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13 Reasons Why (Ep. 141)

Episode 141 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the aftermath of the Parkland High School shooting, the indictment of 13 Russian nationals in the special counsel probe, the failed DACA negotiations, and Laura Ingraham’s diss of LeBron James. Then the gang takes a look at other political podcasts and talk about why they do the show and what they think sets it apart from other podcasts.

Wave Goodbye to the Wave Election

by Kevin Kelton    

Though the makings of a democratic wave election in the midterms seem apparent – enthusiasm, leading indicators, a highly divisive president – one key component is missing… and it could be the fatal flaw.

It’s the “why.”

Every wave election has an overriding theme or movement behind it. Today’s Democratic party lacks either.

In the last half century, there have been six wave elections.* Two were presidential election cycles, the other four were midterms.

The 1980 Reagan wave was powered by a weak economy and the Iran hostage crisis, but mostly by a charismatic presidential candidate who gave a face and voice to the movement. Similarly, the 2008 Obama wave was driven by a war-weary nation and a financial crash, and a charismatic candidate. But let’s put those aside and look at midterms, where there is no presidential candidate to embody the movement.

In every midterm wave, there were clear economic and foreign policy crises that turbo-charged the national mood:

1974 – the Vietnam war and Watergate

1994 – a faltering economy, healthcare, and the GOP’s “Contract with America”

2006 – a war-weary nation, Hurricane Katrina, and GOP scandals (Jack Abramoff; Tom DeLay)

2010 – Obamacare, a stagnant economy, high unemployment, the national debt, illegal immigration

Now let’s look at the prospects for 2018. Other than an historically unpopular first-term president, what issues do the Democrats have to run on? Even with the current stock market correction, it’s unlikely the economy will tank before November. (It takes six months of negative GDP to classify a recession, and right now GDP is strong.) Unemployment is historically low. There is no new military conflict. By November DACA will likely be resolved and the only immigration issues will be the border wall and the lingering Muslim ban court cases. Trump is riding high on the tax cuts and the recent long-term budget deals. Even the #MeToo movement is too fractured to break solidly Democratic. The party can’t own the issue with Bill Clinton, John Conyers, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, and Anthony Weiner as its poster boys.

Plus the Democrats are still a splintered party with no national leader to rally the troops. So they will be left to a series of local races with no unifying issue or theme to power them past heavily financed incumbents.

Unless the anti-Trump movement itself is enough to power the wave, what should be a tsunami may turn into a small storm. Democrats are likely to pick up seats in the House, but unless they net 24, the GOP will still own both chambers and the Executive branch.

The party’s leaders better settle on a set of core issues now, issues that will resonate with middle-class voters and power midterm turnout. And they better be bumper sticker stances, not nuanced wonky ones that take two minutes to explain.

So what can you do? Find the issue you are passionate about and post about it tirelessly on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Join Facebook political groups to magnify your voice. Share posts on the issue and send them to your senate and congressional candidates. Be your own campaign manager and campaign spokesperson. Then pick five races with five candidates you are excited about and donate. If every Democrat becomes a one-man SuperPac, we win.

Unless we’re all in the campaign, Trump and company will be campaigning on tax cuts, jobs and prosperity, while Democrats be running on Russia and Robert Mueller.

I respect Robert Mueller. But I don’t think he’s a wave.

Kevin Kelton is a writer and co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and founder of the Facebook groups Open Fire Politics, Open Fire Food & Spirits, and Open Fire Sex.

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* An argument an be made that 2014 was also a wave election, but since the House was already heavily GOP, movement of congress further right isn’t being counted here as a “wave.”

 

Little Donald Trump (Ep. 139)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the dualing Carter Page memos, the stock market freefall, Trump’s war with “Little Adam Schiff,” the new developments affecting the midterm elections, the looming government shutdown redux, and our favorite Super Bowl commercials. It all culminates with a Dirty Dancing tribute.

Nuclear Memo War

by Kevin Kelton

By approving the reckless release of the politically-explosive Devin Nunes memo, President Trump has now demonstrated that he cannot be trusted to heed urgent warnings from his senior advisors. He ignored the dire pleas of his FBI Director, Deputy Attorney-General, Assistant Attorney General, intelligence chiefs, Senators John Thune and Lindsey Graham (both loyal Trump confidants), and probably a few White House higher-ups that we don’t know of yet. When the DOJ and FBI warned him it would be an “extraordinarily reckless” act, the president reportedly erupted in anger and still acted on his reckless impulses.

So how can we trust he will listen to his senior advisors’ warnings not to release a nuclear military strike if that day ever comes? Who is to say that Jim Mattis or HR McMaster will have any more sway over him than the FBI Director,  DAG, and AAG that Trump himself handpicked?

With that in mind, Republicans and others now enabling this reckless president should watch carefully how Trump navigates the next few months. Watch how he responds to a counter-strike memo from Democrats. Will he impulsively escalate the battle? Does he feel the need to always one-up his enemy, always taking the fight to the next level regardless of warnings or consequences? Will he try to fire Rod Rosenstein or Mueller himself, indifferent to the warnings of senior staff?

If so, is this the behavior of a man you truly entrust with the security of your country and your family?

If the 45th president can’t be trusted to suppress his worst urges in political warfare, what makes you think he’d be able to do it in real warfare? The pressure Trump is under from the special counsel investigation is beyond intense. It’s pretty clear to any objective observer that he’s having some kind of nervous breakdown (as most guilty parties do when the police are banging at their front door). If a mannered and proper adversary like Robert Mueller is breaking him, how would he hold up psychologically against a wily, no-rules nemesis who can read Trump’s neurotic wiring and manipulate him like a puppet master working a marionette?

Because if you think Kim Jong-un isn’t watching and reading how Trump handles all this, guess again. Every foreign leader is watching how this game plays out, reading Trump’s weaknesses and his “tells.” Trump is trying to bluff his way out of the Russia scandal with a losing hand, and his pupils and brow sweat are obvious for everyone to see.

So Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, John Kelly, and every senator, congress person and cabinet officer, pay close attention now. Do you really trust this man under pressure? Is he someone whose worst instincts you’ll be able to contain when the going gets extremely rough?

It’s not a joke or a wild hypothetical. We just saw him launch a reckless nuclear first strike on his political enemies. The next one may be with missiles, not memos.

Perjury Trap (Ep. 138)

Episode 138 of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at Trump’s overseas trip to Davos, his upcoming State of the Union address, and whether Trump’s possible testimony in the Russia probe could be a perjury trap. Or is it a bear trap? Is it all leading to a constitutional crisis? Listen and find out.

The Russia Show

by Kevin Kelton

The other day on MSNBC’s “The Beat with Ari Melber,” HuffPost Editorial Director Howard Fineman said that he doesn’t think Special Counsel Robert Mueller will be able to make a case for obstruction of justice against the president, but he does think Mueller has a strong case for collusion. One hour later on the same network, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele told Chris Matthews that he doesn’t think Mueller can make a case for collusion, but does have strong one for obstruction.

Two knowledgeable political experts, two opposite opinions.

The truth is that when it comes to the Trump-Russia investigation, no one but Mueller and his top deputies knows anything. Not you, not me, not the TV experts. Yet Facebookers on both sides of the partisan seesaw keep spouting nonsense about it with absolute certainty.

One of my favorite silly talking points is, “Collusion is not a crime.” This comment is laughable for its utter lack of legal context. It’s true, if you and I collude to get the best price on a used car, that is not a crime. But if we collude to steal the car, it is. Collusion to commit a crime is called “conspiracy,” and yes, it’s very much against the law. Don’t believe me? See here and here.

Another ludicrous argument is, “There isn’t one shred of evidence supporting collusion.” Actually, there’s a whole bunch. First, you have the Don Jr. June 9 Trump Tower meeting, which was shown in texts to be about meeting with Russian nationals to get and use stolen Hillary Clinton emails with the express goal of changing the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. Second, you have the candidate himself asking Russia on national television to hack (i.e., steal) and publish private citizens’ emails with the express intent of affecting the outcome of the election. He even promised a quid pro quo by saying, “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Think of it this way: a man involved in a contentious divorce goes into a crowded restaurant and says for everyone to hear, “I’m urging someone to break my ex-wife’s legs. I think you’ll be rewarded mightily for it.” A few days later his wife turns up beaten with a broken leg and broken arm. Don’t you think that is evidence of his complicity in the act? It may not be enough to convict him by itself, but along with other evidence it creates a powerful argument for his guilt.

On the liberal side, my favorite gibberish is that Trump’s cabinet may soon invoke the 25th Amendment. Think about it. Let’s just say for a moment that someone, say Rex Tillerson, was secretly considering it. Who would he whisper it to? Ben Carson? Betsy DeVos? Steve Mnuchin? Sonny Perdue? Wilber Ross? Every one of them would run to the Oval Office to report the traitor in a heartbeat. Go find me four Trump Cabinet appointees you think would support this kind of unprecedented American coup d’état, let alone eight. It’s preposterous. Trump is ready to jail Hillary Clinton for her purported crimes against America. What do you think he’d do to a handful of treasonous ex-Cabinet plotters?

But I think my favorite argument is, “Who cares if Russia stole the DNC emails? Isn’t the content of what’s in them more important?” The simple answer is, no.

Because an election campaign should be based on relatively equal transparency, especially where private material is concerned. If I can see and review one candidate’s tax returns, I should be able to see and review the others’. If I can get my hands on one candidate’s medical records, I should get them for both. If I can view one candidate’s criminal conviction record, it’s only fair to make the other’s public as well. Judging one candidate on personal information that the other one doesn’t have to release is fundamentally unfair.

So to have the DNC emails purloined and published without releasing the RNC’s emails as well was an inequitable prejudice against Clinton. Had the RNC emails also been leaked, we most likely would have seen just as much dirt and ugliness in the Republican primary race as we saw in the Democrats’. (Which, frankly, wasn’t really all that bad.)

And by the way, for those who don’t know history, the Watergate break-in was about stealing the DNC’s private files. It doesn’t matter what’s in them; if you steal private campaign information and use it you are breaking the law. In the electronic age, it’s called Data Theft and it’s prohibited by several state and federal statues.

But maybe the most delicious irony of The Russia Show is that everyone who used to detest James Comey now adore him, and everyone who used to adore him now thinks he’s a conniving, lying enemy of the state.

What is true is that the Trump-Russia investigation has become catnip Facebook groups like Open Fire. Like any good TV soap opera, everyone has their favorite villain and plenty of theories as to how it will all end.

What’s your favorite talking point about Trump, Mueller, Comey, and Russia?

A More Perfect New Year (Ep. 134)

The first MPU podcast of the new year looks at milestones from the year past and what it means to do a political podcast in our heightened era of political awareness.

How The Trump Stole Christmas (Ep. 132)

This week’s “More Perfect Union” podcast covers the post-script on the Alabama senate race, the imminent passage of the Trump tax reform (“tax deform”) bill, the net neutrality debate, the latest in the Russia investigation, government revelations about UFO sightings, and Greg’s very strange “Dayton Conspiracy.” Plus lots of holiday cheer from your friends at The More Perfect Union.

Franken’s Fall: How It All Began (Ep. 130)

This special episode of The More Perfect Union podcast talks with KABC radio host Doug McIntyre, who first broke the Al Franken sexual misconduct scandal. Doug explains his role in breaking the story and the humorously strange path of how it came to light, a path that included SNL producer Lorne Michaels, the late comic Garry Shandling, Matt Drudge, and Roger Stone. Doug also talks about sanctuary cities, the Kate Steinle murder after the acquittal of the illegal immigrant who shot her, and his take on the Trump-Russia investigation and tax reform.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, and lots of other smart, fun people. 

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

Rand Paul Gets Punched (Ep. 125)

Episode 125 of The More Perfect Union podcast finds the gang mourning yet another mass shooting, looking at the upcoming off-year elections in New York, New Jersey and Virginia, expressing dismay at Senator Elizabeth Warren, and showing compassion for Senator Rand Paul.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, and lots of other smart, fun people. 

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

All About the Base…No Treble (Ep. 112)

Episode 112 of The More Perfect Union podcast touches on the final days of The Mooch and who might replace him, the Trump immigration bill and his battle with sanctuary cities, and the Russia probe’s new grand jury. Then the gang must make some faustian choices between hypothetical 2020 presidential opponents.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

A Grand Juror Makes His Case

By William Gleed

Let’s begin here. A federal grand jury is no witch hunt, and it’s not about indicting a ham sandwich. A grand jury does not insult voters, nor does it subvert the Constitution. I know this because I served on federal grand jury in Concord, New Hampshire, for eighteen months from 2011-2012. Here’s some of what I learned.

There are only three things the federal government can compel a citizen to do: make you serve in the military, pay your taxes, and serve on a grand jury. I was happy to serve once I realized that, like death and taxes, I couldn’t get out of it.

Unlike a regular jury, as a grand jury juror you can question witnesses yourself, and you are encouraged to do so. You can subpoena documents (like a tax return) and compel testimony. You can tell a federal prosecutor and all the federal enforcement agencies that, no, you can’t charge and try that person on those charges, and the jury on which I served would and did do exactly that more than once. I’ve never had power like that before, and it was sobering.

I’m still sworn to secrecy about the actual testimony I took, so I can’t tell you about the cases I worked on or the evidence I saw. But I am proud to know I helped make a very bad day for some very bad people who very much deserved it.

The thing I can do is tell you how a grand jury operates.

My jury was made up 23 ordinary, individually unremarkable Americans who’d never met each other until the day we showed up to serve on the panel. We were from all walks of life, all levels of education, and all kinds of life experiences. A couple were teachers, some were small business people, some had retired. A grand jury is meant to protect you from overzealous prosecution. It’s part of our great strength as a nation that ordinary, “unremarkable” people are the ones who fulfill this mission.

All a grand jury does is to listen to the evidence and the law. Their only task is to decide if the evidence is enough to bring a charge and proceed to trial. That’s it. A grand jury doesn’t decide if you’re guilty or not. It just applies the law as twenty-three ordinary citizens understand that law. A trial jury makes the call on guilt.

So if I would advise the current POTUS, I’d tell him to stop acting so guilty, and stop trying to cloud the issue if he and his minions hope to avoid indictments. The way Mr. Trump is disparaging the process is very dangerous to our democracy, and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts it’s not winning him the benefit of the doubt among the jurors.

People have asked me if you can dodge a grand jury.

You don’t dodge a grand jury.  A grand jury can come for you with the US Marshals, and will do just that, if you make them. There is no place you can hide, and that you try to run is evidence of guilt at your certain eventual trial. The jury can also jail you indefinitely for contempt if you ignore their subpoena. I think Mr. Trump would be safe from that, but where’s he going to run? Russia?

If POTUS, or anyone else, is not indicted in the Russia probe, what it means is that 12 out of 23 ordinary Americans didn’t think federal prosecutors have the evidence of a crime. They could have the evidence or more evidence in the future and bring it back to the same grand jury, who can then indict with the new evidence. But you should remember, a prosecutor doesn’t take a case to a grand jury unless and until they have the evidence. At least, that’s my experience.

Right now, I would guess – and it’s only a guess – that somebody is going to jail, or at least going to trial, though it remains to be seen who that will be.

People have asked me if POTUS could plead the Fifth amendment, were he called to testify. I tell them that he can plead the Fifth all he wants. He’s not at a trial or on trial. Nobody has been charged yet, so he might be premature.

But what would you think of someone who said he couldn’t answer your question because it might make him a criminal, and he was the president of the United States? Imagine YOU had the power to charge him for the crime if (and I stress “if”) the evidence is sufficient in your mind to substantiate your charge? How would you vote on that indictment?

I don’t remember anyone, in 18 months, and dozens of cases, who took the Fifth. And I sure don’t think it would have helped them if they had.

Finally, I want to tell you that If I were under investigation but knew myself to be innocent of those charges, I would want those accusations to go before a grand jury. Twenty-three ordinary people, doing their constitutional duty, the way the Founding Fathers meant it to work.

So what’s the Trump administration worried about?

William Gleed has taught writing and literature at Southern New Hampshire University, Franklin Pierce University, Middlesex Community College, and Northern Essex Community College in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He’s been a correspondent for the Portsmouth, NH Herald and Seacoast Newspapers. He received a graduate degree in  poetry writing from the University of New Hampshire in 1995.