“Lawyers have an adage. ‘If the law is against you talk about the facts; if the facts are against you talk about the law; if the law and the facts are against you talk about the prosecutor.’ ”
— Lawrence C. Walsh, independent counsel, Iran-Contra investigation, 1986 to 1993
EDITOR’S NOTE: Second of two parts on U.S. Attorney General William Barr and his secret life with the CIA.
By NATHANIEL HELMS
As independent counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation, silk-stocking lawyer Lawrence C. Walsh was initially revered for his mission to bring the rogues of the Central Intelligence Agency to heel for their role in trampling the U.S. Constitution. Despite being a self-described rampant Republican, Walsh’s unbiased reputation was unimpeachable.
Attorney General William Barr is taking Walsh’s adage to heart. Much like he did during the Iran-Contra investigation 34 years ago, Barr is using a razor-edged interpretation of the law…
“Should taxpayers have the option to explicitly say what they don’t want their tax dollars spent on?”
I think we settled this during our revolutionary war. We explicitly demanded that only voters can be taxed. We never suggested we have the right to choose what we pay for. We don’t get a menu of selections, check those that suit us and refuse to pay for the rest.
In this benighted world, here’s my neighborhood.
My right-hand neighbor hates cops. He doesn’t want to pay for them.
The guy on the left resents school taxes. He never had kids. Never wanted them. Doesn’t feel like paying for education no one in his family is going to get.
Down the road, that guy has a big powerful SUV, so he doesn’t care if the roads are plowed or not. If you can’t get through, well, too bad. Why should he pay for your transportation? He’s got his own.
The then there’s the one on the opposite corner. He doesn’t believe in government at all. He doesn’t feel obliged to pay for anything. He’s the creepy guy who wouldn’t turn his hose on if his neighbor’s house was on fire. You want him choosing which taxes to pay? Maybe he’s part of a group and none of them will pay anything at all.
We settled this. Long ago.
Taxes exist in law. We pay them because we are legally required to do so. You don’t have to like anything about the government, governor, Congress, or the school board. Or the cops, the town selectman, or the Mayor.
There are laws and we abide by them.
Government is not lunch where you get to pick whatever you want from any page on the menu. No picking and choosing which parts of the government you support. The closest you can get to that kind of choice is voting for whoever will support the programs you support. That’s what makes a government.
The picking and choosing from different parts of the menu is not a government. It’s lunch.
A self-imposed exile from the machinations of Donald Trump is a good thing. It is like spraying Febreze Clean Linen scent inside your skull until the rotten stench is completely covered. Two weeks wasn’t long enough to fully enjoy it, but it is a start.
A real exile from Trump means no cable news, newspapers, Facebook memes and rants, not answering taunts and jibes and no light-hearted political discussion with the neighbors.
Netflix is a good hiding place. A more extreme alternative is Devotional Hour with Sister Marie, the wizened old nun who provides solace on a local Catholic television show. Five minutes cured everything. Even with great alternatives available, actually weaning oneself off the Trumpian titty is like quitting smoking without a nicotine patch. His nefarious influence is everywhere.
Perhaps the most revealing thing about such an experience is discovering that people who must work every day to care for their kids, dogs, and homes don’t often give a tinker’s damn about politics. It takes a particularly powerful whiff of Trumplandian swamp gas for them to even notice all is still not well in Washington, D.C. They apparently leave all the angst for old retired people who won’t suffer too long no matter what happens.
Several other discoveries jumped out immediately. The Trumpian Wall saga has run its course across the emotional nerves of my neighbors. So have mass shootings, the endless litany of #MeToo sexual peccadilloes and reports about election campaigns so far in the future they are irrelevant. The baffling Mueller probe is seen in the same light as all the other probes getting shoved in people’s keisters in the name of New Age correctness.
My hardworking neighbors know that a Saudi journalist named Khashoggi was chopped into mincemeat by lackeys of some medieval Arab prince who won’t be touched; that war in Syria and Afghanistan may be over but don’t count on it; and that some big, bald-headed guy on TV when they arrived home Friday was in a pointless pissing match with the Democrats. None of it touched their lives.
What really pisses off Mr. and Mrs. Working America is finding out that they aren’t going to get the income tax refund they used to use to buy a little fun, the really unimaginative halftime show at the cliché’-rich Super Bowl and that the constantly rising price of food and gas never gets factored into those glowing reports about how rich America is.
Just ask a working mom who looks forward to taking the kids for a week at the beach that won’t happen this year because she didn’t get a useful tax refund. Ask the tradesman who tolerated his union dues going to Democrats, thinking their expanded presence in the House would improve his life. Instead, they are using his money to buy a bully pulpit to promote themselves without accomplishing much else.
Perhaps the most illuminating people to talk to are the mid-level government employees where I live that are wracked with doubt because they spent all their savings just to survive Trump’s 35-day government shutdown. They are imminently aware that another shutdown is still in the cards. They are equally certain that at some point a shutdown will wreck the economy the same way it already has wrecked their households.
The so-called Trumpian base, the badly informed working class folks who turn to anyone who offers them red meat, are confused and angered as well. They thought their lot would have improved by now, said one of my forsaken buddies while buying donuts. We’ve been punching holes in targets together for 30 years and he still can’t bring himself to say he might have been wrong about Trump.
My old buddy lives in a trailer court down the road. He lives there because he can’t afford a house. He can’t afford a house because he earns a $1,000 or more a week during the working season and still can’t save enough for the 20-percent down payment. Despite all the news stories about how the country has run out of skilled and unskilled labor, he doesn’t have a job.
His mobile home costs $780 a month plus utilities. His wife doesn’t work because they can’t afford daycare for his three kids. Being a union laborer doesn’t provide much work in the dead of winter, he said. Unemployed union laborers go on the extra board and draw $280 a week unemployment that they hope will last until the spring thaw. The only thing being a cherished veteran got him is a VA house loan and lip service. Meanwhile, Republicans who supported Trump in Missouri are again trying to introduce “right-to-work” laws because they think laborers like my friend are paid too much.
I learned a lesson from this experience. To move forward, the country must clear its head, put its feet back on the ground and wean itself off the milk of Trumpian discourse. Hate holds only bankrupt answers. Trump’s forte is lies. It is time for Democrats to go around him, under him, over him or through him, the way illegal aliens would get past his useless border wall.
The presumption that time heals all wounds is misplaced. Time only heals wounds that don’t turn gangrenous.
Democratic leaders need to spend less time blaming Trump’s egregious behavior for the country’s wounds and begin binding them instead.
Talk about things that have gone missing from the American — and for that matter, international — scene.
Compromise. The ability for both sides to give a little and get a little until finally, they reach a satisfactory mid-point and everyone is happy with the result. Or, at least, comfortable with the result. Or — sufficiently comfortable to not feel an overwhelming need to ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of people to make a political point.
The parallels of what’s going on in the world today, with America functioning as “the leader of the pack,” with what was happening during the 1930s which led to the bloodbath of World War 2 are absolutely terrifying. Do we not remember how it went last time?
Are we so ignorant of even the most recent history to not recognize we are making the same mistakes — again. This time, though, instead of fighting the good fight, America is leading the bad fight. We are not the good guys this time around. Not even close.
I was sure we’d have come to our collective senses by now, but far from it. Because since our “leader” is such vicious, nationalist, self-centered, racist that he has given permission to the rest of the world to be the assholes they really want to be.
Strip away the manners and the traditions of hospitality and simple good manners? Underneath there is a vicious mean-spirited jerk waiting to come out and destroy his world.
What’s the answer? Is there an answer?
I have no idea. I don’t think another world war is going to improve life, but that sure looks like where we are heading. That or a massive international depression that will take years from which to recover.
You can take your pick of the option you personally favor, but for myself, I favor photographing the birds at play and at the feeder.
Say every bad thing you want about Vladimir Putin, but also give him credit: Planting a real, live Russian agent in the Oval Office! What a coup!
Maybe that claim is a little hasty, but the FBI didn’t think so, going so far as to launch a counterintelligence investigation of President Donald Trump in 2016 on suspicion that his activities as president were so off-the-wall crazy that he could be an agent of a hostile foreign government — Russia.
The status of that investigation, since taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is uncertain. Mueller’s report can’t come too soon.
The story about Trump as possible secret agent was published last week by our sister paper, The New York Times, and was followed by a report from our other sister paper, The Washington Post, which said that Trump has kept his own staff in the dark about his communication with the Russian president. In fact, The Post reported that Trump went so far as to confiscate a translator’s notes after a conversation with Putin so the notes wouldn’t become part of the federal record.
Trump’s action, as reported in both newspapers, is dangerous, suspicious and unprecedented in the history of the American presidency.
While Putin might receive kudos for the success and sheer audacity of his spycraft, his choice of an actual spy leaves much to be desired. However much Trump sucks as president, he seems equally inept as a secret agent. Putin has to be smacking his own forehead in frustration at the way Trump has given himself away.
We Americans have to count our blessings where we can, so just imagine how much worse things might be if Trump were actually good at his job.
Imagine if he hadn’t fired James Comey, but had been smooth enough to keep stringing the former FBI director along. What if no special prosecutor had been appointed and what if Trump hadn’t mouthed off about Russia and Comey in that interview with NBC’s Lester Holt? What if he’d had the foresight not to invite those Russian diplomats into the Oval Office for a tête-à-tête held out of American media earshot? What if he’d been savvy enough not to parrot the words of his handler, Putin, in spurning his own U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had meddled in our election?
Instead of the suave, sophisticated Agent 007, Putin seems to have installed a bumbling pussy-grabber into the White House, someone more akin to Austin Powers than James Bond. Imagine if Trump hadn’t been so blatant in his groveling. Imagine if he hadn’t telegraphed his allegiance to the Kremlin with every move. He’s been so obvious that only the most shatteringly ignorant troglodytes in a base hardly known for scholarship can fail to see where his loyalty lies.
As scary as it is to contemplate that a Russian agent with access to the nuclear codes might be sitting behind the Resolute Desk as we speak, I also find these thoughts unsettling:
Republicans in Congress continue to support Trump despite evidence that he’s a numbnuts, at best, and very possibly a treasonous bastard worthy of a Tom Clancy novel.
Despite the Russian-sponsored election cheating that took place in 2016, enough Americans were stupid enough to fall for it and for Trump’s toxic blend of xenophobia, misogyny and racism. Congratulations, doofuses, it’s sure starting to look like you elected an actual fucking Russian asset!
Although the visible damage wrought by Trump is catastrophic, what else might he have already done or might he still do that we don’t know about?
How long will it take to repair the incalculable damage to U.S. integrity and esteem? The preeminent democracy in the world has harbored a Russian spy as its commander and chief and done nothing about it for two years and counting. It’s not a good look. Never think that Putin hasn’t diminished this country on the world stage. Mission accomplished!
There are times in life when something so devastating happens that all you can do is laugh. It’s gallows humor, like when one guy gets kicked in the nuts and his buddies stand around and guffaw while thinking, “Thank God that wasn’t me.”
But it IS me this time. In fact, it’s all of us. America’s president acting on behalf of a hostile foreign power. An entire country is left squirming on the floor, and it sure ain’t no laughing matter.
The lyrics of Kenny Rodgers’ “The Gambler” are applicable in many places today, from sports to politics and beyond.
In the classic western, “Shane”, the hero has sharp words with greedy land baron, Ryker, about violence and the days of the gunfighter being finished. Ryker implies it’s “over” for gunslingers like Shane. Shane retorts “Yes, it is. The difference is — I know it.”
The closing scene of another classic western, “The Magnificent Seven,” has the same message. After the heroic gunfighters have driven a horde of bandits away from a poor village, they are thanked by an elder who tells them the farmers are the only victors because they survive to continue normal lives. Will the gunmen be able to ride or walk away from the profession that has given them fame and money?
As the two surviving gunfighters reluctantly leave the calm of the village, Chris (Yul Brynner) wryly observes. “The old man was right. Only the farmers have won. We lost. We’ll always lose.”
It’s the observation that their way of life is essentially over. They need to find a new way to live if it is possible. The day of the feared, idolized gunfighter is passing into history before their eyes. It’s a bittersweet ending for our heroes.
As I write, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are giving the Los Angeles Chargers a nasty whipping in a playoff game that many felt would show cracks in the vaunted Patriots’ success, would show signs that Brady, the esteemed “GOAT” (Greatest of all time) would show age catching up with him. So far, Brady and the Patriots are winning, running the table with impressive success.
If victory is sustained, will Tom Brady continue to play until he’s in his mid-40s — or retire while he’s still at the top of his game and is recognized as the greatest quarterback in professional football history? It appears to be a no-brainer for Brady while many of his greatest admirers feel Tom Terrific should walk away he’s still physically intact.
When to walk away is a problem faced by many successful people who never want the music, money, or applause to stop.
In politics, it goes beyond the lives of the public official and his family. It impacts countless families represented by the Pol. Power is the elixir that our elected officials are reluctant to yield.
I remember afternoons with the legendary John McCormack, the one time widely respected Speaker of the House. I lunched with McCormack who usually sat alone at one of Boston’s iconic restaurants. “Old Man Mac” as he was affectionately called by friends, would observe people at other tables. Usually younger politicians, their aides, and lobbyists trying to curry favor.
“Mac” would chuckle to himself, wiggling his fingers at the other tables. He’d speak to me in a somewhat hoarse voice. “Son, those fellas don’t get it. It’s not a game. They don’t know what they’re doing and don’t care. They’re ignorant and blissfully happy in their ignorance.”
I’d listen closely as this venerable man schooled me in living history. He said the younger officials were making deals for reelection while ignoring promises made in their previous campaign. He laughed sadly, “You’ll never get the job done unless you listen to the people. It takes years.”
He paused, shook his head and continued, “Just when you get to know what you’re doing, it’s time to walk away.” I stared at John McCormack. “You must walk away because you’re too old. Your mind argues with your body. But it’s obvious when you shave with toothpaste.”
I repressed a smile but he was laughing. “It’s not funny, really. You’re young, but it’ll happen to you. Trust me.”
I remember sharing the McCormack stories with Tip O’Neill, another widely respected Speaker of the House who shared lunches and stories with me.
All Politics Are Localwas O’Neill’s mantra. He was a man of his word. He nodded in agreement about John McCormack’s advice about knowing when to walk away. Tip O’Neill was keen about helping young politicians who could “carry the ball” when he walked away. He shared stories about colleagues who snored their way through crucial hearings. I’m sure Tip had advice for then young and rising Congressmen like Ed Markey — who we profiled in a shameless rip off of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.”
These days, we look at video snippets of veteran pols who walk in lock step with the President. These are seasoned officials who’ve made countless promises to do the right thing for their constituents. The recent mid-term elections were loud mandates for some of these pols that it’s time to walk away from the table.
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler
It appears some of our leaders prefer to hold their cards. Maybe they should listen to “The Gambler” again.
Da Prez is screaming “Witch Hunt.” Meanwhile, we wait. And wait. Because we know there’s evil afoot. We want to know what kind of evil.
We want details.
We want to know.
Today we learned a little. It’s interesting that while the Fed – Mueller and associates – are not pressing down hard on Cohen, New York State is pushing for a substantial prison sentence. Garry — who has a tendency to be right about many things political — thinks it’s a “good cop, bad cop” thing except in this case, it’s “good judge, bad judge.”
Our chief mobster can pardon Cohen on Federal charges — of which there are very few with no jail time involved — but he cannot pardon him on those New York state charges. I don’t think there’s a lot of love in New York for Godfather Donzo and I’m not expecting a strongly positive reaction to another plea from Cohen. Or Donzo.
There was just so much news today. I haven’t fully processed it and neither has anyone else, probably because this is just the beginning and we aren’t entirely sure, but we can certainly make some solid guesses. What today’s filings on Michael Cohen said is that this is one bad dude. That not only was he a criminal, but he was in it for his own profit and did whatever he did from a position of privilege and power.
Godfather 2 in service to Godfather 1. Or, as Garry put it, “Cohen is one evil dude.”
What was 45’s reaction to it?
This is, to put it mildly, a peculiar reaction to the sentencing filings on Michael Cohen. Among many other things, Cohen says the president ordered him to do it.
Individual 1 is Da Prez. Totally cleared? Seriously? But wait. There’s ever so much more!
I cannot help feeling that it’s about time we got a little feedback from the investigation. We have, after all, been enthusiastically supporting it even though we had no idea what was going on. We hoped and I think we hoped rightly.
I had to assume that something was indeed going on. I did not expect to get a final report saying “It really was a witch hunt and the poor, bedeviled prez didn’t do nothing wrong, just like he said.”
No, I assumed he had done everything wrong. It was more a matter of proof, evidence, facts, legal briefs. This has been a lot like Watergate times 20. I remember with joy the pleasure I felt as in Watergate, the dominos began to fall.
And they all fell down. Finally, down went the Top Dog. Never did I imagine we’d wind up back in this place again with even bigger and more dangerous fish to fry.
Aside from setting our country back to being a proper nation, we’ve got a planet to save, wars to end, an atmosphere to preserve. Oceans to clean and many kinds of wildlife to save from extinction. Medical care to make available to all. There’s barely anything that doesn’t need saving.
I’m going to go with “save the planet first,” but that’s only because if we lose the planet, nothing else will matter.
Maybe, along the way, we will save ourselves from extinction. That would be a nice touch.
I just wanted to add this last bit, in case you weren’t clear on what I’ve been getting at:
Linking Trump to knowledge of the payment and the payment to the campaign is important. One of the defenses that might have been offered by Trump is that he regularly had his attorney pay off women to keep their stories quiet. The government filing indicates that AMI and Cohen discussed the company helping to make such payoffs as early as 2014. But the references to the rationale behind the payments in 2016 and the inclusion of the phrase “at the direction” of the candidate bolsters the evidence that the McDougal and Daniels payments were not just run-of-the-mill behavior.
Given that Cohen indicated that the payments were meant to influence the election and that they came at the direction of Trump, Lawrence Noble, former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, told The Post, “there is little question Cohen, the campaign and the candidate are liable for the campaign finance violations.”
There are no innocents in this mix. They are all guilty and one of my biggest questions remains: HOW FAR DID THIS CORRUPTION GO? How many people — senators, military men, lawyers, wheelers and dealers, were paid to let the Russians play tiddlywinks with our electoral process?
To say that all politics is corrupt is maybe partially true, but this is not only corrupt. This is actively treasonous.
Actively treasonous and not just the president and his close little circle, but his whole “ring of thieves.” Nixon’s crime was a cover-up. This isn’t a cover-up. This is an active attempt to gain the services of an enemy foreign power to win the American presidency.
That’s treason and I don’t care how you spell it. I don’t merely want to “know more.” I want the whole story. Paragraph by paragraph.
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