Collusion is not a crime

Unfortunately. Because if collusion was a crime, the “Russia investigation” would be over. Obviously the Trump campaign “colluded”. They did it proudly and in broad daylight all through the summer of 2016. Remember?

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Maybe you’re thinking, “No, that was just the appearance of collusion. Using ‘oppo’ that originated from Russian hacking is different from seeking it out.” Maybe so, or maybe that’s a distinction without a difference. There was a time, Before Tweety, when just the appearance of misconduct was enough to sink a candidate, but there’s no use pining for an irrelevant past, especially one in which we were only pretending that principles and integrity were real things.

The “smoking gun” of collusion is the meeting that Little Tweety (or as my grandfather might have called him, “Tweetski”, or, perhaps, “Tweeteleh”) took with the Russians. They told him they had some dirt on Hillary, and Tweetski rushed right over to see what goodies they had for him.

His defense of this behavior was that they didn’t have anything too exciting, so nothing came of it, so no big deal, so the Failing New York Times can just shut up about it already. But that misses the point: the meeting itself was the collusion, not what might have been said in it.

But, alas, collusion is not a crime. So what are we actually investigating? It’s all a bit confusing, which in itself is another huge victory for the forces of chaos, and for those who thrive on chaos and benefit from it. But the bottom line is we’re still looking for the fire amidst all the smoke.

The fire might be conspiracy to violate election laws, for example, if the Russians directly provided anything “of value” to Trump. Or it might be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if the campaign told the Russians what exactly they needed them to hack. And of course the biggest issue would be lying under oath, for example in registration forms or security documents.

I highly doubt any form of “lying”, under oath or otherwise, could sink Tweety at this point, as everyone knows he lies all the time and no one really cares. The other day I wrote about Scott Adams’ explanations and apologies for Trump’s behavior, and, on the subject of Trump’s constant and outrageous lying, he said that everyone knows what he means and he lies in the “right direction”. The example he gave was Trump’s assertion that on 9/11 he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey dancing in happiness. This never happened, of course, but Adams explained that everyone understood him to mean that many Muslims worldwide thought that 9/11 was some sort of “victory” and were happy about it, and that everybody should be able to agree that this was certainly true.

Lying has thus been redefined and downgraded, and Trump’s use of language is frustratingly imprecise and “ambiguous” in all cases anyway. So if the Russian investigation “proves” some lies were told along the way, the response from those who matter (Republicans in Congress) will almost certainly be, “So what?” Same as Adams, actually.

But none of that is what I really want to stress today. I’m thinking about the Russian motivation for interfering in the election in the first place. You may not remember that they didn’t actually think Trump was going to win at any point. So what were they doing it for?

Their goal was to undermine confidence in the whole voting process and create controversy that would persist after the election and would diminish the effectiveness of the new president (presumably Hillary Clinton).  They would thereby diminish American standing in the world by showing that the election process was flawed, that at least one of the candidates was indeed “crooked”, and that other models of selecting leaders were no better or worse. In short, there would be much less reason to regard America as a shining example of “Democracy”, and much less reason to regard democracy as a system preferable to any other.

My point for today is that they really needn’t have bothered. For months leading up to the election, Tweety was already loudly proclaiming that the whole thing was rigged and “unfair” and suggesting that it wouldn’t be over after the vote. He was threatening to contest “the peaceful transfer of power” that distinguishes our country from dictatorships, theocracies,  and sometimes even monarchies.

During the final presidential debate, Trump refused to say whether he would accept the election results, and at one point said he would accept them only if he won. Speaking about Trump’s view of the integrity of the elections, President Obama pointed out that “That is dangerous…this is not a joking matter”.

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Trump had his troops so riled up that there was a genuine fear of violence in the streets if Hillary won, and many Hillary supporters actually took a small measure of consolation in Trump’s victory, as this violence was thus averted in the only way it could have been.

My point for today is that Donald J. Trump undermined our electoral process and diminished our standing in the world far more effectively on his own than any army of Russian operatives could have.

Collusion may not be a crime, but for me and millions of others, Trump is certainly a criminal.

A specious and false notion

Tweetin’ Donny has determined that 44 of the 50 states are “hiding something”.

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So many people hiding so much!

Actually only Colorado, Missouri, and Tennessee are willing to go along with this silly, paranoid, time-and-money-wasting hoax, which is clearly designed to distract everyone from Trump’s incompetence and lack of interest in actually doing his job, diminish the whole notion of “investigations” by putting this on the same plane as the Russian interference investigation, and, of course, fire up Trump’s base of “real” Americans.

Just to digress for a second on the “real” Americans thing, I don’t know that anything has made me angrier lately than hearing Mike Huckabee saying, “The media hates Trump more than they love America”. Really? It has to be one or the other? If someone points out Trump’s limitations they don’t love America? How about, “The reason someone hates Trump is exactly because they love America”.

Anyway, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams couldn’t be more enthusiastic about Trump’s “very distinguished panel” and the vital role they’re playing for all of us. “We are very glad they are asking for information before making decisions,” he said. “I wish more federal agencies would ask folks for their opinion and for information before they made decisions.”

So it’s about being asked your opinion? Before decisions are made? Hmm. Well, I guess it is nice to be asked rather than told, but it’s that opinion of yours we’re criticizing here. Compare it to the opinion of the Secretary of State in Louisiana, Tom Schedler, a Republican, who said, “The President’s Commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release. My response to the Commission is, you’re not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data, and if you are, then you can purchase the limited public information available by law, to any candidate running for office. That’s it.”

Or the response of Mississippi’s Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann, also a Republican: “My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

What is Mississippi hiding? How many hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in Mississippi voted for Hilary Clinton?  It’s true Trump won the state with one of his biggest margins of victory, 58.3% of the votes to Clinton’s 39.7%.

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But look at all the counties that went blue. There were 462,000 people in Mississippi that voted for Clinton. Illegals! Al Qaeda! Someone! There’s a crime being committed here, and we need to get to the bottom of it, where we are surely going to find Crooked Hillary. Lock her up!

So far, 44 states, the majority of which went to Trump in 2016, have refused to provide information requested by the Commission’s vice-chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, many pointing out that the Commission seems to have a limited grasp of privacy laws.

Florida and Nebraska are still “reviewing” the request. Hawaii and New Jersey haven’t indicated what they will do.  Six states haven’t yet  responded to the request, but, of those, four have already said they won’t cooperate.

I wrote a blog post a few days after inauguration talking about Trump’s baseless assertions and the many legitimate studies that have been done in the past that have all come to the same conclusion: voter fraud is not an appreciable problem and there are practically no documented instances of it. The few documented instances from 2016 were cases where the perpetrator was a Trump supporter, perhaps trying to level the playing field against all those imaginary Clinton-voting illegals.

Here’s a WaPo piece describing nine real studies that have been done revealing that voter fraud is basically non-existent, including a five-year long study conducted by the Bush administration. I guess maybe the institutions and people that did this work (e.g. Dartmouth College, Loyala Law School, and the Iowa Secretary of State) weren’t as “distinguished” as Trump’s appointees. And here’s a nice summary from the Brennan Center for Justice at N.Y.U. debunking the whole myth of voter fraud.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said, “This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November. At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.”

Yeah, but he’s a Democrat.  He must be hiding something. And obviously he does not love America.

 

 

Fraudulent voter fraud fraud

Tweetin’ Donny has a big investigation going to finally “prove” that he won the popular vote, which he lost by about 3 million. See, 3-5 million votes were cast by illegals, all for Hillary Clinton, and that’s a scandal.

We’ve got something called “The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” looking into it. It’s headed by “a divisive conservative voting rights expert”, Hans von Spakovsky, who no one seems to know much about as no biographical information was included with his appointment announcement. We do know he’s a believer in Trump’s fantasies though. From the link:

For more than a decade, von Spakovsky has been a polarizing figure in voting rights circles, with conservatives championing his efforts to tighten regulations and shore up voter roll inconsistencies. His critics point to a career in which decisions have led to disenfranchisement among poor and minority groups.

“I think there are number of people who have been active in promoting false and exaggerated claims of voter fraud and using that as a pretext to argue for stricter voting and registration rules,” said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine. “And von Spakovsky’s at the top of the list.”

After von Spakovsky’s appointment was announced, Hasen wrote on his blog that it was “a big middle finger” from Trump to people “serious about fixing problems with our elections.”

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This week, the commission kicked off its big show with a letter sent to the 50 Secretaries of State around the country asking for names, addresses, birth dates and party affiliations of registered voters in each state. It also sought felony convictions, military statuses, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting records dating back to 2006.

From this Politico piece,

Many states immediately raised concerns and voiced their opposition to providing the information. 

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) said that she does not intend to release the data. 

“The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue — it is not,” Lundergan Grimes said. “I do not intend to release Kentuckians’ sensitive personal data to the federal government.” 

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, similarly said he won’t turn over any information to the panel, telling members of the voter fraud commission to, “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, took a similar line.

All three of these states went to Trump in the election, but, at least so far, their leadership recognizes a preposterous breach of ethics and precedent when they see one.

Nonetheless, the prognosticators here at GOML are now going on record as predicting that this investigation will absolutely yield “evidence” that will 100% vindicate Tweetin’ Donny, and that will make an important contribution to his project of totally devaluing facts and creating “truth” as needed.

And the long-term fallout of this effort will be more restrictive voting laws that favor one particular party and I think we all know which one.

HAPPY

 

 

Partisanship will prevail

This FiveThirtyEight article breaks down the three biggest scandals of the last 50 years to try to illuminate what might happen with the Trump presidency. The article stops short of saying it, but the take-away is that party loyalty will save even this toxic clown. Those of us who believe that Trump is clearly unfit for office and has already committed impeachable offenses, and who are wondering why in the world Republicans can’t see this, will have no satisfaction.

The article analyzes the Watergate, Iran/Contra and Lewinsky scandals, and points out that virtually every step of the way, only a handful of lawmakers of the incumbent’s party ever voted against him, and that those few who did were “centrists”, an obsolete designation in today’s G.O.P.

The piece notes that,

Even as Nixon aides resigned and the Watergate controversy grew around the president in 1973, many congressional Republicans were arguing that the investigations of the president were overly aggressive. Two future GOP presidents, George H.W. Bush (then chairman of the Republican National Committee) and Reagan (then governor of California), called Nixon and assured him that he could get through the scandal.

Reagan counseled Nixon to hang on because “this too shall pass”.

Even after the Saturday Night Massacre, which many see as the fatal blow for Nixon’s presidency, Republicans stood by him:

The House Judiciary Committee held a series of votes about recommending Nixon’s impeachment in July 1974. All 21 committee Democrats, and six committee Republicans, voted for the first article of impeachment, which essentially accused Nixon of obstructing the investigation of the Watergate break-in. The other 11 Republicans voted against that article. There were three articles of impeachment against Nixon. Nineteen Democrats voted for all three articles of impeachment. Just one Republican did. A majority of the Republicans on the committee, 10 of the 17, voted against all three articles.

Note that the committee consisted of 21 Democrats and 17 Republicans, and that Democrats controlled the House, unlike today, and only a simple majority is required to send Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. Today’s House is controlled by Republicans, 246-187.

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What finally killed Nixon was that there were a handful of principled Republican Senators who were willing to do the right thing, notably Howard Baker, the top Republican of the three on the Senate Watergate Committee. Even he let party loyalty cloud his judgement, as he let his aides discuss progress with the Nixon White House.

The Senate at the time of Watergate was controlled by Democrats 56-42. A two thirds vote in the Senate is needed for impeachment, so the task at hand wasn’t as difficult as it is today, where Republicans control the Senate 54-44-2 (2 independents).

But today’s political landscape is completely different than those good old days of simple partisan divisions. Cable news, the internet, gerrymandering, Dark Money, Citizen’s United, and many other factors have produced a state of hyper-partisanship which really has little resemblance to the Watergate era.

This Wapo article, entitled “Only Republicans can stop Trump right now. History suggests they won’t.” says,

Recent history also justifies fears that Republicans will not stand up to Trump. Flake, McCain, Sasse and other senators have all clashed publicly with the president before. But those are just words, and talk is cheap. With the occasional exception when Republicans have been able to spare one or two votes, GOP senators have marched in lockstep with the Trump White House. McCain in particular has continued his years-long pattern of tut-tutting Republican leaders and then voting with his party anyway.

If Flake, McCain and others want to show us they are truly troubled, then they will need to do more than put out a statement. They need to join with Democrats and refuse to vote for a new FBI director (and perhaps even other Trump appointees or legislation) until a special prosecutor is appointed. Nothing short of that is acceptable.

It’s fun to watch Trump’s “disapproval” ratings go up each week and his “approval” ratings go down, but we need to remember (and the man-baby is constantly reminding us) that these numbers do not matter and that those who predicted the election based on such numbers were completely embarrassed.

What matters is that Trump’s approval rating among those who voted for him has not changed at all. It’s holding steady at 88% and will edge up whenever he does something “big”.

What matters is that the electoral map of Trump’s victory remains the same.

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She’s baaaack…

 

Hillary Clinton has now re-emerged from her self-imposed exile, and is blaming everyone but herself for the disaster her incompetent candidacy has wrought. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve said many times she would have been a perfectly fine executive and I would have loved to have her lead us. But as a candidate, she just never got the knack.

She’s now blaming the FBI for its role in the bogus email flap, Putin, Wikileaks, FoxNews, misogynist bigots, etc. etc. And it’s all true. But it misses the point, which is that if she can’t rise above those things to defeat an insane, toxic, incompetent, lying, racist, sexist, xenophobic con-man and clown, there’s really no excuse but that she was a poor candidate.

She figured she could just coast in as Trump self-destructed, and that simply running as Obama 2.0 was a great platform. It should have been enough. The scandal-free and ethics-first eight years of Barack Obama gave us a miraculous economic recovery from the 2008 precipice we stood on (hard to even remember now, isn’t it?), and gradually disengaged us from stupid and unwinnable military adventures in various parts of the world, particularly the Middle East.

But it wasn’t enough. The voters wanted a transformational candidate with a new message – someone who could break the politics-as-usual gridlock in Washington, and Hillary wasn’t that person. Neither is Trump, of course, but the electorate was fooled into mistaking his bullying, demagoguery, and chaotic doublespeak for something positive. The final price we’ll all pay for this deception is yet to be determined.

Bill Maher says Hillary should go away now, and that her re-appearance verifies all the bad things people think about the Clintons, i.e. that it’s always all about them. He points out she had her chance and she blew it.

I agree. It’s time for the Clintons to get off the stage. All of them, including Chelsea. Let Elizabeth Warren be the first female president.

No Regerts

From this article in the Failing New York Times yesterday:

While conservatives often decry government spending in general, red states generally receive more in federal government benefits than blue states do — and thus are often at greater risk from someone like Trump

In the map below, the darker the shade of blue, the more dependent on government spending the state is:

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The states that benefit the most from government spending are, in order of dependency, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, Alabama, West Virginia, South Carolina, Montana and Tennessee. With the exception of New Mexico, all of these states went for Trump.

mapThe states with the lowest state and local tax burden are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Tennessee, and Idaho. All of these except Delaware went for Trump.

In other words, the people who complain the most about government spending are those that benefit from it the most and contribute to it the least. Go figure.

The NYT article cited a few people who have benefited greatly from government programs that Trump now wants to cut or delete funding for in his proposed budget.

One avid Trump supporter in Tulsa said that Tulsa Domestic Violence Intervention Services “saved my life, and my son’s”. Trump’s budget cuts their funding.  “My prayer is that Congress will step in” to protect domestic violence programs, she said.

Billy Hinkle, a Trump voter enrolled in a job-training program that Trump wants to eliminate asks, “Why is building a wall more important than educating people?”. Hmmm. Good question, Billy.

Tarzan Vince, another Trump supporter in the program, says  “If he’s preaching jobs, why take away jobs?”. We’ll get back to you on that one, Tarzan.

Navy vet Ezekial Moreno, a Trump voter was stocking groceries when he enrolled in the soon-to-be-eliminated WorkAdvance program, which enabled him to find employment in the Aerospace industry. As a result, he was able to move his family out of an apartment into a house, get one daughter violin lessons, and a math tutor for another daughter. “There’s a lot of wasteful spending, so cut other places,” Moreno said. Yes, Ezekial, you put your finger on the problem: it’s those other people that need to have their opportunities cut.

70 year-old Judy Banks voted for Trump to “get rid of illegals”, but now finds the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which pays senior citizens a minimum wage to hold public service jobs and which she depends on, will be cut. “If I lose this job,” she said, “I’ll sit home and die.”

But none of these people regretted their vote for Trump. All said they would vote for him again in 2020. The article says, “Some of the loyalty seemed to be grounded in resentment at Democrats for mocking Trump voters as dumb bigots, some from a belief that budgets are complicated, and some from a sense that it’s too early to abandon their man.”

This WaPo article talks about research they did showing that if Trump voters could do it all over again knowing what they know now, only 1% would vote for Hillary Clinton.

I get why people don’t like Hillary, I really do. And I proudly voted for Bernie in the Massachusetts primary. But when the alternative is a fraud and con-man who is manifestly unqualified for the job by experience and temperament and a million other measures? Come on.

Can it be that easy to get someone to vote against their own self-interest?

It seems like Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” remark bothered them more than anything, like the smartest girl in class was calling them stupid. I don’t know if anyone’s vote would have gone to Hillary if she hadn’t said that and some other things, but the response of many Trump voters like the ones in this NYT piece boils down to:

You think I’m stupid? You don’t know what stupid is! I’ll show you stupid – I’ll cut off my nose to spite my face! Now who’s stupid?!

 No regerts, baby. No regerts.

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Treason shmeason

There’s really nothing that the hearings on Russian interference in the 2016 election are going to reveal that we don’t already know.  They interfered. They did it to benefit one candidate and hurt another. They used a third party, Wikileaks, to release information acquired by their own cyber-thieves in order to achieve this. The candidate that was helped openly encouraged them, supported them, reveled in their help, and asserted over and over that our elections were rigged (if he lost).

The Russian motives were to decrease the authority and power of America on the world stage in order to increase their own, to de-legitimize and diminish the very idea of democratic governments, and to install a president that they could easily manipulate through flattery and favorable business dealings while preventing the election of a candidate that would oppose their ambitions.

We’ve known all these things since before the election. The Russians have been spectacularly successful in attaining their objectives.

The situation is further complicated by events abroad that can have terrible consequences for the U.S. and its allies, and in which the Russians are heavily invested as well.  North Korea is on the verge of acquiring the capability of striking the U.S. with nuclear weapons, and the Assad regime in Syria is providing sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah which will drastically change things on the ground for Israel.

Before this election, most Americans would have agreed that any president who defended Russia over information provided by his own intelligence agencies is a traitor and is committing treason. Some Americans still do, but it doesn’t matter because their elected representatives don’t.

This is the moment that Republicans in congress can recognize the wrong turn we have taken, seize back control from their unhinged “leader”, assert their own moral authority and integrity, and impeach Trump.

But they showed no interest in questioning the intelligence heads on the mountain of circumstantial evidence showing the direct collusion of the Trump campaign with the Russians. Instead, they were only interested in those who leaked the evidence of such collusion, i.e. Obama administration holdovers in the “deep state”, who are discrediting Trump with their leaking. Or getting it on the record that the Russians didn’t tamper with voting machines (a crime no one has accused anyone of committing), and repeating this request for each state. Thanks for nothing.

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James Comey (F.B.I.) and Mike Rogers (C.I.A.)

There will be no impeachment, even if treason has been committed. The victory has already been won: Dark Money has defeated Deep State.

Instead, there will only be 2020 “campaign” events, in which the hearings are ignored, focusing instead on the fact that free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick has not been signed by any team, and celebrating the fear apparently expressed by the N.F.L. of being on the wrong end of one of Trump’s famous attack-tweets. Two months in to an administration with no accomplishments (but tons of outrageous controversies) and he’s already “campaigning” for 2020? By using the power of the presidency to attack a football player?

Treason shmeason.

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Trump “campaigning”  in Louisville hours after hearing

There will be no apology for the preposterous lies defaming the previous president. Although he repeatedly promised that there will be “big things” revealed “very soon”, nothing is revealed. There is nothing to reveal.  His accusations have been fully repudiated by everyone who could actually support them.  Instead, Sean Spicer will go on repeating that nothing has changed and that Trump stands by his accusations.

There will be no public mention of the great success the “Obama tapped my wires” tweets actually achieved: knocking the scandal that Attorney General  Jeff Sessions lied to congress under oath off the internet, perhaps permanently.

There will be no mention of the fact that F.B.I. Director Comey would not acknowledge until now that this investigation has been taking place since July (Eight months? What takes eight months? Maybe it will take four years, and we can all just forget it!). No, you see, they are forbidden from acknowledging an investigation of “an American person” until it has concluded. Except if it is Hillary Clinton, that is, in which case you can make the investigation public, and then open another one two weeks before the election and make that one public as well.

In the meantime, Judge Andrew Napolitano, the very talented legal mind who divulged that Obama used GCHQ to “tapp Trump’s wires”, has been taken off the air. FoxNews doesn’t like the heat he brought down on them with his nonsense, though the President of the United States thinks the nonsense was just swell.

A couple of days before Napolitano’s idiotic “news” about GCHQ, Tucker Carlson was interviewing Trump and asking him why he wasn’t producing any evidence for his claims about Obama tapping his wires as the intelligence agencies and congress had none. Trump said he “will be submitting things” to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence “very soon.”.  He didn’t submit anything, of course. And then Napolitano took the stage. It seemed perfect cover for Trump: of course the FBI and CIA would deny knowledge of the “tapping”, because Obama went over their heads (in violation of the Five Eyes requirements) directly to GCHQ. That explains it! See? Trump was right all along!

Except it doesn’t explain it. If he were relying on this particular bit of fabrication, he would have had to have known about it at the time of the original March 4 tweets. He only heard Napolitano’s story weeks later. What are the options (other than Trump is a psychotic liar)? That he got the “information” from Napolitano weeks before it went public? That he planted the story with Napolitano when it started to go bad for him? That FoxNews was complicit in the lie and sidelining Napolitano is part of the show so they can retain credibility as a “news” outlet (as if!)? Heads I win, tails you lose.

And what if the Republican congress did come to its senses and impeach rather than just circling the wagons? Does anyone think Trump would just roll over and let it happen? He’d just ignore the whole thing, play some golf, tweet out a few choice words about something his base really cares about, say  Arnold Schwarzenegger and his crappy ratings. The “impeachment” story was a fake. It never happened. It was fake news put out by the Failing New York Times and that loser, Crooked Hillary, to cover up their losing loserness.

Onward.