Historian Analyzes The Many Problems With The Russiagate Narrative And Democratic Support For Interventionism

Many partisan Democrats have believed Clinton’s claims that she lost as a consequence of Russian interference in the election, as opposed to her own mistakes, despite the lack of evidence for such claims. Many of those viewing the matter more seriously have expressed skepticism, seeing the current hysteria as reminiscent of claims of WMD in Iraq. Jackson Lears, Professor of History at Rutgers University, has an essay on this at the London Review of Books. He looked at subjects including the lack of evidence that Russia was responsible for the DNC hack, along with how this narrative distracts from the evidence of corruption in the DNC which was revealed in their email. He noted, as I also provided examples of recently, that many of the claims in the media have been quickly shown to be incorrect. He also discussed how the Democratic Party’s fixation on Russiagate has led to them ignoring other issues, including the need to take a stand against the military interventionism advocated by Clinton. While I would recommend reading his full article, here are some excerpts:

American politics have rarely presented a more disheartening spectacle. The repellent and dangerous antics of Donald Trump are troubling enough, but so is the Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take in the significance of the 2016 election campaign. Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton, combined with Trump’s triumph, revealed the breadth of popular anger at politics as usual – the blend of neoliberal domestic policy and interventionist foreign policy that constitutes consensus in Washington…

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda. Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical…

Meanwhile, there has been a blizzard of ancillary accusations, including much broader and vaguer charges of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. It remains possible that Robert Mueller, a former FBI director who has been appointed to investigate these allegations, may turn up some compelling evidence of contacts between Trump’s people and various Russians. It would be surprising if an experienced prosecutor empowered to cast a dragnet came up empty-handed, and the arrests have already begun. But what is striking about them is that the charges have nothing to do with Russian interference in the election. There has been much talk about the possibility that the accused may provide damaging evidence against Trump in exchange for lighter sentences, but this is merely speculation. Paul Manafort, at one point Trump’s campaign manager, has pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to register his public relations firm as a foreign agent for the Ukrainian government and concealing his millions of dollars in fees. But all this occurred before the 2016 campaign. George Papadopolous, a foreign policy adviser, has pleaded guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI about his bungling efforts to arrange a meeting between Trump’s people and the Russian government – an opportunity the Trump campaign declined. Mueller’s most recent arrestee, Michael Flynn, the unhinged Islamophobe who was briefly Trump’s national security adviser, has pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about meeting the Russian ambassador in December – weeks after the election. This is the sort of backchannel diplomacy that routinely occurs during the interim between one administration and the next. It is not a sign of collusion.

So far, after months of ‘bombshells’ that turn out to be duds, there is still no actual evidence for the claim that the Kremlin ordered interference in the American election. Meanwhile serious doubts have surfaced about the technical basis for the hacking claims. Independent observers have argued it is more likely that the emails were leaked from inside, not hacked from outside. On this front, the most persuasive case was made by a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, former employees of the US intelligence agencies who distinguished themselves in 2003 by debunking Colin Powell’s claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, hours after Powell had presented his pseudo-evidence at the UN. (There are members of VIPS who dissent from the VIPS report’s conclusions, but their arguments are in turn contested by the authors of the report.) The VIPS findings received no attention in major media outlets, except Fox News – which from the centre-left perspective is worse than no attention at all. Mainstream media have dismissed the VIPS report as a conspiracy theory (apparently the Russian hacking story does not count as one). The crucial issue here and elsewhere is the exclusion from public discussion of any critical perspectives on the orthodox narrative, even the perspectives of people with professional credentials and a solid track record.

Both the DNC hacking story and the one involving the emails of John Podesta, a Clinton campaign operative, involve a shadowy bunch of putatively Russian hackers called Fancy Bear – also known among the technically inclined as APT28. The name Fancy Bear was introduced by Dimitri Alperovitch, the chief technology officer of Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate the theft of their emails. Alperovitch is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian Washington think tank. In its report Crowdstrike puts forward close to zero evidence for its claim that those responsible were Russian, let alone for its assertion that they were affiliated with Russian military intelligence. And yet, from this point on, the assumption that this was a Russian cyber operation was unquestioned. When the FBI arrived on the scene, the Bureau either did not request or was refused access to the DNC servers; instead it depended entirely on the Crowdstrike analysis. Crowdstrike, meanwhile, was being forced to retract another claim, that the Russians had successfully hacked the guidance systems of the Ukrainian artillery. The Ukrainian military and the British International Institute for Strategic Studies both contradicted this claim, and Crowdstrike backed down. But its DNC analysis was allowed to stand and even become the basis for the January Intelligence Community Assessment…

Sceptical voices, such as those of the VIPS, have been drowned out by a din of disinformation. Flagrantly false stories, like the Washington Post report that the Russians had hacked into the Vermont electrical grid, are published, then retracted 24 hours later. Sometimes – like the stories about Russian interference in the French and German elections – they are not retracted even after they have been discredited. These stories have been thoroughly debunked by French and German intelligence services but continue to hover, poisoning the atmosphere, confusing debate. The claim that the Russians hacked local and state voting systems in the US was refuted by California and Wisconsin election officials, but their comments generated a mere whisper compared with the uproar created by the original story. The rush to publish without sufficient attention to accuracy has become the new normal in journalism. Retraction or correction is almost beside the point: the false accusation has done its work.

The most immediate consequence is that, by finding foreign demons who can be blamed for Trump’s ascendancy, the Democratic leadership have shifted the blame for their defeat away from their own policies without questioning any of their core assumptions. Amid the general recoil from Trump, they can even style themselves dissenters – ‘#the resistance’ was the label Clintonites appropriated within a few days of the election. Mainstream Democrats have begun to use the word ‘progressive’ to apply to a platform that amounts to little more than preserving Obamacare, gesturing towards greater income equality and protecting minorities. This agenda is timid. It has nothing to say about challenging the influence of concentrated capital on policy, reducing the inflated defence budget or withdrawing from overextended foreign commitments; yet without those initiatives, even the mildest egalitarian policies face insuperable obstacles. More genuine insurgencies are in the making, which confront corporate power and connect domestic with foreign policy, but they face an uphill battle against the entrenched money and power of the Democratic leadership – the likes of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, the Clintons and the DNC. Russiagate offers Democratic elites a way to promote party unity against Trump-Putin, while the DNC purges Sanders’s supporters.

For the DNC, the great value of the Russian hack story is that it focuses attention away from what was actually in their emails. The documents revealed a deeply corrupt organisation, whose pose of impartiality was a sham. Even the reliably pro-Clinton Washington Post has admitted that ‘many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.’ Further evidence of collusion between the Clinton machine and the DNC surfaced recently in a memoir by Donna Brazile, who became interim chair of the DNC after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in the wake of the email revelations. Brazile describes discovering an agreement dated 26 August 2015, which specified (she writes)

that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics and mailings.

Before the primaries had even begun, the supposedly neutral DNC – which had been close to insolvency – had been bought by the Clinton campaign…

Francis Shen of the University of Minnesota and Douglas Kriner of Boston University analysed election results in three key states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – and found that ‘even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.’ Clinton’s record of uncritical commitment to military intervention allowed Trump to have it both ways, playing to jingoist resentment while posing as an opponent of protracted and pointless war. Kriner and Shen conclude that Democrats may want to ‘re-examine their foreign policy posture if they hope to erase Trump’s electoral gains among constituencies exhausted and alienated by 15 years of war’. If the insurgent movements within the Democratic Party begin to formulate an intelligent foreign policy critique, a re-examination may finally occur. And the world may come into sharper focus as a place where American power, like American virtue, is limited. For this Democrat, that is an outcome devoutly to be wished. It’s a long shot, but there is something happening out there.

Mediaite Listing Of Most Influential In Media Shows How Pathetic Our Media Is

Mediaite has presented their list of Most Influential In Media In 2017. It suggests a very sorry state of our mass media if these are really the most influential, especially when looking at the page with their top five.

Leading the list is Fox & Friends Co-hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, and Brian Kilmeade

They top the list because of Donald Trump being such a big fan. Trump, who often repeats what they say and praises them on Twitter, also congratulated them for this today.

They are followed by Jeff Zucker of CNN. While CNN is hardly the strongest source of serious journalism, unless you are interested in the latest plane crash, at least this is better than the biased media in the rest of the top five.

Sean Hannity comes in third followed by Matt Drudge.

There is finally a voice from the left at number five. Unfortunately it is Rachel Maddow, who has jumped the shark and gone full Glenn Beck, with her hysterical coverage of Russia conspiracy theories, going far beyond the evidence. As Norman Solomon wrote, “Joe McCarthy never did it better.”

Glancing through the rest of the list, while we don’t have Jon Stewart around anymore, other late night comedians did relatively well with Jimmy Kimmel at 23 and Stephen Colbert at 24. Unfortunately Bill Maher, who has abandoned his more independent thought and now follows the Democratic Party line, beats them at 20. John Oliver is at 33. Trevor Noah is at 73 and Samantha Bee is 74th.

Right after Kimmel and Colbert is Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks at 25.

I’m surprised that they only ranked Steve Bannon at 45, although the loss by Roy Moore did not help him.

Fox Wins First Annual Fake News Trophy

Donald Trump recently called for a Fake News Trophy on Twitter. While I can understand that Donald Trump might be upset with CNN (the Clinton News Network), his attempt to exclude Fox from the award backfired. After all, Fox probably does remain the largest major source of false information after Donald Trump himself. Earlier this month the Washington Post Fact Checker found that Trump has made 1,628 false or misleading claims over 298 days since becoming president.

Rasmussen, the Republican-leaning polling outfit, conducted a poll to award the Fake News Trophy. Despite the biases of Rasmussen, the First Annual Fake News Trophy went to Fox. While there was the expected partisan bias in the results, overall Fox did win at 40 percent, with CNN well behind at 25 percent. From Rasmussen:

Trump suggested earlier this week that the media should award an annual Fake News Award for the worst coverage of his presidency but left Fox News out of the running since it is the only network the president and his supporters believe gives him fair coverage. But 40% of all voters think Fox News should be the winner of the first annual Fake News Trophy.

CNN is in second place with 25% support, followed by MSNBC (9%), ABC (4%), CBS (3%) and NBC (2%). Six percent (6%) say the award should go to someone else, and 11% are undecided.

A closer look finds that while 53% of Democrats and a plurality (42%) of voters not affiliated with either major party declare Fox News the winner, just 24% of Republicans agree. Forty percent (40%) of GOP voters opt instead for CNN, a view shared by just 13% of Democrats and 24% of unaffiliateds.

Republicans and unaffiliated voters are more critical of MSNBC than Democrats are, too. Views of the other networks are more comparable among the three groups.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Under Obama Discussed Blowback From Clinton For His Investigation Of Classified Information Sent Over Her Private Email Server

Former Intelligence Community Inspector General under Barack Obama, General Charles McCullough III, discussed the retaliation from the Clinton campaign for investigating the presence of classified information in email sent with Hillary Clinton’s private email server. As I posted in January 2016, General McCullough sent a letter to leaders on congressional intelligence committees indicating that the email on Hillary Clinton’s private server contained classified information, leading to further investigation.

The State Department Inspector General position was left vacant while Clinton was Secretary of State. After the post was filled, the State Department Inspector General report did indicate that Clinton had acted in violation of the law.

McCullough was interviewed by Tucker Carlson. While I hate to use Fox as a source, they are the network which carried the interview and therefore have the report. From their report of the interview:

A government watchdog who played a central role in the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the Obama administration told Fox News that he, his family and his staffers faced an intense backlash at the time from Clinton allies – and that the campaign even put out word that it planned to fire him if the Democratic presidential nominee won the 2016 election.

“There was personal blowback. Personal blowback to me, to my family, to my office,” former Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough III said.

The Obama appointee discussed his role in the Clinton email probe for the first time on television, during an exclusive interview with Fox News aired on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” McCullough – who came to the inspector general position with more than two decades of experience at the FBI, Treasury and intelligence community – shed light on how quickly the probe was politicized and his office was marginalized by Democrats.

In January 2016, after McCullough told the Republican leadership on the Senate intelligence and foreign affairs committees that emails beyond the “Top Secret” level passed through the former secretary of state’s unsecured personal server, the backlash intensified.

“All of a sudden I became a shill of the right,” McCullough recalled. “And I was told by members of Congress, ‘Be careful. You’re losing your credibility. You need to be careful. There are people out to get you.’”

But the former inspector general, with responsibility for the 17 intelligence agencies, said the executive who recommended him to the Obama administration for the job – then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper – was also disturbed by the independent Clinton email findings.

“[Clapper] said, ‘This is extremely reckless.’ And he mentioned something about — the campaign … will have heartburn about that,” McCullough said…

As one of the few people who viewed the 22 top secret Clinton emails deemed too classified to release under any circumstances, the former IG said, “There was a very good reason to withhold those emails … there would have been harm to national security.” McCullough went further, telling Fox News that “sources and methods, lives and operations” could be put at risk.

Some of those email exchanges contained Special Access Program (SAP) information characterized by intel experts as “above top secret.”

WikiLeaks documents show the campaign was formulating talking points as the review of 30,000 Clinton emails was ongoing.

The campaign team wrote in August 2015 that “Clinton only used her account for unclassified email. When information is reviewed for public release, it is common for information previously unclassified to be upgraded to classified.”

McCullough was critical of the campaign’s response, as the classified review had barely begun. “There was an effort … certainly on the part of the campaign, to mislead people into thinking that there was nothing to see here,” McCullough said.

McCullough discussed opposition from the Clinton campaign, Congressional Democrats, and some at the State Department for his desire to investigate Clinton’s actions. This included threats that he would be fired:

“It was told in no uncertain terms, by a source directly from the campaign, that we would be the first two to be fired — with [Clinton’s] administration. That that was definitely going to happen,” he said.

McCullough said he was just trying to do his job, which requires independence. “I was, in this context, a whistleblower. I was explaining to Congress — I was doing exactly what they had expected me to do. Exactly what I promised them I would do during my confirmation hearing,” he said. “… This was a political matter, and all of a sudden I was the enemy.”

…Asked what would have happened to him if he had done such a thing, McCullough said: “I’d be sitting in Leavenworth right now.”

James Comey’s report showed that Clinton and her colleagues were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” While he declined to recommend prosecution, his report also demonstrated that many of Clinton’s public statements regarding the email scandal were false. Comey’s letter to Congress late in the campaign is on the long list of Clinton’s excuses for losing to Donald Trump. McCullough noted in the interview that the FBI’s involvement might have been avoided if Clinton had been more cooperative in the investigation:

Speaking about the case more than a year after the FBI probe concluded, McCullough in his interview also addressed the possibility that a more cooperative State Department and Clinton campaign might have precluded the FBI’s involvement from the start.

“Had they come in with the server willingly, without having us to refer this to the bureau … maybe we could have worked with the State Department,” he said.

Of course there would also have not been an FBI investigation if Clinton had not violated the law with her use of the private server. In addition, the scandal might not have repeatedly made news if Clinton had been more honest, as opposed to being constantly exposed for lying.

Democratic Party Purges Progressives And Makes Lobbyists Superdelegates

The Democratic Party is further demonstrating that the do not represent the left, and have no serious interest in doing so. NBC News reported on the purge of progressives by the DNC:

A shake-up is underway at the Democratic National Committee as several key longtime officials have lost their posts, exposing a still-raw rift in the party and igniting anger among those in its progressive wing who see retaliation for their opposition to DNC Chairman Tom Perez.

The ousters come ahead of the DNC’s first meeting, in Las Vegas, Nevada, since Perez took over as chairman with a pledge this year to unite a party that had become badly divided during the brutal Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton 2016 primary race.

Complaints began immediately after party officials saw a list of Perez’s appointments to DNC committees and his roster of 75 “at-large” members, who are chosen by the chair.

The removal and demotion of a handful of veteran operatives stood out, as did what critics charge is the over-representation of Clinton-backed members on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which helps set the terms for the party’s presidential primary, though other Sanders and Ellison backers remain represented.

Those who have been pushed out include:

Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic chairman and longtime DNC official who ran against Perez for chair before backing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Buckley lost his spots on the Executive Committee and DNC Rules Committee.

James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and prominent Sanders backer, is no longer co-chair of the Resolutions Committee and is off the Executive Committee, a spot he has held since 2001.

Alice Germond, the party’s longtime former secretary and a vocal Ellison backer, who was removed from her at-large appointment to the DNC.

Barbra Casbar Siperstein, who supported Ellison and Buckley, was tossed from the Executive Committee.

If the Democratic Party is to be taken seriously by the left it also must end the policies designed to determine their nominees, including superdelegates, front loading southern states, and making rules changes to benefit their preferred candidate–as they did in 2016 to essentially rig the nomination for Hillary Clinton.

The rigging of the Democratic nomination for Hillary Clinton was also exposed in the email released by Wikileaks, with Clinton recently launching an attack with bogus charges against Wikileaks which were debunked per a post yesterday.

Rather than eliminating superdelegates, as some Democrats have called for, they have made matters worse. Bloomberg reports that the Democrats plan to name lobbyists as superdelegates, confirming many of the charges against the party from the left:

The Democratic Party this week plans to name 75 people including lobbyists and political operatives to leadership posts that come with superdelegate votes at its next presidential convention, potentially aggravating old intraparty tensions as it struggles to confront President Donald Trump.

 The new members-at-large of the Democratic National Committee will vote on party rules and in 2020 will be convention delegates free to vote for a primary candidate of their choice. They include lobbyists for Venezuela’s national petroleum company and for the parent company of Fox News, according to a list obtained by Bloomberg News. At least three of the people worked for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in 2016 while also casting ballots as superdelegates.

This is exactly the wrong thing to do to give the left any confidence that the party will have a fair nominating process in the future. It also provides further evidence for the criticism that the Democratic Party is indebted to corporate money and is unlikely to behave all that differently from the Republicans.

Much of this is probably motivated by the desire of party insiders to maintain the status quo and their own power. This is also probably also partially motivated by misguided ideas as to how to compete with the Republicans, despite having repeatedly lost elections over the past decade by turning into a Republican-lite party and refusing to stand up for principle.

Of course the Republicans also remain open to charges of hypocrisy and political cowardice as many of them remain silent about the actions of Donald Trump. Matt Bai discussed how Republicans remain silent while “Donald Trump’s presidency imperils the future of his party” in a column today which is also critical of the Democrats.

Voters for neither party are really served by the leadership and insiders in their party who are more concerned with keeping their jobs than serving the voters.

Jimmy Kimmel Again Becoming Major Defender Of Preserving Obamacare

If the latest Republican effort to strip people of their healthcare coverage fails, I Jimmy Kimmel just might become the front runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Jimmy Kimmel has once again been speaking out against the Republican efforts. First he had this monologue two nights ago:

Kimmel showed how Bill Cassedy was lying about his health care bill passing the “Jimmy Kimmel Test” with problems including failing to guarantee coverage of pre-existing conditions and failure to have a life time cap as are present under Obamacare. See the full monologe in the video above, with transcript here. Kimmel concluded:

But don’t take my word for it. Here are just some of the organizations that oppose this Graham Cassidy Bill: the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Arthritis Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis, the ALS Association, the March of Dimes, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Children’s Hospital of LA. Basically, any group you’ve ever given money to thinks this is a bad idea. Do you trust them, or do you trust him? OK?

So if this bill isn’t good enough for you, call your congressperson. That’s the number, go to your congressperson — whoever he or she is — (202) 224-3121. You have to do this; you can’t just click like on this video. Tell him this bill doesn’t pass your test.

And Senator Cassidy, you were on my show, you seemed like you were a decent guy. But here’s the thing. Nobody outside of your buddies in Congress wants this bill. Only 12% of Americans supported the last one, and this one is worse. Right now there’s a bipartisan group of senators working to approve the healthcare system we have. We want quality, affordable healthcare. Dozens of other countries figured it out. So instead of jamming this horrible bill down our throats, go pitch in and be a part of that. I’m sure they could use a guy with your medical background. And if not, stop using my name. Because I don’t want my name on it. There’s a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you. It’s called the lie detector test. You’re welcome to stop by the studio and take it any time.

When Republicans attacked, including their mouthpieces at Fox, Kimmel responded last night:

While other late night comedians are frequently making jokes about Donald Trump and the Republicans, it is unusual for a late night talk show host to get into the details of policy to the degree that Kimmel has with health care. Dean Obeidallah says he is also doing a better job than the Democrats:

Jimmy Kimmel has done again what Congressional Democratic leaders cannot: thrust the debate over how disastrous the GOP’s proposed healthcare plan would be for Americans with pre-existing conditions back into the national headlines. Sure, Democrats in Congress are objecting to the GOP proposal via press releases and on Twitter, but Kimmel has been clearly more effective at attracting media coverage on this issue…

Maybe if the Democrats had done as good a job selling the Affordable Care Act in the beginning, instead of going on the defensive, they wouldn’t be in this position. Fortunately Bernie Sanders is speaking out forcibly about an even more comprehensive alternative, Medicare for All.

Trump Support Falls With Increased Speculation That Trump Will Be Impeached Or Resign To Avoid Prison

Donald Trump’s unwillingness to consistently take a stand against white supremacists might have been the last straw placed upon an administration which is both failing to have its agenda passed and which is under investigation. He is losing support from members of his own party. There is increased talk about the possibility of impeachment or even his resignation.

First Read summarized the position which Trump is in:

The president’s job approval rating hovers between 35 percent and 40 percent. Key American corporations have withdrawn from his business-advisory councils after the response to Charlottesville. He’s regularly lashing out at members of his own party. His top advisers are calling up liberal publications — and letting loose. Forty percent of Americans want him impeached, according to a new poll.

And we’re on the 210th day of his time in office (without a major legislative accomplishment under his belt, and with a special counsel already investigating him and his team).

Here’s the thing: We have no idea how this all plays out for President Trump and his administration. We’ve seen Trump survive past controversies (Khizr Khan, Access Hollywood), but he no longer has an opponent/foil like Hillary Clinton.

We’ve seen past presidents (LBJ, Nixon, Clinton) endure their share of turbulent times, but it’s never come this early in a presidency. And we’ve never seen so many members of the president’s own political party openly criticize him, but still vote for his agenda most of the time.

Using the words “uncharted waters” has become a bit cliché during the Trump Era — everything has been so different. But there also are no better words to use right now. And the turmoil comes at a pressing time: escalating tensions with North Korea, a debt ceiling that needs to be raised, and midterm elections that are right around the corner.

The Fix reports on how Republicans are unwilling to appear on not only NBC but Fox to defend Trump:

Congress is in recess, but Republicans are in hiding, apparently unsure how to answer questions about President Trump’s response to last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville — and unwilling to try.

“We invited every single Republican senator on this program tonight — all 52,” Chuck Todd said on MSNBC’s “MTP Daily” on Wednesday. “We asked roughly a dozen House Republicans, including a bunch of committee chairs, and we asked roughly a half dozen former Republican elected officials, and none of them agreed to discuss this issue with us today.”

That’s about 70 rejections altogether, and other news anchors had the same experience on Wednesday — even on Fox News.

“Our booking team — and they’re good — reached out to Republicans of all stripes across the country today,” Shepard Smith told his viewers. “Let’s be honest: Republicans often don’t really mind coming on Fox News Channel. We couldn’t get anyone to come and defend him here. Because we thought, in balance, someone should do that. We worked very hard at it throughout the day, and we were unsuccessful.”

With support so low, a story from the Brookings Institute (and reprinted by Newsweek) speculates that, Trump Is Just Six Senate Votes From Impeachment.

At some point in 2019 (if not sooner) a Republican Senator may walk into the Oval Office and say to President Trump: “Mr. President, we don’t have the votes,” at which point the Trump presidency will end in a resignation or a conviction in the Senate.

This scenario actually occurred forty-three years ago this summer when Republican Senator Barry Goldwater walked into the Oval Office and told Republican President Richard Nixon that they didn’t have the votes in the Senate to save his presidency.

Following impeachment in the House, a trial takes place in the Senate. Conviction requires two-thirds of the Senate and by my count there are already twelve senators who have shown a willingness to take on the president when they believe he is in the wrong.

If you add that to the forty-eight Democrats in the Senate (who have shown no inclination to work with this President), Donald Trump could be six votes away from conviction in the Senate…

The article goes on to list Republican Senators who have been critical of Trump. Of course being unwilling to publicly defend Trump, or even to criticize him, does not necessarily mean they would vote to remove him from office. Even if these Republicans would support removing Trump from office, this would also require a majority in the Republican controlled House, and winning over six additional Republican Senators. This could be complicated by many Republican voters still sticking with Trump.

Tony Schwartz, who c0-wrote The Art Of The Deal with Trump, is repeating his earlier predictions that Trump will resign, possibly by this fall. I have a tough time seeing Trump resigning, but Schwartz does know Trump about as well as anyone outside his inner circle. It is conceivable that he could resign, as Schwartz predicts, as part of a deal to avoid going to prison as the investigations against him proceed. Schwartz also Tweeted, “Trump’s presidency is effectively over.”

Shepard Smith Speaks Out About All The Lies From The Trump Administration

So many lies have come from the Trump administration that even an anchor at Fox is starting to complain about all the lies. Shepard Smith had this to say about the various stories being told about the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr. and Russians when speaking with Chris Wallace:

Fox News can now confirm new, more — Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, the lawyer from Russia, the interpreter, this new guy we found out about today, and a mystery person. John Roberts confirms there was an eighth person in that meeting. We don’t know, there may have been more, but there was an eighth. Jared Kushner filled out his form, I think it’s an F-86, saying who he’d met with and what he had done.

Very important stuff, you can go to prison for messing it up, you know, intentionally. He went back and added 100 names and places. None of these people made it. It’s still not — we’re still not clean on this, Chris.

It’s — if there’s nothing there and that’s what they tell us, they tell us there’s nothing to this and nothing came of it, there’s a nothing burger, it wasn’t even memorable, didn’t write it down, didn’t tell you about it, because it wasn’t anything so I didn’t even remember it, with a Russian interpreter in the room at Trump Tower.

If all of that, why all of these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie? If you’re clean, come out clean. You know, my grandmother used to say “When first we practice to — oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

The deception, Chris, is mind boggling. And there are still people out there who believe we’re making it up, and one day they’re going to realize we’re not, and look around and go, “Where are we? And why are we getting told all these lies?”

Shepard Smith has varied from the hard line pro-Republican viewpoint at Fox at times, but it is also rare to see such outright acknowledgement about government lying including using the L-word. The Fix is calling this a “Cronkite moment” referring to when Walter Cronkite spoke out about the lies being told about the United States involvement in Vietnam.

This is a bit of an exaggeration. Walter Cronkite speaking out against the war is often seen as precipitating a turning point in public perception of the war. The majority of people in the nation is already opposed to Donald Trump and realizes he is a liar. However it would be more comparable if this leads to a change in perception of Donald Trump among Fox viewers.

Donald Trump Misled By Fox About James Comey

There are two things which Donald Trump must do if he is to gain any degree of credibility–give up watching Fox and Tweeting every idiotic thing which comes into his head. (Okay, he probably needs to do even more than that, but it would be a start). It looks like Trump made a false charge against Comey based upon a misleading story he saw on Fox.

Philip Bump explained in greater detail, but the gist is that Comey gave a memo of a meeting with Trump to a friend. Comey also wrote memos on his meetings which contained classified information. Fox, and then Trump, then claimed that Comey broke the law by giving his friend a memo with classified information. However, the memo which Comey gave to the friend was not one of the memos which contained classified information. Comey had written a total of seven memos after nine meetings with Trump. Four of the seven memos are marked as secret or classified. This did not include the memo which Comey gave to the friend.

Jake Tapper has a report further showing that Trump’s attack was untrue:

The Columbia University Law School professor and confidant of former FBI Director James Comey refuted a charge by President Donald Trump and his advocates in the media Monday: that Comey shared classified information with journalists.

Daniel Richman, with whom Comey shared at least one memo — the contents of which Richman shared with New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt — said President Trump was simply wrong.

“No memo was given to me that was marked ‘classified,'” Daniel Richman told CNN. “No memo was passed on to the Times.”

Richman did share the contents of one memo, he said, but “the substance of the memo passed on to the Times was not marked classified and to my knowledge remains unclassified.”

Trump needs to learn that the claims made on Fox are often fictitious pieces of propaganda, and not things he should repeat or base his claims on. He certainly should not attempt to govern based upon what he hears on Fox.

Joe Scarborough & Mika Brzezinski Respond To Donald Trump’s Mental State

Over the last couple of days Donald Trump has both advocated repealing Obamacare without a replacement, which would lead to 26 million people losing insurance, and has insulted Mika Brzezinski. Based upon the media response, the later appears to be the more important story. Therefore, rather than another post on the Republican plans to destroy health care (such as here and here), I’ll look at the more important story of the day.

In a pair of tweets, Donald Trump claimed:

I heard poorly rated speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came……to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!

Subsequently Joe Scarborough accused Trump of blackmailing them, demanding an apology for their negative coverage, or else a negative story about Scarborough and Brzezinski would be published in the Enquirer. Trump mistakenly thought people would actually give a damn over what the Enquirer had to say about their relationship.

New York Magazine summaries what occurred:

According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

The Morning Joe co-hosts decided to talk about the episode a day after Trump inaccurately tweeted that Brzezinski attended a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” (A photo from that evening backs up Scarborough and Brzezinski’s denial of this.) While the Enquirer denies that Trump encouraged Pecker to investigate the MSNBC hosts, Trump himself has pushed the story publicly. Last August, he tweeted, “Some day, when things calm down, I’ll tell the real story of@JoeNBC and his very insecure long-time girlfriend, @morningmika. Two clowns!”

The most interesting thing in all of this is that the Enquirer is owned by a guy named Pecker who is a friend of Donald Trump.

While Trump’s ability to express himself is generally often limited to short forms like Twitter, Scarborough and Brzezinski are capable of more detailed expression of their views. They did this in an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, Donald Trump is not well. Here are some excerpts:

The president’s unhealthy obsession with our show has been in the public record for months, and we are seldom surprised by his posting nasty tweets about us. During the campaign, the Republican nominee called Mika “neurotic” and promised to attack us personally after the campaign ended. This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.

The president’s unhealthy obsession with “Morning Joe” does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise. That is unfortunate. We believe it would be better for America and the rest of the world if he would keep his 60-inch-plus flat-screen TV tuned to “Fox & Friends.”

…It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children. We were heartened to hear a number of Republican lawmakers call out Mr. Trump for his offensive words and can only hope that the women who are closest to him will follow their examples. It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of women’s empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct.

Fox cites anonymous sources to say that Scarborough’s claims are not true (which I point out only to demonstrate how low Fox can get).

Melania Trump defended her husband:

“As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder,” her communications director Stephanie Grisham said in response to reporters’ questions.

Stephen Colbert had this rebuttal to Melania’s defense: “Yes, as the first lady says, ‘When they go low, we go 10 times lower.'”