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Wednesday, Feb 1, 2017

Crisis: Secret Docs, Trump's Government, Trump Above Law *2, Rightwing Power Grab

Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
Secret Docs Reveal: President Trump Has Inherited an FBI
     With Vast Hidden Powers

2. In Just 10 Days, President Trump Has Split the Government
     Into Warring Factions

3.
Watergate Veterans: Just Like Nixon, Donald Trump Appears
     to Think He is Above the Law

4.
Former Watergate Prosecutor: We Need Officials Who Will
     Stand Up to Trump

5. Led By Bannon, Right-Wing Power Grab Gaining Steam in
     Executive Branch
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of
Wednesday, February 1, 2017.

Summary:
This is a crisis log with 5 files and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a very interesting collections of secret documents about the FBI; item 2 is about how Trump may have split the government into warring factions; item 3 is about what two Watergate veterans think about Trump: Just like Nixon he thinks he is above the law; item 4 continues the previous item; and item 5 is about the right-wing power grab
that is happening inside the USA's present government.
As for today (February 1, 2017): I have changed my site to make it easier that it might be read, because it now happened for most of last year that both of my sites are not uploaded properly:

On xs4all.nl it may be days, weeks or months behind to show the proper last date and the proper last files (in the last 4 years always on the dateit was today); on one.com it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was); and I am sick of being systematically made unreadable and therefor changed the site.

For more explanations, see
here.
1. Secret Docs Reveal: President Trump Has Inherited an FBI With Vast Hidden Powers

The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald and Betsy Reed on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
In the wake of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the FBI assumes an importance and influence it has not wielded since J. Edgar Hoover’s death in 1972. That is what makes today’s batch of stories from The Intercept, The FBI’s Secret Rules, based on a trove of long-sought confidential FBI documents, so critical: It shines a bright light on the vast powers of this law enforcement agency, particularly when it comes to its ability to monitor dissent and carry out a domestic war on terror, at the beginning of an era highly likely to be marked by vociferous protest and reactionary state repression.
Yes indeed! I think they are very interesting and I have downloaded them and intend to report on some of them later.

Also, I should point out right away that my stance might be a bit more radical than The Intercept's stace (and I don't know and am guessing), for I think - coming from parents and grandparents who were anarchists, communists, heroic resistance fighters, and all antifascists - that Donald Trump is a neofascist (in my sense: check the definition), and has installed a neofascistic cabinet, that seems bend on destroying the government of the United States.

Incidentally, the main reason why many refuse to accept the diagnosis is the occurrence of the term "fascist".

Well... I have been called "a dirty fascist" by many Stalinist terrorists from the ASVA while I studied in the Stalinist University of Amsterdam between 1977 and 1989, because I had said I was not a Marxist and I was (and am) pro science and because I had created a student party that opposed the communists from the ASVA, that got a seat in the University Parliament that - formally speaking - had the power in the Stalinist University of Amsterdam from 1972 - 1995. [1]

I do not have any blocks on using the term that was falsely used to terrorize me for 12 years - my parents were communists and heroes in the Dutch resistance; my  father's father was a communist who was murdered by the Nazis for resisting them; my mother's parents were anarchists, and I was not a Marxist for quite difficult but quite good economical and logical reasons, but always agreed with the radicalism of my parents and grandparents, and do so still, and for over 50 years now - when it clearly appplies to Trump c.s.

Back to the article:
In order to understand how the FBI makes decisions about matters such as infiltrating religious or political organizations, civil liberties advocates have sued the government for access to crucial FBI manuals — but thanks to a federal judiciary highly subservient to government interests, those attempts have been largely unsuccessful. Because their disclosure is squarely in the public interest, The Intercept is publishing this series of reports along with annotated versions of the documents we obtained.
One of the many things I have been pointing out about terrorism - since 2004, in thousands of columns - is that there are two kinds of terrorists: The state terrorists, made up from the police, the secret services and the military in dictatorships, like Hitler's Nazi-state and Stalin's state capitalism, and the non-state terrorists, of which there are many kinds.

One should realize here that state terrorism - think of Hitler and Stalin - was far more dangerous and murdered very many more people than non-state terrorists. This simply are facts as plain as they possibly can be.

In the present USA two important part of the state's terrorists [2] are the FBI and the CIA:
One of the more unusual aspects of the 2016 election, perhaps the one that will prove to be most consequential, was the covert political war waged between the CIA and FBI. While the top echelon of the CIA community was vehemently pro-Clinton, certain factions within the FBI were aggressively supportive of Trump. Hillary Clinton herself blames James Comey and his election-week letter for her defeat.
Yes. And one major problem is that large parts of the rules that regulate the FBI and the CIA are kept secret by the very few who govern, which is a fundamental anti-democratic stance (that exists since long before Trump became president).

Here is a quite small part of the reasons why I call Trump a neofascist:
When married to Trump’s clear disdain for domestic dissent — he venerates strongman authoritarians, called for a crackdown on free press protections, and suggested citizenship-stripping for flag-burning — the authorities vested in the FBI with regard to domestic political activism are among the most menacing threats Americans face.
As were the KGB in Stalin's Russia and the Gestapo in Hitler's Germany. But this is the FBI, on which The Intercept has compiled a very interesting dossier:

Today’s publication is the result of months of investigation by our staff, and we planned to publish these articles and documents regardless of the outcome of the 2016 election. The public has an interest in understanding the FBI’s practices no matter who occupies the White House. But in the wake of Trump’s victory, and the unique circumstances that follow from it, these revelations take on even more urgency.

Yes indeed - and for me the urgency resides in Trump's neofascism, that will continue until it is stopped. Whether it can be stopped before it engages in a nuclear war, I don't know.

Here is a description of part of the documentation you can download:

But to judge how well the bureau is living up to these abstract commitments, it is necessary to read the fine print of its byzantine rules and regulations — which the FBI’s secrecy has heretofore made it impossible for outsiders to do. Now, thanks to our access to these documents — which include the FBI’s governing rulebook, known as the DIOG, and classified policy guides for counterterrorism cases and handling confidential informants — The Intercept is able to share a vital glimpse of how the FBI understands and wields its enormous power.

And this is what the FBI's - until now - secret rules permit it to do:

For example, the bureau’s agents can decide that a campus organization is not “legitimate” and therefore not entitled to robust protections for free speech; dig for derogatory information on potential informants without any basis for believing they are implicated in unlawful activity; use a person’s immigration status to pressure them to collaborate and then help deport them when they are no longer useful; conduct invasive “assessments” without any reason for suspecting the targets of wrongdoing; demand that companies provide the bureau with personal data about their users in broadly worded national security letters without actual legal authority to do so; fan out across the internet along with a vast army of informants, infiltrating countless online chat rooms; peer through the walls of private homes; and more.

For me, most of that is plain neofascistic policing and spying. And this is a strongly recommended article, just as it is strongly recommended that you download The FBI’s Secret Rules.

2. In Just 10 Days, President Trump Has Split the Government Into Warring Factions

The second item is by Peter Maass on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

War has broken out, not on foreign territory or on our streets, but in the offices and hallways of the departments and agencies that create and execute the laws, policies, and regulations of the United States. Its sights and sounds are those of a bureaucracy in crisis: drafts of a dissent cable that are circulated, letters of resignation that are drawn up, whispered complaints to journalists, and even tears.

The immediate trigger was an executive order signed last week by President Trump that banned entry visas for refugees from seven Muslim-dominated countries. The order, which did not go through a normal review process, caused chaos and heartbreak at airports in the United States and around the world, where refugees with valid visas were turned back without warning, and even holders of green cards were detained.

Yes, and there is more today on this here, here and here - and the last of these links is probably the most correct, and says that a part of Trump's government is trying to organize itself in a completely authoritarian way. As Yonatan Zunger put it

"The regime's main organizational goal right now is to transfer all effective power to a tight inner circle, eliminating any possible checks from either the federal bureaucracy, Congress, or the courts (...)"

Yes indeed. Here is (former) attorney general Sally Yates:

And on Monday night, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates announced that the Department of Justice would not defend the ban in court because “I am not convinced … that the executive order is lawful.” Within hours, Yates was fired, accused in a venomous White House statement of betrayal and weakness.

She was fired, it seems because Trump and Bannon want total loyalty of everyone, and also if someone knows a lot more than they do (as Yates does about U.S. law).

Since this extends to the top official of the law, this means - it seems - that Trump and Bannon want to do as they please, and dismiss every official who is not completely loyal to them.

Then there is this:

Perhaps most strikingly, bureaucracies appear to be taking sides and feuding with a sharpness that is characteristic of fractured and dysfunctional governments.

Before the election, the FBI publicly released far more information that was damaging to Hillary Clinton than to Donald Trump, and as a result many people concluded that the FBI and its director, James Comey, were pro-Trump. It was the opposite with the CIA, which appeared to be intentionally leaking information that was damaging to Trump’s campaign — and Trump himself lashed out at the CIA for doing so.

Hm. I have had many verbal fights and disagreements with Dutch bureaucrats, and my own feeling about bureaucrats does not seem to be quite the same as Peter Maass's. So
I reserve my opinions here and wait and see.

Here is more about Trump's government's authoritarian and neofascistic style:

Over at the EPA, scientists say they are afraid to talk to journalists after the Trump administration demanded to know the names of officials who participated in climate-change negotiations. The newly installed head of the Department of Homeland Security clashed with the White House over its desire to appoint an anti-immigration extremist as his deputy. Congressional aides disclosed that they had secretly helped the White House draft the immigration ban and signed non-disclosure agreements that prevented them from telling their own bosses about it. And Trump’s senior political adviser, Steve Bannon, a white nationalist whose ex-wife accused him of domestic violence and anti-semitism, is orchestrating the White House’s executive orders in secretive ways that cut out most of the National Security Council staff and leave no paper trail that shows what happened.

Yes indeed - and note this in the above:

"Congressional aides disclosed that they had secretly helped the White House draft the immigration ban and signed non-disclosure agreements that prevented them from telling their own bosses about it."

That means the government is not a government but a secret conspiracy, at least in part.

Here is Maass's explanation for the events he reports:

The origin of the chaos is the assumption to power of a vastly inexperienced leader who is fantastically rich, psychologically unstable, unusually bombastic and trusts only a few people, mostly family members.

Hm.

I wish I was as optimistic as this, but The Leader is experienced as a business-man and He wants to govern his imperium and the USA as if it is His business; he does not have any respect for the law; I do not know how rich he is (and he may have vastly exager- rated his riches, but he refuses to provide any clarity); he is not just "psychologically unstable" (according to psychiatrists and psychologists): he is insane (and I am a psychologist who strongly agrees, and please check out the last link); the problem is not that he is "unusually bombastic", the problem is that he is lying most of the time and has no respect whatsoever for facts or truths or science: "true-according-to-Trump" = "Trump's-ideas-and-values-and-fantasies, and He is The Boss Who Is Better Than Anyone Else (he thinks); and it is not so much a problem that he trusts very few, but that he nominated his own family members to positions they have never been elected to.

Given this relative optimism, Maass still ends as follows:

Where this goes from here is impossible to say. It’s as if we were caught in a rogue wave that has crashed down upon us, turning us head over heels, crushing our heads under its pressure, filling our lungs with water, breaking our bones with its power.

I think I have a few more ideas about where Trump desires to go, but this is a recommended article.

3. Watergate Veterans: Just Like Nixon, Donald Trump Appears to Think He is Above the Law

The third item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

On Monday night, after Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates over her refusal to defend Trump’s Muslim ban, many commentators compared the incident to the infamous Saturday Night Massacre in 1973, when then-Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy resigned after President Richard Nixon ordered Richardson to fire the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. For more, we speak with two women who played key roles during the Nixon years. Elizabeth Holtzman is a former U.S. congresswoman from New York who served on the House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach Richard Nixon. Jill Wine-Banks was an assistant Watergate special prosecutor and the first woman to serve as U.S. Army general counsel.

That is, this can be taken in part as a continuation of the previous article, but from a slightly different perspective, namely seen in the light of Nixon's leaving the presidency, after it had been shown he had broken the law.

First there is this, with which I tend to disagree:
JILL WINE-BANKS: I think that’s one of the most remarkable points, is about the women. If you look at—all the judges that have ruled on this have been women. The acting attorney general, of course, is a woman. And in the Nixon era, less than 5 percent of all lawyers were women. So, you would have never had that as anything involved, and that one of the lessons of Watergate is that you can’t surround yourself with yes men. And in this case, of course, it turns out you shouldn’t surround yourself with yes women, either, and he hasn’t. So, that’s the good news, is that the women have had the courage to stand up to the president.
That is: I am a feminist but I am not a gerund feminist. I think women should have the same rights as men and get the same pay for the same work etc. but I do not believe there is something intrinsically better, morally superior, or intellectually more clever among "women" then there is among "men".

In fact, I also am an anti-racist as well and think the same about the non-whites as about the whites: They all should have the same rights and the same pay, and I agree that they mostly do not get it, precisely as most women are still paid less for doing the same work as men. And I see no difference in capacities between the whites and the non-whites either.

Unfortunately, while I know about the distinctions in feminism since 1983 (!!) [3] there still is not - 34 years later - even a "gerund feminism" entry on Wikipedia (and I got "Do you mean gerald feminist" as answer in the Wikipedia...).

Here is Holtzman:
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: And while there’s not an exact similarity here, because so far we don’t know that there’s a cover-up, but what we have is the same mentality of abusing power, of taking power into your own hands and saying, "I’m first"—not "America First," "I’m first." If the attorney general says that this may not pass legal muster, that this may not be lawful, don’t you think the president ought to be asking, "Wow! How do we get this to be lawful? What’s wrong here? I want to obey the law." No, the president put himself above the law. He didn’t want to find out why this wasn’t lawful, what the qualms were, what the problems were. And that’s the mentality that will bring this president down. You cannot, in the end, put yourself above the law time after time after time.
Yes indeed, although I do not know that this is "the mentality that will bring this president down": I hope it does, but at present he has a strong position, what with majorities for his party in the Senate and the House.

Here is some more:
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Well, of course, the irony is overwhelming. But I just want to go back to the point that was made by the White House when they attacked her. I thought she showed enormous courage in standing up for what she believed was right and in talking about the law. That’s the Department of Justice. What does the law say? We’re a law-abiding country. The president of the United States, in attacking her, the White House statement said she was weak on illegal immigration. That’s not her job to be strong or weak on immigration. Her job is to be strong on the law. He didn’t care about the law. The president doesn’t care about the law. That’s the problem here, and that’s what we’re seeing.

Yes indeed. This is a recommended article and the next article continues it:

4. Former Watergate Prosecutor: We Need Officials Who Will Stand Up to Trump

The fourth item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:
More than 100 employees of the State Department have signed on to drafts of a dissent memo that condemns Trump’s executive order. One draft of the memo reads, "This ban stands in opposition to the core American and constitutional values that we, as federal employees, took an oath to uphold. … We have a special obligation to maintain an immigration system that is as free as possible from discrimination, that does not have an implied or actual religious tests, and that views individuals as individuals, not as part of stereotyped groups." As news of the dissent memo broke Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer threatened State Department officials, saying they should quit their jobs if they have a problem with Trump’s "program." We speak to Elizabeth Holtzman and Jill Wine-Banks.
This is from the beginning, on Sean Spicers neofascistic authoritarianism:

AMY GOODMAN: More than a hundred employees of the State Department have signed on to drafts of a dissent memo that condemns Trump’s executive order. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer threatened State Department officials, saying they should quit their jobs if they have a problem with Trump’s "program."

PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: We’re talking about 109 people from seven countries that the Obama administration identified. And these career bureaucrats have a problem with it? I think that they should either get with the program or they can go.

Once the USA was something like a democracy. It isn't anymore, with the neofascist Trump and the helm, with a cabinet of billionaires and former generals, which also makes Spicer's comment self-evident: In an authoritarian government there is no room for opposition or indeed for noticing legal problems - if you don't support the government, out you go, also if all you did was doing your job in a legal fashion, as is the case with Sally Yates, who was dismissed for doing her legal duty.
JILL WINE-BANKS: I agree exactly with what Liz has said and with what the acting attorney general testified to, which is that the lawyers who are involved in this have to act in accordance with their ethics and enforce the law and act in accordance with the Constitution. And we need people who will stand up and say, "You cannot do this." There are some things that can be altered in a way that makes it legal, but there are some things that simply cannot be done, and someone has to be strong enough and courageous enough to tell the president when he cannot do what he’s proposing.
Yes, although the probable answer they will get is "You're fired", besides being accused of betraying the president and the country.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote, which is a good summary by Elizabeth Holtzman:
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: The country, which had overwhelmingly supported Nixon’s re-election by a landslide margin—not the margin that this president got, but one of the biggest landslides in the history of this country—saw that the rule of law had to govern. And the American people decided, more important than a president, more important than a party, more important than a policy was the rule of law and the Constitution.

I want to say one other thing that’s really important to remember. The Saturday Night Massacre, firing the attorney general, firing the deputy attorney general, triggered the impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon, which is what brought him down in the end. So, this is something that should make the American people sit up and take notice. We have a president who is not willing to listen as to what the law requires and what the Constitution requires. That’s the real message here. And the danger is for our rule of law and the constitutional rule for our democracy.

Yes indeed - and the last bit is important enough to repeat:
We have a president who is not willing to listen as to what the law requires and what the Constitution requires. That’s the real message here. And the danger is for our rule of law and the constitutional rule for our democracy.
5. Led By Bannon, Right-Wing Power Grab Gaining Steam in Executive Branch

The fifth and last item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

President Donald Trump, chief strategist Steve Bannon, senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, and a select few others are consolidating significant power in the White House, observers warn—setting the stage for what some describe as a coup d'état.

As evidence, many are pointing to the weekend's news that former Breitbart News chair Bannon had been appointed to the National Security Council's (NSC) "principals committee"—while the director of national intelligence as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were demoted to attend NSC meetings only on an as-needed basis.

That move, "politicizing the process for national security decisions, suggests Mr. Bannon is positioning himself not merely as a Svengali but as the de facto president," the New York Times wrote in a damning editorial published in Tuesday's paper.

Yes indeed, although I am not certain about the New York Times. As to the coup d'état: I think that is true, and my reasons are several: Bannon's appointment to the National Security Council; Trump's dismissal of the attorney general; his - sick, authoritarian, neofascist - insistence that she "betrayed" Him (while she was merely doing her legal duty); the appointments to Trump's cabinet; the banning of Muslims from seven countries to enter the USA; and the great amount of executive orders by the president that are not legally tested or even discussed before they were ordered, and more.

And as to Trump's sanity and Trump's plans, see the links. Here is more:
There's also Friday's highly controversial immigration order, reportedly
penned in large part by Bannon and Miller; the slew of firings and resignations at several federal agencies in recent days; and White House press secretary Sean Spicer's veiled threat on Monday that State Department officials who disagree with Trump's Muslim ban or other orders "should either get with the program or they can go."
Yes indeed. Then there is this about alt right's Steve Bannon:

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy cites "an intelligence official who asked not to be named out of fear of retribution" in reporting that when it comes to national security—even before the weekend's order—"Bannon was calling the shots and doing so with little to no input from the National Security Council staff."

"He is running a cabal, almost like a shadow NSC," the official said of Bannon. According to Foreign Policy, the official "described a work environment where there is little appetite for dissenting opinions, shockingly no paper trail of what's being discussed and agreed upon at meetings, and no guidance or encouragement so far from above about how the National Security Council staff should be organized."

This is just one anonymous "intelligence official", but he or she is certainly right (because this has been published also by other sources) that there is (bolding added) "no paper trail of what's being discussed and agreed upon at meetings", which means
that it may be hard or impossible to find out what the government decided to do, in effective secret about almost everything it does.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote:

"The regime's main organizational goal right now is to transfer all effective power to a tight inner circle, eliminating any possible checks from either the federal bureaucracy, Congress, or the courts," commentator Yonatan Zunger wrote in a widely shared piece on Medium. "Departments are being reorganized or purged to effect this...The inner circle is actively probing the means by which they can seize unchallenged power."

Yes, I fear that is quite correct.

---------------------------------
Notes
[1] You can read all about it, if you know Dutch, on ME in Amsterdam, that in fact charts completely illegal behavior of both the City of Amsterdam and the University of Amsterdam (which is part of the City) since 1988 (when I was illegally removed just before taking my M.A. in philosophy, and when I was first threatened with murder by
the illegal dealers of illegal drugs that the mayor of Amsterdam, Ed van Thijn, had given his written "personal permission" to deal in illegal drugs from the bottom floor of my house (not: his house, nor the house of one of his aldermen, nor the house of the district attorney, nor the house of the police chief of Amsterdam), who also made great amounts of noise till after 1 o'clock in the night.

[2]
The explanation is in the link (terrorism): If you think that - for example - the KGB or the Gestapo were not terrorists, you are welcome, but you also are dismissed by me as utterly ignorant.

[3] Yes indeed, and I learned about it, a mere 34 years ago, from an English  very feminist girlfriend, who had a copy of Janet Radcliff Richards' (<-Wikipedia) "The Sceptical Feminist" (<-Wikipedia). There is more on the topic in "Who stole feminism"
by Christina Hoff Sommers. And I did - at long last - find a link in the Wikipedia to the feminism I like: Equity feminism. (Incidentally, I am reasonably well described as a classical liberal in quite a few aspects, but not at all as a libertarian.)


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