Under Trump America Goes From World Leader to Banana Republic 

On Christmas eve conservative pundit William “Bill” Kristol made it clear that in its current iteration, the Republican Party he identifies with has become a cult of personality worthy of a banana republic. Kristol didn’t mention Trump by name, but he almost certainly was projecting his abhorrence of Trump on the entire GOP; a surprising development for a dyed-in-the-wool conservative but an apt projection all the same.

It is true the Republican Party is taking the country back to the 1920’s long before America became a global leader and was hardly a world super power, but even during the Great Depression when the filthy rich became incredibly wealthier, America was hardly considered a banana republic. All that changed less than a century later.

Whatever leadership role America enjoyed prior to Trump’s poorly attended inauguration is now just a memory despite what Trump claims. World leaders are well aware that although America has military might, and is a rapidly waning economic force, its influence globally is second-rate at best; in many areas it is nothing more than an irritating spectator.

Instead of leading on addressing climate change, America under Trump is watching China “assume the leadership mantle,” and subsequently the economic prosperity that will accompany it. And as the Los Angeles Times noted, “Russia has taken over Syrian peace negotiations that Moscow officials only allowed America to attend as observers.”

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) look to Germany and France for leadership since Trump has isolated America from even its allies and trading partners. And speaking of international trade, America is now a global trade outlier and any number of American industries are living proof that Trump’s big mouth and isolationism kills American businesses.

This is an issue because Trump gave his assessment of America’s place on the global stage during a speech last week that is as far from reality as the Earth is from the edge of the observable universe. (Roughly 46.6 billion light years)

Trump claims that since January there has been a never-before-seen “broadening of U.S. influence throughout the world.” It is an odd assertion even for a buffoon like Trump; particularly since his executive actions since January are the sole force behind America ceding its global leadership role.

That is the consensus opinion of international leaders, diplomats, and foreign policy experts who contend that Trump is guilty of “reducing U.S. influence or altering it in ways that are less constructive on a broad range of policy issues.” In fact, what those leaders and critics actually say is that “Trump has taken positions that disqualify the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant on that ‘broad range of policy issues.’”

This is a serious issue because no matter what horrors Republicans are in the process of unleashing on Americans, Trump represents an existential threat because besides the insanity of isolationism in a truly global era, America under Trump is dangerously unreliable and untrustworthy to the rest of the world.

In India, a nation Trump has not attacked yet, the leaders are like most sane human beings concerned about ‘Trump’s unpredictability” and doubt that he can be trusted “as a reliable partner;” especially with his rush towards isolationism. Manoj Joshi is a scholar at a New Delhi think tank, Observer Research Foundation, who fairly summed up what the rest of the planet knows about Trump.

The president Trump can and does turn things inside out. So the chances that the U.S. works along a coherent and credible national security strategy are not very high.

Nicholas Burns, a long-serving senior diplomat under both Republican and Democratic administrations said Trump’s strategy, or lack thereof, “has left the U.S. ineffective.” Mr. Burns continued by remarking on an issue many critics have warned about to no avail; a weak and aimless Department of State.

“Trump needs a strong State Department to implement its strategy. Instead, State and the Foreign Service are being weakened and often sidelined. Trump’s policy of the last 12 months is a radical departure from every president since WWII. Trump is weak on NATO, Russia, trade, climate, diplomacy. The U.S. is declining as a global leader.”

What seems to be the final straw for nearly the entire world of nations was Trump’s gift to Benjamin Netanyahu that eliminates any opportunity for a “two-state” solution. The only people Trump “delighted” by formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital were many Israelis.  Trump incited rage in the Muslim world, wiped out decades of “international consensus” on a peaceful Palestine-Israeli resolution, and incurred the wrath of “an overwhelming majority of the U.N. General Assembly.

As most of the world understands, Trump unilaterally eliminated America as “an honest broker in mediating peace by clearly siding with Israel.” As many world leaders have noted, “From now on it is out of the question for a biased United States to be a mediator between Israel and Palestine; that period is over.”

A former U.S. ambassador to both Israel and Egypt under Presidents Clinton and Bush, Daniel Kurtzer, said  that any peaceful resolution in the Middle East  “won’t be from American policy. Trump took America out of the peace process for the foreseeable future.”

There is probably a detailed list of the myriad ways Trump single-handedly diminished American influence globally, but the real horror is that he accomplished that feat in less than a year. America is going to be in trouble going forward just on the basis of Trump’s isolationism and withdrawal from trade agreements and never-ending threats against our allies and United Nations member nations for daring to disagree with Trump. Add to that prospect the Republican Congress’ well-laid plans to wipe out the government and create an impoverished population; it is no longer a question of “if” America is a banana republic, but when the entire world recognizes what it is and turns against it.

Image: Matt Rotman

Impeach Mike Pence For Continuing to Lie About Michael Flynn

 

One can’t help but wonder why, or how, all these devout evangelical Republicans violate one the most well-known commandments from the “Big Ten” and do it with conviction. Mike Pence, the religious right zealot Trump put in charge of running the government took the time again to lie about when he learned that Trump’s pick to run the NSA was a paid foreign agent for Turkey and had discussed lifting sanctions with the Russians during the transition. For a so-called Christian who wants every student in America to be exposed to and indoctrinated into learning the Ten Commandments, it’s obvious Pence is either grossly ignorant of those god-rules or is a pathological liar like the rest of the Trump administration.

The revelation that Michael Flynn informed the Trump through his lawyer that he was an agent for the Turkish government before being appointed as national security advisor gave Pence an opportunity to do the Christian thing and tell the truth. However, instead of acknowledging that as head of the transition team he did know about Flynn’s foreign agent status and supported Flynn’s appointment as national security advisor, Mike Pence stood by his previous lie and claimed through a spokesperson that “ The Vice President stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn’s ties to Turkey.”

Pence lied and claimed in March that he first learned about Michael Flynn’s Turkish lobbying work through media reports and he is standing by that easily debunked lie. He is lying even after the “new report indicating [that] Flynn informed the transition team in January that he was under federal investigation for not properly disclosing the paid work.”

Of course Pence knew about Flynn’s status long before January, but it is beyond the pale that he expects any sane human being to believe that as head of Trump’s transition team that he only learned that Flynn was a foreign agent two months later after Flynn informed the Trump transition team that he was under investigation for being a paid foreign agent.

There is a simple reason one has no qualms calling Christian Mike Pence a dirty, filthy lying sinner who is no more a real Christian than the Moon is a big piece of cheese. The reason comes in the form of a letter dated November 18, 2016 informing Pence about Flynn’s paid work for Turkey and his contact with Russia. The letter, on official Congressional House stationary, lays out in detail, with 11 cited references, everything Pence said he just learned from media reports in March of this year. The letter was addressed to Mike Pence and cc’d to House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).

The letter, from the House Oversight Committee’s ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings, not only informs Pence of Flynn’s paid work for Turkey, it describes Flynn’s paid speech denigrating America to Trump’s Russian collaborators at an event he attended with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Still, Pence not only lies that he was unaware of any Flynn issues, he supported his appointment as Trump’s national security advisor with full knowledge he was a paid foreign agent and was being investigated. It is also noteworthy that Trump and his legal team certainly knew about Flynn’s work and collaboration with Turkey and Russia because Flynn alerted them in January. But they appointed him national security advisor regardless.

Maybe it is a requirement to be a liar in Trump’s administration because two of Pence’s closest aides lied and told POLITICO that Pence had never been made aware of Flynn’s Turkey work; one even said that in his role as chair of the transition meant he “would not necessarily be privy to all conversations.” However, that official letter dated November 18, 2016 from the House Oversight Committee’s ranking member was not “a conversation” any more than Flynn alerting the White House transition team Pence chaired, and Trump, that he was under investigation for being a paid foreign agent. It was something that happened weeks before Trump’s sparsely attended inauguration and prior to Trump appointing Flynn as his national security advisor.

There are rumors floating around that there are increasing calls for an in-depth investigation into Mike Pence for his involvement in the Russian scandal, and they certainly must concern his well-documented knowledge that Flynn was being paid by foreign governments. The real travesty is there is no apparent section in the  U.S. Code criminalizing filthy lies, but there is plenty about treason as well as collusion. According to the existence of an easily available letter from the House Oversight Committee alerting Pence to Flynn’s activities on behalf of foreign governments, Pence not only knew about Flynn’s activities several months before he claims he did, he kept that damning information to himself and supported a foreign agent as national security advisor.

Mike Pence is no Christian. For dog’s sake even a marginal believer would stop short of repeating an easily debunked lie if for no other reason that to avoid jeopardizing their chance at going to proverbial heaven. Mike Pence can claim his evangelical bona fides forever, but he is nothing but a filthy dirty liar on par with his boss Donald Trump. One can only hope that when Trump’s little castle starts crumbling, it will crush Mike Pence for lying to the people, for colluding with a treasonous cover-up and tacit cooperation with a hostile foreign government; and for his part in appointing a paid foreign agent as America’s national security advisor.

Trump’s Incompetent Big Mouth Put An Israeli Agent’s Life At Risk

 

 

Employers typically avoid hiring an employee that is incompetent because they have the foresight to go through a careful vetting process most employees are unaware of. Incompetence, like ignorance, can kill a business depending on the nature of services or products they offer, but when a customer’s safety is put at risk due to incompetence, any competent business owner will terminate a careless employee if for no other reason than avoiding lawsuits. It may not seem to be the case, but there are more professions and jobs that can have an adverse effect on citizens’ health and lives than one might think.

Of course an incompetent mechanic who forgets to tighten a wheel’s lug nuts or connect a brake line could be liable for material damages and physical injuries in a car crash when the brakes failed or the wheels fell off. It is a similar situation when a medical professional’s incompetence leads to an unnecessary death whether that death is from a sloppy surgeon or careless nurse administering the wrong medicine. In those cases there are laws and the judicial system to hold the incompetent professional accountable. There is no such thing for a president when Republicans control all three branches of government and it is why Trump will get away with endangering the life of a close ally’s agent.

As a few people have noted, when incompetent and ignorant Trump shared Israel’s highly classified intelligence with Trump’s close friends in the Kremlin, he put at great risk the Israeli operative who infiltrated ISIS and provided the intelligence Trump may as well have made public. ABC News reported that according to several current and former American officials, when Trump disclosed classified information to the Russians, “he put the life of a spy placed by Israel inside ISIS at risk.”

It is irrelevant what the Trump told the Russian officials last week, even if it was because he is compromised and indebted to Vladimir Putin to divulge U.S intelligence secrets. What matters is that he threw America’s closest ally in the Middle East under the bus and threw one of their operatives to the hungry lions in ISIS. Perhaps the next time American intelligence officials warn Israel, or any of our allies, to be particularly careful about sharing information with the new administration for fear of exactly what happened, they will pay closer attention. Intel officials in the Obama Administration did warn the Israelis and now one of their spies is likely compromised.

However, it is not that the Israelis failed to take what they surmised were the necessary precautions in telling the intelligence community to keep the highly-classified intel as secret as humanly possible, including not sharing it throughout the government; something all reporting says they certainly did. But they underestimated Trump’s incompetence and instead of sharing it throughout the government, in a fit of braggadocio he shared it with a hostile foreign adversary that happens to be a very close ally with Israel’s sworn enemy Iran.

Israel has repeatedly warned American officials that it would put a screeching halt to access to such sensitive information if it were to be shared too widely, according to one former American official. Besides putting the life of an Israeli spy at risk, there is justifiable fear that Russian intelligence will easily  determine exactly how the information was collected  and be able to easily disrupt Israel’s  espionage efforts. The Russians don’t even have to waste one nano-second determining where the information was collected because Trump told them.  Part of that fear on the part of Israel is Russia’s very close ties and allegiance to Iran. It is something that any competent government official is already aware of and it is added proof that Donald Trump is not only a corrupt criminal, he is either  the epitome of incompetence or is deeper in debt to Vladimir Putin than anyone can possibly imagine; likely it is a combination of the two.

As many commentators have noted, of course a president can share whatever information they want with impunity, but this is a different story and more than just a breach of intelligence sharing protocol; especially when it compromises America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East and puts the life of their agent at serious risk. As the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) noted:

The White House has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order. It’s got to happen. To compromise [an intelligence] source is something that you just don’t do, and that’s why we keep the information we get from intelligence sources so close as to prevent that from happening.”

Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and he had a similar assessment to Senator Corker’s. He said on Twitter: “This is a slap in the face to the intel community. Risking sources and methods is inexcusable, particularly with the Russians.”

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee was not nearly as diplomatic as either Senator Corker or Warner. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) lashed out at dumb Donnie and said:

President Trump’s recklessness with sensitive information is deeply disturbing and clearly problematic. The president of the United States has the power to share hare classified information with whomever they wish, but the American people expect the president to use that power wisely.”

In this case, Trump’s recklessness not only put Israel’s intelligence-gathering abilities at risk, his need to boast put an Israeli operative’s life at risk by revealing highly-classified intelligence, and the location from where it was collected. One can only imagine the Israelis, particularly their powerful spy agency Mossad, are fuming and carefully considering what method of retribution to impose on Trump, and it is likely that very few people on the planet could possibly blame them.

There are many theories floating around about what drove Trump’s latest dangerous action; is he compromised by Putin, did his ego push him to boast he knew a secret few in the government were aware of, or is he as incompetent as he is corrupt; something a growing number of Americans have finally come to realize. Regardless if it is incompetence or corruption, Trump’s latest action seriously jeopardized America’s standing and partnerships with each and every one of its intelligence gathering allies around the world to either impress or repay Vladimir Putin.

Devin Nunes Must Be Removed From Office and Face Investigation For Collusion

 

The concept of “recusal,” or “judicial disqualification” refers to abstaining from participation in an official action, such as a legal proceeding, due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer. Over the past several months if Americans weren’t hearing, ad nauseam, about collusion and treason regarding the pro-Russians in the White House, they have heard “conflict of interest” regarding nearly everything related to the Trump, his family, his cabinet, and his campaign.

It is curious that there have not been more calls for the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (R-CA), to recuse himself from leading an investigation into the Trump and Russian collusion; and not because Nunes is a Republican investigating a corrupt Republican. No, it is because Nunes held an executive position in the Trump’s transition team that in a fair system would automatically disqualify the liar from investigating the Trump and anyone remotely related to the Trump.

Something that was hardly mentioned directly after Republicans on the “committee” railed against the intelligence community for doing their jobs, and then suggesting that journalists doing their jobs should potentially face charges was why Nunes is involved at all. There have been some calls for Nunes to recuse himself, and none more emphatic than Keith Olbermann who used Trump’s media outlet, the Twitter, to say:

This is very simple: @DevinNunes must resign from the House Intel Committee immediately, and surrender himself to the FBI for questioning.

Mr. Olbermann makes a good point. This is particularly true since David Corn with Mother Jones reported that Nunes blatantly lied to reporters about having any knowledge whatsoever of the Russian conspirators either in or closely related to Trump and his campaign.

Mr. Corn asked Nunes after the committee hearing about Trump campaign’s pro-Russian advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page because both men are “key figures in this investigation.” And, both Trump cohorts are widely reported to have had direct contact with the Russian hackers themselves and the Russian ambassador. Nunes, like his boss in the White House, lied like a true Trump and said “I don’t know those people.

Of course Nunes knows those people and he knows he was lying. As reported by Jen Hayden, less than a month ago Nunes admitted that Trump “dispatched [him] to combat the idea of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate” the collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign.  There is no doubt that Nunes definitely knew who Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Paul Manafort were.

On or around February 27 Nunes confirmed that he was one of the Republican lawmakers the Trump enlisted to shut down a story in the New York Times. In that NYT’s report, besides mentioning Russian operative Michael Flynn, it specifically talked about “former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Carter Page, as well as Trump’s associate Roger Stone.” At the time Nunes said he saw nothing untoward in being tasked by Trump to “combat” a story about Trump associates he claimed on Monday he didn’t know.

Also on February 27 in an interview with Fox News where Roger Stone and Carter Page, and Manafort, were specifically mentioned, Nunes  said that “his committee” would not be part of a “McCarthyism witch hunt.” In fact, for a lying Republican who claims he doesn’t know who Carter Page, Paul Manafort, or Roger Stone are, Nunes said, “He will not subpoena former convention manager Paul Manafort Jr., former advisor Roger Stone nor former campaign consultant Carter Page before his committee after their names appeared in the Times’ report.”

As this author opined a couple of days ago, Republicans like Nunes are going far beyond simple ethic violations like gross conflicts of interest in leading an investigation into Trump; they are colluding to cover up Trump’s treason. Now that it’s been revealed that Nunes lied that he didn’t even “know who those people are” after promising not to issue subpoenas for Stone, Manafort, and Page barely three weeks ago, there is no other reason for lying so blatantly than to conceal the intricate affiliations between the Trumps, the Russians and now congressional Republicans.

At this point calling for Nunes to recuse himself from any Trump investigation is not nearly enough; particularly after assailing the intelligence community and journalists for doing their jobs. Nunes must resign, not just from the Intelligence Committee, but from his position as a congressional representative for lying, conflict of interest, collusion with a corrupt and treasonous president and violating his sworn oath of office. Most Americans are well aware that Trump is as corrupt as the day is long, but now it is apparent that any Republican who is not calling for Trump’s impeachment is as corrupt as he is and every last one of them needs to be summarily removed from office and investigated for their part in covering up Trump’s treason.