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Under Donald Trump and more generally over the last several years the right wing media is driving us off a cliff, and we may be witnessing the end of our republic as we know it. I know that sounds dire, but I’m certainly not the first person to echo this sentiment and ignoring it isn’t an option.

Fuelled by angry right wing conservatives hell bent on arresting social progress, conspiracy theories have not only gained ground in the right’s main stream consciousness, they are threatening to become the mainstream itself. Last week, Rep. Devin Nunes, a serial abuser of his office’s power, released a partisan memo written by his staff over objections by both the DOJ and the FBI due to misleading content. The purpose of the memo was obvious to everyone: discredit the FBI as a left wing bastion of corruption, and delegitimize the Russia investigation and the man running it.

As people are beginning to understand that the United States is increasingly becoming an alt reality state, the power of such partisan antics begins to come into focus. Watching Fox News and then MSNBC, one could not help but notice the different way these two stations covered the same story. Fox’s master propagandist and president of the Donald Trump Sycophant Fan Club, Sean Hannity, artfully painted a picture of a situation so much worse than Watergate that Nixon’s crimes seemed trivial by comparison. Meanwhile, MSNBC and the rest of us looked at the memo and shrugged. Trump’s own FBI and DOJ said it was misleading. The contents were partisan nonsense so the memo was not worth reading.

The point in all of this is that we live in different universes, where people who get their information from what can only be called pure propaganda outlets have no idea there’s a counter narrative that in many cases is far closer to reality. Reading right wing message boards, it’s clear that the commenters seem to indicate that there really is a huge problem in both the FBI and the DOJ, that various people are going to jail, and that it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing comes to light.

Meanwhile, the cumulative effect of the out-of-control right wing spin machine is that we’re becoming dangerously divided in numerous and insidious ways that threaten all of us, and our most trusted institutions are under assault.

  • The conservatives, furious over social change in the country’s perception of gay marriage and abortion have turned on our judiciary. They coined the term ‘activist judge’ and the phrase ‘legislating from the bench’ to describe unpopular decisions. At first, it seemed overly dramatic yet mostly harmless. But years later, this dangerous spin has taken hold and now judges in certain parts of the country or certain courts are supposedly suspect. Trump took this concept to an extreme during his election campaign where he openly questioned the loyalties of an American born judge because of his parent’s country of origin.
  • Conservatives have declared war on the media, the cornerstone of our democracy by calling them collectively the ‘opposition party’ and ‘ the enemy’. Let’s not underestimate the power of the media. The media is best used in a democracy to shine a light on corruption and without it, state issued propaganda can control dissent. One only needs to look at the pure fabrications coming from Fox News to understand the power here, and conservatives are manipulating that power daily with their disparaging attacks on what they have derisively termed the “MSM”, an acronym we all know today as a result of their long-term efforts to sew doubt about reporting by what previously were simply our nation’s respected news institutions. CNN, NBC, CBS and others are all under attack by the conservatives in this country as purveyors of the newly minted “fake news” label purveyed most frequently by the president himself.
  • As mentioned above, conservatives have now taken aim at law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Justice Department. In an effort to shield Donald Trump from the consequences of having likely worked with a foreign government to win the election, they are willing to sew doubt in the minds of voters about our two most important law enforcement agencies we have in the country.
  • Conservatives have routinely complained about the primary and general election voting systems, calling them rigged, among other things even when they win elections. When they lose, there’s no doubt that their voices will be raised to fever pitch, much like the supporters of Roy Moore who recently refused to concede defeat in his campaign for Senator in Alabama.
  • Conservatives has used Fox News and other news outlets to drum up conspiracy theories about political opponents. Evil Arizona sheriff Joe Apriao is pushing the fake birther theory, and calls for Hillary Clinton and others to be jailed over an above board uranium deal are just the latest nonsense to permeate right wing airspace. Meanwhile, Fox and others would have you believe the “Deep State” is a real thing, and out to sabotage Trump.

What was once a curious sideshow is become a dangerous and destabilizing force in the country. Propaganda this sinister works to give conservatives the right to claim any investigation by the FBI is biased against them. Any unpopular judicial ruling is biased against them. The media is hopelessly biased against them, and of course the voting system and the very government itself is an infested den of bias by left wing agitators who are biased against them.

This kind of talk lays the groundwork for people to claim just about anything with a degree of impunity, much as the environment Trump has created for himself. Trump recently claimed it was treasonous not to applaud his state of the union speech. This is where we’ve arrived. Meanwhile his outrageous utterances often carry no real consequence other than to incite, but loom dangerously over us as his vitriol spreads dissention among his angry band of gun toting right-wing followers.

It’s time to take action. Right wing news like Fox New, Breitbart and others are taking this beyond a line where things could get out of their control. They are irresponsible and dangerous. Hannity is a purveyor of dangerous propaganda that eventually could lead some to commit acts of violence in this country on an scale few imagine today. One cannot incite millions of people night after night with cries of “1000 time worse than Watergate” without someone (or maybe lots of someones) beginning to take action against their perceived enemies like this shot-up pizzeria. It’s one thing to report the news and it’s another thing to make it up and twist it to manipulate sheepish viewers. It’s also incredibly short sighted. We don’t need the kinds of problems that come with a country where public perception of our institutions is so eroded that no one trusts the police, the judges, the media, the vote, or the government. That’s a recipe for the end in both of our mutually exclusive universes, but that’s where conservatives seem to be leading us.

Today Donald Trump said he would testify 100% under oath (because for him, there are varying degrees of oath, evidently) to dispute the recent public testimony of former FBI Director James Comey.

So I have to be honest. This is a tough call. A real head-scratcher, as it were.

Should I believe the serial liar who claimed the biggest crowd in inauguration history and the largest electoral college margin in recent history? Both false, by the way. This is a person who also claimed 3+ million illegal votes were cast against him without a shred of evidence, and that former President Obama ‘tapped’ Trump tower. Should I believe the guy who has thousands of lawsuits to his name, many of which settled out of court for vast sums of money?

Or should I believe the career lawman who was voted to lead the FBI by a bipartisan vote of 93 to only 1 against.

Again, difficult to decide.

Should we choose to believe the guy who publicly threatened Comey with the existence of tape recordings (which logic tells us probably don’t exist) or the guy who meticulously made notes immediately after his every encounter with the President, and shared them with co-workers as an insurance policy against exactly this kind of public intimidation?

Of course, one might ask why it’s necessary for Trump to testify at all, since he threatened the existence of secret tape recordings if Comey broke his silence about their interactions. Well, Mr. President, consider that silence broken. Comey sang like a canary. Now it’s time to release the tapes you basically said you would. You know, to clear your good name.

No tapes? Oh. Yet another shocker.

So who do we choose to believe? Scholars will ponder this difficult question for the next millennia.

 

As you may know, there’s been an uproar over the sudden firing of FBI Directory Comey. It raised many questions for various reasons. Presidents don’t typically fire FBI directors. It’s only ever happened once before. And FBI directors, as with all law enforcement, are expected to remain apolitical. FBI directors have 10 year appointments and generally enjoy near total bi-partisan support when appointed.

So when an FBI director is hastily fired, it raises questions. Considering that the Trump campaign is under investigation by the FBI, questions become almost inevitable. Why now? Who’s idea was it? What were the circumstances that lead to the decision? Why such drastic changes to the official explanation? It’s clear from the shifting reasons provided by the White House, something unusual is going on. Explanations never change so significantly over such a frenzied period without good reason.

So, here’s a quick explanation of what is probably going on.

As was recently reported, Comey had asked for resources to expand his probe into the campaign investigation sometime in the not-to-distant past. This information made its way to the Oval Office where Trump decided it was time to act. He fired him immediately and has plans to replace him with someone who will let the investigations die.

But it turns out Trump invited Comey to the White House in January. He already knew he was under investigation or soon would be. He wanted to feel Comey out. Would he pledge loyalty to Trump, or would he follow the investigation wherever it led? In Trump’s mind, it couldn’t be both, and he soon had his answer. He couldn’t count on the FBI director’s unquestioning support.

At the meeting, Trump says Comey asked to keep his job. Comey says Trump asked for loyalty. Given that Trump invited Comey, and that Trump knew his campaign was being investigated, Comey’s version is a far more believable scenario.

Last week, Trump threatened Comey publicly with the existence of recordings by directly suggesting that he may have made “tapes” and that Comey said damaging or possibly illegal things during their meeting. This is a highly unlikely scenario for a number of reasons. First and foremost among them, it’s probably safe to assume Donald Trump doesn’t want his private conversations recorded by anyone for any reason, “believe me!”. Second, why would Trump invite the FBI director to the White House and then make a recording of the conversation? Did the President believe in advance that the FBI Director would, during their first meeting, admit to a crime? That’s just very unlikely.

So let’s just assume for now that the now-infamous tapes tweet was just an empty threat and there are no tapes. But regardless of the existence of tapes, Trump is clearly threatening Comey, the man he just fired. When someone threatens you about ‘leaking’, there’s usually a motivating factor. So Trump is clearly motivated by something.

And since Trump is threatening Comey, then that leads to a very plausible explanation for why Comey has declined to testify in front of congress, even in private. He WANTS to tell his side of this story but he can’t. He’s being publicly, brazenly threatened by the most powerful man on Earth who’s also a billionaire. Would you testify?

Meanwhile, the former FBI director doesn’t want to appear like a disgruntled employee. He’s got the respect and support of his former organization to consider as well as the public. He can’t go on camera and willingly spill the beans on Donald Trump without losing a lot of respect from both within his old organization and without. Not because anyone loves Trump, but because the leader of the nations most respected law enforcement organization can’t be a loose lipped individual.

But Comey is no idiot. He knows his revenge will come soon enough and he’ll be able to tell the world what happened. He just doesn’t want the world to think he did it to get back at Trump. So he’ll wait, because he knows eventually he’ll be subpoenaed. Then he can spill the beans without anyone thinking he’s trying to get back at his old boss. Plus, there’s far more impact and respect if your testimony has to be subpoenaed.

Meanwhile, Trump’s original plan was to ask the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to submit a memo that would be used as justification for the bloodletting. This would give Trump the rationale to fire Comey without the appearance of a cover-up as he attempted to interfere with the FBI’s ongoing investigation. But problems arose when Trump declined to tell Rosenstein that he would rely on that letter as the primary justification, pinning the entire decision on Rosenstein’s shoulders. For Rosenstein, it was a bridge too far. He revolted and threatened Trump with a resignation if the explanation wasn’t retracted. At this point, Trump realized that he had to take over the messaging so he quickly sat down for a rare one on one interview with Lester Holt, one of the most respected names in journalism, to ‘set the record straight’.

Realizing the cover story had fallen apart, he quickly took the blame for the decision to let Comey go, but went further, forcefully diminishing the importance of the memo by saying he had already made up his mind long before the memo was written. But this only leads to another curious question: Why would Trump ask the Deputy AG for a letter he planned on ignoring and didn’t need? The only plausible explanation was that he wanted to use it as a cover story and rationale in the firing of Comey.

The best defense is a good offense. This was never truer for any individual than Trump. He threatened Comey and the media in general. He explained that his staff can’t possibly get all the facts correct at their own press briefings and he even threatened to cancel them altogether, providing written statements instead, and doing a presser every two weeks.

So, Trump is looking more and more desperate – at least desperate enough that he felt it was worth taking extraordinary risks like firing the FBI director, and asking for the creation a cockamamie excuse (in memo form) he planned to pin on fall guy Rosenstein without so much as a head’s up. Those are huge risks to take, and it’s reasonable to assume there’s an equally large and damaging reason for taking them.

What is Trump so afraid they’ll uncover in this Russian meddling probe? I guess we’ll eventually find out. Whatever he’s trying to hide, his only hope is to appoint an FBI director who won’t pursue the already open investigations. Someone “Loyal”.