The Insanity Right in Front of Us
Plus: What today’s Gosar vote tells us.
“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”—George Orwell
So let’s take a moment to look at what is in front of our noses today:
Of course, this feels like a story as old as time by now, but let’s contemplate what we are seeing here: the former and perhaps future president of the United States sitting down with one of the wooliest and most demented figures in our cracked political culture.
It seems unfair to call Mike Lindell a conspiracy theorist or even an election-denier, because, by now, it should be clear that there is something deeply wrong with the man. For months he has been peddling delusions so absurd that he’s become an embarrassment even to MAGA’s post-shame grifter world. His bogus claims about voting machines have drawn billion dollar defamation suits; his algorithms claiming to show Chinese hacking turned out to be gibberish; and his predictions of Trump’s imminent re-instatement by a unanimous (!) Supreme Court —as you may have noticed — have so far gone unfulfilled.
In a rational universe, he would be an object less of outrage than of pity; and his friends would be planning interventions rather than televised sit-downs. The man needs medication, not more validation. Even Ron Johnson probably thinks he’s nuts.
But here we are are. Look at that picture again (and, no, I don’t know why Trump is wearing a tux.)
It’s right in front of us: The former and perhaps future president is trafficking in lunacy — undiluted, straight, barking-at-the-moon crazy. And the GOP seems intent on putting him back in the Oval Office.
It will not surprise you to learn that the interview itself was every bit as batshit crazy as you might expect.
Lindell then floated the idea to Trump that machines from Dominion Voting Systems could be melted down and made into "prison bars."
"That's very interesting. That's a very good idea," Trump said.
And, speaking of insanity...
Even if you are numbed, this new detail from Jonathan Karl’s book is still gobsmacking.
"Betrayal" also reports that Sydney Powell, Flynn's former lawyer who was then advising President Trump, called [senior Trump intelligence official Ezra Cohen] shortly after the Flynn conversation and tried to enlist his help with one the most far-fetched claims about the election, involving then-CIA Director Gina Haspel.
"Gina Haspel has been hurt and taken into custody in Germany," Powell told Cohen, pushing a false conspiracy theory that had been gaining steam among QAnon followers, according to the book. "You need to launch a special operations mission to get her," Powell said.
Powell, according to the book, was pushing the outlandish claim that Haspel had been injured while on a secret CIA operation to seize an election-related computer server that belonged to a company named Scytl -- none of which was true.
"The server, Powell claimed, contained evidence that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of votes had been switched using rigged voting machines. Powell believed Haspel had embarked on this secret mission to get the server and destroy the evidence -- in other words, the CIA director was part of the conspiracy," Karl writes.
Powell wanted the Defense Department to send a special operations team over to Germany immediately: "They needed to get the server and force Haspel to confess," Karl writes.
Cohen thought Powell sounded out of her mind, according to the book, and he quickly reported the call to the acting defense secretary.
And don’t get me started on Michael Flynn.
BONUS TAKE: Make sure you read JVL on the challenge all of this poses to the media:
We are on the cusp of a media crisis that no one is talking about.
As we move toward 2024, the big concern should be how the media would cover an openly anti-democratic presidential candidate. Would they treat said candidate as a danger to America? Or would they attempt to remain neutral and pretend that he was just another generic politician doing normal political things?
If this scenario comes to pass, that would be something entirely new in media.
And it’s not clear to me that anyone is really gaming this problem out yet.
A New Low in McCarthy’s House
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Later today, we are likely to get another stark reminder of the priority, values, and standards of the GOP, when the House votes on a resolution censuring Rep. Paul Gosar for tweeting out images of him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and attacking President Joe Biden. The resolution would also strip him of his committee assignments.
But Kinzinger is very much an outlier here.
I’m going out on limb here, and predicting that more than 90 percent of the GOP conference will stand by the deplorable Gosar. This is the same conference that stripped Liz Cheney of her leadership position, so we get the picture, right?
And, of course, there were no apologies.
In case you are keeping score at home:
Christopher Rufo is having a normal one
Our friends on the intellectual right assure us that Christopher Rufo — the high-profile leader of the anti-CRT push — is absolutely a serious thinker and not at all a cynical charlatan.
Yesterday, he brought us yet another one of his deep — and not at all unhinged — thoughts:
Just when you thought…
… that Chris Christie is not totally full of sh*t…
1. Adam Schiff Tells His Story
In today’s Bulwark, Gabriel Schoenfeld reviews the congressman’s new book.
Far from being “the boy who cried collusion,” Schiff documents chapter and verse of the nefarious behavior, taking the reader through one sketchy episode after another. There was, to begin with, in April 2016, the Russian approach, through an intermediary, to one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, George Papadopoulos, in which they told him that they were in possession of “dirt” about Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails, presumably hacked, with the implication that they could aid the campaign by releasing them at strategic moments.
2. Democrats Are Stuck In Their Own Echo Chamber
Josh Kraushaar in the National Journal:
Denying that political reality is at the heart of the Democrats’ political problems these days. Party leaders seem genuinely to believe that they can win swing-state elections by mobilizing their base and tying every Republican to former President Trump. The strategy backfired badly in Virginia (and nearly in New Jersey) this month, yet Democrats appear disinclined to change course.
Just take a look at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s new strategy memo for the upcoming midterms. It takes a page out of Terry McAuliffe’s playbook in Virginia: Tout the party’s emergency spending against COVID, while championing its social spending plan and newly passed infrastructure bill, all while demonizing Republican candidates as extreme, dangerous, and anti-democratic. “We believe the American people will make the right bet on progress over chaos,” the memo concludes.
And House Democratic leaders certainly aren’t embracing longtime Democratic strategist James Carville’s advice that the party needs to “go to a woke detox center” to win back voters in the middle. This is a stay-the-course document, even as polls show Biden’s approval ratings hitting all-time lows and the Democrats facing historic deficits on the generic ballot.
I was born in 1948, three years after World War II ended. My father fought in that war. He was friends with a former French resistance fighter who emigrated to the US. I remember their shared stories of the war. As a child I met a German woman whose wrist was broken by the Nazis because she did not say Heil Hitler quickly enough when they came to her school. Recently my husband and I watched a three part series "Rise of the Nazis". At one point we looked at each other because there were too many similarities between Hitler and Trump to ignore. We are seeing the rise of a new authoritarian party using the same tactics - lies, menace and the threat of violence. January 6th was only the first round. The cancer has spread to red states and radicalized at least one third of this country. This is not politics as usual. This is an assault on our constitution and democracy. We ignore it at our own peril.
Adam Schiff is my hero, and not just because he's Vegan. If you have any doubts about the Russiagate narrative, and think collusion was some sort of bogeyman confected by the media to nail Trump, I refer you to Schiff's completely extemporaneous speech before HPSCI in response to calls from the GOP members that he resign his chairmanship of the committee. Delivered March 28, 2019, it is a detailed catalog of what the Trump campaign was doing, and everything in the speech is substantiated and documented if you try to track it down. Schiff quotes the whole thing in his new book. It's worth quoting:
I'm going to turn to our witnesses, who are the subject of the hearing today, but before I do, and as it -- as you have chosen -- instead of addressing the hearing -- to simply attack me, consistent with the President’s attacks, I do want to respond in this way.
My colleagues may think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on a Democratic candidate for President as part of what was described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that’s okay.
My colleagues might think it’s okay that when that was offered to the son of the President, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the President’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead that son said that he would "love" the help of the Russians. You might think it’s okay that he took that meeting.
You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience in running campaigns, also took that meeting.
You might think it’s okay that the President’s son-in-law also took that meeting.
You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public.
You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn't better. You might think that's okay.
You might think it's okay that when it was discovered a year later that they'd lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions -- you might think it's okay that the President is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think that's okay -- I don't.
You might think it's okay that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt of forgiveness. You might think that's okay -- I don't.
You might think it's okay that that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data, to someone linked to Russian Intelligence -- I don't think that's okay.
You might think it's okay that the President himself called on Russia to hack his opponents' emails if they were "listening."
You might think it's okay that later that day, in fact, the Russian's attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign -- I don't think that's okay.
You might think that it's okay that the President’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communications with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility -- I don’t think that’s okay.
You might think it’s okay that an associate of the President made direct contact with the GRU through Guccifer 2[.0] and WikiLeaks and considered -- that is considered a hostile intelligence agency.
You might think that it’s okay a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.
You might think it’s okay that the national security adviser-designate secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI.
You might say that’s all okay. You might say that’s just what you need to do to win.
But I don’t think it’s okay: I think it’s immoral. I think it’s unethical. I think it’s unpatriotic. And, yes, I think it’s corrupt, and evidence of collusion.
Now, I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the proof of that crime would be up to the special counsel, and I would accept his decision, and I do. He's a good and honorable man, and he is a good prosecutor. But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is okay. And the day we do think that's okay is the day we will look back and say that is the day America lost its way.
And I will tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today. I don't think it's okay that during a presidential campaign, Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin's help to consummate a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune -- according to the special counsel hundreds of millions of dollars.
I don't think it's okay that he concealed it from the public.
I don't think it's okay that he advocated a new and favorable policy towards the Russians even as he was seeking the Russians' help -- the Kremlin's help -- to make money.
I don't think it's okay that his attorney lied to our committee. There's a different word for that than collusion -- and it's called "compromise." And that is the subject of our hearing today.