Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why did the White House deny Trump got the idea from watching TV?

Maybe because he didn't. But then...

Couch Potato–in-Chief: Image via Daily Beast

As the drama of yesterday's US attorney firings progressed, one of the things you had to keep thinking about was the firings of eight US attorneys by George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales in 2006, for their refusal to join in the prosecution of fake "voter fraud" cases at the urging of the Department of Justice and vile worm Hans von Spakovsky.

OK, it wasn't at all the same thing—this week's massacre is at the beginning of a presidential term, when it's normal for all the working US attorneys to leave, and half of them have already done so. The odd thing is that the Trump administration is so peremptory and almost violent in ordering them out, not only not allowing them to wrap up the cases they're currently working on and waiting until they have successors lined up, which would be the normal procedure since the Clinton administration, but demanding that they vacate the physical office space by the end of the working day.

But it was fun to remember that fake anxiety about voter fraud is a Republican constant (the political journalists keep acting as if Trump's unsubstantiated charges of voter fraud—"without any evidence!"—are a totally unprecedented Trumpian craziness), part of the conservative voter suppression arsenal since at least the Bush administration and maybe since the old Southern Democrats had to give up poll taxes and literacy tests as a way of stopping black and brown people from getting into the booth. And the other weird thing, which I believe hasn't attracted any attention, mainly because it probably isn't really important in any way, is that one of the main investigators of the Bush massacre in 2006-07 was Senator Charles Schumer's top aide in the Judiciary Committee, a great young lawyer called Preet Bharara who is, of course, the most prominent of the 49 US attorneys that just got the sack.

Prominent, at least, to us New Yorkers, who have been watching him do some astonishing work over the past eight years, culminating perhaps in the successful corruption prosecution of two out of the three "men in a room" who have been running the New York state government all this time, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Democratic House Speaker Sheldon Silver. He's also looked very hard at the third man in that room, Governor Andrew Cuomo, after Cuomo suddenly shut down his own anti-corruption investigative commission after less than a year, when it started investigating some of Cuomo's close associates—but decided there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute, which was a bit of a disappointment, as was the feeling that he hadn't worked hard enough on the banksters of the 2008 financial crisis. (He's also been working on campaign violations by associates of my man Mayor Bill de Blasio, but we'll never know how that was going to turn out.)

He was also responsible for the prosecution of pseudo-intellectual wingnut filmmaker and priapic ex–college president Dinesh D'Souza for laundering contributions to the Senate campaign of one of his blonde Dartmouth ex-girlfriends, Wendy Long. D'Souza greeted the news of Bharara's downfall with some gleefully racist tweets:

(There's no racism like that of a self-hating member of the race under consideration.)

I had a nagging memory about Bharara from the distant past, too, involving Trump, which turned out on closer inspection to be from Wednesday, when Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, bipartisan leaders of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington organization (CREW), and Paul Smith of the Campaign Legal Center sent Bharara a letter requesting him to
take appropriate action to ensure that the Trump Organization and related Trump business enterprises do not receive payments and financial benefits from foreign governments that benefit President Trump...
That was the same day Sean Spicer told the world he had been assured that there was no Department of Justice investigation of Trump ongoing. Thursday was the day the Department of Justice refused to comment on questions as to whether they told Spicer that, as BooMan noted, and then Friday was the day all the remaining US attorneys were suddenly ordered to resign and move out by day's end, with nobody ready to replace them. Including Preet Bharara, and just two months after, as has been widely reported, both Trump and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III explicitly told Bharara they'd like him to stay on.

Could the Trumpers be taking this radical action just in the hope of getting rid of Bharara and any investigations, ongoing or new, that he might be carrying out on the new President and his administration? The way they've been frantically working to hijack the Treasury department, demanding employees who display absolute Trumpian loyalty? (I'm saying Trump just found out Treasury's where the IRS is, and his tax returns, and that's what he's defending.)

Well, maybe not. Steve M thinks it could be basically for the audience:
Why not insist that all the attorneys leave but do it in a considerate way, giving them time to tie up loose ends? Because the deplorables love it this way. It's pro wrestling -- you create a villain (in this case, holdovers from the previous administration), then you do something nasty to the villain, and the crowd goes wild.
And Josh Marshall sees the workings of a Bannon Leninism:
I would not rule out the matter being handled in this way for the specific reason of causing disruption and causing controversy. It's clear that some amount of the roll out of original immigration executive order was designed to get people outraged and to drive protests. 
But Marshall does suggest,
We should not rule out that something happened in recent days which made it necessary to fire one or more of the 46 and that firing them all was a convenient and opaque way of doing so.
And then in the Times coverage of Bharara's firing there are a couple of other things that are very intriguing:
[Bharara's] office is also overseeing an investigation into whether Fox News, which is owned by the media magnate Rupert Murdoch, failed to properly alert shareholders of settlements with female employees who had accused the channel’s former chief, Roger Ailes, of sexual harassment.
And a denial of something you haven't seen asserted:
White House officials have said little about the timing of the mass push for resignations, other than insisting it had not been a response to a call for a purge on Fox News, where one host, Sean Hannity, urged the president to clean house at the Justice Department.
Indeed, on his Thursday night TV show, Hannity said:
Deep-state Obama holdovers embedded like barnacles in the federal bureaucracy are hell-bent on destroying President Trump. It's time for the Trump administration to purge these saboteurs....
“They're dealing with seditious people within the Department of Justice, within the FBI, within the Department of Interior, within the CIA,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said. “There are just people that don't approve of the Trump presidency, and I think that they're trying to take him down from the inside.
“I think you have people within the government, what you call the deep state, bureaucrats, Obama appointees that hate Donald Trump,” Hunter added.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, agrees.
“Donald Trump needs to purge leftists from the executive branch before disloyal, illegal and treasonous acts sink us,” he tweeted.
And Friday morning Trump threw all the Obama-appointed US attorneys out of the building. Isn't it a virtual certainty that Trump was watching Fox Thursday night, with or without bathrobe, watching TV being what he basically does whenever he's not at a meeting? Isn't it clear that Hannity and his overseers know that, and know it's the best way to pass Trump a message they want him to act on? Isn't it conceivable that he just called up Sessions and told him they needed to get rid of these treacherous people right away? Isn't it likely he forgot he asked Bharara to stay in the department two months ago, and more than likely that Sessions and everybody else was afraid to remind him?

The fact that the Times source denies it makes it seem all the more plausible that this really could have happened, because these people lie about everything as a matter of course; if they say it didn't happen, that practically proves it did.

Oh, and then again:

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