One of the most common defenses of President Donald Trump and his associates as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has heated up is that “collusion” is not a crime, even if Mueller can prove that it took place. It’s a favorite claim of Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
To some degree, this is just wordplay. There is no federal statute that explicitly defines “collusion” or makes it a crime, so of course that would not be literally spelled out on any of the Mueller team’s dozens of indictments, convictions, and plea agreements with U.S. and Russian suspects.
But insofar as “collusion” — if that is taken to mean Russian actors working together to break U.S. laws — is in fact a crime, Mueller is absolutely hot on its trail. And a federal court decision last week reveals just how close the investigation is to actually proving such a thing took place.
In the decision, D.C. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, ruled Mueller can proceed with indictments against Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian company accused of helping manage a “troll farm” that used social media to broadcast election propaganda to the United States.
Specifically, Mueller sought to charge Concord, and several other Russian individuals, with 18 U.S.C. § 371, or conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors say that by secretly funding and promoting targeted messages to influence the election outside of any proper channel, the defendants conspired to stop the Federal Election Commission from enforcing campaign finance law, the Justice Department from registering them as foreign agents, and the State Department because they lied on visa applications to travel to the United States.
At issue in this ruling was whether Mueller could bring these charges alone, since the indictment did not charge any of the Russian companies or individuals with the underlying violations of the laws they allegedly conspired to defeat (failure to register as a foreign agent, for example, or failure to report campaign activity to the FEC). Concord argued to Friedrich that the conspiracy charge could not stand on its own, because “there is no such crime as interfering with an election.”
Friedrich did not agree. She denied Concord’s request to dismiss the charges, noting that established law does not require prosecutors to prove any underlying crime to bring a charge of conspiracy. In other words, she held that a conspiracy to interfere with U.S. elections can itself be a crime — and effectively laid out a way for Mueller to prosecute Russian actors over “collusion.”
Between this ruling and the fact that there are clear lines of evidence of involvement between Russia and the Trump campaign, it is getting untenable to claim that collusion isn’t a crime — or that the effort to uncover it will not take members of Trump’s inner circle down with it.
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Experts Are Not Buying Trump’s Claim for Why He Called Off Strike on Iran in Mid-Air
“These are not strategically sophisticated people”
Many agree President Donald Trump made the right call when he called off the strike on Iran, in retaliation for their downing of a $130 million unarmed, unmanned U.S. Military surveillance drone.
But he is the one who ordered the strike in the first place, so there’s no “credit” there.
Friday morning the President took to Twitter to defend his actions, saying he stopped the assault 10 minutes before the actual strike was about to happen.
“I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General.”
….proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
(The drone was actually downed early Thursday morning, not Monday.)
Many are asking, how was this not a part of the decision-making process before he gave the order to strike?
Others just point-blank don’t believe it wasn’t.
One, a CNN political analyst, says there’s a lot of speculation it was Fox News’ Tucker Carlson’s comments that led Trump to back off – Carlson advised against the strike.
Lot of officials speculating today Trump called off the Iran strike literally while watching Tucker Carlson.
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) June 21, 2019
Here’s what some others are saying.
Contributor to The Nation:
Does anyone believe that the military didn’t brief him on projected casualties until he asked them 10 minutes before the strikes?
If not, then why buy any of it? Guy’s a serial liar surrounded by equally mendacious sycophants.
— Joshua Holland 🔥 (@JoshuaHol) June 21, 2019
CNN national security analyst:
1/ This is one time when the President’s indecision may have saved thousands of lives. But having been part of military CONOPs briefings, they always include an assessment of casualties on both sides at the front end.
— Sam Vinograd (@sam_vinograd) June 21, 2019
NY Times White House correspondent who co-authored the story about Trump calling off the strike in mid-air:
A source told me 30 minutes ago that Trump was pleased with his own performance last night, loved being in command by ordering the strikes and by then ordering the stand-down. And the president just… tweeted it. https://t.co/tUPSym7inn
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 21, 2019
Former Special Counsel at the Dept. of Defense:
This explanation doesn’t smell right.👇
The assessments of casualties would have been prepared, known, and discussed long in advance (part of the “CONOP”)
Is Trump saying he asked that question of the General only after authorizing the strike, and when US planes were en route? pic.twitter.com/z6DyNSwKVz
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) June 21, 2019
CNN Chief National Security Correspondent:
The president revealed the number and type of Iranian target the US was going to hit and the exact US estimate of Iranian casualties. Did he reveal normally classified information?
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) June 21, 2019
Former Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Fletcher School at Tufts University and at the University of Pennsylvania, focused on international security and foreign policy, and emerging technologies and urban warfare:
These are not strategically sophisticated people. They don’t understand or care about how signaling to foreign powers works, if they did, we’d see consistency, minimal uniformity of msg, resolve, and/or directionality of some kind. 2/
— Rita Konaev (@RitaKonaev) June 21, 2019
Again. Very nice or very unfair TO HIM. Not the country, not the people, not his supporters, not his party, not his cabinet. HIM or anything he sees as an extension of himself, such as his brand, financial interests, business acumen, ratings and maybe sometimes his children. 4/
— Rita Konaev (@RitaKonaev) June 21, 2019
We have to see this administration and President for what they are, not for what our theories say they should be. 6/6
— Rita Konaev (@RitaKonaev) June 21, 2019
‘Projection of Incompetence’: White House Out of Control, Commander-in-Chief Not in Charge – Experts Speak Out
Americans and much of the world either went to bed Thursday night or woke up Friday morning to the news that President Donald Trump ordered a strike against Iran over a downed drone, then called it off in progress, mid-air.
Calling off the strike was the fourth critical action he took in the span of less than 12 hours. Ordering the strike was the third action. Saying a rogue Iranian military official probably was to blame was the second, and threatening Iran, possibly with military action was the first.
That was Thursday.
By late Thursday night The New York Times had broken the news of the strike that wasn’t.
But additional reporting reveals many disturbing facts, leading to one unmistakeable conclusion: this is a White House out of control, with a Commander-in-Chief not in charge.
Take a look, for example, at this disturbing report from CNN’s Alexander Marquardt, a Senior National Correspondent focusing on National Security. He makes clear Trump’s not the one calling the shots, and is only making decisions to fend off internal bickering and power plays in his administration.
Sr WH official tells me it’s Bolton vs Trump on how to proceed on Iran. Trump does not want conflict. Pompeo, Pence, Esper are “swing votes.” Pompeo is “a triangulator,” source tells @MichLKosinski, “the goal is re-establishing deterrence, but that is still very risky.”
— Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) June 20, 2019
A Fellow at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center notes that the CIA is not supposed to be in the business of making policy decisions.
Not the most important thing right now but why is CIA Director Haspel recommending policy options according to NYT report. Aren’t intelligence agencies not supposed to wade into policy. https://t.co/v38Z7Wn5sr
— Zachary Keck (@ZacharyKeck) June 21, 2019
A professor at the U.S. Naval War College who is an expert on Russia, nuclear weapons, and national security affairs sums up what’s going on:
No benefit of the doubt here, especially after he was warned off by Putin.
But I’d rather two more years of humiliation than a pointless war led by a CinC who is in over his head, has alienated our allies, surrounded by Actings and temporaries, and has no idea what he is doing. https://t.co/NKP8rE7HVq
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) June 21, 2019
Then there’s this warning from former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes:
This is precisely why politics isn’t a game, diplomatic agreements should be honored, and temperament, intellect and judgement are what matters in who is President. It should never have come to this.
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) June 21, 2019
The absence of any rational, coherent process for national security decision-making has always been a clear risk under Trump. Now we see what that looks like in a crisis
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) June 21, 2019
Former Republican U.S. Congressman David Jolly delivers a breathtaking blow:
There’s absolutely nothing about this aborted Iran strike that looks good on the world stage tonight. Nothing. Nothing strategic. Nothing geopolitically advantageous. Nothing reflecting well on US political leaders. Nothing reassuring to allies. Only a projection of incompetence.
— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) June 21, 2019
Here’s a professor of international relations, political scientist, and journalist:
Even though Trump blinked re: Iran–not a sign of restraint so much as evidence of indecision and bumbling–the situation remains very dangerous and prone to accidental escalation and/or spinning out of control.
— David Rothkopf (@djrothkopf) June 21, 2019
And if you think this episode is over, Newsweek reports it very well may not be.
#BREAKING Update: @Newsweek has learned from a Pentagon official that regional U.S. military assets, including the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, have been put on 72-hour standby to potentially strike #Iran #Trump https://t.co/OCWZGcJPG0
— Jim LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) June 21, 2019
Trump Facing ‘Psychic Collapse’ After Mueller’s Report Puts More Pressure on His Unstable Mind: Psychoanalyst
On Friday, as the full weight of the Mueller report sunk in, proving far more damning that Attorney General William Barr’s memo, Trump dismissed the findings as “total bullish*t.”
That statement seems at odds with Trump’s earlier claim that the Mueller report exonerates him of all wrong-doing.
Raw Story spoke with Howard H. Covitz, Ph.D., a psychologist-psychoanalyst, about the President’s likely state of mind.
Covitz was for many years Director and Training Faculty of the Psychoanalytic Studies Institute and the Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies in Philadelphia, and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. His Oedipal Paradigms in Collision was nominated for the Gradiva Psychoanalytic Book of the Year.
He’s also taught university-level mathematics and psychology in the past. His connectedness to his wife, grown children, and grandchildren motivates his activism.
He contributed his wide-ranging insights to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Professionals Assess a President,” edited by Bandy X. Lee, which was re-released last month alongside a major Washington conference on presidential fitness (dangerouscase.org).
Raw Story: How did you come, as a psychoanalyst to enter public discussion about a public figure? Isn’t there a rule against professionals speaking in psychiatric terms about public figures?
Howard H. Covitz: I am a staunch advocate of that rule in all situations when there is no risk of catastrophic danger to others. I have chosen to speak out because a man was elected President (and given unimaginable powers to do good and evil) who shows the signs of those people who are prone to doing others harm.
For him, if I take his words seriously, life is a zero-sum game, and he must win all the time. The Psalmist said not about Trump but about the God that so many of his followers devoutly worship: “To God belongs the Earth and all that it contains” (Psalm 24). That’s not the way God-complex Trump sees it…. Furthermore, I must say, that any armed person who is not President and who is doing and saying what Donald Trump says often and openly would be whisked off by the gendarmes to a psychiatric facility for testing.
Raw Story: The Mueller report appears to at least legally clear Trump of collusion with Russia, although obstruction is still an open question. How do you explain Trump’s extreme negative reaction?
Howard H. Covitz: Since Donald Trump was a presidential candidate, we in the mental health community noted in him, one, an inability to see others as people in their own right (subjects with their own needs and intentions) but rather to see them as instruments for his use. Two, a splitting of the world into with-me and against-me camps, and three, an apparent lack of impulse control. He also appears to have no respect for extant organizations, laws or accepted wisdom. He’s shown an absence of nuanced thought (in addition to any question of cognitive decline). He’s demonstrated having only one truth, namely what he wishes to be true. The fact that he has nearly unlimited powers that are not being checked by the Senate or anyone else leaves the values of the Republic and the welfare of the world arguably in grave danger.
Raw Story: How do you think this information will land on the President’s supporters, given Trump’s unique relationship with his base?
Howard H. Covitz: We know the power of the mob and its allegiances to tribal beliefs. But beyond this, we know that the Fourth Estate, to a significant extent, has been wittingly or unwittingly complicit in treating many of Trump’s positions AS IF they were reasonable … they have been complicit, that is, in normalizing the pathological as during the rise of authoritarian regimes.
Having said that, it is difficult to believe that there will not be defections from the Trump cult, if room is made for these people who saw in Trump hope for a better day. I expect there to be efforts (either from the Right or from Russian bots) to paint the progressive camp as seeing half or more in the MAGA camp as “deplorables.”
Speaking not as a psychoanalyst but as a citizen, father and grandfather, it is absolutely necessary for us to avoid any further alienation of the right, including the Religious Right.
Raw Story: Do you envision the President doubling down on his agenda, including severely restricting immigration? Plus, today the President called the report “total bullshit” even though he also claimed it exonerated him. Why can’t the President stop while he’s ahead?
Howard H. Covitz: If, indeed, the elected President’s publicly displayed behaviors are indicative of severe pathology (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), the likelihood of his responding to the pressure of being exposed in any constructive manner is essentially zero.
We have made inroads into treating some such people with success, but this is a lengthy process and is not accomplished under the type of duress that the President is being exposed to with the damning pictures in Mueller’s report. We see from even the redacted report that, without the likes of John Kelly and teams of legal consultants, the six characteristics mentioned above would have moved him to even more dangerous and illegal positions.
He is being portrayed in the report as one who can be controlled – the Emperor, in the report, does indeed have small hands, so to speak. How someone like he will be able to integrate the public shaming that this brings forth for him is not predictable but should be a source for grave concern.
That having been said and, again, assuming again that his pathological behaviors are not all a show, we may presume either an increase in these disturbing behaviors (pulling out of NATO, declaring national emergencies for whatever he chooses to do, ramping up tensions with Iran, using the full-force of the executive branch to leash friends and whip foes, … ), or a psychic collapse.
We saw a notable change in his behavior when he left the White House on Thursday for Mar-a-Lago and refused to take any questions. The next days and weeks should clarify which of these paths he chooses and how much and what kind of violence he chooses to promote. It is impossible to precisely predict the future actions of someone who apparently lives under the belief that après moi le deluge.
These are, in my estimation, the most dangerous times thus far in Trump’s presidency … Dangerous for the republic with dangers for the world and dangerous for my grandchildren.
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