My Thug Didn’t Look Anything Like the One in Your Sketch!

une pipe

Stormy has just sued The Donald in New York for defamation. Her complaint is six pages long, and you can read it here.

As I am sure you know by now, Stormy claims that a thug threatened her in 2011, demanding that she keep her trap shut about her relationship with Trump. She recently released a forensic sketch of the gentleman, causing Trump to tweet, and I quote, “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”

Trump has a Germanic Love for Capital Letters in Sentences, but I suppose that is the Result of his ethnic Heritage, so we will let it pass.

But, to return to the main point, Trump called Stormy a liar—and, by implication, also a criminal, saying that she is trying to bring about the prosecution of someone who never threatened her.

I think it pretty much comes down to this: did the incident happen, and did Stormy work with the forensic artist to try to produce a good sketch? Then she wins. On the other hand, if Trump can prove that she faked it, then he wins. Because, as lawyers like to say, truth is always a defense.

But how the hell would Trump prove the truth of his defamatory twitter?

Paragraphs 31 and 32 of Stormy’s complaint lay out Trump’s problem. If Trump had actual knowledge of the incident, and if he knows that the sketch is bad, or that something else said about it is off the mark, that’s not going to help Trump very much, is it?

On the other hand, if he has no knowledge of the incident, then how does he know that Stormy is making it up?

“But wait a minute,” you say, “Stormy has to prove that the incident did occur and that the sketch is a good faith attempt to depict the thug, right?”

And, yes, that’s right, as far as it goes. But the proof required in a civil defamation case is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it’s proof that her is account is more likely true than not—in other words, a 51-49 standard. She can take the stand and give her testimony, and that will be enough to get the case to the jury, who can decide whether they believe her.

Is Trump going to take the stand and try to rebut her testimony? I don’t think so.

But wouldn’t it be fun?

And here’s what, for me, is the really fun part: inevitably, today’s lawsuit will result in some more defamatory Trump tweets, which will lead to amendments to the complaint, which will bring about yet more defamatory tweets, leading to a further round of amendments …

Goodbye, World

U.S. Allies Brace for Trade War as Tariff Negotiations Stall:

With only days left before the exemptions expire and punitive tariffs take effect, it’s dawning on foreign leaders that decades of warm relations with the United States carry little weight with a president dismissive of diplomatic norms and hostile toward the ground rules of international trade.

To my European, Asian, and Latin American brothers and sisters, I am very sorry to say this, but we in the United States are unreliable partners. It’s time for you to go your own way.

I hope that some day we can rejoin you.

Until then, auf Wiedersehen, zai jian.

And vaya con dios.

Understanding the Base: The Dialog Continues

dixie outfitters

The Trump years have certainly been a learning experience. We have gained a great deal of knowledge about ourselves and about our fellow ‘Mericans.

The main lesson we have learned from the internet age is that human beings are actually much worse critters than we had thought, or at least than we had hoped. The main lesson we have learned from the Trump years is that ‘Mericans are considerably worse than we had thought, or at least hoped.

I, for one, am not shocked that lots of Trump supporters might think, “Well, he may be an asshole, but he’s OUR asshole.” Progressives sometimes think like that, too, It’s hardly admirable, but it’s not loony tunes. I get it that ideology and tribalism might cause you to support a bad person, a jerk, an inveterate liar, an asshole, a crook, and/or a narcissist. That point of view is sad, or, better yet, tragic, but life is full of sadness and tragedy.

But if you want to lend your support to a bad person, a jerk, a liar, an asshole, a crook, and/or a narcissist, you can find plenty of candidates to support who are not actual crazy people.

And what I don’t get—to this very hour, as I type the next word—is what perverted species of anger, what insane rage, has caused so many of my fellow ‘Mericans to think it’s a good idea to have an actual crazy person as President of the United States.

The quest for answers continue, as it must. We must peel the artichoke apart layer by layer until we finally gain some real understanding of our neighbors’ lunacy.

In a March 25 post I recommended Michael Gerson, The Last Temptation: How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory.

I still recommend Gerson’s article, and think there is much wisdom in it. But I also highly recommend this morning’s response by political scientist Nancy Wadsworth, The racial demons that help explain evangelical support for Trump.

Professor Wadsworth’s piece, whose title gives you the gravamen of her position, argues persuasively that Gerson’s more sanguine view of evangelical history is seriously incomplete. I commend her thoughts to your attention. In her telling, Trump’s racism is not a bug, it’s a feature. His principal virtue, in the eyes of his most rabid supporters, is simply that he pokes a thumb in the eye of the modern, inclusive, rational world. And if he threatens to bring America’s institutions down around their ears, well then, so much the better.

To get yourself in the mood for Professor Wadsworth’s history lesson, you might wish to watch this video. Please pay careful attention to the color of the dog.

Secrets and Lies

secrets and lies

Aardvark has some modest Photoshopping skills, but he did not employ them to create the above image—which, ladies and germs, is the real McCoy, conveniently located right next to the checkout at Ye Olde Piggly Wiggly.

Trump’s asshole buddy over at the National Enquirer is still covering his man with multiple layers of whitewash, for the benefit of the simpletons who buy his rag.

But they’re throwing Michael Cohen under the Greyhound.

And backing up to run over him a few more times.

Secrets and lies, indeed.

Michael, I think it’s time to come clean.

‘Cause confession is good for the soul.

And ‘cause I’m sorry to tell you, but there ain’t gonna be no pardon.

Stormy’s Day

storm over toledo

In an earlier post I tried to unpack the issues surrounding Michael Cohen’s assertion of his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

This morning’s news is that Judge Agrees to Delay Stormy Daniels’ Lawsuit Against Michael Cohen. I’m not surprised. Nor am I surprised that Stormy’s lawyer immediately tweeted his plan to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And, however, it comes out, I won’t be surprised—partly because I have sort of lost the capacity to be surprised.

Here’s the thing. If Cohen’s criminal problems can be resolved in three months, then there is probably little harm and little injustice in making Stormy wait for her day in court. And, I think, the world can probably wait to learn exactly which form of intercourse she and Trump experienced during their one-night stand. I certainly know I can wait.

But Cohen’s criminal problems probably will not be resolved in three months. And Stormy should not have to wait indefinitely to get her day in court.

Let’s say you had an El Greco on your living room wall and I stole it. You bring a civil lawsuit demanding the return of your painting. I say, “Well, it would be unfair to make me defend the case because it would come out that I committed a crime.”

Does that mean that I just get to keep the El Greco?

I don’t think so.

The Sins of Father Conroy


Ruth Marcus gives additional context to the defenestration of the House Chaplain:

Ryan admonished the priest after the Nov. 6 prayer, saying, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics,” Conroy told the New York Times.

He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted.

Over the five months since Ryan’s warning, Conroy dared to continue to preach the teachings of Jesus on the House floor:

He prayed to God that lawmakers would help “the least among us.”

He prayed for them to follow the example of St. Nicholas, “who fed the hungry, brought hope to the imprisoned, gave comfort to the lost.”

He admonished lawmakers “to serve other people in their need” and “to pray for the unemployed and those who work but still struggle to make ends meet.”

After an immigration deal collapsed, he urged “those who possess power here in Washington be mindful of those whom they represent who possess little or no power.”

He prayed for lawmakers to be “free of all prejudice” and, after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, to “fulfill the hopes of those who long for peace and security for their children.”

One of my favorite liberal pundits has argued,

The House chaplain is not like a tenured faculty post at a university, which has some implicit protection for the right to give controversial political remarks. If you have a House chaplain — which I don’t even favor in the first place — you have no obligation to let them use the perch to push their own political values.

It’s important to separate substance from process. When you lose sight of that distinction, you wind up like Trump’s Republican allies, supporting anything their party does to advance their agenda. Ryan’s beliefs about taxes may be horrid, but he has no obligation to let the House chaplain deliver subtle rebukes to his ideology.

Makes perfect sense—from a secular point of view. And I’m sure that Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan’s patron said, would thoroughly approve of keeping religion out of Congress.

But from Father Ryan’s point of view, it wasn’t a matter of “ideology,” it was a matter of fundamental religious conviction.

The Lesson

The Lesson? If you don’t want Christianity to influence the prayers you hear, then for God’s sake don’t appoint a chaplain who is an actual Christian.

I’m sure it’s a mistake Paul Ryan will not make again.

The Sermon on Capitol Hill


Rabbi Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Father Conroy preached a vastly watered down version, in his Sermon on Capitol Hill.

Jonathan Chait has admonished fellow liberals not to “freak out” over Father Conroy’s unceremonious expulsion.

Aardvark is not freaking out.

Aardvark is laughing his ass off because the Speaker of the House is freaked out, when confronted with the actual views of Jesus.


Without a Prayer


This prayer led to the House chaplain’s dismissal by Paul Ryan:

The Chaplain, the Reverend Patrick J. Conroy, offered the following prayer:

God of the universe, we give You thanks for giving us another day. Bless the Members of this assembly as they set upon the work of these hours, of these days. Help them to make wise decisions in a good manner and to carry their responsibilities steadily, with high hopes for a better future for our great Nation.

As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all Members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.

May Your blessing, O God, be with them and with us all this day and every day to come, and may all we do be done for Your greater honor and glory.


Good job Jesus isn’t the Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives.

Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.

God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. …

“What sorrow awaits you who are rich, for you have your only happiness now. …

What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets.

No, my friends, Jesus would never work out as the House Chaplain.

A Method in the Madness? Or a Madness in the Method?


The FBI raided Michael Cohen. Trump has denied that he knew anything about the Stormy Daniels payment. Cohen has declared, under penalty of perjury, that he has a good faith belief that his truthful testimony in the case brought by Stormy Daniels case would expose him to criminal liability.

This morning Trump called in to Fox News to give the lie to his previous denial of knowledge, and to associate himself with what his own lawyer is now calling a potentially criminal endeavor, by asserting, “Michael represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me.”

At first take, it sounded crazy. Then I thought, well, probably someone told him that if he says that Cohen was representing him in the Stormy Daniels deal, he can allow Cohen to claim attorney-client privilege, and thus protect Trump-Cohen communications in respect of the deal.

So there might be a method in the madness.

Except that the attorney-client privilege does not extend to crimes. And Cohen has just declared, under penalty of perjury, that there is potential criminality associated with the Stormy “contract.” And Trump has just now associated himself with that criminality.

Folks, aside from being a very bad person, this man is not well.

When I Take the Fifth, I Feel Guilty


Now that we have all had a good chuckle over Michael Cohen and The Donald, we may ask: What are the actual rules on taking the Fifth?

Good explanation here. I’ll summarize the summary, and add some points.

First, although the words of the Fifth Amendment indicate only that it applies in criminal cases, binding case law extends the rule to testimony in civil cases as well.

Thus, where a witness in a civil case has a good faith belief that truthful testimony in a civil case would tend to prove criminal liability, she may refuse to testify.

Second, in a civil case, unlike a criminal case, the jury is permitted to draw an adverse inference where a party relies on the Fifth Amendment in refusing to respond to evidence offered against him or her.

I have some experience in these matters, and know that attorneys advising parties and witnesses in civil cases commonly urge expansive assertions of Fifth Amendment rights. The point is that if it’s a close call whether to assert the immunity or not, and if the witness goes ahead and testifies anyway, it may later be argued that the witness has waived her Fifth Amendment rights.

That means, of course, that when you assert your Fifth Amendment rights in a civil case, common sense implies guilt, and the jury is permitted to apply that common sense and thus to infer liability. So, as far as the civil suit is concerned, if you take the Fifth, you are likely to be screwed, blued, and tattooed. But being screwed civilly, lawyers often reason, is better than having your client go to the hoosegow.

Finally, judges in civil cases have broad powers over the scheduling of cases. I think that what Cohen is saying here is that the California lawsuit over the hush money agreement should be postponed until Cohen straightens out whatever minor embarrassment results from the FBI raid on his home, his office, and his hotel room.

Or until hell freezes over, whichever comes first.

Doesn’t sound too persuasive to me. For one thing, Stormy has her own rights, to her day in court. But we will see what we will see.

Completely Innocent Trump Nominee, Victimized by Lies, Wimps Out


An unimpeachable source quotes Rear Admiral Jackson thusly:

“The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated,” he said in a statement. “If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years.”

However, he said, “Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this President and the important issue we must be addressing – how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes.”

He said he is “regretfully withdrawing” his nomination.