As the world mourned John McCain and watched his family, former Presidents, and lawmakers eulogize the patriotic Senator and praise the virtues he embodied, a harsh truth about our current political reality further crystallized among the American people: the sitting President of the United States stands firmly against all the values that make America great.
Although there was nothing extraordinary about the eulogies given about patriotism and American values, the fact that liberals and conservatives alike interpreted them as rebukes of President Trump is what made McCain’s memorial truly stunning.
As McCain’s patriotism was praised, Americans thought about President Trump’s capitulation to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump’s claims that the U.S. is foolish, and the fact evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia continues to mount.
As McCain’s decency and character were praised, Americans thought about President Trump’s allegations of sexual assault, allegations of criminal wrongdoing, bigoted worldview, and fear-mongering politics.
As McCain’s dedication to human rights was praised, Americans thought about the nearly 500 immigrant children who are still separated from their parents because of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy and the lost lives in Puerto Rico due to government neglect in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
As McCain’s dedication to serving his country was praised, Americans thought about the fact President Trump is a five-time draft dodger but still had the audacity to claim McCain was not a war hero.
As McCain’s advocacy for democracy was praised, Americans thought of President Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, continued attacks on the rule of law, and corrupt effort to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
And when McCain’s bipartisanship was praised, Americans thought of the fact President Trump has called Democrats enemies.
When the praise of aspirational virtues is perceived as direct rebukes of the President of the United States, it’s time for a new President.
Let’s break down week 84.
Day 583-584: 84th Weekend, August 25-26
The Last Republican
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
The ‘Maverick,’ Vietnam War hero, and dignified statesman died at age 81 after his fight with brain cancer. But his legacy of fighting for what he believed in will live on in history. The following is an excerpt from my tribute to John McCain and highlights of his 10 best moments. If you’d like to read them all, check out the full article here.
It was July 28, 2017. There was a lot of commotion. People on Twitter were speculating about the body language of the Senators, searching for any indication of how they might vote. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) remained steadfast in their opposition and voted “no.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) thought he had all of the Republican votes accounted for…except for John McCain’s.
It was 1 in the morning. Some saw McCain huddled with Pence. Then he was with McConnell. And then he was seen talking to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a conversation Schumer left smiling. Suddenly, Democrats on the Senate floor appeared happy. The American people remained unsure of what would happen next…
McConnell seemed distraught as McCain walked up to the center of the Senate floor. He voted “no,” and walked away…
LOOK BACK: A week after his brain cancer diagnosis, John McCain cast a critical vote to allow debate to begin on legislation to repeal Obamacare. But days later he doomed the bill by voting no, earning Trump’s ire https://t.co/NhiCl1nIac pic.twitter.com/yuikincmMj
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) August 26, 20I18
This was one of the most pivotal moments of 2017, and one of John McCain’s final acts in the Senate. In this one act, he shot down the most significant threat to the Affordable Care Act thus far, helping to save millions from potentially losing their healthcare. It was also a powerful rebuke of President Donald Trump.
Before John McCain began his distinguished career in politics, he served in the military. When fighting in Hanoi, Vietnam in October 1967, his plane was shot down at about 3,500 feet in the air. As his plane spiraled down at 550 miles an hour, McCain ejected. After landing, he was taken as a prisoner of war. This was just the beginning of his story. McCain would go on to be tortured for 5 years, and he never broke. After the Vietnamese found out his father was an Admiral, McCain was offered to leave early: he heroicly declined, noting that others who were there before him should be released before him.
This didn’t impress five-time draft dodger, and then-Candidate, Donald Trump. Trump infamously said McCain was not a war hero and that he only likes “people who weren’t captured.”
“I think it’s important for Donald Trump to express his appreciation for veterans. What he said about me, John McCain, that’s fine. I don’t require any repair of that. But when he said, ‘I don’t like people who were captured,’ then there’s a body of American heroes, and I’d like to see him retract that statement. Not about me, but about the others.”
That wasn’t the last time McCain would speak out against Trump nor was it the last time he would break with dogma to stand up for what he believed in. McCain’s career is full of moments like this. He was a true patriot.
Day 585: Monday, August 27
The Headline: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Paul Manafort held talks with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team seeking a plea deal while the jury was deliberating in his Virginia trial, ahead of his upcoming trial in Washington DC. The talks didn’t continue over concerns that Mueller broached. Those concerns have yet to be publicly revealed.
The Context: Manafort was found guilty on 8 counts (5 tax fraud, 2 bank fraud, and 1 of hiding foreign accounts), with verdicts unable to be reached for the remaining 10 counts. Manafort is 69 years old and faces up to 80 years in prison for these convictions. Judge Ellis, who has faced allegations of bias in this trial, declared a mistrial on those 10 counts after the jurors couldn’t come to a consensus. Manafort faces another trial in DC in September.
Manafort is the fifth Trump associate to be convicted of felony charges during the Trump presidency. Trump’s former personal lawyer/fixer (and RNC deputy finance chair) Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 counts that include bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance violations just today. They join former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who all pleaded guilty to felony charges.
The Analysis: This WSJ story is the first reported evidence of Manafort showing a willingness to cooperate with prosecutors. One of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s objectives in his investigation has long been to flip Paul Manafort into a cooperating witness. But many have speculated that Manafort has not cooperated because he awaits a Trump pardon. President Trump has recently said very positive things about Manafort, raising the speculation of that possibility. Clearly, if Manafort flipped, it would be of great benefit to Robert Mueller’s investigation and great detriment to Donald Trump. Manafort’s involvement in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, role in adding pro-Russia policies to the Republican platform, and his contacts with Russian operatives are of interest to Mueller. Paul Manafort’s choice appears to be to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, await a potential pardon from Trump for his federal crimes, or spend the rest of his life in prison. We’ll see what Manafort chooses.
In other news…
- The New York Times: Read Senator John McCain’s Farewell Statement
- The Washington Post: Trump rejected plans for a White House statement praising McCain
- The New York Times: Trump Reaches Revised Trade Deal With Mexico, Threatening to Leave Out Canada
- The Washington Post: North Carolina’s gerrymandered map is unconstitutional, judges rule, and may have to be redrawn before midterms
- Axios: Scoop: Republicans secretly study their coming hell
- Buzzfeed News: Lanny Davis Says He Was A Source For CNN’s Trump Tower Story
- NY Mag: Internal Watchdog Thinks White House Might Have Interfered in FBI H.Q. Plans
- The Hill: Roger Stone preemptively denies upcoming report on Trump’s knowledge of WikiLeaks dump
Day 586: Tuesday, August 28
An Uncertain Future
The Headline: The Washington Post reported that President Trump has privately broached the prospect of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions in recent weeks. Trump’s lawyers reportedly advised against it, telling him that Special Counsel Robert Mueller would see it as further evidence of obstruction of justice. This news came amid an apparent surrender in the Republican Party. What was once a red line now appears to be nonexistent.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-KY) has signaled that since Trump has lost confidence in Sessions, he’s open to the prospect of him being replaced. Graham originally pointed to this as a red line, warning of consequences in the case Trump fires Sessions. Graham has since flip-flopped. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) went as far as to say he has time for hearings to confirm a new Attorney General. But Graham has claimed that it would “create havoc” to do this before the midterms.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has struck a different tune, stating on Tuesday, “I have total confidence in the attorney general. I think he ought to stay exactly where he is.”
The Context: The firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions would have wide-ranging ramifications for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation because the appointee would have the power to shut down the probe, a power Sessions no longer has. President Trump has repeatedly expressed his disdain for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. President Trump has reportedly asked Sessions to un-recuse on multiple occasions, and he’s publicly said that if he knew Sessions would recuse himself, he wouldn’t have nominated him. And on Twitter, President Donald Trump has given what appeared to be the closest thing to a public order to end Mueller’s investigation by saying Sessions “should stop” the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who President Trump has long considered firing, would have to be the one to shut down the Russia investigation. Rosenstein has thus far allowed Mueller to do his job uninterrupted, and this has earned him Trump’s ire as well given the reports that Trump considered firing him.
The Analysis: Needless to say, Trump’s obsession with Sessions’ recusal is of interest to Mueller in his obstruction of justice probe. Mueller is also examining Trump’s tweets about Jeff Sessions. Let’s break down why his obsession is potentially incriminating:
Jeff Sessions was nominated for Attorney General in November 2016…that was before the public was aware the Russia investigation even existed and before FBI Director James Comey revealed the Trump campaign was under investigation. So, what President Trump is essentially saying is that he wouldn’t have nominated Sessions for Attorney General if he knew he wouldn’t protect him from an investigation the public didn’t know existed yet. If President Trump’s claim is true, it appears that Trump was aware there was underlying wrongdoing in his campaign that he expected Sessions to cover up. Otherwise, his claim wouldn’t make sense.
Overall, this adds to the case Mueller is building. Trump’s intention has long been clear, by his own admission, that he wants the Russia investigation to come to an end. Trump knows that it would be politically toxic to fire Rosenstein or attempt to fire Mueller, so he appears to see replacing Sessions as a backdoor way to obstruct the probe. The replacement AG could limit Mueller’s scope, decide how to handle Mueller’s reports, or shut down the probe outright. The fact that Senate Republicans are largely surrendering to Trump’s effort to oust Sessions means they’re capitulating to Trump’s interference in the Justice Department and are complicit in his coverup. The midterms just became much more crucial to our democracy.
In other news…
- Rantt Media: Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria Death Toll Now Estimated 46 Times Higher Than Initial Toll
- Rantt Media: Is “Trump News” Proof Of Google Censorship? Not So Fast
- Rantt Media: Trump And Republicans Tell Voters: The Only Thing You Have To Fear Is Everything
- NPR: Agriculture Department Will Pay $4.7 Billion To Farmers Hit In Trade War
- The Washington Post: ‘I remember Pearl Harbor’: Inside Trump’s hot and cold relationship with Japan’s prime minister
- Here are the results of Florida and Arizona’s primaries.
Day 587: Wednesday, August 29
White House Counsel Don McGahn will be leaving his position in the fall, shortly after the confirmation (hopefully) of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2018
On Wednesday, President Trump announced that his White House Counsel Don McGahn would be leaving his role this fall. This news came after The New York Times previously reported that McGahn has cooperated extensively with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, giving 30 hours of testimony. McGahn’s insight into President Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller’s investigation will prove to be useful in establishing corrupt intent on Trump’s part.
Given the fact McGahn reportedly convinced President Trump to not fire Mueller at least once, one can only imagine what his departure would mean for the probe. It seems the White House will continue to lean into their strategy of going on the offense.
In other news…
- ABC News: After weeks of uncertainty, Papadopoulos decides to accept plea deal with Mueller
- The New York Times: New U.S. Sexual Misconduct Rules Bolster Rights of Accused and Protect Colleges
- Reuters: Trump, without evidence, blames China for hacking Clinton emails
- CNBC: NATO is considering naming its headquarters after Sen. John McCain
- The Telegraph: Japan and North Korea held secret meeting as Shinzo Abe ‘loses trust’ in Donald Trump
- The Atlantic: Emails Link Former Homeland Security Official to White Nationalists
- CNN: Sources: Second Trump Org employee discussed immunity deal
Day 588: Thursday, August 30
Fudging The Truth
President Trump started off his Thursday morning with a tweet falsely accusing NBC’s Lester Holt of “fudging” his May 2017 interview.
What’s going on at @CNN is happening, to different degrees, at other networks – with @NBCNews being the worst. The good news is that Andy Lack(y) is about to be fired(?) for incompetence, and much worse. When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2018
Note to Trump: don’t lie so much when we have receipts.
President Trump is lying
Trump is accusing Lester Holt of “fudging” tape of Trump’s admission to firing Comey because of the Russia investigation
Why? Because it’s a piece of evidence in Mueller’s obstruction probe
He very clearly said it
Roll the tapehttps://t.co/BZLSse5KRA
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) August 30, 2018
This concerned me greatly because this kind of fake news technology is on the horizon.
Trump’s blatant lie about Lester Holt is why he must be out of office before deep fake tech (which allows for high-level video forging) really takes off
I knew Trump would eventually tell his base that they can’t trust his own words on tape, I just didn’t think it’d come so soon https://t.co/brsrxawFAh
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) August 30, 2018
I think about the threat of deep fake tech all the time and how fake news creators will be able to more easily deceive.
If Americans have such a hard time telling what’s fake news now, imagine when there’s difficult-to-decipher word forging on videos. https://t.co/HUJmKNcMdz
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) August 30, 2018
In other news…
- The New York Times: National Enquirer Had Decades of Trump Dirt. He Wanted to Buy It All.
- Bloomberg: Trump Says He’ll Keep Sessions Until November Despite ‘Illegal’ Probe
- The Washington Post: U.S. is denying passports to Americans along the border, throwing their citizenship into question
- Reuters: Trump presses Supreme Court chief justice for action on Russia dossier
- Bloomberg: Trump to Back $200 Billion China Tariffs as Early as Next Week, Sources Say
- Axios: Trump eliminates pay raises for civilian federal employees
- The New York Times: F.B.I. Arrests California Man After Threats to Kill Boston Globe Employees
- Associated Press: Government accuses Harvard of ‘outright racial balancing’
Day 589: Friday, August 31
Mueller > Trump
The Story: A new ABC/Washington Post poll found that Trump’s disapproval rating has hit a new high, while the approval for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation continues to rise, hitting 63%.
JUST IN: Disapproval of Pres. Trump is at a new high, support for the Mueller probe is broad, and half of Americans favor Congress initiating impeachment proceedings against the president, new @ABC News/WaPo poll finds. https://t.co/CqklJYIIH5 pic.twitter.com/NLfIbAFgVy
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 31, 2018
The poll had some other noteworthy findings, all indicating that Trump’s disinformation campaign against Mueller isn’t working.
New ABC/WaPo poll:
-60% disapprove of Trump, 36% approve
-45% say corruption in Washington has increased since Trump took office, 13% say decreased
-63% support Mueller probe
-53% say Trump obstructed justice
-64% say Trump should not fire Sessions
-66% oppose Manafort pardon
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) August 31, 2018
Another notable finding in this poll is the fact that only 78% of Republicans support Trump. That’s below the 80% Trump has maintained for most of his presidency and the almost 90% he’s maintained in recent months. The poll also showed that there is a good percentage of Republicans that support the Mueller investigation.
For all the talk of Trump’s complete and total power over GOP voters, a good chunk of them (32%) support the special counsel investigation. pic.twitter.com/yNKkpS0aBq
— Nick Gourevitch (@nickgourevitch) August 31, 2018
This poll was conducted between August 26 to 29, right after the week Trump’s former personal attorney/fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to felony counts that implicated President Trump and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of 8 felony counts.
This comes after an AP poll taken the previous week found Trump’s approval on the downswing, and his “strongly approve” numbers hitting significant lows.
new AP Poll on how Americans view Trump’s performance as president:
—38% approve, 60% disapprove
—18% approve STRONGLY, 43% disapprove STRONGLY
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) August 24, 2018
The Context: From their false FISA surveillance scandal to their hearing with FBI Agent Peter Strzork to the effort to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Trump, House Republicans, and conservative media have long endeavored to undermine the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation (which the President is a subject of). This effort has expanded into a broad initiative to discredit the DOJ, FBI, and the U.S. Intelligence Community as a whole.
The approach President Trump has had towards the investigation has always been a PR strategy, not a legal one. It’s an argument for the base so that in the event of impeachment from a post-2018 Democratic House, GOP Senators won’t vote to remove him from office. It appears this approach is actually splintering the Republican base.
The Analysis: President Trump’s war on the Department of Justice and Special Counsel Robert Mueller has become a centerpiece of his political platform. Trump spends more time bashing the Mueller investigation than he does promoting his policy agenda. We now have a couple polls that tell a similar story. There was already evidence that indicates the Republican Party itself is shrinking, and now we have evidence that Trump’s base is shrinking down to his most staunch supporters. The aforementioned polls show that Trump’s attacks on Mueller are creating a litmus test: if you still support Trump, it means you’re effectively anti-Mueller.
If you do the math, the Republicans who oppose Mueller’s probe are almost in line with “strongly approve” numbers. Looking at the AP poll, that 18% that strongly approves of Trump within that 38% who approve, makes up about 47% of his support. This new ABC/WaPo poll found that 61% of Republicans oppose Mueller’s investigation, and 32% support it. What the polls are beginning to show is that the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump remains low and those who support Mueller’s probe also tend to not support Trump. This wasn’t always the case. This swing in polls might have been triggered by President Trump’s mid-July Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which took place right after Russians were indicted for their attack on American democracy. Not only did the American people have a chance to see Trump’s capitulation to Putin with their own eyes, there was a stark shift in media coverage in its aftermath.
President Trump has drawn a line in the sand: either you’re with him or you’re with Robert Mueller. It’s beginning to look like his strategy is backfiring spectacularly, just as people are tuning in ahead of the midterms. Not only is Trump galvanizing Democrats, he’s putting his supporters in a tough position as the evidence of his potential crimes mount. One can only assume that this will only get worse for President Trump, as we anxiously wait for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conspiracy and obstruction of justice reports to drop.
In other news…
- The Washington Post: American political consultant admits foreign money was funneled to Trump inaugural
- The New York Times: White House Gives Canada More Time to Rework Nafta
- Politico: Trump confirms leaked comments: ‘At least Canada knows where I stand!’
- Politico: Anticipation builds around Mueller as 60-day election window nears
- Associated Press: AP sources: Lawyer was told Russia had ‘Trump over a barrel’
- CNN: Attorney Pat Cipollone being considered for White House counsel
Labor Day Weekend
At Senator John McCain’s memorial service, Meghan McCain, former President Barack Obama, and former President George W. Bush were among the speakers who delivered powerful speeches praising American values and John McCain’s legacy.
These were seen as rebukes of President Trump.
I re-read all the speeches from McCain’s funeral. Nobody attacked Trump. They *praised* honor, decency, character, bipartisanship, and placing country over party. What does it say about Trump that so many people interpreted this as an assault on him personally?
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) September 2, 2018
If remarks that praise decency are universally seen as direct rebukes of the President of the United States, perhaps it’s time for a new President. https://t.co/1OITJcmFt2
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) September 2, 2018
In other news…
- President Trump sent out some concerning tweets…
Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018
….The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now. Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey. The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting – UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018
POTUS lays it on the line again: the job of the Justice Department in his view is to protect his friends and punish his enemies. https://t.co/MUH9McUoZe
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) September 3, 2018
But then, he sent out a tweet that unintentionally bolstered the credibility of what would later become Mueller’s investigation.
According to the Failing New York Times, the FBI started a major effort to flip Putin loyalists in 2014-2016. “It wasn’t about Trump, he wasn’t even close to a candidate yet.” Rigged Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018
Buckle up. Wild weeks are ahead.