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Running Scared

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The morning after the elections that gave Democrats the biggest gains in the House since Watergate Trump declared at a press conference that the result was ‘a very close to complete victory’ for him, and subsequently did everything he could to distract the attention from his formidable success.  The presser was open, meaning that more reporters than just those belonging to the White House press corps could attend, and the president was ready to pick a fight with every one of them.  For that purpose he selected CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who is famous for getting into arguments with Sarah Sanders, and told him to shut up after a couple of questions.  Subsequently a female Press Office intern failed to take the mike away from Acosta, who was later accused of having been physically abusive towards the young woman and had his credentials revoked.  Although video images immediately showed Acosta’s restraint when he was touched by the intern, the White House later posted a doctored video, produced by InfoWars, that suggested the opposite.  After the incident and now in full WWE mood Trump accused PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, a woman of color, of asking him a ‘racist’ question, when she wanted to know if his embrace of nationalism might embolden white nationalists.

Following his brutal press conference the president distracted the attention even more by firing Jeff Sessions and relieving Rod Rosenstein of his supervision of the Mueller probe, trying to ensure that the Democratic victory in the elections would not even make the front pages.  At that point is was clear that the president was frightened of what Mueller might have in store for him and his oldest children, and that he would somehow try to end the investigation before the Democrats take control of the House.  Under normal circumstances Rosenstein would have become acting Attorney General until a permanent replacement of Sessions had been appointed and confirmed, but in a surprise move Trump appointed Sessions’s Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker in that position.  The appointment is probably illegal, because Whitaker, an extreme Trump loyalist, has not been confirmed by the senate, and since the acting AG has already publicly stated that there was no collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign in the 2016 elections he is not only unfit to supervise the Mueller probe – and should recuse himself by Department of Justice standards – but also can be expected to obstruct it in any way possible.

Since Mueller is investigating collusion and obstruction of justice, and Whitaker’s appointment qualifies as the latter, a scenario might unfold in which the Special Counsel has to investigate his new boss, and as much as Trump may hope to thwart the probe in the future, he cannot undo what Mueller already has done.  Come January House Democrats can subpoena all of the Special Counsel’s records, and they have already threatened to have a nationally televised hearing with Mueller in case Trump fires him.  By that time Whitaker, confirmed or not, can also be subpoenaed and asked questions about promises he may have made to the president about ending the probe.

Next to his stated opinion about Russian interference, in a CNN Op-Ed from last year Whitaker wrote that Mueller was coming ‘dangerously close to crossing a red line’ if he was looking into Trump’s finances.  In the same vein Trump started the morning after the elections with a conversation with Nancy Pelosi, and announced that they could engage in a ‘beautiful collaboration’ unless the House would investigate him, in which case he would assume a ‘warlike stance.’  Pelosi probably did not shiver when she heard that threat, and the chance that Trump would not be investigated by the House is nil.

The big question is now: what is Mueller going to do?  There are strong rumors that he started writing his final report, and there is an abundance of speculation that sealed indictments, for instance for Don Trump Jr. and Roger Stone, are already in place.  Meanwhile, the prospects for Republicans in the 2020 elections are terrible.  Trump’s electorate of angry white men will shrink and die off, while the Democratic electorate grows.   We might see not Trump but Mike Pence running for president, and losing.

 

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Daddy’s Favorite Klutz

(Door Hugo Kijne Te Hoboken USA)

While the FBI was conducting its limited investigation into Christine Blasey-Ford’s and Deborah Ramirez’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh the president seemed to be more relaxed than normally, probably because this time he was not directly the problem, but only indirectly because he had nominated the judge.  Under severe pressure from his advisors he even succeeded in showing some respect for Dr. Ford’s ‘position.’  In one of his surreal speeches Trump declared that he had fallen in love with Kim Jong-un and Kim with him, and out of the public eye he signed a bill that will keep the government funded until December 7th, when the elections are over and he can safely shut it down if he doesn’t get money for the Wall.  But the president’s good mood disappeared when on Wednesday the New York Times published an article that outlined how Trump’s father had evaded taxes all of his life and together with his favorite son committed fraud on numerous occasions.  It torpedoed the myth that Trump is a self-made man, but instead showed that he was a millionaire at age 2 and in total received $413 million from his old man, while together with his siblings scheming the IRS out of half a billion dollars.  Most hurtful for the president must have been the information that his father had to bail him out of all of his failed business enterprises.

Voters who hoped that Trump would do for the country what he did for himself should now have buyer’s remorse, and the article also details how the president unsuccessfully tried to manipulate his half-senile father’s will to get a larger part of the inheritance, money he needed to cover his losses.  In response to the publication the White House stated that it showed that Trump’s father had a great deal of confidence in him, but denied none of the allegations.  Off  his medication Trump could no longer contain his urge to attack Dr. Ford and shamelessly mocked her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee at one of his mass meetings.  Meanwhile it gradually became clear that the White House had micromanaged the FBI investigation to the point where 18 witnesses who could corroborate either Dr. Ford’s or Ms. Ramirez’s allegations were not interviewed, and neither were Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh.  Polls showed the controversy energizing the Republican base, and for that reason Mitch McConnell may have considered to let it last somewhat longer, but since every day the risk increased that Kavanaugh might not be confirmed the FBI report was released late Wednesday night only for the senators to see, and McConnell announced that a floor vote on the nomination would take place this week.

In the week since the last hearing the assessment of whether Kavanaugh is qualified for the Supreme Court shifted.  Initially it dealt with his alleged attempt to rape Christine Blasey, then it was about obvious lies he told senators, subsequently the focus was on the bad temperament and blatant partisanship he exhibited during the hearing, and finally it became about the strong impression that he doesn’t adhere to basic principles of the American justice system.  The judge felt the danger his nomination was in, and in a highly unusual move published and Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal that pretended to be apologetic but in reality was a whiny complaint about the process.

Friday morning the US Senate voted on ‘cloture’ of the Kavanaugh nomination, meaning that a final vote would take place within 30 hours.  All eyes were on the undecided senators Collins, Flake, Manchin and Murkowski, of which only Murkowski initially decided to vote against cloture.  Opponents of Kavanaugh still had some hope that two of the other three would eventually cast a ‘no’ vote, but the chance that that would happen was slim at best.  First Flake announced that he’s a ‘yes’ vote, then Collins followed suit Friday afternoon with a rambling speech that will haunt her the rest of her career, freeing Manchin up to also vote ‘yes.’

True to form as an accused and confessed sexual assaulter, Trump set out to make Kavanaugh’s case an object lesson of the risks boys and men face in life, namely the chance that at any time a false allegation can be leveled against them, destroying their career and livelihood.  He urged mothers to defend their husbands and sons in an environment where men are the most threatened species, in an attempt to bring them back into the GOP fold.   In the #MeToo era that’s quite a stretch.


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Veertig jaar journalistiek

 

Ruim veertig jaar heb ik gewerkt als journalist.
     
Van mei 1977 tot 1 januari 2006 bij de VPRO-radio. 
Daarvoor was ik correspondent in Zuidwest Nederland voor De Volkskrant.
      Standplaats Rotterdam.

      Ik heb een vrouw, twee kinderen, twee schoonkinderen en zeven kleinkinderen, ben met pensioen, volg de media nog vrij goed, zeer reislustig, lees meer gedichten dan de
gemiddelde Nederlander, noteer vaak nieuwe woorden, hou van lekker eten &
drinken, heb een kaarten- en atlassentic en warme belangstelling voor Amerikaans
honkbal.


Koninklijke Bibliotheek

In januari 2016 kreeg ik het bericht, dat mijn blog door de Koninklijke Bibliotheek wordt aangemerkt als Digitaal Erfgoed en voor volgende generaties zal worden gearchiveerd.