by John Walters
The Gathering Storm
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, a triathlete who has been known to bike 35 miles to work and is married to a pediatrician whom the president called “a loser,” resigned yesterday. Let’s cut through the b.s. and discuss what this means:
–The president is being investigated for possible collusion with the Russians, in part because of meetings that no one denies took place, and in part because two men who worked for him during his campaign, Paul Manafort and Carter Page, had incredibly strong and financially lucrative ties to Russia. This is not in dispute.
–Almost immediately since taking office, the president has fought this investigation by obstructing justice. First he fired the attorney general of the United States, Sally Yates. Then he fired the director of the FBI, James Comey. He wanted to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June but did not when his own White House counsel, Don McGahn, threatened to resign if he did so. He is talking about firing Rod Rosenstein, the acting attorney general in terms of the collusion investigation, since Jeff Sessions has recused himself; and if that happens he might just fire Mueller or Mueller might resign.
–McCabe likely left a few months shy of retirement because 1) he was sick of being badgered by Trump on Twitter and 2) now that his boss, Christopher Wray, is basically a Trump apparatchik, he knew that anything he did was only going to be approved if it were in the best interests of Trump as opposed to the best interests of the nation. Moreover, 3) who wants to work for a president that continually calls your agency’s integrity into question when everyone knows that it is the president’s integrity that is wanting?
–Trump has pretty much eliminated the FBI as a viable threat. If he sacks Rosenstein, he would replace him with someone whom Mueller has to report to, someone who would not only be able to tip Trump off as to what Mueller is doing but who could effectively curb Mueller’s efforts and compromise the investigation. At that point, why would Mueller remain on board?
–The #SecretMemo is the latest effort at obfuscation and distraction. The sole and primary question is this: Was Carter Page and/or Manafort acting in the interests of Russia and interfering in the election? The memo is going to try to distract the American public into the FBI’s surveillance methods, but the FBI secured a FISA warrant most likely because they demonstrated that there was an EXTREMELY LEGITIMATE REASON to surveil Page. In sports terminology, the argument is whether Page had both feet inbounds and the GOP is trying to tell you that the referee maybe shouldn’t have been allowed to be reffing the game.
–If Rosenstein and Mueller go, Trump has won. At least inside the government. The last bastion who would still be able to investigate him and bring him to justice is the free press. This is where it helps that one of the two newspapers who could illustrate his alleged treason is The Washington Post, which is owned by the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos. Its managing editor is the most incorruptible man in journalism, Marty Barron (the Spotlight hero; Barron’s journalism prof at Lehigh was my cousin’s dad, by the way).
In an ideal scenario the President of the United States and the worst human being in the world would be two different people.
— God (@TheTweetOfGod) January 29, 2018
–Donald Trump is not and has never behaved like a man who is innocent. He has always behaved like someone who does not believe in due process but as someone who simply wants this to disappear. That is why he is either bullying or firing everyone in government who could potentially bring him to justice. That is why he keeps repeating the mantra, “No collusion,” as if he believes that if he says it enough, that will somehow make it true. This is not a man who believes in normal discourse. This is a man who speaks in slogans and only says that which will abet his narcissism.
Meanwhile, the State Dept. is rolling back the sanctions on Russia (America is now as feckless as the IOC) because Trump, The Manhattanchurian Candidate, still needs to keep his part of the bargain, no, comrade?
The Trump admin has notified Congress that last year’s bipartisan Russia sanctions bill is serving as a “deterrent” and as such, specific sanctions aren’t needed at this time. From a State Dept spox: pic.twitter.com/rwkd6Vzh66
— Elana Schor (@eschor) January 29, 2018
–If that announcement doesn’t tell you where the White House’s true loyalties lie, what will? Meanwhile, men in power do nothing because Trump’s tax policy and deregulation has made the wealthy even more so, they don’t want to kill this golden goose. And the Koch brothers are going to spend a record-$400 million on this year’s midterm elections in order to ensure that the GOP controls both the House and Senate the next two years so that the gravy train will continue and that anyone inside the government attempting to find out the truth about Trump will be silenced. Or overruled.
–McCabe’s resignation leaves America fantastically vulnerable. Because Trump won’t stop. It’s not in his nature. Rosenstein is next, and if that domino falls, I wouldn’t blame Mueller if he threw up his hands in disgust and made his exodus. Or Trump still might fire him. Are there really any Republicans who’d stand up to Trump even then? No.
–A president is under investigation for treason. And he gets rid of every single meaningful person in the FBI or Justice Dept. who might be able to find the truth, even if that truth exonerates him. Are these the actions of an innocent man or are these the strong-arm maneuvers of a bullying despot?
–Finally, in a wonderful display of how petty and morally bankrupt Trump is, he actually phoned McCabe last year to admonish him for the fact that Comey, who learned he was fired while in Los Angeles (again, as the HEAD OF THE FREAKING FBI), was able to fly back to Washington on a government plane. At the taxpayers’ expense. This is a man, Trump, who has already cost taxpayers $49 MILLION in one year as president for his golf excursions alone.
2. And Now, Somoene Who Doesn’t Suck
Tom Hanks has signed on to play Fred Rogers in the biopic of everyone’s favorite sweater-wearing middle-aged American hero. Based on the marvelous Esquire story by Tom Junod, which is as good a piece as you will ever read (We still have that issue in case we are ever called upon to teach journalism somehwere).
3. Crypto Updates
In a sign of how much bigger the crypto market is now than it was just a couple of years ago, last weekend a record-sized cryptocurrency hack took place and the world sort of yawned. Four years ago the world’s first major Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, which handled 70% of Bitcoin, was hacked and lost $450 million. Mt. Gox soon filed for bankruptcy and it was thought to be the possible death knell for Bitcoin.
Last Friday a record amount of cryptocurrency, $530 million worth, was hacked and stolen from the Tokyo-based exchange Coincheck. Did you even hear about it?
Meanwhile in Oxfordshire, England, last weekend, an in-home burglary of crypto. From The Guardian: “Armed men broke into the family home of a cryptocurrency trader and are believed to have forced him at gunpoint to transfer holdings of the virtual currency bitcoin.” That means they literally made him get on his computer and transfer his Bitcoin holdings to an anonymous account. Now that’s genius. Criminal and miscreant, sure, but genius.
The lesson: Don’t brag about how much Bitcoin you’re holding…
4. Wahoo Serious?
Major League Baseball announces that the Cleveland Indians will discontinue the Chief Wahoo mascot after next season. Apparently we need an entire year of farewell tours for a purportedly racist depiction of a people whose land we stole?
Is this the Tribe’s next mascot?
We’ve plumbed this turf before, but let’s say that the Wahoo mascot illustration is racist or racially insensitive. Fine. Then what do you call naming the team “Indians?” Because that’s a slur at worst and one of history’s great misnomers at best. And of course isn’t it a little disingenuous to be so concerned about a people’s feelings only now after you’ve stolen their nation from them? The Appaloosa is out of the barn, no?
So, yeah, we get it. But they’re still the Cleveland Indians. The name is still racially sensitive. Maybe they’ll be changed to the Cleveland Golden Knights, which of course is something that has never even actually existed.
5. Pyramid Scheme
Is this the worst blind date in like, ever? That’s the world’s tallest man, 36 year-old Turkish farmer Sultan Kosen, who stands 8’3″; and the planet’s shortest woman, 25 year-old Indian actress Jyoti Amge, who stands 2’1″, outside the pyramids at Giza. They were there to promote Egyptian tourism and I really hope he doesn’t fall on top of her.
This right here is why the internet was invented…
Guys. Brad Stevens was upset with his arms crossed in front of a fan who was upset with his arms crossed in front of another fan who was wearing a shirt with a picture of Brad Stevens upset with his arms crossed. pic.twitter.com/PCtYyn68Qj
— Adam Davis (@daadvaims) January 30, 2018
Tell me why Kenan Thompson and SNL did not think of this first…
A Pelicans fan snuck on to the court for warmups, stretched and put up a shot before the police escorted him off. Dying 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/ckytG5T8q1
— Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) January 29, 2018
Found this last night. Here’s the original cast of Saturday Night Live just a few days before their October 11, 1975 premiere episode spending a few minutes with Tom Snyder. Note that Chevy Chase’s healthy ego is already in full bloom while John Belushi does not say a peep. And Lorne Michaels cannot even name all the cast members yet…
Bizarre Love Triangle
The British New Wave band New Order was cut out of the dying carcass of Joy Division, with some of the remaining members forming this band after vocalist Ian Curtis committed suicide. This 1986 song somehow failed to make the Top 40 in either the US or the UK, but it is one of the best songs in the genre and Rolling Stone rightfully put it at 201st in its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list in 2004.
8 p.m. TCM
In which a citizen of a sh*thole country is brought to the United States, in chains and against his will, and then treated like a public enemy for not playing along with the existing power structure. Or you can watch that other thing on tonight.