The Donald And The Spooks (Update)

On the one hand, the New York Times is calling for an independent prosecutor to investigate the connection between Trump and the Russians. This is the outgrowth of two interconnected issues, the first being the perceived unholy alliance between Trump and Putin.

In this case, the need couldn’t be more obvious. For starters, did Mr. Trump order Mr. Flynn, directly or indirectly, to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador? If not, why did he not fire Mr. Flynn weeks earlier, when he apparently first learned of his lies? Were Mr. Trump’s aides colluding with Russian agents during the campaign? Perhaps most important are Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which could tell us whether he is beholden to, and thus compromised by, the Russians? House Republicans, assuming their standard supine stance toward Mr. Trump, voted on Tuesday against requesting the returns from the Internal Revenue Service; a special prosecutor would not feel so politically constrained.

There are some good questions in there, particularly as relates to Flynn’s retention after the administration knew of his discussions with the Russian ambassador, yet kept him on until it became public. Only then was he thrown overboard, suggesting his crime wasn’t what he did, but being publicly exposed to the embarrassment of the administration.

Other questions were raised during the campaign and rejected by voters as being a problem. The Times can’t let go, so it concludes that “the need couldn’t be more obvious,” a rhetorical sign that it needs to overcome with hyperbole what it can’t substantiate. But does Flynn’s lying about his contact, what may well be a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, fall outside the capacity of the government to investigate? That’s the second prong.

James Comey, the embattled F.B.I. director, can’t be trusted to be a neutral investigator, either — not after his one-sided interference in the 2016 election compromised the bureau’s integrity and damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign in its final days. Anyway, Mr. Comey reports directly to the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who was not only Mr. Trump’s first and most ardent supporter in the Senate, but the chairman of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee.

Jim Comey was loved/hated during the presidential campaign, according to the prevailing winds. He knows how § 1001 works, having been the Assistant United States Attorney who famously wielded it against Martha Stewart. You (and the Times) can believe whatever you want about Jim, but within the legal community, nobody seriously questions Jim’s competence or integrity.

Even if one disagrees with Jim’s handling of the Clinton investigations, as every Hillary fan seems to do since they are certain he, and not Hillary, cost her the election, his honesty and independence have never been questioned by anyone serious. Since he’s on the other side from me, I’m not inclined to be a big Jim Comey fan. But because I suffer the constraints of intellectual honesty, I have no choice but to tell the truth: Jim Comey is an honest guy.

But in these hyper-partisan times, when the legit guys are swept up with the megalomaniacal narcissists because they won’t hate as much as the Times and progressives want them to, everyone becomes fodder for the big smear in furtherance of the cause. But a tertiary phenomenon, more curious and dangerous than the usual name-calling conflation between people progressives love to hate is gaining traction and support.

The Wall Street Journal reports that one finger of the executive branch has decided that it no longer needs to adhere to the structure giving rise to its existence, and is withholding information from, and I use this word with trepidation, the head.

U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.

The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him.

Is this true? Who knows, as we’re awash in unnamed sources (which allows media to correct itself a few days after the “fake news” damage is done), while the official word from DNI is that they would never withhold information.

A spokesman for the Office of Director of National Intelligence said: “Any suggestion that the U.S. intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true.”

To those absolutely certain that Trump is mentally unstable, a blithering idiot or Putin’s buttboy, their desire to believe gets the better of them. And this is where that shocking phenomenon occurs:

If the “intel officials” are doing as the WSJ suggests, they are engaged in a coup against the elected government of the United States. They have decided they are no longer constrained by the processes of law, governmental structure and civilian governance, and will decide for themselves what to do and how to do it.

Larry Tribe has already demonstrated that his partisanship trumps his integrity, It’s not that he’s a stupid man, quite the contrary, but so dedicated to the cause that his capacity to reason has been lost. He applauds the intel apparatus that engaged in nefarious deeds in the past, torture and extraordinary rendition,* for example, at the behest of an earlier administration without qualms.

Now, they are so beloved and trusted for putting their duty ahead of their “loyalty to this POTUS” that the most ardent progressive would rather let them do whatever they think is necessary? The insanity of hatred against the president, elected whether they accept the premise or not, has caused progressives to prefer to let the spooks do as they please.

That someone with the apparent cred of a Larry Tribe would publicly applaud the breakdown of government and place his trust in the judgment of the same folks who, perhaps with good intentions, performed the torture and rendition asked of them with zest and gusto, leads the intellectually challenged to follow. If one of the smart guys, like Tribe, says the spooks don’t need to play by the rules because Trump is “literally Hitler,” then they feel totally justified in doing so as well.

But Trump is the most horrifying awful stupid psychotic president ever? Maybe, but he’s the guy America elected, for better or worse. We’ve survived bad presidents before because our structure of government, our checks and balances, remained intact. What’s happening is that in order to undermine Trump, intellectuals like Tribe are applauding the undoing of the lawful structure of the Republic. Without it, this nation can’t survive.

As big a danger as Trump may be, the rationalization of ignoring the Constitution, the rule of law and governance, is far graver and more fundamental. But when you’re hysterical, no solution, even giving the spooks a free hand to do as they please, seems too radical.

Update: I asked Jesse Wegman of the Times editorial board whether he seriously questioned Comey’s integrity, which he at first took as sarcasm, but then replied,

Didn’t call him dishonest. Said he couldn’t be a neutral arbiter given behavior. Doubt you’ve got much company on this one.

He’s probably right that the public, fed an onslaught of media blame castigating Comey’s good faith and motives, believes that he lacks integrity. That, however, was the reason for my question of Jesse, as he ought to know better.

Much as one may disagree with Comey’s handling of the Clinton emails at the end of the campaign, no one who knows Comey could seriously doubt that, right or wrong, he acted out of a sincere belief that it was the right thing to do. To persist, as the Times did, in pushing the notion that he couldn’t be trusted (my response to Jesse was “‘Neutral arb given behavior’ is 4 words to question his integrity).

What was Jesse’s reply?

Scott you’re being a pedant.

At a time when  everything is fake news and there is no one in government who can be trusted, this is anything but pedantry. No less a legal icon than good ol’ Larry Tribe made this point:

Could it have something to do with Comey’s integrity being massively overrated, ?

Given Tribe’s firm grasp on integrity, the push is to drag everyone into the gutter, lest anyone be left trustworthy when the war is over.

*In responsive twits, one of the most bizarre reactions is the comparison to the Nuremberg defense, “just following orders,” as if following the chain of command by not withholding information from the president was comparable to murdering millions of people.

21 thoughts on “The Donald And The Spooks (Update)

  1. Agammamon

    “. . . publicly exposed to the embarrassment of the administration.”

    Its the only crime of note for political operators.

  2. Greg


    Trump answered that question in his press conference yesterday: Because it was Flynn’s job to talk to the Russian ambassador, as well as the ambassadors of many other countries. His syntax and the sequence of his thoughts are garbled, but here’s what he said:

    “Because when I looked at the information, I said, ‘I don’t think he did anything wrong; if anything, he did something right.’ He was coming into office. He looked at the information. He said, ‘Huh, that’s fine.’ That’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to — he didn’t just call Russia. He called and spoke to both ways, I think there were 30-some-odd countries. He’s doing the job.”

    Flynn wasn’t fired for talking to the ambassador. He was fired for not informing or misinforming Vice President Pence about his discussions:

    “You know, he was doing his job. The thing is, he didn’t tell our vice president properly, and then he said he didn’t remember. So either way, it wasn’t very satisfactory to me. And I have somebody that I think will be outstanding for the position. And that also helps, I think, in the making of my decision. But he didn’t tell the vice president of the United States the facts. And then he didn’t remember. And that just wasn’t acceptable to me.”

    1. Greg

      In my reply, I had quoted the language in your post that I was responding to, but the quotation seems to have been cut off, maybe because I had placed it in brackets like these <>. Anyways, here’s what you said: “There are some good questions in there, particularly as relates to Flynn’s retention after the administration knew of his discussions with the Russian ambassador, yet kept him on until it became public. “

      1. SHG Post author

        Trump said so (in the best syntax he’s capable of mustering) does make it true. Regardless, this is tangential to the point despite all the words you needlessly murdered. It seems rather desperate to offer an apologia for Trump when none was needed.

          1. SHG Post author

            No, I didn’t ask the questions. No, it had no bearing on the point of the post. And yes, your inability, especially having now doubled down on it, to realize what you did looks pretty pathetic. So what are the chances you’re going to triple down now?

  3. Cashew

    Donald and the Spooks sounds like the name of a bad 80’s hair band. By that I of course mean the band would be almost as bad as the hair…
    Happy Friday.

  4. John Barleycorn


    P.S. You should really think about upping your qulifer and adjective game when tip toeing around the the tulips just won’t do.

  5. LIam McDonald

    Sorry I am late to the debate on this post but I have a question.
    If WSJ or WP prints an article that they have been told by “unnamed sources” that the DNI is withholding information from POTUS could the Executive branch detain the journalist and interrogate them as to who the source is? Can the actions of members of the IC been seen as treasonous? And if so, does that supersede the freedom of the press so the journalist is compelled to relinquish their source or risk making themselves party to treason?

    1. SHG Post author

      There’s a reason these are called comments, not questions. Those are very interesting questions. For a reasonable fee, I would be happy to provide a thorough memorandum to answer them. Was that what you were asking?

  6. Liam McDonald

    Well not really, but you make a good point. And as I am curious I would be willing to discuss covering your fee as I read almost everything you write anyway.
    Please feel free to send me a PM through my email address to discuss terms

  7. Mark

    The story of the IC’s withholding of intelligence from the President was broken by John Schindler, an ex-spook who, strangely enough, writes for The Observer, which is owned by Jared Kushner’s father.

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