Stalinist show trials in the Senate of Trump’s political ‘enemies list’ may be about to begin (updated)

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Donald Trump, whose lawyers told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that he is simply too busy to be bothered with having to meet with his lawyers to raise frivolous objections to subpoenas sent to third parties, spent the weekend as he usually does when he is not golfing at one of his resorts — rage tweeting conspiracy theories about his political opponents.

If you add up all of Trump’s “executive time” spent watching Fox News and OAN and rage tweeting about their programs, and his time spent on the golf course, I am almost certain it exceeds the amount of time he has spent “working,” which in his case is spreading lies and propaganda, not actually working.

On Sunday, Trump Spent Mother’s Day Rage-Tweeting About Obama, Flynn, and the Russia Investigation:

As the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus closed in on 80,000, President Donald Trump spent Sunday on Twitter, boosting QAnon conspiracy theorists and rage-tweeting about Barack Obama, Michael Flynn, the Russia investigation, and the media.

While the 126 tweets and retweets posted by the president on Sunday fell slightly short of his daily record — 142 — he did manage to blast out over 50 messages before 8:30 a.m.

Much of Trump’s focus throughout Sunday was not on the pandemic that has caused tens of thousands of deaths and crippled the country’s economy. Instead, he focused on the fallout from the Justice Department’s decision last week to drop all charges against Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.

Trump raged against former President Barack Obama, at one point simply tweeting “OBAMAGATE.”

Trump retweeted right-wing talking head Buck Sexton, who claimed that Obama “used his last weeks in office to target incoming officials and sabotage the new administration,” which Trump called “the biggest political crime in American history, by far.”

As well as spending his day raging about Obama, Mueller, and the FBI, Trump found some time to retweet several posts by Lionel Lebron, a YouTube conspiracy theorist who is one of the most ardent supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Most observers believed that Trump was unhinged about leaked audio that emerged on Friday of President Barack Obama criticizing the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its decision to drop charges against Flynn.

But Trump was actually alluding to information he could not wait to share with his propagandists at Fox News aka Trump TV, which has been previewing the “Obamagate” coming attractions. See, Lou Dobbs accuses Barack Obama of orchestrating a plot to “overthrow” Donald Trump; Sean Hannity: Barack Obama is sending coded messages “to deep state operatives to go out and do more dirty work”; and Fox News laid the groundwork for the Department of Justice’s decision to drop charges against Michael Flynn.

And you definitely should not ignore the ravings of this asshole. Trump ally Joseph diGenova says DOJ is readying a “massive” case against Obama administration officials: “There’s a conspiracy indictment coming down the track”.

I recently warned you that this was coming. A chilling warning of things to come (excerpt):

[I] also want to direct your attention to some ominous signs of the “grand distraction” that the Trump White House and his sycophant supporters in Congress are about to unleash on the American public to try to distract you from the thousands of Americans dying from the coronavirus pandemic and a depression-level economy. It is something that has been hinted at in news reports over the past year: Trump plans to relitigate Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation by putting the government investigators on trial in Stalinist show trials before Senate committees.

The Stalinist show trials in the Senate of Trump’s political “enemies list” may be about to begin.

Jason Easley reports at Politicususa, Trump Uses Routine Intel To Make Fake Biden Unmasking Scandal:

As the economy collapses, and the country teeters under the weight of a pandemic, Trump is making up fake Biden scandals.

Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal reported:

The National Security Agency received and approved requests from more than a dozen Obama administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, to “unmask” a U.S. citizen mentioned in classified foreign intelligence reports that revealed the identity of Michael Flynn.

The requests were made between President Trump’s November 2016 election and inauguration in January 2017, according to a declassified memo made public Wednesday.

Unmasking U.S. identities in intelligence reports is a fairly routine process that occurs thousands of times annually, according to statistics maintained by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and is requested by senior administration officials to better understand the context of intercepted conversations that are being reviewed.

The memo was released by Sens. Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley, two Trump allies who have been trying to create a Senate investigation into Biden to help Trump.

Trump and the Republicans don’t want people to think about their lost jobs, lost friends and relatives who have died from the coronavirus, or the fact that the pandemic is raging on in the United States.

Republicans want to change the subject, as Trump has been furiously tweeting for days in an effort to discredit the Russia scandal. Trump and the GOP’s poll numbers are slipping by the day, so they are trying to get the base back in line by doing what they do best. They are trying to create a distraction to change the subject.

Talking Points Memo adds, DNI Grenell Unmasks Obama Officials, Including Biden, In Boon For Fever Swamps:

Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell released the names of Obama officials supposedly involved in “unmasking” Michael Flynn, including former Vice President and Democratic candidate for President Joe Biden, in an example of the Trump administration using its broad intelligence powers to attack a political opponent.

The list came within a day of Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Johnson (R-WS) requesting the names of Obama officials who had asked that a U.S. citizen picked up on intelligence reports about Russian interference in the 2016 election be identified.

The names of American citizens in intelligence reports are typically redacted. High-ranking officials can ask for the names to be revealed.

The name that was revealed in this case was that of incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

The so-called “unmasking” of Flynn has become a firestorm directed by Trumpworld, which is using it to suggest that Flynn’s prosecution was somehow politically orchestrated.

The names on the list include then-U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Biden, among others.

“The officials listed should confirm whether they reviewed this information, why they asked for it and what they did with it, and answer many other questions that have been raised by recent revelations,” Grassley and Johnson said in a statement. “The records are one step forward in an important effort to get to the bottom of what the Obama administration did during the Russia investigation and to Lt. General Flynn.”

Grenell made the decision to release the information along with Attorney General Bill Barr. [But of course.]

POS Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) immediately seized on the development, calling Grenell to testify before the Senate next week.

“Today I received the shocking reply that @JoeBiden and many others knew!” Paul tweeted. “What did President Obama know?”

“Few members of Congress were more antagonistic toward Putin than Senator John McCain. Perhaps when he called Rand Paul a Russian asset, on the floor of the US Senate, he actually meant it.” Red Paul: The Senator from Kentucky is Now Working for Vladimir Putin. “Since the day John McCain called him out, Rand Paul has been a veritable lobbyist for the Kremlin. On matters large and small, Paul has supported Moscow’s positions.”

Jonathan Chait explains at New York, ‘Obamagate’ Is Trump’s Name for the Crimes He’s Trying to Commit Himself:

President Trump likes to accuse his political antagonists of crimes, almost always imaginary, and his favorite target is President Obama. Trump claims Obama illegally persecuted him, though the details of the accusation have changed. Three years ago, he claimed the crime was a “tapp” of his phones (“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process.”) The charge evolved to claiming Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, committed a crime by “unmasking” Trump officials surveilled in talks with foreign leaders.

Trump seems to return to the charge in times of stress. He has renewed the charge, calling it “OBAMAGATE!” When asked by a reporter what crime he was claiming Obama had committed this time, Trump replied, “You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody.”

Trump’s defenders insist that even though all his previous accusations against Obama have fallen apart, this one deserves serious consideration. National Review columnists David Harsanyi (“Obamagate Is Not a Conspiracy Theory”) and Kyle Smith (“Don’t Shrug at Obama’s Michael Flynn Scandal”) typify the response in conservative media, which are rallying to Trump’s most recent attempts to prove his predecessor set him up.

OBAMAGATE!, at least the current version of it, revolves around the treatment of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. FBI agents interviewed Flynn in January 2017, as part of a well-founded counterintelligence investigation, the basis for which included (but was not limited to) the fact Flynn made himself subject to Russian blackmail by lying about a secret conversation he had with Russia’s ambassador. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents. Smith builds his argument around an unfortunate analogy to a black teen framed by menacing FBI agents. Not many black teens accosted by law enforcement have collected tens of thousands of dollars from Russia, then taken more undisclosed money from another foreign country [Turkey] while serving as national security adviser to a presidential candidate.

RT Dinner

The head table of a gala celebrating the tenth anniversary of Russia Today in December of 2015 included Russian President Vladimir Putin and American retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

The Trumpists charge that Obama orchestrated the whole Flynn investigation in order to take revenge on or otherwise discredit the incoming administration. They can’t prove that Obama played any role in ordering the FBI counterintelligence investigation, nor even that it was unfounded. In place of proving either, they have substituted insinuations.

“Suspecting Obama of being behind the persecution of Michael Flynn is pretty easy when you remember the backstory of these two men’s relationship,” writes Smith. “Knowing of Obama’s interest in these matters, is it plausible that the FBI acted as it did without his approval?” Harsanyi argues in the same vein: “What makes anyone believe these people wouldn’t create a pretext to spy on the opposition party? If anyone does, they shouldn’t, because on top of everything else, we know that Barack Obama was keenly interested in the Russian-collusion investigation’s progress.”

In other words, they have no evidence Obama ordered the FBI’s (completely appropriate) interview with Flynn, but, you know, it’s the kind of thing Obama would do.

Such a plot would certainly be in character for the Barack Obama that exists in the febrile imagination of the conservative media. A secret FBI plot to entrap his successor would be the natural capstone to eight years of scheming to foist devious liberty-sapping socialist schemes onto an unsuspecting public. But it bears no resemblance to the actual Obama, who in point of fact repeatedly bent over backward to avoid weaponizing intelligence and law enforcement.

In real life, Obama appointed a Republican to lead the FBI, James B. Comey, who then was pressured by a combination of Republican leaks in his agency and Republicans in Congress to publicly reopen an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton days before the election, at the same time it publicly denied the ongoing investigation into the Republican nominee. Not only did Obama refuse to interfere with this process after it had played a pivotal role in Trump’s election, he privately comforted the FBI director.

Before the election, Obama was also so skittish about sharing intelligence that Russia was working to help elect Trump that he tried to get congressional Republicans onboard before making any public warning to state election officials. When [“Moscow Mitch” McConnell] refused and denounced his intelligence as partisan, Obama meekly held off rather than risk appearing to manipulate intelligence to help his preferred candidate. (“Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move,” the Washington Post later reported.) Trump and his allies have actually taunted Obama for this, turning his hesitation to appear to abuse his office into a way to blame him for allowing Russian interference.

If Obama is the sort of president who would create a pretext to spy on the opposition party, it’s odd he was so cautious about using those powers when he had ample pretext. For that matter, it’s odd that he never ginned up an investigation of his opponent in 2012, when Obama had even more at stake in the outcome.

For Trump, “Obamagate” is a wish-fulfillment fantasy. He believes every president does, and should, use the Department of Justice as a weapon to protect his friends and harass his rivals. The greatest ire he has reserved for any of his underlings is the yearslong grudge he’s held against Jeff Sessions for the sin of following the black-letter law requiring his recusal from the Russia investigation, and refusing Trump’s entreaties to violate the law by un-recusing himself.

Trump’s constant demands for investigations of various enemies in politics and the news media are a source of embarrassment for some of his more respectable defenders. The august conservative intellectuals at organs like National Review don’t want to sic law enforcement on Joe Scarborough, Adam Schiff, or CNN like Trump does. But they very much do buy into his wild claims against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and are happy to give them legitimacy. The conservative media has greeted Trump’s latest outpouring of invective with respectful nods and assurances to their audience that the president has a solid point.

The real test is going to be how the mainstream media is going to treat these Stalinist show trials in the Senate against Trump’s political “enemies list.” Will they continue to parrot right-wing media as they have done for so many years? Or will they finally come to their senses and realize that we are witnessing the GOP’s descent into authoritarianism and try to stop this madness, before it is too late?

UPDATE: Eric Boehlert writes at Press Run, Memo to media: Don’t take the “Obamagate” bait. Good advice that wil be ignored.

UPDATE: Jeremy Stahl at Slate writes, Not Even the People Ranting About “Obamagate” Know What It Is (excerpt):

The fact that Trump himself is unable to describe the “political crime” of which he is accusing Obama in plain English would seem to indicate that there is no such crime. Attorney General William Barr’s successful efforts, however, to turn the Department of Justice into a protectionracket for the president’s felonious cronies has some thoughtful legal and historical scholars worried that Trump and Barr might weaponize the DOJ further. On Tuesday, one day after Trump failed to articulate what “crime” Obama may have committed, the New York Times reported that acting Director of National Intelligence (and former right-wing commentator) Richard Grenell declassified a list of Obama officials who had “sought to learn the identities of Trump associates swept up in surveillance of foreign officials” and that he was giving this material to the Department of Justice. This raised fears that Barr’s DOJ might actually attempt to prosecute former Obama administration officials for “Obamagate,” even as no such articulatable crimes exist. Coming on the heels of Barr’s decisions to overrule his own department attorneys to seek a dismissal of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea and a recommended sentence reduction for Trump associate Roger Stone, this concern is perhaps understandable.

* * *

Now, perhaps emboldened by Barr’s apparent willingness to cross any line for Trump, the president seems to be reviving the conspiracy theory. This comes under the backdrop of Barr’s hand-selected prosecutor, John H. Durham, investigating the Department of Justice and the previous administration over its handling of the Russia counterintelligence inquiry.

It is possible that Barr and Durham will try to use the latest “revelation” of Grenell’s “unmasking” list as an opportunity to try to throw Susan Rice—or, hell, Obama himself—in federal prison for crimes that nobody has been able to articulate and that may be difficult to prove in front of a jury. On the other hand, he may not. A report on Monday from Politico suggests that Senate Republicans do not have the political stomach for locking up Trump’s political enemies and want their own investigatory fingerprints off of this steaming mess of flaming garbage. (Sen. Rand Paul did, however, on Wednesday invite Grenell to testify about the “unmasking” list.)

What seems likelier is that this is yet another effort to distract from Trump’s latest display of his unfitness of office—the tragic and disastrous failures that have led to more than 80,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic and a total economic collapse. The president and his allies could just be recycling “Obamagate” through the internet to rile up Trump’s base, distract the mainstream media, and further seek to exonerate the president of his own long catalog of likely criminality because they are all out of new ideas.

UPDATE: According to a memo obtained by POLITICO, the Senate Homeland Security Committee plans to vote next Wednesday on Chairman Ron Johnson’s request to issue a subpoena to Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic public-relations firm, as part of the panel’s probe of corruption allegations against Hunter Biden and the Obama-era State Department. Senate committee plans vote on Hunter Biden-related subpoena

“We’re in the middle of a public health and economic crisis, but instead of holding oversight hearings about testing, PPE, or bringing in the FEMA administrator, Senate Republicans are choosing to pursue diversionary, partisan conspiracy theories to prop up President Trump,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said of the decision to schedule a subpoena vote during the pandemic.

Committee rules require a vote on a subpoena if the minority party objects. The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, has vigorously opposed the Biden investigation, and he has demanded defense briefings in advance of any subpoena vote.

* * *

On the other side of the Capitol, the Democratic-led House Foreign Affairs Committee is looking into the State Department’s communications with the senators as part of their investigation.

“[The] State Department appears to be a willing partner in this naked political exercise after completely stonewalling the impeachment inquiry,” a committee aide said. “Chairman [Eliot] Engel has requested that State produce to the Foreign Affairs Committee all the information sent to Senators Johnson and Graham no later than this Friday. We’re not going to allow the State Department to be turned into an arm of the Trump campaign.”

UPDATE 5/14/20: Trump Suggests Obama and Biden Should Be in Jail for “Obamagate”:

Donald Trump has suggested that Barack Obama and Joe Biden should be in prison. The President blamed the two Democrats for conspiring against him as part of the “Obamagate” conspiracy theory.

President Trump spoke to Fox Business’ fluffer Maria Bartiromo in an interview that aired on Thursday. He reiterated his claims about the former president and vice president working against his administration.

“If I were a Democrat instead of a Republican, I think everybody would’ve been in jail a long time ago, and I’m talking with 50-year sentences… people should be going to jail for this stuff…this was all Obama, ” Trump told Bartiromo.

Watch the video:

And today Trump is urging his attack poodle, Senator Lindsey “Stonewall” Graham to follow through on his previous threats to hold hearings and subpoena everyone in the Obama administration about the Russia investigation.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. As I mentioned in a comment to an earlier post: The only problem Republicans had with the Soviet Union was the economic model. They’re fine with everything else.

  2. The media will put it all on prime time and treat it as legitimate, if the trial run of Trump’s Coronavirus “briefings” are any indication. The media seem to have no problem allowing Trump to launch his propaganda and misinformation campaigns in real time on their networks.

    The only hope is that the media may find Senate hearings less fascinating than Trump’s live melt-down and improv sessions, and the Dems will be there to push back on the bullshit in real time. Those factors may limit the spread of disinformation, but it won’t stop it. “Obamagate” will likely be buzzword of the election, along with chants of “Lock them up!” once Trump can figure out how to do rallies again without killing his supporters… Hmmm, on second thought, I doubt he’s too concerned about some light casualties; if he can get his peeps back into stadiums, he’ll do it.

  3. Re “sycophant supporters” above:

    “Flying monkeys” Wikipedia

    Comment submitted to “Trump Is Staking Out His Own Universe of ‘Alternative Facts’” by Thomas B. Edsall, NYT, May 13, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET, at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/opinion/trump-digital-campaign.html :

    ‘I just submitted this “reply” to @Richard Lee, way down the list of comments under “Readers Picks”. Very few readers and commenters are likely to see it there. –

    ‘@Richard Lee Check out “Flying monkeys” on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_monkeys_(popular_psychology) .

    ‘Then you (and the rest of us) will have a nice concise and very apt name for this inner White House group that surrounds Trump. [And it works] for his minions over at Fox News, Breitbart, the US Senate, the House of Representatives, InfoWars, et cetera.

    ‘ “They are people who act on behalf of a narcissist to a third party, usually for an abusive purpose (e.g., smear campaign). The phrase has also been used to refer to people who act on behalf of a psychopath, for a similar purpose. The term is not formally used in medical practice or teaching.”

    ‘ “Abuse by proxy (or proxy abuse) is a closely related or synonymous concept. The term is from the flying monkeys used by the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film Wizard of Oz to carry out evil deeds on her behalf.”

    ‘ “The flying monkey does the narcissist’s bidding to inflict additional torment on the target. It may consist of spying, spreading gossip, threatening, painting the narcissist as the victim (victim playing) and the target as the perpetrator (victim blaming). Despite this, the narcissist does not hesitate to make flying monkeys his or her scapegoats when and if needed.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_monkeys_(popular_psychology)

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