The Secret Sharer

Photo by mathiaswasik | CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump is the sharer of secrets, most compulsively, and fatally, his own. Trump puts the implausible into deniability. The president, who suffers from an advanced case of Tweet-and-Mouth disease, has the habit of undermining his own legal defenses only hours after they are erected. Driven by the gnawing hunger of his own ego, Trump has now manufactured a political crisis which will pitch those associates who lied on his behalf into the grinder of a prosecutorial inquiry. Some of them even deserve it.

Consider Trump’s National Security Advisor, HR McMaster, who the Beltway elites pinned all of their hopes on as a force who could hobble Trump’s more feral impulses.  The brawny Lt. General was viewed as the Trump tamer, someone who would steer the president away from his Russian fantasies and toward the real objective: war with Iran.

When Trump was outed in an over-hyped and under-sourced Washington Post story for sharing “classified information” with Russian diplomats Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak, it was McMaster who was sent out on the White House lawn to face the press as Trump’s human shield. McMaster delivered a crisp, cagily-worded denial, calling the Post story “false.” That should have been the end of it.

But Trump couldn’t let the “hang-out” hang. The next morning he took to Twitter and blew away McMaster’s cover story:

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

That afternoon McMaster was forced to do damage control, for himself as much as Trump, who had confirmed the essence of the story that McMaster had denied. The Colonel’s performance was a master class in mystification, worthy of Nixon’s press secretary Ron Ziegler. McMaster’s crediblity was shot and you can’t help but think that Trump was smirking as he watched the Colonel being cut down to size. For Trump, naturally, loyalty only flows one way: from his subjects to him. He is a man who seems to feast on the failure of others, especially anyone presumptuous enough to give him advice.  McMaster is diminished, huzzah! Now on to Mad Dog Mattis!

So what about that “openly scheduled” private meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov, with glamour shots snapped by a photographer from TASS? Did Trump have an “absolute right” to share “code-word” level classified information about ISIS’s latest iteration of exploding laptops with the crafty Lavrov and his jovial side-kick Kislyak? Did he know he had that “right” when it burst forth from his mouth? Is every president a walking declassification machine, where whatever they say is legal simply because they say it?

I tend to shudder at the assertion of any “absolute right” by a political figure. It reminds me of Louis XIV’s boast that “L’etat est moi.” In reality, of course, presidents wear cloaks of immunity. They can largely do whatever they want until they are stopped by a court, congress or popular uprising.

Still Trump’s laudable claim that he shared the information with the Russians on humanitarian grounds rings hollow to me. I’m pretty sure that a moral body scan of Trump’s anatomy would fail to detect even an ounce of empathetic fluid pulsing through his limbic system.

We can easily visualize the mise-en-scene. Trump was likely feeling intimidated by Lavrov, one of the smartest and shrewdest diplomats since Chou En-Lai, and in an effort to impress him Trump began to do what he does best: boast. And he quickly let something covert slip, almost certainly not aware of its sensitivity or origins, since Trump, like Reagan before him, receives his daily briefings in spoonfuls of bullet points and cartoons.

Regardless of motive (or lack thereof), I’m all for the widest dissemination of most secret documents and hereby nominate Donald J. Trump for the Philip Agee Memorial Award for leaking classified CIA material to alleged adversaries!

But Trump tripped a wire and the National Security establishment went into freak-out mode with red alerts being sent to the CIA, NSA, and State Department.  It was a false alarm for several reasons, but the intelligence elites had finally found something they could wound Trump with and they leaked the story to the CIA’s favorite outlet the Washington Post, putting the most dire spin on the possible consequences of Trump’s blunder: the mole inside the ISIS bomb factory was blown, the source of the info would stop sharing intel with the US, other nations will reconsider their intelligence sharing relationship with the CIA, the whole war on terror has been placed in jeopardy! (Applause.)

I suspected that the source of the information was Israel the moment I saw an hysterical (beyond his usual agitated demeanor) Alan Dershowitz denounce Trump’s leak as the ““the most serious charges ever made against a sitting president.” Dershowitz carried on with this shrill nonsense for two more days, ultimately calling for the leaker of the leak to be hunted down and prosecuted, as if he or she was a modern day Eichmann.

In Dershowitz’s fevered mind, Lavrov took Trump’s tip back to the Russian embassy on Wisconsin Avenue, called up Bashar Assad on speed dial with the news. Assad then tipped off Tehran, the Mullahs passed the word to Hezbollah, who told ISIS all about the Israeli plant in their laptop bomb factory. The men in black were then sure to track down the Mossad agent, lock him in a chicken coop, douse him with rubbing alcohol and set him on fire live on ISIS TV. The fact that Hezbollah and ISIS loathe each other was just a minor inconvenience to Dershowitz’s grisly tale of the horrors gushing forth from Trump’s leak. The pundit class and the hyperventilating Democratic chorus were only slightly less frenzied in their condemnations.

But this is a ludicrous scenario for the very simple reason that the Russians almost certainly knew about ISIS’s laptop bomb plant and they probably learned all about it from…the Israelis! As Gareth Smythe reported for the Guardian in April, the Israelis and Russians have been actively sharing intelligence on Syria for many months now. Former Mossad agent Yossi Alpher said that Russian and Israeli coordination on Syria was  “a major strategic development in the Middle East.” Sorry, Alan.

If you are wondering why Israel reacted so placidly to Trump-Leak-Gate©, it’s because Netanyahu intends to exploit it to his advantage against a president who is, for all practical purposes, already his little plaything.  In fact, Netanyahu almost certainly will leverage the manufactured controversy around the leak to arm-twist more concessions from a supine Trump, who was already willing to offer up whatever was left in the store that he didn’t give away to the Saudis.

We keep hearing that all roads lead to Russia with Trump, which is a case of mass confirmation bias. If you took 10 bloodhounds into the White House one would run to Russia, one would run to Boeing, one would run to Exxon, one would run to Goldman Sachs, one would run to the Genovese Family and five would book a flight to Israel.

So Trump flies off to the Middle East a pathetic, self-pitying figure, with the Hellhound Robert Mueller on his trail. President Snowflake woke up the day after Mueller was named special prosecutor in the RussiaGate© fiasco moaning on Twitter that he was the “victim of the greatest witch hunt” in US history. This choleric tantrum is rather undignified behavior for a man whose mentor was the grand inquisitor Roy Cohn. Especially because Trump brought it all down on himself.  We’ve now learned that the only thing more expansive than Trump’s ego is his stupidity.

Trump could and have should have fired Comey his first week in office. He didn’t even have to offer cause. But he wanted the self-righteous G-Man to stay aboard because he derived a perverse joy from how much Comey’s presence tormented the Democrats, who had yet to fully decide who they blamed more for Hillary’s defeat, Putin or the rogue FBI director.

When the Trump inner circle came under the tightening lens of FBI scrutiny for playing footsie with the Russians (largely in pursuit of their own self-enrichment), the president made three fatal attempts to seduce Comey, encounters which proved about as adroit as his infamous pussy-grabs.

As an operational enterprise, Trump’s presidency probably came to an end the moment he begged Comey to drop the probe into Michael Flynn’s shenanigans, with Mike Pence and creepy Jefferson Sessions lingering outside the keyhole to the Oval Office. Trump’s clumsy entreaty was doomed to fail and bound to come to light. Prior to that fatal moment, Trump could have fired Comey, pardoned Paul Mannafort and Flynn and escaped largely unscathed.

The cover-up, slipshod as most Trump ventures, began the moment Comey walked out that door and began to fall apart a few minutes later when Comey wrote his famous memo to himself about the encounter. Were Pence and Sessions in on it? Seems likely to me. Both have run point for nearly every diversionary tactic offered up by the White House, including the botched firing of Comey, which they falsely ascribed to the demands of new Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein, almost as self-preening about his reputation as Comey, swiftly got his revenge on all three of the conspirators by naming Robert Mueller, the fire-breathing embodiment of the Deep State, as special prosecutor with a nearly unlimited portfolio. Karma is a bitch.

What really motivated these inept machinations? There’s not the faintest trace of evidence that the Russians tipped the election to Trump, as joyous as they might have been at the outcome. Trump’s inexplicable devotion to Michael Flynn, Erdogan’s mole in the White House, is the key to unraveling the enigma. Whatever tawdry secrets Flynn safeguards, they seem potent enough to have triggered Trump’s instinct to prevaricate, threaten and conceal, acting out the slumlord survival tactics drilled into his head by his sleazeball father.

Of course, we can expect some serious bloodshed from Trump Agonistes as the investigation deepens. Clinton bombed Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia to distract attention from his travails, who will Trump blitz to push his troubles off the front pages for a day or two? Since six nations are already being cratered almost daily, they will have to find a fresh target. Venezuela, Iran, North Korea?

Donald Trump is not some strange new political specimen. There are hundreds of DAs, county sheriffs and mayors across the country cut from the same brutish mould. That’s one of the things the Beltway press just can’t understand. The Trump-style of politics is intimately familiar to most Americans.  Trump is exceptional only in his extreme functional limitations as a leader of the Imperium, debilities for which we must all be grateful. Trump’s ineptitude is what makes him a real threat to the “Deep State,” not his bro-crush on Putin. The president’s daily screw-ups have paralyzed the government, stalling the savage dreams of Paul Ryan’s wrecking crew. Gridlock is good. Long may it endure.

In most other respects, Trump functions as the apotheosis of an unchained economic system pre-programed to devour anything in its path. He will be removed from office the moment his incompetence becomes an impediment to the ravenous demands of the neoliberal machine, likely when the Republican’s tax cut plan gets jammed in some Trumpian quagmire.

In the meantime, the “Impeach Trump!©” campaign is going to be the biggest DNC/Liberal NGO fundraiser of all time, the swells of cash dwarfing even the biennial appeals for the last 25 years to “Stop Oil Drilling in ANWR!©”. It may prove so remunerative that the Democrats won’t want the Impeachment to actually take place. Trump could, of course, bust their scam in its infancy by simply resigning and moving into his dacha in Sochi, the one with the Nicholas the Second waterbed. But don’t leave us just yet, Donald, not while the fun is just beginning.


Roaming Charges

+ If Donald really wants to reboot the Watergate franchise, maybe he can hire Michael Bay to put a little more bang into the Brookings Institute bombing, throw in a gratuitous chase scene down Mass Ave. and a few intimate moments in the Dean household featuring the inimitable Mo …

+ Last summer House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy quipped to a gathering of Republican leaders that “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump. Swear to god.” Wait a minute. Putin pays Dana Rohrbacher, the surfing congressman? For what? Shipments of Humboldt weed?

David Clarke, the man who wants to lock up the mayors of Sanctuary Cities and oversaw a torture dungeon in Milwaukee where men died after being withheld water for 6 days, just took a post as Assistant Secretary in Trump’s Homeland Security Department. Clarke is a four-star sheriff, his chest glittering with numerous pins and badges that he apparently scooped out of the bottom of Cracker Jack boxes.

+ The swamp is draining Trump’s blood day-by-day. It’s death by 1000 leaks….

+ We have now been conditioned to a new “bombshell” about Trump being dropped every three days. If Trump goes a week with no new catastrophes, the press will start cooing about how he has “righted the ship.” Of course, if he wants to be called “presidential” all he has to do is bomb someone.

+ You learn the damnedest thing on Access Hollywood, such as Rachel Maddow’s secret fondness for serial sexual predator Roger Ailes….

+ Bring back J. Edgar Hoover! Trump’s top choice for FBI director is Joe Lieberman!!

+ CNN, in remarking on Trump’s interviewing of Lieberman for the FBI post, said White House is at least creating “a semblance of normalcy.” Return to chaos please!

+ Press Corps: “Look, Comey’s cutting the lawn!”
Arctic: “I’m melting, I’m melting!”
Press Corps: “Get out of the way, then, you’re getting our Guccis wet.”

+ Beyond RussiaGate©, there’s some real politics going on in the country. In Philly, progressive defense attorney, Larry Krasner, won a stunning primary victory to take over the seat once held by the nastiest prosecutor in the country, Lynne Abraham, who liked to refer to herself as the “deadliest DA” in America. Probably the less attention this big win gets the better. Whatever you do, don’t tell Pelosi or Schumer.

+ The CIA is now actively re-arming the “moderate” “rebels” in northern Syria. What could go wrong?

+ The Canadian lumber giant, Resolute Forest Products, has retained Joe Lieberman’s law firm to sue Greenpeace using federal RICO statutes, the Mother of All SLAPP suits.

+ If Trump doesn’t have tapes of his interactions with Comey, perhaps Putin does…

+ Word is that Trump has asked that his copy of the Constitution be reduced to a single-page of bullet points.

+ Trump on Edward Snowden, April 2014: “Remember, Russia still has Snowden. When are we going to bring that piece of human garbage back home to stand trial? He caused great damage!”

+ The state of Florida has expanded it’s lethal Stand Your Ground Law. After the Trayvon Martin case how much farther could you possibly stretch it? Legitimize the shooting crying infants as their mothers stroll them down the sidewalk because they disturbed your nap in the lawn hammock?

+ Welcome home, Chelsea Manning!

+ Ellen Friedell has written a nice piece in the London Review of Books recalling how as a young law student she was able to interview the Watergate burglars for the DC Bail Agency shortly after their arrest.

I wish she had mentioned the real hero of the Watergate story, Frank Wills, the black security guard at the Watergate, working for $80 a week, who noticed the double-tape on the DNC office door and called the cops. Even the culprits made a ton of $$ on Watergate, but Wills died nearly destitute in 2000 at the age of 52.

+ Joe Biden must be seriously considering a presidential run in 2020. He’s speaking to his “people” at the SALT hedge fund confab in Vegas…..

+ Nikki Haley must have minored in college in Alt-Geography. She is now referring to the Western Wall as being located in Israel, rather than on the West Bank, where it has stood for two millennia.

+ MSDNC’s Chris Hayes is now so enamored with the CIA that he’s begun to refer to the intelligence “community” (which is hardly a community I’d want to live in) as “the IC….”

+ Trump is set to announce one of the biggest arms deals in history, a $350 billion sale to the Saudis, in an effort to create an Arab NATO against Iran and the Shia of the Middle East. No doubt these weapons will soon be making their way into the hands of Al Qaeda and ISIS.

+ “Hello, Lockheed? This is Jared. Yeah, that Jared. Listen, have I got a deal for you….”

Mein Kampf is back in the bookstores and burqas are now banned. It’s springtime for Hitler in Austria…

+ Democrats were twice as likely to make political contributions in 2016 than Republicans. Democrats were also twice as likely to fall for Nigerian email scams…

+ Between 2000 and 2014, Colorado River flows were 20 percent lower than the historical norm. Warm weather–not just a lack of precipitation–was the culprit. By the end of the century, the Colorado could drop by 50 percent.

+ Trump’s homunculus, Stephen Miller, the man who wrote the Muslim ban and just penned Trump’s big speech on Islam, commanded a national Islamphobic outfit called the Terrorism Awareness Project while he was a student at Duke in 2007. It’s not clear whether this was prerequisite at Duke or an elective…

+ Rahm Emmanuel is calling on Democrats to “stop the madness” and get back to hard the work of implementing neoliberal policies. Rahm is, of course, a huge part of the madness.

+ RIP Chris Cornell. Eddie Vedder is now the last grunge singer standing…

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Sabiduría by Eddie Palmieri
Took You Long Enough by Brad Stivers
Promethean by Theo Hill
Alive and Strange by Billy Price
Let’s Bash by Jowee Omicil

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week…

Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison by Jan Smitowicz
Watergate: a Novel by Thomas Mallon
Denali’s Howls: the Deadliest Climbing Disaster on America’s Wildest Peak by Andy Hall

Coming of Age in America

Hunter S. Thompson: “Coming of age in a fascist police state will not be a barrel of fun for anybody, much less for people like me, who are not inclined to suffer Nazis gladly and feel only contempt for the cowardly flag-suckers who would gladly give up their outdated freedom to live for the mess of pottage they have been conned into believing will be freedom from fear.”

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3