Imagining an endgame

Live TV footage shows the Trump plane taxiing through the midnight gloom. There have been no announcements from the White House, not even a tweet, since an Appellate Court earlier in the afternoon upheld an order to unseal Paul Manafort’s autopsy report. There is no realistic hope that the eight members of the Supreme Court will intervene in the matter.

No one is sure who is on the plane. No flight plan is available. Press Secretary Omirosa Manigault issued several sunny statements earlier that evening, but took no questions and has not responded to calls.

Democrats are publicly asking the FBI to stop the plane from leaving, but it isn’t clear who would have the authority and under what cause. It has been months since the Attorney General stepped down and no replacement has been named. Indictments against Jared Kushner and Ivanka are expected from the New York AG’s office tomorrow, but it could still be weeks before formal changes are submitted against the President. Republicans have begun to discuss impeachment.

Crippling political problems had seized the Administration from Day 1 and they never improved. Of the hundreds of political appointments the President can make, he failed to ever appoint half. Failure on Obamacare repeal was followed by a brief, messy attempt at tax reform. Before that could completely fall apart the direct evidence regarding collusion with Russian intelligence and ties to Russian organized crime started to emerge.

When state AG’s began probing the Trump organization’s business ties skeletons began tumbling like a landslide. One state AG successfully subpoenaed tax records and the situation became critical.

Still, the wall of GOP support held inexplicably firm until the deadly ambush of Marines in Northern Syria. Questions swirled over the apparent role of Russian intelligence in leaking the soldiers’ position and movements. The miserable, deadly scramble to extract remaining units from the country was bad enough. Worse, perhaps, was the President’s long series of angry, rambling tweets at Katy Perry while the incident played out. Anonymous sources say he was unavailable at the time to provide approvals for airstrikes, while the Administration insists he was in the situation room monitoring events.

Grainy cell-phone footage emerges of the Trump plane on a tarmac in Moscow. The President’s first Tweets make no mention of his travel, only rehashing his election victory and referencing his “overwhelming” public support. Administration officials who haven’t yet resigned at first claim he is on a state visit to the UK. Others say he’s at Mar-a-Lago. After two days of confusion, and the release of the indictments against Kushner and others, Trump himself acknowledges on social media that he is in Russia. No word on when or whether he plans to return. He does not respond to inquiries.

Paperwork indicates that the Trump businesses have already taken steps to isolate many of their assets, reorganizing ownership under entities based in the Caribbean, Qatar and Russia. It isn’t clear whether American prosecutors or plaintiffs can reach any of the family’s substantial overseas assets.

As weeks pass the President remains in Russia without issuing any statement explaining his actions or describing any plans to return. Word leaks that federal prosecutors are ready to file charges against Trump himself, possibly including treason, but confusion and resistance inside the Justice Department is holding up action.

Republicans in Congress finally agree to take up impeachment, but that process could consume weeks or months at best. It is unclear whether a 25th Amendment declaration can gain support, allowing the Vice President to assume leadership. The President has not resigned and has not signaled his intention to resign, even though he is now effectively in exile, in flight from prosecution. Most of the White House staff has stopped showing up to work and the acting press secretary no longer gives briefings or responds to inquiries.

Small clusters of Trump supporters engage in dreary protests all over the country, begging him to come home and expressing anger at his unjust persecutors. Breitbart hails the cleverness of his successful escape from a shadowy Jewish conspiracy and insists that his domestic authority remains undimmed. Infowars insists Trump is still in the country, hiding with survivalists in Idaho and planning an insurrection. Alex Jones claims to be in communication with him daily. No one knows where Steve Bannon is.

Through sheer dumb luck, the book published by disgraced former Press Secretary Sean Spicer hits stores the same week Trump flees. It is a massive best-seller. While Reince Preibus awaits trial, Spicer accepts an invitation to appear on a special edition of Dancing with the Stars, paired with Melissa McCarthy.

‘Murica abides.

39 Comments

  1. Funny and scary at the same time Chris and plausible. I’ve been following as best I can friends/colleagues who have been returning to Russia and trying to keep up with the news there. If the end game for Trump involves Moscow he might want to book a flight soon. Very exciting to see the demographics of the protestors.
    https://meduza.io/feature/2017/03/27/v-sleduyuschiy-raz-mne-by-hotelos-poyti-vmeste-s-nim The link is to articles in Meduza mostly journalists squeezed out of Russian media. A very good article in the New Yorker as well. http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/what-the-russian-protests-mean-for-putin

    1. Endgame may have begun for real. I think the testimony of Clint Watt today followed by the WSJ article of Flynn offering testimony in exchange for immunity may mark a turning point. Whats the old prosecutor’s joke ” the first to take immunity gets the best seat on the bus…boarding is about to begin”

  2. Canada’s Liberal government has just announced that legislation is coming that will legalize marijuana for the entirety of Canada. This was a major promise by Justin Trudeau during his campaign and was seen as one of the driving reasons behind Liberals’ strong youth showing.

    Going forward, all producers will be licensed and therefore regulated, although individual provinces will be left up to decide how best to distribute and sell. In addition, the minimum age for buying marijuana will be set at 18; although, again, individual provinces can set the age higher if they so choose.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/liberal-legal-marijuana-pot-1.4041902

    A truly terrible turn of events, I have to say. Now I’m never going to hear the end of stupid jokes about Millennials moving to Canada. Thanks, Trudeau.

    1. Between the Millennials and the old geezers departing and with all the minorities deported and banned, the population problem in the US will be solved. The population rate of growth in the US will become negative. We will be like Russia, which will have a companion in the category of formerly developed nations. (-: !

    2. Interesting.

      At my last place of employment, Canadian hospitals and labs were using the company’s air purification products as they figured out how to administer mj treatment without creating an environment that forced others — doctors, nurses, technicians — to breathe the air carrying the treatment.

  3. Addendum to your story:

    It’s November 2020. A week later Trump wins reelection.

    the Dem nominee was permanently handicapped after a dozen congressional investigations revealed he used his Yahoo account instead of his Gmail account to send his staffers their annual Christmas party invitations. Several congressional Republicans, asked about Trump’s Russian connections and the ensuing constitutional crisis, would only reply “but that Yahoo account! Thank God he’s not president!”

    Chuck Schumer, reduced by new Senate rules to wearing a dunce cap and sitting in the corner, was seen still grinning, happy knowing that he’s still the most powerful Democrat in all the scorched land.

    1. We all lost, it’s just that some are coming to that realization a little later than others.

      Beyond the true believers, those people of good faith who put their trust in him are going to lose and lose and lose some more and are going to have to keep getting back up. My hope is that whatever sense of regret or anger they feel is channeled into action and they don’t take this as the time to say f*** it all and give up completely. We have work to do.

      1. I still believe that healthcare is going to be a major problem for them. The education and awareness of the masses on this issue is not going to sit easily as the GOP allows it to wither on the vine. What I continue to worry about is if Dems and like-minded (however transient) people will GOTV. I continue to be amazed that the Dem Party is offering no structure and seems incapable of capitalizing on the tremendous grassroots outcry. I have just about come to the point that a new party is going to be necessary – for both parties. The GOP has moved so far right that they seem incapable of modifying and the Dems are impotent. What a sad situation.

      2. I remain committed to the idea that both parties are shattered beyond repair. Our only status quo is that there is no status quo and we’re currently in the midst of a political upheaval with an end that no one can foresee.

        I don’t know about the Democrats, but I don’t think we’ll have to wait too long before a new conservative-ish party emerges. Since we’ve all been caught up in the daily slog of Trump and what Republicans have been up to, there hasn’t really been much time for it, but the truth is is that the curtain has been pulled back and there’s no going back to the ways things were. It won’t take all that long for a new movement to start gaining steam; plenty of conservatives and moderates of good faith would likely abandon the party if a viable, serious alternative were available.

      3. Given the success of the Freedom Caucus tactic and the hole the GOP has dug for themselves with the creation of gerrymandered districts, why wouldn’t the conservative movement move even more right? I don’t even know how to comment on the Democrats. There appears to be no leadership at all. I know Obama is working on a strategy along the lines of Redmap for the Dems – which is needed – but no one in the DNC leadership seems to be capitalizing on the tremendous surge of grassroots momentum, harnessing the new people who are engaged, and folding them into the Dem apparatus…Oh, well…the tail is wagging pretty good on its own but what a wasted opportunity.

    2. GOP won’t touch him. The Republican Party is trapped playing Fantasy Football. They can do whatever they want, say whatever they want, and blame whomever they want, as long as none of their ideas are ever actually manifested as legislation.

      Citizen’s United and extreme gerrymandering means the GOP (and Democrats to a lesser degree) can radicalize their base while pandering to big-wallet donors instead of listening to their base. The process empowers and elects popular, radicalized representatives that don’t know how to play with others.

      To this end, the GOP are now scared. They’re facing head on the product of echo-chamber radicalization, the final efforts of “conservatism” redefined as anti-Democrat and loyal to the Republican cause to the death. A beast that has chosen a man not only unfit for the Presidency, but echoes a dictatorial tone only heard from histories worst despots. ‘Follow me or else’, “My opponent is the enemy’, “I am perfect.” They voted. They are ‘conservative’ by the new definition.

      It doesn’t take many to be scary. the ACHA floored at 17%, which if purely Republican, would be nearly half the electorate that put Trump in office. People willing to not just throw away affordable access to medical care for faceless millions, but sacrifice their own access to medical care over repeated, convenient lies, broadcast day in, and day out, hour by hour. “Obamacare is evil” they say, and they believe, because they are ‘conservative’. They are ‘loyal’. They are ‘red blooded’, pure, and unquestioning.

      The end game? The Republican party continues to be held together by the unwavering crud at the losing end of every issue, only holding electoral power by the breadth of those issues. An undissolvable accretion of inviable, politically suicidal ideas, each so destructive and devastating that their ‘alliance’ crumbles should any one ever be manifested and passed as legislation.

      The GOP is the highly acclaimed remake of a beloved movie you never watch. As long as they don’t actually govern, their ideas will save the country and the world from the abominations that aren’t them.

      1. Tonight Trump and Kushner unveiled a new initiative that will introduce business ideas into stagnating government operations. Evidently this effort will have great authority. Funny thing – all those business skills of Trump didn’t help him be successful with his immigration order, or passing the AHCA…could it be that running government is different than running a corporation?

        “The government should be run like a great American company,” Kushner told The Post. “Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-taps-kushner-to-lead-a-swat-team-to-fix-government-with-business-ideas/2017/03/26/9714a8b6-1254-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html?

    1. The GOP are more fairweather than a playground swing set at recess. it’s a sin against man, country, and God if it makes the ‘enemy’ look good, but when the news is good for them, they take it as vindication of their superior leadership and ‘principles’ which the other side perennially lacks.

      The GOP has been burning political bridges for 9 years. I don’t see them stopping anytime soon.

  4. It all sounds exciting and action packed.

    Unfortunately I think the best case scenario is that strong evidence is revealed for Russian state representatives colluding with the Trump campaign to defeat Clinton, the Republicans falter on another couple of big initiatives, the Dems take the House in 2018 giving the Republicans the ability to back away from their clear responsibility, and the government gets gridlocked until 2020 after which Trump is voted out. If we’re SUPER lucky, he gets impeached in 2019 and creates dissonance and distraction on the right with his invective Twitter rants against the Republicans.

    What’s more likely is that call logs and testimonies show that Russian individuals with unclear connections to Russia’s actual state apparatus occasionally talked to people on the campaign, but no clear evidence or testimony shows that they colluded nor that the calls were anything outside normal “I’m a globally renowned businessman” behavior, and yet another way Trump moves the goalposts of ethical and acceptable behavior in campaign norms is the ability to collaborate with extranational interests as long as no literal shared strategies and specified coordination are proven. So basically anything short of “You release this information at this time on this day, and we do this action on this time at this day” is free game, because Trump*.

    * Postscript: until a Democrat successfully pulls that tactic. Then suddenly bills appear and relatively easily get through Congress against that sort of behavior, and the Democrat gets disgraced and kicked from office.

      1. “I was hoping you’d project that the Dem victory in ’18 (since we’re hypothesizing) would reflect the rise of a new progressive party…”

        Recent election in LA had shit turnout:

        http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-updates-los-angeles-election-l-a-voter-turnout-at-11-45-1488943768-htmlstory.html

        More people showed up at Trump protests than voted.

        Meanwhile, Jon Ossoff in Georgia will get in the first runoff, but hypothetical matches with any of his opponents gives him a narrow lead or a 1% trail behind Hill:

        http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2017/03/25/poll-jon-ossoff-karen-handel-rising-in-georgia-special-election/

        Jon Ossoff marks the most likely of the special elections to succeed at swinging a seat.

        So, in the first tests of these stupid fucking ‘progressives’ standing up to actually vote, it’s unclear they’re actually following through. This in the early days of new and fresh-faced passion, not yet driven down by major losses or despair.

        So we’ll see how things go, but frankly I rest my expectations on past actions rather than future-looking statements. And in my brief history of politics, when the GOP suffers a major party failure like the AHCA debacle, they double down and step further to the right rather than backing off and reaching out to Democrats, and progressives love to share placard slogans on social media but don’t vote.

    1. Here, this is exactly what I mean:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/us/politics/takeaways-russia-intelligence-committee-hearing.html

      “But their exchange went on for several minutes, exploring a sort of Zen riddle of whether trying to defeat Mrs. Clinton meant trying to elect Mr. Trump.”

      Take this:

      ““The Russians successfully meddled in our democracy and our intelligence agencies have concluded they will do so again,” Mr. Schiff said. Mr. Schiff’s statement is also the conclusion of the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the N.S.A., accepted even by most Republicans.”

      plus already documented calls and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, and you get the following politician equation:

      Definitive Russian meddling with US election + Definitive Russian contact with Trump campaign = defeating Hillary Clinton, but does it necessary = helping Trump?

      Epistemological conundrum! So difficult! Much complex! Such Zen koan!

      Trump’s not going to go down for this. From now on, campaigns can collude with foreign nations as long as they collude to defeat opponents, not win elections.

      1. EJ

        If they find that Russian interference did not occur, they set a terrible precedent for how other states can interfere in American elections. If they find that Russian interference did occur, they invalidate the election and face the prospect of a horrible constitutional crisis over which legal mechanism allows him to be removed. As such, I sympathise with their plight and appreciate why they’re dithering over it: a choice between the terrible and the horrible, with no third option, is not something I want to make.

        I can’t see the committee coming up with any answer except to clear Trump. To declare his election invalid would take America into genuinely uncharted political territory, in which the different branches of government regard one another as illegitimate. That’s far less scary than meekly folding and enduring four years of misrule.

      2. I wish I could agree with you EJ, but I don’t. The changes that are being forecast by this GOP majority complicit with the support of DJT constitute far more than “misrule”. We are talking about a sea change. Granted, it would be a horrible situation from every vantage. But better to meekly fold? Ooh, not so sure about that. Supreme Court appointments that are for life? Tax reform? Destruction of civil and social equality? Immigration? Health care?

      3. EJ, I think the example of Watergate gives us an out. Election cheating was at the heart of that scandal too, although in that case strictly domestic. GOP operatives actually burglarized Dem offices. It wasn’t that particular crime that brought Nixon down, but the attempted coverup. There just may be such attempted coverups going on with this Russua affair, if so, and if sufficient evidence is collected, the way forward is actually quite clear. There is a long line of succession to tap into if any of the big dominoes fall.

        Nixon would have been impeached and convicted had he not resigned. I can’t see Trump resigning if a solid case builds against him- his ego won’t let him.

    1. That’s great stuff, Martin. And here’s another one, also encapsulating the Executive-Congressional debacle:

      Reporters asked Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power.

      “Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

      Hey–it’s hard to be in charge in the real world, isn’t it?

  5. Not long ago, if you pitched that to Hollywood, they’d say no, too unbelievable. After that last 20 or so months, I find that story highly believable, although not yet probable. The GOP has not yet reached the point where they see Trump as radioactive. But the whole Russia thing could have some serious legs, and anyone who can procure those tax returns is a straight up hero in my book.

    1. Scriptwriters in Hollywood is exactly what I was thinking, too, fly.

      I love engrossing spy novels and spy movies. Our current situation has all the compelling elements.

      If they don’t yet see T as radioactive, I do question their vision. But then, the so-called Free-dumb caucus is way turned inward to their own idiocracy. They could miss the spy.

      I do worry that we have no documented method for dealing with this situation.

      1. Bobo, they gambled on Trump and they won the opportunity to steal a SCOTUS pick that was rightly Obama’s to make. So his role as a rubber stamp paid off for them there. But damn did he ever botch up his role with pushing through the AHCA- talk about half-assing it! Granted it was a crap bill, but all his talking up of the damn thing was about needing a win rather than specific reasons to vote for it. He didn’t even care enough to spin some of his usual lies about it. This fail does muck up their plans, and I hope this will be remembered as the beginning of a series of events that causes the GOP to stop looking the other way from Trump’s corruption.

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