What He Plays on TeeVee

Charles Pierce:

It always was about the money. The president* always defined himself by it. It was the comforting myth of his public existence, the fairytale he told himself so he could sleep at night through all the failure and bankruptcy and the whoring after cash, dirty or laundered, all over the world. Take away the money—or, more accurately, the perception of the money—and there simply is nothing left of the man. Take away the money, and he can’t see himself in the mirror. So he would do anything, including imperil his presidency and, therefore, the country, to save himself from the horrible realization that the money was all there was to him and there wasn’t any money anymore.

It’s obvious from the public record, never mind what might be in his tax returns, that Trump was never a successful businessman. He’s been propped up all his life, first by his father, and then by banks who decided they’d lose more if they him crash than if they kept him propped up. It appears his properties have been used for money laundering by Russians. And then there’s the fact that in 2006 he was suddenly flush with cash, and there’s no accounting for where he got it. His “success” was entirely in his ability to market himself as a success. And when he got the stint on reality television, he literally became an actor playing a successful businessman on the teevee. His supporters still buy the image and don’t see the man.

Greg Sargent spells it out: Trumpism is rotten to its core. And the stench of corruption and failure is everywhere.

A new Post piece offers an arresting summary of Trump’s current travails. Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen has now revealed that Trump’s company pursued a Trump Tower in Moscow through June 2016 — while GOP primary voters were choosing their nominee for president — which Trump concealed.

Meanwhile, the special counsel is scrutinizing phone calls between Trump and longtime adviser Roger Stone to determine whether Stone communicated advance knowledge he allegedly possessed of a WikiLeaks operation carrying out Russia’s sabotage of our election on Trump’s behalf.

The Post weaves these strands together this way: “Investigators have evidence that Trump was in close contact with his lieutenants as they made outreach to both Russia and WikiLeaks — and that they tried to conceal the extent of their activities.”

The precise nature of all these contacts probably won’t, by itself, bring down Trump. But they provide a new glimpse into just how corrupted his ascension to the presidency really was. He repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and called for better relations with Russia — positions presented as good-faith proposals in the national interest — while pursuing a lucrative deal that required Kremlin approval.

Trump doesn’t even seem to fully grasp what he did wrong. His rage tweets continue to slam the Mueller probe as “illegal” and a “witch hunt” that has hurt “innocent people.” Like Paul Manafort? And he continues to openly dangle the possibility of a pardon for Manafort. That’s obstruction on its face.

And instead of denying that he was pursuing a business deal with Vladimir Putin while running for president, he tweeted,

The Trump organization planned to sweeten the deal by offering Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse in the Moscow Trump Tower.  See also Trump Jr.’s 2017 Testimony Conflicts With Cohen’s Account Of Russian Talks.

Paul Waldman:

The president lies about just about everything, but in particular he has lied on matters related to Russia. The latest exposure of his dishonestly comes out of the plea agreement from his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who supplied evidence that the Trump Organization was actively pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow while Trump was running for president. Trump asserted yesterday in response to Cohen’s plea, “I mean, we were very open with it. We were thinking about building a building [in Russia].” In fact, throughout the campaign he claimed again and again that he had no business interests in Russia, saying things like “I don’t know Putin, have no business whatsoever with Russia, have nothing to do with Russia.”

To take just one other example, when it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner held a meeting in 2016 with a group of Russians they believed would supply them with damaging information on Hillary Clinton, President Trump personally dictated a misleading statement intended to deceive the public about what the meeting was actually about. Trump’s representatives, including lawyer Jay Sekulow and spokesperson Sarah Sanders, then issued denials that Trump wrote the statement. They later admitted that these denials were false and Trump had in fact dictated it.

And of course Trump knew about the 2016 meeting before it happened.

At 6:14 p.m. on June 7, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. clicked the send button on an email to confirm a meeting with a woman described as a “Russian government attorney” who would give him “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.”

Three hours later, his father, Donald J. Trump, claimed victory in the final primary races propelling him to the Republican presidential nomination and a general election contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his victory speech, Mr. Trump promised to deliver a major address detailing Mrs. Clinton’s “corrupt dealings” to give “favorable treatment” to foreign governments, including “the Russians.”

We see, over and over again, that Trump is a very limited man with little capacity for much of anything except being an ass. And it’s all closing in on him now.

BTW, wonder why the Moscow deal fell through? Philip Bump writes,

The plea deal indicates that the last known discussion about the deal was “on or about June 14,” 2016, when Cohen told Sater that he was canceling plans to travel to Russia.

Why is that date significant? It happens to be the day The Washington Post broke a big story that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee.



25 thoughts on “What He Plays on TeeVee

  1. Trumpism's stench of corruption is drifting all the way from Washington, D.C. to here, Washington state.  It's getting hard to breathe.

    Trump is so sick that he doesn't even know what the truth is.  He actually believes that what he says is true just because he says it.  After all, he relies on his intuition and that intuition comes from his very rotten gut.  And he believes that his s… doesn't stink.  How can the people around him stand it?

  2. <i>Gotta love Republicans calling "McCarthyism!"</i>

    Or whining about Special Counsel investigations that go beyond the initial mandate, or prosecute people for lying. Bill Clinton would like a word.

    Actually if Trump got the Bill Clinton treatment the Special Counsel would be a hard-partisan Democrat and his staffers rabid political attack dogs. And there wouldn't be any "please answer these questions in writing," it would be an in-person interrogation on highly personal questions, under oath, televised live to the world.

  3. The Republicans who finally accepted Trump can't admit that they were conned in a big way.  What suckers they were.  Grannyeagle, where are you in Washington State.  I live in Tacoma.

  4. " We see, over and over again, that Trump is a very limited man with little capacity for much of anything except being an ass "

    Oh I think Trump's real skill is the art of deception. If you parse his past statements on "deals" with Russia, he always spoke in the present tense, "I have no deals". I haven't seen where he actually said he never attempted to do a deal? In the end the deal didn't go through so in his mind he never lied. Of course anyone with half a brain can see he was  intentionally deceiving the country while running for President, but to the rubes and more importantly the repugs in the senate, they can hang their hat on the "he didn't actually lie" technicality. To me this Moscow Tower deal is much less damaging than the fact that he paid hush money to keep his paramour's quiet until after the election, that it could be argued was actually illegal but that didn't bring him down either. Me thinks the only way Trump goes down is at the ballot box in 2020.

  5. Bonnie:  I'm on the other side of the state, Walla Walla.  They tell me it means many waters.  Beautiful country.

  6. So HW is dead.  Seems like yesterday his brand of corruption was limited to the horrifically unacceptable "read my lips"…  maybe some 'don't git Saddam' which his son rectified, with disastrous results.  My, how things have changed.

  7. George H.W. "Papa Doc" Bush died last night.

    And so did an era.

    I never voted for the man, but I always secretly liked him.  He was smart, generous, kind, wise, and not-at-all full of himself.  And, in retrospect, one wonders how the fall of the USSR and the reunification of Germany could have been tragically bungled in lesser hands than his and Snowcroft's.

    His son, George W. (Baby Doc) Bush is an unwashble stain on our history.  But his father's legacy is set.

    Now, let's use our minds to imagine…

    Imagine a world where he won in '92, and Bill Clinton won in '96…

    No Newt (and his 'Thousand Points of Fucking STOOOOOOOOOPID!), no W, and no 9/11, 

    AND NO tRUMP!!!

    Like I said, I never voted for the man, but I always liked the man…


    I know I’ll get killed for this. But I don’t care. I know and can provide evidence of my “Libtardness.”

  8. Oh, c'mon, Barbara: 

    Twit-filtered yet again?!?!?!?!?! 😱😡😠😈


  9. Trump doesn’t even seem to fully grasp what he did wrong.

     I think he does, otherwise why would he lie about it and go to such great lengths to hide it? I know he's stupid and is a pathological liar, but neither one of those character defects would be enough to overcome the idea that he knew what he did was wrong. His repeated claims of having nothing to do with Russia bears witness to the fact that he knew he was being deceitful and he knew what was doing was wrong.

     The only thing that might qualify him as not being able to fully grasp is the idea that he's never developed an allegiance to the United States or anything other than his own self interest. He's a bona fided, certified black hole of narcissism. And that defect possibly could have severely hindered or completely blocked any understanding that would be necessary for him to grasp what he did wrong. Although, I seriously doubt that possibility. He's a big bag of shit, and what he did is something that should be expected from a big bag of shit.


    • “I think he does, otherwise why would he lie about it and go to such great lengths to hide it?” Except that his lies usually just dig him into a deeper hole.

  10. Bill – I have to quibble with your criticism of HW. He wasn't perfect, but neither was Obama. It's a huge mistake to adopt a binary scale for evaluating leaders, good, bad – wise, stupid – democrat, republican. On a sliding scale he was WAY better than his son, and HW actually announced that he voted for Clinton rather than Trump. You don't have to be phony to give him some slack, especially before his funeral.

    Swami – Re the question of whether Trump realizes what he did was wrong. I don't think Trump can grasp "wrong" in a moral sense. Trump does have a grasp of risk. Trump lied about his relationship with Russia (who knows how much) because the public perception that Trump only cares about Trump would kill Trump's "ratings". It's all jusr a reality show to Trump, as Maha observes.  Votes are equivalent to ratings in Trump's mind.

    Trump is running from the press this weekend, which is HIGHLY unusual, but it's a barometer of how much risk Trump evaluates the Cohen deal to be today (and will be going forward). If Trump reads that Don Jr and Jared are at risk for false testimony to Congress, there's no limit to what Trump may try to do to end future indictments. I'm guessing that Trump is trying to reach his acting A/G to demand action. Strictly as my opinion, Whittaker knows that keeping Trump happy requires that Whittaker risk serious jail time, a risk Sessions refused to take.


  11. I have been to Walla Walla two times in my life; and, found it a lovely city.  However, I grew up in Tacoma and is truly home to me.  I spent over 20 years in Maryland working for the Federal Government.  I retired in 2008.  However, if I had been still working in 2016 when trump won the election, I would submitted retirement papers on November 10, 2016.  I hope to see trump in jail soon.

  12. Granny Eagle, I used to live in Dixie and work in Walla Walla as restaurant manager at the Center for Sharing, around 1994. I lived in an old farmhouse – quite grand, really, had my own little vineyard. The place had no real address, but was on Mud Creek at the end of Cemetery Road. surprise


  13. Doug, all I was saying was that "Read my lips", "leave Saddam to be ousted by his own" and maybe a little Iran Contra too, was mostly it for the major HW scandals.  He might've puked on a Japanese prime minister once but I don't think it was intentional.  His son stepped into more than his share of scandals, but often by mistake.  W was like the cousin who always steps right into the shit in your front yard, then tracks it all over your living room carpet. Trump is complete shit, a big old bag of it.  I don't think America's ever had a big old bag of shit as POTUS before.

  14. Doug, I agree with you that Trump is a psychopath and doesn't have the range of emotions to fully grasp his wrong doing in all aspects of understanding, but that being what it is, he still has the intellectual capacity, as evidenced by his lies, to know what he was doing was wrong.

    His efforts to lift the sanctions on Russian so that he or his organization could get financing for Trump Tower – Moscow was a betrayal of his duties and obligations to his oath of office. I'm sure it can't be argued that he didn't know what was required of him in serving as the president of the United States.

    I agree completely with your assessment on Whitaker..He's effectively been pinned down and I think he's resolved himself to the idea that he's not going to go down with the ship. He's already got the most he's going to get as far as title and distinction goes,so if he just rides out his appointment without getting into the muck of Trump's bidding, he'll come off smelling like a rose…. and his resume will be greatly improved.

  15. @ Doug Dec 1, 2018 @6:39 pm

    “I don't think Trump can grasp wrong in a moral sense. Trump does have a grasp of risk.”

    Beautifully put. I was trying to formulate something like that but your wording is much better and more succinct than anything I was coming up with. I definitely describes Trump.

  16. Lynne:  I was not here in WW in 1994. Moved here in 1997 from CA, moved back to Indiana in 2000, back to WW in 2006, been here ever since.  I've lived in a lot of places.  Anyway, Dixie is kind of one of those towns where if you blink, you will miss it.  I'm not familiar with Cemetery Road. It is a nice area, as is Dayton.  I try not to go there as the road is a 2 lane road and since I drive slow (I'm 79 yo) I get harassed and it makes me nervous.  Actually, I stay off the road as much as possible even in WW because I think old fogies like me shouldn't be driving.

  17. The "big deal" f the G-20 was not going to be the private meeting between Trump and Putin, which didn't happen. (or did it?) We'd have never know what instructions Putin had for Trump except by what we gleaned later from policy.

    The G-19 + 1 describes how Trump is standing out of even the rhetorical commitments to reduce emissions. 

    The biggie was always going to be the impending impact between China and the US over trade. Kicking the can down the road 90 days while begging China to return to buying US agricultural products means Trump blinked. There is NO commitment by China re how much they are required to buy in exchange for Trump not dropping the hammer of 25% tariffs on virtually everything China exports to the US. 

    My read: China knows they won. They have 90 days to work out any deal that allows Trump to save face. 

    What struck me most was that Putin is so openly friendly to MBS. Trump is also bending reality out of shape to maintain strong diplomatic ties with the Saudis. I fear Trump's 2020 plans include a war with Iran. The Saudis, Israel, and Russia seem to be on board with a war plan which meets all their ambitions. (What are Putin's ambitions in the region?) If that's correct, the pivot point is the perception of the GOP whether another war in the mid-east would drive the GOP out of power entirely for the foreseeable future. If the public is against a "Trumped-up" war which the administration will declare come hell or high water, the GOP in the Senate might find a backbone out of self-preservation. 

    I'm fascinated by what card Mueller will turn face-up next, but there's other players in the game and other issues.

  18. Granny Eagle, I was there only one year – but it was fascinating. I've also been all over the place. Dayton, I recall, had this fabulous restaurant that people came from all over to dine at. But I never managed that with my schedule. I remember Walla Walla as full of lots of friendly people, but very conservative, as you might expect.


  19. Lynne:  I think you're referring to Patit Creek Cafe which specializes in French cuisine.  It is famous.  I've never eaten there.

    All of eastern WA is conservative although I have found wherever I have lived, I can always find like-minded people.  Anyway, I tend to be a loner so I can stay out of the line of fire.

  20. I truly do not believe Don has a moral sense at all. For him “wrong” is an action that has physical (financial?) costs to him, personally, no more.

  21. I also am not convinced he went into the race wanting to win, just to gain some free ad time to help shore up his failing empire. Later, when he got support from Russia, he took it seriously and his one true skill (talking weak-minded people out of other people’s money) came to the fore.

  22. Occasional reviews of the Dark Triad are always useful.  Not just in understanding Trump, but the DT types most of us will inevitably encounter in our own travels.  One thing all 'successful' DTs have in common, is a need to blend in whenever they are not in a position of power.  They know they're greatly outnumbered.  It's usually only after they've attained significant power that they show their true colors, but the other basic behaviors are pretty consistent regardless.  I ran into their kind repeatedly, puzzling over the incessant lies, the irrational control freakishness, the total assholism, yet… from good families with normal appearing parents and siblings.  Finally I did the big WTF? and did some homework.

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