Trump and “Nasty”, by Penny Smith – May 19

Our current President appears to have a decided affection for adjectives: “Sleepy” Joe, “Mini” Mike, “Lyin’” Ted, “Fat” Jerry. There’s even a Wikipedia site dedicated to them (check out “List of Nicknames used by Donald Trump”). However, his range of adjectives is both limited and childish. The “Trumptive” that fascinates me is “nasty.”

Denmark’s prime minister was called “nasty” after she reacted negatively to his suggestion that Danes sell us Greenland. Nancy Pelosi has been labeled “nasty,” as has Megan Markle, Hillary Clinton, Carmen Cruz (the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico), Elizabeth Warren, Mazie Hirono (an Hawai’ian Senator), and Kamala Harris. They are all women who have criticized him. To be accurate, Trump calls some men nasty, but the word seems, in Trump World, to pertain primarily to females. And, I suspect, when he does it to males, he wants to feminize them, to make them less manly men.

He has called questions, often asked by female reporters “nasty.” See, for example, a response to Yamiche Alcindor (PBS).  Reporters, again often female, have been criticized for their “nasty” tones. See Weijia Jiang (CBS). 

The word itself seems an odd choice. One reason I suspect it appears often is that Trump simply does not know a whole bunch of adjectives and, thus, reuses those he does know. Think how many times we’ve heard “great,” “powerful,” “amazing,” and huge” come out of his mouth. He declares “I think he’s a good guy” or “I’ve heard he’s a good guy” as though “good” nailed down something specific. Good to me? Good for me? Good as in moral, ethical and upright? 

When I was a child, my parents used “nasty” to describe something I should avoid. “Don’t touch that; it’s nasty.” Usually the object under discussion was connected to something germ-laden. Webster’s agrees that its use refers to things unpleasant or harmful, to a “physically nauseating” thing. My parents never applied it to a person. So, to see it used as Trump does is jarring.

According to dictionaries, when applied to a person, “nasty” means behaving in “an unpleasant or spiteful way.” “Nasty persons” are meanies, villains, rogues or scoundrels. If the word is applied to a woman, however, it suggests she is “ill-tempered, sexually adventurous, or self-empowered.” (An aside: Have you ever noticed how ideas of female empowerment and sex are often entangled when it comes to describing women?)

I think our President, ever the germaphobe, uses it in the sense my parents did. He connects nasty with something that one should leave alone; it’s garbage of the filthiest kind. But by transferring it to people and particularly to women he provides us with a window into really disturbed thinking. Our President cannot abide contradiction. He is, after all, a “very stable genius,” his words, not mine. In particular Trump cannot tolerate challenge from females and, so, he reserves special designations for them. 

Like a little child denied his way, he fights back with whatever limited means he has. He dehumanizes people who disagree, reducing them to something fit only for flushing down the nearest toilet. It is a peculiar verbal tic. However, it is also a “tell,” a habit that lets us know something about the speaker. In this case, it tells us how he values women who behave in a certain way. No wonder “Nasty Woman” t-shirts became so popular over the past couple of years.

Impeachment 102, by Penny Smith: 10/24/2019

Number 2 in a series (watch this space for more)


  1. Have the Democrats impeached Trump?

The Democrats have not yet impeached Donald Trump. They are in the process of holding investigation hearings to determine if there is sufficient evidence to impeach him. Multiple committees are engaged in such investigations, but Adam Schiff heads the investigation with the most traction.

  1. I thought there were other committees, like the one headed by Jerry Nadler, which were looking into impeachment. What happened to them?

Currently there are six committees looking at various Trump activities that may warrant impeachment: Financial Services, the Judiciary, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Ways and Means. Nadler heads the Judiciary Committee. 

Those other committees have not dropped their investigations, but they are having difficulty obtaining documents and witnesses due to the decision by the President to exert executive privilege over anything that pertains to what happens in the White House. Several committees have turned their complaints over to the judicial system and are awaiting decisions about compliance.

  1. Why would Congress investigate the President at all?

We have a government based on a system of checks and balances, designed to thwart abuse of power by any one branch. Congress has always had oversight responsibilities, which means they routinely investigate actions by the Executive Branch. When Republicans were in charge of both houses of Congress during the first two years of the Trump Presidency, they essentially ignored oversight responsibility. When the Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives, they reinitiated oversight, much to the consternation of the White House, which has resisted their efforts.

  1. How is impeachment related to the Mueller Report?

The Mueller Report was never an impeachment investigation. It was an investigation by a Special Prosecutor to look into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections. Also, because of a Justice Department internal ruling, the report could not recommend charging the President with any crimes.

What that report found was that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election, using false and misleading stories to influence public opinion against Hilary Clinton. In other words, the Russians worked to elect Donald Trump. The report did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that a conspiracy between the Trump and Putin supporters existed, but it did not rule out such a conspiracy.

During the investigation the Mueller team did find multiple instances of obstruction that could rise to the level of impeachable charges, but felt it was not their responsibility to pursue such charges for two reasons: the Justice Department ruling that a President can not be charged and the existence of the impeachment process. In other words, they threw that part of the investigation to Congress.

It is the Mueller Report that initiated impeachment investigations in the Judiciary Committee, which are now on hold as demands for witness testimony and documents make their way through our court system.

  1. Who is Adam Schiff?

Adam Schiff chairs the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. That committee, along with the Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees, are looking into the possibility the President abused his power when he withheld funds from Ukraine until its leaders agreed to an investigation of a Trump political opponent.

6. What’s the impeachment investigation in Schiff’s Committee about?

The original Ukraine complaint came from an anonymous whistleblower; that person came into possession of information that he or she believed indicated a grievous abuse of power. He or she then followed procedures set in place for filing such complaints. The Inspector General, who received the whistleblower’s complaint, investigated it and found its claims to “be credible” and “urgent.” He then sent the complaint, in accordance with due process, to the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire. That’s where things stalled.

Maguire refused to send the complaint to the Intelligence Committee within seven days, although he is required to do so by law. He also failed to respond to an Intelligence Committee’s subpoena for the complaint. Although he did not share the complaint with Congress within the required seven days, he apparently shared it with both the White House and the Justice Department.

Consequently, the whistleblower sought advice on how to advance his complaint to Congress. That led to a public conflict between Adam Schiff’s committee and the National Intelligence Director. Eventually, the whistleblowers’ complaint was made public and the White House released a summary of a July phone call between President Trump and the recently elected leader of Ukraine. That phone call is at the heart of, but not the full scope of, the complaint.

The whistleblower’s charges involved the use of the office of the Presidency for personal gain. The President refused to release congressionally appropriated funds to Ukraine for their defense against Russian aggression until he received a favor in return – an investigation of a potential political opponent, Joe Biden, and his son. In other words, the President conditioned foreign aid on receiving a political favor. Moreover, he asked that favor from a foreign country, which is itself an illegal act.

  1. Why are Democrats investigating Trump in secret?

The current hearings are being held in private, because the Justice Department, which should have undertaken an investigation, did not. Investigations are almost always done privately, partially to ensure that witnesses do not know what other witnesses have said.  Also, it’s not Democrats alone in those closed-door hearings. All members of the three committees overseen by Adam Schiff are involved and those members include 48 Republicans.

Closed-door hearings are common, particularly with investigations by the Intelligence Committee, which often deals with confidential matters. Republicans routinely used them during the Obama Administration, including many of the Republicans now claiming that closed-door sessions are unfair.

Once the preliminary investigation stage is over, there will be public hearings involving witnesses, most of whom will have testified behind closed doors. Also, the transcripts of the closed-door hearings will eventually be released to the public.

  1. Is it true that no Republicans are allowed in the Trump hearings?

That’s absolutely false and Republicans who are complaining about “secret” hearings know it. Republican members of the three committees involved in the hearings can attend, do attend and, we assume, ask questions.

  1. If it’s not true that the hearings are secret, why are the Republicans complaining about it?

At the moment it’s difficult to defend the behavior of the President, particularly in light of the opening statements of witnesses that have been publicly released. It’s commonplace in legal practice to complain about the process, when you can’t really challenge the facts. So, GOP defenders of the President are doing their best to throw dust in the air and pretend “there’s nothing to see here.” They hope, by complaining about the process and labeling it unfair, low information voters and Trump supporters will believe them and ignore the evidence.

  1. How come these witnesses are testifying, when other committees had difficulty securing witnesses and documents?

In some cases these witnesses no longer work for the government; in some cases they do. However, in all cases those individuals whose testimony would be covered by executive privilege have been subpoenaed by the committee and are complying with the subpoena.

  1. What are the likely charges against Trump and on what are they based?

Although down the road Trump might have to confront charges related to campaign finance abuses (he is essentially an unindicted co-conspirator on one of the charges that sent his former attorney Michael Cohen to jail), tax fraud, and obstruction of justice relating to the Mueller Report, he is currently in most danger from charges that he abused the power of his office in an attempt to compromise a potential political opponent. Two tangential charges may flow from that investigation – that he obstructed justice by obstructing investigation into those charges and that he failed to “faithfully” execute the orders of Congress by delaying the release of appropriated funds to Ukraine.

  1. If Trump is impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate, can he be impeached again?

Yes, there is no Constitutional limit to the number of times a person can be impeached, although it would have to be for other charges. There is, however, a potential political cost to multiple failed impeachments.

  1. What’s likely to happen about this impeachment business in the coming weeks?

The investigation into the whistleblower’s charges and related activities will probably continue behind closed doors for a couple of weeks. There will then be public hearings, somewhat like the Watergate Hearings. They would be televised in real time.

The House has an interest in trying to finish the process before the end of the year. So, unless something surprising is uncovered, watch for public hearings to show up in November related to specific impeachment charges. Watch for a vote in the House on those charges in late November or early December, sending the matter to the Senate.

  1. What’s likely to happen in the Senate?

For Trump to be convicted and removed from office, 2/3s of the Senate must vote to impeach him. That means a significant number of Republicans have to vote with the Democrats and that is, at least at the moment, unlikely to happen.

If it moves to the Senate, here are the things that can happen: Mitch McConnell can stall bringing the matter to the floor of the Senate or bring it to the floor with a vote to dismiss; McConnell can bring the charges to the floor with an expedited trial; or McConnell can bring the charges to the floor for a regular trial. Any trial will be public and televised. Chief Justice Roberts presides. It is at the trial that the President’s attorneys would have an opportunity to bring witnesses and cross-examine the House witnesses.

Stay tuned for Impeachment 103

Whopper of the Week, by Penny Smith: 10/23/2019

“We’re building a wall on the border of New Mexico. And we’re building a wall in Colorado, we’re building a beautiful wall, a big one that really works that you can’t get over, you can’t get under and we’re building a wall in Texas. We’re not building a wall in Kansas but they get the benefit of the walls we just mentioned.”       Donald Trump, Pittsburg, October 23, 2019

Trump tried to make part of that statement correct later that evening with a tweet that declared he was just kidding about Colorado. However, it’s clear from the video that Trump initially believed his statement about Colorado suddenly moving to our border with Mexico. Moreover, novice climbers, an eight year-old girl and a man juggling with one hand have all readily scaled a replica of the insurmountable wall.

Why I Think Trump Should Be Impeached, by Penny Smith: 10/28/2019

Number 1 in a Series (stay tuned for more)

Based on the Mueller Report, which I have read, including all those footnotes, it’s obvious that President Trump obstructed justice multiple times. Based on the Michael Cohen convictions, it’s likewise obvious that Trump probably violated campaign finance laws. Based on his on-going use of his properties for personal vacations and public business, it’s obvious that Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Based on the opening statements by witnesses before the three committees looking into abuse of power concerning Ukraine, it’s obvious that Trump believes it’s fine to coerce a country for personal political gain. All those Trump behaviors are probably reasons for impeaching him, but they are not the primary one to me.

“High crimes and misdemeanors” as referenced in the Constitution refers not to crimes we associate with the criminal code, as many members of Congress would wish, but to actions that misappropriate public trust. If the President fails to uphold his oath of office, he needs to be impeached. And that oath is fairly simple: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Generally, when we look at the words “faithfully execute,” we mean that our President ensures that laws are put into effect. For that reason, it’s sometimes called the “take care clause.” The President is charged with taking care that the laws are executed, even if he disagrees with them. 

But I think of “faithfully execute” as more than simply putting a law into effect; I think of it as requiring some measure of being faithful, of being true to the meaning of laws. Being “faithful” suggests steadfastness, conscientiousness, and truthfulness. For example, there are facts to which we must be faithful. I think the President should be impeached, because he does nothing faithfully. He is a constant and often mean-spirited liar, whose language abuses the public trust in both certain individuals and our institutions.

He lies so often that there are now multiple Internet sites that keep a running total. He came into the Presidency as a serial liar, but the oath he took demanded another standard when he became our symbolic First Citizen. Before taking office he certainly lied about his fortune, his marriages, his affairs, his authorship of multiple books, and his predecessor, Barack Obama. He even lied periodically about lying.

On his first day in office he lied about the size of his inauguration crowd and sent his minions to the media to repeat those lies. He lied about voter fraud to cover his popular vote loss to Hilary Clinton. He lied about Mexico paying for the wall that is, as yet, not built. He lied about the nature of people seeking asylum, about Muslims, about separating families at the border, about hurricanes, about Puerto Rico deaths and recovery efforts, about climate change.

He lied about the nature of the Mueller investigation, calling it “a witch hunt.” He is currently calling House oversight a “coup.” If you are James Comey, once a registered Republican whom Trump loved when Comey criticized Hillary Clinton, you become “a terrible director” and “crooked,” when you fail the President’s loyalty test. If you are Robert Mueller, another registered Republican, you become “highly conflicted” and have a “gang of Democrat thugs” destroying people. However, your report is “beautiful,” since it found “no collusion” and “no obstruction,” neither of which is a fair reading of what Mueller found.

Trump, according to himself, is “the most transparent President in history.” He doesn’t “do cover-ups.” His daughter “has created millions of jobs.” He has “perfect” telephone conversations. The mainstream media publish “fake news;” only Fox is a beacon of truth, except, of course, when it isn’t. And it isn’t when it criticizes Trump. Democrats are committing “treason.” 

During the 2016 campaign he bragged about being able to become the most Presidential of all Presidents; his mean-spirited fabrications were simply electioneering tools. Yet once in office he made ad hominem attacks on everyone he believes is against him, even individuals he praised months earlier. Pelosi is “a very sick person.” Mattis is the “world’s most over-rated general,” except, of course, when Trump appointed him Secretary of Defense. Warren is “Pocahontas.” Biden is “a loser” and “a dummy.”

He believes Putin, not our intelligence officers. He thinks Kim Jong-un writes him such “beautiful letters” that they “fell in love.” He tells us that China is paying our tariffs, that the economy is the best it’s ever been for everybody, NATO is ripping us off, the United Nations is irrelevant, and the Kurds are happy. And, making all of the hyperbole and lies ever more dangerous, he is surrounded by people who applaud what he says and who repeat it on Sunday talk shows.

Public trust in the institutions of our government and in the people who work in those institutions is dependent on truth-telling and facts. Once that public trust is gone, so, too, will those institutions and non-partisan officials be gone. What Donald Trump has done, starting even before his run for the Presidency, is deal in conspiracy theories designed to erode trust. He’s gone from birth certificates to trading arms for political dirt, from promising to drain the swamp to making it the swampiest it has ever been.

Donald Trump is a peerless grifter, a con man, a snake oil salesman who doesn’t care if the snake oil makes blind the losers who buy it. A P.T. Barnum for our time, whose penchant for exaggeration, misspoken lines, and lies would be amusing were they not so perilous.

Benjamin Franklin argued that honesty is the best policy. The Bible commands us not to bear false witness. Shakespeare wrote, “no legacy is so rich as honesty.” Are there parents that willfully teach their children to lie to them? Yet we now have a President that lies to all of us on a daily basis, consciously, I fear, using those lies to sow discontent, division and derision.

Everyone misspeaks sometimes. Everyone gets something wrong now and then. But most of us strive to be truth-tellers and believe there exists a common set of facts. I’d impeach him for those lies; they are more a danger to our national honor, our politics, and our democracy than most of the other crimes he has committed.