100 Days. That’s Like . . . a Lot of Days, Right? (The Trump/Nixon Tapes Part 4)

Trump Button

[What follows is a transcript of President Donald Trump speaking into the Oval Office recording device originally used by President Richard Nixon. This series of recordings encompasses the president’s communication to his inner circle.]

To: The Trump Circle of Trust (TCT)

cc: Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight Committee
Steve Mnuchin, secretary of Treasury

Shiela? Make a note to tell whoever is bringing me a Coke every time I press this red button on my desk to ease up on the ice. The red button means “Coke” not “ice with some Coke splashed over it, okay?”

Okay, people, this “100 days thing” is starting to wear on my nerves. I don’t know who decided that this was going to be a big deal, but all I’m seeing on TV is how unproductive Trump’s first 100 days will be. Where did anyone get the idea that I was going to get a lot of things accomplished in the first 100? Not that we haven’t. I mean look at all the executive orders I signed. I even read some of them. Well, I skimmed them. Or I had Shiela give me the bullet points. I’m the president. I don’t have a lot of time for reading. The point is that 100 days isn’t a lot of time when you’re dealing with a Republican congress. I don’t know what Ron thinks he’s doing over there, but it’s a disaster.

That’s okay though. I know how to fix it.

It will turn around for us when those coal mining companies start hiring again. Somebody has to dump all that sludge into the rivers, right? It doesn’t dump itself.

Anyway, I knew that tax reform was going to be a beautiful thing, right? How about that Tax Reform Plan, huh? That was a huge weight off my mind, getting that done, let me tell you. People kept saying it was going to be too hard. The Commerce Secretary, what’s his name, Munchkin? He said it would be August before we’d have it. But I stepped up and said we’d have it by Wednesday and there it was. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m looking forward to my huge tax cut. Does anyone think the base is going to remember any of the promises I made on taxes? I don’t see how they will. I can’t. I’m sure I must have said something about cutting taxes on the wealthy, getting rid of the alternative minimum tax (that’s gonna save me about $23 million a year), not allowing deductions on 401(k) contributions, and paying for it all with deficit spending. Does that sound familiar to anybody? I am one thousand percent certain that’s what I promised. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be in my tax plan, right? Nailed it. There’s another 100-day accomplishment for the list. Is someone keeping a list? Jared?

You know what I miss most about my life before the presidency? I mean besides getting my Cokes served to me with the right amount of ice? Driving. No one told me the president doesn’t get to drive anymore. Half the reason I go golfing every weekend is so I can drive the cart around. Trump likes to be in the driver’s seat. This job is so much harder than I thought. I thought my life was going to be easier after the election. It looked so easy on “The West Wing.” Television wouldn’t lie to me, would it? Do these reporters know how hard this job is? If they did, I bet they’d be nicer to me. I should probably remind them I won the election.

Shiela? Have someone print me up some more electoral maps to hand out to reporters. I gave my last bunch to that group from Reuters. They seemed impressed. I made sure to tell them that the red states went for Trump. I don’t know why I’m not seeing more stories about how I won the election.

And what’s with all the nerds marching in protest against me? I don’t have anything against science? I went to Wharton. They have science classes there, I imagine. Don’t these people know that the election is over? Hold on.

That should do it. Speaking of the election being over, how are the crowds looking for my campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Day 100? Huge, right? Nobody gets crowds like us. Should I bring copies of the electoral map to hand out?

Jared? How are we coming along with dismantling the 9th Circuit? I’m pretty sure I put you in charge of that, right? Did you call them yet? If we could get that done by the 29th, I can count it as a 100-day accomplishment. Can you believe they halted my executive order on sanctuary cities? Even after my lawyers argued that the order didn’t actually do anything? Can I fire that judge? Someone ask Jeff Sessions if he can fire that judge. He’s already in Dutch with the Hawaiians and with New York, so he probably won’t mind going after San Fransisco too. You know how he is. Jared? Send Sessions a basket of pineapples and Rice-a-Roni. He’ll know what it means.

I’ll admit I haven’t been paying close attention, but did we lose eleven states while I was out playing golf? Why does the American flag on the birthday card I tweeted to Melania only have 39 stars on it? Did we exclude some of the blue states or something? Do you know how much that’s going to cost me at the Tiffany store in the lobby of my building where she lives?

I will say this. I’m getting pretty sick of everyone scrutinizing every word I say. It’s getting so I can’t josh around with people and bullshit a little without everyone making a big, fat, international disaster out of it. Take North Korea, some reporter asked me if we’re going to have a conflict with North Korea. Now, what am I supposed to say? No? That would be tipping my hand. So I said there’s “a chance” remember that. I said there was “absolutely” “a chance” we might be headed for a major, major conflict with North Korea. Then the dishonest media plays it up like I said we might be going to war with North Korea or something. Now I’ve got to smooth it all over with some Trump diplomacy.

Why are we still talking about Mike Flynn? Chaffetz? I thought you were on my side. I thought we were cool! Now all of a sudden you’re wanting paperwork on this guy? I don’t do paperwork, I’m a businessman. We make deals with a handshake. Flynn was helpful during the campaign, so I gave him the most important job I could think of that didn’t require senate confirmation. How was I supposed to know he was working for the Russians? I was working on my extreme vetting program for those Syrian refugees. I mean what the hell, Jason? You call a press conference to complain to the crooked media about paperwork? Look, I appreciate you trying to clean it up, but seriously. You just need to shut up and go away.

Maybe we need a distraction. Is there a Nazi around here we can spare?

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Russian to Judgement or From Russia with Love?

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By now the entire world knows that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has resigned his White House post. That makes him a record holder! He is the shortest-serving national security advisor in our nation’s history. Congratulations, general!

If we were to take the advice of Republican Congressman Lamar Smith, chair of the House Science Committee, we’d get all our news “directly from the president” and Flynn would still have a job. That’s because President Trump wouldn’t tell us anything about Flynn’s contacts with the Russians. Assuming of course that Trump knew himself. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.

On Dec. 29 2016, President Obama issued sanctions against Russia for meddling in our elections. He expelled some diplomats and took over a compound used by Russia here in the states. That same day, Flynn texts the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and the two spoke on the phone multiple times.

The next day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that he wouldn’t retaliate, instead offering US diplomats in Russia an invitation to the Kremlin for a Christmas party. President-elect Trump fires off a tweet:

Senior Obama officials tell reporters that they are aware of Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador.

On Jan. 15, 2017, Vice President-elect Mike Pence says in an interview that he’d spoken with Flynn about the calls and was assured that they did not discuss the sanctions. It was just a looking-forward-to-working-with-you call. He “did not discuss anything having to do with expelling Russian diplomats.

On Jan. 23, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the press corps that Flynn didn’t discuss sanctions with the ambassador.

Three days later on Jan. 26, Sally Yates, acting attorney general (remember her?), informs the White House Counsel’s office that the Department of Justice knows that Flynn talked about the sanctions with the ambassador and his denials could mean he’s susceptible to blackmail by the Russian government. Flynn “misled” Pence who in turn misled the American public. Trump asks the White House Counsel to look at the legal issues involved.

On Jan. 28, President Trump had his official call with Putin. Flynn is among those in the Oval Office listening to the call.

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On Feb. 1, Flynn makes a surprise appearance at the daily press briefing to make a statement about Iran launching a missile in the vicinity of a Saudi ship. Flynn said, “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” demonstrating that he continues in his job as national security advisor.

A week later on Feb. 8, Flynn again denies he spoke about sanctions with the ambassador. But the next day, Flynn’s spokesperson said Flynn “couldn’t be certain the topic didn’t come up.”

On Feb. 9, someone finally got around to telling Pence that Flynn lied to him. Also, the Washington Post broke the story about the DoJ telling the White House about Flynn talking to the Russian ambassador about the sanctions.

Feb. 10, Trump says he doesn’t know anything about the reports about Flynn. Spicer later clarifies that, while Trump was talking about a specific report in the Washington Post, not about the Flynn scandal in general.

Feb. 13, Flynn is still working, sitting in on calls with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Kelly Ann Conway goes on TV and says the president has “full confidence” in Flynn. Sean Spicer says the president is “evaluating the situation.” Flynn submits his resignation, still insisting he “crossed no lines.” Flynn apologizes to Pence and says in an interview that the leakers should be prosecuted. Trump echoed that sentiment:

The Nazis take Flynn’s resignation pretty hard, but they know who to blame. 

So where does that leave us? Well, with more questions than answers, really.

Why did Trump wait until the story broke publically before he fired Flynn? Had the story not broken, would Flynn still have a job? Was Flynn freelancing or did Trump tell him to contact the Russian ambassador? Flynn is the third Trump advisor to resign because of inappropriate contact with Russian officials. Was he talking with the Russians during the campaign too? Were others? Apparently yes. Several Trump campaign officials were talking with members of Russian intelligence during the campaign. Now, to be fair, there is no evidence at the moment of any sort of collusion or cooperation between the Trump camp and the Russians. But given the interference in our campaign by Russian intelligence, it would seem that an independent investigation is in order.

President Trump said Flynn was “treated very very unfairly by the media.” Trump wants to investigate where the leaks came from (he suspects the CIA and the FBI) and accused the leakers of trying to “cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.” I’m at a loss as to what kind of bubble the president must be in to believe Hillary made Flynn reach out to the Russians or what evidence he has to make such a specious claim. Were I in a position to ask the president a question, I’d like to know when he decided that leaks were a bad thing.

You may recall that during the campaign Trump was a big fan of leaks, mentioning the Wikileaks information about the internal communications of the DNC (also illegal, btw) about 150 times during the last month of the campaign. He praised Wikileaks. He praised (and repeated) erroneous FBI leaks about an imminent indictment of Hillary Clinton. But now, he’s worried about the criminality of it, the un-Americaness of it. Like CNN Anchor Jake Tapper said, “It’s not a moral position if you only hold it when it applies to you.”

The FBI says they will not prosecute Flynn over this because no one gets prosecuted for the Logan Act. The House Oversight Committee will not investigate. The House Intelligence Committee will not investigate Flynn but will investigate the leaks. Sen. John McCain wants to investigate Flynn and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said such an investigation in the Senate is “highly likely.”

Meanwhile, the Russians have a spy ship off the coast of Connecticut and seem to be testing the new president by violating a cold-war era treaty by launching a cruise missile. Oh, and they’re working with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Let’s also recall that Flynn was forced out of his last government job in 2014 (President Obama and President Trump have one thing in common, they both fired Michael Flynn).

“Former subordinates at the DIA said Flynn was so prone to dubious pronouncements that senior aides coined a term — ‘Flynn facts’ — for assertions that seemed questionable or inaccurate.”

He had a real hard on for “radical Islamic terrorism” that bordered on the fanatical, if not unhinged. He claimed his firing (along with his deputy) was a political purge by Obama because of his stance on Muslims. Retired Admiral Michael Mullen, a former chair of the joint chiefs said of Flynn’s departure from DIA, “This is not about the right to speak out, it is about the disappointing lack of judgment in doing so for crass partisan purposes. This is made worse by using hyperbolic language all the while leveraging the respected title of ‘general.’”

Flynn literally went from being one of the most respected members of the intelligence community to leading chants of “Lock her up!” at the RNC convention. That’s not something you normally see a retired general do. Neither is politicizing the intelligence services, which are traditionally (and by necessity) non-partisan.

It will be interesting to see what Flynn has to say should he be called to testify before some senate investigation. The DoJ has transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls because they routinely intercept calls to the Russian ambassador. One would think Flynn would know that and couch his language. Perhaps he did. But you’d think he’d know to avoid the subject of sanctions in the call itself, rather than just in the public statements and private conversations with the vice president.

Flynn is out and that’s a good thing. And while we won’t get an indepent investigation of the events leading to his ouster, the entire affair has a frayed edge to it. It feels like the first pulls on a thread that unravels the whole sweater. We’ll see.