Tag Archives: threat

Extortion–And Susan Collins

Well, Susan Collins was right–sorta. Trump did learn a lesson from the Impeachment whitewash that she and the other Republican Senators handed him.

The lesson? Extortion works and I can keep doing it.

Earlier this week, Trump tweeted:

I’m seeing Governor Cuomo today at The White House. He must understand that National Security far exceeds politics. New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harrassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes. Build relationships, but don’t bring Fredo!

This, of course, is vintage Trump, displaying both his trademark ignorance of how government actually works and his mob-godfather behavior.

Letitia James, New York’s Attorney General responded to the obvious ignorance.

When you stop violating the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, we will stand down. Until then, we have a duty and responsibility to defend the Constitution and the rule of law.

BTW, I file the lawsuits, not the Governor.

As commentators have noted, this new threat followed a more generalized version that Trump had included in his delusional, fact-free State of the Union speech. In that speech, he threatened reprisals against sanctuary cities and states (mischaracterizing, as usual, what sanctuary laws say and do–it really is amazing how impervious he has been to learning anything in the three years he’s held office).

It also followed a previous, petty retaliation against New York, described by a Daily Kos contributor:

When the Department of Homeland Security announced on Feb. 7 that residents of New York would no longer be allowed to participate in programs such as Global Entry that speed passengers through airport security, it seemed like an act of petty vengeance. But then … petty vengeance is Donald Trump’s middle name. He just spells it with a J. So the idea that Trump would make a move designed to irritate millions of New Yorkers because their state passed laws supporting immigrants seemed absolutely believable.

But as it turns out, Trump wasn’t acting out of pure retaliation. Not at all. On Thursday Trump fired off a tweet making it clear that the real purpose behind making New Yorkers go to the back of the line was extortion—to force the state into leaving his taxes, his company, and his friends alone.

After all, it worked so well in Ukraine.

For a more in-depth discussion of this latest, astonishingly brazen effort to obtain a personal quid pro quo–threatening to withhold money meant to protect the citizens of New York unless that state dropped its multiple investigations into his criminal activities–you really should visit (or revisit, if you have already seen it) this discussion on Morning Joe.

Once again, the word that comes to mind is chutzpah.

What I find so astonishing is not the criminal behavior itself–and make no mistake, it is criminal, although I’m sure that the blowback will be dismissed with Trump’s usual “it was a joke” disclaimer (this from a man who wouldn’t know humor if he encountered it)– but the chutzpah of tweeting it out for the whole world to see. All that was missing was “Nah nah nah–you can’t impeach me! I’m protected by the spineless, dishonest, unAmerican Republicans in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.”

Yes indeed, Senator Collins. He certainly learned a lesson…


This is a Test..

Many years ago, there was a television mini-series about the Holocaust. My mother came over and watched the final episode with me and my (very young) children, and I still remember her firm declaration after it concluded, to the effect that she couldn’t understand the “good Germans” who kept quiet, went along and declined to get involved. She was adamant that she would not have been one of them–that she would have resisted.

I remember telling her that I wished I could be so certain. It’s easy to watch injustice and horrific behaviors from the safety of the sofa and reassure ourselves that we would be among the “good guys,” the ones who did what they knew was right no matter the consequences.

Incredible as it seems, it appears we’re going to have a chance to find out what kind of Americans we really are. Will we be among the apologists who dismiss what is happening (after all, the President isn’t coming for people like me…) and characterize the shock and anger displayed by millions of Americans as “hysteria” and “over-reaction”? Will we be like the pious “Christians” who evidently believe that morality only involves what happens below the human waist, and who evidently skipped over all those biblical references to taking in the stranger and caring for the poor and weak? Or will we go along with the self-proclaimed “patriots” we have elected–the ones who always wear a flag pin and ostentatiously carry copies of a Constitution to which they give lip service but which they read selectively, if at all?

Several readers noted that the unAmerican Executive Order refusing to admit refugees and “certain others” wasn’t even the worst thing Trump did yesterday. While that order got most of the attention, he placed his chief political strategist, Stephen Bannon, on the National Security Council, and limited the roles of both the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bannon–the White Nationalist and neo-Nazi sympathizer who ran Breitbart, the far-Right propaganda site– will now be a regular attendee of the Cabinet-level forum that deals with national security. The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, however, won’t be.

It is hard to believe the extent of Trump’s assault on American values and institutions in just ten days. And it is dispiriting to see the cowardice of our elected officials in the face of that assault.

It is telling that neither Ryan nor McConnell have spoken out.  No profiles in courage there, or among most GOP Senators and Representatives. (Credit where credit is due: Lindsay Graham and John McCain have spoken out, and strongly.)

So much for checks and balances.

I have no idea what will happen to this country I love over the next few months and years. We are in uncharted territory. But I do know one thing: this assault on the rule of law will challenge the strength of our democratic institutions, our American commitment to liberty and equality, and the willingness of each of us to stand up for those principles.

This is our test, and it’s pass/fail.