Joe Conason from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Fri, 21 Jul 2017 03:09:10 -0700 Joe Conason from Creators Syndicate 283641c0c0e97aa53252e1daf2942e24 Why Trump Jr. Should Release More Emails for 07/17/2017 Mon, 17 Jul 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p>For many months, Donald J. Trump and his closest associates have assured Americans that their presidential campaign had "absolutely no contact" with any Russians seeking to influence the course of the 2016 presidential election. Among those who issued the most vehement denials were Paul Manafort, the Washington influence peddler who served as campaign manager, and eldest son Donald J. Trump Jr., who called any such suggestions "disgusting."</p> <p>Truly disgusting are the brazen lies uttered by these individuals. Everyone now knows about the June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower where Trump Jr., Manafort, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner hosted Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin.</p> <p>Considering the history of falsehoods and evasions by Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort &#8212; plus the strong incentive to conceal wrongdoing &#8212; their accounts must be treated with profound skepticism. But both Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin (an immigrant who once served in Russian military intelligence) say that they came to offer "evidence" of alleged offenses by Democratic donors to Clinton.<p>Updated: Mon Jul 17, 2017</p> c4088282d12fc5aa3b209b622a6f03c5 On July Fourth, a Message for Patriots for 07/03/2017 Mon, 03 Jul 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>On this Fourth of July, Americans live restlessly under a presidential administration hostile to the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Most Americans despise the president &#8212; a blustering, feckless lout who ignores those documents as he undermines freedom of the press and the free exercise of religion. He has appointed a government of plutocrats, mostly mirroring his own unfitness for office, who appear determined to dismantle the institutions that have made this country humane, strong, prosperous, and respected. Along with his political associates and members of his family, he has encouraged and emboldened the very worst elements in American politics, including so-called white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and neo-Confederates, all echoing his promise to "Make America Great Again."</p> <p>They cannot make America great again. Anyone who has studied the past should know that those right-wing extremists, always insisting on their supreme patriotism, are traditional enemies of the nation they claim to love. <span class="column--highlighted-text">When a demagogue like Donald Trump wraps himself in the Stars and Stripes, he is defiling the flag and denying our history.</span><p>Updated: Mon Jul 03, 2017</p> faa71afb40704919877418aca0082328 Why Trump (and Gingrich) Should Stop Whining About Robert Mueller for 06/19/2017 Mon, 19 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p>When Newt Gingrich humiliates himself by smearing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, it is all too easy to dismiss the former speaker. As a disgraced politician who left office under an ethical cloud, following a decade spent debasing American discourse, Gingrich has no standing to criticize Mueller, a decorated Vietnam veteran who enjoys broad bipartisan esteem after a lifetime devoted to public service.</p> <p>But others have seized on the Gingrich theme, complaining of Mueller's supposed bias against Trump, for which the sole evidence appears to be a few donations to Democratic campaigns by lawyers on the special counsel staff. Apparently, the only way to guarantee "fairness" is to appoint a hardcore Republican to every position.</p> <p>Such deep concern over the partisan affiliation of a special counsel or an independent counsel is something new for the Republicans. None of them voiced any qualms when, under the old Independent Counsel Act, a panel of three Republican judges consistently appointed Republican prosecutors to investigate a Democratic administration, as they did several times when Bill Clinton was president.<p>Updated: Mon Jun 19, 2017</p> a6c8e61d481694000d5e171ac7d6fb30 Why Trump Must Make Putin Smile for 06/06/2017 Tue, 06 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Whenever Donald Trump gratuitously insults an American ally or casually degrades our country's reputation, it is hard not to wonder what he thinks he is doing. Could the president of the United States perpetrate these damaging stunts, over and over again, merely to massage his own ego? Of all the explanations for Trump's astonishingly destructive behavior, immaturity and narcissism are actually among the more innocent possibilities.</p> <p>With each episode, the suspicion increasingly arises that Trump's constant undermining of American alliances, credibility and prestige is not simply stupid or petulant but purposeful. And then the question is whose purpose that pattern might serve.</p> <p>Until the next news cycle, the freshest example is his Twitter assault on London Mayor Sadiq Khan. For no reason at all, Trump falsely claimed &#8212; in the wake of last weekend's terror attack in the British capital &#8212; that Khan didn't take the horror seriously enough. Even as heads of state from around the world sent messages of support to the great city on the Thames, the president engaged in a petty provocation that predictably infuriated the citizens of America's closest ally. (Imagine the outrage here if the prime minister of a NATO country had chosen Sept. 12, 2001, to insult Rudy Giuliani as a posturing fraud.)<p>Updated: Tue Jun 06, 2017</p> fff30984856f9be58eeb8f5973669c07 Trump's Epic Budget Swindle for 05/27/2017 Sat, 27 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Elect a fraudster to the presidency &#8212; remember Trump University and the Trump Foundation? &#8212; and he will soon deliver a fraudulent budget. What makes this presidential fraudster's first budget so special is the simultaneous perpetration of multiple levels of fraud.</p> <p>Aside from defense spending, the Trump budget violates nearly every programmatic promise he made to voters last year. And he pretends to fulfill his promise of balancing the budget with fake numbers.</p> <p>Not only are the numbers phony but also they represent the most audacious mathematical con game in a federal budget in recent memory. It is phonier than the phony budgets cooked up during the Reagan era, when the president's own budget director eventually confessed, "None of us really understands what's going on with all these numbers."<p>Updated: Sat May 27, 2017</p> 97e5f1097b02caf5421c2fa1a5a2f0ad Congress: Demand White House Transcript for 05/16/2017 Tue, 16 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>If Donald Trump disclosed highly classified state secrets to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, he may be vulnerable to impeachment &#8212; not because he broke the law, which evidently he did not, but because he committed an act that would be considered criminal and perhaps treasonous if perpetrated willfully by any other government official.</p> <p>Trump is exempt from the criminal statutes governing disclosure of classified information because he can legally declassify anything at will. But whimsical and boastful misuse of that authority, in the presence of an adversary power, is an extremely serious offense that requires immediate Congressional investigation.<p>Updated: Tue May 16, 2017</p> c4113adb4a5cca9120c13f19c661e5e9 Donald Trump's Death Panels for 05/08/2017 Mon, 08 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The real death panels are coming.</p> <p>Back in 2009, during the shrill hours of debate over the Affordable Care Act, Sarah Palin warned us solemnly that defenseless Americans "will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care."<p>Updated: Mon May 08, 2017</p> 168adcb1d01aa3af88fbf80c887a34bc The Grifters Do 'Tax Reform' for 04/28/2017 Fri, 28 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>If you were paying attention to what we learned about Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, then you know that the president of the United States was once the impresario of a student-swindling Trump University, the founder of a Trump Foundation designed for tax evasion and illegal self-dealing, and the chief executive of a The Trump Organization that has long relied on various techniques of grifting, from rip-offs of workers and contractors to serial bankruptcies.</p> <p>And if you know all that, then you cannot be surprised by the way that he and his family have conducted themselves during the first 100 days of his presidency, which is also the way they will behave until they leave or are removed from the White House. They have misused the office of the president to enrich themselves in ways that none of Trump's predecessors, not even the most venal, could have imagined doing. <p>Updated: Fri Apr 28, 2017</p> 08530749f625cc4e6f62428fa299c13c Trump (and Putin) Still Pushing Fascist 'Nationalism' for 04/21/2017 Fri, 21 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Hold the exhalations of relief about the supposed moderation of Donald Trump and the apparent demotion of Steve Bannon, his official strategist. With Trump's all-but-explicit endorsement of Marine Le Pen, the French neo-fascist presidential candidate, it is now clear that he remains enthusiastic about the fascists who have rebranded themselves as "nationalists."</p> <p>Within hours after this week's Paris terror attack &#8212; obviously mounted by ISIS to line up frightened French voters behind Le Pen &#8212; Trump issued a series of messages that played directly into that strategy. On Twitter he wrote, "Another terrorist attack in Paris... The people of France will not take much more of this...Will have a big effect on presidential election!" <p>Updated: Fri Apr 21, 2017</p> 33c2f3167c8fc19bf391d2ff43679e91 First Step Down a Dangerous Path for 04/07/2017 Fri, 07 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p>For the moment, Donald Trump's bombing of a military airfield in Syria has earned him a measure of success that has eluded his bumbling and malevolent administration during its first three months in office. No doubt he is thrilled by admiring coverage on cable television; by endorsements from voices on the left and right, outraged by Bashar Assad's latest atrocity against the Syrian people; and by the ultimate distraction from the Russia investigations, the failure of Obamacare repeal, and the ongoing warfare within his White House.</p> <p>Whatever Trump's motives, he was hardly alone in wanting to punish Assad for the chemical weapons attack on Khan Shaykhun. Millions shared the fury that Trump claimed to feel when he saw video of children and infants who died terribly in that village. And the more sober imperative, to discourage the use of poison gas by any regime, is longstanding American policy for good reason.</p> <p>But impulsive military action, lacking any strategic plan or even broader rationale, is no more likely to end the Syrian civil war than the lack of action after Assad's last, and even worse, chemical assault outside Damascus four years ago. Having opposed President Obama's initiative to punish Assad following that attack, Trump clearly has no idea what to do now that his missiles have landed. Nor do Congressional Republicans, whose enthusiastic support for Trump's action today rings hollow for anyone who remembers how they rejected Obama's request to authorize military force in 2013.<p>Updated: Fri Apr 07, 2017</p> c705dbcf57fd1cbe348ebe6b74a0a503 Don't Be Distracted By 'Leaks' or 'Wiretaps' for 03/21/2017 Tue, 21 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>From his first tweeted accusation of "wiretapping," Donald Trump has thrown up a screen of chaff to obscure what he and his cronies seem to fear most: a thorough, transparent investigation of the multiple connections between the Kremlin and his presidential campaign. Self-destructive as his ploy was, he succeeded in distracting attention from the deeply troubling questions that surround his election.</p> <p>But at yesterday's House Intelligence Committee hearing, FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers finally disposed of that phony "tapp" claim, in all its permutations (including the British variation he heard on Fox News). That topic merits no further discussion except whether and how the president should be sanctioned for this offensive prevarication.<p>Updated: Tue Mar 21, 2017</p> 2d51c4713e256fe81297f045e409cf41 Why Trump (and Bannon) Mirror ISIS for 03/10/2017 Fri, 10 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>What if the purpose of the Trump administration's travel ban is not to protect America from terrorist infiltration, as the president and his top advisers insist? What if the true aim of their anti-Muslim rhetoric, articulated over and over again, is actually to offend Muslims &#8212; and intensify their alienation from the West?</p> <p>Those questions are salient because the newly revised restrictions announced on Monday, are certain to accomplish only that: They will inflame the Muslim world, without improving security in this country at all. According to actual experts on terrorism, distinct from the ideological amateurs in the White House, the ban is not just ineffectual but provocative. And again, countries long implicated in Islamic extremism and terrorist activities remain exempt from restrictions (possibly because some of those same regimes also host Trump Organization enterprises).<p>Updated: Fri Mar 10, 2017</p> 065889d7d19e97cc238919e9a8685de0 Is It Watergate Yet? for 02/24/2017 Fri, 24 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>As Donald Trump and his subordinates lash out wildly in their campaign to suppress discussion of his presidential campaign's alleged collusion with the Kremlin, they conjure visions of a truly monumental scandal. With their latest attempts to manipulate the Federal Bureau of Investigation and intimidate the Washington press corps, they clumsily encourage comparisons with Watergate - although, as usual with this crew, it isn't so simple to distinguish malevolence from incompetence.</p> <p>Both the New York Times and CNN clearly struck a sensitive nerve with reports that the FBI is investigating the multiple contacts last year between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. Whatever the nature of those contacts and officials, those stories fit neatly into the long-developing narrative of an illicit effort by Kremlin operatives to sway our presidential election on Trump's behalf through email hacking, fake news reports and hired internet trolls among other things.<p>Updated: Fri Feb 24, 2017</p> 978d7097ff2a699194ad4282bd27b1dc Why That Russian Dossier Can't Be Ignored for 02/17/2017 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p>To see Michael Flynn depart his White House post in a miasma of misconduct &#8212; amid memories of his "lock her up" speech about Hillary Clinton at the Republican convention last summer &#8212; was satisfying. To hear that he might be replaced as national security adviser by someone saner is reassuring. </p> <p>But Flynn's ouster is only the first chapter in a potentially historic scandal that has begun to unfold. The contradictory accounts and explanations offered by presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Sean Spicer and others around Donald Trump left crucial questions unanswered.</p> <p>According to the most plausible version, Sally Q. Yates, then the acting attorney general, informed the White House counsel's office in late January about NSA intercepts of conversations between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Transcripts showed that contrary to public assertions by Flynn &#8212; bolstered by Vice President Mike Pence &#8212; the retired general and Trump campaign adviser had discussed with the ambassador the possibility of lifting sanctions imposed on Russia by President Obama. Accompanied by a Justice Department national security official, Yates told White House counsel Don McGahn that they feared Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.<p>Updated: Fri Feb 17, 2017</p> 5185090f5b52e08469c6d578546659e2 'Populist' Trump Punks His Fans for 02/03/2017 Fri, 03 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>There was never any reason to think that Donald Trump's stump-speech assaults on Wall Street banks and hedge funds were even momentarily sincere &#8212; but millions of working- and middle-class voters loved his populist rhetoric. </p> <p>Emerging from his gold-plated jet, Trump would roar about cracking down on the financial vultures who had fattened while everyone else suffered, as his fans cheered.<p>Updated: Fri Feb 03, 2017</p> ffd21e416c8974e59ac6c2f14d766b36 The Hostile Transition of Power for 01/20/2017 Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Everyone who wondered what Steve Bannon has been doing in Trump Tower now knows the answer: He has been drafting the new president's vengeful and cliche-laden inaugural address, which is certainly the least impressive speech of its kind in memory and likely one of the worst in history. </p> <p>With its repeated harping on "America First" and the thieving perfidy of Washington, condemning both parties in government, this speech plainly reiterated the same messages formulated by the former Breitbart chairman during last year's campaign. It sounded as if Trump were still on the stump, stirring up his fans, rather than seeking to unify the country and take on the profound responsibilities of the nation's highest office.<p>Updated: Fri Jan 20, 2017</p> 9156e71eb1a459e1648ee3d14a156aa8 This 'Fake News' May Be Real for 01/13/2017 Fri, 13 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>When Donald Trump denounced the latest hints of his collusion with the Kremlin as "FAKE NEWS!" on Twitter, it was hard not to wonder what he meant exactly. Having barraged us all for years with fake news about a wide variety of important matters such as Barack Obama's true birthplace, the charitable work of the Clinton Foundation, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the dangers of childhood vaccination, does Trump mean we should believe the Russians conspired to help him win the 2016 election? Or does he mean that, unlike all of his favorite fake news stories, we shouldn't believe this one?</p> <p>Whatever Trump may mean when he complains about fake news, the story of Russian interference on his behalf in the 2016 election is undeniably real. So the president-elect himself finally admitted when, at his press conference, he acknowledged the accuracy of U.S. intelligence assessments of the Kremlin's culpability in hacking the Democrats. Following a private conversation with James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, he finally stopped trying to deny and cover up those nefarious thefts of information by his Russian supporters. <p>Updated: Fri Jan 13, 2017</p> a28af12ee48a562c150c8a552fbf932c Investigate the Hackers -- and Ignore Trump's Chaff for 01/06/2017 Fri, 06 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>In the loud debate over the alleged Russian intelligence attack on our democratic system, Americans have heard all kinds of specious assertions from Donald Trump, his minions and others who, for their own reasons, reject the findings of the U.S. intelligence agencies. Trump clearly fears that a full investigation of those allegations will permanently discredit his narrow electoral victory, already tainted by Hillary Clinton's popular-vote majority. It is telling that he described the hacking probes as a partisan "political witch hunt" before the nation's spy chiefs even presented him with their evidence.</p> <p>Telling, but not surprising: <span class="column--highlighted-text">As usual, Trump is sending up chaff designed to distract from his own dubious conduct and connections.</span><p>Updated: Fri Jan 06, 2017</p> 4bcbc480560216888da393f1f6c83df0 The Message From the Manger for 12/23/2016 Fri, 23 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is a custom familiar to everyone raised in Western cultures, whether or not they happen to share the Christian faith. So important is Christmas to Americans that even the traditional holiday greeting is misused as a partisan weapon &#8212; seized by a political figure no less profane, irreligious and insincere than Donald Trump, who proclaims he will restore its meaning.</p> <p>Complaining peevishly of a mythical "war on Christmas," the president-elect evidently believes the holiday's most compelling aspect is the right to impose its observance on others who may not share his professed piety. In a country founded on freedom from religious coercion of any kind, Trump repeatedly promised to "assault" the domestic enemies of Christendom, which in the minds of Trump's followers include Barack Obama and his family. Never mind that on Dec. 1, the president lit the National Christmas Tree in a ceremony aimed at unifying the country, regardless of faith or ethnicity, with musical stars singing carols and the first lady reading "The Night Before Christmas."<p>Updated: Fri Dec 23, 2016</p> 5ba56bcc7389802d3bb85387750149f5 Donald Trump's Death Panel for 12/19/2016 Mon, 19 Dec 2016 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Not long ago, Americans learned that the average life expectancy for white people in this country &#8212; those most likely to have voted for Donald Trump &#8212; actually declined for the first time in many years. The pathologies and frustrations believed to have driven that decline may have motivated the tiny handful of votes that gave Trump his Electoral College victory. </p> <p>But not long after their euphoria over his inauguration fades, they are going to learn why his administration is so likely to drive those statistics in the wrong direction. Despite his promises to protect Social Security and Medicare &#8212; and his vow to replace the Affordable Care Act with "something much better" &#8212; Trump's cabinet appointees and his allies in Congress plan ruinous changes to those programs. And that will mean ruin, and in thousands of cases death, for the mostly white and working-class people who depend so heavily on them.<p>Updated: Mon Dec 19, 2016</p>