The Mueller Aperitif

Premiere

Despite Attorney General Barr’s best impression of Kevin Bacon in Animal House today, all is not well in Trumplandia®.

Barr cannot move everyone along past the Mueller report because its contents — even redacted as they are — will not be easily dismissed.

As details of the investigation filter out, one thing above all is clear: the report is certainly not the end of the Trump/Russia matter. If it signifies the end of anything, it is the end of the beginning in getting to the bottom of what happened in 2016.

There are more questions today than there were yesterday. A key question has always been how so many Republicans could skip their patriotic duty and protect Trump. Some clarity is coming to that (looking at you Sen. Grassley) and bringing new questions.

The revelations of the report will spill out for a couple of days. Then the analyses and interpretations and speculation of what has been redacted will take center stage for a while. Then the hearings — Mueller, Cohen, others — will consume countless hours of air time (before, during and after the hearings).

Since we are just getting started, it is time for an apéritif. I suggest La Première from Rebekah Peppler’s book Apéritif. La Première is, according to Peppler, like taking the Italian aperitivo Americano and dropping it in the middle of France. Bonal replaces the Campari and Italian (sweet) vermouth is replaced by French (blanc, in this case) vermouth. It is:

1.5 oz Bonal

1.5 oz blanc vermouth

2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters (I used Orinoco bitters)

soda water

lemon peel

In an ice filled lowball glass, combine the Bonal, vermouth and bitters. Top with a splash of soda water, stir gently, finish with the lemon peel

Cheers!

King of the Trolls

Storm King

Nominating Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve Board is what you get when the president is the King of the Internet Trolls.

At this point, Trump has simply said he plans to nominate the certifiable nut-job former Republican presidential candidate Cain. Nevertheless, it has had the desired effect as a storm of distraction has blown up around the idea, displacing stories of leaks from the Mueller investigation team unhappy with Attorney General Barr’s summary of the report.

Is there anybody who still doubts that Trump is basically trolling America? Dominating news cycles is the only consistent policy objective he has. In addition to the Twitter bots, he can rely on the help of Congressional troll minions in the GOP — from the annoying likes of Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Devin Nunes to the truly dangerous impacts of Mitch McConnell — to wear us all down with a flood of nonsense.

Because a good portion of that nonsense is damaging to the US and democracy in general, it gets harder and harder to stay focused on what is important. This may be why MSNBC ratings went down in the immediate wake of Barr’s letter on the Mueller report. Many of us saw it for the BS it was and were too weary to put up with all the pointless talk around it, knowing we’d get to where we are now with confirmation of the trolling.

To deal with Trump’s trolling and frequent tweet storms, sometimes you have to come in out of his Kingdom of Rain. To help dry off, have a Storm King cocktail.

The Storm King is a Rob Roy variant from Damon Boelte (Grand Army, Brooklyn). A good break from the political is also to listen to Damon and @CreativeDrink Sother Teague on Wednesdays for The Speakeasy podcast. The Storm King is:

2 oz Blended Scotch (Black Bottle, which I got from listening to The Speakeasy)

.5 oz Nocino (Nux Alpina)

.25 oz Bénédictine

3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, cherry garnish

Cheers!

He Went to Jared

Manhattan Transfer

It was not a good week for the Russian asset in the White House, and the Michael Cohen testimony to Congress was only one aspect of the walls closing in on Trump.

The NY Times broke the story that Trump overruled intelligence officials and ordered the security clearance for his son-in-law Jared Kushner. While there is nothing particularly unexpected or shocking in this news, it does prove — once again — that Trump lied.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) has already requested information related to granting Kushner a clearance as Congress moves to investigate the matter. Between his request that the Russians provide a secure backchannel communications avenue outside of the reach of U.S. intelligence agencies, to high debt levels (tied largely to overpaying for Manhattan real estate), the FBI and CIA had deemed Jared “unclearable.”

In today’s NY Times, Nicholas Kristof ties together a nice deal for solving Kushner‘s money problems, Saudi Arabia’s quest for a nuclear program and a company that wants to supply the Kingdom with reactors. It is so much more refreshing here now that the swamp has been drained.

By going to Jared, Democrats may be on to a more fruitful path that does not even need to involved the Mueller investigation. While debates rage around the ability to prosecute a sitting President and whether it is wise for the House to impeach Trump if it is unlikely the Senate will convict, there may be easier ways to attack the corruption of this administration.

Trumpworld presents a target-rich environment, and the past week offered several high priority targets of opportunity. The security clearance for Jared is one, but also the clearance for his wife, first daughter Ivanka, as well. Cohen’s testimony also provided another direction with Don Jr. and the Trump Organization. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York are already on the case in several instances Cohen told the Committee, but his testimony also gave Congress a roadmap for further investigations and witnesses.

The unprecedented Presidency* of Trump sees an almost hourly progression of abnormal and illegal behavior (check the Weekly List from Amy Siskind), but shifting the focus to those around him could be a way to begin dismantling this regime. Whatever reasons Republicans have for defending Trump, those reasons may not carry over as easily to people like Jared and Don Jr.

As the investigations turn the spotlight on people around Trump, have a Manhattan Transfer cocktail. A Phil Ward creation I pulled from “Death & Co: Modern Cocktail Classics,” The Manhattan Transfer is:

1.5 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye

1 oz dry vermouth

1 oz Ramazzotti

1 dash orange bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a coupe, no garnish

Cheers!

Slip Slidin’ Away

Slope

The Russian operative in the White House continues his efforts to destroy American democracy with the latest ploy being the National Emergency declaration.

Even while announcing the need for extraordinary means to secure the southern border from the menace in his head, he made clear how much of a non-emergency the situation is, daring anyone to try to put a check on powers he feels entitled to wield. Immediately, a number of sycophantic, and/or compromised, Senators pledged fealty to Emperor Orange I. And Trump may not be wrong about his Supreme Court Justice picks backing up his unConstitutional actions when it gets there (see: Muslim Ban).

For the GOP to not push back on this presidential power grab and the precedent it sets is just one more of the jaw-dropping, head-scratching, WTF?!? moments from Republicans in the past few years. Some of them do recognize the power this will give the next Democratic president to declare a national emergency on guns, health care, or climate change to get around a GOP Senate (whose control is so structurally baked in as to be near certain).

Of course, precedent setting and unprecedented is the hallmark of the unPresidented age we are living through. Trump has sent us speeding down so many slippery slopes that America would sweep any Winter Olympics medal count. Forget about making America great again, we will have our hands full just making America functional again. Restoring the rule of law alone will require many difficult steps back up those slippery slopes.

Trump is golfing his way through the National Emergency, ensconced on his own property in Florida, while the rule of law is slip sliding away. Time for a Slippery Slope cocktail.

The drink comes from Tona Palomino. I found the recipe via Kindred Cocktails while looking for new ways to use Cherry Heering. The Slippery Slope is:

2.5 oz rye

.75 oz Cherry Heering

.5 oz Cynar

Stir over ice, strain into a cocktail glass

Cheers!

Hunting (and Finding) Witches

Rye Witch

The Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker would not answer questions from Congress today about whether he still considers the Mueller investigation to be a “witch hunt.”

Before Trump named the “Big Dick Toilet Salesman” (h/t @emptywheel) to the role that oversees Mueller’s efforts, Whitaker had echoed the witch hunt sentiments regularly spouted by Trumpists. While he may not own up to the words now, we can see that “Hot Tub Crime Machine” Whitaker (h/t @MollyJongFast) was just another attempt to disrupt and/or end the investigation.

Now that Democrats have control of the House of Representatives, real oversight can begin on the Trump administration and their swampy crime wave. Congressman Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is also planning on looking beyond the administration to find those who have tried to interfere with Mueller (looking at you former chairman Nunes).

It will be interesting to see how the recent revelation from Jeff Bezos over the extortion attempt from Trump friend and National Enquirer owner David Pecker factors in to what Shiff is looking into. Some of Trump’s support in Congress seems a normal extension of the cliff Republicans have driven off. But, maybe he can uncover how others, like Senators Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, went from such big Trump opponents to orange-stained lapdogs.

The tendrils of the corruption in Washington have spread massively (reaching all the way to South Dakota where former GOP/NRA operative — and Russian spy Maria Butina’s boyfriend — Paul Erickson was just hit with 11 felony counts). At this point (and this stat is a couple weeks old now) there have been 199 Criminal Charges; 37 People/Entities Charged; including 6 High-level Trump Associates; 7 People have pled Guilty; 4 People Sentenced to Prison; 1 Convicted by a Jury.

Whitaker may have avoided talking about the witch hunt because his boss seems to be changing the talking point to “Presidential Harassment.” At this point finding witches in and around this presidency is like finding hay in a hay stack.

The way things are going, we are likely to hear about more witches being found any time now. While you wait, have a Rye Witch cocktail.

Created by Jim Meehan, the Rye Witch is a riff on an Improved Old Fashioned. I pulled the recipe from Talia Baiocchi’s great book Sherry. The Rye Witch is:

1 dash Fee Brothers orange bitters

1 dash Regan’s orange bitters

1 cube of Demerara sugar

2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

.25 oz Strega

.25 oz palo cortado sherry

Muddle the bitters and sugar in a mixing glass, add rye, Strega, sherry and ice, stir and strain into a chilled rocks glass, garnish with an orange twist. (Yes, not a rocks glass pictured. Needed to do dishes. Don’t judge.)

Cheers!

Air Raid Destroys the Wall

aviation

After 35 days, Trump’s government shutdown over funding for his border wall (that Mexico was supposed to pay for) ended yesterday when air traffic controllers (who had now missed two paychecks) called in sick in great enough numbers to impact air travel.

Pressure had been building on Trump and the Republicans as stories of safety and national security issues grew alongside tales of human tragedies due to the shutdown, a problem which the public put squarely on their shoulders.

That pressure became too great, however — especially for some Republican senators — when flights began being delayed and cancelled, and a ground stop was called at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Trump appeared at the White House to announce a “deal” to reopen the government for three weeks, but came away with nothing (except, perhaps, pleasing Putin).

Though it did prove once again that fixed barriers, such as walls, are no match for airpower.

The only potential benefit Trump got out of this humiliation at Nancy Pelosi’s hand was its potential to distract from the news of the arrest of his long-time friend and advisor Roger Stone who was indicted by Robert Mueller in the Russia probe.

The seven-count indictment against Stone clears for takeoff the connection between the Trump campaign and the WikiLeaks dissemination of the Russian-hacked DNC and Podesta emails.

Between the right-wing Trump base fuming over the complete cave he pulled on the wall and the ever-tightening Mueller noose, Trump has become such a lame duck he may only have one more flight left in him, the one seeking asylum in Moscow.

To celebrate the job action by air traffic controllers, who finally got a bit of payback for Reagan busting PATCO nearly 38 years ago, have an Aviation cocktail.

Although it has fallen out of favor a bit, the Aviation helped kick off the cocktail renaissance when Eric Seed at Haus Alpenz brought back the liqueur Creme de Violette.

After Prohibition, this ingredient went missing, which kind made the drink originated in the nineteen teens a bit of a head scratcher. It needs the blue tint from the Creme de Violette to make sense as an ode to the sky from the early days of flight.

From the recipe page at Haus Alpenz, the Aviation is:

2 oz London dry gin

.5 oz Maraschino liqueur

.5 oz lemon juice

.25 oz Creme de Violette

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Cheers!

Time to Carve Up Some Trump Steaks

killing floor

Hard times is here and everywhere you go

Times are harder than ever been before

                                          — Skip James, “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” (1931)

The continuing government shutdown means Federal employees are about to miss another paycheck. Every passing day puts our national security, food safety, and even our scientific understanding of the changing climate more at risk as workers can’t do their jobs – or are doing them without pay and wondering how to buy food or pay the rent.

This kind of disruption must be a dividend Putin never thought he’d get with his purchase of Trump. Of course, this isn’t only on Individual 1, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could end the shutdown anytime by allowing a vote on house measures (that already passed the Senate).

McConnell, who wouldn’t let news of Russian interference in 2016 on behalf of Trump come out until after the election, is now keeping the government closed and just lifted sanctions on a key Russian oligarch. It is almost as though he doesn’t want his suspicious activity to be overshadowed by the growing revelations of Trump’s dealing with Russia.

While Trump and his GOP enablers in Congress bring hard times to America, the newly Democratic-led House of Representatives is preparing to begin its oversight work. The recent Buzzfeed report on Trump directing Cohen to lie to Congress, its brief elevation of impeachment talk, and Mueller’s pushback notwithstanding, the docket of Democratic inquiries would be enough to take down several administrations.

The list of Trump swamp creatures and their questionable (if not illegal) activities could have House committee rooms looking like the slaughterhouses of Chicago. This will all be warmup to the main event, when Trump himself makes it to the House killing floor. Between obstruction of justice, violation of the emoluments clause and possibly treason, he is likely to get carved up into the best Trump steaks yet.

While waiting for the Hearings to begin, have The Killing Floor cocktail. Via Frederic Yarm at Cocktail Virgin, The Killing Floor is:

1.5 oz James E. Pepper Rye (I used FEW Spirits Rye, the Chicago connection seemed right)
.5 oz Bigallet China China Liqueur
.5 oz Cocchi Sweet Vermouth
.5 oz Bonal Gentiane-Quinquina

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Cheers!