In Trump’s Shadow

Shadow

Trump is at his Bedminster, N.J., property on a “working” vacation while the White House undergoes some needed renovation.

Meanwhile, the decay in the Republican Party grows more visible as its fissures and crumbling façade splash across the news every day. As I wrote last week in Countdown To Extinction, Trump is the Elephant Gun that may well bring down the GOP. Republicans are now agreeing with Bill James, saying that Trump “invaded and took over the party.” What could the GOP possibly have done?

At the same time, Republicans in Congress are beginning to assert some independence such as the bill to reign in Trump’s ability to fire Bob Mueller. Even the chief architect of alternative facts, Kellyanne Conway, had to admit Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans, conservatives and Trump voters is down.

Now the NY Times is reporting that Republicans are looking ahead at the 2020 Presidential Election.

“President Trump’s first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved.

“The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term.

“But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency — the intensifying investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the plain uncertainty about what Mr. Trump will do in the next week, let alone in the next election — have prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration.”

The whole article is worth a look, and while you’re reading about the shadow campaign, enjoy a Shadow Dreaming cocktail. After all, amidst a deteriorating GOP, for these shadow candidates, Dreaming is Free.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Shadow Dreaming cocktail is:

2 oz Bourbon

.5 oz Carpano Antica Forumla sweet vermouth

.25 oz Zucca

.25 oz Demerara Rum 151

1 dash aromatic bitters (I used Dr. Adam’s Orinoco Bitters)

5 drops Bitterman’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters (as a float)

Build All except Mole Bitters in a mixing glass, stir until diluted, strain into a chilled, stemmed glass, and garnish with 5 drops Mole Bitters.

Cheers!

The Paper Trail

Trail

Cracks have begun to open and expose structural problems for the Trump presidency.

That is not to say that the structural damage the Trump presidency has caused to democracy in the United States isn’t clear and profound. But Trump’s Reign of Error has never been in more jeopardy. All coming since he fired FBI Director James Comey.

The latest crack to open up is the appointment of former FBI chief Robert Mueller as Special Council to oversee the DOJ’s Russia investigation. This supersedes the crack that had opened a couple hours earlier with the markets experiencing their biggest drops of the year. The so-called “Trump Rally” is toast, and so is a fair amount of good will Wall Street and the investor class afforded to Trump while returns were high. This will not sit well with Republicans in Congress, either.

The market was reacting to last night’s news that Comey had written a memo shortly after a meeting with Trump, documenting Trump’s request that investigation into the just-resigned National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and ties to Russia be dropped.

This provided the clearest suggestion yet of Trump’s obstruction of justice. It has prompted an increased discussion about impeachment. In fact, shortly after the news broke on Tuesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the GOP chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the FBI turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Trump and Comey, according to the NY Times.

While there is an element of “hear no evil” on the right as many conservatives act more concerned about prosecuting the leaks than the fundamental problems behind them, even right-wing nut job Erick Erickson is taking issue with the White House. Politico reported this morning that Erickson said:

“What sets this story apart for me, at least, is that I know one of the sources. And the source is solidly supportive of President Trump, or at least has been and was during Campaign 2016. But the President will not take any internal criticism, no matter how politely it is given. He does not want advice, cannot be corrected, and is too insecure to see any constructive feedback as anything other than an attack. So some of the sources are left with no other option but to go to the media, leak the story, and hope that the intense blowback gives the President a swift kick in the butt. Perhaps then he will recognize he screwed up. … I am told that what the President did is actually far worse than what is being reported.” 

We may not need to rely on leaks soon as Comey has been invited to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. At this point even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there needs to be a public hearing with Comey.

Last Thursday, former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller predicted what was coming in a Tweet saying Comey “leaves a protective paper trail whenever he deems something inappropriate happened. Stay tuned.”

While we watch the cracks begin to undermine the foundation of the Trump “presidency” we can sip a Paper Trail cocktail in honor of Comey’s documentation.

The recipe from the Cocktail Virgin calls for:

1.5 oz bourbon

1 oz Aperol

.75 oz Salers Gentiane

Grapefruit twist

Stir over ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Cheers!

Take the Fifth

5th

I won’t say the Trump presidency is beginning to unravel because that would require congressional Republicans to put country over party, and I’m not ready to make that bet.

This is despite the fact that, the day after firing the guy in charge of the investigation of Trump’s potential collusion with Russian interference in the election, Trump was welcoming the Russian Foreign Minister into the Oval Office (along with Sergey Kislyak, the spymaster Russian ambassador to the U.S.) at Putin’s request. The Russians brought along a photographer, while all U.S. media was kept out. When the Russians released photos of the meeting (including Kislyak who the White House was not acknowledging as part of the visiting delegation), the Trumpters whined about the tricksy Russians and how they lie.

However, that was quickly overshadowed by Trump’s interview with NBC’s Lester Holt today saw him contradict all of the messaging his administration has put out on why FBI Director James Comey was fired, making the phrase of the day “Obstruction of Justice.”

This may be the most extreme case of Trump incriminating himself, and it may even stick this time. If so, we’ll soon be hearing a lot of Trump’s associates seeking their protections under the Fifth Amendment. As Josh Marshall noted in Talking Points Memo today, Trumps contradiction has caught a lot of people helping to spread lies.

While you sit back and watch, it might be a good time for a 5th Amendment cocktail. The recipe via Kindred Cocktails is:

1.75 oz bourbon

.25 oz Yellow Chartreuse

.25 oz Fernet Branca

.5 oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Hawaii Bitters Lilikoi Bitters (see note below)

Lemon peel

Stir over ice and strain over a large rock

A couple of notes on variations and additional Trumpian elements: It is a pleasant easy drinking bourbon cocktail, the Fernet was somewhat pronounced, but that may be because I followed one of the suggestions and cut down the Falernum to .25 oz. Also, I’m not sure of the original flavor intent here because WTF are lilikoi bitters?

A bit of research tells me lilikoi is a Hawaiian variant of passionfruit. To compensate, Similar one of the commenters on Kindred Cocktails used a dash each of orange and peach bitters. I used a dash of orange bitters, too, but I went with 18:21 Hibiscus Bitters since I kept seeing those passion flowers and had nothing else citrusy, so I went floral instead.

The drink originated in Hawaii, the actual birthplace of Barack Obama, despite what Trump says. The other Trump similarity is that I couldn’t get details on the lilikoi bitters because the company seems to have disappeared in 2013 leaving a lot of paid orders unfilled. Sounds almost presidential.

Cheers!

 

 

Avenue to Impeachment

Avenue

Trump may not know where our aircraft carriers are headed, but the direction of his presidency is getting clearer every day: Impeachment.

As evidence of corruption and collusion with the Russians mounts, the real question is whether Republicans in Congress will find their patriotic spine and/or recognize the damage Trump is doing to their party to begin impeachment proceedings, or will it take the wave of Democrats elected in 2018.

Earlier this week in Slate, Harvard Constitutional Law Professor Noah Feldman defined high crimes and misdemeanors in laying out potential impeachment options for Congress. The options include public corruption in the ways Trump’s conflicts of interest are enriching him, abuse of power as he continues to threaten his opponents with power of the Presidency, and undermining the rule of law, most notably if the case is made for colluding with Russia to interfere with the election.

The corruption angle is difficult to keep up with since this is not an hourly blog. Despite contradicting the advise of our foreign policy officials, Trump congratulated Turkish President Erdogan on his (tainted by fraud) victory in a referendum weakening democracy and extending Erdogan’s power. I’m sure Trump’s business interests in Turkey had nothing to do with that.

In The Washington Post this week, Jennifer Rubin told us that Trump’s ethical squalor is worse than we thought:

On the financial side of the Trump sewer, matters are going from bad to worse. Trump never divested himself of his business holdings or released his tax returns. The extent of his conflicts of interest are therefore unknown. He has now amended the trust (showing how flimsy it is if it can be altered on a whim) to allow him to withdraw funds and to receive periodic briefings from his son Eric (who “can do that as chair of the trust’s advisory board, and told Forbes magazine last month that he plans to give his father big-picture financial briefings every quarter or so”). All this should underscore how ludicrous it is to claim separation between Trump and his business operations.

But the elephant in the room continues to be the questions about Trump’s collusion with Russia, and this week continued the drip-by-drip advance of the story. Further details of Trump advisor Carter Page and his ties to Russia that drew scrutiny from the FBI, the revitalization of the House Intelligence Committee investigation, and the big Reuters story on the Putin-linked group’s plan to sway the U.S. election.

This week also saw the professor who predicted Trump’s election publish a new book, The Case for Impeachment. Allan Lichtman, history professor at American University, is now predicting Trump will be impeached before his term is finished. One interesting point brought up in the Financial Times article on the book is:

Lichtman points out that Nixon faced impeachment for what was arguably the least important of his three big offences — the burglary of the Democratic offices in the Watergate complex. Even then, it was the cover-up, rather than the crime itself, that led to Nixon’s undoing.

Just last night, someone who knows a few things about Watergate, Carl Bernstein told a Trump advisor on CNN that “there’s an active cover-up going” with regard to the Russia investigation.

There is a lot more we need to learn, but as we look down the road toward Trump’s impeachment, we can raise an Avenue cocktail to the journey. This classic from the 1930s makes an appearance in Dr. Cocktail Ted Haigh’s book Vintage Cocktails and Forgotten Spirits. The recipe is:

1 oz Bourbon

1 oz Calvados

1 oz passionfruit juice (or nectar, I used syrup and cut the amount in half)

1 dash grenadine

1 dash orange flower water

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Cheers!

Grounds for Separation

Grounds

Will Rogers famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party… I’m a Democrat.”

In the aftermath of the Trumpcare vote debacle in Congress, however, it is the traditional Republican Party unity that is being called into question. Today’s New York Times piece  “Trump Becomes Ensnared in Fiery G.O.P. Civil War” said that Trump now finds himself shackled to rules and consequences of fractious party politics he thought did not apply to him.

“Mr. Trump faces a wrenching choice: retrenchment or realignment. Does he cede power to the anti-establishment wing of his party? Or does he seek other pathways to successful governing by throwing away the partisan playbook and courting a coalition with the Democrats he has improbably blamed for his party’s shortcomings?”

I’m sure that’s exactly what is on his Orangeness’ mind as he spends yet another weekend at his golf course.

But this sense that fissures in the GOP threaten Trump’s agenda is a pervasive theme in the press now. If we can remember all the way to the days before November 8, 2016, most of the talk was about how the Republican Party was going to break apart after the election. Most of that talk went away after the Republican sweep of electoral power. However, as Barron’s pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the GOP is splintered into three groups despite the election. It classified those groups as the Chamber of Commerce Faction, the Tea Party Rebels, and the Steve Bannon Populists. The Washington Post today whittled that down to simply a GOP right flank and left flank.

As difficult as it may be for those groups to remain under one roof, the folks we find most in need of some space in Washington is the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Washington Post yesterday explained “The committee probing the Russia scandal has erupted into open warfare” as Republican Committee Chairman Devin Nunes appears to be acting on behalf of the Administration than running an independent investigation of it.

Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff today called for an independent commission to investigate the facts on Russian interference in our elections.

Therefore, today is a good day for a Grounds for Separation, a less bitter variation on the Grounds for Divorce cocktail. From the Kindred Cocktails website, Grounds for Separation contains:

2 oz Bourbon

.5 oz Aperol

.5 oz Averna amaro

.5 oz Punt e Mes (sweet vermouth)

1 dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe, no garnish (unless the drink and/or the world is still too bitter, then by all means add a nice Maraschino cherry, we all need more cherries)

Cheers!

Evening Edition

nocturnal

The Washington Post unveiled its new slogan a little more than a week ago, with the phrase “Democracy Dies in Darkness” appearing under its name.

And yet, for the eternity that has been the first six weeks of the Trump presidency (and stretching back into the transition, too, I guess), darkness seems to be bringing a good deal of activity in defense of democracy. It has been hard to sleep, in fact, because of the light being shed after dark. This is not simply the blue light emanating from glowing rectangles interfering with slumber, but the words within that glow.

I’m not talking about the 3 a.m. words from the Tweeter-in-Chief here either. Unlike his Orangeness, I don’t grab the phone for that 0’dark-thirty bathroom trip.

I am talking about the increasing occurrence of major stories breaking In The Evening. I’m almost afraid to look at Twitter after 9 if I have a particularly early morning the next day. If, like me, you have wondered what is going on, then today’s story in The Atlantic is for you. In her story “Why Do the Big Stories Keep Breaking at Night?” Adrienne LaFrance lays out the case for why the rhythms of print publication are still impacting the news cycle.

The piece takes off from the major reports that hit last night. First was The New York Times story about how Obama administration officials worked to preserve intelligence on Russia in their final days. This was followed shortly, and overshadowed by, the Washington Post article reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose communications he had with the Russian ambassador to the United States, despite saying there were no contacts when asked at his confirmation hearings in the Senate.

As LaFrance notes, print deadlines are creating publishing targets, and in effect creating evening editions of the newspapers. (As someone who once worked at an evening newspaper, this makes me smile.) So, to keep making sure that all of those major investigative news stories make the deadline to be in your morning papers, it may remain difficult to get to bed at a decent time if you are easily distracted by breaking news.

As the Post and the Times go about their nightly, Tonight, Tonight, news war, may I suggest a cocktail to help counteract the rays of blue light and disturbing information about our purported leaders; The Nocturnal cocktail. This one comes from Kindred Cocktails.

1.5 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Fernet Branca

.5 oz Maraschino liqueur

.5 oz Cointreau

1 dash of Angostura (or my favorite alternative, Dr. Adam’s Dead Rabbit Orinoco bitters)

Orange twist

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe

Cheers!

We Don’t Need No Education

root
Root of All Evil

The administration added its latest swamp creature today when VP/GOP High Priest Mike Pence blessed the contract of sale between 50 Senators and their donor Besty DeVos, allowing her to become the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Despite her $200 million investment in the GOP, DeVos’s staggering incompetence and utter unsuitability for the position only garnered her 50 Republican senators, necessitating Pence’s vote (the first time in history a cabinet nominee needed the VP tie-breaker). This glaring example of pay-for-play has me almost feeling sorry for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who is still sitting in prison for corruption that now seems amateur by comparison. (But only almost, he’s still pond scum.)

As she becomes the latest brick in the wall of the GOP’s attempt to prove government doesn’t work, we’re now left with her for-profit charter school education schemes. At the same time that Trump is seeking to tear down the separation between church and state when it comes to political contributions, DeVos can now steer tax dollars to religious schools. (Some religious schools anyway. I suspect Muslim schools need not apply.)

I guess in all of their own religious education our pious GOP leaders have forgotten 1 Timothy 6:10. As it says in the King James Version: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

In keeping with the Good Book, may I suggest having a Root of All Evil cocktail. The recipe is from Cocktail Virgin, and calls for:

2 oz Bourbon
.75 oz Grand Marnier
.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz Luxardo Maraschino
2 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Cheers!