The Sensibly Speaking Podcast

The Sensibly Speaking Podcast is a weekly show, posting a new episode each Saturday, covering current events and topics from a skeptical, humanist and critical thinking approach. Join Chris Shelton, the Critical Thinker at Large, as he goes over varied topics from critical thinking to science to talking in detail about hot topics in the news . Tired of just hearing the mainstream media's interpretation of events? Want some sensible talk? Then join me here each Saturday!


Sensibly Speaking Podcast #189: Some Real Talk about the Mueller Report

The following are the show notes, quotes and sources I used in this week’s podcast. This whole thing really should be called The Confederacy of Dunces. I polled my viewers about doing this podcast before researching and recording it, and 80% of you said to do this podcast, so this one is all your guys’ fault!


From NPR article:

“Grand jury materials

“— Under federal rules, materials from grand jury proceedings are secret, although there are a few narrow exceptions that allow limited disclosure.

“Intelligence materials

“— The report contains information that comes from U.S. intelligence agencies. Officials are concerned that the public release of some of that information could reveal how the U.S. got it — compromising sources and methods that America’s spies want to protect.

“Information related to ongoing investigations

“— A number of high-profile investigations have been spun out of Mueller’s Russia probe. The most notable one, perhaps, was the case in New York City brought against President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.

“Details in the Mueller report that could reveal information about other ongoing investigations are scrubbed out of the redacted version.

“Derogatory information about ‘peripheral’ individuals

“— Barr told Congress he wants to honor the Justice Department’s practice of not revealing information it has uncovered about people who were part of an investigation but whom it is not accusing of a crime. Trump won’t be covered by such redactions, he said, but the Justice Department is excising detail from the report about people who aren’t public officeholders.”

Without knowing the details, it’s impossible to know if all the redactions littered throughout the report are legitimate or are covering up the names or activities of current bad guys. Given that Mueller’s office was involved in the redaction process and it was not just William Barr siting there with a black felt marker, I am willing to trust that the redactions are consistent with the Special Council’s intentions and that nothing really pertinent or crucial for our eyes was crossed out.

Election Interference

Okay, so first let’s put to rest any nonsense floating around out there that the Russians did not interfere substantially in our election process. They did. There is no question they did. And the extent to which it was done is frankly, pretty shocking. Anyone who thinks Russia is not a hostile foreign adversary of ours is deeply mistaken. Friends don’t do to each other what Russia did to us during the 2016 election.

And let’s be clear about something else too. If you have the idea that “well we interfere in elections too, so what’s the big deal?” then you really are a dope. If it’s true that our country’s intelligence services have interefered in the free and open elections of other countries, that was and is totally wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right. We shouldn’t be doing it and I would never, under any circumstances in any country anywhere, be okay with us screwing around with their elections. That should be sacrasanct and any efforts on our government’s part to do that was legally as well as morally wrong and utterly corrupt. This is a moral position I am pretty decided upon. So don’t throw moral relativism around as though it’s no big deal for Russia to mess with us because we mess with them, blah blah blah. Just no.

So how bad was it? What did the Russians actually do? Let’s take a look at what Mueller found:

“By the end of the 2016 U.S. election, the Internet Research Agency (IRA) had the ability to reach millions of U.S. persons through their social media accounts. Multiple IRA-controlled Facebook groups and Instagram accounts had hundreds of thousands of U.S. participants. IRA-controlled Twitter accounts separately had tens of thousands of followers, including multiple U.S. political figures who retweeted IRA-created content. In November 2017, a Facebook representative testified that Facebook had identified 470 IRA-controlled Facebook accounts that collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017. Facebook estimated the IRA reached as many as 126 million persons through its Facebook accounts.6 In January 2018, Twitter announced that it had identified 3,814 IRA-controlled Twitter accounts and notified approximately 1.4 million people Twitter believed may have been in contact with an IRA-controlled account.” (Part 1, page 15)

“Dozens of IRA employees were responsible for operating accounts and personas on different U.S. social media platforms. The IRA referred to employees assigned to operate the social media accounts as “specialists.” Starting as early as 2014, the IRA’s U.S. operations included social media specialists focusing on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The IRA later added specialists who operated on Tumblr and Instagram accounts.

“Initially, the IRA created social media accounts that pretended to be the personal accounts of U.S. persons. By early 2015, the IRA began to create larger social media groups or public social media pages that claimed (falsely) to be affiliated with U.S. political and grassroots organizations. In certain cases, the IRA created accounts that mimicked real U.S. organizations. For example, one IRA-controlled Twitter account, @TEN_GOP, purported to be connected to the Tennessee Republican Party.46 More commonly, the IRA created accounts in the names of fictitious U.S. organizations and grassroots groups and used these accounts to pose as antiimmigration groups, Tea Party activists, Black Lives Matter protestors, and other U.S. social and political activists.” (Part 1, page 22)

“By February 2016, internal IRA documents referred to support for the Trump Campaign and opposition to candidate Clinton. For example, (redacted) directions to IRA operators (redacted) “Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Sanders and Trump – we support them).” (Part 1, page 23)

“IRA Facebook groups active during the 2016 campaign covered a range of political issues and included purported conservative groups (with names such as “Being Patriotic,” “Stop All Immigrants,” “Secured Borders,” and “Tea Party News”), purported Black social justice groups (“Black Matters,” “Blacktivist,” and “Don’t Shoot Us”), LGBTQ groups (“LGBT United”), and religious groups (“United Muslims of America”).

“Throughout 2016, IRA accounts published an increasing number of materials supporting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. For example, on May 31, 2016, the operational account “Matt Skiber” began to privately message dozens of pro-Trump Facebook groups asking them to help plan a “pro-Trump rally near Trump Tower.”

“IRA-purchased advertisements referencing candidate Trump largely supported his campaign. The first known IRA advertisement explicitly endorsing the Trump Campaign was purchased on April 19, 2016. The IRA bought an advertisement for its Instagram account “Tea Party News” asking U.S. persons to help them “make a patriotic team of young Trump supporters” by uploading photos with the hashtag “#I<IDS4TRUMP.”60 In subsequent months, the IRA purchased dozens of advertisements supporting the Trump Campaign, predominantly through the Facebook groups “Being Patriotic,” “Stop All Invaders,” and “Secured Borders.”

“Collectively, the IRA’s social media accounts reached tens of millions of U.S. persons. Individual IRA social media accounts attracted hundreds of thousands of followers. For example, at the time they were deactivated by Facebook in mid-2017, the IRA’s “United Muslims of America” Facebook group had over 300,000 followers, the “Don’t Shoot Us” Facebook group had over 250,000 followers, the “Being Patriotic” Facebook group had over 200,000 followers, and the “Secured Borders” Facebook group had over 130,000 followers.61 According to Facebook, in total the IRA-controlled accounts made over 80,000 posts before their deactivation in August 2017, and these posts reached at least 29 million U.S persons and “may have reached an estimated 126
million people.”

There were similar numbers in the breakdown on the IRA activities on Twitter.

“Multiple IRA-posted tweets gained popularity.70 U.S. media outlets also quoted tweets from IRA-controlled accounts and attributed them to the reactions of real U.S. persons. Similarly, numerous high-profile U.S. persons, including former Ambassador Michael McFaul, Roger Stone, Sean Hannity, and Michael Flynn Jr. retweeted or responded to tweets posted to these IRA controlled accounts. Multiple individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign also promoted IRA tweets.”

And then there were the rallies. Yes, from Russia, foreign agents organized, recruited personnel for and oversaw political rallies right here in the US. From flash mobs in front of Trump Tower to hiring a self-defense instructor in New York to offer classes to African-Americans under the banner of “Black Fist”) to hiring someone to walk around New York dressed as Santa Claus but with a Donald Trump mask on.

“In sum, the investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election through the “active measures” social media campaign carried out by the IRA, an organization funded by Prigozhin and companies that he controlled. As explained further in Volume I, Section V.A, infra, the Office concluded (and a grand jury has alleged) that Prigozhin, his companies, and IRA employees violated U.S. law through these operations, principally by undermining through deceptive acts the work of federal agencies charged with regulating foreign influence in U.S. elections.”

Now the second thing that conservatives are screaming is that it doesn’t matter. “No one interferred in my opinions!” they say. “I didn’t look at any of that Russian stuff. I would have known better. It didn’t affect me.”

Oh yeah?

One of the ugly truths that this investigation exposed was just how deep the rabbit hole goes when it comes to gathering information about you and what you do and don’t like, what you will and won’t accept and basically, how you think. Download your social media profile from Facebook sometime if you are wondering what I’m talking about. Look at the raw data they have collected on you based on your social media usage, the pictures you upload, the posts you like, and on and on.

Now I want you to realize that all of that information is for sale and has been for years. Pretty much everything you say and do online is stored in some marketing database that advertisers pay very good money for. And the social media component is just one aspect of what is known as market research, all of which is just as applicable to politics as it is to selling you soap.

Why do you think marketing research firms spend billions of dollars every year to figure out what you are thinking and how to sell you things? Because market research works. Advertisements may look stupid to some of us, but not to all of us. We buy the things that are advertised to us for a legion of reasons, most of them having to do with that whole podcast I did on free will. If you think the conscious, rational part of your mind is the one making decisions, I’m sorry but that just isn’t true. We know from science that isn’t true. It’s not an opinion. It’s not just some fanciful idea I have.

Human beings are push button in so many of their responses. Why do you think we have developed the concept of triggers? I don’t mean trigger warnings, which are controversial and could even rebound destructively because they could cause a person to not deal with or confront their fears or anxieties. But the point is that we all have triggers and they aren’t all bad. Seeing a cute little puppy in the window at the pet store triggers a desire to protect and care for it in a lot of people and so they go buy it, even when they weren’t even thinking about getting a pet.

The thing that is so difficult for people to get their wits around with this is that they are not consciously aware of most of what is going on in their own heads. Our emotions come from some place we don’t understand so we just feel how we feel from one minute to the next and maybe we know why and maybe we don’t. Our impulses are not under our control, otherwise they wouldn’t be called impulses. And our decisions are mandated by the choices available to us in our heads at the moment of the decision and by our emotional investment in those choices. It’s easy to be objective when you aren’t emotionally involved, but just try to be objective when it’s your husband or wife or kids who are involved. There’s no way.

So that’s the advertising end of it. But let’s go a little deeper. You aren’t aware of it, because your brain filters out so much for you, but it’s receiving inputs from the environment 24 hours a day, even when you are sleeping. Again, I’m going to stress that this is below your level of awareness. But when someone says your name from across the room, or when you’re asleep, how do you think you hear it so clearly and respond so quickly? Because your brain is suddenly alerting you that someone said your name. Out of the thousands and thousands of words, pictures and sounds that cross your eyes and ears every single day, your brain is deciding all on its own what is important to alert you to and what isn’t so that your conscious processing can safely ignore almost all of it. But the point is that it’s still going in to your brain and those images and ideas are still having an effect on your thinking processes. Most people think about this when they hear about subliminal advertising but otherwise they conveniently forget that this is going on 24/7 in their heads and they pretend that the only thinking they are doing is what they are aware of.

So what I’m saying is, even if you think those Facebook or Twitter ads just fly by your vision and you don’t see it and it doesn’t affect you, I’m here to tell you that Madison Avenue, all the social media companies and all the intelligence agencies in the world know differently.

And there is one final note on this I should mention. We tend to trust certain sources and we tend to distrust others. Some of us just outright refuse to believe or even read or listen to some networks or news media, for example, and we have our various good and bad reasons for doing so. But if someone presents information to you and they claim they are from a source you trust or from a partisan side you are already on, then statistically speaking you are going to accept that information far more easily and believe it more readily and even defend it more passionately just because of where it came from.

In fact, it’s even worse than you think. Studies are finding that our brains actually equate facts and opinions if the opinions come from a source we trust or find credible. This is literally the opposite of critical thinking and we are naturally tuned to do it, so it takes real mental work to sort out the true from the untrue, the facts from the opinions.

For example, if you are a conservative and you see an article published by Fox News, odds are your threshhold for evidence is going to be lower for the claims made in that article and you will approach it with an “I can believe this” attitude instead of a “Do I have to believe this?” attitude. When you feel forced to accept something as true, it’s a lot easier to find reasons not to believe it, but when someone you trust tells you then it’s really easy to believe it. Again, the Russian intelligence agencies who were placing political ads and articles and comments all over Facebook and Twitter know that. They know what words to use to indicate in-group alliances. Anything that was anti-Hillary, for example, had to be true as far as the conservatives were concerned. And every single bad report about Trump was received with equal gullibility by the Left. I sure fell for some whoppers during the campaign. So no one is immune from any of this. It’s got nothing to do with the conservative or liberal mindset. It’s just that being human makes us very easy and vulnerable targets for manipulation. When the right words and colors and sounds are used, we can be made to believe anything.

So to say with any degree of certainty that all that Russian inteference in our election process had no effect is pretty ridiculous to my ears.

Collusion or Not?

When you read over the findings of the report, it’s clear that when it comes to the issue of collusion (or cooperation) we now can say the following with certainty:

(a) there were multiple lines of communication and attempted assistance to the Trump Campaign during the election;

(b) that the Trump team staff were so incompetent that they sometimes were receptive and other times were skittish;

(c) at no time did any Trump Campaign staff member involved in any of these multiple lines contact the FBI or other authorities to alert them that Russian agents and governemnt officials were reaching out to them and making offers of information and assistance;

(d) As David Graham from the Atlantic wrote: “If there was no collusion, it wasn’t for lack of trying.”

And on this point, let’s talk a few details from the report.

The June 9th meeting at Trump Tower was one of my biggest issues and in the end, while it was slimy and suspicious as hell, it doesn’t appear from all the data Mueller gathered that an actual crime was committed there. Mueller wrote:

“On the facts here, the government would unlikely be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful. The investigation has not developed evidence that the participants in the meeting were familiar with the foreign-contribution ban or the application of federal law to the relevant factual context … While the government has evidence of later efforts to prevent disclosure of the nature of the June 9 meeting that could circumstantially provide support for a showing of scienter … that concealment occurred more than a year later, involved individuals who did not attend the June 9 meeting, and may reflect an intention to avoid political consequences rather than any prior knowledge of illegality.”

The actions of George Papadopoulos are also something I talked about extensively in my earlier podcast and I stand by everything I said there. Mueller’s report vindicates everything I said here:

“On April 27, 2016 … Papadopoulos wrote a second message to Miller stating that ‘some interesting messages [were] coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.’ The same day, Papadopoulos sent a similar email to campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, telling Lewandowski that Papadopoulos had ‘been receiving a lot of calls over the last month about Putin wanting to host [Trump] and the team when the time is right’… On May 4, 2016, he forwarded to Lewandowski an email from [Russian national Ivan] Timofeev raising the possibility of a meeting in Moscow, asking Lewandowski whether that was ‘something we want to move forward with.’ The next day, Papadopoulos forwarded the same Timofeev email to Sam Clovis, adding to the top of the email ‘Russia update.’ He included the same email in a May 21, 2016 message to senior Campaign official Paul Manafort, under the subject line ‘Request from Russia to meet Mr. Trump.'”

The spin on this one by conservative news outlets has been relenetless. If you are only getting your news from conservative outlets, I want to point out to you that they are spinning, which is not the same as outright lying. They are making generalizations, citing opinion as fact and using language tricks to make it sound like Papadopolous didn’t do anything wrong or didn’t try to do anything wrong. That’s not what Mueller found. The only thing that saved Papadopolous was that no one who he was desperately emailing to set up meetings with Russian officials cared enough to respond to him. In fact, as I laid out in my earlier podcast, the only one who seemed to take him seriously was the Australian diplomat, who incredibly was the one who alerted the FBI to what Papadopolous was claiming. So again, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The Actions of an Innocent Man?

There are two points I want to make regarding Donald Trump himself and his actions over the course of this investigation. All of them point to a man who, even if he’s not guilty of coordinating his campaign actions with the Russian interests who wanted to see him in office, is definitely guilty of something.

The first thing he’s absolutely guilty of is obstruction of justice. This point is made throughout the report. I couldn’t help but wonder that while Mueller chose not to go for an indictment, I’m wondering if that was because he felt it was Congress’ job to carry out an impeachment based on the data he provided. I’m thinking that he didn’t want to get the DOJ involved in what could be a Constitutional crisis of sorts. Can you indict a sitting President is a question that is definitely beyond my pay grade and I suspect Mueller felt it was beyond his too in his role as Special Counsel.

I was happy to find that I was joined in that opinion by Yoni Applebaum of The Atlantic, who wrote that “the Special Counsel has concluded he can neither charge nor clear the President, only Congress can now resolve the allegations against him.”

He further wrote:

“A basic principle lies at the heart of the American criminal-justice system: The accused is entitled to a fair defense and a chance to clear his name. Every American is entitled to this protection, from the humblest citizen all the way up to the chief executive. And that, Mueller explained in his report, is why criminal allegations against a sitting president should be considered by Congress and not the Justice Department. The Mueller report, in short, is an impeachment referral.”

But did Trump obstruct justice? Of course he did, right in front of the entire world and on numerous occasions.

There was his attempt to get then FBI Director Comey to “let Flynn go” in a clear-cut effort to influence the FBI to stop an active investigation into potential criminal activity on the part of Trump’s newly appointed National Security Advisor.

There was the firing of James Comey. Trumnp claimed he did this becasue of how Comey handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails. The only problem is that this ad hoc justification was pure nonsense. Mueller specifically calls out Trump on this, saying that this reasoning is not supported by the evidence. In fact, some of the evidence “indicates that the President wanted to protect himself from an investigation into his campaign,” Mueller wrote.

Then there was Trump directing White House Counsel Don McGhan to fire Mueller, but McGhan refused.

The report cites this specific quote as told by McGhan to the Special Counsel from a May 2017 phone call he had with Trump: “You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod,” Trump told him, and Trump discussed “knocking out Mueller.” Finally, on Trump’s intent, there was “substantial evidence” Mueller said he found about how the President wanted to fire Mueller because he was being investigated for obstruction.

Then there was witness tampering as obstruction. Trump put pressure on Flynn, Manafort, Cohen and another unnamed person from giving information against him.

“Evidence concerning the President’s conduct towards Manafort indicates that the President intended to encourage Manafort to not cooperate with the government,” Mueller wrote. “Some evidence supports a conclusion that the President intended, at least in part, to influence the jury.”

Most of this was actually done right in public too, via Twitter and Trump’s statements to the media. Everyone knew what he was doing when he was doing it. Subtlely is not only unheard of in the Trump White House, I don’t think he even understands what the word means.

CNN analyst Ellie Honig discussed the opinions and problems that were brought up by Mueller in his report and also by Barr and Rosenstein in their press conference this week. “It’s a strong obstruction case.” But are Barr and Rosenstein going to bring that case against Trump. Of course they aren’t. And if you’re wondering why, there is only one reason: they are corrupt.

Mueller was crystal clear about this in the report and ANYONE saying that this report exonerates Donald Trump and his campaign of criminal activity is either delusional or lying. There are no other conclusions that can be made when Robert Mueller writes:

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”

That is not a statement that exonerates anyone.

The second point I want to make is the culture of dishonesty and outright corruption Trump brought to the White House.

There are numerous instances cited in the report of Trump literally ordering his aides and staffers to lie to cover up for his actions, such as when he asked for Sessions to submit a letter of resignation, then held on to it as potential leverage over Sessions and told Don McGahn and also then-WH Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to cover for him. This is just one of MANY such instances and it was kind of fascinating to see how Trump’s more experienced and savvy aides just ignore these kinds of orders. It’s to their credit actually, because if these people had done all the things Trump ordered them to do, there would be a lot more people in jail right now. Think about that.

Then there is this tasty bit which the cable news jumped on almost immediately. Here’s the quote from the report:

“The President learned of the Special Counsel’s appointment from Sessions, who was with the President, Hunt, and McGahn conducting interviews for a new FBI Director. Sessions stepped out of the Oval Office to take a call from Rosenstein, who told him about the Special Counsel appointment, and Sessions then returned to inform the President of the news. According to notes written by Hunt, when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” The President said the position of Attorney General was his most important appointment and that Sessions had “let [him] down,” contrasting him to Eric Holder and Robert Kennedy. Sessions recalled that the President said to him, ‘you were supposed to protect me,’ or words to that effect. The President returned to the consequences of the appointment and said, ‘Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.'”

Does any of that sound like an honest, innocent man who is just making personal sacrifices so he can serve the public good as President? Not to me it doesn’t.

Vindicated? Hardly!

So does this report vindicate Trump? No! Not at all.

All the spin and bullshit you are hearing flying around on conservative airways and media are a bunch of people caught up in their cognitive dissonance, or people who are trying to confuse you with spin so you don’t know the actual story.

It’s not that Trump is vindicated, it’s that he’s the President so he can’t be treated like any other common criminal. Here is what Mueller said on this:

“…we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct … The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

It can’t be any clearer than that. It’s crystal clear, at least to me, that Mueller laid all the groundwork here for Congress to enact impeachment hearings. Criminal indictment can also occur after the President leaves office. Mueller disagreed with the argument from Trump’s lawyers that a President could not be guilty of obstruction of justice:

“The protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person — including the President — accords with the fundamental principle of our government that ‘[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.'”

There’s also the fact that you don’t indict a President, you impeach him. The Mueller report contains 10 credible allegations of Donald Trump as an individual engaging in obstructive behavior. Regardless of what any of his enablers or conservative spin masters have to say, that information is now in the public record and it will never go away.

Yet here is the spin from Attorney General Barr. I want you to keep in mind that AG Barr is in the Department of Justice and while he serves at the pleasure of the President, he is not supposed to be his lackey:

“In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.”

So because the President was frustrated, he committed obstruction of justice numerous times?

Here’s an idea: why not just tell the truth?

Because he can’t.

Our President appears to me to be a pathological liar. He has raised a family of them. Maybe that’s genetic and maybe it’s just how they were raised. I can’t imagine what it would be like to grow up in the Trump household but I can’t imagine I would describe it as “fun.”

Trump lies as easily as he breathes and almost as often. I don’t think there is any other politician in all of recorded history, not just Presidents, who has told as many documented and blatant falsehoods as Donald Trump. Yet his supporters don’t care. And that should tell you everything you need to know about their ability to engage in critical thinking.

Just like I said many times during the campaign, Donald Trump cannot be trusted. He’s a malignant narcissist who only thinks of himself first and perhaps his family second and beyond that, he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about you or me or any of us. His behavior on the campaign trail was that of an uncivilized lout. His behavior since taking office – as an individual now, I’m not talking about his policies – are line-for-line the same as a Mafia don or cult leader. His approval ratings even reflect this cult status, stuck at around 40% for the past two years.

No matter what he says or does, his base will never break from him. And that, my friends, is a cult.

But Trump cannot do this alone. He has to have enablers and Attorney General Barr has proven himself to be just such an enabler. I’ll quote from a Forbes article that mirrors my thoughts on this exactly:

“First, it’s important to know that there are three things necessary to make a case for obstruction of justice: an intent to obstruct, knowledge that this obstruction is related to an actual investigation and “corrupt intent.” Direct excerpts from Mueller’s report clearly show corrupt intent, stating, for example, that various actions Trump took were to “protect himself from an investigation” or to “prevent further investigative scrutiny of the president’s and his campaign’s conduct” or to “deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President’s conduct towards the investigation.”

“Barr, however, blithely and globally ascribes “non-corrupt motives” to the president. From his press conference today: “Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.”

“Barr’s pseudo-logic goes like this: if the President did one thing properly and without corrupt motives (release documents, give witnesses “permission” to talk), then he has non-corrupt motives, so the instances of corrupt motives related to specific instances are ….by definition also non-corrupt? Irrelevant? Not real? It may be the attack on our perceptions and sense of reality that’s the most damaging to the national psyche.”

“Is this the same thing that Trump does, when he blatantly denies something we know he said or did? The most recent example occurred on the day Julian Assange was arrested. Trump was asked if he still “loves” WikiLeaks and he said, “WikiLeaks? I don’t know anything about WikiLeaks. It’s not my thing.” Minutes later, video clips of him saying how much he loved WikiLeaks and praising WikiLeaks at numerous rallies were on the air. With Trump, his denying what we know we see and hear is so common and silly that it doesn’t affect our sense of reality. It doesn’t matter if he says he never heard of WikiLeaks. We have faith in our memories and the evidence in front of our eyes that he is lying. So the reaction is a laugh or a snort of disgust, but not a tremor in our sense of sanity. But it’s different with Barr, who still has a veneer of truth-telling.”

So long as Trump has enablers like Barr as his Attorney General and Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader in Congress, he will be protected from prosecution, impeachment or any other problematic situations that could remove him from the office he is clearly and hopelessly unqualified to hold.

Trump is just a man, but he holds the office of the President of the United States, arguably the single most powerful position on this planet. I have talked in earlier podcasts about the fact that cult leaders can only get away with what they do because their followers enable them. That is 100% the case right now here in America and the enablers are in the most senior positions of our government.

This Presidency has been such an eye-opener for so many of us at just how bad things really are in Washington and how deadlocked we as a country are in terms of what to do about it.

Our efforts on the Left to educate, inform or fight back are met with direct insults more often than not by people who lack the intellectual rigor to understand what they are doing and who they are supporting. For those who simply hate the Left and everything it stands for, they’d vote for their dog before they would have voted for Hillary Clinton. Literally, that is what one Trump supporter told me after the election. And to be fair, I’ve heard similar sentiments from the Left about Trump, so there is a lot of passion on both sides. But we’re talking about a malignant narcissist here. This is a dangerous person to give the nuclear codes to. The fact that Trump has that kind of power has kept me awake some nights. This is not a man who should be trusted with such power.

Yet Trump’s supporters were happy to open the door to allow him to walk in and take over, bringing his family along for the ride as though the Presidential term was the same thing as a summer trip to the Hamptons. Nepotism, corruption, obstruction of justice – these are only the tip of the iceberg with these people.

We were hoping for more from this investigation. Frankly, I’m pretty disappointed. I understand what happened and I understand why it happened, but that doesn’t make it all any more palatable.

I wish I had better news, but it seems to me that we have a rocky and long road ahead of us. We have got to get Trump and his enablers out of office and we have so much work to do to restore not just our faith in the office of President, but in our federal leadership as a whole.

A lot of very well-intentioned and honest people work in Washington. They work hard to keep us safe, to keep the lights on and to keep our country going. None of what I’ve talked about in this podcast was meant as a hit on them. The US government is huge and while we like to think there’s a Wizard of Oz kind of figure in charge of everything, that isn’t the case at all. Not every bad thing that’s come out of Washington in the past two years has been because of Donald Trump. His administration has managed to do a few good things but it’s a lot like Scientology as far as I’m concerned. Sure, there’s some good stuff there but look at all the crap you have to sift through to get to it! Is this what we voted for? Is this what we want leading our nation and deciding our policies?

Personally, I think we need to clean house not just in the White House but in Congress. Badly. I mean, take a look at the place. It’s not a dynamic, working group of people representing the wide and diverse interests of our country. It looks more like the Capitol Hill Geriatric Club who work only for the monied elite and entrenched special interest groups who pay them good money for their Congressional votes. That isn’t what the Founding Fathers had in mind and they wrote specifically against all of that. They never envisoned career politicians who would get fat and rich from campaign donationes and the public largesse. Every other week we hear about some corrupt politician getting busted having sex with minors, ripping us off to fund their extravagant lifestyles or just plain ignoring their constituents because Big Pharma or Big Oil or Big Money has them by the pocketbook. It’s disgusting how far we have fallen in the morality of public service. We have got to turn this around or the plain truth is that the Great Experiment of American Democracy is going to end up a catastrophic and historical failure.

That is what this Presidency has shown me and that’s why I speak out about these things the way I do. As Americans, we have a lot of work to do if we are going to turn this whole scene around. I’m trying my best to do my part through education and information. I hope you’ll step up and do yours too.

Thanks for watching and please always remember, it’s chaos – be kind.


Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election

Our Brains Rapidly and Automatically Process Opinions We Agree with as if They are Facts

Mueller had everything he needed to charge Trump with obstruction, but didn’t

The Mueller Report Is an Impeachment Referral

Did We Just Get Gaslighted by the Attorney General?

How Much of the Mueller Report is Redacted

The post Sensibly Speaking Podcast #189: Some Real Talk about the Mueller Report appeared first on The Sensibly Speaking Podcast.


 2019-04-20  58m