The problem isn’t really that President Trump has claimed that he dissolved the Manufacturing Council and The Policy and Strategy Forum, rather than the fact that the business leaders that until just a day or two ago made up its members, were resigning and were ready to fold it up. This is just another media gawk at a Trump induced dust-up with reasonably offended (and concerned about their brand in today’s red-hot climate) business executives. Another tiny scandal flowing from a much bigger problem involving Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville.

But the bigger problem in terms of business leaders is that the division, enmity and contempt merely within the conservative movement in America – and therefore the divisions between the White House and Congress, and within Congress and especially within the GOP itself – will make getting any meaningful legislation on tax reform and God forbid, healthcare, almost impossible.

And that sort of division and chaos will chip away at what is in fact a very solid economy, with strong job growth and growing consumer spending. Investment needs stability to be able to discount future profits in a predictable manner. And right now, it’s hard to predict much policy. If Congress had recently enacted a Reagan-style tax cut, and if some manageable reform, if not repeal, of the ACA had been signed into law, the economy could keep chugging along at a good clip despite the violence and division. But the chaos at the White House is starting to take a real toll now.

Is a recession around the corner? Not even close. There may not be a recession for a few years to come. But government spending and tax rates are a burden on America’s innovation and therefore it’s future. What can Congress do to bring some possibility for getting legislation passed when they come back to Washington? And if a debt-ceiling and budget crisis meet up with Federal Reserve rate hikes, then we have reasonable cause for concern. So what con Congress do when it gets back?

Mitch McConnell will still be and will remain Senate leader for some time. Trump’s complaints against him will likely strengthen his standing with his senate colleagues, who are the ones who will or would decide his future. Ryan should likely remain Speaker, but with the Senate unable to move on legislation he’s been handicapped badly.

The Supreme Court is now tipping towards a truly conservative court, but one can imagine Ginsburg or Kennedy delaying retirement given how they likely view this administration. And the Supreme Court is not about immediate policy concerns. It’s time frame is much longer.

Local governments can and are doing more, but in directly opposing ways that further divide America into self-selecting regions.

The roar around Charlottesville will lessen over the coming weeks, and the policies that America and Americans need to prosper will still be waiting to be implemented. But now they will have to fight against a narrative that says that not only are they the wrong policies – from a progressive, liberal economic perspective – but that they are also somehow evil policies. So if the GOP Congress thought it was tough to agree in June, wait till September comes.

Do you know what PMSC’s are? Private Military and Security Companies. Like Blackwater USA, which was sold by founder Erik Prince to an unnamed group of investors and is now called Academi. And while Blackwater was founded in the late 90’s, private armies have been around for ages, literally. But since the end of the Cold War they have played an increasing role in military conflicts around the world, sometimes providing logistics and support, sometimes providing more than just logistics.

In the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were apparently over a quarter million private contracted security personnel in use by the Bush 43 administration. And now we have Erik Prince himself, talking up on CNN no less, a proposal to privatize much of America’s commitment in Afghanistan. That would include everything from a private air force of dozens of aircraft to logistics to embedded contractors working with local Afghani troops.

What does this mean?

Apparently it means big savings: $10 billion a year versus $50 billion a year according to the Pentagon’s annual budget for Afghanistan. But it also means something else: freeing up American forces who may very soon be needed on or near the Korean peninsula should war break out with the DPRK.

If you believe former counsel to the DOD (in the last year of the Obama administration) Laura Dickinson, a surge in private contractor personnel in Afghanistan brings legal risks. The International Criminal Court has a prosecutor looking into America’s role in Afghanistan, but this is more a nuisance than a grave concern given the instability present in various parts of the globe. Dickinson also worries about blowback to American military forces if private contractors get involved in another shootout like in 2007’s Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. It’s a reasonable possibility given that chains of command in private security forces are not as clearcut as those in the military.

But that brings us to Erik Prince’s point from the CNN interview. There have been yearly rotations of not just troops but top command since 2002 in Afghanistan. As Ben Domenech writing in The Transom puts it:

Afghanistan is not one war over sixteen years for us. It is sixteen one-year wars.


That may be a little over the top, but it hits home with the point that there has not been a consistent or perhaps even continuous strategy for U.S. Forces in that troubled tribal land. And while Erik Prince talking about a viceroy may be a little too Kipling-like, the comment can also be taken as a call for a steady hand over many years in order to bring order to Afghanistan. So he makes his point, when compared to the failed set of scrabbled policies America’s forces have pursued up to now in Afghanistan.

The problem with all this is that American foreign policy is prey to partisan politics. And thus subject to sudden policy twists and turns. How well will this play? How will this poll? Annoying perhaps, but in a democracy civilians run the military. Not vice versa. And beyond that, voters are weary of this long-running seemingly endless war, with no end in sight. Just as another war may be just over the horizon. Can Prince – who has close ties to Trump’s administration – convince enough Americans of his grand scheme for Afghanistan?

Reunification is such a beautiful concept, shimmering like a vision in front of the minds’ eyes of academics and diplomats. No, not reunification of South Asia, where partition in the 40’s led to the terrorist-sponsoring state of Pakistan and the flotsam of Bangladesh, two thorns in the side of the world’s largest – if flawed – democracy, India.

Rather reunification of the Korean peninsula, where a war in the legal sense was never fought. Where a “police” action caused American soldiers to endure some of the most brutal enemy attacks they had seen, as bad as what the Japanese did to Allied prisoners in The Philippines. Where a nearly 70 year stalemate has persisted, with the already brutal North Korean regime (just ask any vets that were captured by the North Koreans – assuming they survived) still in place: a Stalinist terror regime with the characteristics of a Latin American tinpot dictatorship from years gone by.

And this regime is led by a trio of crazed family members: grandpa Kim Il-Sung, daddy Kim Jon-il, and grandson Kim Jong-un. Each one crazier than the last as the decaying corruption of absolute power has turned the third generation leader into a true psychopath unconstrained by any of the tactical or strategic considerations that his father and grandfather apparently displayed at least a little of; this regime is the one that diplomacy will work it’s steady persuasive magic on.

Just ask Robert Gallucci, who is calling President’s Trump’s tough words crazed and irresponsible. Who negotiated the 1994 agreement that apparently froze the DPRK’s nuclear program for up to a decade. Who worked alongside Jimmy Carter on this deal on behalf of the Clinton administration. And who – at the George W. Bush Center’s website – says this:

The result is a call to action for governments, the private sector, and civil society, to work together to improve the human condition in North Korea … We advocate for a new U.S. policy that integrates the call for human freedom with denuclearization in our engagement and diplomacy with North Korea.
__
In other words, diplomats, wonks, trade, and ONG’s are going to solve the North Korean stalemate and standoff. Just like Germany. Like the Berlin Wall crumbling from within East Germany. Freedom rising up in the DPRK.

The problem is how do you negotiate with a madman and with one of the most brutal, crazed regimes the world has ever seen? And not only that, in an article in The Cipher Brief, Mike Chinoy – of long-lasting Asian correspondent fame – emphasizes how America must be careful not to annoy China and how China has its own set of interests which run against a reunified Korean Peninsula. And in a telling moment, Chinoy lets slip this phrase:

… the logic of boosting deterrence is clear. But that will do little to prevent the North from continuing to develop its nuclear and missle capabilities, which, even if not used in conflict, will give Kim Jong-un new leverage to apply in his ongoing contest with the capitalist South, and his long-standing hostile relationship with Japan.

The capitalist South?? He forgot to add “running dog”. Mike Chinoy has spent a little too much time surfing the bowels of Asian communist regimes it seems. He and Gallucci and the conventional wisdom of the policy wonks on North Korea can be summed up by Chinoy’s quote at the end of his piece in The Cipher:

Contrary to much of the conventional wisdom, Kim Jong-un is not crazy. He is a ruthless, cold-eyed dictator with a clear idea of what he is doing. The danger in the current situation is that he – like the rest of the world – cannot be clear what the Trump administration is aiming to achieve.
__
There you have it. Kim Jong-un is not crazy. President Trump is. This is what much of the foreign policy establishment truly believe. Like Stalin’s admirers who refused to see him for what he was: a psychopath. Maybe it’s time for exactly someone like Trump to shake up the foreign policy establishment’s cherished shibboleths and actually solve the Korean stand off. That doesn’t mean that conflict won’t be bloody. Nor does it mean that conflict is unavoidable. It means that a new approach is clearly needed, if Korea is actually to be solved by defeating the North rather than cozying up to it’s crazed, “cold-eyed” leader. And his soon to be ready nuclear missiles.

One can assume that the National Security Council had so-called kill lists long before the Obama administration formalized the process with the unnervingly named Disposition Matrix. What exact process within this Disposition Matrix gets someone on a kill list is not made public for very understandable security reasons, but apparently John Brennan had a lot to do with it. And yes, it’s supposed to unnerve people. That’s the whole point.

In view of the fairly recently developed Disposition Matrix – it was put together in 2010 – it is more than interesting that the apparent blood letting going on at the NSC has more than a little to do with an enemies list. But in this case the list in question has to do with the Trump administration’s enemies and not America’s most wanted enemies.

The battle is between General McMaster and Steve Bannon and by extension Bannon’s side seems to include General Flynn’s recently removed allies at the NSC as well. And the battle has heated up greatly in the past week with a series of articles out to damage McMaster, with a few asides aimed at General Mattis at DOD thrown in for good measure. And the battle is rumored to have started – if you believe the Daily Beast – over a disagreement over this list of internal enemies or Obama administration holdovers who were or are fundamentally hostile to much of Trump’s policies in places like Iran and Afghanistan and Syria, for example.

Bannon’s side wanted as many of these supposed political enemies fired as possible. McMaster has resisted and prevailed, so the narrative being leaked out by the bucketful at sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart, claims. But wait, it gets much better. Breitbart has now claimed that McMaster was essentially on Soros’ payroll as a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) where he worked as a world leading authority on “global security, political risk, and military conflict.” The Ploughshares Fund seems to be a donor to the IISS, and Ploughshares is funded by Soros’ Open Society.

Hence, according to Breitbart, McMaster shares the views of Plougshares and is therefore anti-Israel and pro-Iran Deal. Maybe. Maybe not. President Trump has pushed back and expressed his support for McMaster, but one has to ask if Trump was truly wedded to his earlier views on the Iran Deal, or if his disinterest in policy detail means he is fine with McMaster’s purges of former Flynn aides at the NSC. And fine with a less disruptive Middle East policy than many of his voters had been expecting of the president’s new administration.

Will Chief of Staff Kelly put the dampers on this simmering feud? And how will he do it? Will Bannon once again be seen as heading for the exits? And if he does actually go, does he take much of Trump’s America First foreign policies with him? And leave it in the hands of the generals?

You can’t cut spending.

You can’t cut spending. Got that? Now go crazy on tax reform. You can call it tax cuts if you want. And maybe a few targeted taxes will actually get cut. As long as it’s revenue-neutral. Which means as long as it doesn’t add to the deficit. Which means that you have to raise taxes elsewhere to balance the tax cuts that are being promised. And without the Obamacare repeal lowering the revenue baseline, by eliminating some of the tax revenue, you have much less room to play with.

Why?

Because you can’t cut spending. To do that you’d be outside the safe zone of reconciliation, and that means wading into filibuster creek which can get quite deep and filled with … stuff. Which is exactly where the Democrats would love to put the GOP Congress: waist-deep in sludgy accusations of pandering to the wealthy. As that economic genius – Senator Wyden of Oregon – puts it:

We need sustainable, comprehensive, tax reform. Not a massive tax cut for the wealthy.

Well said Ron! Bravo! Because America has ridiculously low tax rates right now, especially for high-income earners. Oops, maybe not. Yes, the total burden of taxes in America, according to the Tax Policy Center, is about 26% of GDP. Which is fairly low relative to other OECD countries. But … that overall tax is mostly made up of taxes on income and profits, which at 48% (of income and profits not total GDP) is really, really high. Only Scandinavian countries and Australia are as high or higher.

Not good.

The world’s most innovate economy has come to the point where it is punishing income and profits, which tend to be the reward for hard work and smart work, and smart investing. And innovation underlies all of that. But any tax cut given current Congressional rules has to be revenue neutral. Which means more money has to be raised elsewhere.

Reagan would never have been able to put in place the tax cuts he did under these sorts of rules. Because Democrats today would never, ever agree to any spending cuts. Um, and a lot of Republicans are in the same boat. The ACA repeal failed in large part because of moderate GOP worries about curtailing the rate of growth of Medicare. Never mind actually cutting back on an entitlement. Because healthcare is being seen as a right, not as insurance for a costly, complex service.

So, if you want to cut spending and increase the deficit, you risk the filibuster. Could you cut spending, and cut taxes? Maybe? Please? No one is talking about cutting spending at this point. So one has to assume it’s off the table. You can’t cut spending.

Of course, one could also raise the goods and services taxes – the hated sales taxes – and cut the income taxes and taxes on profits. Reward innovation. Punish consumption. But careful, when consumer spending is something like 2/3’s of America’s GDP raising sales taxes is something most governors and senators would be dead set against. Ok, maybe not in California.

So as we move from the GOP blaming each other for the collapse – but not quite dead yet apparently – of the Repeal and Replace efforts, and on to tax cuts, one can’t be blamed for feeling cautious and not very optimistic that the GOP will be able to do any sort of meaningful reform of America’s tax code. It’s show me time for the GOP.

Because they’re not talking about tax cuts. What they’re talking about is tax shuffles.

Who is Imran Awan? A former (he was employed up until Tuesday by Wasserman Schultz) IT employee of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and previously several other Democrat members of congress, who is now released under “high-intensity” supervision (involving curfew and a restriction on his ability to travel and including a GPS monitor he has to use). All this after he was detained at Dulles trying to flee the country on Tuesday.

But Awan has been in the FBI’s sights for some time now, for bank fraud. Last January he wired $283,000 to two individuals in Pakistan. These funds were apparently obtained from a fraudulent loan from the Congressional Federal Credit Union meant for a principal residence but used to purchases a rental property. The question is: where else might those $283,000 come from? Awan and other family members worked at inflated salaries for several Democrat members of congress, including Wasserman Schultz, since 2004-2005. Were these funds the result of overbilling? Were they the result of theft of IT equipment that Awan is accused of, involving the offices of members of Congress that he worked for as an IT consultant? Are they the fruits of a series of scams he seems to have been running?

What the heck is going on here?

Consider this: Wasserman Schultz threatened Capitol police in late May for not returning a laptop and perhaps other computer equipment that are clearly part of the investigation. Why? What does she not want investigators to find on that laptop and other devices? Why was Awan, who has been the target of the fraud investigation since at least early this year and whose wife fled with their children to Pakistan back in March, still employed by Wasserman Schultz until just this Tuesday morning when they finally fired him??

It is interesting to note that Awan had access to certain members of Congress’ email lists and even files stored on staffers’ computers. Is there blackmail involved here?

And who the heck in Pakistan received those funds? A quarter million dollars (plus 33 thousand just to top it off) goes a along way in Islamabad, for example. Is this just plain old fraud by a smooth-talking operator? Or is there more involved, given that Wasserman Schultz has kept him on the payroll until just a day or two ago?

Yes, Trump’s announcement of cancelling Ash Carter’s policy of beginning to officially accept transgendered military personnel will suck up a lot of oxygen over the next few days. And the Senate’s attempt at passing a skinny health care bill that will serve as the basis for conference with the House, is also key. But Awan’s and Wasserman Schultz’s story is one that should be receiving more media attention. Who knows where it will lead?

Never mind Anthony Scaramucci’s fairly successful transition to White House Communications Director. Never mind Spicer’s abrupt resignation. Never mind the White House’s communication team, period. They’re not the real players as far as the news cycle – especially the Russia story – goes.

It’s at communications shops like Fusion GPS with it’s co-founder Glenn Simpson, where most of the news nowadays gets manufactured.

In a fascinating piece in Tablet Magazine, The Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith details the fall of mainstream journalism (not mainstream media mind you; business is booming right now) and the rise of opposition research, epitomized by Fusion GPS. Journalism has always depended in part, and sometimes in large part, on access to important government officials. How big is your source? they ask over drinks – assuming they have the time for happy hour – in D.C. And Fusion GPS, founded in 2009 by several ex-WSJ writers with reputations as very competent professionals flipped the equation they’d been laboring under as well-paid reporters at WSJ and elsewhere. As Lee Smith puts it:

Fusion GPS is the story of a few journalists who decided to stop being suckers. They’re not buyers of information, they’re sellers.

That’s because most people get far more of their news from Facebook, and news organizations apparently don’t have the budget to staff the newsrooms with experienced veteran reporters. That has meant that communications shops and opposition research groups are now the newsrooms. And it’s they who manufacture and sell narratives to journalists with little experience, eager to have and to jealously protect a hot source. Those folks of whom Ben Rhodes famously said: they literally know nothing.

And Fusion GPS sits at the intersection of this new news-making network of communications firms and opposition research groups. They have been part of some of the main stories of the last several years:

  • Mitt Romney’s donors and the supposed scandal over them in the 2012 campaign
  • Panned Parenthood’s pushback after the videos were released that showed them in a rather horrifying light.
  • They have been hired to look into the affairs of Carlos Slim – The Mexican billionaire who even owns a piece of the NYT
  • The Russia probe that may bring down a president
  • And they even played the opposite side of this game by working with Natallia Velenitskaya’s project to help repeal the Magnitsky Act.

Which means they helped produce a story that makes Trump look like a Manchurian candidate owned by Putin, and at the same time they helped people with links to Putin to try and overturn a piece of legislation that Putin himself detests. That’s uncomfortably close to being both prosecutor and defense lawyer and getting paid for both roles. Nice work if you can get it. As Lee Smith writes:

The Trump-Russia story has been frequently likened to Watergate, a specious comparison since the latter started with evidence of a crime and the former with publication of an anthology of fables, pornography, and Russian-sourced disinformation put together and distributed by partisan political operatives. The salient comparison is rather in the effect – it has the same feel as Watergate. And it’s taking up the same space as Watergate – and that’s because comms shops-for-hire like Fusion GPS have assumed the role that the American press used to occupy.

It’s Private Label Rights that America’s news organizations happily buy into. Literally.

Jeff Sessions might tough it out as AG, despite receiving fire from all sides:

  • The left, especially the radical Southern Poverty Law Center, decry his supposed racism based on a biased interpretation of a decades-old comment that more than likely was innocent than revealing of any true prejudice. There’s also a rather silly and yes somewhat untactful joke about the KKK and weed, attributed to Sessions as well.
  • Limited government conservatives and libertarians (which should mean the same thing but doesn’t) are up in arms about Sessions apparent move to increase the power of civil forfeiture by local authorities, meaning that search and seizure will become even more unreasonable if Sessions gets his way on this one. The 4th amendment may very well be at stake here.
  • Experts on drug policy disagree strongly with his revoking the easing of minimum sentencing guidelines for first time offenders, and his jail-em-all policy preferences on any drug offenses.
  • And … President Trump is still really mad at Sessions for the AG’s recusal, which gave Deputy AG Rosenstein the reins, which led to Special Counsel Mueller. And Trump, of course, publicly dissed his AG for this in a recent interview with the NYTimes.

Will Sessions finally resign? Will he join Spicer as a former Trump official? An AG is much much more than a spokesman, and it is a key position given the FBI’s investigation and the Russia probes in general. One in which process is godly, and in which the independence of the DOJ is a sacred torch. At least according to anonymous, partisan, leak-prone DOJ officials.

But how much will the drama at DOJ matter? A lot? Yes and if Sessions does quit, it will cause a media storm filled with sturm und Drang. A passionate cry to the heavens about how America is drifting, divided and crumbling!

Maybe. And it will make for lots and lots of hysterical headlines.

But a more rational event is happening over at Microsoft. In a fascinating piece in The Daily Beast, (yes that hysterically anti-Trump webrag), Kevin Poulsen outlines Microsoft’s strategy against Fancy Bear, the notorious Russian hacking group with probable links to Russian intelligence and the Putin regime. And it’s both targeted, nerdy, and effective. Here’s how the Seattle Behemoth is fighting against Russian hacking:

To do the dirty work of stealing documents and hacking emails, the malware used by Fancy Bear needs command-and-control servers that provide encrypted commands to the malware sitting on your laptop, or wherever. The servers – rented from providers around the world – are the spymasters if you will that give the instructions and receive the stolen documents. So what Microsoft’s teams of lawyers are doing is going to court to gain control of the domain names that route to the command-and-control servers. Domain names like: livemicrosoft[.]net or rsshotmail[.]com. They then divert traffic from the Russian servers to Microsofts own servers, cutting off the chain of communications that provide the backbone for these malware attacks.

Not only that, Microsoft has run algorithms that predict likely new domain names that Fancy Bear operators might try next. And go to court to ensure that they are under Microsoft’s name. Thousands of them.

So who needs the DOJ or the Russia Probes? Just let a team of Microsoft lawyers convince a few judges to let them have control over domain names that are being maliciously used by bad actors to harm America.

Imagine. It’s January, 2025 and the President names his or her Deputy AG for Net Security: a former Microsoft programmer, who picked up a law degree in his spare time while working on the Fancy Bear project. It might not happen in 2024, but the way Washington is sinking into deep, partisan, swampy, quicksand, that moment is indeed coming. Just a matter of when.

What a shock. It looks like the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or BCRA, is about to be buried, along with the AHCA. Senator Mike Lee was signalling skepticism, and he has now come out against it. And so has Senatory Jerry Moran of Kansas. Both GOP of course. What Moran said was interesting:

… if we leave the federal government in control of everyday health care decisions, it is more likely that our health care system will devolve into a single-payer system, which would require a massive federal spending increase.

Interesting because it may be that Senators Moran, Lee, Collins, and Rand and their no votes may help pave the way for that single-payer system to become reality. May, but we can’t really say for sure. That’s because either Obamacare remains in place largely untouched because GOP conservatives and moderates are far too apart on the complex trade-offs.

Or – as Senator Moran seems to be suggesting and which may be the only alternative to Obamacare that is feasible – we will have a significant devolution of power back to the states as far as health care policy goes. Something that will take years of litigation that will end up – on multiple occasions more than likely – in the Supreme Court. And which will mean that health care will be provided in very different ways in Texas, for example, compared to California. For example.

Actually, it’s not really the trade-offs that are that complex. It’s the endless policy iterations that are used to mask subsidies and taxes under complex legal language. Because the trade-offs boil down to that cliched but still-true trinity of what is achievable under America’s (and any) health care system. There are three basic truths:

  • You can lower/raise premiums
  • You can raise/lower deductibles (that is lower/raise the amount you pay out of pocket)
  • You can raise/lower taxes/subsidies

And you get to choose two out of those three. Doing all three is impossible. Yes you could keep taxes constant and increase the deficit with more government subsidized care and lower premiums. But even there you run up against fiscal constraints built into the budget process.

Right now, polling suggests that a clear majority of Americans do not want a market based health care insurance system. The voters themselves basically hate the BCRA. And Senators will now feel even less obliged to risk their re-election prospects by voting yes, now that Collins, Rand, Lee, & Moran have come out against it. Voters are also mad at the higher Obamacare premiums that are the inevitable result of adverse selection: healthy younger voters staying away, and older sicker voters buying in to the ACA. And of course insurance companies are going broke under Obamacare’s rules and mandates.

That’s not sustainable. You either repeal and replace the ACA, or at least dramatically reform it. But reforming Obamacare is running into resistance from hospital groups and insurers – the former because the hospital business is booming thanks to the ACA, the latter because of the subsidies the insurance industry receives under Obamacare. So even a reasonable but modest reform is impossible apparently. Or you increase government involvement: more taxes more regulations, more direct federal involvement in how your health care is provided.

That means only one thing. Repeal and replace will likely fail. Obamacare will continue it’s zombie existence and it will be saved by the only way that a health care zombie plan can be saved.

A government take over of healthcare in a process that will effectively become a single-payer system over the coming years. The only place left to fight it seems to be at the state level. Would a president Kamala Harris (don’t laugh … don’t laugh!) hesitate to send in troops in 2025 to quell an unruly state who tried to provide health care in a more free market way? Or more likely, cut off all federal funding to said state(s)?

Maybe this theoretical, will remain just that, a silly theoretical. But we are now one step closer to that possibility.

There is a way around so-called whataboutism. The pointing out of similar sins committed by Democrats as a response to charges that Trump’s team may have colluded with Russia. A charge that is far more weighty now than it was a week or two ago.

And that way is to ensure that any and all actors involved on both – or all – sides of the 2016 campaign are compelled to testify before Mueller’s team or either of the two Senate investigations, or the House investigation. That will mean a significant number of key players from Trump’s campaign team. Some are even suggesting that Brad Parscale and even the Mercers should be questioned.

That is ridiculous by any standard. The Mercers did indeed fund – mostly through PAC’s – much of Cambridge Analytica’s data mining work for Ted Cruz and even Ben Carson, before the firm began doing work for the Trump campaign during the summer of 2016. To suggest that the Mercer’s are suddenly persons of interest – as some but only some have suggested – shows how partisan the Russia probes can still be.

Unfortunately if any one of the committees decide to compel the Mercers to testify, then they will have to. That’s what happens when investigations reach a certain mass, and when there appears to be evidence of attempts at some sort of collusion with Russian actors.

So we now have the media looking for and leaking information on who might somehow be involved in any aspect of any relationship that may have taken place between any possible Russian actor and anyone at all related to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Fair enough. Which means Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS’s co-founder should be compelled to do what he is apparently refusing to volunteer to do. Appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next July 19. Let’s not forget about Fusion GPS and their role in the Trump Dossier, which was another brazen attempt at Russian interference in the election and in the post-election period as well. Let’s hope that the various committees, and especially Mueller’s team are methodical and bi-partisan enough to call Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson and whoever else might be involved with the Trump Dossier.

Which brings up an interesting point. When the Trump Dossier and Fusion GPS were first becoming publicly known news stories, there was a brief news item about how Fusion GPS was initially hired by GOP opponents of Trump. Actually, the news item was more specific than that. They named Senator John McCain as possibly one of the first to hire Fusion GPS, whose shoddy and almost certainly manipulated information – manipulated by Russian intel most likely – was then passed on to Democrats and was perhaps used by the FBI as a reason to open their probe, sometime in 2016, or perhaps earlier.

Or did Senator McCain merely pass the Dossier to the FBI this past January and also perhaps help leak it? The media occasionally mentions that the dossier started out as GOP opposition research, but they don’t get specific on who the GOP opposition was who initially contracted GSP Fusion. Senator McCain would certainly have had a motivation or two to dig up dirt on Trump.

Investigate it all. Methodically and thoroughly.

The hacks on the DNC server – and the server itself should be investigated by Mueller’s team and not remain in the DNC headquarters. The hacks of Podesta’s emails. Hillary’s homebrew server. And absolutely any and everything relevant to anything that Trump’s campaign may have done with regard to Russia. All of it needs to be investigated. Not to excuse anybody, but to bring political, and if necessary legal, judgement to bear on the 2016 campaign.

So get used to learning to pronounce Russian names like Natalia Veselnitskaya (break it up into syllables, that makes it easier to get your tongue around it) the Russian attorney whose main purpose was and maybe even still is to get the Magnitsky Act (sanctions levied against Russia due to a brutal prison killing of a whistleblower in Moscow) repealed. And who was the main bait in the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. Or Rinat Akhmetshin, the former Soviet intel officer/possible spy who was also at that meeting. Or Aleksej Gubarev, an internet entrepreneur who works out of Cyprus, and who was accused of running a spy operation on the DNC by Christopher Steele in the dossier. And who is suing in the U.S. and the U.K. for damages.

Right now, any Russian name remotely related to the investigations will do. Get used to it.

There’s a horrifying article in The National Interest by Cheryl Benard, herself a refugee activist and author who comes from a rather left-wing background, on the wave of brutal sexual assaults in Western Europe. An alarmingly high percentage of these assaults are committed by young male refugees from Afghanistan. Benard goes into a lot of detail on specific assaults against all sorts of women in Austria, a country she apparently knows well. Women who were happily going about their business in shared public spaces in broad daylight usually, and who were assaulted usually by packs of young Afghan refugees. Many of them were mothers pushing prams. Yes pushing baby carriages in the broad sunlight in a park in Austria, for example.

As an advocate for refugees, Benard is compelled to seek out an answer to this disturbing phenomenon. She methodically works through and dismisses the usual cliched reasons what we would howl in outrage if attempted as an excuse by a young white male in North America, for example: provocative behavior, cultural norms clashing, drunken mob behavior. She finds most of the excuses given in court by the perpetrators are manipulative attempts to play the judicial systems in countries like Austria, Germany, and Sweden. And they work, tragically. It is almost impossible to deport a refugee who happens to be a violent serial rapist, due to current European law.

What Cheryl Benard is forced to conclude – in what she admits was a painful process – is that these young men have a violent contempt for Western values and understand perfectly that their savage assaults will never receive a retribution that is anywhere near as cruel and damaging as their violent sex crimes themselves. They will not be repaid in kind, and they full well know this. That means that there is no disincentive for them to change their behavior. And they see themselves as almost punishers of a decadent West – especially as punishers of happily fulfilled women going about their lives. A West that is doomed to collapse under the brutality of their assaults, in their sociopathic worldview.

Further, more integrated Afghan refugees who have lived for years in Europe, most of them as successful and functional citizens, are not willing to be a bridge of communication that might allow them to give these young men an example of what they should aspire to. They either wash their hands of their more brutal compatriots or implicitly encourage their behavior.

Women in Europe are thus exposed to a danger that had been apparently conquered and vanquished decades ago. Is it going to take years of take-back-the-night type of marches, to finally get legislators in Europe to admit that the violence against women is not coming from Lutheran preachers or aging Catholic priests laying on an altar in France with their throats slit, but from refugees from Afghan and other countries that treat their women abysmally?

Diversity and multiculturalism have been claimed as an absolute good in and of itself by the cultural left (which is what the left is nowadays) for decades now. It’s time they rethink this so-called truth for it is a dangerous lie. There are values far more important than mere diversity for diversity’s sake. Read the constitution for a few very good examples of these values. So this truth of diversity unleavened by other redeeming values like freedom of speech and freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness, is indeed a dangerous lie, dangerous above all to women and children. Cheryl Benard’s article is a much needed start by the left.

How long has Ben Rhodes known about the now infamous Donald Jr. emails, before he released them, or spoke of their contents, directly or through an intermediary, with the NY Times?

Ok, that question involves a couple of assumptions, it’s true. First, Ben Rhodes is probably who has been coordinating leaks of damaging information over the last 6 or so months, with the collusion of former or current Intel, State and DOJ officials. He sets the schedule, if you will, releasing the information at what he feels – and he’s very very very good at this – will be the optimal moment to do maximum damage to Trump’s presidency.

Second, Rhodes may very well have been the one who was given and thus had access to these emails. How? Well, the NSA might be a good place to start. Or as Tom Rogan in The Washington Examiner suggests, the British equivalent: the GCHQ, who were surely monitoring British go-between Rob Goldstone. Who knows? But it is reasonable to suspect this. Unfortunately, with the Trump administration it’s sometimes hard to know if the leaks are from #The Resistance, or internal.

If any of the various investigations, especially Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, find sufficient evidence to lay charges – and they very well might as a result of these emails – this raises another interesting question:

Are Bob Mueller and his top-notch legal team dependent, at least in part, on Ben Rhodes to gather crucial bits of evidence in the ongoing Russia probes? If so, that means that Ben Rhodes is even more powerful politically out of office than he was in office as Deputy National Security Advisor during Obama’s presidency. And is so at a crucial time in America’s political history. Which leads to the following question:

When the heck will Ben Rhodes be asked to testify at one or more of the investigations into the Russia connection? Are people that scared of him? Or is he seen as a very useful behind-the-scenes player? Which is what he always has been. In other words, keep Ben where he can do the most damage: on his cellphone talking to the right people with the right dirt. At the right time.

So, kudos to the GOP’s Rob DeSantis for actually saying the words: “Ben Rhodes.”

Another unusual twist on Putin’s possible interference in America comes from The Daily Signal, who report on a letter from GOP congressmen Lamar Smith and Randy Weber to Secretary Mnuchin, in which they make the following claim:

Putin is funding hard-left environmental groups in order to disrupt fracking in America, and therefore boost the value of Russian oil and gas deposits. And to therefore ensure the Europe remains beholden to Russia’s energy supplies, with all the concomitant geopolitical implications. This according to Smith and Weber.

Is this possible? Is the “keep it in the ground” movement funded, in part at least, with money funneled from the Kremlin? It has been known for some time that Soviet activity was far more involved in America’s radical movements in the 60’s and 70’s, than generally had been supposed. Despite such claims of Soviet involvement being laughed off at the time by those on the left. So it is not impossible for Putin to have added some muscle to an environmental movement which would have engaged in some form of protest regardless, but may have been given more resources to do so.

If Russia’s dirty tricks are everywhere in America, then they may be behind some of the anti-fossil fuel protests as well. This does not excuse Donald Trump Jr’s idiocy. It makes it even less excusable, to be perfectly clear. As Nixon might have said.

Let The Daily Beast gleefully call President Trump a “snowflake” president for heading to Warsaw before attending the G20 Summit in Hamburg. A more reasoned analysis comes from a former Obama administration official – Wendy Sherman, former undersecretary of state for political affairs in the former administration. She has this to say about the president’s use of Poland as his first stop in this trip:

He is going to Poland to say ‘I favor this kind of Europe, as opposed to our more traditional allies in Europe.’ It was probably quite conscious to go there first to send a message about his priorities.

One can make the argument, as Douglas Murray does, that Western Europe is dying. Culturally, philosophically, politically. And yes it is aging demographically as well, at a rate much greater than America currently is. While Eastern Europe, having lived nearly two full generations under communist rule from Moscow, has a far different reading of the continent’s future. Unfortunately, it is true that many countries in the East of Europe tend to balance between former communist leaders and bureaucrats and xenophobic blood and soil nationalists. Exactly the way Western Europe did during the middle years of the 20th century.

Given this background, Trump’s following words from his speech in Warsaw have a double resonance:

The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?
__
This is both a challenge to Western Europe and a cautious call to arms to Eastern Europe. It will never be compared to JFK’s Berliner speech, but it was a sweeping declaration of intent on Trump’s part. You can parse it for it’s politically impolite reprimand of countries like Germany who belatedly have realized their disastrous move in unconditionally opening up their borders was unhelpful. You can sneer that it is an embrace of nationalism in countries like Poland and Hungary where they have resisted allowing any significant number of refugees in. But you cannot ignore it’s strong call to action against Russian threats.

So how do you square that with Trump still walking back his admission that Russia could indeed have interfered in America’s election? Yes, he’s fighting a battle against Democrats and much of media who have declared his presidency illegitimate from the day after the election last November. But there may be another reason. Perhaps he’s received intelligence about the matter and has been advised not to reveal how much is known on the part of America’s intel community about Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 elections, regardless of what specific purpose Putin’s cyber agents actually had.

Neither reason is good enough to not acknowledge an attempt, a dangerous attempt, by Russia to destabilize America. Yet both are good enough reasons to word carefully any acknowledgement on Trump’s part. The problem, of course, is that by the time he actually does do that, the president will face a tsunami of questions about whether is presidency is legitimate. And that, in part at least, is his fault.

As President Trump and Putin meet in Hamburg, Germany at the G-20 summit, and as President Trump continues to resist admitting that Russia may very well have interfered, or attempted to do so, in last year’s election and during much of the 2016 campaign, there is another question emerging.

Why did the DNC refuse to let the FBI or DHS have a look at the server that was hacked to reveal Hillary’s emails? Instead the DNC turned to Crowdstrike back in 2016, to do an analysis of the server. And the DNC has still not allowed the Washington D.C. intel community to examine the server and make a determination on who did the hacking and what the object of the hack might have been.

Both Senators Lindsey Graham and Kamala Harris – two rather unsimilar senators in terms of their politics – have publicly called for the DNC to allow further investigation of the Hillary server. And Crowdstrike itself is coming under increased scrutiny. One of its main investors is Warburg Pincus, run by Timothy Geithner, the ex Treasury Secretary of the Obama administration, and also a veteran of the Clinton administration. The DNC has been a client of Crowdstrike for a few years now, but they also have the National Republican Congressional Committee as clients as well. Crowdstrike is an insider, well-connected beltway firm in other words.

Will any of the Russia investigation committees get their hands on the famous DNC server? Will Mueller send in an armed squad of G-men to 430 South Capitol Street to confiscate the darn thing? And if they finally do, what will they find? That in the process of analyzing the server, Crowdstrike had to “bleach” it? As apparently happened with Hillary’s homebrew server?

Or are the Russia investigations too obsessed with forcing any Trump associates – current and former – into perjuring themselves during the investigative process, to even bother about the server? Will the server have it’s day in court? Will they actually wheel it in on a trolley and place it near the witnesses? Like a sacred monolith?

Or more to the point, will executives and analysts from Crowdstrike be called to testify before Congress? Along with independent experts who have been allowed to thoroughly examine the DNC server?

The BCRA is a modest reform of Obamacare that curtails the growth in Medicare spending over the next decade (assuming a future Democrat administration and Congress don’t cancel these modest attempts at slowing the rate of growth) and loosens the mandates, although it does keep a sort of penalty for going without insurance for several months. This is now painted as practically murder by progressives. And the CBO with their crystal ball predictions of 22 million losing their health insurance have also been a key factor influencing voters.

It’s working. For Democrats.

Look at how quiet GOP Senators are. They aren’t saying a thing, or they’re casting doubt, or they’re outright dismissing the bill. The latest polls showing the unpopularity of the proposed legislation have clearly influenced the GOP. And no amount of skillful process-managing can bridge the enormous ideological differences between GOP Senators. One “common-sense” euphemism after another about doing things right and getting it down and makings sure we nail it down, can’t change that fact.

Maybe Charles Krauthammer is right. Maybe we are witnessing the slow death of the ideal of healthcare as a private insurance proposition and not as a social right that voters are entitled to. There is no real insurance in Obamacare, but rather the use of the existing insurance industry as a tottering scaffolding to drape subsidies, taxes, penalties, and mandates over the top of it’s creaking framework.

Until it starts collapsing, in state after state because insurance companies are going broke following the ACA’s rules.

Perhaps an idea like Universal Catastrophic Insurance, where voters have a guaranteed protection against major medical expenses but have to pay most of their monthly or weekly or daily medical expenses, could be a way out. Given how voters have reacted to current GOP efforts at merely reforming Obamacare, that’s unlikely however.

What happens next? Can McConnell pull off a miracle? It’s looking very doubtful at this point. His final attempt at compromise between a Senator Lee and a Senator Collins, for example, might involve front-loading money to help lower-income workers with their health insurance and back-loading cutbacks (which are really just reductions in the rate of growth of Medicare).

If this fails, then what? Does this mean that Obamacare is an established entitlement, and as such, will continue to expand and involve more and more government rules, regulations, taxes, fees, penalties, and on and on? And will this even be cheered on by a majority of voters? If so, then Elizabeth Warren is right. Voters really just want universal health coverage and it’s up to Democrats to sell them on the idea without all the half-truths and complex mechanisms inherent in the ACA.

Imagine. President Warren meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister and the two of them heading up to Camp David to relax and have a long chat about government-owned-run-and-operated healthcare and how to finish the job. And finish off private health care in America.

Yes that’s an over-the-top scenario. One that will hopefully never come close to happening. But healthcare in America is at a historical crossroads one feels, and it is not clear that private healthcare will predominate in America in the future. Senators should keep that in mind over the next few weeks. Especially GOP Senators.

Oh joy oh joy! We get to talk about health care again.

So. We now have the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act – that’s BCRA – and it’s a watering down or subsidizing up of the American Health Care Act – that’s AHCA – which itself was a clear start, but nothing more than a start, at partially dismantling the Affordable Care Act – or the ACA – which we all know is Obamacare.

Do you really want to go through all the changes in rather overwhelming detail? Read Christopher Jacobs’ review in The Federalist. If there ever was a healthcare policy wonk, he’s it.

Do you want to know what the “family glitch” is? Chris Jacobs helpfully explains it’s when members of a worker’s family do not qualify for subsidies if said worker qualifies for employer-based health insurance. Even if said worker’s employer-based health insurance does not cover his family members. Thus the glitch. Apparently the BCRA solves the AHCA’s family glitch problem. Did you know that the word glitch probably comes from German or Yiddish? And was first used to refer to engineering problems at Cape Kennedy around 1965? And yes, apparently the BCRA solves the family glitch problem.

Ah but it’s not just the family glitch that was solved. We also have Avik Roy cheering GOP Senators for diving into the details of the AHCA and like navy seals triumphantly emerging on the surface with the AHCA’s section 202 in hand. Section 202 of the AHCA you ask? It involves a transitional schedule of tax credits rather than the flat tax credit that kicks in regardless of income under Ryan’s AHCA, and that was meant only as a bridge between Obamacare and Ryancare. What did the Senators do? They made it permanent so that the tax credits in the BCRA now depend on income, rather than being flat. That means lower income workers get more subsidies for their health insurance compared to the House’s AHCA plan.

That means, according to Avik Roy, that low-income workers and near-elderly working poor will now be able to afford health insurance that they might not have been able to under the AHCA. That’s surely what President Trump meant when he said we need a plan that is less “mean” didn’t he? He knew all about section 202 of the AHCA, didn’t he? Didn’t we all?

Then again maybe we didn’t. Health care policy in America is fiendishly complex with conflicts between hospitals, patients, doctors, healthcare workers, insurance companies, employers, employees, independent workers, small business owners, local government, state government, and the federal government. And taxpayers of course, which is a term that covers several of the already mentioned groups. And all the other groups I surely forgot to mention.

No single plan can satisfy perhaps even a clear majority of these constituencies. But most of us don’t have the time, passion, or focus to clearly think through the countless trade offs that any health policy in America necessarily involves. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Health care is fundamental, and Obamacare is unsustainable without serious reform/replacing, or without way more taxes and subsidies. Those two truths mean everyone has to do a little research and decide what they think about healthcare policy. For their own and the country’s good. And yes, it’s a pain.

The Daily Beast lament that the Democrats have yet to “crack the code” for turning the resistance (to Trump of course) into political victory. What if they have the code but the code is wrong?

The resistance will not accept the legitimacy of President Trump’s election. Whether they be DOJ officials or intel community analysts horrified by Trump’s aesthetics, or street level radicals, or Sleeping Giants.

Sleeping Giants? They’re a progressive group that target right-leaning sites and corporations and try to scare advertisers away with high pressure name and shame tactics. And it seems to work. Is this a case of business merely trying to make sure they understand their clients – and maximize profits by minimizing losses according to Warren of the Warren (Henry) Report? Clients who are now in the majority deeply concerned with gender-flexible pronouns and will boycott your company? Or are they being bullied into ridiculous stances?

In other words, even though the resistance and the radical cultural and political politics they espouse can’t seem to gain enough traction with voters, maybe they can achieve their goals through economic boycotts and produce a change in behavior of large corporations rather than a majority of voters. Which is a much larger group.

This is Ben Domenech’s fascinating thesis in a recent issue of The Transom. And it’s a very troubling look at the corporate concentration in the hands of companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and oh yes, Netflix. An overwhelming majority of advertising budgets get spent on these companies’ platforms. That means a key slice of speech in America is controlled by these four giants.

Wait a second. Hold on. Hold on. See where this is going? Because of the inherent networking effects that give successful technology platforms such dominance, they crowd out speech. That means we need government to break these companies up. So we can have free speech?? What strikes you as wrong with that statement?

In other words, can government create the conditions for a more diverse range of opinions in the world’s most powerful tech companies (and media companies because social media is really tech taking over media) by telling them and their shareholders what to do with their invested capital? Is speech, therefore, free? And can government mandate free speech?

Well yes, in a way. It’s called the constitution and especially the First Amendment. But that involves a warning not to prohibit, rather than to prohibit. Should the FANG gang (Facebook et al) be broken up into smaller pieces? You can argue that de-regulation of telecom in the 80’s helped pave the way for the 90’s boom and the explosion in communication technology that itself created the conditions for the FANG companies to thrive so wonderfully. But that was government getting out of the way, rather into the way.

But any attempt to do the same to the FANG gang should be viewed cautiously and with skepticism over what could result from government interference. If Google and Facebook and Apple want to honestly be companies with progressive and very liberal values then that’s their property right. Isn’t it?

Just Get Someone

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

 

The November 2016 election of Donald Trump has so incensed the liberal mainstream media and the Democratic establishment that they’ve become virtually unhinged emotionally in their zeal to delegitimize and torpedo his presidency. Far from “coming together as one country after a hard-fought election campaign,” the Democrats and their liberal media collaborators have embarked on a non-stop, all-out crusade to destroy the Trump administration, thereby somehow reversing and overturning last November’s election result. That is their objective, make no mistake: Disqualify, reverse and oust.

The Democrats’ disqualification vehicle of choice is some vague, unspecified illegal connection that the Trump people had with Russian operatives before the election that enabled the Russians to manipulate the American voting process in a targeted manner to alter the vote, away from Hillary Clinton, and give it to Donald Trump.

There are a lot of words and phrases being tossed around by hysterical, sanctimonious, hyperventilating sources, saying things like, “Trump colluded with Russia to influence our election!” “The Russians hacked our voting process!” “Clinton’s insider information was revealed by the Russians to Trump’s benefit!”

Beyond these breathless, screeching headlines, there aren’t any real specifics of any kind. When the question is asked to define “influence,” or “hacked,” or “colluded,” the answers that come back are mostly along the lines of, “Well, you know! They did! Trump lied! Our democracy is at stake!” But exactly what was done, the actual methodology, where, the specific people involved, how many votes were altered, how many counties were illegally shifted from Clinton to Trump, how those counties added up to state wins for Trump instead of Clinton, none of that information is forthcoming. After seven months of non-stop Democratic investigation, none of those details are forthcoming.

Absent any tangible, verifiable proof of Trump-caused election manipulation, we’ve now entered the next, highly-predictable phase: The Get Someone phase. The Democrats already “got” Michael Flynn, since Trump fired him early on for not being forthcoming about some foreign contacts and financial arrangements. The President fired him. He was criticized for it by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment. If he hadn’t fired him, he’d have been criticized for it by the liberal media and the Democratic establishment.

But Flynn wasn’t high enough; he wasn’t a big enough scalp to satisfy the anti-Trump fervor. Besides, President Trump fired him; he didn’t defend him and try to keep him on. It’d be oh-so-much better if we could force the resignation of a truly high-level Administration official that the Administration is actively defending. The bigger the scalp an opposition party can claim, the more embarrassment and damage they can show the world they’ve inflicted on their enemies. When the embarrassment and damage reaches a critical tipping point, the media talk about it non-stop, night and day, and the issue manages to pierce through the fog of indifference that surrounds most casually-attentive, non-partisan-engaged swing voters.

Here, the Democrats have a huge advantage. The sources from which those aforementioned “casually-attentive, non-partisan-engaged swing voters” get their news and form their opinions are overwhelmingly liberally-biased. Whether late night like Colbert or Kimmel, Comedy Central’s Daily Show, the network morning shows like GMA and Today that people watch while dressing or having a quick breakfast, and of course, CNN and the NY Times, these are all Democratic-sympathetic sources. The common default mode among them all is Positive Democrat, anti-Trump. Operating under the reasonable 40-20-40 rule that says 40% will always vote Dem no matter what and 40% will always vote Repub no matter what, the fact that the 20% swing segment gets their impressions and forms their opinions from overwhelmingly liberal sources means that there is a very high likelihood that the majority of the 20%-ers will swing Dem once the liberal media start harping on something “important” day after day after day.

The Democrats’ goal with non-stop hearings, investigations, panels and Special Counsels is to break through from being unidentifiable background white noise to being something important and significant that will become the overriding issue on peoples’ minds every day.

If the Democrats can get someone of high standing, anyone, and force that individual to resign or be fired in disgrace—casting a huge negative pall on Trump’s presidency—then the Democrats will consider themselves successful. That’s the end-game here.

Although Republicans may try to run some offense of their own in reverse (for instance, trying to subpoena former Obama administration officials over their role in supposed questionable activities or unethical behavior), history shows us that Republicans are astonishingly bad at playing hardball partisan games of this sort. When they do manage to get a witness before a Congressional panel, they never seem to have prepared the questioning strategy needed for unequivocal success. Instead they meander around with peripheral questions, grandstand for personal gain, or—incredibly—they fail to hold together as a party and some “flexible, high-minded” Republicans actually undercut their own party’s efforts in order to try to seem “reasonable” to the general public. That never works, of course. The liberal media never give any Republicans credit for being “reasonable;” all that happens is that those misguided Republicans sabotage their own party’s chances for success.

For the Democrats, the goal is get someone. Anyone. Call for endless panels, hearings and investigations. Hold press conferences. Show off for the cameras. Ignite the passions of the hosts at CNN and MSNBC. Provide humorous fodder for the Daily Show, Saturday Night Live and Stephen Colbert at the Republicans’ expense. Try to make Trump and his administration look like buffoonish lying thieves and use the overwhelmingly liberal media to influence the 20%-undecideds.

Getting someone of significance—holding a scalp up high for all to see (metaphorically, of course)—accomplishes that goal.

Over at thecipherbrief.com – the intel communityish newsletter with a heavyweight line up of expert contributors – John Sipher (no it’s not his site), a former CIA analyst, gleefully sets up a Catch-22 that many in the intel community hope leads to some way to impeach Trump.

After outlining the difference between a counter-intelligence investigation, which is open-ended and does not rely on the same standards of evidence or legal proceedings that a criminal investigation does, and a criminal investigation where evidence to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt is usually necessary, he tells those who are asking ‘where’s the evidence?’ to hush and sit patiently.

That’s because the FBI, in its counter-intelligence investigation, will take its sweet time in thoroughly combing through the evidence as Mueller’s prosecutors – among the best in the business apparently – set up endless interviews with whoever they feel will help move their investigation forward. Hopefully in their view means only one thing: towards a conviction. Even if it means one related to obstruction of justice and not collusion of any shape or form with Russian actors. But hey, that depends on what evidence they may theoretically turn up at some point during what may be a multi-year process. And until they do, it’s only a counter-intelligence investigation, which does not go by the same rules. Ha ha. Ha ha. No wonder John Sipher has such a big grin in his impressive photograph at cipherbrief.com.

And that’s a Kafkaesque open-ended process that could take years to complete, and is and will continue to undermine Trump’s presidency, even if doesn’t lead to an impeachment. Why? Because we have an FBI counter-intelligence investigation against a sitting president’s associates, and perhaps even the president himself. An investigation that may have originally been set in motion by Christopher Steele’s absurd dossier. There are several factors one can point to or blame: a D.C. bureaucracy and especially intel community wary of candidate Trump and openly hostile to President Trump; a churlish delight on the part of Trump himself to provoke and gloat; a self-righteous FBI Director, James Comey, who got burned by his decisions regarding Hillary’s server and was perhaps eager to compensate by going the other way; a Democrat opposition that is being pushed by a base that is still hysterically furious that Trump actually won; and a media that is working hand in glove with any and all beltway leakers.

But how the Russia probe got started is unfortunately so much history now, and the question for the administration is how to get out of this mess? Fire Mueller and also fire Rosenstein, who seems to think only he can fire Mueller? Instruct Rosenstein to tighten up Mueller’s mandate? Actually listen to your legal advice?

Or wait it out and meanwhile try to focus on your agenda? And hope the media finally tires of the Russia headlines they publish nearly every day? In the end that may be all that’s left for Trump’s White House. If they can balance the waiting with at least some major bills like tax cuts and healthcare reform of some kind. Unfortunately that will also mean being very careful when interviewed by Mueller’s prosecutors. And that will be a herculean task. Are they up to it?

Process where is they sting? Everywhere if you’re not careful. Ok, no that’s not a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. But it may just be that process – that idol worshipped in the halls of Congress and throughout the labyrinths of many a government department or intelligence agency – is in fact a jealous idol. One that consumes unexpected victims who suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves about to be sacrificed to this jealous and capricious and all-consuming idol.

First of all, we now have the question of Comey’s leaking to the NYT through a friend. That would be Daniel Richman, Columbia Law School professor who played the role of intermediary in getting a portion of Comey’s memo of his meeting with President Trump to the NYTimes in order to force the appointment of a special prosecutor. And it worked.

But was Comey’s leak illegal?

It is a reasonable question to ask, especially seeing that the Russia investigation is now morphing into a possible obstruction of justice investigation, which in fact is really a focused search for any way to end President Trump’s term in office as soon as is possible without resorting to literal assassination attempts.

In other words, if we’re going to use process as a possible way to trap Trump or some of his current or former advisers or members of his cabinet into obstruction of justice charges, then isn’t it reasonable to ask if Comey’s leak is legal? That is, to ask if Comey was sufficiently respectful of the process idol? To assume you can appease the process idol with sacrifices of only one kind (GOP officials and/or Trump associates) is likely mistaken. Process once it gets going, can be a difficult idol to please.

Secondly, the closeness between Comey and Special Counsel Robert Mueller should also be concerning. They are friends and former colleagues who are now going to be on opposite sides of the witness stand, if you will. In an investigation that is supposed to be about objective, neutral, expert leadership of an inquiry involving the President’s associates. And what may be the top witness is a veritable bro of the special counsel leading the investigation? A special counsel appointed in order to remove DOJ officials from directly leading the inquiry because of questions about partisanship?

So, what will process bring us next? Is the president considering firing Special Counsel Mueller, as Newsmax Media CEO Chris Ruddy recently said on PBS? And was Ruddy’s leak meant to encourage or to discourage President Trump, with whom Ruddy has had a close friendship for some time?

And yes, the president himself has done more than his share in unwittingly sparking this process into life, with his tweets. He tweeted, Comey got even angrier and leaked (although evidence suggests Comey was going to leak anyway once he was fired and the president’s tweets just gave him the perfect excuse). Acting AG Rosenstein pressed the panic button and appointed a special counsel who happened to be the ex-FBI director and good Comey friend, Robert Mueller. And now the president is apparently considering firing Mueller. And perhaps Rosenstein?

And as an aside, Senator Feinstein has now considered the possibility of a probe into former AG Lynch’s suggesting to then Director Comey to call the Hillary email investigation a “matter” and not an “investigation.” Yes, Feinstein is a member fo the same political party as Lynch, but that isn’t stopping her from wanting in on the investigatory fun: an investigation to determine if the former AG acted inappropriately by suggesting an investigation not be called an investigation.

Process where is thy sting? Everywhere you look nowadays.