Operation Sketchbook: (The Trump/Nixon Tapes Part 7)

trump courtroom sketch

[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 encompass the president’s communication to his inner circle.]

To: The Trump Circle of Trust (TCT)

cc: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Majority Leader Mitch McConell

As all of you should know by now, I don’t watch CNN anymore. I think I made that clear to the AP when they were here this week. Where is it? Here: (sound of second tape recorder button clicking)

TRUMP: OK. The one thing I’ve learned to do that I never thought I had the ability to do. I don’t watch CNN anymore.

AP: You just said you did.

TRUMP: No. No, I, if I’m passing it, what did I just say (inaudible)?

AP: You just said —

TRUMP: Where? Where?

AP: Two minutes ago.

TRUMP: No, they treat me so badly. No, I just said that. No, I, what’d I say, I stopped watching them. But I don’t watch CNN anymore. I don’t watch MSNBC. I don’t watch it.

(recording ends)

So I was passing by CNN and noticed Sean was looking less fat. I was thinking that maybe we could put him back on camera, but then Steve pointed out that it was just a drawing by a CNN sketch artist. It was such a beautiful drawing I couldn’t get over it. So I got my own courtroom sketch artist. I like how honest he is about my hairline and number of chins. I’m thinking we just use this guy from now on: Operation Sketchbook. We can get him to draw me standing behind the podium and we’ll blow it up and stand it up there. The dishonest media can shout questions at it then go write their fake news.

Speaking of “fake news,” what about my big reveal on the Comey tapes? Pretty fantastic, right? Sean Hannity loved it. Wait. I’ve got that (button press)

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I’m sorry, this was one of the most brilliant, strategic, doubt-inducing, mind-messing tweets in the history of mankind, because he basically said to Comey, “Well, if there’s tapes, you’re in trouble with the deep state,” it was also a nice shot at them. 

Ha ha ha. Oh and Fox and Friends thought it was pretty brilliant, too. I mean everybody is saying what a great Tweet it was. (click)

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Big news today. You said you didn’t tape [former FBI Director] James Comey. Do you want to explain that? Why did you want him to believe you possibly did that? 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well I didn’t tape him. You never know what’s happening when you see that the Obama administration, and perhaps longer than that, was doing all of this unmasking and surveillance. And you read all about it and I’ve been reading about it for the last couple of months about the seriousness and horrible situation with surveillance all over the place. And you’ve been hearing the word “unmasking,” a word you probably never heard before. So you never know what’s out there, but I didn’t tape and I don’t have any tape and I didn’t tape. But, when he found out that there may be tapes out there, whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed. I mean, you’ll have to take a look at that because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events. And my story didn’t change. My story was always a straight story. My story was always the truth. But you’ll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed. But, I did not tape. 

EARHARDT: That was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in those hearings. 

TRUMP: Well, it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that. He did admit that what I said was right. And if you look further back, before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn’t admitting that, so, you’ll have to do a little investigative reporting to determine that. But, I don’t think it’ll be that hard.

See? The honesty is really striking, right? Why can’t they get that over at CNN? It’s a disaster over there. What did I ever do to Jake Tapper? I mean who cares, right? I never said I had tapes. I just waited for 41 days to say I didn’t have tapes. I’m busy. I got a lot of things on my plate. Sheila? What’s for lunch? No. I want one of those shark steak sandwiches like Jeff Bridges got in that movie where he was president. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m not going to eat that. Get me a QPC from McDonald’s. Extra ketchup.

Okay. So what was I talking about? Sheila? Sheila? She’s gone already? Man, she moves fast. She’s a go-getter, Sheila. I mean she’s really going and getting, right? That’s the way it works.

You know, the more I look at that sketch of me, the more I like it this Operation Sketchbook. We should all just not appear on camera anymore. Jared gets the idea. He’s off solving the Middle East thing and nobody even knows what he sounds like because he can keep his mouth shut. Jared, you’ll have to tell me how you managed to talk a journalist from the AP into deleting photos of you from his camera. That must have been some talk.

Whoever is covering Jared’s muffin basket duty while he’s bringing an end to a centuries-old conflict this weekend should send Jared a muffin basket. Wait. Never mind. He’s done.

Will somebody bring me something else to sign? What is taking so long with that health care bill? Are the Democrats being obstructionists again? Just pass something so I can sign it and tell everybody how great your “mean son of a bitch” bill is.  Mitch, you fixed all that right? You told me to leave it to you and I said “Happy to do it” because one less thing for me to do, right? But you fixed it, right? I’m sure it’s okay. Here’s an idea! Must credit Trump!

Send it over, I’ll sign it before you vote on it. What about that, huh? Is that a great idea or what? I sign the bill before you bring it to a vote and you can say, “Look, it’s a done deal. The president has already signed it, so you need to get on the right side of this thing or you’re going to be left behind.” I think that would be beautiful. Can you imagine the look on Chuck Schumer’s face? [laughter]

But seriously, send me some legislation to sign. It is the best part of this job, showing off for the cameras and . . . hmmm. That’s . . . that’s tough . . . Guys, I’m not sure Operation Sketchbook is going to work out. Let me think about it. I’ll let you know something in two weeks.

I’ve been hitting the Russia thing pretty hard on Twitter. You know, I had no idea when I took this job that so many people would turn on you so quickly. I was just saying to Nixon’s ghost the other night. Nixon’s ghost is a good friend of mine, let me tell you. He’s the one who told me to tweet about the Comey tapes. “Keeps everybody honest,” he said. Ole Honest Nixon, they used to call him. Good times.

Anyway, I was telling Nixon’s ghost, “Look, it is nobody’s business who I call or when I call them or what we talk about when I call. Don’t give me “Presidential Records Act” this or “You can’t block people on Twitter” that.” The president deserves a little privacy to yell at his lawyers. Nixon’s ghost agreed with me, except for the Twitter part. He died in 1994. He doesn’t know what Twitter is. But I believe 90 percent of the ghost presidents living in the White House would agree with me. If not 95 percent.

So I don’t want to read in the paper about me making my morning calls to my lawyers to get all my Russia yelling out early in the day. That’s my “me time.” The dishonest media shouldn’t be writing about that, I don’t care if it is true.

So I’ve pivoted on the Russia thing, now that I’ve figured out how to blame it on Obama. I don’t know if you noticed because it was such a subtle shift in tone:


Amazing, right? It was such a subtle pivot that no one is going to notice my tacit admission that Putin stuck his thumb on the scale. Well, Sheila noticed, but she’s a real go-getter. I wonder when she’s going to be a come-bringer-er soon? I’m starving here.

So I’m thinking about firing Mueller. I know firing Comey didn’t work out exactly as Jared said it would. But this time I don’t have to be the one firing him. I can order Rosenstein to do it. Or whoever’s next in line if Rosenstein isn’t loyal. Have we fixed that yet? Find me a Bork and let’s get this Saturday Night Massacre on the road!

Mueller can’t investigate me if he’s best friends with Comey! He can’t use lawyers who have donated to Democrats! He can’t keep expanding his investigation to include money laundering and racketeering. I didn’t sign off on that and you guys know me, I’ll sign anything. He’s going after my general, my campaign manager, my consigliere, my Jared and now me? Putin told me I don’t have to put up with it. He said if it were him, he’d be making a pot of polonium tea for Mueller. That’s not really my style. Maybe some polonium Diet Coke? I’ll ask ghost Nixon. He knows how to handle these special prosecutors.



I Don’t Think You Know What “Out of Context” Means

By now, anyone who cares has seen the hidden-camera video of Mitt Romney speaking to a group of supporters at a $50,000-a-plate dinner/fundraiser in which he says some unkind things about 47 percent of America.

Mother Jones’ David Corn posted the video clips in drips and drops before releasing the entire thing. Here is a transcript, if you’d rather read it.

Interesting aside: Man, does the right wing hate Mother Jones. I can’t tell you how many pundits tried to imply that there was something suspect about this video because Mother Jones was the one to publish it.

After lumping nearly half of America into a class of moochers and freeloaders, Romney spoke about the Mideast peace process. Specifically, he said that a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine would not work and he didn’t believe Palestinians (again, lumping them all together) wanted peace so much as they wanted the destruction of Israel. So as president, he’d “kick the ball down the field” and hope something happened to change everything.

The night the video was released, Romney ducked out of another fundraiser to hold a quick press conference in which he said his off-the-cuff remarks were “inelegantly stated” but were pretty much how he feels. The next day Anne Romney claimed the video was taken out of context.

Now hold on. The video just shows Romney speaking to a group of rich supporters for a little over an hour. How is it out of context, exactly? I don’t think that phrase means what you think it means.

Granted, the transcript includes a couple of minutes that aren’t on the video for some reason. In that missing segment, Romney talks more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

So, the only answer is show your strength. Again, American strength, American resolve, as the Palestinians someday reach the point where they want peace more than we’re trying to push peace on them—and then it’s worth having the discussion. Until then, it’s just wishful thinking.

I guess I don’t see how this helps all that much. It certainly doesn’t address Romney’s obvious disdain for the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income tax.

But this missing bit gave the Romney campaign the idea to send out an email titled: Today, The Obama Campaign Leveled False Attacks Against Mitt Romney Based On A Debunked And Selectively Edited Video.

Pardon me? How exactly was this video debunked? Maybe you’ve confused this video with that ACORN pimp video that James O’Keefe selectively edited. Or maybe you’re thinking about that Brietbart video that was selectively edited to show Shirley Sherrod bragging about not helping white farmers.

On Fox News, Romney attacked President Obama over a 1998 video showing the then-Illinois state representative talking about redistribution of wealth. Drudge ran a clip of the video, pulling a quote for his headline: “I actually believe in redistribution.”

But, when you look at what Obama actually said, it becomes clear what “out of context” really means:

Let me just close by saying, as we think about the policy research surrounding the issues that I just named, policy research for the working poor, broadly defined, I think that what we’re going to have to do is somehow resuscitate the notion that government action can be effective at all. There has been a systematic — I don’t think it’s too strong to call it a propaganda campaign against the possibility of government action and its efficacy. And I think some of it has been deserved. Chicago Housing Authority has not been a model of good policymaking. And neither necessarily have been the Chicago Public Schools.

What that means, then, is, is that as we try to resuscitate this notion that we’re all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative in thinking, what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live? And my suggestion, I guess, would be that the trick — and this is one of the few areas where I think there are technical issues that have to be dealt with, as opposed to just political issues — I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.

So, you tell me, who was taken out of context?

Interesting aside: If Romney wants to start pulling 18-year-old video to attack Obama, there is plenty of old tape of Romney espousing all kinds of positions. At one time Romney was pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, said his opponents should release their tax returns and claimed to be to the left of Ted Kennedy.

I’ll give you another example. The very first ad produced by the Romney campaign (back when he was determined to win this election based on the lousy economy) shows President Obama in New Hampshire in 2008 saying “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” But the actual quote from the speech is much different:

 “Sen. McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.

So you tell me, who was taken out of context?

Incidentally, the Romney campaign stands by that ad, saying it was a case of “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” Since Obama used the economy to bash McCain, Romney is going to use it to bash Obama. That’s all well and good (and fair, I’d say). But the ad lacked that context. The ad just shows Obama saying the economy was going to lose him the election and that wasn’t what he was saying.

There are certain phrases you really only hear in political years. Does anyone other than a politician ever say “I misspoke?” Does anyone other than a political pundit ever bring up “false equivalency?”

I really detest that last one. Bringing it up just makes you sound like a wonk and when there’s so much anti-intellectualism on the right, using big words makes them shut down. It’s a shortcut to having everything else you say dismissed. The right doesn’t want to hear someone point out their false equivalency any more than they want to hear talk about quotes pulled out of context. They like to say those techniques are just SOP for political campaigns.

But they aren’t. They just aren’t.

On the Romney side we have: 1) If we keep talking about the economy we’ll lose. 2) You didn’t build that. 3)We tried our plan and it worked.  4) The private sector is doing fine. 5) I believe in redistribution.

On the Obama side we have: 1) I like being able to fire people (wait, that was during the primary and it was Republicans who attacked Romney over that) 2) I’m not concerned about the very poor. (Romney was attacked by pundits, but the quote doesn’t appear in any ads.) 3) Corporations are people, my friend (While Obama has used this line on the stump, no ad has used this quote).

Interesting aside: when I tried to Google “Obama ad misquotes Romney” Google suggested that what I meant to search was “Romney ad misquotes Obama.” When I tried the phrase “Obama ad takes Romney quote out of context” it suggested I try “Romney ad takes Obama quote out of context.”

So this isn’t a case of “a pox on both their houses.” There have been thousands of words written about the Romney camp’s use of out-of-context quotes. They built an entire night of their convention around “you didn’t build that.” As far as I can find, this technique is one-sided.

So when Romney claims that a video showing him denigrate the peace process and describe 47 percent of the American people as freeloaders who won’t take personal responsibility for their lives, claims of being taken out of context are just stupid and pathetic. Especially when Romney has demonstrated a real zeal for taking Obama’s quotes and twisting them like taffy.

I’m a political junkie. A presidential election year is like my SuperBowl. So my tolerance for backbiting, negative ads and a lack of substantive debate on important issues is quite high. But there is something really disgusting about the Romney campaign this year. It’s like facts don’t matter to them.

Take this whole “redistribution” brouhaha. Romney is for redistribution. He told Fox News that he isn’t, but if you look on his site, his tax plan is progressive. He says he believes in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. That’s redistribution, my friend. As Ezra Klein in the Washington Post puts it “It’s one thing to wildly misrepresent your opponent’s views, but to wildly misrepresent your own?”


Bully boy

By the time I’d reached high school, my bully troubles were behind me. I’d learned early on how to deal with them and how not to become one of them. I consider myself fortunate that many of the kids who I thought of as bullies in grade school became good friends by the time high school rolled around.

Nevertheless, I find it comforting that schools are addressing the issue of bullying to the point that the subject has entered presidential politics.

The Washington Post ran a story in which four of Mitt Romney’s classmates at some all-boys boarding school described as “prestigious” recall an incident where Romney and his buddies attacked and restrained a young boy named John Lauber, who is described as “easy pickings” because of his long hair.  Romney, who was the son of a governor and car company president, was a ringleader who led five friends to hold down the boy while Romney cut off the kid’s blonde bangs.

Witnesses described the victim as screaming for help and crying during the attack. It was an image that stuck with them for 50 years. Here is one account in the Post:

After the incident, Lauber seemed to disappear. He returned days later with his shortened hair back to its natural brown. He finished the year but ultimately left the school before graduation — thrown out for smoking a cigarette.

Sometime in the mid-1990s, David Seed noticed a familiar face at the end of a bar at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

“Hey, you’re John Lauber,” Seed recalled saying at the start of a brief conversation. Seed, also among those who witnessed the Romney-led incident, had gone on to a career as a teacher and principal. Now he had something to get off his chest.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t do more to help in the situation,” he said.

Lauber paused, then responded, “It was horrible.” He went on to explain how frightened he was during the incident, and acknowledged to Seed, “It’s something I have thought about a lot since then.”

Lauber died in 2004, according to his three sisters.

The school had a reputation of having a strict discipline policy and one of the witnesses to the attack said he waited to see what would happen, but Romney was never punished. The victim was kicked out of school for smoking a cigarette and Romney got off without so much as a demerit.

Look, none of us are the same person we were in high school. I did dumb things that I wish I could take back (though none of them rise to the level of assault and battery). I don’t believe that Romney is the same person he was 50 years ago. It’s hard to believe he’s the same person he was six months ago *rim shot*

What bothers me about this incident is that Romney claims he doesn’t remember it. So, he issued a non-apology apology and called the whole thing “hijinks” and “pranks.” Faced with four witness accounts of the incident, Romney doesn’t acknowledge his role or the seriousness of the attack. Instead, he says some of his pranks “might” have gone too far and “if” someone was offended, “obviously, I apologize.” He was chuckling through the entire thing. Just like he chuckled while telling a crowd he liked being able to fire people.

That’s infuriating. And it speaks to Mr. Romney’s character that his hijinks were so many that an individual incident of such brutality and cruelty doesn’t even register a glimmer in his mind.

But that’s the way of bullies. They don’t see the consequences of their actions as dire. It was all just merry japes and fooling. It’s seen as a rite of passage. Fathers who bullied in school instill in their sons that same desire.  I believe that’s why so many state legislatures are struggling with anti-bullying legislation, because so many of the people serving in them were on the dishing-out end and very few were required to “take it.”

In Tennessee, there have been some recent suicides by gay teens who were bullied. On the floor of the general assembly, Rep. Jeremy Faison, self-described as “The Conservative,” said he believed these gay teens committed suicide not because of the bullying, but because the didn’t learn the proper values at home. This happened after he claimed to have “beat up” some bullies in his day “who deserved it.” He apologized for his poor choice of words and said his opposition to the bill was to protect the bullies from becoming criminals when, you know, boys will be boys.

As for Romney, it has been interesting to see Fox’s main bully boy Sean Hannity dig into his magic bag of hot air and come up with some false equivalency that shows Obama was a bully, too! It seems when Obama was in grade school, he played with the one other black child, a girl named Coretta. When his classmates started teasing him about being her boyfriend, he shoved her to prove he wasn’t. Because this incident (which is in Obama’s book) hasn’t made all the blogs, Hannity sees this as the mainstream media refusing to cover it.

It isn’t hard to think of Romney as a bully. Bullies are rarely seen as sincere when they apologize. They don’t seem to understand the effects their actions have on people or why anyone would hold it against them. Bullies are often bigger and more popular than their victims and surround themselves with supporters who find it hard to contradict the bully’s penchant for abuse.

Romney’s defenders want us to believe that this incident has been blown out of proportion. That it is a calculated hit piece designed to throw him off message. But it is this very attitude that makes the incident important. It shows us Romney’s lack of willingness to take responsibility. He won’t even acknowledge that he did it, so his apologies ring a little hollow. That’s when you see stories with headlines like “Bully Story a Black Eye for Mitt Romney.

We’re not done, here. You can bet there are teams of reporters combing through Romney’s college years looking for similar incidents. If his “pranks” in high school were so numerous that he cannot recall one as brutal and cruel as Lauber’s, then there must be hundreds of them out there.

Sure, Mitt Romney has changed a lot since high school. But it doesn’t appear like he’s cultivated anything approaching empathy for those less fortunate. We see glimmers of it now: Corporations are people, too. I don’t worry about the very poor. I like being able to fire people.