because Wednesday Night, in front of a camera crew, God and everybody, Gianforte savagely attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, choked him, threw him to the ground, punched him, broke his glasses and sent him to the hospital. See, the reporter had the temerity to ask about the Congressional Budget Office score of the worst health care bill in US history.

Charged with assault, Gianforte still beat his opponent by six points, and is being hailed by many as a folk hero for standing up to the enemy of the people, as the press are now characterized; that’s so Trump. “It’s not appropriate behavior. Unless the reporter deserved it,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA). Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) joked that House Republicans “would be careful not to make him mad.” And signing a pro-gun bill into law Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) brandished his own pistol and quipped “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.” Isn’t the threat of gun violence cute and funny?

For the orange privilege moral of the story, if even two or three of the above, shocking, idiotic cataclysms had occurred during the tenure of an Obama or a Hillary Clinton, Articles of Impeachment would be headed for a final vote.

In closing, while many suggest the fish rots from the head down, it’s been rotting up and down the spine for years.  The truth is that flooding the zone of our politics with division, fake facts and white grievance made us evermore susceptible to utter, complete, ignorant nonsense. And that is why we have a first-rate country with a bloviating, violent, mentally unstable, fifth-rate would-be president and his craven Congress, now known in all four corners of the globe as the laughing-stock of the world.

Coming Soon:  Orange Privilege and Your Own Secret Walkie-Talkies to Russia!

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Bill Urich

Bill Urich

managing attorney at urich law office pllc
A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, the seventh-largest city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice, is on faculty to DePaul University and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.



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