Put Up V Shut Up

Finally – the Department of Justice has INDICTED STEVE BANNON!

Come Monday morning, it would have been two weeks since Steve Bannon thumbed his gin blossomed nose at the January 6 Committee and refused to honor their subpoena. The Committee referred the case to Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice — a luxury the Democrats didn’t have when Bill Barr ran the joint. Our collective expectation was for a kind of “justice on tap” — a thing we have not gotten (and never would have, I fear). Instead we’re having a kind of “deja vu all over again” moment reminiscent of the high hopes many of us felt when Robert Mueller was named Special Counsel. Though we pre-packaged him as a hero (and deservedly so — the man served valiantly in Vietnam, ran the FBI and stood atop a mountain of indestructible integrity. But the Mueller Report wasn’t the “put up or shut up” moment We The People both needed and craved. Bill Barr saw to that. He told us what he needed us to think the Report said — that it more or less exonerated Trump (it absolutely did not!) — and our “news media” happily went along with Barr. Fortunately, Barr no longer runs the DoJ. Fortunately — or unfortunately — Merrick Garland does now.

The Trump administration was a criminal enterprise from start to finish (actually, it hasn’t “finished” yet). The Republican Party knew a month before they nominated Trump to be POTUS that Putin owned him. They even discussed it amongst themselves but decided to keep that terrible secret a secret. That was a “put up or shut up” moment. The GOP leadership could have caught itself behaving treasonously and stopped. Surely, as they sheepishly looked around at each other on June 25, 2016, one of them must have thought “We better call the FBI!” But, no one did. Instead, per then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan’s admonition, everyone in that room agreed to stay silent. “That’s how we know we’re family,” said Ryan.

Shut up, in this case, equaled treason.

It’s now five plus years later. Having not dealt with this overt act of treason, we continue to live in its lengthening shadow. Our news media — though they themselves reported this remarkable story — still fail to see what a staggering revelation it is! How much more smoke can pour from a gun? The one time the news media stuck a mic in Kevin’s treasonous face to ask what he meant, Kevin gave the pat Republican answer: “I was kidding”. Oh, is that the “Get Out Of Treason Jail Free” card now? Ignore my words (and the context in which I said them) because otherwise, I’m screwed? Every time Trump said something even Republicans couldn’t back, he’d haul out “I was joking!” Fun fact? Not everyone has a sense of humor. The first tell that you don’t have one is you can’t laugh at yourself. Bullies laugh plenty — but never, EVER at themselves. When they laugh, it’s always AT others, at their weaknesses and frailties. When someone without a sense of humor claims absolution because “kidding”? They’re not just humorless, they’re damned liars, too.

We sensed on election day that Trump’s victory wasn’t “right”. In his entire life, Trump has never done anything legally when doing it illegally was open to him. Why, ffs, would he start with the presidency? Is anyone truly shocked that, over his presidency, Trump lied north of 30,000 times? If anything, I’m shocked the number of lies isn’t significantly higher but then I have a lower tolerance for bullshit than our news media does.

We are slowly twisting in the purgatory between Justice and injustice. Injustice plays by no rules. It can do what it wants when it wants to whomever it wants. Justice — in the form of the rule of law — has no such luxury. Not if it’s to be “the rule of law”. Playing by the rules takes time. It demands rigor and and faithfulness to a higher principle over personal desires. Bill Barr did pretty much whatever Trump wanted Barr to do with the DoJ. Joe Biden won’t — can’t — do that. “Can’t” is Biden’s nature because he believes so ardently in our democracy and its organizing principles.

That means, regardless of all our public pressure — even if we think we want Biden to put his thumb on Merrick Garland — really, we don’t. Or do we?

Ah, there’ that painful, dynamic tension again.

This will end one way or the other. There isn’t any middle ground. Now that Garland has forced Bannon’s hand and a Grand Jury has indicted him, the floodgates will open. Bannon will probably think he can tough it out behind bars. He should give Paul Manafort a call to see how Paul enjoyed his 23 months of prison dinners. Sure, Paul got out way ahead of time courtesy of a Trump pardon (which needs to be re-examined as pardons may not be given for illegal activity and treason is definitely “illegal”), but Paul really had no choice in the matter. When you climb into bed with Russian mobsters — and Putin, Deripaska, Kilimnik and every other oligarch is a stone cold mobster — you have to live (or died) by their rules. If Paulie Polling Data had flipped and connected the Trump dot to the Russia dot for the FBI and DoJ? Even the best new identity and relocation wouldn’t save Manafort. Eventually, he knew, they’d find him. And when they did? Ouch.

Bannon never owed Deripaska (or any Russian mobster) $17 million. An uber-Christian in love with the exclusivity of its dogma, he’s never been beholden to Russia; he merely shares an orthodox vision of the “Holy Land” with its mob boss. For all the terrible things Bannon is, he’s not stupid. He knows exactly what he’s doing — and he knows it’s treasonous. That’s why he doesn’t want to be placed under oath. That’s why, even if he is eventually placed under oath, he’ll plead the fifth. That will be Bannon’s undoing.

The folks around Bannon (and beneath him), they don’t have Bannon’s certainty, his white guy’s swagger and braggadocio. But they will have a sense of vertigo when it hits them that they’ve set themselves up for the not just failure but prison. Congressional staff, recognizing that if they say nothing, they’ll be implicated in the bigger crime, won’t so much “spill their guts” as spew them.

So far, the insurrection has only sent the low level foot soldiers to jail. The next tier up are only just starting to realize how expensive it is defending yourself against federal charges. Not wanting to bankrupt their families for a generation, some of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are pleading out already. Flipping. And other voices are popping up — pointing out all the “planning” sessions at the Willard “war room” in the days before the insurrection. Some, no doubt, are explaining where the money came from — to pay for the hotel and the food and the travel to get to DC.

When the flipping starts in earnest, all the good “deals” will dry up quickly. Then the perps will start looking for the best deals they can get and those will start to suck almost immediately. This is an organized crime carried out by organized criminals who have a political end in mind: permanent minority rule. The criminals now include pretty much the entire Republican Party (minus Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger). It ain’t rocket science connecting the Steve Bannon dot to the insurrection dot to the criminal conduct dot. The fun part will be when we connect the Russia dot to the Insurrection dot.

Does anyone really believe that, having succeeded in digging its hooks into Trump, would Russia really let a perfectly good insurrection go to waste?

The insurrection will lead us to a lot of things — treason especially. Not just “generic” treason but treason committed alongside a foreign enemy actively engaged in cyber war against us. Steve Bannon now has a much bigger problem than just prison dinner on his hands.

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