Ballots have been marked, states have been certified, and cries of illegitimacy that will surely incapacitate the public’s faith in the electoral process for years to come are popping up in political discourse with fever; there’s no mistaking it, Election Day has come and gone once again.
And now it seems that sitting President Donald Trump’s meticulous and ever-so-carefully-crafted “coup,” ripe with accusations of a grand conspiracy regarding voter fraud which allegedly involves Dominion Voting Systems, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, the CIA, and…the late and atypically out-of-place Hugo Chavez (big question mark), ultimately just cannot seem to get the traction it needs. As a result, the United States will have a new Commander-in-Chief this January in the form of Joe Biden. And so, with President Trump’s inevitable departure from the Oval Office, the country is soon going to, as we do with all former Presidents, reckon with Trump’s place in history. What will his legacy look like? How will his feats compare with those of the men who held the presidency before him? And just how is this country prepared to get by this season if they cannot indulge in their frantic and feverish and every-man-for-himself seasonal shopping now that it looks like Biden will surely axe the Christmas holiday from our calendars?
But as with every administration, when we look back on the pitfalls, the nuisances, and the controversies of the Trump Administration, my hope is that we are all careful to distinguish between the ginned-up and hysteric ravings of the cable news networks which hollered “scandal” and “bombshell” around every corner, and the actual scandals, which did in fact occur. Or to put another way, the scandals which should have defined the corruption of Trump’s administration, and shattered the mirage that he in fact was an authentic populist-right and anti-establishment politician, yet the left chose to turn a blind eye to, or even outright ignore.
Make no mistake, this is not a piece of scare-mongering meant to draw illusionary and duplicitous connections between Donald Trump and Vladmir Putin. I’m not here to make the case for why another round of impeachment is surely the best course of action to take in order to stick it to Mr. Art of the Deal. And there will certainly be no discussions here regarding the preaching of how it is of the utmost importance that Trump’s uncouth mannerisms and Twitter tirades become only an aberration in our political history.
The Democratic establishment, MSNBC, CNN, Andy Richter, they’re all feverishly content with making sure you know that they define the Trump Administration in part by the above-mentioned “controversies”.
But I don’t buy it.
At the end of the day, if all the parties mentioned above were only ever looking for a chance to dunk on the sitting President, why would they not turn their eyes to corrupt and unconscionable instances and actions, all of which have much more corroboration and substantiation to them than a ludicrously unconfirmed allegation involving prostitutes and a Moscow hotel room?
I have no doubt that years down the line, trying to separate, at least in part, the Covid-19 Pandemic from the final year of Donald Trump’s administration will be difficult. It will be trying for anyone to forget how Trump did not push for a nationwide single-payer health system not unlike the one Trump benefitted from at Walter Reed, or tenaciously demand that Congress come to an agreement to make sure Americans received a monthly stimulus check in their mailboxes so that they could pay off rents and put food on the table for their families. Instead what happened is that Trump chose to downplay the severity of the coronavirus, he sowed doubt into the Covid-19 safety and prevention measures, and he even briefly declared one month before the 2020 Presidential Election that the Senate should no longer consider engaging in negotiations with the House of Representatives for another relief bill and further fiscal stimulus, before hastily back-tracking.
The pandemic encroaches on and disrupts, in one way or another, the very fabric of millions upon millions of Americans’ lives, and it’s easy at first for some to say that any other case I now wish to make against Trump just cannot compare with regards to incompetence, negligence, or being out of touch with one’s voting base.
I’m going to make those cases anyway.
As many of you know, the U.S. Constitution features a provision called the Foreign Emoluments Clause which essentially prohibits members of the federal government from receiving any sort of gift or monetary compensation from foreign governments or monarchies. The entire point of the Foreign Emoluments Clause was to rule out the possibility that another nation or foreign power could obtain influence over, or procure favor from a sitting U.S. President.
So it is curious, to say the least, that in the December of 2016, one month after Trump was elected President, subcontractors which represented the Saudi government and which were hired by Qorvis MSLGroup reserved what was estimated to be 500 nights at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. What’s more, the reserved rooms were for the purpose of accommodating the stay of U.S. military veterans, who turned out to be in D.C. to lobby against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) – a law the Saudis rigidly opposed.
Then, there is the revelation from Sen. Robert Menendez’s letter to President Trump in October of 2019. This letter detailed that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had concluded that representatives of 22 foreign governments had spent money at a series of properties and businesses belonging to the Trump Organization during Trump’s term.
What’s more, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) – a non-profit watchdog organization – reached an even more startling conclusion, asserting that 111 officials from 65 foreign governments, which included 57 foreign countries, made a grand total of 137 visits to various properties owned by the Trump Organization.
Surely, this alone warrants at the very least some eagle-eyed scrutiny from the rest of the political establishment, right? After all, even former President Jimmy Carter resorted to leaving a prosperous family peanut-growing business in the hands of trustees, lest it even be speculated that he may be involved in a conflict of interest.
Instead, the Democrats seemed quite unmoved by this set of circumstances by the time the House of Representatives approved articles of impeachment against President Trump. Bruce Fein – a former senior member of the Department of Justice – even sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi towards the end of 2019, in which he detailed the full-scale of Trump’s corruption, and implored the House Democrats to investigate further matters beyond a phone call to Ukraine, including disdain for the Emoluments Clause. All the same, such an issue was never placed at the forefront of the entire process.
This may come as jarring to some until we recall that it’s probably inconvenient for one to accuse a sitting President of bestowing favors to a foreign government in exchange for monetary endowment when this type of quid-pro-quo is unfortunately quite commonplace in D.C. Take the aforementioned subject of lobbyist firms. Not only are firms which lobby the American government a dime a dozen in this country, one firm in particular – the Podesta Group, founded by brothers John and Tony Podesta – rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Saudi government. John and Tony Podesta then go on to advocate on behalf of the Saudis in D.C. and, like a territorial dog that refuses to be housebroken, leave their scent all over whether it’s by operating as former President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff, as co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition Project, as Counselor to former President Barack Obama, as chair of Hilary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Campaign, or through providing a Saudi spokesperson to defend to The New York Times the Saudi government’s execution a renowned nonviolent Shia dissident. As far as Saudi advocacy goes throughout the establishment, the Podestas have more tentacles than a radioactive octopus.
And we see this kind of reciprocity all the time, molding and shaping policy in our capital. Seven foreign governments were revealed to have given monetary contributions to The Clinton Foundation during Hilary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.
President-Elect Joe Biden even affirmed the quiet part out loud at the Generation Progress summit in 2015. “You have to go where the money is. Now where the money is, there’s almost always implicitly some string attached…It’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group you know has a particular position then you conclude they’re wrong [and] vote no.”
And while not strictly speaking illegal, the corrupting influence such an affair has on our politics cannot be denied.
Then there’s the matter of whistleblowers. After Trump was inaugurated, and Mike Pompeo was appointed as CIA Director and Jeff Sessions was appointed as Attorney General, the trio launched a tenacious campaign against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, with potent vitriol towards the organization.
The current administration retains, with hostility, the view that WikiLeaks is not an envoy for journalism, but rather, brokers for hacked intelligence, and therefore the entity is in vilolation of the Espionage Act.
In fact, this crusade against Assange, who is currently in the midst of hearings to decide if he will be extradited to the United States, does represent grave implications for press freedom. The initial charges bought against Assange by Trump’s Administration are in response to Assange and WikiLeaks exposing war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq. If Assange is successfully convicted, this sets a grave precedent for other journalists attempting to expose and report on war crimes as well.
Because the Democratic Party is seen as being the party aiming to uphold “free speech” and “anti-war” rhetoric, one would think Trump’s efforts to have Assange extradited would be swiftly condemned by those on the left.
In fact, condemnation of Assange and WikiLeaks is unfortunately bipartisan. And like the philosopher George Carlin tells us, “Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.” Hilary Clinton asserts that Assange must “answer for what he has done” in the wake of his arrest by the London Metropolitan Police.
California Congressman Adam Schiff stands by the supposition that Assange should be incarcerated by U.S. officials when his office wrote in 2018 that the House Intelligence Committee would only be willing to hear out Assange’s affirmations that WikiLeaks did not collude with the Trump Campaign and Russia during 2016 “when [Assange] is in U.S. custody, not before.”
President-Elect Joe Biden called Assange a “high-tech terrorist” in 2010.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to Twitter in 2019 to accuse Assange of meddling in U.S. elections solely on behalf of Vladmir Putin and Russia.
CNN published an exceptionally lazy smear piece in 2019 conflating Assange with other foreign hackers in a presumed effort to insinuate that Assange himself wanted to exfiltrate hacked DNC emails for the sole purpose of influencing the results of the 2016 Presidential Election.
Leaving aside the fact that the jury is still out regarding any actual evidence that Assange conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election (The Mueller Report itself pokes holes as well into this assertion), it must be asked why the Democratic establishment seems so keen on going along with endeavors from Trump that could very well lead to Assange being detained in solitary confinement in a U.S. maximum security prison.
One prevailing thought is that the Democrats remain bitter still over the end results of the 2016 Presidential Election, and that if only WikiLeaks had not supposedly coordinated with the Russians to steal and dump revealing emails from the DNC and John Podesta which showed, among other details, duplicitous policies and intentions of Clinton’s presidential campaign, then surely voters would have turned out in larger droves to make Clinton our 45th President.
It’s also important to note that the Democratic establishment has no issue whatsoever in remaining complicit in our country’s “forever-wars”, and therefore, it’s possible they feel that any exposure efforts by Assange, WikiLeaks, or any whistleblower for that matter which could threaten to compromise the money train these hawkish politicians and their donors from the military-industrial complex greatly benefit should be quashed immediately.
Remember, 110 congressional Democrats even voted for the Authorization of the Use of Military Force for Iraq in 2002. (15 of them will still even be active in Congress by the time Joe Biden is inaugurated this January.)
Take the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which appropriates the vastly bloated budget for the U.S. Department of Defense. When Congress voted for said act for the last three fiscal years of 2020, 2019, and 2018, among other prominent establishment Democrats, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader Schumer, Adam Schiff and now-former Congressman Eliot Engel, in spite of all the hand-wringing about the Russians supposedly having “Kompromat” on President Trump, still voted “Aye” on the acts, and evidently still see it as necessary to give Trump – this supposed “Putin-puppet” – the power to drop a record number of bombs in the Middle East.
One look at the types of organizations pouring money into the campaigns of the aforementioned via super PACs can illuminate this. According to OpenSecrets.org, from 2019 to 2020, Pelosi, Schumer, Schiff and Engel received a combined total of $52,500 from Defense Aerospace and Electronics firms Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, perhaps to maintain influence when it comes to legislation regarding defense funds.
Perhaps this type of influence also elaborates upon why the Democratic establishment never sought to push back against Trump with regards to the final point I want to highlight – what was arguably the largest (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic) and least-discussed scandal of Trump’s entire administration: bombing Syria on false grounds.
On April 7th, 2018, a supposed chemical attack was carried out on Douma, Syria by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), committed against rebel forces controlling the city. Seven days later, the United States, along with France and the United Kingdom, carried out a series of military strikes against a variety of Syrian government sites. And despite the fact that President Trump had signaled that the U.S. military should prepare for a withdrawal from Syria shortly before the chemical attack was carried out,
the response from many Democrats did not seem to indicate any latent misgivings about Trump escalating tensions in the Middle East and prolonging instances of interventionism. Instead, the closest Democrats came to opposing Trump was merely protesting that Trump did not seek congressional approval to conduct the aforementioned airstrikes. Democratic congressman Tom Suozzi – a recipient of donations from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman himself – commended Trump’s hawkishness.
Adam Schiff said that Trump “…was right to have strikes…” in Syria, but pouted and sucked his thumb over the fact that the decision “…should’ve been bought to Congress for a vote.”
And the signaling of approval from Democrats only continued, from Senator Bill Nelson from Florida, to Senator Chuck Schumer, and opposition to Trump only seemed to rear its head whenever Trump would signal in subsequent months a more progressive approach to withdrawal from the Middle East for the purpose of bringing our troops home.
But fast-forward to the present. We know now that since the May of 2019 – starting with Ian Henderson, an inspector for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) – several whistleblowers have come forward with the assertion that the OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) – the group that initially investigated the chemical attack in Douma – faced pressure from (at the time of this writing) unnamed U.S. officials to implicate the SAA for the chemical attack. This was done in spite of the fact that the FFM, during their initial investigation, were not convinced that the SAA was responsible for the attack. They cited, among other revelations, that gas cylinders found in Douma were “manually placed” and not dropped from the air. These revelations have since been corroborated by WikiLeaks, and from tenacious reporting from Aaron Mate at The Grayzone, yet the OPCW’s final report released in the March of 2019 chose to omit findings made by the FMM that would cast doubt on the assertion that the SAA was wholly responsible for the attack, a decision being protested to this day by veteran OPCW inspectors such as Henderson.
If Trump indeed bombed Syria on false grounds on April 14th, 2018, this would constitute a war crime. (Although it would by no means be Trump’s last instance of committing such an act.) And where has the mainstream press been ever since Henderson’s first leak back in May of 2019? Where are all the “resistance liberals” working to hold Trump’s feet to the fire over this controversy? I’m sorry to say that establishment Democrats, MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post all seem very uninterested in issuing commentary on such a scandal in their otherwise 25-hours-a-day-8 days-a-week format, which oftentimes seems built instead to condemn President Trump on matters much more trivial.
With all this in mind, as we anticipate the exodus of Trump from the Oval Office and subsequent inauguration of Joe Biden next January, we have to also inquire into what this lack of pushback on more substantive matters means for a Joe Biden presidency. As depicted above, Joe Biden has not demonstrated any indication that he would consider a full pardon for Julian Assange, nor would he seek to initiate a full withdrawal of the U.S. troops situated in the Middle East which Trump has continued to endanger with his prolonging of these “forever-wars”.
This type of bipartisan support for military interventionism, silencing whistleblowers, and attending to lobbying on behalf of foreign governments seems to illustrate that in fact, the Democratic Party didn’t just drop the ball when it came to being an opposition party to Trump – they whacked the ball into a wood-chipper, making sure they did so with a bat they decorated in kente cloth and “Black Lives Matter” stickers.
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