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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


How does the the GOP — the party of “Father Knows Best,” the party that loves hierarchy and order — keep nominating vice-presidential candidates who swallow their presidential candidates whole?

After Dick Cheney picked himself to be on George W. Bush’s ticket, he had the decency to wait until the inauguration before he supplanted Bush. Sarah Palin grabbed center stage from John McCain as soon as she was announced. Paul Ryan, however, started his takeover years ago.

Ryan’s GOP coup began began before Iowa could even think about caucusing. His multi-pronged attack on America’s safety net — massive new tax breaks for the richest paid for by slashing all social spending including education and Medicaid, ending tax credits for working families, and turning Medicare into a voucher program — was passed byHouse Republicans by spring of 2011. When Newt Gingrich didn’t endorse it, he was steamrolled by his party. And before the presidential primary could even begin, allegiance to the “Ryan Plan” had become the new loyalty test of the right.

Mitt Romney resisted going full Ryan for a while. But as he struggled to beat an array of GOP backbenchers, Romney eventually endorsed nearly everything that Ryan proposed — including a vague voucher system for Medicare and slightly less massive tax breaks. In March of this year, Romney said that Ryan’s “proposals and the ones I’ve outlined in my campaign are very much on the same page.”

So what does the Romney campaign do as soon as they announce that Paul Ryan is Mitt’s running mate? Mitt starts running from the Ryan Plan.

“Does this mean Mitt Romney is adopting the Paul Ryan plan?” a set of talking points from the campaign asks. And the basic gist of it is “Not when it’s inconvenient.”


It’s like Mitt Romney always says, “Why buy the milk when you can get the cow?”

Who nominates a guy who isn’t allowed to run on his “greatest accomplishment?” Oh, right. That’s how Mitt won the GOP nomination. His devil’s deal to escape the primaries required him to never brag about the universal health care system he passed in Massachusetts, the most useful thing he’s done in life. We were reminded of this when the Romney almost had a coup after one of his spokespersons had the gall to even mention the word Romneycare.

The only reason that Paul Ryan is even in the position to be considered as a vice-presidential candidate is because of the Ryan Plan. Now Romney wants to distance himself from it in a classically Mitt way: He’s not for everything in the plan yet he would sign it into law given the chance.

As I pointed out before, Ryan’s Plan was already a drag on the GOP ticket, even before Romney picked the Wisconsin Representative. Mitt has already endorsed the most unpopular features of the plan: tax breaks for the rich, and turning Medicare into an inefficient, unfair system that asks seniors to pay more and still ends up costing taxpayers much more than our current Medicare.

So why has Mitt risking alienating the people he appeased by picking Ryan by turning this into a debate, as Rachel Maddow has said, between Mitt and his running mate?

It comes down to Mitt Romney’s fundamental flaw as candidate for president: his character.

Mitt Romney is a guy who thinks he can have it his way all of the time. He can make millions at the expense of American workers and taxpayers, yet consider himself generous because he gives to his charities. He can be CEO of a company but not responsible for anything the company does. He can run as a progressive and govern as a conservative. He can advocate his health care plan as a national solution, then demonize the president to made his vision a reality. He can ask for welfare waivers and sound the racial foghorn as he blasts the president for granting welfare waivers. He can pick Paul Ryan and not pick all of the Ryan Plan.

What use is Paul Ryan without the Ryan Plan? Does Mitt really need extra guy to make the case that America’s is a place where if you’re born rich and appeal to billionaires who hate the government, you can accomplish anything? Was his ticket really lacking in a smug young guy who would say that that the only thing missing from retirement is the chance to battle with private insurers for health care?

No, Mitt picked the Ryan Plan because the Ryan Plan is the GOP, and Mitt needed some way to get his own Party on his side. And that’s a big part of the reason Mitt was losing in the first place.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek


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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

Kevin Bacon, right, in "The Following"

The aftermath of the August 8, 2022 search of the Mar-a-Lago club, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, isn’t the first showdown between the FBI and a cult leader.

The Following, a 2013 Fox Pictures series, played out in similar fashion. Three seasons was enough for the producers and it’s been nine years since our introduction to Joe Carroll, English professor-novelist-serial killer, so there’s a spoiler risk -- but not enough to prevent the comparison.

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