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:

Now:

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.

 

Oh . . . you mean *that* Russian

ap-jeff-sessionsWay back in 1972, then-president Richard Nixon had a problem. His attorney general John Mitchell had resigned due to his involvement in Watergate. The investigation was ongoing and Nixon had to appoint someone to finish it.

Nixon chose Richard G. Kleindienst, the acting attorney general.

During this time, the Department of Justice was pursuing an antitrust case against ITT corporation. This was complicated by a couple of factors 1) their involvement in the 1964 coup in Brazil and 2) Their funding of the 1972 Republican National Convention.

When Kleindienst appeared before the senate for his confirmation hearing, he was asked several times if he’d spoken to anyone in the White House about the ITT case. Why? Because the attorney general and the DoJ are supposed to be independent of the White House. The president doesn’t give orders to the AG and the AG doesn’t consult the president on open investigations.

Kleindienst answered that he’d had no contact with the White House about ITT. He was confirmed as attorney general. Eventually, when a special prosecutor was appointed to look into Watergate, his team discovered a recording of an Oval Office phone call between President Nixon and Kleindienst in which the president told him to “drop the ITT case.”

So, Kleindienst had lied to the senate. When questioned about it, he claimed he thought the senator’s question was narrowly focused on a particular period of time, not the length of the entire ITT case. The special prosecutor filed criminal charges against Kleindienst, who resigned and plead guilty to lying to congress.

Skip to 2017 and President Trump’s pick to lead the Justice Department, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. At his confirmation hearing, Sen. Al Franken asked:

“If it’s true, it’s obviously pretty serious. And if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian Government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

To which Sessions responded:

“I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

You’ll notice that Franken didn’t ask Sessions if he’d had contact with the Russians. He asked what Sessions would do as AG if it turns out Trump campaign officials (of which Sessions was one) had had contact with the Russians. Sessions volunteered that he had no contact.

So when it came out that Sessions had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during the campaign, it appeared that Sessions lied under oath. He responded to this accusation by claiming he met with Kislyak in his role as a senator on the Armed Services Committee. But none of the other members of the committee met with Kislyak. And Sessions didn’t correct the record even after seeing his colleague Mike Flynn resign over failing to disclose his conversations with the very same Russian. As a side note, what is it about Kislyak that makes conversations with him so forgettable? No one can seem to remember meeting with him and when they’re reminded, they can’t recall if the subject of the thing that was consuming their lives at the moment came up.

Are we seeing the pattern here? An attorney general lies during his confirmation hearing. He’s caught. He claims he misinterpreted the question. The next step is resignation. Or it would be if he had any honor.

So where does that leave us? It seems a lot of Trump officials met with Russians during the campaign. Kislyak was at the RNC convention where at least some of these meetings took place.

Paul Manafort was fired by Team Trump when his name was discovered in a hand-written ledger in locked safe in the office of a Russian oligarch for whom Manafort used to lobby. The ledger denoted a $12 million payout to Manafort. Actually, that wasn’t the triggering event. Manafort didn’t disclose his lobbying on behalf of a foreign entity, which is a felony.

Carter Page was a Trump aide with experience in global energy production and ties to several Russian state-run energy companies. He denied he met with Kislyak even as he was fired from the campaign. He kept on denying it until about yesterday. But back in July, when asked if he met Kislyak at the Republican Convention, he issued one of the most bizarre non-denial denials I’ve ever read:

“I can neither confirm or deny any meeting with him at that event in the interest of respecting the confidentiality rules that people agreed to as it was an off-the-record session.”

Uh, dude. Saying “it was an off-the-record session” is a confirmation that the meeting took place.

Now, Team Trump says these meetings at the convention took place, but they were just “get-to-know” meet and greets. Nothing nefarious about them. We can all relate to that, right? Secretive off-the-record meet-and-greets between campaign officials and Russian diplomats? The kind that no one can seem to recall having or what was said? The kind Team Trump denied happened like 20 times?

Now, remember what happened at that convention. Team Trump’s only input into the RNC platform was to soften the Republican stance from arming Ukrainians against Russian invaders to providing “appropriate assistance” to Ukrainians.  Trump denied he had anything to do with that.

Michael Flynn was Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor. He resigned when it was discovered that he lied to both the FBI and Vice President Pence about his conversations with Kislyak on the day President Obama announced sanctions against Russia for interfering in our elections. Again, he claimed he couldn’t remember what they talked about.

Trump’s son-in-law and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner along with Mike Flynn met with Kislyak at Trump Tower back in December. Funny thing about that meeting: the security tapes don’t show Kisylak entering or leaving Trump Tower, which suggests they brought him in some back way. That’s not normally what you’d do if the meeting was legit. It’s not like Kisylak would have been mobbed on the streets if he’d walked in the front door.

Donald Trump, Jr. was paid $50,000 for a speech about Syria at a French think tank called the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs. If you’re wondering what junior has to say about Syria that could possibly be worth 50 large, you’re not alone. Turns out the directors of the think tank once nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for a Nobel Prize.

Trump’s new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is the single largest shareholder of the Bank of Cyprus, which was fined $630 million by the DoJ for laundering money from Russian oligarchs. One of those oligarchs bought a house from Trump in Florida in which the future president made a tidy profit. Not one senator questioned Ross’s ties to Russia.

Yesterday, Sessions held a press conference to say he was recusing himself from any investigations dealing with the Trump campaign. This is too narrow. This is also unsustainable as the investigation would fall to the deputy AG who would be forced to investigate his boss. We need an independent prosecutor at a minimum and a non-partisan 9/11-style commission to investigate what really went on between Russia and the Trump campaign. We need to see Trump’s taxes to see if he has any financial ties to Putin.

Until that happens, expect to see more of the daily drip, drip, drip that keeps the story out front, and hijack’s Trump’s agenda. You know how you can tell when Trump is in trouble? He does stuff like this: