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Trying to find the crime in the crime of the century, aka ‘Obamagate’

In my long-ago Arkansas days, a friend of mine had a saying for something unbelievably dumb that we were being asked, usually by a lying politician, to believe.

It went: “This is the test that separates the apes from human beings.”

Human beings (one assumes this is the point) are capable of rational analysis that is beyond the mental powers of even other highly evolved primates. 

At the moment, the latest such test is what Donald Trump and his crowd are calling “Obamagate.”

“Obamagate” is all the rage on the Fox News opinion shows, but I haven’t been able to find a transcript that makes clear to my poor simian brain what the enormous crime is, at least one worthy of the “Gate” suffix.

And Trump made a reference to it in front of the press the other day, which elevated it further and seems to have become central to the current Republican attacks on Obama’s former running-mate and Trump’s future opponent Joe Biden.

But I have been unable to find a coherent explanation of what “Obamagate” alleges, except that it was a serious crime or abuse of power, under Obama, with Biden implicated, that has something to do with Mike Flynn, the disgraced former Trump National Security Advisor who pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

In a recent press availability, after Trump made a reference to the horrors of Obamagate as a dastardly crime in which not only Obama but Biden were deeply implicated, Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker asked Trump to specify the crime at the heart of Obamagate, to which Trump nimbly replied: “You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody.”

He just couldn’t come up with the name of any known crime.

This is one of the tests the separates the apes from human beings.

When a human being accuses someone of a crime, a specific violation of a criminal statute, they are supposed to be able to name the crime and the statute and the facts showing how the accused individual committed the violation.

Until that exchange, I had sort of been ignoring the growing references on Fox News and other righty blogs and talk shows to “Obamagate”

But now that the president has said it, it’s time for him to specify the nature of the alleged crime and evidence – evidence that the authorities are prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt – that said crime occurred and was committed by the accused.

I spent much of this morning trying to find such an explanation of it. I note that Flynn, who was nominated, confirmed and briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser in 2017, had access to legal counsel before he pled guilty in December 2017 – that’s a year into the Trump administration – of lying to F.B.I. investigators about his improper communications with Russian officials, while acting on behalf of Trump, during the 2016 campaign.

Again, in the absence of a clearer explanation of what crime against Flynn is being alleged by Trump, and the fact that, when asked publicly, Trump couldn’t think of a crime to mention (even though it’s “obvious to everybody.”)

At the moment, I’m not part of the “everybody” to whom it is obvious. And, despite all of the discussion, I can’t locate a coherent statement explaining the crime. Or who committed it. Or when and how it happened.

Trump is now president and has been for three and a half years. The Justice Department works for him. Why has this crime (not Flynn’s crime, but the crime committed by some combination of Biden and Obama against Flynn) not been alleged in a criminal indictment?

In the storied history of the United States, has a sitting president ever made such an allegation and then refused to back it up, or even specify the crime he was alleging?

Comments (35)

  1. Submitted by Brian Simon on 05/15/2020 - 04:08 pm.

    It’s obvious the crime was the entire investigation into Trump and his cohorts. He’s rebranding what used to be called the hoax. Like has happened so many times before, Trump is accusing others of his own behavior. Now having been able to get Barr to drop the Flynn charges, Trump accuses Obama of using the justice dept to conduct a politically motivated investigation into then candidate Trump. Obamagate. It’s obvious.

  2. Submitted by Howard Schneider on 05/15/2020 - 05:22 pm.

    Eric, please, what crime? What about BWP? Black While President

  3. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 05/15/2020 - 06:32 pm.

    Eric – Those were a lot of rhetorical words. I assume they were rhetorical, as I can’t imagine you actually are thinking that some set of facts exists that constitutes “Obamagate.” As we note over and over, Trump, those who manipulate him for their ends, and the army of propagandists that serve them are an authoritarian insurgency. Authoritarians assert charges not because there is a reality behind them, but because they think that making such charges will have utility in advancing their grip on power. Period.

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 05/15/2020 - 07:41 pm.

    Obama should call out Lindsey Graham and tell him he absolutely wants to testify and since he lives nearby he will do it in person.

    A nice, wide ranging opening statement about how he has respected tradition and commented only rarely on the new President, while he has called him out 1000s of times.

    A summary of his role in Flynn’s role with Trump.

    And any other crazy, unsubstantiated charge Trump has made about Obama:

    “And I would like to clear the air about….”

    A 10 hour infomercial on what competent leadership looks like…

  5. Submitted by PHILIP GRANT on 05/15/2020 - 10:06 pm.

    This reminds me of something I recently saw in The Atlantic (online) about “The Prophecies of Q”, wherein “A pro-Trump conspiracy is becoming a religion. That and more in our new project Shadowland.”

    I think it’s going to be the June 2020 cover story.

    The post goes on to say, “To believe in QAnon is to believe, among other things, that a cabal of global elites are secretly harming children (think: 2016’s Pizzagate), that their behavior is propped up by members of the deep state, and that President Donald Trump is working to bring their crimes to an end. Adherents learned all this from Q, an anonymous figure who they believe has high-level military ties, who periodically leaves clues on the internet. He is their prophet. . . .”

  6. Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/16/2020 - 09:43 am.

    Barr’s absurd basis for dropping the case against Russian operative Flynn is that the ongoing (in 2016) FBI investigation into the clear Russian penetration of the Trump campaign was “illegitimate” (despite two inspector general reports determining that opening the investigation was not politically motivated). Apparently “Obamagate” imagines that Obama was the power behind this “wrongful” investigation into the Trump campaign. Just guessing.

    In any event, the whole justification for the creation of “Obamagate” (beyond inciting the Trumpite white nationalists to “Never Forget!” the Original Sin) is so that Barr’s planned FBI “investigation” into candidate Biden’s life and career can be declared legal and legit because, “What about Obama!?”

    Disclaimer: I freely admit that I don’t fluently speak “conservative”, nor am expert in reading the Kremlinology of the Trump movement. But I’m confident the numerous native speakers of the language can weigh in and offer a fuller explanation of the open, obvious and nefarious aspects of “Obamagate”. Thanks in advance!

  7. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 05/16/2020 - 04:06 pm.

    Barr’s planned FBI “investigation” into candidate Biden’s life and career can be declared legal and legit because, “What about Obama!?”

    Very nice observation, looks like just another round of BS to feed the 42% +/- Trump Zombies. Doesn’t have to be even close to real, another conspiracy theory that’s all those folks need, and for the average republican, hey no problem, they stopped believing in fair, reality, justice etc. 30 some odd years ago, suspect they could no longer recognize what they got in their hands when they put them in their rear pockets. anymore. . .

  8. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 05/17/2020 - 09:54 am.

    “None of this seems to matter. Using a secret court to investigate the opposing political campaign does not matter. The lack credible information supporting collusion does not matter. A president and vice president taking personal interest does not matter.

    …There is very little question that the response by the media to such a story would have been overwhelming if the Bush administration targeted the Obama campaign figures. Now imagine if it was found that the underlying allegation of collusion was found to lack a credible basis” (J Turley)

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 05/17/2020 - 07:15 pm.

      Even better is J Turley on Ukraine:

      “But as he delivered his opening oral remarks, he cut to the heart of the matter: “The use of military aid for a quid pro quo to investigate one’s political opponent, if proven, can be an impeachable offense.””

    • Submitted by Robert Lilly on 05/22/2020 - 11:30 am.

      2 things.
      1. If Bush had done that, do you think the MSM would have forgone the $ such a story would generate? (If you answer honestly you have to betray the MSM conspiracy theory, their only agenda is $)
      2. If members of Obama’s campaign were meeting with Russians already under surveillance and then lying about those meetings to the FBI, Democrats would have not stood behind him the way Emperor Trumps minions continue to do.

  9. Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/17/2020 - 10:26 am.

    Yup, they really have descended to the lowest level of conspiracy theories. There’s a long history of this in nationalist authoritarian movements, from Herr Hitler’s famous “stab in the back”, to his ravings about the German Jews “really” being illicitly in control of the German economy.

    So (50 years later) ridiculous “conservative” nonsense about such things as climate scientists (around the globe, apparently) making up false findings in order to get more “funding” fit right in to the pattern.

    As for Obamagate, it must be rather a complex set of marching orders from Conservative Central, as our up-to-the minute conservative friends are certainly taking their sweet time showing up to enlighten us, despite an open invitation from EB himself!

  10. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 05/17/2020 - 11:30 am.

    It seems like Mr. Black is ignoring truth for the benefit of the powerful.

    • Submitted by Janis Froehlig on 05/17/2020 - 04:16 pm.

      Can you elaborate on this? I’m not understanding what truth, exactly, he’s ignoring, and to which you’re referring. It’s not as if he could put that in the article if that’s where his ignorance sits.

      Thanks ahead.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/18/2020 - 08:56 am.

      A Trump supporter is sneering about someone else allegedly “ignoring the truth.”

      I think no further comment is required.

  11. Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/17/2020 - 03:53 pm.

    “Obamagate” appears to be the start of another Trumpian disinformation campaign, again aimed at arguing the 2016 FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s interaction with and approval of Putin’s election interference was somehow baseless. That the investigation was properly undertaken has been determined by the Intelligence Inspector General, whatever Mr Gotzman’s cryptic quotation of “J Turley” may imply.

    In search of a crime, Barr has dispatched his DOJ minions to find out who leaked to the media the existence of Flynn’s dubious Dec 2016 call to the Russian ambassador, since such a leak could be a crime depending on what was revealed (although one must question why such an investigation into a possible leak is only now being undertaken almost 3 and 1/2 years after the fact.) The Regime’s plan appears to be to try to link Biden’s office to a supposedly improper leak.

    A recent post up on the blog looks into this planned “Obamagate” disinformation campaign by the Trump Regime and the likely next steps of the campaign by corrupt AG Barr. It of course involves bamboozling the low-info citizenry of America, and using the complicit corporate media to generate another endless “But her emails!” distraction to satisfy their institutional need to have negative reporting about “both sides” in their worthless “horse race” coverage model.

  12. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 05/18/2020 - 07:42 am.

    Mr. Black, don’t follow Don Trump’s chaff.

  13. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/18/2020 - 09:08 am.

    Of course there was no crime. This was just another example of Trump lashing out and trying to distract the public from his appallingly inept attempts to deal with the pandemic. He can’t just walk away from it, so he is doing the next best thing and diverting attention.

    To an extent, it seems to be working. The mainstream media is rising up in indignation at the unsubstantiated accusations of a crime, while Trump’s favorite agitprop outlets are scurrying through the archives to find evidence of the one time that man did that one thing. The majority of Americans who do not support Trump are, at least, skeptical, while the goobers are lapping it up like candy.

    Meanwhile, Americans continue to get sick and die, while the President is tweeting his support of armed mobs in state capitols and helping his minions avoid any kind of scrutiny or accountability. As they say, mission accomplished.

  14. Submitted by Jim Brunzell on 05/18/2020 - 11:31 am.

    Let’s get to the real “Trumpgate”! Donald Trump has been a puppet of the Russian Government for some 20 years or more. “Bay-rock”- money laundering for the Russian mob & $300,000.00 dollars given to Trump by Russian oligarchs to save his sorry bankrupt ass, will come to harvest soon, when the Tax returns are revealed. I urge all to view a tell-tale “Doc’ called “Active Measures”- it’s compelling – factual- and revealing. As far as Trump, we need “Divine Intervention” to secure the Truth! Peace & Health Jim Brunzell Jr.

  15. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 05/18/2020 - 08:48 pm.

    Well gogin to be really difficult now, even Barr couldn’t stomach this one, and that is saying one hell of a lot!
    Sorry Barr, nice try, but with all your other sins, Trump is not the pope and he is not infallible, good luck with your argument at the pearly gates.

  16. Submitted by J Sutherland on 05/18/2020 - 09:36 pm.

    I want news, not opinion. If its opinion, mark it as an “Op-Ed.” I don’t know who Erik Black is a fine individual. But I do not come to Minnpost for these “columns.” How do these columns “mesh” with non-partisan?? They don’t….I have been following Minnpost for several weeks hoping that this doesn’t become another “partisan” channel…Please, if you are offering your OPINION, then place it under and OP-ED heading….just, deliver the news, can we have ONE place to go to for simple news…thanks, have a good Tuesday…J Sutherland

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/19/2020 - 12:09 pm.

      Hi Mr Sutherland. I don’t think it’s too much work to figure out this is an opinion “column”, but I would advise you that there are usually quite a few facts embedded in every opinion column. The facts ar what the (informed) opinion is based on. In this column, for example, the fact is that Trump apparently cannot offer to the media even a limited explanation of his usage of the word “Obamagate”. Rather interesting, no?

      As for a discussion of journalistic norms in covering the “news” of the daily atrocities of the corrupt and incompetent Trump Regime, check out EB’s latest column (op-ed!) about how in the world professional journalists can cover a pathological liar like Donald Trump. Have a great day!

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/22/2020 - 12:19 pm.

      What is partisan about this? That Trump is corrupt? That he has failed at every business venture his inheritance bankrolled? That he is making up a pretend scandal to distract from his own issues?

      And I’m not sure why the idea of an opinion column is so troubling. Have you ever read a newspaper?

  17. Submitted by cory johnson on 05/19/2020 - 07:21 pm.

    Susan Rice even mentioned three times in a memo on 1/20/17 (inauguration day) commemorating a 1/5/17 meeting regarding the fake collusion narrative that Obama wanted every investigated “by the book.” That isn’t suspicious at all. And everyone who said they had evidence of collusion on when they were being interviewed onTV denied ever seeing any evidence when they had to testify under oath but that’s totally normal.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/20/2020 - 08:54 am.

      “Susan Rice even mentioned three times in a memo on 1/20/17 (inauguration day) commemorating a 1/5/17 meeting regarding the fake collusion narrative that Obama wanted every investigated ‘by the book.'”

      And that’s the smoking gun? It’s like Nixon being recorded saying “No, don’t break into the Watergate.”

      The desperation to find something, anything bad about Obama years after he left the White House would be funny, if it didn’t consume so much of the national attention.

    • Submitted by Robert Lilly on 05/22/2020 - 11:40 am.

      The evidence of collusion is public information. But your not suspicious of that at all?

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/22/2020 - 12:20 pm.

      Wait – investigations being “by the book” is a problem? Well, I guess maybe in Trump’s corrupt world it is.

  18. Submitted by cory johnson on 05/19/2020 - 07:48 pm.

    Everything stated in this article is a verifiable fact:
    But, again, nothing to see here because Orange Man bad.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/20/2020 - 09:46 am.

      Yes, the National Review is known for its reliable reporting, free of the bias conservatives decry so loudly.

      If all of this is true, why have there been no prosecutions? Why the cowardice?

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 05/20/2020 - 10:37 am.

      Verifiable facts which add up to nothing, no doubt. Also, too, why not write up your own little summary of exactly what the “crime” was?

      The idea that there was no basis to suspect the Trump campaign of colluding with Russian intelligence operatives was demolished by the Mueller report, despite whatever blinders Trump followers may have been (mis)led into wearing. The report will be a treasure trove for historians of the catastrophic Trump regime and the destruction of American democracy.

      As for political bias in the campaign of 2016, the only verifiable instance of it was the pro-Trump FBI agents badgering the idiot Comey into violating policy and throwing the election to Trump with his last minute “But Her Emails!” nonsense. At least Comey has to watch the national destruction that his baseless and illegal interference wrought.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/22/2020 - 12:22 pm.

      Good lord. That is full of complete and utter nonsense.

  19. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 05/22/2020 - 10:28 am.

    Interesting to see Rs on the Trumpian margins giving credibility to the crimes of Obamagate.

    “I’ve opposed much of Trump’s …. , but we cannot dismiss these charges against Obama because…..”

    Kind of like a murder crime scene with tape around the body and somebody rushing up: “officer, officer, that fellow over there just walked across that intersection during a red light! Go get him now!”

    1. James Comey enabled Trump’s election due to his public pronouncements on HRC’s emails and his silence on Russian collusion. The Peter Strziok, Lisa Page stuff is sexy, irrelevant nonsense. And those 2 did more to defend this country in their service to this country than Trump could ever hope to. We drove out our best counterintelligence person because he talked too much to his girl friend. It’s not liked he paid $200,000 to keep her quiet.

    2. We know Trump colluded with the Russians. As soon as they were welcomed into Trump Tower that was proven. They did not, apparently, conspire with Russia to disrupt the election: Putin did that on his own.

    3. Flynn, by his own admission, lied to the FBI and to Pence. Sally Yates correctly pointed out that regardless of the significance of the lies, the Russians knew he lied and that put Flynn into a compromised position.

    4. By putting Carter Page into a position of prominence in his campaign, Trump opened up the can of worms by inferring significance to a bumbling neophyte who blindly bumped around the Kremlin talking to anyone who would listen as early as 2013, 2 years before Trump’s campaign announcement:

    “According to the court documents filed in 2015, the F.B.I. secretly recorded Mr. Podobnyy and another Russian operative named Igor Sporyshev discussing efforts to recruit Mr. Page, who was then working in New York as a consultant.”

    The FISA did not target the Trump campaign, it targeted a US individual before Trump was even a candidate because surveiled Russian agents were attempting to recruit him or at least gain his confidence. To not do so would be much worse than doing so.

    Only someone as deranged as Trump would describe “Obamagate” as the “crime of the century”. Anyone who tries to give it traction has no credibility.

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