• Five Stages of Mar-a-Lago Grief

    August 20, 2022 // 10 Comments »

    Another week, another silver bullet missing Donald Trump. The endless roll of waves of crimes, accusations, near-indictments, and just bad words slandered away which we had all endured for the past four years happened again. We went from Trump has classified material under lock and key at Mar-a-Lago to a group of people paying $1800 to fly a banner reading “ha ha ha ha” over the resort to mock a Trump staying 3000 miles away in New York. On cue the regulars on MSNBC and CNN brought out their running dog former CIA and FBI officers to tell us tick tock, the walls are closing in, this time it will stick, Trump is going down, he’ll be in jail before he runs again for office. If we can’t stop him with the electoral system we’ll use the judicial system. This. Is. The. One.

    Except it isn’t. The offense itself — some variant of mishandling of official materials — is muddled from the git-go by the former president’s former ability to declassify anything, a power he claimed he already used before he left the White House to magically spay the documents. An Espionage Act prosecution is a non-starter, requiring as it does the showing of intent to harm the United States. It seems the documents, however classified and/or sensitive they are, were securely stored at Mar-a-Lago and the risk of exposure was very minimal. The FBI nonetheless threw the kitchen sink at Benedict Donald with a full-on raid, to enforce the Presidential Records Act, a law that actually has no prescribed penalty associated with it. Given the presumed age of some of the documents and non-impact, it was sort of like not returning a semi-important library book.

    The story will drag on a while, buoyed by leaks supposedly telling us politically salacious details about the secret documents (the single handwritten doc stored by Trump will likely take on lore akin to the grassy knoll for Trump conspiracists) but in reality “Mar-a-Lago-gate” is fast on its way to closing, joining Russiagate, Ukrainegate, Stormygate, January6gate, and all the others off to the side of history. It is close enough to being a dead story that it’s worth helping our progressive friends through the five stages of grief — Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance — that accompany something once so important passing. RIP.

    Denial:  Are we really doing this all again? There is no way tRump is not guilty of something. There is no way way the Orange Man can finish his term without jail time. Mueller laid out a roadmap to post-term prosecution. Wait until we see his taxes. January 6 had to have been sedition or treason or truancy. It could not have been sort of a violent but potently nothing, amiright? OK, fine, now that he is no longer protected as president and is a regular citizen again the gloves are off and he is going to jail. There is no way Trump is going to run again unless he campaigns from prison. You gonna ignore (checks notes for name) Cassidy Hutchison? Whatta you mean Georgia still hasn’t filed an indictment for election fraud, it’s been how many years? Wasn’t his grabbing the wheel from the Secret Service driver on J6 enough? What about that we call it J6 now? We were so close with the Emoluments Clause, and then the DC hotel business. The walls have to be closing in. Dig up Ivana, her coffin is probably full of purloined documents! Repeat after me: “I know we’ve said it many times before, but this time…”

    Anger: Mueller time should have worked but he wimped out! I paid $29.95 on eBay for a Mueller bobble head doll and you’re telling me the guy had nothing at all, not a pair of twos to play? Sanctimony (“Nobody is above the law, you know”) runs inverse to memory (“But her emails!”) in the poli-grieving process. If you’re gonna take a shot at the king you better not miss. And Garland has been putting in a lot of range time. I Googled “RICO” and per Wikipedia this has to work unless the DOJ is in on it, too.

    Bargaining: So Dotard had top secret documents, probably was going to sell them to the Russkies, so he’s guilty under the Espionage Act which carries the maximum penalty of death, like the Rosenberg’s or someone else, this is it, the silver bullet! What the hell is wrong, there were hundreds of peeResident Brown Shirts at the Capitol, can’t you idiots get one of them to flip and accuse Trump? What about the Alfa Bank and the Yota smartphones, the hotel deal, what about the pee tape for gosh sakes! You made us believe there was a pee tape and this whole Trump thing was going to be over before it ever really began. Where is the pee tape, we were promised a pee tape. And a hero, we want a hero and all you gave us was Robert Mueller, Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen, Adam Schiff, Dr. Fauci (optional), Liz Cheney, and now Merrick “Milquetoast” Garland. Somebody do something to fix all this and we promise never to use the expressions “Period. Full Stop. End of story” or “Let that sink in” or “I’ll just leave this here” or “methinks” again on Twitter.

    Depression: Yea, that Joe Biden, what a guy, woo hoo. Yes, I guess we all lost our minds again, this time over what is probably “presidential memorabilia,” stuff that would have ended up anyway in Trump’s presidential library on “indefinite loan from the National Archives” if Trump had just gone through channels like Obama and Bush.

    Acceptance: OK, well, Russiagate didn’t work. Trump doing something naughty with the Ukraine didn’t end in an impeachment conviction. Michael Avenatti is in jail. The deal with Stormy Daniels and the other Barbies might have been sleazy but it was not criminal. And his 700 sexual assaults! So, alright, nobody could make a  indictment out of all that fuss over security clearances for Don and Eric. The Southern District of New York could not find something to charge Trumpkins with vis-vis property taxes or valuation stuff no one really understood, and the various walls never closed in. Maybe Trump will be forced to release his taxes if he runs again, there’s a bright side, gotta be something in those taxes, right? I mean, who takes the Fifth except guilty people, the Orange Man himself said that when he was talking about Hillary but it applies to him and the Trump crime family.

    The family, that’s right, that’s his Achilles Heel! Ivanka had some sort of sweetheart deal with China or something even before Hunter Biden to trademark her fashion things, and Jared sold NYC property too cheaply, and Don Jr., had his hand in some golf course thing I think I remember, in Sweden or maybe Scotland. And didn’t Trump flush secret documents down the White House pooper, that was wrong, right? There is still time for Trump’s accountant to flip and tell us all, got to be some indictable stuff in those books, eh? Or maybe Michael Cohen, he has a another book coming out, that will likely cement his role as Fredo and send tRump to the slammer. I hope his cellmate is ironically named Tiny. And Merrick Garland is not really done with the documents, is he? I mean, he hasn’t indicted Trump for anything over them yet — yet — but it could be just nine dimensional chess with Garland waiting for the exact right moment to bring in something from the Articles of Confederation or the Stamp Act showing Trump is guilty. He’s gotta be guilty of something. Right? We still believe.

    Maybe next time.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Trump

    Why the Trump Toilet Story is Full of Crap

    February 19, 2022 // 2 Comments »

    While President Trump was in office, White House staff periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet and believed the president had flushed documents. So reports the NYT’s Maggie Haberman, based on anonymous sources. How does a literate media consumer know the story is garbage? Read it like an intelligence officer.

    Start by applying some of the same tests intelligence officers do to help them evaluate their own sources. Thinking backwards from the information to who could be the source is a good start on evaluating credibility.

    For example, is a source in a position to know what they say they know, what intelligence officers call spotting? The “position to know” idea scales up sharply when a source says they are privy to important conversations; how would they know the contents of a call the president-elect made to a foreign leader? Only a very few people would be in the room for something like that. Would any be likely leakers?

    In Haberman’s toiletgate, the circle of real sources is very small, the same as those who have access to the president’s personal crapper. Notice Haberman does not characterize her source, as in “one who has direct access to the pooper,” another red flag. If there is any source at all, it is likely cafeteria gossip. Remember in the case of journalism’s most famous anonymous source, Watergate’s Deep Throat, his information was used to guide the reporting, not as a scoop by itself, because it could not always be verified.

    As for verification, watch out for what intel officers call loops, where multiple reports come in to different people/journalists, with the fact that they came from the same source disguised. This is often how reporters erroneously confirm each other’s fake news, not realizing they are all talking to the same “anonymous” source. Now Google “Christopher Steele.”

    Any article that cites a source who claims to know the “why” behind some action, what was in the head of a decision maker, should be subject to special skepticism. Key officials are generally not in the habit of explaining their true motivations out loud. In Haberman’s submission notice how she avoids addressing the “why” directly. She claims her sources “believed” the president flushed pieces of paper, with the implication Trump was destroying records instead of over-wiping.

    Haberman also suspiciously released her scoop along side stories some White House records had been sent to Mar-a-Lago, not the National Archives. She manipulates her readers by telling them something in line with what they already believe. This is one way double-agents try to fool intel officers. A careful reader has to honestly ask himself whether he wants to believe such a thing bad enough to overlook its improbability.

    Legitimate sources risk something by talking, such as job loss, maybe even jail. Is what they will get out of the leak worth the risk? In this case the actual source would have to be an intimate staffer, or at least a White House plumber. Why would such as person risk his job to feed free gossip to Haberman? Did Trump anger them by leaving the seat up one too many times?

    If the answer to the question of “what’s in it for them?” is not obvious, the source is suspect. Intel officers always work to understand their source’s motivation, usually a combination of money, sex, revenge, personal advancement, and nationalism. Any of that apply to the White House plumbing staff, most of whom have worked at the place for years?

    Sources may push out info intended to influence public opinion. If you the reader can’t suss out the mystery source’s likely agenda — what they want — then you’re the guy at the poker table who can’t tell who the rube is, and needs a mirror to find out. Remember what happened when journalists failed to see what leakers of false info about Iraq’s WMDs were up to, and helped start a war? Always ask, cui bono, who benefits?

    Similarly, is what you are reading consistent with other information on the subject? Does the new info track known things, what intelligence officers call expectability? Overall, the further away from expectability a story stretches, the more obligation to be skeptical. Falling back on “it might be true” or “you can’t prove it’s not true” are typical signs of fake news. Same for “news” which can by definition never be proven false, such as proving the negative Trump did not flush documents. It’s like claiming Putin kills fluffy kittens for sport; how can you disprove such a statement?

    So there is the expectability question of why would Trump flush documents when shredders and burn bags are literally everywhere in the White House? And why would he do it “periodically,” as Haberman asserts, after finding out it is not a good way of getting ride of something because it only ends up in the wet hands of some plumber? It literally makes no sense.

    The closer information gets to something you want to believe is true the more skeptical you should be. The best example of this is the infamous dossier and especially the “pee tape” (shown to be disinformation created by an actual intelligence officer to discredit Trump.) The tape was the magic bullet which would end Trump. About half the country wanted it to be true. In addition, the supposed tape too easily hit all the Trump tropes: hatred for Obama, sexual piggishness (notice how like a fetish the media loves to connect Trump with scatological themes?) and of course the Russians. If it seems too “good” to be true, it probably is.

    In addition to considering the source of the information, consider the source of the reporting — what do they have to gain? In this instance, Haberman released her toilet blockbuster to directly promote her new tell-all book on Trump. It is obvious her story is advertising, not journalism. Let’s ask Haberman why she squatted on “reportable” poopy information, flushing it into the MSM public sewer only when she needed to pimp her book.

    In the end, an intelligence officer rarely knows what is 100 percent true, so he assigns a rating, such as high, medium or low confidence, and acts on the information (or not) in line with that. A reader can similarly never know with certainty the truth about an anonymously-sourced story. But while anything is possible, only some things are probable, and that’s usually the way to read it.

     

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Trump