Late Night Burgers at Tolly-Ho in Lexington

Never underestimate the compelling nature of a great dive cheeseburger joint. Just ask the folks at Tolly-Ho, a late-night Lexington institution for University of Kentucky students and burger aficionados, tucked away near campus in a former dry cleaners at 606 S. Broadway.

Day in and day out this 24/7 restaurant churns out big breakfasts, oversized sandwiches and its signature Ho Burgers with reliable authenticity, keeping customers coming back for more.

It was 1985, when as a freshman at Eastern Kentucky University, my dorm-mates and I would drive the 40 minutes north from Richmond to buy cheap vinyl records at Cut Corner, over by UK where Tolly-Ho was. It didn’t hurt that the beer was cold, but inside was filled with a special mix of characters, ambience and the wafting fragrance of sizzling cow.

The restaurant sat at 395 South Limestone for about 25 years, having originally resided on nearby Euclid. There is an adequate display of UK blue on the interior that meshes warmly with the Formica table-tops, still damp from a fresh wipe. A distinctive row of engraved wood fraternity and sorority pledge paddles dangles above the ‘order up’ window.

Glance right and follow the pinball echo to the opposite wall by the arcade games. Ms. Pacman, Donkey Kong and Galaga – all the old stuff. Anyone feeling off-kilter may step down past the ‘pick-up order line,’ and visit the Ho Mart. Here a full-service convenience stand is bathed in blue by the Wildcat neon, where customers can get cigarettes, lighters, pain relievers and a mess of other aids to help the afflicted. Minus the cure for a broken heart of course.

It’s no small feat to happen upon an out of the ordinary cheeseburger. It may not sound difficult, but simple is hard. It makes location and time of day disappear. No hurdle is too great. Sacrifices will be made to secure these endangered species. Age no longer matters. It becomes about the quest to obtain. Many of these other greasy spoons, lunch counters and fast food chains – fail to ever rise to notability. The vast majority cut away quality, originality and flavor off the top, never needing to apply for competition again.

Like anything down South, time moves slowly. It’s breath is precious especially when establishing one’s reputation. Like a fine bourbon whiskey, a restaurant ages into a reliable guarantee. Whether at college, working third shift or cops on overnights. They are all in here, with the horsemen, jockeys, farmers and power brokers. They start bringing their kids too. That’s tradition, just like those boys who play at Rupp Arena a few blocks over, representing the storied Blue-and-White.

It may just be cheeseburgers, but a good one can change around your whole night. Besides, we’re talking Ho Burgers now, their specialty. These substantial 1/4 pound hamburger patties come with lettuce, onion, and a secret sauce, all pressed between a soft sesame seed bun. I personally am a huge fan of the Super Ho, a 1/2 pound double with cheddar cheese and bacon. Absolutely order a side of the cheddar tots. It will make everything right as rain.

I hear myth of a Mega Ho. Three-quarters pound of stacked meat. I haven’t had the courage to inquire. Something must have gone terribly wrong if eating such a creation sounds reasonable.

The chili is homemade and a perfect consistency to accompany fries with cheese, or take it solo. If breakfast sounds good never fear. The Ho got you covered all day. Order one of the huge pancakes with chocolate chips and try not to smile.

Doesn’t matter if it’s your first try or back again so soon, the friendly folks at the Tolly-Ho are waiting. Do yourself a favor and take them up on their invitation.

TOLLY-HO | 606 S. Broadway | Lexington, KY | 859.253.2007

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Trump Attorney Cohen Reveals Fox’s Sean Hannity is Client

Trump attorney Michael Cohen at court.

Monday President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, revealed in court his mystery third client was Fox News host Sean Hannity. What a coincidence! How curious that Mr. Hannity publicly weighed in against the executed search warrant on Cohen’s office, home and hotel room, but neglected to inform his audience that he shared a legal relationship with Cohen.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood compelled Cohen’s appearance and to reveal this mystery party after court documents alluded to Cohen representing three primary clients that fell under the protective umbrella of attorney/client privilege.

Cohen’s attorney verbally disclosed Hannity as Cohen’s third client. Judge Wood also denied the request to prevent the prosecution from viewing the seized documents from Cohen’s properties, instead allowing Cohen and Trump’s attorneys the right to review the seized discovery for purposes of identifying information possibly excludable under attorney/client privilege.

Stormy Daniels giving remarks after the hearing yesterday in New York.

It’s worth reviewing the identities of these three Cohen clients. President Trump, who Cohen served by paying $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about a consensual affair she had with Trump. Ms. Daniels was in the courtroom yesterday and responded righteously to the prospect of Trump and his associates being forced to come clean about their behavior.

Cohen’s second client was identified as Elliot Broidy, who Cohen facilitated a $1.6 million payment to a Playboy model on Broidy’s behalf. This young woman became pregnant as a result of her relationship with the former deputy chair of the RNC, a position Broidy resigned Friday after news of this payment went public. Broidy acknowledged this relationship and his financial assistance to the woman during the period when she terminated her pregnancy.

It seems Cohen’s specialty is forcing women into signing non-disclosure agreements and funneling them hush money to keep sexual affairs being had by powerful married men secret. This begs the question, does Hannity have something similar in common with Cohen’s other two clients?

Prosecutors last week said in a court filing they’ve been investigating criminal conduct by Cohen for months, centering on his personal business dealings and payments made to keep women silent about affairs involving Trump. The search warrant authorizing the raids indicated prosecutors were looking into potential violations of bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.

Hannity stated on his radio show that he never retained Cohen in the traditional sense, but had known Michael for years and merely asked him some real estate questions. Interestingly, Cohen doesn’t practice real estate law.

More likely there is some document or recording involving Sean Hannity that both the president and Cohen feel is damaging enough to justify waging this high-wire legal battle over Hannity being a client in hopes of precluding the seized information from going public. I’m thinking this will get contentious with Judge Wood and Trump’s attorney if there isn’t even agreement about Hannity actually being a client. Should this beak the wrong way for Cohen, he may be the next contestant to win an indictment.

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Small Hands, Corrupt Intentions Asserted in New Comey Book

Then FBI Director James Comey (right), shaking hands with the new president.

In case you missed it, Donald Trump’s best buddy, Lyin’ Jim Comey, has a painfully candid new memoir hitting the bookshelves this week. This is the first book written by anyone holding high office that was unfortunate enough to work under the transition from President Obama to the current Angry Cheeto now barricaded inside the Oval Office.

Comey is a polarizing figure in this bizarre espionage thriller unfolding in real time involving the Trump campaign and the Russian interference with the 2016 elections. For understandable yet puzzling reasons both the Obama administration and Comey felt it better not to highlight evidence of Russian meddling nor that candidate Trump was under a parallel investigation for his campaign’s contact with Russian operatives.

Supposedly this was because Hillary Clinton appeared poised to win regardless and neither Obama or Comey wanted any indication that sitting powers were attempting to influence the outcome. In retrospect it’s now considered by many that Comey’s peculiar decision to publicly announce the reopening of the investigation into Clinton’s emails mere days before the election was a decisive factor in Trump’s victory.

With this as the backdrop Comey penned “A Higher Loyalty,” aimed at setting the record straight after his controversial firing. The overarching takeaway is that Trump is a corrupt individual to his core, morally bankrupt, and incapable of telling the truth about even the most mundane items.

In “A Higher Loyalty,” Comey writes that the president is “unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.” He compares Trump to the mob bosses he use to prosecute.

This is interesting when considering Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation is compared to previous government inquiries into the prosecution of drug cartels and organized crime families. Just last week federal agents were issued search warrants through the Justice Department and the courts to raid the office, home and hotel room of Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen.

“The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put organization above morality and above the truth,” Comey wrote in describing Trump.

Ultimately this comes down to integrity, to credibility, in terms of whether Comey’s version of events are believed or the alternate reality of Donald Trump. By all accounts Jim Comey was a dedicated civil servant that strived and achieved keeping America safer.

That can’t be said for Trump. It’s hard to even find a Republican that will defend the president’s behavior. It’s all porn stars, playboy models, golden showers, sexual assault allegations, collusion with Russians, fathering illegitimate children with employees, ripping off business partners, declaring bankruptcy and a whole lot of legal battles.

I stand whole heartedly with James Comey when he writes, “What is happening now is not normal. It is not fake news. It is not okay.”

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Hike Up Berea’s Pinnacles Closes Out Spring Break

From left: Essie, Jacy, Gabriel, Llama and Bella.

This weekend marked the final days of what was a three-week spring break for students in the Frankfort Independent School District. With questionable weather most of the break there was lots of gaming, binging on questionable television programming, staying up into the AM hours and waking up late. Finally with warm temps Friday and no rain, I packed a few necessities and herded my two boys, their sister and our stubby-legged dog Essie into the car around 4:30 PM for a drive south to Berea to hike.

Being the boys are in their early teens and Isabella is 6, they don’t come to agreement on much, but once I get them unplugged from digital devices they are cool with gearing up for an adventure. We made one pit-stop to see my dad, who is having some health issues, and currently spending 20 days at a residential rehab facility in Lexington. We stopped by for about an hour to say hello and let pop see my intrepid hikers before they entered the forest.

Lexington is 30 miles south of Frankfort. We zipped there on I-64 East, then backtracked a smidge to catch I-75 South after departing my dad’s place. It was another 40 minutes to reach Exit 76 in Berea. This quaint mountain town in Madison County is home to Berea College, Boone Tavern and recognized globally for its pottery-makers and woodcrafting. Take Highway 21 East into Berea, past the business district and college, continuing on out-of-town 3-miles.

Look for the Berea College Forestry Outreach Center on the left. It sits at the far end of the parking lot where the East and West Pinnacle trailheads are accessed. For GPS, the address is 2047 Big Hill Road in Berea.

The Pinnacles are rated moderate and dog friendly, perfect for Essie’s first foray into hiking. She is a terrier/hound mix, perhaps Jack Russell and Beagle. While not big Essie is a plucky sort.

Slinging a soft-sided cooler over my shoulder, we began venturing up to Buzzard’s Roost at just after 7PM. It starts flat past the Indian Fort Theater, then there’s a bit of a climb until it plateaus after reaching the directional marker midway up. This offers a respite until the last quarter-mile when there’s some trail climbing before topping out.

We saw plenty of folks coming down the mountain, many with dogs. Essie was not on a leash. I brought one but she sensed she had a job to do and stayed on task, not paying these other critters much attention.

We reached Buzzard’s Roost a little before 8PM, just in time to watch the sun disappear behind the mountains. There are several rock outcrops worth exploring here, some more private than others. A few require a short leap of faith to reach, but depending upon your agenda, it can be worthwhile to risk a little jump or two to be left alone. Just don’t fall in a crevasse or miss your footing – it’s a long way down.

Dusk was beautiful. There were plenty of clouds to catch the colors and a stiff wind whipping about to give that accomplished feeling of having reached the top of something high above. We stuck to the safe spots, peering out at the lush valley below. Essie was a mini mountain goat, hopping across rocks and traversing cliff edges without a care.

Now “technically” these trails close at dusk, but I’ve always found that to be more of a suggestion, as the gates to the parking lot are rarely if ever locked. Since we got a late start, and barely made it to the top before darkness fell, I saw no reason to beat a hasty retreat. We might as well enjoy our time up there. Besides, we had the mountain to ourselves.

Having begun my college years at Eastern Kentucky University in nearby Richmond, the Pinnacles was a prime destination when blowing off class. “Party on the Rocks” was the call to heed. One of my crew’s favorite pastimes was hitting the bars until close, then packing coolers of beer and heading up the Pinnacles at 1AM. Night hiking rules!

The loss of light on this trip seriously upped our adventure quotient for the kiddos. We sat near the edge of Buzzard’s Roost as the blanket of darkness settled upon the mountain, taking in the air until we no longer could make out the individual elements below. Around 9PM we decided it was time to start our journey down.

I huddled my troops to give all a hug and remind them we were in no hurry, to watch their footing, land each step safely and beware of tree roots. Those suckers can grab your toes in the dark. But most importantly, let’s have fun going down.

Essie really earned her keep on the descent, taking point and guiding our route. As the mountain had yet to feel the embrace of spring, the trees remained leafless, allowing extra moonlight to pour through and illuminate our path.

We stopped several times to admire the serene beauty of the stark forest in its wintry fashion. Slow and steady we trotted down. Gabriel and Jacy went into survivalist mode in this semi-wilderness environment. Meanwhile I kept my little girl’s hand in mine to be sure she felt secure. Some 90 minutes later we reached the parking lot without incident.

I was happy to see the kids display a sense of satisfaction for their accomplishment. Considering the scary movies they watch, their imaginations could have gotten the better of them in the darkness of Friday the 13th, but we all had a blast with this nocturnal journey.

Once back in the car we hot-footed it out of Berea in search of food, pulling into Tolly-Ho a little before midnight. This late-night institution specializes in fortifying intoxicated college students from the University of Kentucky. The Super-Ho with bacon and cheddar tots will satisfy. Bella opted for pancakes and bacon, a solid choice to fill a hungry mountain-sized appetite.

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FBI Raids Cohen Office, Speaker Ryan Resigns – Coincidence?

Federal agents raid Trump attorney’s office.

Our esteemed commander and chief, the Orange One, is having another rough week. Monday the FBI raided the office of Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, which was followed on Wednesday by the announced retirement of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Coincidental, perhaps, but more likely the raid was the final straw for the Wisconsin Republican, as the legal jeopardy continues to grow exponentially for Trump.

At first blush supporters of this chaos president might cheer the ousting of Speaker Ryan, but upon closer examination his exit might serve as a dire warning. Ryan’s resignation sends the message that he cannot lead his caucus through Trump’s haphazard style of mood swing policy making, and that the Republican Party is conceding the loss of the House of Representatives in November. If the Democrats regain power in the House, impeachment of the president will be priority one.

Ryan best find a good priest because he has some serious confessing to do if he plans to cleanse his sins for not calling out Trump’s harmful rhetoric and despicable moral conduct. Ryan crawling away from Washington with his tail between his legs does not excuse his cowardly behavior, nor will it salvage his tarnished reputation.

No one as young as Ryan just walks away from the job of Speaker of the House, especially a guy with presidential aspirations. It’s one of the most powerful positions in the world and two heartbeats away from the presidency. Clearly Ryan has no interest in facing voters in what would be a heartily contested re-election, where the Speaker would be forced to defend his failed leadership and support of this corrupt chief executive.

Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen.

Trump can crow all he wants about nearly having all the right people in place for his new leadership team, but there is no positive spin on having federal agents kicking down the door of his attorney. Cohen is Trump’s fixer. He knows where all the bodies are buried. Or in this case, how many extramarital affairs Trump has had and the amounts of cash Cohen paid these women to keep quiet.

The FBI is reported to have seized records including information on the $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump was furious about agents breaking into his lawyer’s office, home and hotel room, calling it some kind of Gestapo-type raid and an “attack on our country.”

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller was Trump’s preferred object of blame, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but the raid came as a result of a search warrant overseen by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan. The warrant was based on information discovered by the Mueller team and passed along to the state because it was considered out of purview for the special prosecutor.

The State of New York in turn found compelling evidence of criminal wrongdoing and acted. Due to a perceived likelihood that Cohen would either destroy or hide requested evidence, it was deemed necessary to execute search warrants instead of issuing subpoenas for the information.

This is a perfectly legal maneuver, and considering the various high-level officials required to sign-off on these warrants, it means probable cause of criminal activity was shown, and a judge was convinced that exigent circumstances existed supporting the issuance of warrants, and by doing so it was likely evidence of wrongdoing would be recovered.

The mind runs wild at the possible goodies Cohen might have tucked away on Trump that now reside in the hands of law enforcement. I just keep wondering when it will dawn on Trump believers that investigations like Mueller’s and all these other legal entanglements involving the president don’t continue churning up information for no good reason.

Trump keeps blanket denying that no evidence has been found. Yet numerous Trump aides have been indicted and pled guilty. A more accurate depiction of what has unfolded thus far is that Trump and those surrounding him are involved in so many different misdeeds, it’s taking this long to unravel the full spectrum of their guilt.

The beauty of this new saga is in the “strategerie” of how Mueller chose to hand off this damaging information to a state court, so even if Trump finds a way to fire the special prosecutor, this investigation, along with the one involving former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, will both continue moving forward regardless.

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Crowds Fill DC and Beyond in “March for Our Lives”

David Hogg, MSD student and one of the #NeverAgain organizers.

They came from Parkland. They came from Newtown. They came from Columbine. They came from Las Vegas, Virginia Tech, Orlando, St. Louis, Atlanta, Detroit, and Chicago.

People came from every corner of the country on March 24, to demonstrate in support of putting an end to gun violence. Yes in our schools, because that is such an inappropriate location for guns and murder, but also in our streets, urban or rural, big city or small town.

The March for Our Lives was sparked in the aftermath of the 17 deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on Feb. 14. Surviving students launched Never Again MSD, a student-led gun control advocacy group. Millions of posts on social media have borne the tag #NeverAgain, and commentary from the Parkland kids about the incident and friends lost have gone viral.

Before Parkland’s students spoke out, no moniker hung on this generation that accurately encapsulated their upbringing, but we know them now as the Mass Shooting Generation. Young people currently live each day under an assumed threat of death or violence in their places of education. School shootings have become so commonplace that educational facilities and daycares must frequently train for them.

Think about that for a second. As parents, we are willingly dropping our children off at schools, where a perceived threat of violence exists daily, and we’re okay with that. I may have an active shooter drill at work, but as an adult I realize the world is a dangerous place. That is a reality I was allowed to grow into understanding once my school years were well past.

Our current children have no choice. They were born into this violence and must attend school. We drop them off there five days a week, leaving teachers and school administrators to offer protection, in a situation where it is not possible to adequately be prepared for a child gunmen going on a rampage.

The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas said “enough!” Enough of the violence, the funerals and hollow promises of change from politicians held hostage by special interest. By taking to social media, Never Again MSD gained a voice with its message of sensible gun control measures and pushed back against high-paid lobbyists from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

This injection of youth into the gun control debate has changed the dynamic of the conversation. The kids know this isn’t the atmosphere their parents attended school under. Laws are available to tighten lax firearms purchases, and adults have chosen to act against the safety of young people and instead lined their pockets with cash or re-election victories.

What’s interesting is the Parkland kids can’t be bought off by the NRA or quieted by Republican political theater. When they hear empty rhetoric they jump on social media and call “bullshit.” This has allowed them in slightly more than a month to see the passage of sensible gun control measures in Florida and organize one of the largest protest marches in American history.

“March of Our Lives” fills DC streets.

With help from the nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety, the student-led March for Our Lives rallied more than a million people to Washington, DC, and an estimated million more gathered in the 800 sister demonstrations held across America and abroad.

Some 96 people die daily from gun violence in the U.S. This march gave voice to those victims that do not make the front pages as part of some dramatic mass shooting. These are everyday people, some from good neighborhoods, others not from the best parts of town, merely in the wrong place at the wrong time and they got shot. Maybe it was a robbery, could be they caught a stray bullet in crossfire or might be for no reason at all.

“In their greed, the gun lobby and their politicians have tried to deflect and distract us, they have tried to twist what is so clearly a gun issue into anything else. But we won’t fall for it. We know that to only focus on school safety instead of American safety is to dismiss the thousands of tragedies in between the massacres. It ignores the people, disproportionately people of color, who die by bullet without even making a headline. Yet our politicians still lack the compassion to act, and when that cold inaction that continues to fuel this endless bloodshed churns and churns, it’s not difficult to diagnose the moral health problem of this country. Our nation’s politics are sick with soullessness, but make no mistake we are the cure!,” said Matt Post, a Montgomery County (MD) senior at Sherwood High School, during his remarks at the March for Our Lives.

I continue to be blown away by the poise on display by these young people. This was a massive stage, at such an emotional gathering, jumbo video displays everywhere, broadcast worldwide, yet they kept their cool, again. It was impressive.

The question is where does this energy go next and can it be sustained? These young people must keep up the momentum for another 200 days, continue registering voters, and push this conversation so it remains in a public forum, then direct their constituency to cast ballots against political candidates who refused to act on gun control. The NRA and Republican Party is wagering this youthful exuberance will drain away before November.

As approximately 70 percent of Americans don’t own a single gun, there is plenty of room in this conversation for gun control to become a national reality, but it will require a continued push. Sure the younger generation is impulsive and less patient, and while they may be naive, they don’t know they aren’t suppose to be able to accomplish so much so quickly. This gives them an edge.

One thing is certain, a little over one-year into Donald Trump’s chaotic administration has revealed telltale signs of a growing Democratic wave aimed at clawing back power in the midterm elections. If the #NeverAgain movement can capitalize on its message of sensible gun control and deliver the 18-25 year old voting block en masse, this movement could be the crucial piece that removes the NRA and Republican Party from power.

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Revolving Exit from Trump White House Keeps Spinning

People close to Donald Trump report the Groper-in-Chief is starting to feel comfortable in his role playing president. He is prepared to unshackle his gut instincts and remove any voices of dissension from the administration that might try checking his instinctual moves.

On March 13, Trump unceremoniously fired Sec. of State Rex Tillerson. There was no phone call or personal communication from Trump beforehand to smooth the move. Tillerson was forced to learn about being replaced from a tweet announcing CIA Director Mike Pompeo was the new nominee.

This move was long anticipated. Turmoil between the former ExxonMobil CEO and Trump existed throughout Tillerson’s tenure, as the no-nonsense Texan saw through Trump’s schtick, and called him out on several occasions. Rumored discord between the two spilled out into public in Oct. 2017, as reports indicated Tillerson referred to Trump as a “fucking moron” in a Pentagon meeting.

Trump cited disagreements on issues such as North Korea, steel and aluminum tariffs and the Iran nuclear deal – essentially all the big issues at play in TrumpWorld – as justification for the Tillerson firing. It also might have everything to do with Tillerson having condemned the recent nerve-gas attack carried out on a former Russian spy in England as being a “really egregious act.” Considering it’s commonly believed the hit was sanctioned by Vladimir Putin, Tillerson’s remarks are the harshest words to date from anyone in TrumpWorld against Russia.

The Trumpster wasn’t done yet. After the White House released a fabricated rendition of the circumstances surrounding Tillerson’s termination, Steve Goldstein, undersecretary for public diplomacy, released a counter-narrative to set the record straight. The White House did not look kindly upon this redirect, and informed Goldstein later the same day his services would no longer be required.

With the Stormy Daniels affair kicking into high gear on all cable news networks last week, and additional credible accounts of adultery coming from Playboy model Karen McDougal and former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, Trump needed a splashy move going into the weekend to change the headlines.

Andrew McCabe, former FBI deputy director.

Still fuming about the FBI being out to get him and pissed that AG Jeff Sessions had not adequately utilized the Justice Department to derail the Russia investigation, Trump decided to settle a petty score with Andrew McCabe, deputy FBI director, firing the 20-year bureau veteran late on a Friday night the day before he was scheduled to retire, denying him the ability to qualify for his full pension.

This also was a way to put Session in the hot seat. He could either fire McCabe or Trump would come back and fire Sessions for not doing his bidding.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) says McCabe was fired after an internal review conducted by the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concluded McCabe misled investigators about his role in directing other officials at the FBI to speak to media outlets. The findings were referred to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), an office staffed by career officials, who recommended McCabe’s termination.

This report has not been made public, but generally it takes months to finalize such an inquiry, and it’s not uncommon for individuals to announce their retirements during the process. This particular report was sped up after it was learned that McCabe had kept memos on his dealings with Trump and that any possible testimony asked to give likely would corroborate fired former FBI Director James Comey’s accounts on conversations had with President Trump.

McCabe was a frequent target of Trump rants about being part of the deep-state trying to undermine the president’s agenda and legitimacy to hold office. The president conveniently likes to overlook the aspect that the FBI is a law enforcement organization and officials in his administration have committed offenses deserving investigation. Numerous Trump staffers have been unable to pass background checks or obtain permanent security clearances. Several are currently under indictment, and have pled “guilty” to federal crimes.

What Trump can’t square is McCabe’s wife, Jill McCabe, ran for a seat in the Virginia Senate in 2015, as a Democrat, and received financial assistance from a political action committee controlled by Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Hillary Clinton.

Keep in mind Andrew McCabe is a Republican, but he put job before party when asked to supervise the FBI’s Russia investigation. McCabe authorized the wiretap on Carter Page, a former Trump adviser. That wiretap application was approved by senior DOJ officials, was re-approved under Trump’s Justice Department and signed by a federal judge based on evidence that Page was a Russian agent. Trump of course thinks the wiretap was unlawful and points to it as politically motivated by the FBI to inappropriately monitor Page and whoever he spoke with inside TrumpWorld.

It’s not that there were not legitimate grounds for McCabe to be fired, but the issue was already being addressed through proper channels. The FBI is a non-political organization by design, and Trump should have simply let it play out. Instead he vindictively injected himself into the process, making it political, because he knew McCabe would retire with full benefits and was too petty to allow that.

Flash forward to Thursday of this week when one of Trump’s mistresses, Karen McDougal of Playboy fame, had a splashy interview scheduled with Anderson Cooper on CNN. Trump again needed an announcement that would help cover any embarrassing revelations McDougal might divulge.

His solution, fire respected National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. Like with all Trump terminations, the president lacked the nerve to actually contact the outgoing party ahead of time. McMaster learned of his demise through a tweet announcing the hiring of John Bolton to be the new National Security Advisor. This even took Bolton by surprise as the tweet rolled while he was doing a live interview.

Incoming National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Bolton is known as a bomb thrower. A political knife fighter, skilled at bureaucratic infighting. By all accounts he is an intelligent guy, but only sees things one way, his way, and that usually involves military intervention. If you liked going into Iraq for weapons of mass destruction and finding they did not exist, but got stuck in a protracted war, then you should love this guy. He was one of the Iraq conflict architects and loves conspiracy theories. He fits Trump like a glove.

And last but not least let us not forget to mention John Dowd, President Trump’s lead lawyer for the special prosecutor investigation. Technically he “resigned” but was getting kicked to the curb regardless because Trump didn’t want to be careful in dealing with Mueller and chose to disregard an experienced attorney’s sage advice.

The common thread in all this staff turnover is Trump’s dislike of being shown-up for the lack of intelligence he possesses. These are skilled professionals in their fields, and each was placed in circumstances by Donald Trump where they had no choice but to disparage his wishes because either they were poorly thought out, dangerous or potentially illegal.

Trump loves to proclaim his “smartness” but in reality The Donald is sharp like a bowling ball. He doesn’t read well, nor can he understand complicated scenarios requiring in-depth analysis. He can’t handle having more competent people around him who must help in his recognizing complexities and prevent him from executing brain-dead moves, so he fires them.

The implication of this staffing turmoil is incalculable. Preliminary arrangements are underway for the president to meet with North Korea by the end of May. It becomes questionable if that diplomatic breakthrough will even take place, as Bolton has voiced his interest in preemptively bombing Kim Jong-un. It’s also likely the U.S. will pull out of the Iran nuclear deal as both Trump and Bolton dislike the criteria.

Some rank and file Republicans showed a bit of spine this week in publicly condemning Trump on his congratulations extended to Vladimir Putin about his rigged Russian re-election, after U.S. advisors strenuously insisted against such recognition.

While plenty of Capitol Hill Republicans speak boisterously off the record about concerns with this administration, it’s unclear what it will take for them to go public. Meanwhile mixed messages are coming through from out in the country. Trump’s poll numbers are slightly up, yet Democrat Conor Lamb won a special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district Trump carried by 20 points.

This feels like it’s all coming to a head soon. Trump is insulating himself with like-minded individuals who will not act as a filter to his autocratic whims, while the Mueller investigation inches closer to West Wing occupants, and ghosts of the president’s past sexual dalliances are popping-up like spring flowers. Whether darkness or light wins remains in the balance, but Trump isn’t playing by conventional Washington rules and that gives him an edge.

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