Are you feeling better? No!

Peter Eisner

Message from friend after elections: So now, are you finally breathing easier?

Answer no.

Look, the dude won’t go away on his own. He is thinking of holding a rival event on January 20 during the inauguration. His calculation: the media will keep covering him. Television and social media will continue to provide the oxygen.

How do we account for 73 million people who voted for the dude?

They need answers, we need a strategy, they need economic support, they need more than your disdain.

A tweet this morning from a prominent oncologist in Cincinnati:

Syed A. Ahmad

@SyedAAhmad5

·

13h

Just got an email from work that our hospital is full and all elective surgical cases have been cancelled. No transfers allowed to hospital. Driving home, passed a restaurant that was full. Shaking my head. Frustrated is an understatement.

We live in separate realities

Recommended reading: Heather Cox Richardson’s daily blog. Today, she includes this quote from a reporter:

“hard-hit communities still don’t believe COVID is real. Misinformation is rampant.” Burns told of patients who, according to nurses, “don’t believe they have COVID until they’re in critical condition.”

And her comment:

Trump’s vision is destroying faith in our electoral system and spreading death. It is destabilizing our democracy, an outcome that helps those who are eager to see America’s influence in the world decline.

When the Supreme Court is tilted toward unreality, we are screwed.

The Supremes voted 5-4 to allow religious organization to propagate the virus with trumped up reasoning. Dissenting opinion from : justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan:  

The majority is “second-guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily.”

Mitch McConnell will perpetuate indecency in the Senate if he is able to after January 5.

What will happen in the Georgia runoffs?

By the way, why are people on TV wasting even a minute in discussing giving cabinet posts to Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren? How does either of them get confirmed by, a Republican senate? And, in Warren’s case, how do you let a Republican governor replace her in the senate?

Some suggest that, as with Nixon and Bush, Biden should let bygones be bygones with Trump’s misdeeds.

This is a danger. An independent judiciary must examine and apply the blind balance of justice. Recommended reading: Andrew Weissmann in the New York Times.

Holier than thou media during the upcoming Biden administration:

A headline in The New York Times on Sunday, November 30:

Biden Aides’ Ties to Consulting and Investment Firms Pose Ethics Test

Compared to what? Every f…ing appointee in the current executive branch who is stealing and operating with disdain and incompetence?


Right-wing crazies perpetuating garbage in public discourse and violence.

Left-wing of the Democratic Party not maintaining a sense of proportion and eschwing pragmatism.

Happy Days!

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The Would-be King’s Gambit: Lessons in Trumpian Chess.

Peter Eisner

The most captivating show on television for the last month has been The Queen’s Gambit, well, at least for those who have tried to wean themselves off a four-year political diet. It is the fictional story of a young woman who won the world championship by playing three-dimensional chess better than anyone else.

Interest in chess is on the rise – people stuck at home, trying to break the Trump TV habit, have been buying chess boards at a brisk pace.    

Now, however, the lame-duck president is offering a new gambit for the holidays. His opening move was to pardon his short-time former National Security Advisor, Michael Thomas Flynn, a move that could also be called  “pawn to king’s pawn – 4ever.”  How good an opening will that prove to be?

The pardoning of Flynn on November 25 was no surprise and has everything to do with Trump’s attempt to protect himself. It is likely that other pardon moves will follow. Yet, there are ways to counteract the Trumpian gambit.

Presidential pardon power is mighty and broad — we read, for example, that among the hopefuls of presidential benevolence is media star Joe Exotic, lobbying to weasel out of a 20-year murder-for-hire conviction.

Presidential power may not extend to Trump’s ability to pardon himself, though do not put it past him to try. If Trump was worried enough about that move, he could always resign a few hours before January 20, 2021 and get a pardon deal from the temporary new president, Michael Richard Pence. Careful Mike, are you in the game?

Anyone who obtains a pardon faces unusual liability under the law. Pardons do not protect recidivists for their future crimes. Take the case of Flynn. It is true that Flynn was being paid $500K as a lobbyist for the government of Turkey, and this was a conflict of interest, with questions of legality.

Thanks to Trump, all previous crimes, including failing to register as a foreign agent, and lying to the FBI about Russia (both federal crimes) are wiped out. The Russia appears to be more important than the Turkey story, although Flynn might have information about a plot to seize a Turkish opposition leader in Pennsylvania–and could be forced to talk. Others could be implicated in a criminal enterprise involving the alleged kidnapping plot.

More broadly, Flynn still could be called in to testify on any subject before a Grand Jury about his interactions with the soon-to-be former president and soon-to-be former vice president. That is where Pence might be as concerned as Trump.

With new game pieces in a restored Justice Department, U.S. attorneys maybe very well be making moves of their own. One key player, Andrew Weissman, former senior prosecutor under Special Counsel Robert Mueller, argues that Trump and cronies must be pursued.

Writes Weissman in the New York Times:

 “Mr. Trump can’t point to what the special counsel investigation did not find (e.g., “collusion”) when he obstructed that very investigation…”

 “In short, being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.”

Were Flynn’s contacts during the 2016 Christmas holidays with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak of his own device? Who knew he was doing this? Did the president know? Did the vice president know?

Journalistic boilerplate tells us that after Flynn lied about his talks with Kislyak when interviewed by FBI agents,  he repeated in turn the same fib to Mike Pence. Pence, the story goes, then spoke untruthfully about Flynn’s contacts — because Flynn deceived him.

Pence has always said that he knew nothing about Flynn’s talks with Kislyak until Flynn told him about it in 2017. When the story broke, Pence said he had spoken to Flynn about the Russian contact, and that the subject was benign.

 “He had sent a text to the Russian ambassador to express not only Christmas wishes but sympathy for the loss of life in the airplane crash that took place,” Pence said on CBS Face the Nation. “It was strictly coincidental that they had a conversation. They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia.”

Pence said he only later realized that Flynn had lied. Is that true? Michael D’Antonio and I wrote about Pence’s role during this period in our book, The Shadow President–The Truth About Mike Pence.

At the time, Pence was overseeing the Trump transition to the White House. Conveniently, as often has been the case, Pence was not on station when controversy was unfolding.

Despite what should have been the pressure of the transition, Pence was out of Washington back home celebrating Christmas in Indiana. Concurrently, Flynn was talking with figures in the Trump transition about Obama’s sanctions against Russia in December 2016.

 There were email communications with other transition members, but there was no sign that Pence was cc’d or in the loop. We are left to believe that Pence did not know about the Flynn communications with the Pence’s transition team. If that is all true, Pence should rest easy and settle for an easy game of parcheesi as he slips into private life after January 20.

However, after Flynn’s pardon, and after admitting his own lies, Flynn could be forced to testify if called before a federal Grand Jury. He no longer has 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination on the crimes he was prosecuted and pardoned for. If he refuses to testify, he could be charged with contempt. What if prosecutors delve into Flynn’s conversations with transition figures before he spoke to Russian ambassador Kislyak? What if prosecutors ask: did Donald Trump and/or Mike Pence know about your contact with the Russian?

If Flynn were to lie, a new perjury charge could be filed. Dealing with pardons, the past can be prologue, especially if there are more lies left to be told.

So, if there is a careful review in 2021 of the Trump presidency and all his men, there are a number of possible moves on the board – the would-be King’s gambit to save himself from checkmate would be very much in doubt.

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How Much Damage Can he do? The Perils of the Interregnum

How much damage can Donald Trump do before he leaves office on January 20, 2021?

Jonathan Winer and I discuss the dangers with our guests on our podcast, the latest from Unconventional Threat.

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www.iwillvote.com

Yes, today, vote. Help someone vote. Vote

John Lewis (1940-2020)

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TODAY

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November 3, 2020 · 7:27 am

Too Big to Rig — A contested election?

Episode four of our podcast, Unconventional Threat, is entitled “Too Big To Rig”  We focus on the intricacies and potential dangers under the Twelfth Amendment, should November 3 result in a contested election. How would Donald Trump behave? What are the roles of the Senate, House of Representatives, state governments…and the people?

Jonathan Winer and I speak with Michael D’Antonio, Josh Geltzer, Mark Medish, Mary McCord, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, among other specialists.

Could Nancy Pelosi be declared the acting President of the United States?

Check it out, give us a rating, and pass it on. Be Prepared, Be Forewarned.

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Presidential Emergency Powers — Be Forewarned

Episode three of our podcast, Unconventional Threat, is entitled “Donald Trump has a Secret.” It focuses on Presidential Emergency Action Documents and the secret power of the president — any president — to declare martial law, among others things, and to seize virtual dictatorial control.

This is an important and chilling story, hosted by me and Jonathan Winer, with the aid of prominent current and former officials, legal scholars, an authoritative psychiatrist and more.

Check it out, give us a rating, and pass it on. Be Forewarned.

Unconventional Threat Podcast

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Rupert Murdoch’s assault on democracy. Inherited lies.

The good die first,/ And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust burn/ Burn to the socket’. William Wordsworth

Peter Eisner

Are we to be impressed now that Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born 89-year-old billionaire, may have turned on Donald Trump? I think not. Fox News, and The New York Post, and Murdoch himself are a long-standing danger to democracy. Note the recent publication of cooked Russian intelligence by The New York Post, facilitated by Rudy Giuliani and friends, despite warnings from the intelligence community.

Murdoch and his Fox megalopolis remain the amoral threat that flies under the protection of freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. The framers were not naïve, but over five decades, Murdoch has set a new standard in demagoguery, treachery and lies.

I gathered some quotes about Rupert Murdoch for a piece that was never published ten years ago.

 “The power that he has accumulated and employed
on behalf of his allies is awesome to their enemies.”
William Shawcross, his biographer.
       “Rupert Murdoch is no saint, he is to propriety what the
Marquis de Sade was to chastity. When it comes to money and power, he is carnivorous, all appetite, no taste.”
Bill Moyers.

The New York Post “has no business reason for being other than to prosecute political and business grudges and to entertain Murdoch himself.” Michael Wolff, another biographer.

“I think that what everyone has overlooked with Rupert is that he was a gambler…He has taken enormous risks and been lucky. They have all come off but it has been close on several occasions.” Phillip Knightly (1929-2016)/

Knightley offered those thoughts in a conversation I had with him in 2010. He worked for Murdoch at the Times of London. Knightly was author of the classic book on war reporting, The First Casualty.
    
      In The First casualty, Knightley described the ascent of Murdoch’s father, Sir Keith Murdoch, a questionable journalistic icon. The elder Murdoch (1885-1852) was acclaimed as a national hero in Australia after his exploits as a foreign correspondent included his presence in Gallipoli, Turkey during the first major joint Australian-New Zealand military campaign of World War I. Murdoch filed first person dispatches describing events that analysts said he apparently didn’t have time to witness. Sir Keith then wrote a letter to London officials that resulted in the firing of a general.

“It was an amazing document…a mixture of error, fact, exaggeration, prejudice and the most sentimental patriotism, which
made highly damaging charges against the British general staff and
[the general in charge, Sir Ian] Hamilton, many of them untrue.”
Sir
Keith, oddly, later served as Australia’s chief censor during World
War II.
 
    Knightly worked also with my friend Harold Evans (1928-2020). I asked Evans about Murdoch, who had fired him as editor of the Times of London in the early 1980s. Harry died in September.

Murdoch “shuffled, smiled and left sentences in mid-air….He seemed too diffident to be a tycoon and too inarticulate to be a journalist. This was as appealing as it was surprising.”

Evans compared Murdoch to Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost, and described Murdoch as “the most interesting, impressive character…If Murdoch added journalistic integrity to his other qualities, he’d be most formidable.”

Perhaps the favorite quote I uncovered came from James Darling, Rupert’s headmaster at Geelong Grammar, a boarding school. Darling disliked Murdoch and the feeling was mutual. Once asked to describe Murdoch, Darling quoted from a popular Australian novel.  

Murdoch’s newspapers “have engaged in the degradation of the proper feelings of our people…[and] have done more to harm this country than any of its external enemies…I beg you will leave before my butler throws you down the steps.”

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Episode 2 – Unconventional Threat

Episode two of Unconventional Threat is now available online and via your favorite podcast app. This time we focus on voter suppression. Check it out, share the link with others and give us a rating. www.unconventionalthreat.com

Unconventional Threat Podcast
http://www.unconventionalthreat.com

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Trump in the Time Of COVID

Peter Eisner

“And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall….“  [The Masque of the Red Death, Edgar Allan Poe]

What was the State of the Union and the state of the presidency of the United States on October 3, 2020, the first full day of Donald J. Trump’s internment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center? Not so different from other days. Chaotic and on the edge.

Millions of Americans had already voted by mail or by drop box, a record number of them not waiting for election day itself, November 3, 2020, roughly 730 hours or 44,000 minutes from this writing. [Click here for the countdown.]

With Trump in the hospital being treated to the extent anyone could be treated for COVID-19, the trappings of the presidency carried on in many ways not so different from any other day of the three-year, 256 day Trump presidency. [counting that too.] On a non COVID-19-challenged day, Saturday would be a day off. One wag suggested on the internet that Vice President Michael Richard Pence had taken over for Trump by heading to the Trump National Golf Course at Bedminster, New Jersey. [Trump reportedly has gone to Bedminster 80 times during his presidency.]

It was not difficult to imagine how the wheels of government were turning as Trump lay in repose at Walter Reed – not so differently in many ways. With most of the adults in the room fired by now (Kelly, Mattis, Sessions, even Bolton], the Trump presidency had the quality of the French court of Versailles just before the French Revolution. Power centers with discreet missions, pretenders to the throne, family members, charlatans, all working behind the scenes and trying not to disturb the monarch unduly.

Among those with Trump at the traveling White House was his chief of staff, Mark Meadows. He was clearly one of the chief advisers, but the most important members of the presidential team might not have been there often. They worked behind the scenes with unprecedented power: a Ivanka Trump, her husband, Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller. All had been in physical proximity to the president, and would have been worried about contracting COVID-19 themselves. One other person who normally would be close by was Hope Hicks, but she was the first person among them reported to have contracted the disease.

Beyond the presidential entourage there were other power centers whose specific goals centered around keeping Trump in office. Pence iwas primary among these—for all those days of the presidency, Pence had flown around the country, under the radar at times, shoring up support, speaking to local leaders and local media in conservative strongholds. Part of his message was to provide a veneer of dependability with his placid contrast to Trump, expressing at every stop the faux humility personified long ago by Charles Dickens’s Uriah Heep.

Pence remained important. He was second in line, and reassured the members of the Trump cult who included evangelicals and harbored a need to believe—and Pence believes. Pence was also a liaison to the Federalist Society, which helped choose federal judges – including Supreme Court justices, most recently Amy Coney Barrett. Whatever was written on the mask of propriety sometimes worn for public niceties, Barrett, along with justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were there for the Federalists and for Pence to fulfill their mission, in Pence’s words, “to consign abortion” legalized under Rove v. Wade “to the ash heap of history.”

Therein is the marriage of convenience among Trump, who could care less about Roe v Wade or any of their goals, and the evangelicals. It is also where Pence centered his connection with the surviving Koch brother, Charles Koch, who once again was spending tens of millions of dollars to keep Trump and the Republicans in office. Throw the abortion bone to the religious types, said Koch and the libertarians, and they would use their religion to maintain power. That was also where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held sway—whatever maintained power was good enough for him. Koch money meant power and McConnell wielded power and money diabolically in Washington.

And tied in with all the above was an aligned but independent actor, Attorney General William Barr, one of the most devious men of all the devious men who had ever held power in Washington. Yes, tied to the Federalist Society, yes related in turn with Opus Dei, the ultraright-wing Catholic Organization, and yes fulfilling his paternal command – strengthen the unitary presidency and destroy liberalism in all forms.

These were the actors, the president’s family and hangers on, who risked criminal prosecution if Trump lost the presidency; the vice president, who stood in waiting, certain that he was on a mission from God; the rest of the Republicans, holding onto power was greater than our 244-year-old experiment in democracy; and William Barr, twisted by hatred. They fulfilled their roles and would do everything to shield Trump, hide Trump, keep Trump and his presidency alive.

But COVID-19 was the equalizer, knowing not party nor prejudice; it slipped in, past blind ambition and stupidity, unmoved by imperial aspirations. COVID was now a presence among those of the palace and the time approached. “It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade,” wrote Edgar Allan Poe. “And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock.”

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