A Conspiracy Against Trump?

Let us, for a moment, do this thought experiment: let us think, not like a person of everyday decency and common sense, but instead like a professional Republican politician.

You have a dilemma. On the one hand, you have a Trump problem. His trade war threatens to flush the economy down the crapper. Even worse—yea, verily, even worse—his electability is very much in doubt. Look at 2018. Look at Texas today, where polling shows Biden beats Trump.Just by the hair of his chinny-chin-chin. But Biden still wins. In Texas.

But the other horn of your dilemma is that Trump remains highly popular among the Republican voting masses.

With all that in mind, keep on trying to imagine yourself a professional Republican politician. Ask yourself, how can we professional Republican politicians possibly escape this dilemma?

I’m not talking detailed tactics here. I’m talking overall strategy; the tactics can be filled in later.

Obviously, the general strategy would be to play Trump’s lickspittle in public, but to conspire against him in private.

With all that in mind, I commend to you this from thebulwark.com: Christian Vanderbrouk, Mike Pence, Leader of the Resistance? He could be in real trouble if the Trumpist media ever actually reads [sic] the Mueller report.

Ann Coulter for President!

Coulter

If you happen to be a long-time reader, you know that I have said repeatedly that Trump’s vulnerability with racist jerks is that he is so incompetent that he gives racism a bad name.

This morning, a poster on Bill Kristol’s thebulwark.com, has this to say: What Ann Coulter Needs to Know About the Mueller Report: Trump is killing MAGA world with his incompetence:

Time and again, the special counsel’s report makes Trump look ridiculous and out-of-the-loop. …

In another episode, Trump ordered the White House counsel, Don McGahn, to have Mueller fired. But he then sort of forgot about that, too, after a while. This is part of a pattern. Trump is prone to ordering people to do very serious, important things and then not following through or even entirely forgetting he’s given the order. Trump famously decided to formally withdraw from the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement and ordered his aides to draw up the paperwork for his immediate signature. As word spread of this decision, serious people in the administration panicked, recognizing what this would do both to the U.S. economy and to America’s defense interests in the Pacific. The problem was solved by the simple expedient of removing the paperwork from Trump’s desk and the president never raised the topic again. There’s a similar story about withdrawing from NAFTA.

To be sure, the presidency is a stressful job and there are, no doubt, a lot of things to keep track of. But you would think that withdrawing from NAFTA is the kind of thing you would remember. …

[The Mueller report provides little help to Trump challengers like Weld or Kasich.] The bigger problem for Trump is if he draws a challenger from his other flank. Because if you’re a person who loves Trump’s nativism and nationalism, then the humiliating picture of incompetency and chaos from the Mueller report is a very new, and very big, development.

Imagine, for example, Ann Coulter jumping into the Republican primary. Her message would be that Donald Trump lied to his base and, to make matters worse, is a bumbling incompetent who isn’t capable of delivering on his promises. Where Trump’s slogan is ‘Make America Great Again” Coulter’s slogan would be “Where’s Our Wall.” Which, you have to admit, would look great on a hat. #WOW

I don’t know how Coulter would handle retail politics, but on television and in head-to-head debates, she’d be a force of nature. Ann Coulter is a lot of things and among them are intelligent, articulate, merciless, and shameless. On top of all that, if she entered the race, she’d instantly neuter Trump’s FOX/talk radio advantage. Just imagine Coulter being interviewed on Hannity.

Aardvark’s Animadversion

Well, I don’t know whether Ann Coulter might be The One. But there sure as hell is a political space for a racist reactionary who is “intelligent, articulate, merciless, and shameless,” but not a blithering idiot.

Maimonides and Mueller: A Guide for the Perplexed

perplexed

Washington Post, 5 persistent myths about the Mueller report

So here’s the thing. Let’s say that it’s your job to explain a complicated fact pattern, and to apply, to that complicated fact pattern, a set of subtle and recondite legal concepts. Let’s say that it is, then, your job to explain what you have done in a document of several hundred pages. Let’s say your intended audience is largely made up of people inclined to think in slogans rather than multi-step logical analysis. And let’s say you are working in an environment where a lot of smart but badly intentioned people are going to twist your words to make it sound as if you said something you did not, in fact, say.

And let’s say your object is to be widely understood, notwithstanding the audience’s innate disposition to think in slogans and to nod off when presented with an analysis of any complexity.

How do you proceed?

Well, first of all, you have to think very carefully about how your words might be misunderstood. And about how they are going to be twisted.

And then, having thought long and hard on these matters, you need to write REALLY, REALLY CLEARLY.

By these standards, the Mueller report is not quite up to snuff.

I don’t know why it’s not up to snuff. But the simplest explanation is that writing clearly about complex legal topics, for a semi-informed audience, is really, really hard to do. Trust me on this.

In any case, the Washington Post piece, by someone named Aaron Blake, cited above, provides some help for the perplexed.

Yeah, That Pretty Much Sums it Up

The Plum Line observes,

President Trump’s current position on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report is as follows:

1) it proved beyond all doubt that Trump is completely innocent;

2) it was illegal, biased and full of lies;

3) we should move on and get back to the work of governing; and

4) we must keep talking about it.

Cue the flying saucers.

Plan 9

Bizarre Barr

it would be nice

The best way to find out what is in a document is to read it. I will probably try to read the whole Mueller report, but I haven’t yet had the time to do so. (Writing this blog is a hobby of mine, not a job, so I didn’t “pull an all-nighter.”)

If you want to read it for yourself, you can download it here. Or you can buy it on Amazon, inasmuch as there is no copyright in works of the United States government.

Meanwhile, in the past 24 hours an ocean of ink has been spilled by commentators commenting on Barr’s bizarre performance yesterday morning. I recommend, for example, the generally reliable Jonathan Chait, who nicely described the differences between the truth and what Barr said, in his post titled Congress Should Impeach William Barr.

But Chait thinks Barr’s toadyism is straightforward. By contrast, over at The Bulwark (Bill Kristol’s hideout) a post headlined No Honorable Middle Ground for Barr comes closer to the truth as I see it. Barr has learned from people like Jim Mattis and John Kelly that you cannot work for Trump while trying to preserve your personal integrity. If you try to do that, he will fire your ass on twitter.

That leaves the choice: either don’t work for Trump in the first place, or work for Trump and go full toady. OR AT LEAST PRETEND TO GO FULL TOADY.

So what happened yesterday? What happened was that in the morning Barr gave a news conference where he told lie after lie, see Chait, supra, and then, two hours later, released a redacted but still very meaty Mueller report that clearly revealed the mendacious nature of the morning news conference.

And just who was Barr trying to fool? I submit that he was trying to fool the one person in the country most likely to be taken in by this charade, to wit, one Donald J. Trump.

If Barr were an actual compeat today, then I think he would have redacted a lot more than he did react.

But you don’t have to take it from me. If Barr is an actual Trump toady, then he will shut down or obstruct the 14 still on-going investigations of Trump and his world, notably the federal investigation in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. That way, he can have the honor of occupying the same jail cell occupied by his illustrious predecessor John Mitchell.

But if Barr is only a pretend toady, he will let the investigations go forward while continuing to hop up and down yelling “no collusion”—until such time as Trump’s lizard brainf inally gets the message that he is being taken for a ride.

Waiting for the Mueller Report and Its Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Redactions

As I write, we have seen the morning Barr show but have not yet seen the report—that would be the one with the itsy, bitsy, teeny, weenie redactions.

A Good Lawyer Making a Bad Case

The Barr performance this morning was that of a good trial lawyer making an opening statement to the judge and jury, with respect to a very bad case.

The Theology of Conspiracy

I was an antitrust lawyer, so inevitably that’s one of the perspectives I bring to the situation. In antitrust, we were forever dealing with complicated, messy, ambiguous fact patterns and deciding whether those complicated fact patterns should or should not be called a conspiracy. To that end, we applied legal criteria—legal criteria that are, themselves, the subject of much legal debate and “refined” analysis.

Having that perspective, I wait to see what legal criteria Mueller employed to look at a complicated fact pattern and find insufficient evidence of an illegal conspiracy. I can guess and speculate, but of course I won’t, especially at this hour.

A Man is Presumed to Intend the Natural Consequences of His Acts

Applying this well known legal maxim, one thing we can say for sure is that William Barr has acted in a way calculated to generate many, many headlines proclaiming that he has joined the Cult of Trump and become the complete toady.

William Barr knows that his conduct is generating these sorts of headlines.

Therefore William Barr intends that these sorts of headlines will be generated.

If it Walks Like a Duck and Talks Like a Duck …

Or, to change the metaphor, if it looks like a strawberry shortcake and smells like a strawberry shortcake and tastes like a strawberry shortcake, then it’s very probably a strawberry shortcake.

Therefore, it’s entirely understandable that if Bill Barr walks like a Trump toady and talks like a Trump toady, then he’s really a Trump toady.

I still don’t believe the act, though the acting is really good, and the act is becoming more convincing. Maybe even good enough to yank the wool over the Trumpster’s eyes, if such is the intent.

These Days, It’s Hard to Distinguish Between Satire and News

fake news

Andy Borowitz, Putin Almost Done Redacting Mueller Report:

MOSCOW (The Borowitz Report)—After putting in what one associate called a “hellish all-nighter,” the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is almost finished redacting Robert Mueller’s report in time for its release, on Thursday.

Earlier in the week, the U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, submitted the approximately four-hundred-page document to Putin for his approval, but the Russian President was reportedly “in a state of disbelief” over how much Barr had failed to redact.

Quickly assembling a crisis team at the Kremlin to implement further redactions, Putin told his associates, “Put some coffee on, boys—it’s going to be a long night.”