A Little Help For My Friends…

Welcome to our banana republic, where rules don’t matter but relationships and loyalty to the despot do.

Where to start?

Well, first there were the pardons.  In the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin explained that authoritarians dispense both punishment and largesse based on their own whims–unconstrained by quaint mechanisms like legal rules.

The point of authoritarianism is to concentrate power in the ruler, so the world knows that all actions, good and bad, harsh and generous, come from a single source. That’s the real lesson—a story of creeping authoritarianism—of today’s commutations and pardons by President Trump.

By now, Americans who follow the news know the names of the high-profile criminals Trump pardoned:  Rod Blagojevich, the corrupt former governor of Illinois, who was eight years into a sentence of fourteen years; Michael Milken, the junk-bond king; Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner, and Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., former owner of the San Francisco 49ers. (The last three all pled guilty.)

The common link among this group is that all have some personal connection to the President. Blagojevich was a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice,” and he was prosecuted by Patrick Fitzgerald, a close friend of and lawyer for James Comey, the former F.B.I. director who is a Trump enemy. Explaining his action today, Trump said of the case against Blagojevich, “It was a prosecution by the same people—Comey, Fitzpatrick—the same group.” Milken’s annual financial conferences are a favorite meeting place for, among others, Trump’s moneyed friends. (Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner spoke at last year’s gathering.) Milken is also an active philanthropist, as Trump observed: “We have Mike Milken, who’s gone around and done an incredible job for the world, with all of his research on cancer, and he’s done this and he suffered greatly. He paid a big price, paid a very tough price.” Trump’s explanation for the Kerik pardon is probably the most revealing. The President said that Kerik is “a man who had many recommendations from a lot of good people. (Kerik was appointed police commissioner by Rudolph Giuliani.)

Toobin says Trump’s pardons show that he can reward his friends and his friends’ friends. The message is clear: better to be a dictator’s friend, since he can also punish his enemies.

Other media sources have pointed out that all of the recipients–there were 11 total– had either an inside connection or had been promoted on Fox News. Then, of course, there was money:  Business Insider reported that Trump also pardoned Paul Pogue, a construction-company owner who pled guilty in 2010 to underpaying his taxes by nearly half a million dollars. Coincidentally, Pogue’s son and daughter-in-law donated over $200,000 to Trump’s campaign just since August,  although their cumulative previous donations to Republican campaigns came to less than $10,000.

And speaking of the pardon power…

According to Julian Assange’s lawyer, President Trump offered the WikiLeaks chief a pardon if he would agree to say that Russia had nothing to do with hacking emails from Democrats during the 2016 presidential election.

It’s all about helping your friends and screwing over those who are insufficiently devoted to the “dear leader.”

Last week, Trump named Richard Grenell, reportedly a “fierce advocate” of the President who has been the (detested and embarrassing) ambassador to Germany, as acting director of national intelligence, overseeing the 17 U.S. spy agencies. From all reports, Grenell is a massively unqualified rightwing political hack.

There’s also the fact that Grenell may have been put into the acting DNI role to protect the president’s political interests.

Grenell is replacing former National Counterterrorism Center director and retired Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire in the acting role. On Thursday afternoon, the Washington Post reported that Trump berated Maguire last week over a classified briefing one of his deputies had given Congress on 2020 election security.

The New York Times reports that the official, Shelby Pierson, “warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected” and that that briefing “angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him.”

Thanks to the spineless and arguably treasonous Republicans in the U.S. Senate, Trump no longer feels the need to hide his corruption. Instead, he revels in it.


  1. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get a bribery charge out of the offer to Assange, if, as his lawyer says, there’s evidence to confirm it. I’d hope a conspiracy charge against that twit Rohrabacher would be included.

  2. Trump is the poster child for the need for stronger mental health care provisions in this country.
    There is no end to his high crimes and misdemeanors which, in a court of law, defense would be he is innocent due to mental defect. Now demanding Justices Sotomeyer and Ginsberg recuse themselves of all Supreme Court cases involving him. How many presidents in our history have had cases against them in the Supreme Court?

    His new rule has passed regarding acceptance of applicants for Visas and Green Cards being dependent on their income and education levels. All part of his war on immigrants and Mick Mulvaney’s recent remark comes to mind about this country needing more immigrants in the workforce. Mulvaney’s seat on the plane to India with Trump and family was revoked at the last minute; how long can he last in this administration, until Trump returns from India and can turn his wrath full force on him?

    Do we need a strong Democrat candidate against Trump or a hero Zamboni driver to come to the rescue; win the game for us then sweep the refuse out?

  3. Sheila, “A Little Help For My Friends …..”

    Maybe some additional help: Our biggest problem, from my perspective, is that we haven’t been able to determine as a people whether or not, we have become either IDIOTS or FOOLS. There is absolutely no hope for the former, but there is possibly some hope for the ladder. No doubt the situation is becoming more critical day by day, but I’m trying to stay positive.

    For the time being, I strongly recommend LAUGHING, it’s a marvelous temporary antidote.

  4. In August of 1932, in the town of Potempa, nine Nazi Stormtroopers murdered a supporter of the German Communist Party, kicking him to death in his own apartment as his family watched in horror. Six were convicted with five receiving the death penalty. After the verdict, Hitler sent them a telegram in which he declared to them his “boundless loyalty.” Shortly after he came to power in 1933, he pardoned the killers. https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166794 parallels to Sheriff Joe Arpaio pardon, And others!

    Of course all of these sends a message, not only is he telling everyone to beware, He is also pointing to the fact that he will not relinquish his office. He’s letting everyone know that because these folks have been convicted of things that he is guilty of, he’s remedying the situation and will not receive the same fate.

    Trump has already pardoned Michael Behenna, who took an unarmed Iraqi captive into the desert, stripped him naked, and shot him in the head and chest. Behenna was supposed to be returning the man to his home village.

    Trump also requested the files of Nicholas Slatten, a Blackwater contractor convicted of shooting dozens of Iraqi civilians in the notorious 2007 Nisour Square massacre, and of Mathew Golsteyn, who confessed to murdering an unarmed Afghan captive U.S. soldiers had released.

    Combat veteran Waitman Wade Beorn a Holocaust scholar, warned that one could draw some dark (if inexact) parallels between Trump’s cues and Hitler’s.

    During the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, he wrote, “soldiers were literally told that they would not be tried for behavior that would be a crime anywhere else in Europe.” Similarly, “when Trump champions war criminals as brave patriots … he seems to push for a climate that condones unethical and criminal behavior.

    He is also telling everyone, that there will be a time when the military will completely do his bidding, there will be no ethics, no moral conduct, and conduct completely void of conscience! All of this outside and inside the borders of the United States.

    These fears are further strengthened by the appointment to Hitler’s cabinet of Nazi leaders notorious for the violence of their anti-Semitic stand. To the key position of Minister of Interior, Hitler has named his friend and ally, Dr. Wilhelm Frick, former Minister of Interior of Thuringia, who in the latter office gave practical effect to his anti-Semitism.

    Herman Goering, Speaker of the Reichstag has been appointed Minister without Portfolio and Reich’s Commissioner of Interior for Prussia. Thus the entire internal policy of Germany is to be controlled by Nazis who are firm believers in violence against the Jews. The police force and the whole machinery of government will now be at the disposal of the Nazis as well and instead of protecting the Jewish population, they may soon become a menace as the instrument of Jewish oppression, it is feared.

    February 1, 1943, my brother Hans was shot in Quednau near Königsberg. Hans was 34 and had been imprisoned for five years. Later, an eyewitness to his execution told me that the officer asked Hans if he had a last wish. Hans requested permission to say a prayer, which was granted. The prayer made such an impression on the soldiers that when the officer finally gave the order to fire, not one of them obeyed. He repeated the order, whereupon one shot was fired, hitting Hans in the body. The officer then drew his own pistol and personally finished him off.

    Hitler stated: “The war is to be a war of annihilation.” Kill “without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of Polish descent or language”

    You all should be really aware of the reason why POTUS is a very fervent student of Hitler and Nazi Germany. As a matter of fact, his son Eric actually said they would do that heal click and salute when they would enter his father’s office. He is not emulating a mob boss, because many of the mob bosses fought the Nazis at the behest of American government, he is emulating the Nazis themselves, he is actually one that learns from history!

  5. John S.

    Try not to lose to much sleep.

    Unfortunately, for all of us, is the sad fact as Doris Lessing, the magnificent feminist author once wrote, to the effect, that “Human beings just don’t take PRE-EMPTIVE ACTION.”

  6. Maybe a “double-dip” like a coronavirus pandemic and a stock market crash, at the same time, will, finally, wake us all up, in order, to deal with reality. I realize that’s a big maybe.

  7. Wonder if Susan Collins still thinks Chumpchild has learned his lesson? Yeah, he learned a lesson, all right. He can do whatever he wants and Republicans will protect him. Meanwhile, there’s a rat in the kitchen, setting fires, and consuming all the good stuff.

  8. I wonder if Trump’s fate will ever be linked to another tin-pot, totally corrupt, evil wretch, aka Benito Mussolini. The Italian citizenry, having had enough of his war, strung him up by his heels – along with his mistress.

    Marl’s right. We won’t take any pre-emptive action. We’ll just let Trump be Hitler/Mussolini with no consequences. Republican voters must be so proud of themselves. In three and a half years, they’ve ALLOWED a mobster, criminal, gangster to destroy 240 years of Constitutional republic. Well done, morons.

  9. Vernon,

    Please don’t defame Mussolini in comparing him to Trump. Trump appears to have no competition. However, maybe we can find someone to compare with him in the “Dark Ages.” But, I doubt it.

    If anything, he’s the ANTI-CHRIST who gets a thrill by kicking the ball in the rough. No quotation marks needed.

  10. BTW, Grenell was also reportedly a highly paid consultant to an Eastern European corrupt oligarch, no doubt a standout qualification on the resume for the President.

  11. Marv, you’re giving the human race way too much credit.

    I see educated men and women posting ‘communism’ rants on Bernie because he gave props to Fidel Castro in the 60s.

    This is going to be like turning the Titanic…

  12. Trump, with the help of Republican senators and headline-seeking House members, have managed to set the bar so low with their daily travesties that we have (right on schedule) become numb to what is happening in plain view. We had better wake up, and soon, as we have a dictatorship unfolding before our very eyes.

    As Sheila posits – what to do (and quickly, especially with a Barr in control)? The problem will not be solved legislatively or via Barr, who are (whether they know it or not or even care about the result) cheer-leading Trump’s power grabs leading to dictatorship and an end to our democracy. I think that one of our perhaps last opportunities to save our democracy involves judicial intervention, i.e., a suit by Democratic House members or anyone who could survive a motion to dismiss for lack of standing against Trump which, I hope, would remove the present protection of presidents from charges while sitting due to some DOJ rule, the rationale for which at the time did not contemplate the current attempt to destroy our democracy. Trump’s power grabs are plainly criminal as defined by criminal laws, and if some DOJ rule were removed, I would hope for his prosecution while IN office, since I think no DOJ rule elevates anyone above conformity to law since, if it does, then we are sitting ducks for any president to announce that he or she makes the rules and that criminal statutes (the law) and the Constitution are passe. I would also like to think even with the current composition of our SCOTUS that the justices would be impressed with an argument that the DOJ rule which allegedly provides immunity for sitting presidents from criminal charges was not designed to cover criminal acts by a wannabe dictator.

    I welcome any other ideas that could put a halt to this Republican-assisted destruction of our democracy. This is my (hopeful) contribution. Marv?

  13. Gerald – good luck with that. It is clear from recent SCOTUS rulings that they (the conservative rulers) are “strict” standings folks. Not going to fly….

  14. Todd, you are correct the “press” has went into an apoptotic fit over Bernie’s remarks on Cuba and his failure to show up at American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference.

    October 6, 1960 Senator John F. Kennedy, in the midst of his campaign against Nixon from WIKI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fulgencio_Batista

    Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years … and he turned Democratic Cuba into a complete police state—destroying every individual liberty. Yet our aid to his regime, and the ineptness of our policies, enabled Batista to invoke the name of the United States in support of his reign of terror. Administration spokesmen publicly praised Batista—hailed him as a staunch ally and a good friend—at a time when Batista was murdering thousands, destroying the last vestiges of freedom, and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Cuban people, and we failed to press for free elections.

    I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime.

    I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.
    — U.S. President John F. Kennedy, to Jean Daniel, October 24, 1963
    Batista had a long lucrative career when he was President of Cuba, with collaborating, protecting and skimming from Mafia operations in Cuba.

    JFK was killed in late November 1963.

  15. Vernon,

    How about a title for the book: THE EPICENTER, with a cover portraying a map of the U.S. with a “spotlight” on the Austin/Dallas area?

  16. I watched the Mueller debacle (or should I say Barr’s purloined Mueller Report), and I also watched the pathetic Republican display of corruption and more obvious Trump fealty and at the resulting mess I then turned off the tv. I learned a lot about how things are supposed to work; ‘so called checks and balances’ and when they didn’t, again turned off the tv. I have come to the conclusion that as long as this administration (saturated with Bannon and his very clever list of ‘things to do’ ) has power they will do everything to keep it. Regardless how the election turns out there will be blood in the streets. Sorry, but too many have been too quiet for too long and now the extreme situation calls for extreme measures. If we don’t fight we will get what we deserve.

  17. Marv and Vernon – how about taking your considerable brainpower and energy to actively engaging in getting more people to vote, getting strong candidates elected to the House and Senate, etc.

    While it may be intellectually interesting to write a book, it doesn’t touch the helm!

  18. Vernon,

    If we don’t get the book published as fast as we can, there might not be anyone around with enough money to buy it. I probably would agree with you, if you feel, that is somewhat of an exaggeration.

  19. Lester,

    “While it may be intellectually interesting to write a book, it doesn’t touch the helm!”

    I’m not convinced your criticism is justified that “it doesn’t touch the helm? Please explain that statement to me, it must be my ignorance.

  20. That is, the “steering wheel” of the Titanic – in the hands of the voters , about 8 months away…

  21. Trump is incompetent, corrupt, stupid and a would be dictator almost elected as President of the US, arguably now the most powerful person in the world.

    I fully understand why Putin worked so hard to carry him over the finish line and how much he preferred such a person as heading his opposition compared to Hillary Clinton who had demonstrated her effectiveness as an enemy of his. He did what Trump does regularly in promoting his supporters.

    Projecting just a little, Trump will next pardon another hero of his, Harvey Weinstein.

    How is this possible? It’s best explained by the ongoing stock market performance of the Obama recovery from the Bush Great Recession primarily fueled now by the innovations in information networking and cloud computing.

  22. Who is going to right what is going wrong? Are are we already over the bridge and drowning?

    Sheila and so may others point out the infidelity our currently elected (?) President is engaging in, regarding the law and Constitutional which is the abiding outline of our Democracy; however he seems to just keep getting more and more power and control into his gullet.

    How, and what, can we do to prepare to live under an Anarchist? I have no resources which I might be able to use to move to another country. How about others?

  23. Lester,

    I grew up in Jacksonville, both living on the St. John’s River in the Winter and on the Atlantic Ocean in the Summer. In addition, whiIe living in the Dallas area for 25 years, I practiced law on the shores of three different lakes. [Also I lived on the shore of Lake Melrose when I attending law school at the University of Florida, so that I could sail my Lightning “Victory” almost every day]

    I might be mistaken, but I, probably, understand HELMSMANSHIP better than you, but I might be mistaken. Clue me in. Do you have sailing experience like me, or any experience at all?

  24. I didn’t mean to mislead, my Lightning on Lake Melrose was “Decision,” not “Victory.” It’s been 60 years, as you can tell, my memory is starting to fail me.

  25. Marv – never sailed, only checked the dictionary:

    Helm – noun, a tiller or wheel and any associated equipment for steering a ship or boat.

  26. Lester,

    What makes you think we don’t knock on doors, stuff windshield wipers or man phone banks? Even at our advanced ages, there is more that one way to skin the cat. If you’d have read my 5 non-fiction books on Amazon.com, you’d know that multi-facet activism is normal to those of us still interested in preserving our democratic republic.

  27. So far Trump has employed his friends in our Cabinet, his family in the Whitehouse, given his business a huge tax break, pardoned his friends, used his new found connections to promote the expansion of his business and replaced his private jet and security with ours.

    That’s what we’ve given him.

    What has he given us?

  28. You may be right on standing, Lester, but even if such a case or cases were dismissed on grounds of lack of standing or some other preliminary motion that ends the case without reaching the merits, the attendant publicity might (and I use that term might advisedly) slow Trump’s drive for all power until we can get to the polls. I think we must do whatever we can to slow this blossoming Hitler from seizing all power during the interim between now and November lest he seize all power before then and, among other things, cancel or attempt to cancel or delay the election on grounds, ironically, that a foreign power is assisting whoever our Democratic candidate may be. Are my speculations on what could happen far out? I hope so, but this guy has redefined what is “far out” in his world of the new normal.

  29. Vernon – did not mean to imply that you were not doing those things. However, given your expertise, also consider helping candidates with strategy, messaging, etc.

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