Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Something to Know - 30 April

Mike Luckovich Comic Strip for April 30, 2019



All candidates aside, one of the biggest issues that would capture attention is the fact that there are some big corporations that do not pay one one DIME in taxes, and even get a rebate.  At the same time, small mom-and-pops and average small businesses pay a great deal.   This does not compute well to all-but-the very wealthy, and Individual #1's tax program is guilty as hell.   If you have access to the NY Times, this article has all the bells and whistles of graphics to show.  If not, just the text is enough to command your interest:


AKRON, Ohio — Colin Robertson wonders why he pays federal taxes on the $18,000 a year he makes cleaning carpets, while the tech giant Amazon got a tax rebate.

His concerns about a tilted economic playing field recently led Mr. Robertson to join the Akron chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. At a gathering this month, as members discussed Karl Marx and corporate greed over chocolate chip cookies, it wasn't long before talk turned to income inequality and how the government helps the wealthy avoid taxes.

"One of the benefits of taxation is taking it and using it for the collective good," said Mr. Robertson, 25, comparing his minimal income to the roughly $150 billion net worth of Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive and the world's richest person.

"He could be taxed at 99.9 percent and still have millions left over," Mr. Robertson said, "and I'd be homeless."



It's a topic that several presidential candidates, led by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have hammered recently as they travel the campaign trail, spurred by a report that 60 Fortune 500 companies paid no federal taxes on $79 billion in corporate income last year. Amazon, which is reported to be opening a center in an abandoned Akron mall that will employ 500 people, has become the poster child for corporate tax avoidance; last year it had an effective tax rate of below zero — receiving a rebate — on income of $10.8 billion.

For decades, profitable companies have been able to avoid corporate taxes. But the list of those paying zero roughly doubled last year as a result of provisions in President Trump's 2017 tax bill that expanded corporate tax breaks and reduced the tax rate on corporate income.

"Amazon, Netflix and dozens of major corporations, as a result of Trump's tax bill, pay nothing in federal taxes," Mr. Sanders said this month during a Fox News town hall-style event. "I think that's a disgrace."




Corporations' ability to whittle down their tax bills has long been a target of criticism by Democrats, and this presidential campaign is no exception, particularly among left-wing candidates who argue that corporations should be accountable for wage inequality and its impact on low- and middle-income workers.



Though both parties have sought to lower the top corporate tax rate in the last decade — President Barack Obama proposed lowering it from 35 percent to 28 percent — Republicans in 2017 pushed it down to 21 percent, in addition to expanding some generous tax breaks. The new law allowed immediate expensing of capital expenditures, for example, in order to goose investment. That was one of the primary reasons that more corporations paid no federal taxes, according to the report.

Mr. Trump and his Republican allies argued that the tax changes would stimulate investment and economic growth. That has happened, though not by as much as they predicted.

Here in Ohio, even though unemployment has hit an 18-year low, several counties still have jobless rates significantly higher than the national rate, 3.8 percent, and the statewide rate, 4.4 percent. Ohioans have witnessed so many factory closures over the years that they seem to live with a permanent sense of economic wariness. The question for Democrats is how to leverage that to their advantage as they try to retake the state, which Mr. Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2016.

David Betras, the Democratic chairman in Mahoning County, a traditionally blue stronghold of union voters that President Trump nearly carried in 2016, said that Democrats had not yet figured out how to use the economic angst of laid-off employees and minimum-wage workers to defeat Mr. Trump in Ohio in 2020.

"Believe it or not, if you listen to the president, he addresses that issue," Mr. Betras said. "He does it with a lot of smoke and very many mirrors, but he's at least talking about how good the economy is and what I've done for you. 'I'm with you. I have your back.'"

Even as candidates focus on corporate taxation, Mr. Betras said the issue didn't resonate with voters in the same way as more familiar topics like health care or immigration. (Mr. Betras, a lawyer, has endorsed Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio for the Democratic nomination.)


Gallup poll last fall suggested that taxes were generally a more important issue for Republicans than for Democrats.



In an election in which Democrats will seek to win back voters who supported Mr. Obama in 2008 and 2012, then switched to Mr. Trump, some worry that calls to increase corporate taxes might turn off swing voters in this critical state, those like Thomas Chhay, a student at the University of Akron.

"I lean Republican," Mr. Chhay, 18, said recently while having lunch at the university's student union. "I agree with corporate tax cuts unless the companies ship the jobs overseas."

The list of profitable companies that pay no corporate taxes, compiled by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a left-leaning think tank, also includes Goodyear and three other Ohio companies, including the Akron-based electric utility FirstEnergy.

FirstEnergy paid no taxes last year on $1.5 billion in income, according to the analysis, and will receive additional tax credits that can be used in the future. In a win for consumers, some of that will be returned to the utility's customers


Several of the Democratic candidates have called for changes to the corporate system, and Ms. Warren has gone the furthest in issuing a detailed plan. Under her proposal, corporations would pay a new 7 percent tax on every dollar over $100 million in profits they earn anywhere in the world. She estimated the new tax would apply to roughly 1,200 companies and bring in $1 trillion over 10 years.



Under Ms. Warren's plan, Amazon would have paid $698 million instead of $0 in federal taxes for 2018. In a statement, the company said it "pays all the taxes we are required to pay in the U.S. and every country where we operate." (In a separate statement, Netflix said that it did, indeed, pay federal taxes in 2018.)

Mr. Sanders, in his 2016 presidential campaign and in this one, has routinely talked about closing loopholes and capturing some of the billions in profits that multinationals have kept overseas in tax havens.

Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator who is also running, has taken a different approach. She has tied a proposed increase in the corporate tax rate, to 25 percent from the current 21 percent, to plans to rebuild bridges, roads and airports. About $400 billion of her trillion-dollar infrastructure plan would be financed by the tax increase.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who officially entered the race on Thursday, has not issued a formal proposal on corporate taxes. In remarks last May, however, he blamed a "yawning" income gap for tearing the country apart. "We have to deal with this tax code," he said. "It's wildly skewed toward taking care of those at the very top."


In surveys, more Americans support raising the corporate tax rate than lowering it or leaving it unchanged. And several Democratic candidates, like the former housing secretary Julián Castro, invoke "fair share" rhetoric in speeches or vow to undo the recent Republican tax law. Others, like Senator Kamala Harris of California, have focused more on the individual income tax and reducing the burden on working families.

But raising the headline tax rate on corporations won't eliminate the corporate zero-rate club, which also results from companies taking advantage of loopholes and the way global profits are taxed.

Two years ago, Mr. Trump appeared at a rally in working-class Youngstown, the seat of Mahoning County, and delivered a messagefull of economic reassurance.

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"I was looking at some of those big, once incredible job-producing factories," the president said. "Those jobs have left Ohio. They're all coming back. They're all coming back. Don't move. Don't sell your house."

In Ohio, it has not entirely worked out that way.

General Motors, one of the companies on the zero-tax list, recently idled a large plant near Youngstown that produced the Chevrolet Cruze, a decision that helped increase the company's stock price even as G.M. paid no federal taxes on $4.32 billion in income.



"What was promised to these people was more jobs," said David Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represents workers at the plant, which is in Lordstown. "When you give them the tax break and they take the jobs away, that's like a double whammy. That's a lose-lose."

Lordstown is in Trumbull County, where the unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in March and many of those who work are eligible for public assistance.

Tyler Savin, a real estate agent, said the idling of the plant had added to his home listings and that many sellers wouldn't get their asking prices as they left Ohio for other G.M. locations.

Mr. Savin, 22, was among the customers recently at Tommy Dogg's Bar and Grill in nearby Niles, the birthplace of both Mr. Ryan, the local favorite-son candidate, and William McKinley, a Republican president who was known for imposing tariffs on foreign goods.



Mr. Savin likes Mr. Sanders, Mr. Biden and former Representative Beto O'Rourke of Texas, but will ultimately vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is, he said in a whisper lest pro-Trump patrons overhear.

"I think corporations should pay their taxes, like Amazon," he said. But he said health care and support for abortion rights were more important to him.

Jeff Williams, 57, who manages a convenience store on the midnight shift, had heard about Amazon's tax breaks on the radio. As he sat outside his home in Niles, he also was doing some comparison.

He was treated for cancer, heart disease and two hernias last year but wasn't able to deduct his expenses, he said. Amazon, meantime, availed itself of a full suite of tax breaks. "Amazon doesn't pay taxes, but I pay taxes," Mr. Williams said.

Akron, about an hour west, is faring better economically. Mayor Daniel Horrigan won't confirm or deny it, but Amazon is believed to be the company he has recruited to move into the old Rolling Acres Mall, which closed in 2008. Amazon would not comment on whether it planned to open a facility there.

Mr. Horrigan has been working to invigorate the economy of Akron, historically known as the Rubber City for its role in tire manufacturing. The tire jobs have mostly moved elsewhere.

Goodyear, which made the list of 60 by paying no federal corporate income taxes, employs 64,000 people worldwide, but only 3,000 of them remain here, mostly in the company's headquarters. A spokesman said the company's 2018 tax situation stemmed from "historical losses in U.S. operations."

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The Democratic Socialists have close to 100 members in Akron, many of them supporters of Mr. Sanders. Those attending this month's meeting ranged from a stay-at-home mother who said she hadn't been able to pay her water bill for a year to a college professor, David Pereplyotchik.

Mr. Pereplyotchik, 37, said he believed the group should come up with a viable alternative to the American corporate tax and wage system.

"If we're fighting for something, what version of the thing are we fighting for?" asked Mr. Pereplyotchik, who teaches philosophy. "It seems like if you just make them pay employees more, they're just not going to hire employees."

Mr. Robertson, the carpet cleaner, has his own idea: nationalizing the companies. "I think forcing them to pay higher alone is inefficient," he said, "and taxation alone is inefficient."



--
****
Juan

"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Friday, April 26, 2019

Something to See - 26 April

On my way to the Huntington Library, and no time to read or comment this morning.......just enough time to pass on this humorous image:



This isn't the first time I've drawn Trump on the toilet –here's an oldie from a couple of years ago when it looked like Trump was spinning out and sinking with some forgettable issue of the moment.



Somehow I think Trump will have more visits to the cartoon toilet before long.


 




--
****
Juan

"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Anduy Borowitz


Trump Furious After Twitter's Bot Purge Leaves Him with Fourteen Followers



Photograph by Alex Wong / Getty


WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald J. Trump was reportedly "furious" on Wednesday morning after a purge of right-wing bots by Twitter left him with a total of fourteen remaining followers, aides have confirmed.

Rising at 3 a.m. to engage in one of his trademark early-morning tweetstorms, Trump was incensed to discover that his Twitter following had plummeted from more than forty-eight million to a little more than a dozen.

At Twitter headquarters, in San Francisco, a company spokesman confirmed that Trump had indeed lost 48,076,920 followers in the bot purge. "It turned out that over forty-six million of the President's followers came from a single troll farm in Macedonia," the spokesman said.

As of Wednesday, Trump's fourteen remaining Twitter followers included his daughter Ivanka; his sons Eric and Donald, Jr.; several White House aides; and someone named Heinrich Himmler III.

"We're praying that Heinrich is a real person," a White House aide said. "The President can't afford to lose another follower."

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****
Juan

"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Something to Know - 24 April

Here is a video that you may want to watch (it is about 30 seconds).  Regardless of your viewpoint on religious leanings and works, this is admirable.  Contrary to the obfuscation, lack of transparency, and coverup that we see going on in Washington D.C. what is going on today in Paris is something we can buy into:


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****
Juan

"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Monday, April 22, 2019

Fwd: Axios Alerts: Herman Cain withdraws from Fed Board consideration

A stitch in time saved........9 - 9 - 9

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Axios <newsdesk@axios.com>
Date: Mon, Apr 22, 2019 at 9:26 AM
Subject: Axios Alerts: Herman Cain withdraws from Fed Board consideration
To: <juanma2t@gmail.com>


 
Axios Logo  Alerts
 
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Herman Cain withdraws from Fed Board consideration
President Trump made the announcement in a tweet, one week after Cain said he wouldn't withdraw.
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--
****
Juan

"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Something to Know - 22 April





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Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's report makes one thing clear: Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. He is worse. And yet Trump seems almost sure to be spared Nixon's fate. This will do severe — possibly irreparable — damage to the vital norms that sustain American democracy. There is still time for Congress and the American people to avert the worst of this damage, but the odds are long and time is short.

Despite his famous protestation to the contrary, President Nixon was a crook. He directed the CIA to shut down the FBI's investigation of the Watergate burglary, in which several of his campaign operatives broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters. He also directed subordinates to pay hush money to subjects of that investigation. He then fired the first special prosecutor appointed to investigate these matters, hoping to protect himself and his senior advisors from possible criminal liability and untold political damage.



For these attempts to obstruct justice, Nixon paid the ultimate political price. When he terminated special prosecutor Archibald Cox, a ferocious public backlash forced him to appoint a widely respected replacement. That was Leon Jaworski, whose dramatic victory at the U.S. Supreme Court forced the release of secret White House tapes that destroyed the last vestiges of Nixon's congressional support. He resigned the presidency days later. Had he failed to do so, impeachment by the House of Representatives and removal by the Senate were all but certain.

If Trump escapes unscathed, future presidents will take notice.


 

Nothing in Nixon's presidency became him like the leaving it. For two generations, his downfall served as a cautionary tale for subsequent presidents who might be tempted to interfere with a federal investigation for personal or political reasons. Firing a special prosecutor, in particular, was almost universally understood to be political suicide. As Watergate showed, the American people simply would not stand for a president who sought to place himself above the law. This broadly shared understanding served as a crucial safeguard against the abuse of presidential power.




Then came Trump. After smashing through dozens of other deeply rooted norms of American politics to win the presidency, he treated the post-Watergate consensus with similar contempt. Just weeks after he took the oath of office, as the Mueller report details, Trump asked FBI Director James B. Comey to drop the investigation of national security advisor Michael Flynn. Before making this request, the president cleared the room, strongly suggesting that he knew his actions were improper. Requesting that the FBI drop an investigation of his friends is exactly what Nixon was caught doing on the famous "smoking gun" tape that sealed his fate.

Yet for Trump, this was just the beginning. A few weeks later, in early March 2017, the report shows that Trump lobbied vigorously to prevent Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation. When Sessions nevertheless followed the advice of ethics officials and recused himself, Trump exploded in anger and personally pressed Sessions to reverse his decision. Trump wanted an attorney general who would protect him to be in charge of the investigation.

In May 2017, the Mueller report shows that Trump removed Comey as head of the FBI and concocted a deliberately false explanation related to Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Along with Trump's attendant criticism of the Russia investigation and personally vindictive treatment of Comey, this action "had the potential to affect a successor director's conduct of the investigation." The report catalogs significant evidence that the president was worried the investigation would turn up politically and legally damaging information, and that it threatened the legitimacy of his election.

The report's most damning evidence of obstruction of justice concerns the special counsel's investigation itself. Once Trump learned in June 2017 that he was himself under investigation by Mueller's team, his efforts to thwart the investigation reached new heights of audacity. That month, in a series of frantic phone calls, he ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller. The report describes "substantial evidence" that this was an attempt to obstruct the special counsel's investigation; Trump was acting to protect himself from potential criminal liability and political damage.

When McGahn refused to carry out the order to fire Mueller, Trump resumed his campaign to get Sessions to take over the investigation and curtail it — or resign, so that Trump could appoint someone who would protect him. Much of this information was already in the public domain, but it is no less shocking for that. The evidence available to Mueller's investigators, including contemporaneous documents and testimony under oath, provides a far surer foundation than anonymously sourced news stories.

The report also contains a wealth of new information. When Trump's order to fire the special counsel was publicly reported in January 2018, Trump demanded that McGahn fabricate "a record denying that the President had tried to fire the special counsel." This is witness tampering, plain and simple, of a much more direct and personal kind than any that Nixon engaged in. It also amounts to falsifying evidence, which counts as obstruction of justice even on the narrowest possible reading of the federal statute advanced by Trump's lawyers.

Along similar lines, the report describes substantial evidence that Trump privately urged Flynn, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen to "stay strong" and promised — through his lawyers — that they would "be taken care of" unless they "went rogue." Together with the president's public tweets praising Manafort and Stone for their bravery and baselessly accusing members of Cohen's family of crimes, this conduct also amounts to witness tampering, plain and simple.

Enter the Fray: First takes on the news of the minute »

Lest it be forgotten, all of this took place in the context of one of the most serious law enforcement and counterintelligence investigations in the history of the United States. As the Mueller report explains, "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion" on behalf of Donald Trump. The FBI and Mueller set out to discover whether Trump's campaign was complicit, and Trump took extraordinary measures to thwart their efforts. Nixon's obstruction of the Watergate investigation looks almost innocent by comparison.

And yet Trump seems very likely to escape direct accountability. House Democrats may well opt against pursuing impeachment, for entirely understandable reasons: It might be too wrenching for the country, in the absence of a clear popular consensus supporting Trump's removal. It might not be good politics for 2020, with voters more concerned about bread-and-butter issues. Even if the House votes to impeach, a two-thirds Senate vote to remove Trump from office seems almost inconceivable.

But if Trump escapes unscathed, future presidents will take notice. The cautionary tale of Watergate will be superseded by the Trump triumph and its very different lesson: In the hyperpolarized political environment of the early 21st century, the president is a law unto himself.

Andrew Coan is a professor of law at the University of Arizona and the author of "Prosecuting the President: How Special Prosecutors Hold Presidents Accountable and Protect the Rule of Law."

****
Juan

"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Something to Know - 20 April

President Trump in Florida, hours after the release of the Mueller report.CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times

In a Functional Country, We Would Be on the Road to Impeachment

Mueller laid out the evidence for members of Congress to take action against President Trump. Will they?

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/19/opinion/mueller-report-trump-barr-impeachment.html?emc=edit_th_190420&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=23180490420



By Michelle Goldberg

Opinion Columnist


In 2017, a brilliant visual effects expert created a video montage called "It's Mueller Time! Trump Administration Season Ending." Set to the crooning of the 1963 song "From Russia With Love," it shows F.B.I. agents rounding up the central figures who brought us Donald Trump's presidency, culminating in Trump himself being led away with his hands behind his back.

I'll admit to having watched this over and over again; it's one of the most satisfying bits of wish fulfillment I've ever seen. Wish fulfillment is all it was, though. It's a national disgrace that Trump sleeps in the White House instead of a federal prison cell, but it has been a while since I had any expectation that the special counsel Robert Mueller's findings, many of which were finally released to the public on Thursday, could set things right. Instead, I'd desperately hoped for something more modest: clarity. A rough public consensus on what happened in the 2016 election and its aftermath, akin to the Warren Commission report on the assassination of President John Kennedy, or the 9/11 Commission Report. A set of facts that serious people could agree on, leaving conspiracy theories at least somewhat marginalized.

There are a lot of reasons Trump's election remains a festering wound. It was a horrifying shock to many of us and, given his decisive loss in the popular vote, an insult to democracy. But there was also so much destabilizing weirdness surrounding it. Trump's relationship with President Vladimir Putin of Russia has long been suspect; as Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who was the House majority leader at the time, told colleagues in a secretly recorded 2016 conversation, "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." (He was speaking of Dana Rohrabacher, the slavishly pro-Putin former Republican congressman.)

Several weeks before Trump was inaugurated, America's intelligence agencies reported that Russia had engaged in cyberoperations to help him win. In the months that followed, there was one staggering revelation after another about secret conversations between Trump's circle and various figures linked to Russian intelligence.



At the same time, the new administration unleashed on the public a degrading cacophony of lies, of the sort many of us associate with authoritarian countries like Russia. The day after the new president was sworn in, Sean Spicer, Trump's first press secretary, stood in the White House briefing room and insisted that the inauguration crowd had been unprecedented in size. This was terrifying, despite the petty stupidity of the untruth, because Americans were not yet used to being told to believe government diktats over the clear evidence of their senses.


This quickly became our new normal. Once Republicans realized the power they could amass by collaborating in Trumpian mendacity, most of them gleefully abandoned any sense of epistemological solidarity with their fellow Americans. There's a reason "gaslighting" has become one of the most overused terms of the Trump era. And perhaps the biggest lie of all was that Mueller's investigation, rather than the events that precipitated it, was the real scandal, an attempt to frame Trump rather than an effort to get to the bottom of an assault on our democracy.


It was probably naïve to think that Mueller could cut through such a thick web of falsity. But if anyone could have, it would have been him, the embodiment of a set of old-fashioned virtues that still ostensibly command bipartisan respect. Over the months of the investigation, he came to represent for many an ideal of manliness that rebuked Trump's insecure machismo. He was a war hero, Trump was a shirker. He was a public servant, Trump a venal con man. He was honest, Trump a liar. America doesn't have a Walter Cronkite anymore, a person whose word is trusted implicitly across the political spectrum. Mueller was as close as we were going to get.



He and his team have now given us the clearest picture yet of the murky events surrounding Trump's ascension. "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion," they wrote. The Trump campaign welcomed this interference, but, we now know, did not assist in it. "Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

Once in office, Trump sought to thwart the investigation into what Russia had done. He believed — correctly, as it happens — that Russia's actions cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory. The report says he may also have feared that what appears to be his advance notice of the WikiLeaks dumps of hacked Democratic emails and his campaign's now infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian emissaries offering dirt on Hillary Clinton "could be seen as criminal activity by the President, his campaign, or his family." Further, although "the President publicly stated during and after the election that he had no connection to Russia," his company was negotiating to build a Trump Tower Moscow throughout most of the campaign, a fact that could have hurt him politically if it got out.

Numerous commentators have said that the report reads like a road map for impeachment, and in a remotely functional country that's what it would be. Mueller makes it clear that because of the Office of Legal Counsel's opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted, "we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the President committed crimes." Instead, the evidence is laid out for congressional action, or even for prosecutors to indict after Trump leaves office.

The test for us now is how much evidence still matters. Before the report came out, William Barr, Trump's attorney general, created a fog of disinformation around it, blatantly misleading the public about what it contained.

Weeks before anyone else could read the report, he tried to close the door on obstruction, implying falsely that Mueller meant to leave the decision to him. In a news conference on Thursday, Barr repeatedly said that Mueller had found no "collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mueller, however, never examined the case through the lens of "collusion," which isn't a term in criminal law: "In evaluating whether evidence about collective action of multiple individuals constituted a crime, we applied the framework of conspiracy law, not the concept of 'collusion,'" the report says. Barr claimed that "evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation." The report is overstuffed with evidence of corrupt motives.

But most people aren't going to read the nearly 500-page report. Republicans have already seized on Barr's words — and on the lack of criminal charges in a document that was never going to contain criminal charges — to claim total vindication for Trump. The president's manifest disloyalty to the country in trying to halt an investigation into a foreign attack on an American election is, to the right, of no account. Nor are the counterintelligence implications of Mueller's findings, which aren't part of the report. In the eyes of the president's supporters, his campaign did not participate in the criminal conspiracy that helped elect him, so no more needs to be said.

The reaction to the report shows that between the minority of Americans who support Trump and the majority who do not, there may no longer be even the possibility of a shared sense of reality or national purpose. Even as exemplary a figure as Mueller cannot change that.



Compounding the problem, Republicans are willing to act unilaterally on their perception of reality, but Democrats are not. As Hannah Arendt wrote in 1951, "Totalitarianism will not be satisfied to assert, in the face of contrary facts, that unemployment does not exist; it will abolish unemployment benefits as part of its propaganda." The same logic underlies Republican threats to actualize fantasies about an attempted deep-state coup by opening an investigation into the Mueller investigation's origins.

Most Democrats, conversely, have facts on their side, but not conviction. They are reluctant to begin an impeachment inquiry into Trump because majorities, in polls, don't support it, and there is no Republican buy-in. Whether or not this is politically wise, failing to impeach would be a grave abdication. If you want people to believe that the misdeeds enumerated in the Mueller report are serious, you have to act like it. To not even try to impeach Trump is to collaborate in the Trumpian fiction that he has done nothing impeachable.

On Friday, Senator Elizabeth Warren took the lead among Democratic presidential candidates in calling for impeachment proceedings to begin. Others should follow her. Mueller has given us the truth of what Trump has done, and in that sense the hokey faith the Resistance put in him was not misplaced. But right now only a political fight can make that truth matter.


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****
Juan

"Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I'm not saying that's an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. ...I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have."
- Candidate Donald J. Trump in April, 2016