Not That Easy At All

Never make things look easy. That leads to trouble. The presidency of Bill Clinton proved that. There had been eight years of economic growth. There had been eight years of peace, except for that Kosovo business. There was a surplus, not a deficit – and all the while Clinton had been a wonky goofball and impeached over a sex scandal, and had done just fine. That must have proved something. How hard could the job be? Anyone could do the job and George Bush was a good ol’ boy. People liked him. He seemed harmless. He’d do just fine – and Dick Cheney and the other adults would make sure he didn’t do anything really stupid.

George Bush was a disaster. The job was hard. His response to 9/11 was to take care of things in Afghanistan, not a bad idea, but we’re still there, trying to fix a country that never was much of a country at all, and won’t be one any time soon, if ever – and then to shift our focus to Iraq. We had to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Saddam has been behind 9/11 the whole time. No? Okay, Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, No? Okay, we needed to build a Jeffersonian democracy over there, which would show all those people that a Jeffersonian democracy was the way to go. They’d all love that. Everyone would want one of those, and then there’d be peace in the region, finally. Iraq would be the test case, a demonstration of how things should be done. All we had to do was remove Saddam Hussein. That’s what we did and eight years later we were gone and Iraq was a Shiite semi-theocracy aligned with Iran, our sworn enemy – and the Clinton surplus was long gone too. The wars had been financed by off-budget “emergency appropriations” – the United States sold treasury bonds, mainly to the Chinese, to finance those two wars – exploding the national debt, Bush’s massive tax cuts, mainly for the rich and large corporations, hadn’t helped either. There was far less money coming in. The United States sold even more treasury bonds just to cover normal government operations – more borrowing – more debt. Then there was Hurricane Katrina. Bush’s response was pathetic. There was a lot of appropriate outrage – and then, at the end of it all, the economy collapsed, the worst collapse since the Great Depression – millions of jobs lost – millions of homes lost – major banks and major investment firms went under – ordinary folks lost everything.

Things hadn’t gone well. At the end of it all, when the Republicans ran John McCain against Barrack Obama, they never mentioned George Bush. He was an embarrassment, and he knew that. He hid. How hard could the job be? George Bush now knew. The job was damned hard.

And then everyone forgot that, because the eight years of Barack Obama had been eight years of economic growth, and eight years of relative peace. He started no new wars. The markets recovered. The jobs came back, often not the same jobs, but jobs nonetheless – lots of them. There was some deficit spending – his stimulus package – but the nation’s debt load eventually got a bit lighter. Everything started working again – and Obama was a cautious introverted black intellectual who always “led from behind” – if that was even leadership. He seemed oddly passive at times. There was no high drama. Obama just kept plugging away.

Perhaps Obama made the job look too easy, or made it look like a methodical job, a bit mundane and ordinary, a job that a sufficiently mundane and ordinary man (or woman) could do, with a bit of time left over for a bit of golf. That’s what Donald once thought:

He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.

President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

He had discovered this wasn’t brand management and doing his reality television show, but he tried to make it that:

Many things about Trump have not changed from the wheeler-dealer executive and former celebrity reality show host who ran his empire from the 26th floor of Trump Tower in New York and worked the phones incessantly. He frequently turns to outside friends and former business colleagues for advice and positive reinforcement. Senior aides say they are resigned to it.

Nothing much has changed in the year since that Reuters interview. Donald Trump still tries to make the job seem mundane and ordinary, something he can easily handle, far better than Obama or anyone else, with a bit of time left over for a bit of golf, or for lots of golf, but he’s getting hammered.

This job is not that easy at all, because that Russia thing is not that easy at all:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently told the White House he might have to leave his job if President Trump fired his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the exchange.

Sessions made his position known in a phone call to White House counsel Donald McGahn last weekend, as Trump’s fury at Rosenstein peaked after the deputy attorney general approved the FBI’s raid April 9 on the president’s personal attorney Michael Cohen…

Sessions’ message to the White House, which has not previously been reported, underscores the political firestorm that Trump would invite should he attempt to remove the deputy attorney general. While Trump also has railed against Sessions at times, the protest resignation of an attorney general – which would be likely to incite other departures within the administration – would create a moment of profound crisis for the White House.

Donald Trump cannot do what he wants in this case, because this isn’t his very own Trump Organization:

Last summer, when it appeared Trump was going to fire Sessions or pressure him to resign, Republican lawmakers and conservative advocacy groups rallied to Sessions’ side and warned the president not to move against him.

Trump had told senior officials last week that he was considering firing Rosenstein, who was confirmed by the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support last year. Since then, alumni of the Justice Department have rallied to Rosenstein’s defense.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 800 former Justice Department employees had signed an open letter calling on Congress to “swiftly and forcefully respond to protect the founding principles of our Republic and the rule of law” if Trump were to fire the deputy attorney general, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III or other senior Justice Department officials. The group MoveOn.org has sought to organize nationwide protests if such an event were to occur.

He thought this would be easier than his previous life as head of his privately-owned Trump Organization, with no pesky board of directors and no griping outside shareholders, or any shareholders at all, but now he has over three hundred million shareholders and a pesky board of directors – Congress and the courts – and as the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reports, he still has problem employees:

For years, a joke among Trump Tower employees was that the boss was like Manhattan’s First Avenue, where the traffic goes only one way.

That one-sidedness has always been at the heart of President Trump’s relationship with his longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who has said he would “take a bullet” for Mr. Trump. For years Mr. Trump treated Mr. Cohen poorly, with gratuitous insults, dismissive statements and, at least twice, threats of being fired, according to interviews with a half-dozen people familiar with their relationship.

“Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage,” said Roger J. Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s informal and longest-serving political adviser, who, along with Mr. Cohen, was one of five people originally surrounding the president when he was considering a presidential campaign before 2016.

Those were perhaps the good old days, but this is now:

Now, for the first time, the traffic may be going Mr. Cohen’s way. Mr. Trump’s lawyers and advisers have become resigned to the strong possibility that Mr. Cohen, who has a wife and two children and faces the prospect of devastating legal fees, if not criminal charges, could end up cooperating with federal officials who are investigating him for activity that could relate, at least in part, to work he did for Mr. Trump.

That is a real problem:

Last week federal agents raided Mr. Cohen’s office and hotel room and seized business records, emails and other material as part of what Mr. Trump has called a “witch hunt” by his own Justice Department. The trove included documents dating back decades, as well as more recent ones related to a payment in 2016 to a pornographic film actress who has said she had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, which Mr. Trump denies.

Although Mr. Trump called Mr. Cohen last Friday, four days after the raid, to “check in,” according to people familiar with the call, he and Mr. Cohen have spoken little since Mr. Trump entered the White House. The two men did have dinner together at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club in Florida, a few weeks ago, but since the raid Mr. Cohen has told associates he feels isolated.

Trump once went out of his way to treat this guy like garbage – he was the boss and Haberman cites incident after incident where Trump really seemed to enjoy humiliating this guy – but Trump’s new job isn’t his old job:

Mr. Trump has long felt he had leverage over Mr. Cohen, but people who have worked for the president said the raid has changed all that.

“Ironically, Michael now holds the leverage over Trump,” said Sam Nunberg, a former aide to Mr. Trump who worked with Mr. Cohen and Mr. Stone. Mr. Nunberg said that Mr. Cohen “should maximize” that leverage.

This wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Cohen used to be the clueless patsy and the useful fool. Trump’s new job is damned hard, and as the Washington Post reported, it just got harder:

The Democratic National Committee filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Friday against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks organization alleging a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 campaign and tilt the election to Donald Trump.

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there.

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

“This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency,” he said.

This is fairly straightforward:

The suit asserts that the Russian hacking campaign – combined with Trump associates’ contacts with Russia and the campaign’s public cheerleading of the hacks – amounted to an illegal conspiracy to interfere in the election and caused serious damage to the Democratic Party.

Or it isn’t straightforward:

In a statement, Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale said the Democrats’ lawsuit was without merit and likely to be dismissed.

“This is a sham lawsuit about a bogus Russian collusion claim filed by a desperate, dysfunctional, and nearly insolvent Democratic Party,” he said. “With the Democrats’ conspiracy theories against the President’s campaign evaporating as quickly as the failing DNC’s fundraising, they’ve sunk to a new low to raise money, especially among small donors who have abandoned them.”

That was a bit of changing the subject, to fundraising as something like an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, but this isn’t that farfetched:

The lawsuit echoes a similar legal tactic that the Democratic Party used during the Watergate scandal. In 1972, the DNC sued President Richard Nixon’s reelection committee seeking $1 million in damages for the break-in at Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building.

The suit was denounced at the time by Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, who called it a case of “sheer demagoguery” by the DNC. But the civil action brought by the DNC’s chairman, Lawrence F. O’Brien, was successful, yielding a $750,000 settlement from the Nixon campaign that was reached on the day in 1974 that he left office.

This is probable trouble, and far more serious trouble this time, and it had to happen:

Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor who specializes in computer-fraud cases, said he thought the Democrats’ suit had merit and, despite predictions from Trump-allied lawyers, was unlikely to go away anytime soon.

“There is no way it’s going to be dismissed,” said Akerman, a partner in the New York office of the Dorsey & Whitney law firm. “At least not on the computer-fraud part of the case which is really the heart of it. The Democrats have every right to bring this suit as they are aggrieved. My question is: What took them so long?”

And this is the prize this time around:

If allowed to proceed, the lawsuit would give the Democrats a chance to seek internal documents and testimony from the Trump campaign to help them learn more about interactions with Russia during the race.

That means that Trump could fire everyone in the Justice Department and its FBI who pisses him off, and this could proceed anyway, without Mueller or anyone else:

Ultimately, Trump’s associates entered into an agreement with Russian agents “to promote Donald Trump’s candidacy through illegal means,” the suit concludes.

It does not name Trump as a defendant. Instead, it targets aides who, during the campaign, met with people believed to be affiliated with Russia. The aides targeted include the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Manafort’s deputy during the campaign, Rick Gates.

The Democratic National Committee wants to roll them all up:

Manafort and Gates were charged with money laundering, fraud and tax evasion in a case brought by special prosecutors last year. In February, Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI and is cooperating with investigators. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

The DNC lawsuit also names as a defendant the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, which has been accused by the U.S. government of orchestrating the hacks, as well as WikiLeaks, which published emails stolen from the DNC, and the group’s founder, Julian Assange…

The lawsuit was also filed against Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant who claimed during the campaign that he was in contact with Assange.

Trump may have thought that all of this would be easier than his previous life as head of his very own Trump Organization, and popping up on Celebrity Apprentice once a week to “fire” someone or other, but the United States isn’t the Trump Organization and he can’t fire anyone here. This is a civil lawsuit. One does not go to court and shout “YOU’RE FIRED” to the judge and the plaintiffs and walk away with a smug grin.

Things don’t work that way anymore, as this had to happen too:

Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is planning to sue the Trump administration for defamation and wrongful termination, according to multiple media reports Friday.

McCabe’s lawyer Michael Bromwich told reporters that McCabe is also considering filing other civil claims.

He said the legal team hasn’t yet figured out when they’re going to file the lawsuits and is working on making them “solid.”

“We’ll file when we’re ready,” Bromwich said, according to Axios.

Trump should have seen this train coming:

Bromwich also accused opponents of McCabe, including President Trump, of “continuing slander.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe last month after an inspector general report found he made an unauthorized disclosure to the media and was not forthcoming with federal investigators. McCabe denied the allegations and said he was being targeted in an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s election interference.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released the report last week of McCabe’s conduct at the FBI, alleging that he authorized a leak to the press to “advance his personal interests” and he misled investigators about the matter. Trump called the report a “disaster” for McCabe.

Horowitz issued a criminal referral to the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. on Thursday related to McCabe’s conduct that his attorney called “unjustified.”

All of that will be hashed out in court – that cannot be avoided now – and the hits keep coming:

A group of Democratic senators is asking the administration to explain its ties to Charles and David Koch after the conservative, wealthy brothers bragged to donors that they were responsible for some of President Donald Trump’s policies his first year in office.

The senators sent a letter asking for information this week following the distribution of a report to the Seminar Network, a group of donors that fund Koch brothers political and policy efforts, that takes credit for more than a dozen new policies, including replacing the Clean Power Plan, which cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, revoking monument designations, streamlining permits for infrastructure projects, repealing limits on short-term health insurance plans; and implementing tax cuts.

“Americans have a right to know if special interests are unduly influencing public policy decisions that have profound implications for public health, the environment, and the economy,” the senators write in their letters obtained by McClatchy.

The letters launch a larger effort by Democratic lawmakers to reveal the extent of the Koch brothers’ influence in the Trump administration.

In the old days, in his old job, Trump did not have to explain this sort of thing, but that was then and this is now:

The Kochs did not support Trump during the election. Charles Koch criticized him and even said that his idea of a Muslim ban were “reminiscent of Nazi Germany.”

Yet 44 Trump administration officials have close ties to the Koch brothers and their political groups, according to a November 2017 report by Public Citizen, a government watchdog group.

Several high-level officials in the Trump administration, current White House Counsel Don McGahn, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president; and Marc Short, director of legislative affairs; worked for the Koch network. Others, including Vice President Mike Pence, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, have benefited from donations.

So that led to this:

The senators sent letters to the White House, the departments of labor, interior, treasury and veterans affairs, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget, the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The senators asked for emails, memos, meeting notes, correspondence and calendar items between federal employees and any employee, member or representative of Koch Industries or any of its subsidiaries or Koch-related groups, the Seminar Network, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Freedom Partners, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, Freedom Partners Action Fund, Concerned Veterans for America, the LIBRE Initiative, Generation Opportunity, i360, Mercatus Center, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, the Heritage Foundation and National Federation of Independent Business. It asks for the information by May 15.

Of course these Democratic senators will get nothing at all, but they can run with that, or run on that in the upcoming midterm elections everywhere. The United States isn’t the Trump Organization or Koch Industries just yet. It’s only Donald Trump who wants to run the United States the same way he ran his very own Trump Organization, and he thought that would be easy. It isn’t. The last two Democratic presidents only made the job look easy, and it isn’t – and they really shouldn’t have done that. That gives people ideas, the wrong ideas.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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