Tag Archives: whistleblower

Impeachment And The Economy

In a recent column, Paul Krugman opined that–among other benefits that some of us see (like potentially ridding ourselves of a severely mentally-ill President who has the launch codes)–the Impeachment inquiry launched by Democrats in the House will be good for the economy.

This seemed counterintuitive, since we have always heard that the markets respond negatively to uncertainty–and as we are seeing, Trump’s behavior when he is cornered is nothing if not unpredictable.

Krugman’s column anticipated Pelosi’s announcement, but applauded Impeachment’s probable effect on the economy.

If there’s one thing the tweeter in chief believes, it is that what’s good for Donald Trump is good for America. A little over a month ago (although it seems like much longer) he told a rally that “you have no choice but to vote for me,” because his electoral defeat would lead to a market crash.

But a funny thing has happened over the course of Trump’s latest terrible, horrible, very bad, no good two weeks. Suddenly, impeachment (though not removal from office) has gone from highly unlikely to highly likely. In fact, given the explosive nature of the now-revealed whistle-blower complaint, I don’t really understand how he can not be impeached.

And the financial markets have basically shrugged.

As Krugman notes, on the surface, this is strange. No matter what the outcome of the Impeachment proceedings, while they are going on, they are pretty much the only game in town: little or nothing else will happen. The administration’s legislative agenda will come to a screeching halt. Why doesn’t this worry investors?

The answer is, “What legislative agenda?”

Even when Trump’s party controlled both houses of Congress, he had only two major legislative initiatives. One was a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that will generate trillions in deficits but doesn’t seem to have done much for the economy. The other was an attempt to take away health insurance from around 30 million Americans, which didn’t pass.

It’s pretty obvious that, between watching Fox News and tweeting, Trump has had very little time for legislating, or for that matter, governing. (He has also given us ample reason to believe he has absolutely no idea how government works or how legislation is passed, which may explain his disinterest in both.)

To be fair, legislation isn’t the only way presidents can make policy, and the prospect of impeachment will probably exert a chilling effect on Trump’s ability to pursue policy through executive fiat. But here’s the thing: Since most of what Trump is trying to do is bad for America, whatever paralysis impeachment may induce is all to the good.

For Trump has, in effect, been waging a war on competence.

We’ve noticed.

In Trump’s vision of government, career diplomats who do actual diplomacy, experienced regulators who actually try to enforce regulations, researchers who produce objective data — up to and including weather forecasters whose predictions he doesn’t like — are all part of a deep state that’s out to get him. So Trump officials have been engaged in a systematic campaign to degrade America’s Civil Service, driving out people who know what they’re doing and replacing them with political hacks.

I’ve encountered a few members of Trump’s base, and their justifications for supporting him are consistent with Krugman’s description. Only “elitists” believe that people in government actually need to know something about governing, or  have experience or expertise in the subject-matter with which they are engaged. Any businessperson–well, any white businessman— can run  government.

Hell, you don’t need no fancy-shmancy degrees or experience. Just look at all those “best people” that Trump’s installed who are getting rid of all those silly rules and regulations that just get in the way of making a profit.

As Krugman says,

An impeachment inquiry will surely have a chilling effect on the Trumpian project of government degradation. It may not come to a dead halt, but Trump’s team of cronies will be distracted; they will be less brazen; they will be worrying about more potential whistle-blowers going public about what they’re doing.

In short, paralysis can be a very good thing. I’m rooting for it.

 

 

The Whistleblower Conflict

Okay–I take back every qualm/criticism I’ve ever had about the U.S. Intelligence community. (I might resurrect them at some future date.) It may end up saving America.

A number of media outlets have reported on the Whistleblower complaint filed by an Intelligence officer who was evidently appointed by Trump. This story was originally from the Washington Monthly.

The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

It was not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking with or what he pledged to deliver, but his direct involvement in the matter has not been previously disclosed.

The communication in question evidently came in the form of a phone call. Reporters tracked down the president’s phone conversations with foreign leaders around that time;  the three that occurred in the two months before the complaint was filed were Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Macron, and Vladimir Putin.

Also around the same time, Dan Coates, Director of National Intelligence, resigned. And shortly after that, the U.S. pulled out of the INF treaty with Russia.

Inspector General Atkinson (the Trump appointee) identified the whistleblower complaint as a matter of “urgent concern.” That triggered a requirement that the complaint be reported to Congress. But according to the Washington Post, Maguire–the acting head of DNI (this whole bloody Administration is “acting”) asked Bill Barr’s Justice Department for legal guidance and–surprise!– was told to withhold the information.

At that point, Atkinson informed Congress that a complaint had been made, but Maguire continued his refusal to share the information with the House Intelligence Committee.

While it’s tempting to speculate based on the timeline of events, what we actually know is that someone in the intelligence community was so concerned about what transpired on that phone call that he or she filed a whistleblower complaint. The inspector general found the complaint to be not only credible, but of “urgent concern.” When the new acting DNI refused to inform Congress, he took the extraordinary step of telling them that the complaint existed. In other words, to use Joe Biden’s vernacular, this is a Big Fuckin’ Deal.

Since this article was written, Atkinson has testified behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee, and several media outlets have suggested that more than one “impropriety” is involved. This might finally be enough to move Democrats off their reluctance to impeach….

Stay tuned….