Saturday, July 8, 2017

Trump in Poland

President Trump wound up his one-day, stop-over visit to Poland with a public speech in Warsaw on Thursday morning.   A few points in the speech were of interest with regard to what stance he will take when he meets with Putin.  Will he confront Putin with Russian hacking and interfering in our 2016 election process?

During this Warsaw speech, as reported by the Associated Press and published in the Washington Post, Trump did affirm the United States' commitment to NATO's Article 5, which is the mutual defense agreement.   That corrects a concern from the NATO meeting a few weeks ago, when Trump pointedly refrained from affirming the US commitment to Article 5.

But here at the critical things regarding Russia, as reported by the Associated Press and published by the Washington Post on Thursday."President Donald Trump is calling on Russia to stop its destabilizing activities in Ukraine."   He also called on them to end support for "hostile regimes," specifying Syria and Iran.  Instead, he urged Russia to join the "community of responsible nations" in fighting common enemies and the defense of civilization.

His prepared speech did not mention the election hacking. But earlier, in a joint press opportunity with Poland President Andrzej Duda, Trump responded to a question about Russian meddling in our election.  He agreed "that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election," but he also repeated his assertion that he believes "other countries" may have done the same.   He did not elaborate, other than to say "nobody really knows for sure."   And then he downplayed the unanimity of the 17 security agencies, saying there were only a few.

That is not true -- they all agreed, and there are 17. Beyond that, the heinous thing Trump did was -- in a foreign capital, just prior to a meeting of international leaders, including Vladimir Putin -- to undermine the legitimacy and reliability of our own national security operations.   And I don't think he has any idea of how shocking that is -- and how damaging.  This whole thing about the election hacking drives him crazy;  because, if he has to admit it's true, then in his mind it calls into question the legitimacy of his election.

But at least, this way, he has officially not avoided these issues, even if he doesn't bring them up in his personal meeting with Putin.  The truth is, however, all of his Russia comments were about as mild as could be, hardly even a tap on Putin's wrist.   So we'll have to wait and see what he actually does in their joint meeting -- if we ever know.


Putin 1, Trump 0

Trump got his trip started with a relatively easy day in Poland, where he must have felt enviously comfortable with their conservative, autocratic new government.   Just as Trump would like to do at home, they have taken over the public-owned media and turned it into a propaganda mouthpiece controlled by the government, which hires and fires journalists.   They have also removed independent oversight of the secret service, moved to co-opt the courts, and put limits on media access inside the Parliament building.    That's the Polish Law and Justice Party.

Instead of taking a stand for press freedom, in this situation, Trump allied himself with the Polish president by complaining about the "fake new" he has to put up with at home.   So, we see the same pattern from Trump.   Rapport with the autocrats, awkward as hell with democratic leaders.   Really, he and Kim Jong-un would probably hit it off just swell.

But let's move on to Hamburg, Germany where the G-20 meeting and the Trump-Putin meeting are taking place.   This is based on a description by Alex Ward of  The big question was whether Trump would "hammer Moscow for its election meddling.   It seems he did so -- but in a way that makes the problem worse, not better."

Ward explains that Putin appears to have simply denied any involvement, and Trump accepted it at face value, even though "the entire US intelligence community believes the Kremlin mounted a sophisticated campaign to help him win the White House."

The meeting was limited to four people:   Trump, Putin, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.   According to Lavrov's account, Trump told Putin that this election thing was being exaggerated at home.  As Ward summed it up, "Russia got what it wanted . . . namely, the appearance that the Trump administration accepts that the Kremlin didn't interfere in the election."

The other big issue was the question of sanctions that are already imposed for Russia's Ukraine interference, as well as whether Congress will pass new sanctions for the election meddling (the senate has already passed it, 95 to 2).   Tillerson rather enigmatically said that "The president took note [of the sanctions issue]. . . [But] the two presidents -- I think rightly -- focused on how do we move forward?"

Ward's score:  "Trump -- the deal maker -- got outplayed by Putin. . . .  America's leader bought the Kremlin's denials of election meddling, facts be damned."

I'm not sure that's the correct assessment, however.   I don't think Trump really wanted to make any other deal.  For whatever reason we still don't understand, Trump has never seemed the least bothered by the Russian interference -- or, rather, he's only bothered by the fact that it is true;  because that suggests his "win" was not really a win.

Never does he seem like someone being forced to go along with the Russians.   Look at those happy pictures of his Oval Office meeting with Lavrov and Kisleyak.  Compare that with the grumpy, awkward pictures of Trump and Angela Merkel.  He's a happy camper with the Russians.   I don't think he wanted to do anything other than what he did in this meeting.  If it weren't for criticism back home, he probably wouldn't have even brought up the hacking or sanctions with his buddy, Putin.   He didn't really have to go as far as he did, saying to Putin, "It's an honor to meet with you."

The other issue was Syria, and here they're trying to make it seem like something was accomplished, by reporting an agreement on a ceasefire in Syria's southwest.  As Ward says, though:   "That's all well and good, but most of the fighting is in Syria's east and north. . . . Much of the country's southwest has already been flattened, so it's not readily apparent what the ceasefire will achieve."  The best that can be said is that it signifies a beginning of cooperation.  We'll see.

So far, anyway, reports suggest that the meeting's worst outcome was on the election meddling.   Trump's opposition to that is nothing new.  So it could have been worse.   But then our expectations of Trump are so low . . .


Friday, July 7, 2017

Ethics officials resign over the Trumps

An ethics officer at the Justice Department has resigned, saying that she can no longer perform the hypocritical task of asking companies to comply with rules that are being violated by the president and his administration.

Hue Chen said that questioning and evaluating companies about ethics compliance -- while knowing of the numerous lawsuits against the president, ranging from violations of the Constitution to firing prosecutors for pursuit of the facts -- felt like shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

"These are conducts I would not tolerate seeing in a company, yet I worked under an administration that engaged in exactly those conducts.   I wanted no more part of it. . . . "It has never been more important for every individual to speak and act on their conscience and belief."

We were still digesting the meaning of Ms Chen's resignation a few days ago, when yesterday Walter Shaub resigned.  He was Chairman of the Office of Government Ethics.   He said that the ethics rules are not strong enough to allow him to effectively stand up to President Trump and his family over what they are doing.   So he is leaving and joining an outside advocacy group that will work, from outside government, to strengthen ethics rules.

Asked whether he thought the Trump family is using the office to enrich themselves, Shaub replied that he doesn't know their intentions -- but, he said:  Americans should have the right to know what their intentions are.   But he added that, lacking information about their business and personal financial interests, there is no way of knowing.   And in such a situation "appearance matters as much as reality."


We are diminished by Trump's presidency

Ezra Klein, co-founder of, wrote about the Trump presidency and how it diminishes us all.   Some excerpts (written before the trip to the G-20 meeting) :

"Trump takes such glee in conflict, and cares so little for standards of decency or compassion, that his assailants often diminish themselves by betraying their own values out of desperation.  But this isn't just true of Trump's assailants.  It is true of all of us.   To consistently engage with Trump is to be diminished by him.  And we have all been diminished by his presidency."

"We are diminished when our president lies, and even more so when we begin taking his habitual lying for granted."

"We are diminished when our president uses cyberbullying as a communications strategy." 

"We are diminished when our president . . . knows nothing about the issues he faces, and does not try to learn more." 

"We are diminished when our political leaders excuse or ignore behavior they know is wrong."  

"We are diminished when the people who need America's mercy and protection most are harmed in service of lies and bigotry. . . .  The men, women, and children who will lose health insurance under the legislation the president has endorsed are the same people he promised to help." 

"We are diminished when the rest of the world comes to doubt our leadership and reliability. . . . when our president has little respect for the institutions and norms that have protected our country.  Trump has done his best to sow doubt about the legitimacy of America's electoral system, of its civil servants, or its courts, and of its media."

"A list like this can go on.  It is a measure of our diminishment how much is left off it -- how many outrages and disappointments have already faded from memory.   Six months into his term, Trump's policy achievements are few and thin, but he has coarsened our politics, shown the power of shamelessness, undermined our faith in each other and ourselves, modeled behavior we would punish children for exhibiting, and implicated all of us in the running fiasco of his presidency."

"He has diminished the country
he promised to make great."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Perils of a Putin-Trump meeting

In a New York Times article on July 5th, reporters Julie Davis and Glenn Thrush discuss the perils of President Trump's upcoming trip to Poland, to Germany for the G-20 meeting, and a one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin.

They say that Trump's aides see the meeting with Putin as the biggest risk of the trip.  His advisers have briefed him repeatedly and alerted him to the "potential risks, complex issues and diplomatic snags."  They continue:

"But even his top aides do not know precisely what Mr. Trump will decide to say or do . . . .  And that is what most worries his advisers and officials across his administration. . . .  The air of uncertainty about the meeting is only heightened by the president's tendency for unpredictable utterances and awkward topics."

In addition, there is Putin himself -- former head of the KGB spy agency and a trained master at reading people's vulnerabilities and taking advantage of them.  He once brought a labrador retriever to a sensitive meeting with Angela Merkel, knowing that she is afraid of dogs.

The Trump team says that he himself is not troubled by meeting Putin.   Instead, he is more concerned by "the prospect of being scolded by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and other leaders for pulling out of the Paris climate accords and for his hard line on immigration."

Although the meeting with Putin is being billed as a "one-on-one," it doesn't mean that the two leaders will be in a room alone.    The White House says the meeting will be a "formal bilateral discussion," rather than "a quick pull-aside at the economic summit meeting."   This will give the meeting more structure, with an agenda and aides present.   That format offers a bit more opportunity for expert advisers to help clarify or amend Trump's statements.

On the other hand, David Rothkopf, a renowned professor of international affairs at Columbia, recently conducted a panel on national security at the Aspen Ideas Festival which included Retired General David Petraeus.   Rothkopf says that he asked Petraeus if he thought Trump was fit to serve in this capacity.

Petraeus' response was, "It's immaterial."   He went on to explain that Trump's national security team is the strongest he has ever seen;  and that, where President Obama was "indecisive to the point of paralysis," Trump is "decisive."

I find myself in agreement with Rothkopf, whose response was:  "I was floored.   It was a stunningly weak defense."  He went on to write in an article titled, "The Greatest Threat Facing the United States is Donald Trump," which includes the following (, July 4):

"Later this week, [Trump] will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. . . . [T]he summit reveals why it is so dangerous to have an erratic president.  Much of U.S. foreign policy comes down to personal diplomacy conducted by the president and his actions in the wake of such meetings.   If a dedicated enemy of the United States and opportunist such as Putin determines to take advantage of Trump's narcissism, ignorance, paranoia, business interests or brewing scandals, he will do just that.  If he sees Trump's behavior as a tacit endorsement of his own thuggishness, he will seize the opportunity.

"Could Trump enter the meeting with good advice from the team that Petraeus and others admire so much?  Yes.   But they can't undo Trump's record, nor can they, we have learned, always shape the behavior of a man who has shown repeated propensity for ignoring the advice of his best allies.   That is one reason, according to reports, that European officials are deeply concerned about the outcomes of the meeting that will take place in Hamburg this week. . . ."

So what gives Petraeus such confidence that most of us can't summon when it comes to Donald Trump?   Petraeus himself is a complex man:  a brilliant four-star general, with a PhD in international relations from Princeton, serving with distinction at the highest level command posts before being made head of the CIA.   But then he had to resign in disgrace for having allowed his biographer (and secret lover) to use classified documents.   So -- great in some ways but flawed with poor judgment in others.

I think Petraeus' mistake in this instance is assuming that Trump would take advice -- or, for that matter, that he would even have the background to understand the basis for the advice.  Without that, in the give and take of negotiation, he would simply not be equipped to reason with a full deck.  And someone as clever and manipulative as Putin would leap to take advantage.

So, unlike Petraeus and in agreement with Rothkopf, Trump could have the best military tutors possible;   but, in turn, even if Trump were willing to be their puppet, he's simply not temperamentally fit to pull that off.
 We should be very worried.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A mild balm for my July 4th pessimism

Eugene Robinson, Pultizer Prize winning editorialist for The Washington Post and political analyst for MSNBC, wrote this powerful essay.  He's more optimistic than my rather dark musings about the future of our democracy.
"Our #FakeHero President Is An Insult to Our Founders"
Eugene Robinson

"The signers of the Declaration of Independence were highly imperfect men. Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Southerners were rank hypocrites for declaring 'all men are created equal' while owning men, women and children as their slaves.  John Adams was sour and disputatious . . . Benjamin Franklin could have been described as kind of a dirty old man.

"Yet they laid out a set of principles, later codified in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, that transcended their flaws. At this bizarre moment in our history, it is useful to remember that the ideas and institutions of the American experiment are much more powerful and enduring than the idiosyncrasies of our leaders.

"I call this moment bizarre for obvious reasons. . . . We have a president who neither understands nor respects the basic norms of American democracy. Make no mistake:  Donald Trump is a true aberration.  There is no figure like him in U.S. history, for which we should be thankful.

"Trump’s inexperience is unique; he is the only president never to have served in government or the military. This weakness is exponentially compounded by his ignorance of both policy and process, his lack of curiosity, his inability to focus and his tremendous insecurity. He refuses to acknowledge his shortcomings, let alone come to terms with them; and he desperately craves the kind of sycophantic adulation that George Washington, a genuine hero, pointedly rejected.

"Trump is a #FakeHero. He strings along his supporters with promises he has no idea how to keep. Like many a would-be strongman before him, he defines himself politically by the fights he picks; he erects straw men . . . because authoritarians always need enemies. Yet his ego is a delicate hothouse flower, threatened by the slightest puff of criticism.

"The Founders, mindful of their own faults, ultimately designed a system to contain a rogue president. They limited his elective term to four years, gave checking and balancing powers to the legislative and judicial branches, and designed impeachment as a last-ditch remedy. . . .

"The role of the citizenry — to express approval or disapproval at the ballot box — includes making sure that suffrage is not selectively and unfairly denied by restrictive voter-ID laws or partisan purges of the voter rolls. It is heartening that red states have joined blue in resisting the attempt by Trump’s trumped-up “voter fraud” commission to assemble a national list of voters. . .

"Congress must assert its powers of oversight. . . .  [T]he signers of the Declaration . . . saw the mingling of royal power and British commercial interests as corrupt. We now have a president whose far-flung business empire — which he has refused to divest, and which his family still operates — presents myriad potential conflicts of interest. Trump has deepened the swamp, not drained it; and Congress has a duty to sort through the muck.

"Congress must also let Trump know, in no uncertain terms, that any attempt to impede or disrupt special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election meddling will have the gravest consequences. Trump should be told that firing Mueller would automatically be considered grounds for impeachment.

"The justices of the Supreme Court, meanwhile, should study the court’s decisions in United States v. Nixon . . . and Bush v. Gore . . .  Both were instances wherein the court, which rightly shies away from decisions that determine who occupies the presidency, felt it had no choice but to act. It is no stretch to imagine that
Trump’s contempt for the Constitution will once again force the court’s hand.

"The Fourth of July is no day for despair. It’s a day to remember that our system, though vulnerable to a charlatan such as Trump, is robust and resilient. Eventually he will be tossed or voted out. And the star-spangled banner yet will wave."

It's worth noting that, although Robinson has faith in our system of checks and balances, he also sees the Trump presidency as one that will inevitably test the system -- and force the checking function to act.  That's how bad the situation is, and Robinson seems to agree with that.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

U.S. democracy is fragile, could be lost -- a pessimistic July 4th message

I grew up during World War II and its aftermath, a period of patriotic cohesion and cooperation that we don't have today.    Back then, despite the fear and real risks of losing that war, I never doubted the solidity of our democracy.   The Constitution was this inviolable rock that would weather any attack, any storm -- even a civil war fought against other Americans.   Even then the Constitution brought us back together.

That is what formed my confidence -- or, rather, what kept me from ever doubting that democracy would endure.   I'm not so sure anymore.    Democracy is under attack from without -- by Russia;   and from within -- by our own president, who seems to have little respect for it, and who tries to violate it when it thwarts his autocratic impulses.

What makes these times so fraught is that there may be some connection between the attack from without and the one from within, i.e. Russia and Trump.  The possibility of collusion is being investigated by the most unassailable, dedicated seeker of truth that could have been picked, Robert Mueller.    There's some comfort in that . . . as long as Trump refrains from firing him.  But let's look at what we face.

Sen. John McCain, who paid his patriotism dues in a Viet Nam prison cell, wrote an essay that USA Today published.  McCain begins:
"Vladimir Putin’s Russia is on the offensive against Western democracy. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. Russia attacked America’s 2016 election, attempted to interfere in France’s 2017 election, and is expected to do the same in German and other future European elections."
McCain then describes "the most disturbing indication of Putin's violent ambitions in October 2016 in the small Balkan country of Montenegro."  This was a plot by Russian intelligence operatives to overthrow the democratically elected government and murder its prime minister.

Why did Putin care about such a small country?   McCain points out that Montenegro, once part of the Russian sphere of influence, was now pursuing European Union and NATO membership.   It is also strategically located for a desired Russian naval base, and 40% of real estate is owned by Russian oligarchs.  Sound familiar?  (Crimea and Ukraine)

Fortunately the coup failed because one of the Serbian co-plotters got cold feet and backed out.   But, as details played out in the resulting court case, it showed how far Russia was willing to go and what lessons we Americans need to learn.

Russia was not plotting a direct attack.  The plot involved a campaign to destabilize the people's confidence in their government.  [We're already there, with Trump attacking congress, the judiciary, the press, plus making a mockery of the presidency.]  Then on election day in Montenegro, they would stage an attack by men wearing police uniforms, leading groups of protesters to storm parliament and declare victory for the opposition.  [In the US, substitute cyberattacks for police attacks.] 

Within 48 hours, a new Montenegro government would be formed and the existing officials arrested and thrown in jail.  [Our election outcome was certainly a surprise, even to the Trump camp itself.  We have proof of hacking and using the info for negative campaign ads against Clinton;  but we have no proof yet of tampering in the voting process.]  There was even a possible plan to hire American, private security guards for the Montenegro election day, which would provide the possibility of blaming the whole thing on the guards, and thus on America.  McCain concludes:  
"This heinous plot should be a warning to every American that we cannot treat Russia’s interference in our 2016 election as an isolated incident. We have to stop looking at this through the warped lens of politics and see this attack on our democracy for what it is: just one phase of Putin’s long-term campaign to weaken the United States, to destabilize Europe, to break the NATO alliance, to undermine confidence in Western values, and to erode any and all resistance to his dangerous view of the world. . . .  
"It won’t be long before Putin takes interest in another American election. . . .  We must take our own side in this fight — not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans. The Senate passed strong new sanctions against Russia this month by an overwhelming 97-2 vote. I hope the House will delay no further, send this bill to the president, and send a message to Vladimir Putin that America will stand strong in defense of our democracy."
This is a carefully crafted and strategically timed message from the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Will it be heeded by President Trump this Friday when he has his one-to-one meeting with Vladimir Putin?   Is he up to the task?    Or does he care?   Is he part of Putin's long-range plot?

Think what this could mean if Putin has some financial or scandalous hold over Trump.    That's what I mean by the connection between the threat to our democracy both from without and within.    Is Trump president as part of Putin's grand scheme?  Is he being blackmailed?   How much danger is our democracy really in?

We cannot afford, as a people or as political parties, to be divided, especially now.   The suspicions of "collusion with Russia" may turn out to be nothing.  But we don't know.   If it is as dire as our worst fears, this could turn out to be the greatest threat to the survival of democracy we have ever faced.  If we are divided, we will lose.  Trump seems to be doing everything he can to drive the wedge in, to divide us even more.

So, on July 4, 2017, I am not in a celebratory mood.   I don't know what can boost us out of this pit we have sunk into -- back up into a united nation.  We had it in WWII.   We had it for a while post-9/11.   How do we get it back, especially without a leader who wants to unite us, rather than pick petty fights?  Donald Trump is not the uniting leader we so badly need.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Carl Bernstein: "We're in the midst of a malignant presidency"

Carl Bernstein, partner with Bob Woodward in the extraordinary reporting on the Watergate scandal that helped bring down the Nixon presidency 45 years ago, said this on CNN's "New Day" program yesterday:
". . . .  We're in the midst of a malignant presidency.  And that malignancy is known to the military leaders of the country;   it's known to the Republican leadership in congress who recognize it;  and it's known to the intelligence community.
"The presidency of Donald Trump is not functioningIt's not functioning, partly because of his attacks on the press . . . But it's really not functioning because the character and the capabilities of this president are called into grave question, in a way that those who know him best are raising serious concerns about."
Bernstein acknowledged that it is the "greatest journalistic challenge of the modern era" to know how to cover this and "what it means and where it's going."

This was said on a CNN panel that was reacting to the latest tweet from Trump in his ongoing war with the media (most intensely aimed for the past few days at the "Morning Joe" anchors, although CNN is his ongoing punching bag).

But this latest vulgarism from the president on Sunday morning was a repurposed video of the president engaging in an impromptu wrestling/slugging match, ringside, with a WWW official.   The video had been doctored to place a CNN logo over the face of the guy he was pinning to the floor and punching.   It was blatantly violent -- although, if Trump were capable of sublety in messaging, you might think he meant that, like pro wrestling, this fight is fake.  But subtlety is not Donald Trump's style.   It's more likely meant to illustrate his oft-stated dictum:   you hit me, I hit you back ten times harder

One panelist was arguing that this was nothing to what you see on "Saturday Night Live" all the time.   That is an astonishingly dumb defense.   This is not a comic actor we're talking about.  This is the president of the United States of America, who leaves in just a couple of days to meet with the G20 world leaders -- including his first one-to-one meeting with Vladimir Putin.  This video will play on international television;  it will be on everyone's mind when they meet as an august body in Germany on Friday.

I think Bernstein is right.   There is serious concern about this president's mental and emotional capability to serve as our president -- at least right now.   Don't we have good reason to worry about what's going to be said between him and Putin, who is a master at manipulating people?  What if Trump just spouts off some crucial nuclear secret?   And don't  we also have good reason to worry about how he is going to represent our country in front of the whole world?

Is it time to invoke the 25th Amendment?


Sunday, July 2, 2017

More on "Election Integrity Commission"

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post on Trump's recently activated Election Integrity Commission, which is chaired by V.P. Pence and run by Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach.

See ShrinkRap, June 30 for the low-down on Kobach and commission member Hans von Spakovsky.   They are the leading purveyors of "voter fraud" propaganda who have been in positions to actually do harm -- Kobach as Kansas Secretary of State, now running for governor, and von Spakovsky in various positions in the Federal Elections Commission and in the Justice Departments' Civil Rights Division.

Kobach's letter sent to state Secretaries of State, asking for voters' data has already been denounced for being too intrusive and potentially violating privacy rights.   But now it's also being criticized as skewed with regard to what "integrity" means in this context.

 Is it the integrity of our voting laws and practices?   That is the kind of integrity (or lack) that leads to restrictive voting laws, corrupt election commissions and biased court decisions, as well as those of the local election officials.  Lack of such integrity can lead to voter suppression.

Or is the integrity and honesty of each individual voter's credentials that make them eligible to register and vote?   That would lead to "voting fraud," the virtually non-existent problem that nevertheless drives people like Koback, von Spakovsky and Donald Trump crazy.

So we have two competing problems.   One is a real problem that disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of our citizens, mostly minorities and the young and the elderly.  The other lacks evidence, but generates great furor in the right-wing Republicans, which they use manipulatively to suppress the vote by those more likely to vote Democratic.

Pence and Pence have been trying to present this new commission as a neutral effort to get the facts and make recommendations to improve people's trust in the system.  But Trump gave the game away with a tweet he sent out in response to some states not wanting to send data.   It said:  "Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL.  What are they trying to hide?"

Either he is totally clueless -- or he just has absolutely no impulse control in calling the commission a "VOTER FRAUD PANEL" -- and in CAPS, which in twitter-language is the equivalent of shouting.

Back to Kobach's letter of request to the states.   In addition to asking for voter data, he asks specific questions about problems they may have experienced in their states.   He asks both about evidence of "voter intimidation and disenfranchisement" and  about evidence of "voter fraud."   But the overall tone of the letter leans more toward concern about illegal voting.   Adding that to his reputation for an obsession with voter fraud, there's no doubt what he's fishing for.

Apparently the Commission has also asked for input from the public to send in their experiences and suggestions.   Here's one response from an unnamed source:

"Now, I'm no Secretary of State, but I sure as hell am American. . . .  My chief concerns?
   --  A president who . . . has yet to express his opposition to Russian interference in American elections.
   --  Massive purges of voter registration rolls without due process.
   --  Legislators who craft gerrymandered redistricting maps enabling politicians to choose their voters rather than the reverse.
   --  The Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v Holder, gutting the protections of the Voting Rights Act under the obviously false rationale that Americas is today a post-racial society.
   --  Voter suppression efforts targeted at voters of color, the working poor, and students.
   --  Antiquated voting systems vulnerable to state-sponsored tampering and conveniently producing no auditable paper trails.
   --  A Federal Elections Commission -- our democracy's watchdog -- that is toothless by design.
   --  The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v FEC, granting the wealthy few a louder voice in political campaigns than all other citizens combined.
   --  An advisory committee on election integrity led by a notorious champion of voter suppression."

And here are some responses from Secretaries of State:

California's Alex Padilla:  "I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of  Californians voted illegally. . .  California's participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the president, vice president, and Kobach.

Kentucky's Alison Lundergan Grimes:  "Kentucky will not aid a commission that is at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country."

Connecticut's Denise Merrill:  Said she would provide data that is publicly available, but she wanted more information on what Kobach -- who "has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas" -- is looking for and why this information is essential.

Mississippi's Republican Sec. of State:  "Commission members can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.'

These responses were before the even more toxic Hans von Spakovsky came on board.    See what happens when you destroy your own integrity?   Donald Trump will probably act shocked at how "unfairly" his commission is being treated by the media -- failing to see that it is his own actions, and that of his appointees, that destroyed trust.