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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) This is Part 2 of a live-read of Michael Wolff's FIRE AND FURY. The thread includes brief excerpts from the book and analysis of what each may mean for the Russia probe. A link to Part 1 of the live-read is in the thread.

Hope you'll check it out and share with others.
Here's a link to Part 1 of the live-read. 1/
This is a more significant observation than most realize. A primary effect of Trump using Hicks and Jr. as information firewalls—for both emails and direct messages—is that he could pretend he hadn't been involved in anything involving Russia and therefore it'd never happened. 2/
Trump's competence is a more serious issue than jokes about him being a "very stable genius" allow. Wolff describes an atmosphere in which criminal conduct involving Russia could occur and Trump could actually convince himself he wasn't involved because he wasn't in the room. 3/
What Wolff describes is an actual mental defect not unknown in the criminal justice system. I've seen it before myself: people who refuse to accept any fact that wasn't personally observed by them and who "forget"—actually or intentionally—much of what they *were* present for. 4/
I think it's possible for Trump to have been told by Don and Jared about the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 and for him to then deny he had any knowledge of it—because he wasn't present for it, and his particular defect enables him to believe it therefore *did not happen*. 5/
When Trump says, therefore, that "there was no collusion," it should be reported by U.S. media as a possible product of the same clinical or non-clinical defect that allowed Trump for years to value his company—in actual filings—on the basis of how he *felt* about the company. 6/
Trump won't admit collusion because a) he has his own definition of it; b) his definition is tautological—set so collusion *couldn't* have occurred; c) anything he wasn't present for didn't happen; d) he can't recall what he *was* present for; e) if he did, he'd lie about it. 7/
So anything Trump says on Russia is almost definitionally not news—with the one exception in the last 18 months being his statement he was thinking about Russia when he fired Comey. But of course that was just his present sense impression of a situation—he *conceded* nothing. 8/
I understand such analyses of Trump's mental state seem like "soft" analyses—but realize that defense lawyers do such analyses of what their clients are and aren't capable of regarding the truth all the time. And the president's mental capacity is now a *deadly* serious issue. 9/
Wolff reports, in FIRE AND FURY, that, incredibly, Donald Trump couldn't actually remember many of his campaign promises—so he had Bannon tell him what they were.

Contrast that—if you will—to his ongoing, never-forgotten commitment to boot-lick for Vladimir Putin. Striking. 10/
Wolff's account of Trump admits two explanations for why the GOP won't stand up to him: 1) GOP leaders consider *themselves* to be running the country, as Trump "will sign whatever is put in front of him" (McConnell), or 2) they feel Trump would fracture the party if crossed. 11/
I think discussion of why the GOP won't stand up to Trump has reached its endpoint. Either Trump is simply the most pliable POTUS the GOP will ever have, so it's party over country, or Trump will take half the GOP with him if the GOP crosses him—so, again, party over country. 12/
Either of those explanations—both more satisfying than the somewhat ridiculous third, which is that Trump (or Putin) has kompromat on every GOP leader, which I don't at all believe—allow us to remove the GOP from Trump debates on account of them being (if "small-t") traitors. 13/
So my reading of Wolff is he lets us remove the cruft from Trump-Russia discussions. What Republicans say? Immaterial—it's party over country from here till the end. What Trump says? Immaterial—he's mentally unfit. Media pretending Trump has an agenda or values? Must end now. 14/
In this respect—though the book is more gossipy than political—FIRE AND FURY gives Democrats, independents, and frankly anyone who cares about Americans' safety and security a battle plan: Ignore Trump; ignore the GOP; protect Mueller; and regain control of Washington—*ASAP*. 15/
Post-FIRE AND FURY, time spent psychoanalyzing Trump, analyzing what his administration "wants," or asking why Republicans won't fight to protect their country is wasted time—not just for activists but for media. It's time to get on with the business of protecting the nation. 16/
I'm sorry for the delay. Had to deal with a troll. Back now. 17/
I hadn't come to it yet when I made my earlier comments, but this part of FIRE AND FURY, about Priebus and Ryan, confirms that Trump gave Paul Ryan "carte blanche" to enact his cruel, draconian domestic agenda.

It explains why Ryan has put party over country so assiduously. 18/
We're of course in the realm of conjecture here, but the psychological profile Wolff establishes of Kushner—such as it is—suggests a young man who, dare I say it, *would* turn on his compatriots if Mueller indicts him on multiple federal charges and threatens him with prison. 19/
Either Jared went rogue during the campaign—in calling Kislyak multiple times—and transition—meeting with Kislyak and Gorkov—or despite being (per Brad Parscale) Trump's de facto Chief of Staff, he was following orders. If the latter, hard to see how he won't turn eventually. 20/
Mueller has Kushner on SF-86 violations and possible additional charges relating to his clandestine plan to use a Russian SCIF to contact Moscow (Malcolm Nance called that espionage). But he's also used Flynn to trap—in the *nonlegal* sense—Jared into Making False Statements. 21/
For that reason, Jared and Don are the most likely "big" indictments that could come in 2018. But whereas Don presents as being so cowed by his dad that he'd go to jail for him, were I Mueller I'd target Jared for a flip—because he's not blood and has the personality for it. 22/
I love this idea—which Wolff doubles and triples down on in FIRE AND FURY—that the "White House leaker" rankings actually go like this, despite all Trump's ravings on the subject throughout 2017:

#1 Trump Himself
#2 Trump's Son-in-Law
#3 Bannon

The man who's really the mystery at the heart of FIRE AND FURY is Mike Pence. Promised that he'd be the most consequential VP ever, Pence appears to have meekly accepted his lot as a VP even *less* consequential than fellow Indianan Dan Quayle. Unless—unless—that's not true. 24/
Pence was running the transition—but conveniently in Indiana—at its most compromised moment, when Flynn was committing a crime by negotiating with Kislyak and transition team members were conspiring with him to assist him in committing that crime. But—again—was it purposeful? 25/
From all I've read of Pence, he's no genius, but smart enough to see that if he stayed away from *everything* his boss was into he might back his way into the presidency from a sure-shot loss in his next Indiana gubernatorial race.

In which case, don't expect an indictment. 26/
When it looked for a moment like Pence was at Mar-a-Lago when Flynn called there on December 29, 2016 looking for advice, I was momentarily ever so slightly bullish on a Pence indictment for Making False Statements. But he was in Indiana. So now there are *no* leads on Pence. 27/
But if Pence is—based on what we know, and based on what we know of what Mueller is looking at—in the clear (so far), one has to go back to that question I said we should skip: why won't the GOP dump Trump and accept Pence as POTUS? I think it's because of a fear of Trump. 28/
Wolff makes clear that—as much of a fool as Trump may be—you don't want him as an enemy. And he's able to inspire and enthrall a certain subset of the electorate. If he feels the GOP isn't "protecting" him—and think of how much that topic has been in the news—he'll lash out. 29/
One wonders if the message Trump is giving when he says Sessions should be "protecting" him—and the message he sent in enlisting so many aides to try to *get* Sessions to protect him—is that those who don't protect him can and perhaps will be done in by him. Like—say—the GOP. 30/
Note: Sebastian Gorka—as bizarre a Trumpworld figure as there is—first appears on pg 128, at a time the narrative is in February 2017. But don't you wonder where he was, what he was doing, and who he was talking to in '16 such that he ended up beside the seat of power in '17? 31/
That's especially so given Gorka's close ties to Hungary—where the FSB (Russian intelligence) HQ for Europe is located. We already know three (three!) Trump NatSec advisors went to Hungary to make high-level contacts: Page, Schmitz, and Gordon. Where was Gorka then? I wonder. 32/
Here's Priebus—the GOP flack in Trump's orbit—speaking at CPAC.

Take his statement and reverse it: if the party's rep in the Oval extols Trump for being the only person able to bring the GOP together, isn't he also—definitionally—at least *one* person who can tear it apart? 33/
Here's Wolff describing Trump at CPAC (quotes are Trump speaking).

This is my second-favorite excerpt from the book so far (first one was referenced in live-read Thread #1).

Way too much of this book is quotes. Wolff liberally quotes sentence after sentence by, well, just about everyone. No quote-selection happening here at all, just data-dumps of—right now—the rambling of Richard Spencer. Yes, the neo-Nazi.

So, like, that's pretty bad writing. 35/
{musical interlude}

Donald Glover—genius. (Lyrics NSFW.) 36/
Wolff says—in no uncertain terms—Jared and Ivanka plotted to take over the White House, in the absence of a real leader there. That's an extraordinary claim—and justifies the book's insider focus. The Bannon, Priebus, Kushner fight was a fight to control the Executive Branch. 37/
Wolff mentions—*multiple times*—that Trump has a phobia about aging, and *specifically* age-related ailments like memory loss and physical deterioration. It's clear, from this, that Trump's anger at Wolff and FIRE AND FURY is *primarily* about it revealing his memory issues. 38/
It's scary how easily Trump is played. Per Wolff, all Ivanka had to do was tell her dad that if even a single word of his first address to Congress were written by Bannon, Bannon would "take credit" for the whole thing. Trump wanted "credit," so Bannon got iced out entirely. 39/
Trump's response to WaPo reporting Sessions had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: "So what?"

And that summarizes it for me. It's clear that Trump wanted Sessions to negotiate sanctions and couldn't understand why *anyone* should stop him from making that happen. 40/
We vastly *underestimate* Trump's disregard for the law. If the law stops him from doing what he wants, who cares? His mantra has been, let 'em sue—I have more money and lawyers. Was it illegal to have Sessions negotiate sanctions? Who cares—who's going to stop me? Like that. 41/
Notice that Trump's first defense to an aide doing something illegal/unethical has been, "I didn't tell them to—but I *would* have." That way he clears himself of liability; emphasizes his authority; and undercuts the longstanding rule of law in American politics all at once. 42/
See? *This* is why I did a thread on Brian Ross today. Ross was permanently demoted by ABC for reporting that Trump told Flynn during the campaign to negotiate with Russia. Instead, it was the transition. But from this response we *know* it'll turn out to be the campaign too. 43/
Do you think a man who speaks like that—Tweet #43—didn't *order* aides to talk to Russia? Do you think a man like that is *so aware* of The Logan Act—as Sam Clovis was—that he'd tell aides to *talk to*, but not *negotiate*, with Russia? Really? Trump—the ever-negotiating pol? 44/
Here's my point: the final defense of Donald Trump against impeachment will be, "You say it's illegal, but I don't see *why*. It *shouldn't* be illegal. What I did is what politicians *should* do. And you're only hassling me because I *won*." And you know what? It could work. 45/
This is Trump's Great Gambit: that American politics has been so polarized, and the rule of law so degraded, that Americans will pick-and-choose when they think federal law should matter. And Trump will encourage them: "Didn't they pick-and-choose with *Hillary*? Why not me?" 46/
I've been emphasizing a year now that Trump violated the law, because he did—flagrantly and repeatedly. But as an attorney, I know that the law is only as strong as the culture into which it's put and the people tasked with enforcing it. In this respect, America is in danger. 47/
Sometimes a friend or family member or acquaintance will ask me, "Do I have a cause of action in this situation?" And I'll say, "Well, it's a two-part question when it comes to civil actions—do you have a cause of action? And is it worth the effect on your life to pursue it?" 48/
This is where America stands right now. That Mueller will refer impeachable causes of action to Congress is—to me—beyond doubt, *just* based on publicly reported information. No theories and no partisanship. But will America demand action? Will Congress feel compelled to act? 49/
Trump is pushing America toward lawlessness—and intentionally—because that's the sphere he's operated in in real estate for decades. "Oh, I screwed over a contractor? Okay, does he have the money—or will—or fortitude—to sue me? No? Then it didn't happen." That's where we are. 50/
So *no*—you *can't* negotiate a unilateral dropping of sanctions with Russia in the midst of a presidential campaign during which you discovered they're committing cyberwar on America. It's a crime. But if America asks, instead, "Well, but *should* it be, though?" we're lost. 51/
So people like Michael Smerconish can say that discussing Trump's mental condition, makeup and capabilities is bad form—somehow beside the point—but as a criminal attorney I'm saying that, *when the criminal is powerful*, sometimes those things actually *determine* the issue. 52/
I've been analyzing the Trump-Russia investigation as an American attorney who worked for years on behalf of average Americans—not as an attorney for the rich. Because the moment we use Rich Man's Rules here, we're lost. Trump will convince the system not to care what he did. 53/
Every time I hear a white-collar prosecutor or defense lawyer look at a fact pattern—Trump's—in which any poor or nonwhite person would've been charged with Obstruction 20 times over already and say, "Well, but was there, er, a pattern?" I lose it. Because that's not the law. 54/
Go ahead—look at the statutes. Look for the word "pattern" or the words "pattern of conduct." Not there. Because those are the sort of invisible words that exist for men like Trump and let him screw over contractors for years with impunity. They don't exist for everyone else. 55/
In Trumpworld—per Wolff—Trump can just *declare* Sessions never spoke with Kislyak "as a campaign surrogate" (though he did) and the mere fact Sessions is a Senator enables us all to pretend that, hey, maybe he gets a pass? Maybe he *wasn't* acting as a surrogate? But he was. 56/
Sessions met Kislyak at the Mayflower as a Trump surrogate—unquestionably. He met him at the RNC as a surrogate at *that* event—unquestionably. And it was at the RNC that he *personally* set up the third meeting with Kislyak. Only a rich man could say, "No, not my surrogate!" 57/
There are *many* attorneys analyzing the Trump-Russia case. And guess what—most made a lot more money than me in the law, as I was a public defender, not a private defense attorney or a federal prosecutor. But that means I saw every day how the poor—not the rich—are treated. 58/
The media, Dems, independents, and American voters of all stripes have to realize that we get the government and the politicians we permit ourselves to be stuck with: if we communicate to them that they'll always get Rich Man's Law, they won't look a gift horse in the mouth. 59/
In mid-2016, I took a minority view on the Clinton email case—an incredibly dangerous and unpopular one for a Democrat. I said that, *by the letter of the law*, she had indeed committed a crime. But that the lack of the highest level of intent meant it was a lesser offense. 60/
The highest level of intent wasn't required under the statutes in play, and indeed the law had rarely been used—like the Logan Act—but I felt justice required all people be treated equally. It wouldn't have ended her campaign; it would have been like a minor "status" offense. 61/
When Comey didn't charge Clinton, I worried—not because I thought what she did was morally repugnant in any serious way but because I did assess it to have been illegal. So I worried that her getting a different justice than most would come back to haunt her. And then it did. 62/
I endorsed Clinton during the DNC and voted for her in November, and still would have voted for her had she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and received probation for a status offense. But I think we always do hold famous people to a lesser standard—and I think that's wrong. 63/
Sometimes, that double-standard comes back to bite us—say, because middle-class federal agents decide to take umbrage to it, as they did with Clinton, and retaliate. But now Trump is seeking Rich Man's Law. And I worry GOP voters have decided Trump is somehow a special case. 64/
I think the job of a citizen—as much as any attorney—is to hold all people to the same standard under the law. Clinton, Trump, a homeless man, a middle-class Latino dad, a schoolteacher. Sentencing can always be used to even out imbalances—but the law must always be the same. 65/
Trump was the least qualified person ever to run for president, and Clinton the *most* qualified (at least in the modern era). But they were both rich, and both had possible legal problems (mind you, Trump's were *far, far, far* worse). But all of this, I fear, will haunt us. 66/
As the effort to impeach Trump builds, the failure to charge Clinton with a minor status offense will—as I predicted in '16—haunt us. It may well be Trump's Get Out of Jail Free card—and he knows it. All I can do is be consistent in seeing the law as it applies to all people. 67/
As a public defender—working 10+ cases at a time in court—I well know that people who commit crimes often *aren't* bad people. Many are regular folks who did stupid things—like Hillary was stupid with her server. But we've politicized crime—making anyone who commits one evil. 68/
But guess what? When we then uncover an evil person—like Trump—who committed evil acts, he gets to point to anyone who he said got "special treatment" as a way of implicitly demanding it for himself. Hillary's a good person; Trump, slime. But now he can equate himself to her. 69/
I know people want pundits who say things they like, but I'm not a pundit—I'm an attorney. And Trump won't slither out of this because he didn't commit a crime—he did—but because he'll convince Americans to treat the '16 election as a "wash," legally speaking. Just watch him. 70/
That's the reason that he'll *never* stop mentioning "Crooked Hillary." Because as long as Republicans think she got away with something—even if it was something minor and stupid and nothing anyone would go to jail for—he'll be able to convince them that he had carte blanche. 71/
Understand that all I've said here only has to do with July '16—once the case was closed, there was zero justification for reopening it. Which means that it shouldn't have impacted the election. And it wouldn't have, if not for rogue agents in the NYC field office of the FBI. 72/
Wolff establishes that Kushner quickly saw the legal threat to him when—in his view—Bannon leaked word of his December '16 meeting with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. That's because Kushner—horrid but not a sociopath—suspected he didn't have his dad's "legal invisibility" cloak. 73/
The reason many top Democrats fear that Obstruction won't be enough to impeach Trump is because many voters see this (stupidly) as a "legal wash" election between Trump and his opponent. They may be right—Dems may *have* to prove (small-t) treasonous conduct to get Trump out. 74/
So *any* indication we have from Wolff in FIRE AND FURY—and we do have some—that Trumpworld (if not Trump) experienced consciousness of guilt about clandestine Russia meetings helps establish that those without a "legal invisibility" cloak knew what they were doing was wrong. 75/
What Mueller will now seek to do is use such men—like Kushner, like Flynn, like Manafort, even Sessions—to work up the chain of command and pierce Trump's "nothing I did was anything more than the usual hardball" *and* his access to Rich Man's Law (given to him by the media). 76/
If you're on board for an attorney who'll tell you how the law is applied in everyday America—not assess cases on the basis of how the rich and powerful are treated—I hope you'll stick around for the rest of my live-read later on and, generally, my analyses in months to come. 77/
Before I go, a status update: I'm now more than halfway through FIRE AND FURY. And—spoiler—it gets more boring as it goes on. Like... really, really boring.

But I'd still recommend buying it if you can, as it could end up being important historically, whatever its faults. 78/
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