Graeme MacKay uses the matryoshka doll image well here, both because we all recognize the Russian toy and because, in this case, the layers of hiding boil down to that last tiny doll, the one that is just a little wooden nib at the end.
Mueller's indictments are important because they aren't simply accusations, but proof that, however much mewling and whining there may be over the "witch hunt," he persuaded a grand jury that he's got the goods. It's a legal truism that "you can indict a ham sandwich," but it's not easy to indict a dozen ham sandwiches, and it remains the first step towards convicting a ham sandwich.
Pretty good sign that something isn't kosher.
Several observers have noted that Mueller has no prayer of dragging any of these Russians into an American court, but that his announcement is a way of signalling "I've got the goods" and persuading so-far unindicted co-conspirators that they should probably start thinking of making a deal.
And on his website, MacKay notes that it's a way of persuading a few GOP legislators that perhaps they want to step away from the guy at the center of this, that lockstep loyalty is gonna get them hurt. He quotes John McCain to that end, but also Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse:
All patriotic Americans should understand that Putin is not America’s friend, and he is not the President’s buddy. We should stand united against Putin’s past and planned future attacks against us.
But being patriotic and standing united means being willing to pierce the layers of that doll to find out what's in the middle and ask Howard Baker's question: "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
Trump foils the inquiry a bit by playing the buffoon and by -- as Jeff Stahler notes -- changing his story so often that it's hard to pin down his current notion of what's what, and it's an interesting strategy, if he's doing it on purpose.
There was a time when a lot of people believed that the scandal under the umbrella term "Watergate" was simply "a third-rate burglary" conducted without Nixon's knowledge, but, as the investigation got closer to the top, Nixon had the problem of having earned the "Tricky Dick" nickname by underhanded tactics. It made it easier to believe that he must have known something was up, even before the tapes emerged.
By contrast, Reagan ducked responsibility for Iran Contra by being a genial buffoon, the issue there being two fold: One was that he was in the early stages of Alzheimer, which we didn't know, but there were jokes about his inability to focus and process what was going on. It would be hard for Trump to fake honest senility as a defense.
The other was that Reagan had the protection of an emerging rightwing media that turned Oliver North from a conspirator to a hero. His assistant, Fawn Hall, first became famous for helping him destroy evidence and then as the first celebrity guest invited to the White House Concubines Association Dinner.
But we're not there yet. We're currently at our
Juxtaposition of the Day
I don't agree with Gorrell that Strzok's testimony was unclear, but I certainly agree that everyone came away with whatever they brought in.
While I wasn't glued to the full ten hours of testimony, I heard several exchanges in which he tried to speak but was cut off, including some where he requested extra time to answer questions that had been piled on, one after another, interrupting his responses.
But this was a show trial, a political stunt for the cameras so that, as in Gorrell's cartoon, both sides could walk away confident that their point had been proven.
And it worked, such that some people would echo Matt Davies' viewpoint, that GOP inquisitors tried to studiously ignore the fact that they were saying the same things about Donald Trump at the same point in time, while Democrats on the panel gleefully brought it to the fore.
Others, however, walked away with the idea that, because Strzok had personal opinions which he expressed in emails to a girlfriend, it proves his work was tainted with prejudice.
Which, as he noted, doesn't explain why he didn't leak what he knew about the Russian issue before the election, but, more to the point, shows both a lack of knowledge of police work and a very foolish concept of "neutrality" in general.
As Strzok noted, everyone has personal viewpoints. The issue is whether you can keep them out of your work.
As a former reporter, I've been appalled at the conflicts of interest which have been routinely revealed at the national level, and not just at the WHCA dinner.
We were not to sport bumperstickers or buttons or to donate to political causes, and, while we could march in demonstrations, we were forbidden to take a visible role in them.
To be honest, my biggest conflict was that the biggest assholes are often the most charming. Neither element is supposed to show up in your work.
And, as I watched Strzok take both merciless grilling and hilarious support with the stone face Summers attributes to him, I was thinking that he was one helluva good cop. (Okay, he smiled at "Springsteen.")
What makes bad cops so appalling is that they let their personal feelings intrude on their business, whether that means shooting unarmed minorities or simply refusing to assist people they don't like. In my longhair days, I was street-hassled by Chicago cops and saw them beating the living shit out of peaceful demonstrators.
I've been around a lot of drug cases, one murder case and several silly but potentially harmful cases, and, in all of them, I saw the stone-faced neutrality that Strzok exhibited throughout yesterday's hearing.
As did those fellows sitting behind him, BTW,who sure look like the heat to me.
Perhaps it's easier when you know what's brewing. (Andy Marlette)