Reading “What Happened” So You Do Not Have To

Reading Hillary Clinton’s memoir, What Happened, is like reading a memoir from Jesse James which makes no admission that he ever robbed a bank. She talked about trivial matters from her life, repeated her excuses blaming everyone else for her loss, and gave virtually no recognition of her dishonest actions and lifelong opposition to liberal values behind the opposition to her. What Happened  was previously used as a book title by former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan. Maybe she reused this title because Jeff Flake beat her to reusing the philosophically more honest choice, Conscience of a Conservative. Of course that would assume that she has a conscience, but she showed no signs of having one.

It is hard to see the point in this book beyond finger pointing. Clinton wrote:

At first, I had intended to keep relatively quiet. Former Presidents and former nominees often try to keep a respectful distance from the front lines of politics, at least for a while. I always admired how both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush avoided criticizing Bill and Barack, and how Bill ended up working with George H. W. on tsunami relief in Asia and Katrina recovery on the Gulf Coast. And with George W. in Haiti after the earthquake in 2011. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

She should have ended the book right there.

In a rare moment of honesty, Clinton showed how clueless she is in writing, “in terms of fighting the previous war, I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t realize how quickly the ground was shifting under all our feet.” The only shifting Clinton has shown with the times has been to move on from blaming everything on the vast right wing conspiracy to blaming the vast left wing conspiracy against her.

She might briefly admit to a mistake, but it is quickly followed with a major but as she places the blame on Russia, James Comey, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, or others. If she did mention something she did wrong, it was passed over as a minor tactical error, ignoring the magnitude of her ethical lapses.

This week Bernie Sanders has been pushing for comprehensive, affordable health care for all Americans. Hillary Clinton is pushing a book which attacks the left and questions the validity of our electoral process (which she previously attacked Trump for threatening to do). She has opposed Medicare for All based upon false claims, continuing her long history of working to undermine liberal ideas.

While she launched numerous bogus attacks against others, she feels that her mistakes are too trivial to be considered. She wrote, “The truth is, everyone’s flawed. That’s the nature of human beings. But our mistakes alone shouldn’t define us. We should be judged by the totality of our work and life.”  Judging Clinton by the totality of her work and life, we must include her repeated push for neoconservative wars and regime change, her repeated advocacy of violating our First Amendment rights, her social conservatism, her support for the corrupting influence of money in politics, and her use of her position for personal financial gain–including violating the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Hillary Clinton wrote about her concern for children. In the real world, Hillary Clinton has shown her concern for children in other countries by dropping bombs on them and defending the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. There are also those who suffered from Bill’s welfare reform at home. However, “It was a hard call. Bill and I lay awake at night talking it over.”

Clinton shows no understanding of liberal or progressive values. While she mischaracterized Bernie Sanders’ platform as offering everyone a pony, it is actually Clinton who sees liberalism as little more than government giving out ponies, even if smaller ones than she believes Bernie Sanders would. She has no understanding of how true liberal and progressives would change the status quo, no concept of the human rights we defend, and no concept of what is wrong with her interventionist views.

Her ignorance of liberal concepts of human rights would explain how she totally misunderstood the warnings of George Orwell. To an authoritarian such as Hillary Clinton the lesson of 1984 is that we should not question our political leaders, the press, or experts:

Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism. This is what the Soviets did when they erased political dissidents from historical photos. This is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered. The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust toward exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves.

On the other hand, Clinton is quite skilled in using Orwellian techniques to attack her political enemies. She uses the same types of distortions against Bernie Sanders as she did during the campaign, and as she used against Barack Obama in 2008. I have already responded to some of the attacks against Sanders here, and also recommend this rebuttal of Clinton’s arguments by Les Leopold. While reading What Happened I came across another fallacious attack on Sanders. Clinton wrote, “After the election, Bernie suggested that Democrats should be open to nominating and supporting candidates who are anti-choice.”

No, that is not what happened at all. On the other hand, the Democratic establishment has shown how they are willing to ignore reproductive rights. Clinton herself has also been to the right of Sanders on the issue, including her support for parental notification laws and expressing a willingness to compromise with Republicans. This is not surprising in light of her personal social conservatism on the issue and her mantra of keeping abortion”safe, legal, and rare,” stigmatizing women who have had an abortion.

Her attempts to falsely portray Sanders as being to the right of her on abortion are similar to her claims of being to the left of Sanders on gun control, despite having run in 2008 as a “pro-gun churchgoer.” Of course while attacking Sanders and blaming him for her loss she overlooked the degree to which Sanders campaigned for her after the primaries were over. Her antipathy towards a fair democratic process includes a visceral objection to being challenged for political office.

Clinton was no more honest in discussing the scandals which rightfully harmed her campaign. For example, she misquoted from the State Department Inspector General report to falsely make it look like the report supported her actions in the email scandal. In reality, the Inspector General report said exactly the opposite in showing how she violated policy. As we saw during the campaign, she keeps repeating the same lies about the scandal, including the statements from James Comey, regardless of how often the media fact checkers show that she is outright lying.

She attempted to open up personally, but even then wasn’t entirely honest. Among the more unbelievable lines, Clinton wrote, “For me, fund-raisers were a little more complicated than other campaign events. Even after all these years, it’s hard for me to ask for other people’s money.”

Among the other personal discussions in the book, Clinton wrote, “Bill and I bought our home in 1999 because we loved the bedroom.” Now try to get that image out of your mind.

Actually what she wrote after this was quite tame, including a description of the vaulted ceiling, windows, and photos. And then, “After waking up, I check my email and read my morning devotional from Reverend Bill Shillady, which is usually waiting in my inbox. I spend a few minutes in contemplation, organizing my thoughts and setting my priorities for the day.” The rest of us will not be able to see the writings of Bill Shillady as his publisher has pulled his planned book, entitled Strong for a Moment Like This: The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton, due to plagiarism.

Of course, as was inevitable, I am seeing defenses of What Happened claiming that disagreements with Clinton’s book are based upon misogyny. What an intellectually and morally bankrupt viewpoint. Do such Clinton supporters have even a shred of integrity? I am just relieved that Hillary Clinton is not in the White House, leaving us to contend with claims that our objections to whatever war she wanted to start, or whatever violation of the First Amendment she was advocating, was based only on sexism.

Trump And Clinton Cannot Break Bad Habits, Repeating Past Mistakes

The 2016 presidential election featured two highly flawed candidates, with the mistakes made by Hillary Clinton leading to the fiasco of Donald Trump’s presidency. Both repeated the same types of mistakes this week which have already harmed their reputations.

Donald Trump’s presidency got off to a terrible start as he exaggerated the size of the crowd who turned out to his inauguration. With Hurricane Harvey changing the political winds, Trump tried to avoid the mistakes made by George Bush (not Barack Obama–who was not in office at the time of Katrina despite claims from some Trump supporters). Trump went to Houston after Harvey hit, and then promptly bragged about the size of the crowd who turned out to see him: “What a crowd, what a turnout.”

As Ari Fleischer, press secretary for George W. Bush, said, “There was something missing from what President Trump said ― I hope he’ll say it later today ― but that’s the empathy for the people who suffered. That, in my opinion, should have been the first thing he should have said was that his heart goes out to those people in Houston who are going through this and that the government is here to help them to recover from this.”

Just as Donald Trump cannot go beyond this type of tremendous egotism, Hillary Clinton cannot resist the opportunity to make a buck. She is pushing new limits in charges for those coming to her book signing, with a platinum VIP ticket selling for over $2000. She is handling her book tour like she did the position of Secretary of State in charging top dollar for access. She was further harmed by her greed as she postponed starting her campaign to fit in more paid speeches, was criticized for refusing to release the transcripts, and further embarrassed when Wikileaks revealed what she was said in those paid speeches. Now she is providing one answer to the question raised by her bookWhat Happened.

As Matt Taibbi wrote, after discussing how the Clintons cashed in on their political positions, “The Clintons probably should have left politics the moment they decided they didn’t care what the public thought about how they made their money.” In ignoring the likely reaction to how she is cashing in yet again, Hillary Clinton shows that she is no more capable than Donald Trump of changing.

Robert Mueller Has Found Way To Circumvent Trump’s Power To Pardon Himself And Potential Witnesses

Donald Trump’s recent pardon of Joe Arpaio was seen as both an assault on the rule of law and a suggestion of how he might try to derail Robert Mueller’s investigation. Seeing that Trump figured out how to issue a pardon last week probably resulted in a great sense of relief to members of Trump’s family and friends.

Trump has already spoken about his power to pardon himself, friends, and family, not only escaping prosecution but also removing motivation from those around him to make deals and cooperate with Mueller. As Jonathan Chait put it,  “Mueller is apparently handling his investigating like the prosecution of a mob boss, pressuring underlings to flip on the boss. Trump’s advantage is that, unlike a mob boss, he can give out an unlimited number of get-out-of-jail-free cards.”

As the president’s power to issue pardons only applies to federal prosecutions, Mueller has found a way to potentially negate Trump’s power to pardon. by opening the possibility of prosecution at the state level. Typically federal prosecutions take precedence, but that is based upon tradition, not law. Politico reports:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his financial transactions, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.

The two teams have shared evidence and talked frequently in recent weeks about a potential case, these people said. One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering.

No decision has been made on where or whether to file charges. “Nothing is imminent,” said one of the people familiar with the case…

While Trump has not signaled any public intention to pardon Manafort or anyone else involved in the Russia investigations, the president has privately discussed his pardon powers with his advisers.

Schneiderman has experience in going after the Trump organization, winning a $25 million settlement last November regarding allegedly fraudulent practices at Trump University.

Clinton Apologists Distort Poll Data To Make False Claim That Sanders Supporters Cost Clinton The Election

Hillary Clinton and her supporters have the irrational view that it makes sense to blame those who did not vote for her for her loss, failing to understand that this is how politics works. Any candidate can claim they would have won if enough people who did not vote for them had decided to vote for them, and it is the fault of the Democrats if they ran a candidate so terrible that she could not even beat Donald Trump. Clinton supporters are now twisting recently released polling data to blame supporters of Bernie Sanders for Clinton’s inability to beat Trump.

Some like Newsweek are running the data under the unsupported headline, Bernie Sanders Voter Helped Trump Win And Here’s Proof.  The Washington Post looks at the data more objectively under the title Did enough Bernie Sanders supporters vote for Trump to cost Clinton the election? They report that, “Two surveys estimate that 12 percent of Sanders voters voted for Trump. A third survey suggests it was 6 percent.”

The article further states, “the most important feature of Sanders-Trump voters is this: They weren’t really Democrats to begin with.” In other words, Bernie Sanders brought in non-Democratic voters, while Hillary Clinton could not win the support of these voters. This is a difference between Sanders and Clinton which we were well aware of during the primaries.

In looking at the voters who went from Sanders to Trump, also remember the PUMAs. This six to twelve percent of Sanders voters is rather small compared to the number of Clinton voters who voted for John McCain in the 2008 general election:

Another useful comparison is to 2008, when the question was whether Clinton supporters would vote for Barack Obama or John McCain (R-Ariz.) Based on data from the 2008 Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project, a YouGov survey that also interviewed respondents multiple times during the campaign, 24 percent of people who supported Clinton in the primary as of March 2008 then reported voting for McCain in the general election.

An analysis of a different 2008 survey by the political scientists Michael Henderson, Sunshine Hillygus and Trevor Thompson produced a similar estimate: 25 percent. (Unsurprisingly, Clinton voters who supported McCain were more likely to have negative views of African Americans, relative to those who supported Obama.)

Thus, the 6 percent or 12 percent of Sanders supporters who may have supported Trump does not look especially large in comparison with these other examples.

This certainly blows up the arguments of Clinton supporters based upon some expectation of party loyalty with more Clinton supporters than Sanders supporters going over to the Republicans.

I am actually not surprised by this. After all, Hillary Clinton’s views are far more in line with the Republicans than liberal/progressive Democrats. Many backed her based upon gender without any serious understanding of her views. Therefore a Republican ticket like McCain/Palin wouldn’t be very far from Clinton ideologically, and would allow them to vote for a female candidate. Core Sanders supporters are far more progressive than Clinton and those voting for a non-Democrat might  consider  candidates such as Jill Stein, but did not have a major party candidate who was similar to them ideologically as Clinton supporters did. This left a smaller number who would vote Republican in 2016.

On the other hand, the left/right political spectrum does not explain the choices of all voters. Again, this data shows that there were voters who Bernie Bernie Sanders could win away from the Republicans, but Hillary Clinton could not. This was one of the reasons Sanders would have made a better general election candidate.

The data in this poll alone does not prove that Sanders would have beaten Trump, but other data available does suggest this. Sanders typically polled about ten points better than Clinton in head to head polls against Republicans. Sanders did better in the rust belt states which cost Clinton the election in the electoral college. Sanders was not involved in scandals as Clinton was, and there were no emails which showed matters comparable to what was released about Clinton by Wikileaks. It makes no sense for Clinton supporters to blame James Comey, Wikileaks, and Russia for Clinton losing, but deny that not being affected by these matters would make Sanders a stronger general election candidate.

In an election this close, virtually any difference might have changed the election result–including perhaps Clinton not making the many mistakes she made throughout the campaign. If all the Sanders voters who voted for Trump had voted for Clinton she theoretically could have won. On the other hand, there  were even more people who voted for Obama in the previous election but voted for Trump.

As with the vast majority of election analyses I have read, they did not even look at the degree to which being a neoconservative war monger might have affected the actions of voters, with one study earlier this summer suggesting that it was her support for endless war which cost her the election. Despite his many faults, Trump did outflank Clinton on the left on both trade and foreign policy (although Trump was far too incoherent on foreign policy for many of us to consider backing him based upon this, even if we could have overlooked his racism and xenophobia).

The key factor in any analysis is not that something different might have allowed Clinton to win, but that running against a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, Clinton was so close that these factors allowed her to lose. If Clinton was running ten points better against Trump (as Sanders had), then Russia, James Comey, and even the loss of some votes to Trump would not have cost her the election. Barack Obama was able to win despite losing far more Clinton voters to Republicans because he was a stronger candidate to begin with.

Donald Trump is president because the Democrats picked a horrible candidate who then went on to run a terrible campaign. No amount of spinning poll results will change this.

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.”

Late Night Comics Speculate On An Early End For The Trump Presidency

I’m picturing Mike Pence sitting in his office trying to decide when Trump has acted just crazy enough that he can invoke the 25th Amendment and be seen as a hero. There are certainly plenty of psychiatrists who would argue Trump is unfit to fulfill the duties of the presidency. I’m not sure what the odds are of Trump being removed, either under the 25th Amendment or impeachment, but humor writers have seen this as likely.

Earlier in the year I noted a sequence on The Last Man On Earth in which a plague killed off politicians going through the lines of succession. They started with President Pence, implying that one way or another Donald Trump was already gone. (The video at the link concludes with the death of President Betsy DeVos.)

Late night comedians have had several similar jokes this week:

Vice President Mike Pence denies he’s planning to run for president in 2020. He said, “I’m pretty sure I’ll be president way before then.” –Conan O’Brien

Mike Pence is denying speculation that he wants to be elected president in 2020. Pence was like, “I think you mean re-elected president in 2020.” –Jimmy Fallon

According to The New York Times, Vice President Mike Pence is planning on running for president if Trump doesn’t run for a second term. But he issued a statement strongly denying the article, saying it was disgraceful, offensive to me, my family and our entire team. He said to suggest he is running for president in 2020 is laughable and absurd. Right, why would Mike Pence want to be president in 2020? He’s going to be president much, much sooner than that. –Jimmy Kimmel

Vice President Mike Pence is adamantly denying a New York Times article claiming that he has begun a secret campaign for a presidential run in 2020. He says he has even less interest in being president than Trump does, which is saying something. Pence is like, “This is ridiculous. I’m not focused on being president in 2020, I’m focused on being president after Trump is impeached sometime this year.” –James Corden

Meanwhile in today’s news, Congressional investigators now want to question Donald Trump’s personal secretary, Rhona Graff, in the Russia investigation. If either were still alive, Richard Nixon and Rosemary Woods might tell Donald Trump that bad things can happen after a president’s personal secretary is questioned by such a Congressional probe, even if the specifics were different.

Of course we would have a new set of problems if Mike Pence were to replace Donald Trup. Pence could not honestly say, as Gerald Ford once did, “our long national nightmare is over” should he become president. Hopefully, should Donald Trump be removed from office the Republican brand will be so damaged that Pence won’t be able to do much harm. We can also hope that whatever brings down Trump also brings down Pence. However, unless they are separate events and another Vice President is chosen, Paul Ryan would be next in line.

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

In follow up of my post yesterday on the McCarthyism we are seeing from many in the Democratic establishment in their attacks on the left, it is worth mentioning some signs of sanity from some Democrats. While it only applies to some, Politico has written that Democrats fear Russia probe blowback:

Democrats are increasingly conflicted about how forcefully to press the issue of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Fearful of alienating voters who appear more concerned about the economy and health care, Democrats campaigning in districts across the country are de-emphasizing Russia in their rhetoric — and some are warning that a persistent focus on the Russia investigation could backfire.

“In the races where I’m working, I think voters think that Russia is important and that the questions need to get answered,” Bill Burton, a veteran Democratic consultant, said at a political convention this past weekend. “But they’re mostly sick of hearing about it, and they want to hear politicians talk about things that are more directly important in their lives.”

…California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s running for governor, was even more direct in a recent appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The Russia investigation, he said, “doesn’t do anything for Democrats at all … It’s a loser.”

The problem for Democrats goes beyond this. While we do not know the final results or everything which Mueller has uncovered, based upon what has been released it increasingly looks like the Democrats have gone far beyond the facts in making this a political issue. While the Russians may have meddled to some degree in the election, the fact is that the Russians have attempted to meddle in our elections for decades–just as we have meddled in their elections and the elections of many other countries.

The arguments from Democrats fall apart when they try to blame Russia for Clinton’s loss. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes made by Clinton which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others. Russia did not force Clinton to ignore the rust belt states, or do a terrible job of campaigning there when she realized she was in trouble. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the rules in setting up her private server, and then repeatedly lie about it for months. Russia did not force Clinton to violate the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State, and use her career in politics for personal financial gain. Russia did not force Clinton to take extreme pro-war positions and other conservative views which alienated many potential Democratic voters. 

While Donald Trump along with members of his family and campaign have had many suspicious actions involving Russia, there has been no evidence of successful collusion between them to impact the election. I have long believed that Trump’s actions were based more upon possible financial crimes and covering up activities of his family and associates. Last spring week former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in his Congressional testimony: “To my current knowledge, the Russian government did not through any cyber intrusion alter ballots, ballot counts or reporting of election results.” We have not seen anything to alter this.

While Donald Trump, Jr. showed he was not above meeting with Russians to attempt to affect the election, it turned out that Russia had nothing to offer. The closet thing we have to evidence that Russia might have attempted to hack the election showed that they were not successful. The stories of Jared Kushner seeking a back channel to communicate with Russia both suggests that this was over financial dealings, and raises the question as to why he would need to set up a back channel after the election if they had already been colluding with Russia.

There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia was responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if the investigations should show that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. The undemocratic manner in which a major political party picks its nominees is a far more serious threat to democracy than anything actually achieved by Russia.

Blaming Clinton’s loss on Russian propaganda on social media ignores the strong opposition to Clinton from many segments of the political spectrum and the large amount of anti-Clinton material which would be present independent of Russia. People on the left have opposed DLC Democrats like the Clintons since the 1990’s, and have opposed Clinton’s neoconservative interventionism since the Bush years, independent of any Russian influence. Russia certainly cannot be blamed for similar Democratic loses in 2010 and 2016 when they also performed poorly by running as a Republican-lite party. The real problem is that by copying the policies of Republicans, Democrats turn off many potential voters while failing to win over Republicans.

Politico is right that Democrats run the risk that they will not win elections based upon their anti-Russia hysteria because this is not the major concern of voters. Democrats face a greater risk that their initial claims might be shown to be unsubstantiated partisan claims, further damaging their credibility. In October, Hillary Clinton claimed that Donald Trump would be threatening democracy by not accepting the results of the election. Democrats now risk being held to Hillary Clinton’s own standards.

Mueller Convenes Grand Jury Indicating Escalation Of Trump Investigation

Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury, giving him the opportunity to increase the intensity of his investigations. This includes the ability to subpoena documents, obtain testimony under oath, and potentially seek indictments. It is also a clear sign that, as most believed, we have only been in an early stage of investigations which are likely to continue for some time. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, signals that Mr. Mueller’s inquirywill likely continue for months. Mr. Mueller is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with the Kremlin as part of that effort.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Joshua Stueve, declined to comment. Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”

…Grand juries are investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said Mr. Mueller’s decision suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses…

“This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”

Thomas Zeno, a federal prosecutor for 29 years before becoming a lawyer at the Squire Patton Boggs law firm, said the grand jury was “confirmation that this is a very vigorous investigation going on.”

“This doesn’t mean he is going to bring charges,” Mr. Zeno cautioned. “But it shows he is very serious. He wouldn’t do this if it were winding down.”

Another sign the investigation is ramping up: Greg Andres, a top partner in a powerhouse New York law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, has joined Mr. Mueller’s team.

Mr. Andres, a former top Justice Department official who also oversaw the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, wouldn’t leave his private-sector job for a low-level investigation, Mr. Zeno said. “People like Greg Andres don’t leave private practice willy-nilly “The fact he is being added after a couple of months shows how serious this is and that it could last a long time,” Mr. Zeno said.

Reuters adds, “Grand jury subpoenas have been issued in connection with the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., a Russian lawyer and others, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.”

While the news media has concentrated on the Russia aspect of the investigation, Mueller is also reporting the Trump family’s financial ties are under investigation. CNN reports:

Federal investigators exploring whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian spies have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The web of financial ties could offer a more concrete path toward potential prosecution than the broader and murkier questions of collusion in the 2016 campaign, these sources said…

The increased financial focus hasn’t gone unnoticed by Trump, who warned Mueller, via an interview with The New York Times, that his financial dealings were a red line that investigators shouldn’t cross. But the order establishing the special counsel makes clear Mueller is authorized to investigate any matters that “arose or may arise directly from the investigation.

…The possible financial ties between Trump and Russia were part of the concerns for US intelligence and law enforcement officials from the beginning, according to one current law enforcement official and one former US intelligence official.

Over the decades, the Trump real estate business and its financial dealings have come under scrutiny by the FBI and the Justice Department multiple times.

In some cases, the FBI was pursuing others who did business with the Trump organization, including alleged mobsters who controlled key contractors used by many real estate developers in New York during the 1980s. The flow of Russian money in real estate — and concerns that some buyers were making the purchases to illegally launder money — had also drawn some attention by US authorities to the Trump business.

The international real estate business is a part of the global economy where foreigners can still use cash with fewer questions asked about the sources of money. Terrorism financing concerns long ago put more stringent rules on banking and other businesses. But the rules are looser in the business of buying and selling high-end real estate, US officials say.

Investigators are looking both at whether financial laws were broken and whether there are any dealings that could put the President or his associates in a compromising position.

There has been concern that Donald Trump might launch is own version of the Saturday Night Massacre in which Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate investigation. A bipartisan bill is being written in the Senate which would limit a president’s ability to fire a special counsel. AP reports:

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware plan to introduce the legislation Thursday. The bill would allow any special counsel for the Department of Justice to challenge his or her removal in court, with a review by a three-judge panel within 14 days of the challenge.

The bill would be retroactive to May 17, 2017 – the day Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Donald Trump’s campaign.

“It is critical that special counsels have the independence and resources they need to lead investigations,” Tillis said in a statement. “A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances.”

Clinton Plans On Doubling Down On Blaming Others For Her Loss In Upcoming Book

Republicans who hope to keep control of the House have received great news. They will still have Hillary Clinton to kick around. The Hill reports that Clinton is doubling down on her claims that she lost due to James Comey, Russia, and sexism rather than being  a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign:

Hillary Clinton’s new memoir will blame her 2016 presidential election loss on Russian interference and former FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that he was reopening the investigation into her emails.

Sources familiar with the memoir told the Hill that Clinton made the two scenarios cornerstones of her book, which will be released in September.

“She really believes that’s why she lost,” said a longtime Clinton ally. “She wants the whole story out there from her own perspective. I think a lot of people are going to be really surprised by how much she reveals.”

…While the book will zero in on Russia and Comey — which Clinton has said are the two biggest contributing factors to her loss — it will also examine other factors she blames for a role in her defeat, including sexism and misogyny.

Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book will double down on Russia’s interference and James Comey’s involvement in her stunning election defeat, according to sources familiar with the memoir.

Earlier this week I cited the opinion from FiveThirtyEight that having Clinton on the ballot hurt the Democrats in down ticket races. FiveThirtyEight expressed the view that not having Clinton on the ballot will  help Democrats in 2018. On the other hand, having her on a speaking tour promoting her book and her excuses for losing could be harmful to Democrats running. Clinton’s popularity has fallen even more than Trump’s since the election, and I suspect that Clinton’s blame tour to date has been part of the reason.

Some Democratic leaders are recognizing the problem:

Some Democrats are worried that their party’s goal of rebuilding and rebranding itself will be undermined by Clinton’s book.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) has publicly stated that Clinton should not blame anyone but herself and lack of messaging.

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things—Comey, Russia—you blame yourself,” Schumer told the Washington Post. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden has also criticized Clinton for her campaign.

“I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” he said in May.

“What happened was that this was the first campaign that I can recall where my party did not talk about what it always stood for—and that was how to maintain a burgeoning middle class,” Biden said in March.

“You didn’t hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about the guy working on the assembly line making $60,000 a year and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess,” he said.

Of course pushing Clinton’s candidacy on the country, which ultimately led to the election of Donald Trump, was the last stray in destroying the credibility of the Democratic establishment. As an op-ed in The New York Times notes, the real civil war in the Democratic party is “is between those willing to trust the existing establishment and those who want entirely new leadership.” (While Lee Drutman’s op-ed does make some good points here, he does underestimate how great an ideological gap also exists.)

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign both shows many of the mistakes on Clinton’s fault which accounted for her loss, along with how she decided within the first twenty-four hours upon the strategy of blaming others

Clinton’s excuses are all very weak. In blaming James Comey, Clinton ignores the fact that James Comey would not have been investigating her in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding email and  hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated that she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the  law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.  Clinton’s violation of the rules regarding her use of the private server was confirmed to be in violation of the rules in effect in 2009 by the Obama administration State Department Inspector General Report. Fact checkers repeatedly showed that Clinton was lying about the email and Foundation scandals. Clinton’s credibility was also seriously harmed by the manner in which she grossly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State.

Placing the blame on Russia does not hold up either. The evidence released so far has shown that Russia was not able to hack into the voting machines or change a single vote. There remains questions as to whether the claims from the intelligence community that Russia is responsible for the Wikileaks release of email are any more valid than the claims of Saddam having WMD before the invasion of Iraq. Even if we accept the view that Russia was responsible for the hacked email, nobody has seriously questioned the accuracy of the information released by Wikileaks. The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. Again it comes down to Clinton losing due to her own major flaws.

Some of those who blame Russia have moved on to claims that Clinton was hurt by fake news spread from Russia. This ignores the vast amount of criticism of Clinton going back for years–including both factually accurate criticism along with bogus criticism from the right wing. The left has opposed the policies of the Clintons and DLC since the 1990’s. Views of Clinton were already set well before her nomination, and if any fake news did come from Russia, it would have been lost in the vast amount of noise already present on the internet.

While some undoubtedly would not vote for Clinton due to misogyny, these were primarily people who would never vote for any Democrat. Clinton was probably helped more than hurt by her gender among Democratic-leaning voters. A male candidate with Clinton’s repeated failures during her career, along with holding views more conservative than the Democratic base, would probably have only been a third-tier candidate with no chance of winning the nomination. Far too many Democrats overlooked Clinton’s serious flaws because of her gender.

Can Donald Trump Pardon Himself? Can He Be Indicted While Still In Office?

It has become so widely accepted that the investigations into Donald Trump’s business dealings are very likely to reveal criminal activities that subjects including whether Trump can pardon himself and whether he can be indicted while in office are now being discussed. While many disagree, Donald Trump claims he does have the power to pardon himself. The New York Times reports:

President Trump on Saturday asserted the “complete power to pardon” relatives, aides and possibly even himself in response to investigations into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as he came to the defense of Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days after expressing regret about appointing him.

Mr. Trump suggested in a series of early morning messages on Twitter that he had no need to use the pardon power at this point but left the option open. Presidents have the authority to pardon others for federal crimes, but legal scholars debate whether a president can pardon himself. Mr. Trump’s use of the word “complete” seemed to suggest he did not see a limit to that authority.

“While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us,” he wrote on Twitter. “FAKE NEWS.”

The Washington Post reported in recent days that the president and his advisers had discussed pardons as a special counsel intensifies an investigation into whether associates of Mr. Trump and his campaign conspired with Russia to intervene in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Many Constitutional experts and lawyers disagree with Donald Trump. Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, Richard Painter,  a law professor at the University of Minnesota and chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, and Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and chief White House ethics lawyer for Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, No, Trump can’t pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so:

Can a president pardon himself? Four days before Richard Nixon resigned, his own Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel opined no, citing “the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.” We agree.

The Justice Department was right that guidance could be found in the enduring principles that no one can be both the judge and the defendant in the same matter, and that no one is above the law.

The Constitution specifically bars the president from using the pardon power to prevent his own impeachment and removal. It adds that any official removed through impeachment remains fully subject to criminal prosecution. That provision would make no sense if the president could pardon himself…

The Constitution’s pardon clause has its origins in the royal pardon granted by a sovereign to one of his or her subjects. We are aware of no precedent for a sovereign pardoning himself, then abdicating or being deposed but being immune from criminal process. If that were the rule, many a deposed king would have been spared instead of going to the chopping block…

President Trump thinks he can do a lot of things just because he is president. He says that the president can act as if he has no conflicts of interest. He says that he can fire the FBI director for any reason he wants (and he admitted to the most outrageous of reasons in interviews and in discussion with the Russian ambassador). In one sense, Trump is right — he can do all of these things, although there will be legal repercussions if he does. Using official powers for corrupt purposes — such as impeding or obstructing an investigation — can constitute a crime.

But there is one thing we know that Trump cannot do — without being a first in all of human history. He cannot pardon himself.

While it is commonly believed that Donald Trump would not be indicted until out of office, The New York Times reports that the commonly held view that a president cannot be indicted while in office is wrong:

A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Bill Clinton was impeached, but was neither convicted in the Senate nor indicted while in office. While the investigations are at an early stage, it does appear likely that Donald Trump has committed acts far more significant than lying about an affair, and these considerations regarding indictment very well could wind up applying to him.