Are you like me? Whenever I do "normal stuff" -- say, listening this amazing performance
of the "Ode to Joy" -- I feel guilty. We're in the thick of a great political fight, and contrary to common liberal belief, our side has small hope of success. I felt as though I had shirked an important duty simply because I took a twenty-minute vacation from Trump research in order to reacquaint myself with the sublime.
You probably feel the same guilt pangs on occasion. And so we spend every spare minute researching and reading and listening to cable news reportage. This fight is necessary, but war kills the soul. Trump grew up with a love of fighting, and if this conflict goes on too long, we too may learn to love it. That's the danger. The battle against Trump threatens to turn us into
Nevertheless, another day has dawned, and we must enter the fray again. We have no choice.
The great mystery
facing us this morning concerns a cryptic statement issued under the name of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:
Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country – let alone the branch of agency of government – with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.
Bizarre. Unprecedented. I can't recall ever seeing a similar warning issued by any previous administration.
Many people have wondered if Trump wrote these words and issued them under Rosenstein's name. I cannot accept that theory: Trump is incapable of composing a text of this length without committing serious errors of grammar or spelling.
Then again: The phrase "the branch of agency of government" does
have a certain Trumpian inelegance, don't you think?
It seems likely that Rosenstein wrote this statement, but that he did so at Trump's behest. If so, then we may have new reason to worry about the Russia investigation. Rosenstein has the power to fire Mueller. If asked to do so, would Rod Rosenstein demonstrate the decency and courage of Elliot Richardson?
Let us now examine several theories as to what this Dan Brownian Mystery Message is all about:
Theory 1: Pee!
Some believe that a foreign government (perhaps the UK, though some say Australia) will soon announce the reality of the much-storied pee-pee tape. It's a fun idea without any evidence to back it. The Palmer Report
offers the fullest version of this theory:
But what stands out is the intel community chatter that picked up roughly three hours before the press release went out.
For instance political insider Claude Taylor – whose inside sources have correctly predicted Trump Russia grand juries and other events – posted the following: “A lot of us are hearing similar chatter-that a certain US ally has a ‘compromising’ tape of Trump and is debating if/when/how to release it.” (link). Taylor posted this at 6:46pm eastern time, hours before Trump’s DOJ sent the press release.
So it’s not as if this sudden online buzz around the mythical “Pee Pee Tape” is mere speculation as a result of the DOJ press release. Instead, intel community chatter about the compromising tape surfaced online first, and only then did Trump’s camp put out the statement begging the public to ignore any foreign leaks to the U.S. media. So it sounds a lot like the Trump administration heard the same foreign intel community buzz that political insiders heard, and believes that something is indeed about to be leaked.
Claude Taylor did, in fact, release such a statement about 12 hours ago. Minutes ago, he signed onto the idea
that the Rosenstein message must be in response to the, uh, forthcoming urination release.
Personally, I find this notion hard to credit. Taylor is tied in with Louise Mensch, who has pretty thoroughly trashed her reputation by this point. Just which
sources would still be talking to those two -- and why?
Why leak to writers whom few consider credible?
I cannot comprehend why Vladimir Putin would allow this tape "into the wild" (presuming that it exists). Moreover, the Taylor theory does not coincide with what Rosenstein actually said. The mystery message spoke of a forthcoming statement -- mere words. A video recording is not a statement. A video can
be challenged on forensic grounds, but the Rosenstein memo makes no reference to that sort of challenge.
It just don't add up!
Theory 2: Pence, not pee. Louise Mensch,
Taylor's sometime writing partner, has a very different theory:
Mike Pence illegally leaked to @washingtonpost the lie that @GenFlynn was not under investigation. Rosenstein shot was at Pence
No no no. That won't do either. The mystery memo, though not as clearly-worded as one might hope, seems to refer to information involving a foreign source.
...from a foreign
The Taylor theory falls apart because it involves something other than verbal information, while the Mensch theory falls apart because the source is domestic. At least Taylor had the decency to admit that his theory is indeed a theory
; I'm more than a little annoyed by the Menschian tendency to proclaim speculation as fact.
(Will she now accuse me of being a toiler on behalf of "Team Deza"? Maybe, but only if she notices me. These days, paranoid slander is pretty much her way of saying "Hi.")
Theory 3: Ego.
Although columnist/NYU professor Ian Bremmer
has not directly addressed our mystery message, he did offer a tweet which may explain it all:
Heard from Defense Min of a US ally: Mattis & Tillerson said they make relevant policy decisions & ignore Trump because he’s not in charge.
This covers everything, doesn't it? The source is an unnamed foreign official, and the allegation that Trump "is not in charge" seems designed to inflict a serious wound to the ego of Dorito Mussolini. One can easily visualize Trump directing Rosenstein: "I want you to issue a statement telling everyone this is bullshit. I'm
the one who's in charge here. Nobody else!"
Time and again, Trump has proved that he really, really wants "underlings" to issue statements praising his awesomeness and exonerating him from any allegations of non-awesomeness. Why would Rosenstein go along with this inanity? I think that, rather than lose his job over the matter, he simply decided to apply a small bandage to Donnie's injured ego.
Which of the three theories makes the most sense to you? Do you have theory of your own?
Comeback of the week.
As most of you know, yesterday Donnie gifted the world with this sage observation:
Why is that Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?
Ian Bremmer's response:
I can't wait for this election to be over.