The Annotated AP Interview

Donald Trump’s interview with Associated Press correspondent Julie Pace is transcribed for historical reference.

A pronounced egotism runs throughout the hour-long interview: the excessive and whiney complaints about unfair media coverage as if he is immune to criticism; boasts about “great” relationships with members of Congress and world leaders; puffery about making deals and threats to Lockweed and NAFTA; hoopla over ratings associated with TV appearances. As a marker of his self-importance, he used the first person pronoun (I) over 300 times. That’s five times a minute during the 60 minutes’ transcribed.

There’s his refusal to disclose on foreign policy issues: everything from the Iran deal to fighting ISIS to conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British PM Teresa May. He hints that such conversations are necessarily secret, as if foreign affairs are confidential matters better enacted in cloistered rooms and removed from the public’s attention.

On discussing the Iran deal with other heads of state: “I mention it, but it’s very personal when I talk to them, you know, it’s confidential.”

On his ISIS strategy: “We have a very strong plan, but we cannot talk about it, Julie.”

There are the distortions of reality, some of which sound remarkably similar to the palaver that came out of the Bernie Sanders campaign. You see his lies. He still claims that Rep. Elijah Cummings said he’d be a great President, despite the disavowal by Cummings. He states that Dreamers are safe despite their deportation by ICE. And he outrageously claims he knew nothing about Wikileaks, and yet there’s this:

And there is his inability to move past the campaign: coveting the rallies and his base, throwing shade at his predecessor President Obama, criticizing Hillary Clinton and demeaning the Democrats. He is still dividing the United States into hostile camps and friendly territory. For Donald Trump, it’s all about who shows him love versus who levels criticism.

But mostly, you hear the President of the United States rambling in broken sentences, half-finished ideas, elliptical thought patterns and outright gibberish. His vocabulary deficit is demonstrated by the repetitive use of fifth-grade superlatives (very, very very, great). I counted at least 65 of these childish adjectives. Then there are the vague mumblings, indicated as “unintelligible” in the transcript. The President of the United States was unintelligible sixteen times in an interview that will be broadcast and disseminated internationally. And that tally doesn’t included the blocks of speech that simply make no sense. Like this:

TRUMP: It could be an increase, then an increase. But not many more. I want to do the job, but not many more. … This is an important story. I’ve done a lot. I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days and I think the first 100 days is an artificial barrier. And I’m scheduled … the foundations have been set to do some great things. With foreign countries. Look at, look at President Xi. I mean …

Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be President of the United States. Hillary Clinton was right.

The buffoon in the White House should follow the lead of Ted Cruz and read fairy tales to pre-K children. Who knows – they might applaud. And that would please him. Bigly.


Are There Two Steele Dossiers?

In his fascinating Vanity Fair narrative, author Howard Blum asked whether there are two Steele dossiers – one is the 35-page document posted by BuzzFeed News and the other “a longer, more expertly crafted and sourced document, the final work product of a well-trained M.I.6 senior deskman”.

Two dossiers is entirely possible. And, there can be little doubt that the dossier sitting on BuzzFeed is an incomplete product.

A study of the published dossier reveals many gaps in the number sequence, indicating that sections were pulled from public view rather than missing parts of a finished product as Blum assumes. There are also chronological gaps and one undated section.

In tallying up these omitted memos, it looks like the public dossier is a bare bones copy of Steele’s full product. Upwards to 156 sections (memos) are apparently excluded, covering over three months’ of collected material from Steele. This contrasts with the 17 sections (memos) found at BuzzFeed.

The most significant omissions are at the start of the work product where Steele may have pulled 79 sections covering the Summer of 2016 and from October to December 2016, where 30 memos are missing.

Continue reading “Are There Two Steele Dossiers?”

State Department Rep In Moscow Discussing DPRK With Deputy Foreign Minister

On the morning of 4 April, North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. As news broke of this provocative incident, it was easy to miss a single tweet from the innards of the U.S. State Department. After all, world media was focused on the cryptic response from the Secretary of State.

“North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea,” Tillerson said. “We have no further comment.”

Yet, as Tillerson was issuing his “No comment” response, an uncelebrated foreign policy expert was en route to Moscow to talk with “Russian officials” about North Korea.

Joseph Yun, born in South Korea and credited with expertise on EuroAsian affairs, is that policy wonk and his area of specialty is North Korea.

Joseph Yun, Special Representative for North Korea Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea and Japan, U.S. State Department.

The tweet announcing his trip to Moscow was issued by a section within State called the Bureau for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (US EAP).

Igor Morgulov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Russian Federation.

A fuller press release explained that the purpose of Yun’s Moscow visit was to “discuss cooperation on DPRK issues.” It also named the Russian official meeting with Yun: Igor Morgulov, the Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. Unnamed individuals from “academia” and Russian “think tanks” are included in the discussions.

Morgulov’s specialty area is also the Asia Pacific.

The missile launch by North Korea, the empty remarks by the Secretary of State and the meeting of a State Department underling with one of Russia’s most prominent officials to discuss North Korea is a mystery within a conundrum.

EAP is headed up by Susan Thornton, whose career in foreign service stretches back to 1991. Thornton is the Acting Assistant Secretary, a confirmation issued less than a month ago.


The Terrifying Possibilities of the Presidential Pardon Power

Five days after Donald J. Trump won the electoral college vote, an attorney made a prediction.

Robert Kelner recorded that forecast. He now represents Lt. General Michael Flynn, the retired Army general, former Defense Intelligence Agency director under Obama and recently fired head of the National Security Agency under Trump.

Three months after Kelner made his projection, Flynn was outed for secret talks with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, exposed in his botched cover-up of those chats, and placed under investigation by the Army for possibly violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The general was accused of lying to VP Pence, accepting cash from the Russian government, violating protocol by negotiating with an adversary during Obama’s administration, and endangering national security as a blackmail risk.

But let’s return to that Kelner tweet and the many questions surfacing after-the-fact.

In the history of presidential pardons, there are few that fit a “novel and unusual” profile. The one that stands out is Ford’s pardon of Nixon in 1974 following the Watergate scandal. Nixon resigned before he was impeached and was not charged with a crime. Nonetheless, Ford took the extraordinary step of issuing a “full, free and absolute pardon… for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in…”

The situation today is similar but not the same. To duplicate Ford’s pardon, it would be Pence (not Trump) issuing the order. Thus, Kesler’s prediction would be off the mark in this instance.

What is possible is frightening. Trump could pardon attorney Kelser’s client even if Flynn is not charged with or convicted of an offense. This would equate to Ford’s forgiveness of Nixon. For that matter, Trump could issue all-encompassing pardons for anyone embroiled in the Russiagate scandal – with qualifications.

The pardon privilege granted to the president is sanctioned in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:

The President…shall have the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

The president can only forgive federal offenses, including violations of civil and criminal laws. The second qualifier is that impeachment cases are excluded from the privilege.

Therefore, if Trump followed Ford’s precedent, he conceivably would have the power to forgive federal violations against Flynn, Paul Manafort and Carter Page. He could pardon VP Pence, Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Rep. Devin Nunes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell  – literally anyone caught up in the ongoing investigations of Russian collusion – even before they are charged with a crime. The two exceptions: these individuals cannot be impeached and Trump cannot issue pardons if he is impeached.

This scenario is indeed “novel and unusual”. The possibility exists that Trump and friends could wreak unimaginable damage to this country, knowing they have a get-out-of-jail-free card and a GOP-controlled House that shows no compunction to bring about the impeachment process.

The ramifications are terrifying.

The Steele Dossier: Who Knew And When

One of the more puzzling questions in this political universe of odd affairs has to do with what’s called the Steele Dossier and when US officials knew about its existence.

Christopher Steele, contracted first by Republican and then Democratic party entities in 2016 to investigate possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign.

This packet of information from Christopher Steele, a former spy with Britain’s M16 agency, contains 35 pages of data gleaned from his Russian sources over a six month period extending from June through December 2016.

The dossier is the key to #RussiaGate and all that term encompasses. Its many allegations – some confirmed and others under investigation – trace a connection between Donald Trump and key players in his campaign and Russian actors. It records alleged attempts by the Russian state to deliberately harm the presidential bid of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to Steele’s sources, the black op was coordinated, paid and enacted by the Kremlin and Trump campaign staff. Continue reading “The Steele Dossier: Who Knew And When”