President Obama's End-of-Year Press Conference

President Obama at his end-of-year press conference (transcribed by the White House):

So I do think it's worth us reflecting how it is that a presidential election of such importance, of such moment, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates, came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks. What is it about our political system that made us vulnerable to these kinds of potential manipulations — which, as I've said publicly before, were not particularly sophisticated.

This was not some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme. They hacked into some Democratic Party emails that contained pretty routine stuff, some of it embarrassing or uncomfortable, because I suspect that if any of us got our emails hacked into, there might be some things that we wouldn’t want suddenly appearing on the front page of a newspaper or a telecast, even if there wasn’t anything particularly illegal or controversial about it. And then it just took off.

I mean, think about it. Some of the people who historically have been very critical of me for engaging with the Russians and having conversations with them also endorsed the President-elect, even as he was saying that we should stop sanctioning Russia and being tough on them, and work together with them against our common enemies. He was very complimentary of Mr. Putin personally.

That wasn’t news. The President-elect during the campaign said so. And some folks who had made a career out of being anti-Russian didn’t say anything about it. And then after the election, suddenly they’re asking, well, why didn’t you tell us that maybe the Russians were trying to help our candidate? Well, come on. There was a survey, some of you saw, where — now, this is just one poll, but a pretty credible source — 37 percent of Republican voters approve of Putin. Over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB. Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave.

I do hope that we all just take some time, take a breath — this is certainly what I’m going to advise Democrats — to just reflect a little bit more about how can we get to a place where people are focused on working together based on at least some common set of facts. How can we have a conversation about policy that doesn’t demonize each other. How can we channel what I think is the basic decency and goodness of the American people so it reflects itself in our politics, as opposed to it being so polarized and so nasty that, in some cases, you have voters and elected officials who have more confidence and faith in a foreign adversary than they have in their neighbors.

And those go to some bigger issues. How is it that we have some voters or some elected officials who think that Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative and school nutrition program is a greater threat to democracy than our government going after the press if they’re issuing a story they don’t like? I mean, that’s an issue that I think we’ve got to wrestle with — and we will.

People have asked me how do you feel after the election and so forth, and I say, well, look, this is a clarifying moment. It’s a useful reminder that voting counts, politics counts. What the President-elect is going to be doing is going to be very different than what I was doing, and I think people will be able to compare and contrast and make judgments about what worked for the American people.

Evidence that Trump Colluded with Putin

I believe the legitimacy of the November 8 election hinges in part upon whether Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government in order to win the election. There are many pieces of circumstantial evidence that he did.

Trump's July 27 Press Conference

On Wednesday, July 27, Donald Trump said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing”. He started that same press conference by saying, “so it's been 235 days since crooked Hillary Clinton has had a press conference, and you as reporters who give her all these glowing reports should ask why, and I'll tell you why”. Ironically, that July 27 press conference is his most recent.

Inviting Russia to hack Secretary Clinton's email was unquestionably a misstep, but by Trump standards it was only a moderate gaffe if you assume that Trump had no knowledge or involvement with the DNC hacking. Remember that this was the same candidate who picked a fight with the Khan family, attacked a Miss Universe contestant for her weight, called for jailing Secretary Clinton, hinted that second amendment advocates could assassinate Secretary Clinton, and mocked a disabled reporter. In that context, half-jokingly calling on Russia to hack into Secretary Clinton's email would hardly be noteworthy if he had no communication with the Russian government.

If Trump was colluding with the Russian government to break into Secretary Clinton's email, this was a huge blunder — big enough to warrant making it his last press conference of the campaign. He did exactly that.

The Third Debate

On May 27 Trump said (48:28), “I spoke directly and indirectly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer”.

Five months later at the third debate (47:16) Trump made the statement, “I don't know Putin”. Neither the moderators nor Secretary Clinton implied that he knew Putin. It is highly suspect that Trump felt the need to deny knowing Putin when no one said he did.

The Wisconsin Rally

At the Wisconsin Rally of his thank you tour, he said about Dr. Jill Stein, “she got less than one percent but she thought she was going to catch us”. Dr. Stein was only asking for a recount, not a criminal inquiry. Yet Trump used the phrase “catch us” as if Trump had something to hide.

Trump's Conspiracy Theory

On October 13 Trump said, “we've seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors”. Ignore the fact that the WikiLeaks documents reflect no such thing. At the time this seemed like an absurd accusation to make about either candidate.

Based on Trump's alleged relationship with Russia, his increasingly apparent conflicts of interest, and his absurd choices of cabinet nominees, it is clear that this accusation was an exhibition of one of his narcissistic tendencies: projecting his own motives onto his opponent.

Conclusion

Our intelligence agencies undoubtedly have much more knowledge about the existence of a Trump-Putin relationship than we do, but these events combined make it seem very likely that Trump colluded directly with the Russian government to illegally win the election.

Letter to the Office of Government Ethics

I just sent this letter to the Office of Government Ethics:

I am a citizen from Massachusetts. I am writing because I am concerned about the President-elect's conflicts of interest from his business. I am also concerned that your office sent out a tweet storm Wednesday congratulating the President-elect on his announcement that he will leave his business. His commitment to leave his business is vague. It is likely that he will retain a financial interest in his business, and that his children will be running his business. That does not constitute a blind trust. I hope that the Office of Government Ethics intends to more diligently ensure that the President-elect is not subject to conflicts of interest.

Thank you for your time.

I sent it to both their email address (ContactOGE@oge.gov) and to their postal address:

U.S. Office of Government Ethics
1201 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005

If you agree with the sentiment, I encourage you to do the same. I called the office, but was unable to find someone charged with taking messages from the general public.

Why I Oppose Trump Taking the Oath

I am in favor of several movements to stop Donald Trump taking the oath of office, such as this petition for the Electoral College to elect a President other than Trump.

My lack of confidence in Donald Trump goes far deeper than his positions, his conflicts of interest, and his incompetence. I am not confident that Trump will not launch a nuclear attack over matters as insignificant as those behind his Twitter attacks. I am not confident that Trump will allow free elections to happen during his Presidency. I am not confident that Trump will leave the White House peacefully when his term expires or after he is impeached and convicted of a crime.

Some warn that preventing Trump from taking the oath of office after what is believed to be a fair election will lead to civil war and destruction of our democracy. This is a valid concern and one I take seriously. However I also question the ability of our democracy to survive a Trump Presidency. Given the nuclear weapons under the control of the executive branch, I question the ability of human civilization to survive a Trump Presidency.

It is not too late for Democrats to take back the Senate

The election is over and 52 individuals who are currently registered as Republicans have been elected to serve in the 115th Congress, but I cannot believe that those 52 Republicans share Donald Trump's vision of America. Many Republican senators either withdrew their early endorsements of Trump or opposed him from the beginning.

The 2016 Republican Party is not the party that Republican senators joined. It is a party following the lead of Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Trump's campaign statements were inconsistent enough to leave a glimmer of hope that his intentions were less horrific than some of his promises, but early signs paint a picture that is even more bleak.

One glimmer of hope is that the Republicans have a narrow 52-48 majority in the Senate. I believe that convincing two or three Republican senators to leave the Republican Party is achievable. The senators can either join the Democratic Party or serve as independents caucusing with the Democrats. This would create the system of checks and balances that our political system is supposed to provide.

My best guess is that the Republican senators most likely to consider this are Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Senator John McCain of Arizona is a career staunch Republican, but I doubt that even he wants Trump to take office without a strong opposition party.

A Democratic Senate would be a step toward providing the checks and balances needed to limit the damage of a Trump administration. It would help to prevent an extremist from taking a seat on the Supreme Court and to prevent hate-motivated legislation from passing.

Removing the Republicans' control over the Senate needs to happen, but it will not happen by itself. We all need to campaign hard for it.

Regardless of the political party of your Senators, please call them. If you are calling the office of a Republican senator, point out that the Republican Party has become one of white supremacy, misogyny, antisemitism, and homophobia — something very different from the Republican Party that the senator joined. If calling the office of a Democratic senator, ask that the Senator discuss this with his or her Republican allies in the Senate.

For my friends here in Massachusetts, Senator Ed Markey's office can be reached at 617-565-8519 and Senator Elizabeth Warren's can be reached at 617-565-3170. The Senate web site has phone numbers for current senators. If you have a newly-elected senator who is not in office yet, call the campaign office. This tweet storm by a former Congressional staffer has great advice. One of those pieces of advice is that phone calls are far more effective than email or any other medium. Talk to a human who is listening to you. Don't just leave a voice message.

Please put forward a significant effort to making this happen. Call the offices of senators that represent your state. Ask your friends and family to do the same. Tweet. Blog. Post on Facebook. We can do this.

Updated 11/15/2016 to account for the runoff race in Louisiana.

Updated 12/20/2016 to reflect the fact that the Louisiana runoff race is over.

The Democratic Party

Yesterday I wrote the following:

Today the Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump. The party of Mike Pence. The party of blood coming out of her wherevers. The party of grab her by the… The party of travel bans for members of some faiths.

The Democratic Party nobly fights for many causes with which some will reasonably disagree. It fights for gun control in an effort to stop the wave of mass shootings that has plagued this country, but some believe that strict gun laws create an environment where only criminals have guns. It fights for a system in which health care is available to everyone regardless of his or her ability to pay, but some believe that government-managed health care creates so much bureaucracy that it reduces the quality of available health care while also increasing the cost. It fights for a progressive tax system so that the government can afford to provide services without straining those with low income, but some believe that this creates a system where the financially successful are unfairly penalized.

I have immense respect for third parties, but let's face it: the Democratic Party is the only party with a prayer of getting us out of this mess within the next four years. In order to do so it needs to quickly become the party behind which we can unite.

It needs to simplify the platform. It needs to become a single-issue party. It needs to become the party against fascism, against bigotry, against misogyny, against hatred, against discrimination. It needs to fight for the members of all races, all religions, all sexual orientations, and all gender identities.

Debates about gun control, health care, taxes, and many other issues should be had but they are trivial in the context of this country's crisis. As it stands today, there are many good reasons for someone to have reservations about getting behind the platform of the Democratic Party. This is healthy in a democracy in which both major parties have great intentions but different opinions. Sadly that no longer describes this country.

The Republican Party

Republican politicians like to claim that theirs is the party of Abraham Lincoln and the party of Ronald Reagan. It is not. A political party is made up of its current leaders, its current ideologies, and its current actions. The Republican Party was the party of Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s. It was the party of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Today the Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump. The party of Mike Pence. The party of blood coming out of her wherevers. The party of grab her by the… The party of travel bans for members of some faiths. The party of the birther movement. The party of I'll keep you in suspense. The party of fat shaming women. The party of you have to go after the families. The party of 3am Twitter tantrums. The party of building a Berlin Wall between ourselves and our neighbors in Mexico. The party of I never said that. The party of conversion therapy. The party of leaving a Supreme Court seat vacant for a year.

Many politicians and voters joined and supported the Republican Party because of what it was. It has become something different, something horrific. If you are a member of the Republican Party, I implore you to reconsider your party affiliation. My greater hope is that Republican Senators and Representatives leave the party, removing its power from the legislative branch.