News reports state that “Ukrainian oligarch” Victor Pinchuk donated $150,000 to Donald Trump’s now-defunct foundation. (Can any of you tell me any good works that the Trump Foundation did while it was funct?) In 2015 Pinchuk invited Trump to speak at a conference in Kiev, which Trump did by a video link. Trump praised Pinchuk as “a very, very special man.” But as you assess how this makes you think about our president, throw into your thought hopper that the same news report also said that Pinchuk gave more than $10 million to the Clinton Foundation and was invited to dinner at Hillary and Bill Clinton’s Washington home.

Not too long ago, I played a game while watching Fox News. I would bet with myself how long it would take until I heard “Hillary.” On Hannity’s show, it almost never took more than a minute and usually fewer than fifteen seconds. Now while watching Fox I count the seconds until I hear “Hunter Biden.” And, I note, the last time I watched Hannity, within five seconds I heard both Hillary and Hunter Biden mentioned. (I do not recommend turning this into a drinking game. It would be too dangerous to your health.)

When did Rudy Giuliani stop mentioning 9/11 every time he spoke? I almost miss that guy.

The notes of the phone call between the American and Ukrainian presidents have Volodymyr Zelensky saying to Donald: “I would like to tell you that I also have quite a few Ukrainian friends that live in the United States. Actually last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower. I will talk to them and I hope to see them again in the future.” Isn’t it sad that the Ukrainian thought he could ingratiate himself with the American president by saying that he had stayed in a $600-a-night hotel room and that he might get friends to do so, too? Isn’t it even sadder that he might have been right?

My very large brain       

Said lean on Ukraine

To get me some poo

So I can be re-elected.

But a whistle blew,

I’m in such deep doo,

I might even be ejected.

I could be impeached;

Not fair! The law I was not teached.

          “The man was intoxicated; drunk on a little man’s dreams of revenge.” Robert Harris, Munich.

Snippets–Mueller Edition

The Mueller rohrshachs along. One pod of pundits proclaims, “Total exoneration.” A coven of commentators ignores any exoneration and points out that the president repeatedly lied and tried to get others to lie. Pusillanimous politicians repeat that there was no collusion with the Russians. A jeremiad of journalists catalogs all the contacts between Trump people and Russians. And so on.

The interpretations, characterizations, and mischaracterizations of the Mueller report fly about, but all ought to home in on the most important part of the report: the Russians interfered in our election. “Interfered,” however, is a polite word, a euphemism. We should label the Russian actions more forthrightly. The Russians attacked us. A fighter plane does not have to be shot down, a literal bomb does not have to be dropped, to be attacked. When the Russians took steps to subvert our election, they attacked us.  Conservatives don’t won’t to dwell on this because the Russians were trying to get Trump elected. Liberals seem to gloss over the interference because they feel that they can’t get Trump if he did not overtly collude with the Russians.

We all ought to agree, however, that we need to stop the Russian intervention. You can ask your elected officials whether they think all investigations of the president should stop or whether impeachment procedures should begin, but you should first be asking those who represent you, and asking them again, what measures do they support to lessen the possibility of a Russian attack in our next election? And don’t just address your national politicians. States and localities should also be taking steps for securing our elections, which is to say, securing our Republic. Ask your state and local officials what they are doing to prevent future subversions of our electoral process. The most important takeaway from the Mueller investigation should be that the Russians attacked us, and the most depressing takeaway is that we don’t seem to be doing anything about it.



“A lack of mental agility was not necessarily a handicap in Washington.” Scott L. Malcomson, One Drop of Blood: The American Misadventures of Race.



If the Russians attack us again in 2020, and we seem to be doing little to prevent that, who will the Russians try to get elected? They worked for Trump in 2016, but don’t assume that they will necessarily support the incumbent unless you know why the enigmatic Russians did it. If they affirmatively wanted him, it might only seem natural for the Russians to stay on the same train, but we don’t really know what the mysterious Putin and friends wanted from the reality TV performer. If they haven’t got whatever it was or they have already gotten what they wanted, will they hop off the train? If, however, they helped him not because they wanted to kiss his cheeks but because they adamantly opposed the election of Hillary Clinton, they might not promote Trump in a Clinton-less election. And if the Russians’ goal is simply to weaken the United States by spreading discord in America, who will they hack for? The Russians could conclude that they sowed discontent and a loss of faith in America among those who opposed Trump last time. Thus, they might reason, we won’t produce much new discord by using that strategy again, but those Trump supporters may go ballistic if he loses. So, let’s support the Democratic nominee. And what would be reactions if they did that? It’s a riddle.

Unsolicited Advice for House Democrats

Democrats have the majority in the House of Representatives. They can use this power for investigations of Donald Trump, but these should not be their principal focus, for such hearings will appear to many as acts of revenge or vindictiveness that are primarily aimed at pleasing the Democratic Party’s base. They might be the Democratic equivalent of all those endless and fruitless Benghazi hearings and not much different from demagogic Trump rallies. Investigations and hearings should serve and be seen to serve some broad national purpose, not just as spectacles to rile up or satisfy partisans.

This does not mean that all Trump investigations are unwarranted. We should know whether the president, his family, or those around him have economic and social interests that could be affecting our country’s policies. Could our relationships with Saudi Arabia be colored because of financial links between that country and the president or his family? Does the expansion of certain economic opportunity areas benefit the Kushner family? Is the relaxation of auto fuel standards driven by connections between the oil industry and the administration? Unfortunately, there are many such possible topics for exploration by sober investigations and hearings, and they should be done.

The House Democrats should not, however, enter the new Congress focused on articles of impeachment of Trump. Perhaps information will come to light that would justify the removal of the president, but under the present circumstances the Senate would not convict the president. Much has been made of recent guilty pleas and arrangements with prosecutors that suggest Donald Trump broke campaign finance laws, but even so, those violations by themselves will not bring a conviction in the Senate, for surely violations of campaign finance laws are legion and others are not removed for them. And the campaign finance problems really sound as if the Democrats are going after Trump for lying about sex. Sound familiar?

The Democrats should wait for Mueller to complete his investigation and only then consider strategies. Articles of impeachment may seem satisfying to certain partisans, but if there is no realistic chance of conviction in the Senate, impeachment will only further inflame and divide the country, and probably do the almost impossible: make Trump into a sympathetic figure.

A House impeachment without a solid chance of removal by the Senate would be grandstanding, and Democrats should avoid grandstanding. Instead, they should try to legislate and govern. The House should concentrate on passing good, cogent, well-researched legislation. Okay, okay, I know that that is a radical notion. Congress, whose constitutional purpose is to pass legislation, no longer seems to be much concerned with legislating. More often, a congressional party’s primary goal is to score political points. However, Democrats should realize that legislation that would help the country can be both good for the country and good for politics.

Objections will come that working on substantive legislation is a waste of effort because nothing that the Democrats propose will stand a chance of passage. The Republican-controlled Senate will simply kill any House initiative. But not so fast. What if House Democrats concentrated on legislative measures that President Trump has promised to support. We forget that there are important areas of apparent agreement between the rivals.

On what issues do Democrats agree with Trump? President Trump campaigned on increased infrastructure spending. As with many of his promises, he was not consistent in what he pledged–500 billion dollars, a trillion dollars, 1.5 trillion dollars. Nevertheless, more infrastructure spending was promised. He loudly and proudly pledged that he would “build the next generation of roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, sea ports and airports that our country deserves.”

Democrats agree with that, and the House should pass an infrastructure bill for the needs most obvious to many Americans: roads, bridges, tunnels, and the like—the stuff that Donald Trump said that he was going to improve. Such a law would produce many benefits: It would show actual governing; it would improve the everyday lives of many, it would further commerce and, therefore, the economy. This is a no-brainer–is there anyone who does not think we need such infrastructure improvement?

The House, however, should not stop at the traditional hard-hat areas. Our power grid was largely built fifty or more years ago, and many have said that it is not adequate for the twenty-first century—indeed that it poses national security risks. I don’t know if that is true, but I am willing to bet that many (most?) in Congress don’t know either.

Legislative hearings can serve purposes other than trying to score political points. They can collect information about problems and can suggest workable ideas that can be turned into legislation that would ameliorate the problems. Good hearings about our aging power grid might accomplish such things. At a minimum, the hearings could help educate Congress and the country and have the added political bonus of showing that the Democrats are truly interested in governing and helping the country. From the information and proposals garnered from such hearings, the House should pass a bill that would improve our power grid.

(continued January 4)