Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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


What If Trump Had To Pass FBI Vetting? Take A Wild Guess

Amid the shock and horror accompanying yet another mass-shooting of school children in Florida, an anonymous White House official exhibited the sheer moral squalor of Trumpism.

“For everyone, [the massacre] was a distraction or a reprieve,” the official said. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

Getting pummeled, that is, about White House aide Rob Porter’s keeping his job for almost a year after FBI investigators warned wife-beating made him vulnerable to blackmail, thus a security risk. Not to mention Chief of Staff John Kelly getting caught in yet another barefaced lie.

Seventeen dead students and teachers. A reprieve, the man said. (Although there are certainly women in this White House capable of saying that.)

Anyway, let’s try a little thought exercise. Let’s pretend that Donald J. Trump himself needed to be vetted for a security clearance by the FBI. Any chance he’d pass muster?

None whatsoever.

Let’s put aside Trump’s suspect entanglement with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin for a moment. What investigators look for in deciding if somebody can be trusted with Top Secret intelligence is evidence of bad character and/or significant vulnerabilities.

Trump’s half-dozen bankruptcies alone might disqualify him. Settling a $25 million fraud lawsuit, as the president did in the Trump University case, would also ruin his chances. Not to mention a long list of business partners, contractors and customers who’d say he refused to pay legitimate debts, violated contracts, or simply walked away. He’s been sued literally thousands of times.

Three wives could be an issue, and a well-publicized history of multiple adulteries. First wife Ivana filed a divorce petition alleging assault and rape, although it was later withdrawn. The list of women publicly accusing Trump of sexual assault has reached 20. Paying hush-money to porn stars and Playboy playmates demonstrates vulnerability to blackmail—an immediate disqualifier.

Never mind Russia; the tabloid newspaper National Inquirer appears to have Trump in its pocket.

So no, on moral grounds alone Donald J. Trump would never be entrusted with the nation’s secrets.

Furthermore, at the risk of getting ahead of myself, what are the odds that the Russians don’t have compromising video of Trump cavorting with Moscow prostitutes? He’s made a show of being too worldly-wise to jump into such a trap, but what if a “top oligarch” told him the women were a gift from Putin?


Flattery gets you everywhere with Trump. Everybody knows that.

Something’s got to explain his obsequious fawning over Putin besides Trump’s dictator-envy. (Pardon indicted former campaign chairman Paul Manafort? In Moscow, he’d take an accidental fall from a hotel balcony. In America, Manafort’s more apt to cop a plea.)

Anyway, it’s always sex or money.

Alas, the United States has no vetting process for political leaders. None of the above facts about the man’s character is in serious dispute, although listing them is certain to infuriate some of this column’s more excitable e-mail correspondents. Not to mention “Boris” and “Natasha,” the Russian trolls I unmasked during the 2016 campaign, provoking scatological insults that might have shocked me if I hadn’t grown up in New Jersey.

So anyway, there he is: the President of the United States, a certifiable low-life who couldn’t pass muster as a White House security guard. If Trump had any sense he’d resign the presidency in the wake of Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians for conspiring to disrupt the 2016 election—possibly saving the Republican Party and sparing himself and the country the melodramatic confrontation that looms ahead.

Truthfully, the man should never have run in the first place. Indeed, Trump appears to have envisioned the presidency as the ultimate reality-TV show, mistaking the national news media for the celebrity tabloids he so easily manipulated back when he’d brag to radio host Howard Stern about his sexual conquests and telephone gossip columnists raving about the wild immorality of Russian women.

Confronting an independent news media and the limitations of the U.S. Constitution, however, has driven Trump clear around the bend. In a bizarre series of tweets over the weekend, the president claimed he’d never described Russian interference in the 2016 election as a “hoax”—although everybody but the most far-gone adepts of the Trump personality cult remembers him doing so countless times. Also as a “witch hunt.”

But Mueller’s Russian indictments are clearly predicate to more damning evidence to come: hacked Democratic emails, WikiLeaks, and Donald, Jr.’s already-documented dalliance with Russian operatives. Heavy shoes appear sure to drop.

Even Trump himself must know it. That’s why he’s in such a panic.

That said, Democrats would be wise to lay off the 9/11 and Pearl Harbor analogies. Let the evidence speak for itself.

Maybe they’re laughing their asses off in Moscow, but when they start laughing in Keokuk and Moscow, Idaho, you’ll know it’s over.  

‘Golden Boy’ Porter Is A Weakling, A Coward — And A Walking Security Risk

Unlike now infamous White House aide Rob Porter, I didn’t have a Harvard professor and presidential confidant for a father. My old man was a New Jersey Irish working stiff, who taught me most of what I know about being a man. Among the enduring lessons he’d learned during his service as an artillery sergeant was that ethnic tribalism could be a trap.

 Of course that’s not exactly how he put it.

“You’re no better than anybody else,” he’d growl. “And NOBODY’S BETTER THAN YOU.”

To him, that was bedrock Americanism. A powerful, athletic man, he had personal charisma, and a lot invested in his ideas of masculinity. My uncle Tommy once confided that facing down my mother’s stepfather had been a key moment in their courtship. According to her youngest brother—Tommy used to babysit me in neighborhood bars after he got out of the Army—Pop made a coarse suggestion one night as my father brought her home from a date, and it took three of her brothers to restrain him.

Whether this actually happened, I’ve no idea. My father never talked about it, and Uncle Tommy was a storyteller. But it’s definitely consistent with both men’s personalities. Pop was a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking man, and once my father’s Irish was up, it would have taken three men to hold him.

Tommy’s attitude was that the old man had it coming.

Something else my father impressed on me was that only drunks and cowards raised their hands against women. He had as little use for the one as the other. Regardless of provocation, a man simply could not punch or manhandle a woman. It was contemptible, signifying a weakling.

Believe me, this was not out of some sentimental idealization of womanhood. Nothing like White House chief of staff John Kelly’s invocation of women as “sacred,” for example. My mother could be an extremely difficult person, with a habit of fierce invective. So could a couple of my father’s sisters. In my experience, Irish women are rarely shy and retiring.

Another of my father’s oft-repeated slogans, which drove my wife crazy, was: “You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.” Women, that is. As if they were different species, incomprehensible and dangerous. But he was always kind to Diane, and she eventually understood more or less where he was coming from. Matriarchal Ireland, basically.

I think he was always a little wistful about our marriage, a passionate friendship so different from his own. We met in graduate school, not the parish hall. We were drawn together as individuals far from home, a community of two.

She never had to say it, but I always understood that if I raised my hand to Diane even one time, she’d be gone. But then how could I hit her and face myself? I’m roughly twice her size. It would be like punching a child.

Which brings us back to the cowardly, six-foot-five wife-beater in the White House. I wonder if Rob Porter has a secret drinking problem. To my knowledge, neither of his ex-wives has said so, but it fits the pattern: courtly, gentlemanly, affectionate, and then abruptly violent, abusive and controlling. A Rhodes Scholar who blackens his wife’s eye and punches out windows.

Researching a column a couple of weeks ago, I happened upon this explanation of the psychology of domestic abuse from the terrific country singer Martina McBride:

“A lot of teenage girls will be first dating and they’ll think, ‘Oh he doesn’t want me to see my friends. He just wants me all to himself. Isn’t that sweet?’  Or ‘Oh, he’s just being protective. Isn’t that sweet?’ And then it turns into something else…. They don’t recognize that until it’s too late.”

Of course, neither Colbie Holderness nor Jennifer Willoughby, the two ex-wives who told the FBI about Porter’s violent proclivities, qualifies as a naïve young girl. Nor, for that matter, does everybody’s White House sweetheart, Hope Hicks.

Nevertheless, hope abides in the female heart, at least until it doesn’t. “I walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it,” Holderness has written, “but it took me a long time to realize the toll that his behavior was taking on me.”

A Golden Boy who needs absolute control, and who lies as glibly as any TV evangelist. A weakling filled with rage, and with crippling ego problems. It’s not just a foible, it’s a deep personality defect. Clearly vulnerable to blackmail: a walking security risk.

As for the whole Who-Shot-John narrative about which White House officials were informed of FBI doubts about Porter’s security clearance, who cares? This White House is filled with vassals for whom Porter’s character faults are minor personal issues. Fealty to Trump is the only thing that counts.

If they thought otherwise, they couldn’t work for the man. 

White House Cover Story For Alleged Abuser Rob Porter Implodes

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

The White House’s already-shaky cover story about how the administration quickly moved to get rid of a top aide after he was accused of beating his ex-wives suffered another embarassment on Tuesday, when it was revealed the White House initially tried to have the aide talk his way out of the problem. In a room full of reporters.

In the week since Rob Porter left the White House after the Daily Mail published photographs of his battered ex-wife, the administration has been completely unable and unwilling to explain why Porter kept working for chief of staff John Kelly — when Porter had failed his FBI security clearance after the ex-wives detailed his history of abuse.

But on Tuesday, Politico reported this rather stunning revelation, which completely destroys the White House’s official timeline [emphasis added]:

In the hours immediately after the Daily Mail published a photograph of Porter’s first ex-wife with a black eye, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders hastily arranged an off-the-record meeting in the West Wing with Porter and four reporters: the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Axios’ Jonathan Swan, and the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender. In that meeting, which hasn’t previously been reported, Porter relayed his version of events and fielded questions from the group.

Rather than immediately fire Porter, the White House sent him into a room with reporters to try to spin his, and their, way out of the story.

Off the record, of course.

Meanwhile, CBS News reported on Tuesday that the FBI had completed Porter’s background check long before he resigned.

That seems to indicate that the White House knew Porter was never going to be granted the security clearance that he needed to do his job, and that the White House knew why he was being denied clearance — because he was accused of beating his ex-wives.

So yes, the idea that Trump’s team sprang into action the moment they found out about Porter’s dark past and fired him within “40 minutes” is a complete fabrication. How long will the White House cling to it?

From John Kelly, A Revised But Still Slimy Response To Domestic Abuse Scandal

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly gave staffers in a Friday meeting a revised account of his response to allegations that former staff secretary Rob Porter physically and emotionally abused two ex-wives, according to a Washington Post report.

“Kelly told those in attendance to say that he took action to remove Porter within 40 minutes of learning that abuse allegations … were credible,” two anonymous sources in attendance relayed to The Post: “He told the staff he took immediate and direct action.”

The narrative Gen. Kelly pushed Friday runs counter to reports that he kept Porter on staff despite knowledge of the allegations, which prevented him from gaining permanent security clearance from the FBI back in November.

Porter—who resigned on Wednesday—is reportedly involved romantically with White House communications director Hope Hicks, for whom his second ex-wife, Jennie Willoughby, says she’s worried.

“I mean, it definitely worries me because if I’m being frank with you, if he hasn’t already been abusive with Hope, he will,” Willoughby told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday. “And particularly now that he’s under a lot of stress and scrutiny. That’s when the behaviors come out. If he hasn’t already, he will.”

“We certainly wish him well,” President Trump told press in the Oval Office on Friday, calling Porter’s resignation “obviously a tough time for him” and stressing that he’s denied all allegations.

“And hopefully he will have a great career ahead of him,” he added. “But it was very sad when we heard about it. And certainly he’s very sad.”

Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer.