Instead of a long analysis of the memo, I wish to offer some observations about the use of it by Republicans and how it, like so many other actions of this administration, damages our institutions. First of all, I agree with what Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University professor of law and former Bush administration official, wrote in an email, “Having decided to cherry-pick, the Nunes team picked a bunch of the wrong cherries for its own narrative.”. It does not take much thought to come to a conclusion that many of the points made in the memo actually undercut the Republican member’s own arguments against the Mueller investigation. As Paul Calian, CNN Legal Analyst, writes of the memo, “If there is anything shocking in the Nunes memo, it can be found in its faulty reasoning, writing and sourcing.”
The memo is a political document... nothing more... and a lot less. As in a court case, this document is not intended to prove innocence, but to cast doubt.
The way this memo was released is highly unusual. Of course, memos by House and Senate committees have been issued in the past. However, if there is no bipartisan accord, there is always a “rebuttal” document issued on behalf of the minority position. This was not done in this case. When House Intelligence Committee Republicans voted last Monday to release their document, they voted against a series of motions by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), intended to ensure that the minority's rebuttal would be released, as well.
It is important to understand who the head of the House Intelligence Committee is, and what his role has been as a key obfuscater in defense of our embattled president. The 44 year old Devon Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, was the first leading House Republican to deny that the intelligence community had evidence of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. Nunes also rejected calls that he request President Trump's tax returns. At the request of a White House communications aide, Nunes spoke to a Wall Street Journal reporter to challenge a story about the Trump campaign's connections to Russia. When Trump's national security adviser Michael T. Flynn resigned after it was revealed that he had misled the Trump administration about his communication with Russian officials, Nunes said he would not seek to investigate Flynn's ties to Russia. In early 2017, he was criticized for bias in a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.
On March 22, 2017, during the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, Nunes held a press conference to announce that he had received information that communications of members of Trump's transition team had been "incidentally collected" by the intelligence community. Nunes was widely criticized for sharing this information with the media and the president before briefing his colleagues on the committee. In late March 2017, Nunes canceled a public hearing in which former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, former National Security Agency Director James Clapper, and former CIA Director John Brennan were to testify. Democrats criticized Nunes' decision and said that he was trying to protect the White House from damaging revelations.
On April 6, 2017, Nunes temporarily stepped aside from leading the Russia investigation while being investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics because he falsely claimed that the Obama administration wiretapped then candidate Trump.
Skip ahead a busy eight months for Devin Nunes. The memo released by the House Intelligence Committee, under his authorship is yet another example of the insidious and cynical nature of the Trump administration. It is also another example of how Trump corrupts American governmental institutions. When asked on February 2, 2018 if he has confidence in Rod Rosenstein, who now oversees the Mueller investigation, Trump relied “You figure that one out.”
You don’t have to be a political genius to understand what will happen next. In his own words, Trump declared by Tweet on Saturday morning, February 3, 2018,
“This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe. But the Russian
Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there
was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year
of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead).
This is an American disgrace!”.
The next act in this fourth grade level, ham fisted political spectacle we are witnessing will be Trump’s use of the Nunes memo to justify his firing of Rosenstein.
Welcome to the era of the “Big Lie”. The cast of characters lined up in the Trump administration is like watching an episode of the Keystone Cops. This entire situation is tragically funny, but it also ominously portends a constitutional crisis like we have never faced in our nation. We are witnessing a president, and his confederates, who will do anything to remain in power... for the sheer sake of it. They seem to be not above any action to subvert our cherished institutions, twist fact, distort the truth, and deceive the American public, whom they certainly don’t give a damn about. The “American disgrace”, Mr. President, is you!
I don’t believe that most people know Trump personally trademarked the phrase “Make America Great Again” in 2012. His campaign then filed for the rights to the slogan in 2015 when he launched his presidential bid. My knowledge of that fact must have prompted the dream I had last night:
In my dream I woke up one morning with an intense desire to own t-shirts and hats that read “Make America Kind Again” and “Make America Respected Again”. I got up and made coffee, but there must have been a little too much caffeine in my espresso. I started writing a huge list of other words to place in between “America” and “Again”. Words like smart, compassionate, loving, Trumpless, work, loved, brilliant, artistic, educated, factual, honest... and so on.
I got on line and ordered both t-shirts and baseball caps that read many “different” slogans based on Trump’s slogan, in every color except red. Then I posted on Facebook the name of the company I used and suggested that everyone start ordering their own versions of the slogan to be displayed against every color except red. On the day I received the package of t-shirts and hats, an email arrived from the Snickle & Burke Law firm in New York warning me to cease and desist my illegal trademark violation of Donald Trump’s slogan. I wrote back that I was exercising my first amendment rights, that what I did is protected speech because it is satire, and since I did not sell any merchandise or profit from its sale - they could stuff themselves. I spent that evening going around to my friends houses and giving away my t-shirts and hats. They loved the gifts that they all called “differents”. That name stuck.
Later, I was watching the news and saw a story that stopped me in my tracks. “In his latest tweet storm unleashed early this morning president Trump lashed out at a man named Clovice Lewis who is selling t-shirts and baseball caps that are in violation of president Trump’s trademarked ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.”, the newscaster said. Displayed on the screen was Trump’s tweet that read, “Clovice Lewis thinks he can stop America from being GREAT again. The constitittion has an answer for him and his fellow conspiracators and so do my lawyers. SAD!!!” Since I don’t have a twitter account I did not see this tweet from the president. When I went on Facebook I found hundreds of postings, both for and against me. I also got death threats in my email. One that I remember was, “Trump RULES. Your dead this time. I’ll find out were you live and plant a burning tshirt in your front yard while I explane to you with my fists how America is GREAT AGAIN.”
In the way dreams do, I found myself in front of a judge who said I could post bail for one million dollars or go to jail on a newly-minted charge of “Illegally Trying To Impede America’s Greatness”. I told the judge that I can’t pay the bail, but I’d happily go to jail as a still free man and that I look forward to my day in court. In the dead of night I was blindfolded and transported to another facility.
Months later my wife, Carol, visited me in Guantanamo. She told me companies that printed the “differents” were forced out of business. Millions of people began using press on lettering on colored t-shirts and hats to make their own “different” attire. Those businesses were also forced out of business or closed by the US government under the new “Make America Great Anti-Sedition” law. To purchase a permanent marker citizens had to sign a legally binding statement that they would not use it for making different slogans of any kind. People began calling themselves “differents”.
Guantanamo was rough, but I survived the ten years I was there. Carol met me at the airplane that would take us from the Naval airbase. Some of the ground personnel there wore colored armbands with different “Make America” slogans on them over their uniforms. When the plane landed at the San Francisco airport there were thousands of people proudly wearing t-shirts and caps of all the colors of the rainbow with many different “Make America” slogans. I asked Carol, “Honey, is this just in the Bay Area that people do this?”. “No”, she said, “Everyone in the entire world sports these now.” “I see a few red hats slinking around in the corners. Who are they?”, I asked. “Oh them... only assholes wear ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.”, she said, laughing.
Harlem Voices is a musical I have been composing that is set in the 1920s. Harlem Voices explores present-day issues of racism, LGBTQ issues, inept leadership, African-American military service in WWI, and racial profiling (among many other issues). It is about a brilliant young black vocalist who was traumatized by the Rosewood, FL massacre of her family members by the KKK. She is conflicted by falling in love with a white patron of the racially segregated club where she works in Harlem called the Black Jay Club.
Make A Contribution to This Project Now
I am seeking funding to complete the musical, which is, at this point, approximately one quarter of the way done. I am writing the “book” (play), libretto, and music... the entire creative product... and would like to be financially supported during the approximately 12-month period of its creation. You can make tax-deductible contributions to through my Hatchfund.org site.
A LITTLE THANKSGIVING TREAT
As a programmer I look for algorithms to make my programs operate more efficiently. I look at the world for patterns of behavior that predict other patterns. I offer this flowchart in that spirit.
If you can't understand the chart, you're part of the problem. If you can, test it against events that happen going forward. Weep or rejoice, as per your political inclinations!
Before my more conservative friends accuse me of hating Trump (and by extension, them) let me say that I do not hate Donald Trump. Furthermore, my intention is not to blame conservatives for this mess. I get it. They wanted a radical change from the status quo. And that is exactly what we all got.
My belief is that most of the well-meaning people who chose Trump initially, now understand that he is woefully unfit to continue as president. They hoped he would put his phone down and get down to the business of governing once he was elected. They hoped he would behave more presidentially. They hoped the pettiness that consumed candidate Trump would dissolve when he is elevated to the world stage. They took him at his word that he would release his tax records for public inspection. They expected him to follow through on promises to dispel any hint of conflicts of interest and align himself with the emoluments clause requirements of the constitution. They wished to see the great business wizard transform the beltway culture of bureaucracies into a new model of government-as-business-for-the-people. They assumed his “say it like it is” style of expressing himself would be instantly translated into short stack legislation by a lock-step Congress. They hoped to God that the accusations of the Trump’s campaign involvement with the Russians would be quickly revealed to be nothing more than the meaningless dross of political sour grapes.
Well, it’s barely a year later, and Trump has virtually nothing to show for his radical new style of governing, except a radically new low approval rating for a modern president. Trump hasn’t stopped tweeting, even when it puts himself or his stated policies in legal jeopardy. He has managed to appear extremely unpresidential whenever he has an opportunity to appear on the world stage. Domestically, his pronouncements that white supremacists, neo-nazis, and confederacy backers are populated by “good people” and his bizarre response to the plight of Puerto Rican citizens (mocking the pronunciation of their territory and throwing them paper towels) has been a disaster. Internationally, it started with a childish shoving aside of the Prime Minister of Montenegro at the NATO summit in May of 2017, and has gone downhill from there. Trump has proven to be an easy mark for much more seasoned world diplomats who have learned that they only need to provide him with opportunities for self-aggrandizement in their presence and his tough talk melts away like so much Trump Natural Spring Water on a sizzling Trump Gold Coin Bar Bank. Maybe someday we’ll actually see those tax returns, but the smart money is on “don’t hold your breath”.
What about dispelling any hint of conflicts of interest and aligning himself with the emoluments clause requirements? Well, since taking office Trump has determined that he and his business interests are subject to neither the law nor his word. Never mind the poor saps who believed their man would just simply do the right thing. So, instead of doing that (the right thing), Trump has been sued by attorneys general for D.C. and Maryland alleging that Trump is“flagrantly violating” the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits U.S. officeholders from taking anything of value from foreign leaders.
The new model of government-as-business-for-the-people looks more and more like what happens when a hostile takeover goes dreadfully wrong. He has failed to fill hundreds of vital management and policy positions throughout the government. Trump clearly has no idea of what federal departments and agencies do - or what they need to remain in functioning order. Given that his appointments to head the most critical government agencies has been to people who also profess to either know nothing about them or have actively opposed them... it is also clear that Trump simply doesn’t want those departments and agencies to function. Of 591 key personnel positions requiring Senate confirmation, Trump has nominated only 225. Of the six slots for undersecretary of state, he has nominated only one. Of the 22 assistant secretaries of state, he has nominated just three. In the Pentagon, he has nominated only two of three undersecretaries of defense and just four of 12 assistant secretaries of defense. Failing to fill these posts clearly cannot be seen as an attempt to obtain business efficiency. Even Trump’s staunches supporters must see this as a systematic and thorough gutting of diplomatic and economic American power in the world.
The expectation my Trump supporting friends had that his “say it like it is”, non-politically correct style of expressing himself would win the kind of legislation they wanted hasn’t quite turned out the way they hoped. Let’s just say that Trump isn’t a very good politician in a place crawling with them. He is extremely naive as to intentions and clueless as to the process of crafting legislation. Of course, he wasn’t alone in his belief that the equally know nothing Republican congress had actually crafted a replacement to the Affordable Care Act and had it waiting to be implemented as soon as he asked for it. The joke is that for over eight years the Republicans in congress swore they had a magic pill piece of much better legislation that could repeal and replace the ACA. So, starting with that gem of Republican presidential/legislative craft, every other piece of major legislation required by the American people has... well... failed. Every time Trump has had an opportunity to actually lead on a legislative issue, and make a real live, honest to God decision (slashing ACA subsidies, the fate of DACA recipients, and Iran nuclear deal come to mind) he has managed punt it off to Congress.
As for the hope of my conservative friends that the accusations of the Trump’s campaign involvement with the Russians would be quickly revealed to be nothing more than the meaningless dross of political sour grapes. Well, this blog is already getting too long. Let’s leave that for future observations.
It is fair to say that people who voted for Trump believing he would somehow turn out to be better than the pre-election evidence to the contrary simply made a terrible decision. Whether they admit that or not, that is the case, and we are all living with the consequences. I hope that when the opportunity to collectively bark “You’re Fired!” to this charlatan arises (hopefully soon) these same people will do the right thing.
The lesson I hope everyone has learned for the next time we are privileged to choose a president is that it is a duty we need to take seriously. We need to keep in mind that a president should not be selected as a statement of anger. Presidents, above all must embody an egalitarian ideal: relating to or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.
I propose that we use the following simple guideline in evaluating such a candidate:
E - Emotional Stability
G - Graceful in Conflict
A - Academically Curious
L - Legally unencumbered
I - Integrity
T - Trustworthy
A - Accepting of criticism
R - Respectful
I - Internationally Minded
A - Accountable
N - Noteworthy Human-Centered Achievements
I believe we will all be much better off if we measure candidates against these attributes the next time around.
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!