“We are at the end of reasonable debate about whether Trump is hopelessly compromised … The President of the United States knowingly and eagerly participated in a scheme with a hostile foreign leader who he knew was seeking to influence the Presidential election. Trump sought to profit politically and financially, many of his closest subordinates executed this effort, and he then was aware of and, it seems likely, encouraged an illegal effort to hide these facts. His reckless, unpatriotic actions have left him compromised by at least one but likely many foreign powers and have left his election open to reasonable questions about its legitimacy. And, every day, he sets policies and makes decisions that have an impact on the lives of all Americans and the fortunes of the very autocrats who hold sway over him. It cannot stand.”
– Adam Davidson, “The Ineptitude of Donald Trump’s Co-conspirators”, The New Yorker, Dec. 8, 2018
This past week Mueller continued to play his hand, via the sentencing memos for Mike Flynn, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. Flynn’s was up first, on Tuesday. It was noteworthy that he had met with the Special Counsel’s office nineteen times and had been so helpful that they were recommending no prison time. Though the memo was heavily redacted, it was clear that Flynn, who had been with Trump through much of the campaign, the transition and the early days of the administration, had been able to provide a lot of valuable information.
Friday brought the sentencing memos for Cohen and Manafort. Cohen actually had two memos, one from the Southern District of New York office and one from the Special Counsel. Noteworthy (both had significant redactions) was the conclusion from the SDNY that Trump, named “Individual-1” in the document, had committed multiple felonies, defrauding the people of the United States by paying hush money to women he had slept with in order to keep the news from damaging his chances in the election.
The other key news was that Cohen had been negotiating with Russians for a Trump Tower Moscow deal well into 2016, something that he and Trump had denied many times over. The deal would have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Trump, which is far more than the typical Trump deal, usually worth a few million dollars. Considering only the tower deal, Russia did indeed have significant leverage over Trump (and has continued to, since he has lied about it every since). Of course, we also know that there are a number of reasons to believe that Trump, his family and his campaign also knew about and were abetting Russia’s efforts to tilt the election. What did Russia want in return? To have the sanctions on them lifted.
The SDNY recommended four years of prison for Cohen, since he hadn’t cooperated fully – most likely because he has extensive and family ties to the Russian Mob, which would have been dangerous for him to reveal. Manafort, on the other hand, had lied multiple times to Mueller’s team, so they were essentially rejecting his cooperation agreement and asking that he be sent to prison.
Where does all this leave us? As Adam Davidson notes above, we’re beyond debate about Trump and Russia. He’s certainly compromised and it’s likely that his guilt extends far beyond what we already know. While Mueller is still hot on his trail and there will be more, probably much more, that we’ll discover, we know enough to see our dilemma pretty clearly. Trump plainly ‘won’ the election through the use of multiple frauds, including a massive Russian attack on our electoral system. He faces at least two felony charges. But the Department of Justice has ruled that a sitting president can’t be indicted and the statute of limitations for electoral fraud is five years. So Trump is now on notice: lose the next election and you’ll face arrest and possibly jail time. Is there anyone who doubts that he will use every illegal tool at his disposal to avoid that fate?
It’s in this context that the next Congress will assemble. While Republicans haven’t started to abandon Trump publicly in a way that would ensure successful impeachment, it’s abundantly clear that Trump has committed impeachable offenses. Republicans are rightfully accused of looking the other way at Trump’s corruption and lawlessness. By avoiding impeachment proceedings, will Democrats risk doing the same? How will we protect our democracy against such a clearly guilty, legally wounded and dangerous man?
A Green New Deal
The Republican assault on democracy, personified by Trump but spreading far beyond his pernicious administration, is a mortal risk to our country. But even it pales in comparison to the mortal risk to our world of global warming. Report after report is telling us unequivocally: we are out of time. We must act decisively and massively now. And the danger isn’t only that our economies will have to adapt or that we’ll have different beaches in the future. It’s that we’ll be wiped out. We have to act.
Enter the Sunrise Movement’s Green New Deal, being championed by House freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and twenty-one of her House colleagues, including our own Jared Huffman. They’re calling for the formation of a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, to “develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan… for the transition of the United States economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.” The idea is to rapidly transition to an economy based on renewables rather than fossil fuels and in the process provide good jobs for any who want them. A central tenet is to support politicians who refuse to take contributions from the fossil fuel industry. And, again, this isn’t something that needs to happen by 2050. It needs to happen by 2030 at the latest. Now means now.
It’s not an accident that Republicans deny that global warming is happening, anymore than it’s an accident that the two countries that we know own Trump are Russia and Saudi Arabia. Oil is the common denominator. It’s time to end its use, it’s influence and its domination. Right. Now.
– Tom Benthin
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org .
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook. Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news. To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, we provide this weekly summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.