THE TRUMP/RUSSIA TIMELINE: APRIL 10 UPDATE

So in February 2016, Paul Manafort pitched himself to the Trump campaign — and offered to work without compensation! Journalist Josh Marshall thinks there’s a story there, and he’s probably correct.

Manafort’s overture is one of several items that I just added to my Timeline for Moyers & Company. To see how the latest Manafort piece fits, take a few minutes to review the entire Timeline. The symbolic bombing of a Syrian airfield sure looks like a distraction.

  • Feb. 29, 2016: Paul Manafort submitted a five-page, single-spaced proposal to Trump. In it, he outlined his qualifications for helping Trump secure enough convention delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination. Manafort described how he had assisted rich and powerful business and political leaders, including oligarchs and dictators in Russia and Ukraine: “I have managed Presidential campaigns around the world.”

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  • April 6, 2017: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes recused himself from the Trump/Russia investigation. Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, a Trump supporter, assumed control.

THE TRUMP RESISTANCE PLAN: CONCLUSION

[This article first appeared on billmoyers.com on April 7, 2017. It’s the eighth in my series. You can read the earlier installments here.]

“The cause of America is, in great measure, the cause of all mankind.”

— Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)

Donald Trump’s presidency threatens two central pillars of democracy: free elections and the integrity of the office he holds. As the Trump Resistance continues, tactics will adjust to changing battlefield conditions. A few key principles can guide the overall strategy.

Tactic #1: Remember the Audience

Donald Trump and his minions aren’t the audience. Every American patriot is. In the near term, the most important targets consist of a few Real Republican senators. Once three courageous Republicans step forward consistently, Trump will have to deal with Senate Democrats representing the majority of citizens who never wanted him running the country.

Tactic #2 Define Victory

Trump must become weaker than a lame duck. Real Republican members of Congress will realize that only bipartisan actions will carry popular federal legitimacy until the next presidential election. Losing his compliant Senate won’t stop Trump completely, but it should slow him enough to save the country until his replacement arrives. And remember, even the drastic step of impeachment won’t cure the problem because Pence was on the Russia-supported ticket, too.

Tactic #3: Keep The Heat On

Keep the heat on the Trump Party. They don’t care that Russia interfered with an American election, and they don’t believe that Presidential corruption matters. Don’t let them pretend that calling Trump a Republican makes him one. He never has been, and he never will be. He’s the founder of a party to which no Real Republican can ever belong.

Tactic #4: Begin the 2018 Offensive

The future is imminent. In 2018, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs and primary elections are already underway. Get to work now because the payoff will be enormous. With Trump’s popularity in the tank, even supposedly “safe” districts will become increasingly less secure for any Trump Party member of Congress. Unless they disavow his attacks on the two pillars of democracy, go after them – along with any of the eight Republican Senators also facing re-election who remain hitched to their Trump albatross. Remember, every Republican in the Senate voted to help Trump blow it up. They wiped out that body’s longstanding filibuster rule so Trump could name a U.S. Supreme Court justice whom some have predicted will be the most conservative member of the bench. Beating out Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito for that prize is no easy feat.

To recap, the eight senators up for re-election are: Nevada’s Dean Heller and Arizona’s Jeff Flake, Texas’s Ted Cruz, Nebraska’s Deb Fischer, Wyoming’s John Barrasso, Mississippi’s Roger Wicker, Tennessee’s Bob Corker, and, if he runs, Utah’s Orrin Hatch. If Jason Chaffetz seeks Hatch’s seat, Democrats can register as Independents for the primary and join Real Republicans in voting him out of office.

Tactic #5: The 2018 Defense

Protect the Democratic flank. Twenty-five Senate Democrats face re-election in 2018. Those uniting in the cause of repelling Trump’s assault on the two pillars of democracy deserve all the support that the Trump Resistance Plan can provide. Those who refuse to fight deserve primary challenges – just as their Republican counterparts do. When it comes to the nation’s survival, party labels no longer matter.

Tactic #6: The 2020 Mission

On Inauguration Day 2017, Trump filed for re-election in 2020. He never stopped campaigning, and neither can the Trump Resistance. Equally important, a new U.S. census in 2020 will provide state legislatures with another opportunity to gerrymander districts that will last through 2030. Attorney General Sessions will do what he can do help them. Republicans won only 51 percent of the votes cast for House of Representatives candidates in 2016, but they hold 67 percent of the seats. The Trump Party will do much worse. Republicans also control 32 state legislatures and 33 governorships. Until they opt-out individually, they’re all presumptively Trump Party members. Work with Real Republicans to turn them out of office.

Tactic #7: Stand Up for Victims

Don’t look the other way. Trump exploits a vicious circle of fear and anger to divide Americans. History will judge all of us by how we react to a bully who abuses our most vulnerable citizens. When Trump attacks, fight back as if he were attacking you because he is. Call, write, visit, march. Contribute what you can in time, money, or both to a cause of your choosing that makes America a better place, even as Trump makes it worse. There are plenty, including those listed at the Moyers & Company website and here.

Tactic #8: Make Your Voice Heard

There are no bystanders in this war. The Trump Resistance Plan provides tools that every citizen can use. Organize and protest publicly at every anti-Trump opportunity, regardless of the particular issue. Whatever your sign says, carry it proudly and add these: “Russia interfered” and “Presidential corruption matters.”

Tactic #9: Remain Vigilant

Beware of the ultimate diversion. Trump won’t be able to deliver on most of the promises he made to the disaffected. Their lives will get worse in ways they couldn’t have imagined. When the same people who cheered his divisive campaign rhetoric become unhappy, frustrated, and angry, Trump will manufacture excuses that shift the blame to others. That’s what he does. That’s who he is. He’ll point his angry mob toward new targets – immigrants; political opponents; the media; anyone who disagree with him; maybe even a foreign country with whom he starts a war. That is when America will face its most perilous hour.

Tactic #10: Embrace former Trump supporters

Over time, millions of Trump voters will recognize their mistakes in casting their 2016 ballots. Trump’s dismal approval ratings prove that some of them have already seen their calamitous error. Welcome them to the Trump Resistance Plan. Inclusiveness in promoting the TRP’s message – even in the face of disagreements over almost everything else – will help to inoculate the populace against the venom that Trump will increasingly inject in an attempt to turn us against each other.

This concludes the Trump Resistance Plan, but not the Trump Resistance. Perhaps the Batman villain, Bane, inspired Trump’s inaugural remarks about giving power “back to you, the people.” If so, Trump missed the most important point: The people already have it. As citizens mobilize, he’ll see what happens when they use it. And he won’t like it a bit.

THE TRUMP/RUSSIA TIMELINE: APRIL 3 UPDATE

On April 3, 2017, I added the following items to my Timeline for Moyers & Company. For context, see how they fit into the larger Timeline picture.

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  • Also on March 7, 2017: Michael Ellis, 32-year-old general counsel to Nunes’ intelligence committee, joined White House Counsel McGahn’s office as “special assistant to the president, senior associate counsel to the president, and deputy national security council legal advisor.”

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  • Also on March 10, 2017: Mike Flynn’s replacement as NSA, H.R. McMaster, told Ezra Cohen-Watnick that he was reassigning him. Unhappy with the decision, Cohen-Watnick appealed to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. They intervened and took the issue to Trump, who ordered that Cohen-Watnick should remain in his position. [Added April 3, 2017]

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  • Also on March 15, 2017: On the subject of his wiretapping claims, Trump told Fox News, “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.” [Added April 3, 2017]

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  • March 23, 2017: In a letter to acting Assistant Attorney General Samuel R. Ramer, Sally Yates’s lawyer disagreed with the Justice Department’s objections to Yates’ anticipated congressional testimony. Associate Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools responded that Yates’ testimony was “likely covered by the presidential communications privilege and possibly the deliberative process privilege.” But Schools added that Yates needed only the consent of the White House, not the Justice Department, to testify. [Added April 3, 2017]

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  • Also on March 24, 2017: Yates’ lawyer wrote to White House Counsel McGahn about Yates’ upcoming testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. He noted that unless McGahn objected before 10:00 a.m. on March 27, Yates would appear and answer the committee’s questions. [Added April 3, 2017]

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  • Also March 30, 2017: The New York Times reported that Nunes’ sources for the information that he’d reviewed nine days earlier on White House grounds – and then reported to Trump directly without informing anyone on his committee – were two members of the Trump administration: Ezra Cohen-Watnick (the NSC staffer whose job Trump had saved personally around March 13) and Michael Ellis (who had served as general counsel of Nunes’ committee before becoming Trump’s “special assistant, senior associate counsel, and deputy national security council legal advisor” on March 7) [Added April 3, 2017]
  • Also on March 30, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reported that Mike Flynn was seeking immunity from prosecution in return for testifying before congressional intelligence committees. The next day, his lawyer confirmed, “General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should circumstances permit.” [Added April 3, 2017]
  • March 31, 2017: Trump tweeted, “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!” [Added April 3, 2017]
  • Also on March 31, 2017: During an appearance with Bill Maher, Roger Stone denied that Guccifer 2.0 was an arm of Russia. “I’ve had no contacts with Russians,” he insisted. [Added April 3, 2017]

STUDENT LOANS AND BETSY DeVOS

Into the teeth of the student loan crisis walked Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. She’s already making it worse.

The problem goes far beyond DeVos’ embarrassing ignorance on display at her confirmation hearing, Her main qualification for Trump’s cabinet appears to have been her status as a Republican billionaire-donor. She knows nothing about basic educational policy, the decades-old Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, fraud by for-profit colleges and graduate schools exploiting students, or any other subject about which an aspiring Secretary of Education should have at least some rudimentary knowledge.

Why DeVos?

None of DeVos’ shortcomings kept Trump Party senators from confirming her. With an expertise in lobbying, she pushed Michigan money away from public education and into charter schools that had little or no accountability for their dismal performance. And Michigan now leads all states in the number of charter schools operated for a profit.

For law students, DeVos’ actions in Michigan are more than just a troubling analogy. In an earlier post, I wrote about Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, which has a marginal law school. His newest assignment is leading Trump’s task force on deregulating higher education. Most law schools — especially those whose graduates have the toughest time finding meaningful JD-required jobs — love the idea of deregulating an already dysfunctional market that props them up.

Law School Winners

If marginal schools had to operate in a completely competitive market, many would have closed their doors long ago. As they lowered admission standards and admitted students who produced declining bar passage rates, federal student loan dollars have kept them afloat. Trump embraces deregulation as a panacea. But that’s because, as with so many things, he lacks an understanding of how the absence of regulation would make the currently dysfunctional market in legal education even worse.

Only federal student loans keep the worst law schools in business. Educational debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and federal guarantees add another layer of protection for schools that don’t deserve it. Meanwhile, schools themselves have no accountability for their students’ poor bar passage rates or dismal employment prospects.

The Obama administration had been making life more difficult for schools that exploit students and leave them deeply in debt from which many will never recover. Specifically, schools that grossly underperformed for their students faced the prospect of losing eligibility for the federal student loan program. Charlotte Law School felt that heat directly.

The Other Shoes Dropped

Less than a week after Falwell’s task force appointment, Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote in the Senate confirmed Devos as Secretary of Education. Immediately, she chose advisers:

— Robert S. Eitel, an attorney, is on unpaid leave of absence from his job as a top lawyer for Bridgepoint Education, Inc., a for-profit college operator whose stock is up 40 percent since November 9. Bridgepoint faces multiple government investigations, including one that ended in a $30 million settlement with the federal Consumer Finance Protection Bureau over deceptive student lending.

— Until July 2016, Taylor Hansen was a lobbyist for the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, the largest trade group of for-profit colleges. In June 2016, his mission was to eliminate the government’s “gainful employment” rule, which can cost a school federal funding if too many of its recent graduates fail to repay their student loans. But then Hansen became a DeVos adviser and a member of the Education Department’s “beachhead” team — a group of temporary employees that doesn’t require Senate approval. On March 6, the Department announced a three-month delay in deadlines associated with the gainful employment rule.

On March 14, ProPublica reported on Hansen’s unseemly status. On March 20, Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent the ProPublica article with a letter to DeVos asking for an explanation. Hansen resigned the same day.

Bottom line: If you’re counting on help in dealing with the worsening student loan crisis, count the Trump administration out.

THE TRUMP/RUSSIA TIMELINE: MARCH 27 UPDATE

On March 27, 2017, I added the following items to my Timeline for Moyers & Company. For context, see how they fit into the larger Timeline picture.

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  • March 21, 2017: In his daily press briefing, Sean Spicer said that, with respect to the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort had “played a very limited role for a very limited period of time.” [Added March 27, 2017]
  • March 22, 2017: Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, bypassed his fellow committee members and went directly to the White House with alleged evidence that Trump associates may have been “incidentally “ swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies. Nunes refused to release the information or name his sources, even to fellow committee members. And he confirmed that he still had seen no evidence to support Trump’s claim that President Obama had ordered his wires tapped. [Added March 27, 2017]
  • Also on March 24, 2017: Nunes cancelled public hearings scheduled for March 28. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had been slated to testify before his committee. Nunes postponed their appearances indefinitely. [Added March 27, 2017]
  • March 26, 2017: In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Roger Stone said, “I reiterate again, I have had no contacts or collusions with the Russians. And my exchange with Guccifer 2, based on the content and the timing, most certainly does not constitute collusion.”

ANOTHER TRUMP/RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE

Russian dollars flowing into Trump’s pocket, Roger Stone’s “time in the barrel,” and FBI Director James Comey’s confirmation that he’s investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russia during the U.S. presidential campaign highlight the newest entries to the Trump/Russia Timeline. On March 20, 2017, I added the following items to the complete Moyers & Company Timeline.

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  • March 12, 2017: John McCain told CNN’s Jake Tapper that former Trump adviser and surrogate Roger Stone “obviously” needed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee concerning his communications with Guccifer 2.0. McCain said that Stone should also explain fully his prior involvement with former business partner Paul Manafort in matters relating to Ukraine’s pro-Putin former president. [Added March 20, 2017]
  • March 15, 2017: Riding in a car near Pompano Beach, Florida, Roger Stone was sitting in the front passenger seat when another car broadsided it, shifted gears, backed up, and sped away. In January, Stone had claimed that he was poisoned in late 2016 with polonium, a radioactive material manufactured in a nuclear reactor and used to kill former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Litvinenko had defected to Britain and become an outspoken critic of Putin. As he lay in a hospital bed, he said that Putin had been responsible for his impending death. On January 21, 2016, retired British High Court Judge Sir Robert Owen concluded a House of Commons inquiry and issued a 328-page report finding that Litvinenko’s accusation was probably correct. [Added March 20, 2017]
  • Also on March 15, 2017: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, said that the Committee had no evidence to support Trump’s March 4 wiretapping claim. “I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” Nunes said. “Are you going to take the tweets literally? If you are, clearly the president is wrong.” [Added March 20, 2017]
  • March 16, 2017: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders issued a joint statement rebutting Trump’s unfounded assertion that President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower: “Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.” [Added March 20, 2017]
  • March 17, 2017: Roger Stone said he had just received via email the Senate Intelligence Committee’s February 17 letter asking him to preserve his records relating to Russian election interference. Quoted in The New York Times, Stone said, “I had never heard allegations that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian asset until now, and am not certain it’s correct.” He said that his 16 interactions with Guccifer 2.0, which included public Twitter posts and private messages, were all part of “exchanges,” not “separate contacts.” [Added March 20, 2017]
  • March 20, 2017: On the morning of FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before Congress on its investigations into Russian election interference, Trump tweeted: “The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!” Hours later, Comey testified that the FBI was investigating Russian interference with election, including “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” With respect to Trump’s wiretapping claims, Comey said, “I have no information that supports these tweets.”