From the archives, this week's contestant is Dan Larkin, from Windsor, California. The hidden song should be very easy to guess, I think, and probably pretty early on. There were three composers I thought it might be in the style of. I had one in mind, but changed -- and it was the contestant's guess, as well, but it wasn't that. It also wasn't one of the other two. So, I was wrong. But I should have gotten it. And I think others have a good chance of getting it.
It's been a terrific couple of years for singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. She wrote the score to the hit Broadway musical Waitress -- and then later replaced the star and took over the lead. She played 'Mary Magdalen' in the live TV production of Jesus Christ Superstar. And recently guest-hosted Saturday Night Live.
This comes before that. It's the end of her 2013 concert in Atlanta, singing her rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's song, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." I always love when a performer creates their own version of a song that's so deeply iconic, yet is able to retain the core of the original. To me, this is that. It's a fascinating, unique performance -- and beautifully filmed so that you can see how moved the audience is.
The guest contestant on this week''s Wait Wait...Don''tTell Me! is Andrew Rannels, who came to fame starring in the original Broadway production of Book of Mormon, and went on to be in HBO's Girls and currently is starring in the Showtime series, Black Monday. His interview with host Peter Sagal has a very funny, politely-snarky quality as he goes through the range of jobs he left very early or auditioned for.
This is from a while back -- last October! -- but I've only now just gotten around to posting it. But it fits for almost any day, so I figured why the heck not...?
So, I suspect some of you probably wonder what it would have been like if the creators of the musical Les Miserables had written about the Passover story instead of the French Revolution -- and got an a capella group to perform it. Well...good news, here are the Maccabeats.
(I do think they would have been better served not taking themselves SO seriously when doing what is at heart a parody, and also if perhaps they told the story more rather than strung together fairly-generic songs that could have been about most anything. But still, it's ambitious and nicely done.)
While I liked seeing Mitt Romney's statement on Trump, and it beats the silence of most other Republicans in Congress by a lot --
a) The Mueller Report wasn't breaking news, we've known much of it for quite a long time, so where was the outrage over the past two years?
b) He misstated the findings of the Mueller Report.
c) His history of acting on his outrage is weak, so let's see if he takes a leadership role or just releases a statement and moves on.
Fun fact: "Mit schlag" is German for "with whipped cream."
By now, if you're someone even remotely interested in the Mueller Report, you've seen plenty of coverage and analysis of the partial, redacted release, so I'm not going to get into the weeds discussing it. Instead, I'll just stroll around with some randomly reactions.
The starting point on our tour of the grounds is that anyone who says that the Report was good news for Trump (and this includes Trump...) is not even trying. "But he wasn't indicted" is a ludicrous joke for two glaring reasons. The first is that a person can act unethically, reprehensibly and with corrupt results without breaking the law, yet breaking your sworn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. And the second is that Robert Mueller very clearly says that the reason he didn't indict Trump is not for any reason of innocence or even lack of evidence but because he Justice Department policy doesn't allow him to do so.
"Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President’s conduct," Mueller writes, explaining that because one cannot indict a president, he therefore could NOT state a conclusion. And then added, clearly explaining that if he could have exonerated Trump, he would have done it...but, he reiterates, he didn't do it -- “At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
And pointed as Mueller's words here are, they don't even come close to Trump's own that show his full awareness of his guilt. They come after being told that Robert Mueller has been named as Special Counsel to investigate him. And Trump's reaction? It was to slump in his chair and say -- "Oh, my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f*cked."
Seriously now, are those the words and action of an innocent man, who knows down to his bones that he's innocent? Today's pop quiz: how many of you would say the same thing (presidency aside) if you were completely innocent, knew you were completely innocent, and heard that you were going to be investigated? Hands? Anyone???
Further, considering that Mueller notes the number of witnesses who lied, took the Fifth Amendment or (like Trump) refused to testify, Mueller says that if there was another investigation which has a wider mission than he was given and is also able to delve even more deeply without being obstructed, it would likely bring out facts of other crimes.
Some exoneration, eh? I suspect he's referring to further Congressional investigations or the ongoing Justice Department investigations by the Southern District of New York, or perhaps even an impeachment inquiry .(He does mention impeachment in the Report.)
Moreover, Mueller’s team found that Trump repeatedly tried obstructing justice to hinder the investigation and said that the only reason he didn't accomplish that is because staff regularly refused to act on it. And for the record, trying to obstruct justice is obstructing justice. You don't get a pass because you were lousy at it.
Additionally, at the heart of obstruction of justice, the Mueller Report supported as credible the account by former FBI Director James Comey of Trump demanding his loyalty, while refuting as false Trump's insistence that Comey was lying.
In fact, the one area of the Report that appears to give Trump a pass is nonetheless damning on its own, and that's the question of collusion. For starters, Mueller makes clear that collusion is not actually a crime and so it wasn't a focus of his investigation. And beyond that, the Report goes into great detail about how Russia was, in fact, trying to impact the election for Trump. AND Trump and his team knew that, and knew they benefited from it. AND Mueller details all of the instances where that occurred (including the Trump Tower meeting with Russian officials, Jared Kushner trying to set up backchannel communications with Russia, Paul Manafort giving polling data to Russia oligarch Constantine Kilimnik, and Trump himself calling on Russia to find Hillary Clinton's emails -- and much more.. But because of Mueller's very narrow definition of what constitutes "criminal conspiracy" (rather than "collusion," since one is actually able to collude without it being a crime), those efforts of demonstrable collusion didn't meet the standard of provable, indictable criminal acts.
And keep in mind, that was the good part of the Report for Trump and his administration!
And these are merely a few random observation from a day full of revelations pouring down upon even more revelations
On a more personal, individual level, it's also worth noting that when Trump -- who has claimed to have "one the great memories in the world" -- .answered Mueller's written questions, afraid to submit to an interview for fear of lying and committing perjury, he responded some version of "I don't recall" 37 times.
And a couple of non-Trump details about individuals particularly caught my eye.
After James Comey was fired by Trump, who subsequently talked about the supposed mess in the FBI under Comey's leadership, a reporter at a White House press conference questioned press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that his own reporting showed a “vast majority” of agents in fact supported Comey, To this, Sanders replied, “Look, we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.” It turns out that when faced with testifying under oath to Robert Mueller's team, at the risk of prison, she finally told the truth and admitted that she'd lied. The Report stated that her response at the press conference was “not founded on anything,” Actually, Sanders tried to explain that it wasn't really a lie, but merely a “slip of the tongue.” A slip of the tongue?? There aren't tongues big enough to slip that far. In fact, the Mueller Report continues by nothing that after afterwards Sanders spoke to the president who told her that she had done a “good job and did not point out any inaccuracies in her comments.” Gee, so much for that "slip of the tongue." What she said was a lie, and Trump congratulated her for it.
Which brings us up to "Attorney General" William Barr. I won't get into the outrage of his initial false summary, his claim of spying on Trump which he later had to walk back, his redactions -- and let's be clear, there is A LOT that is redacted in this Report -- and his total obfuscation of the press conference before releasing the Report that not only gave a completely different explanation of what was Mueller's team had written in black-and-white, but he literally lied, because if I did this would go on almost endlessly. But I will bring up his attempt to use Trump’s "frustration" with the Mueller investigation as his reason for protecting Trump against obstruction of justice..
Frustration. Yes, really.
I can't do much better than my friend Bart Baker, who is one of the world's great professional ranters, yet was able to be be remarkably pithy. But what he wrote in brief still put it in excellent perspective --
"Contemplate this a moment: The AG of the US just made frustration a legal defense. 'I was frustrated sitting in traffic so I drove on the sidewalk. Sorry I killed those people walking there but I should be found not guilty by reason of frustration.' Fucking insane."
[Note: Yes, I'm aware that I previously typed the word as the more demure "f*cked," so this might appear contradictory. But one does not mess around with the language of Bart Baker. Nor attempt to ever make him seem demure...]
Those who believe that Trump comes off great in this Report do so only if you choose to be willfully ignorant. The Report was a roadmap of corruption, obstruction of justice, unethical behavior, collusion, lying and more by a man who swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help him God. And by the swamp he surrounded himself with. (Let us not forget that there have already been nine guilty verdicts as a result of the Mueller investigation -- and 36 additional indictments...so far.) And all this while Russia was attacking the United States and, as the Report states clearly, the Trump team knew about it and were fine with it. And the only reason he didn't get indicted is because Robert Mueller "determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment" because the Justice Department says a president can't be indicted.
Innocent? Cleared. Exonerated? Hey, don't take my word that his corrupt actions fill the Report. Listen to the expert himself --
"Oh, my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f*cked."
This is a 400-page document explaining in meticulous, even-handed detail and painstaking research why Trump said that.
Being willfully ignorant is no virtue. And what you close your eyes to can hurt you. Keep in mind that the Mueller Report is not even remotely the end -- as damning as it is. The SDNY has its ongoing investigations, as do the New York State Attorney General, the New York City District Attorney, and about half-dozen House committees.
And lest you missed it -- there is an appendix in the Report where the Mueller team recommends 14 additional investigations to be pursued by others, since they fall outside his purview. And 12 of them were fully redacted. This was not just a Report on what happened, it was an outline of how others can pick up the investigation or after Trump leaves office file charges at that point,
In the end, I’m not put off by the many people who will choose to be blind and ignorant saying, see, Trump was right, he’s done nothing wrong – because a) they’re the ones Trump was referring to who he said would vote for him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, and b) if there had even been indictments of Trump in the Report, most of these people would still have said Trump did nothing wrong, that it was a biased, political, Deep State witch hunt.
Instead, my foundation is that there will be 25% of Republicans who will be blind to everything. And another 10% who are so deeply entrenched as lifelong Republicans that they will twist themselves into pretzels to convince themselves that Trump is okay enough because they just can’t see voting for a Democrat. What’s important and what I focus on is the 30% in the middle (Independents and moderate Republicans alike) who are uncertain of the truth, troubled by what they hear, and are open to listening before they’ve finally had enough of corruption, collusion, taking babies from their parents, destroying health care, giving tax breaks to billionaires and more. Just shifting 3% of those people would be massively significant. It would turn a close election into a landslide – it changes a 51-49% squeaker into 54-46%. And that’s just a mere 3% switch. Now make it 5% or perhaps 10%. That’s a very low bar, it’s not only not trying to convince everyone, but not even trying to convince most people, yet even just a small shift is overwhelmingly meaningful.
Republicans can say, “Let’s move on” all they want. Democrats are not moving on. And I don’t think most of the public is either. Polls show that 80% of people want to see the full report. They want to know.
And then eventually come all the civil suits, against Individual 1. This is no small thing. Consider: the Mueller Report itself actually states the Justice Department policy that, "a President does not have immunity after he leaves office."
Trump did not get indicted. By policy, Trump could not get indicted or prosecuted. And so Trump did not get indicted. Make no mistake -- the Report says that's the reason. Not because he did nothing wrong. Nor illegal. Trump has just had a 400-page document explaining all he did that was profoundly wrong, unethical, corrupt...and illegal. And much of it was redacted, so we don't even know it all or the worst. Yet. We will, I'm quite sure.
And it was just the start.
It was fun to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Seth Meyers talk on his show yesterday about both being in the annual "Mee-Ow Show" at Northwestern University -- since I had written for the show in its first year of existence.
"The Mee-Ow Show" was created as a sort of alternative student production to offset the far-more famous and substantial, student-produced Waa-Mu Show. ("Waa-Mu" stands for Women's Athletic Association and Men's Union.) The Waa-Mu Show has been going on for 89 years now, and began life as a collection of events around one theme and has evolved into a full-blown musical. The Mee-Ow Show (not only named as a play on words, of course, but comes from Northwestern being the Wildcats) began as a sketch revue show and itself has evolved into an improv show.
I wrote two songs that were accepted for that initial show -- music and lyrics. Though the end result was somewhat different. A few days before opening night, I went to a rehearsal. One of the songs was done very well. The other song, though, was odd -- they had cut out the middle verse, and so the song made little sense and seemed a bit stupid. I went to the producer to ask him what in the world was going on. (He was a guy from my dorm, and knew pretty well. When I was president of the dorm, he was the treasurer, and my quip was that he would either end up being a big, successful producer or an embezzler. I heard a few years later after I had graduated that I was closer to being right about the latter. Though I don't know the full details of the "scandal," only that it was related to a subsequent production of the show.)
What he said was that the production was running long, by about 20 minutes, so things had to be cut. I replied that seemed an odd decision, since by cutting the verse they saved about 40 seconds. Meanwhile, the sketch that preceded it ran about 12 minutes -- which is an eternity for a sketch, most of which run about 3-5 minutes. I suggested that if they really wanted to save time, that was a far-better place to start. It was the correct argument, but not a winning one. He gave me two options: leave the song as is, or cut the song completely. I chose the latter. I'm sure the performers were disappointed, but then so was the composer-lyricist, more so by the mangling than pulling it. But I was sorry for that, as well.
In the end, the program shows one song by me. But I've always stood by the larger reality that I had two songs accepted in the show and only by personal choice did it end up halved..
Alas, I don't have footage of that initial production, though I do have Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Seth Meyers' show last night, having a good time and talking about the Mee-Ow Show, which is almost the next best thing! (It comes along about the 3:30 mark, though the whole interview is fun.)
By the way, fun too is that her son Charlie Hall is there, and they chat with him a bit in the wings, largely about him just finishing a small role on the final season if Veep, and then Seth Meyers even brings him out on stage. Readers of these pages with good memories will recall that I wrote about a very funny video of Charlie over a year ago. He's also at Northwestern, and on the basketball team, and did a series of videos in the locker room interviewing other players that all are a hoot. So, it's not a stretch that he apparently did well on his mother's show, even if not trained in acting. If you're interested, you can see one of those locker room videos here.
And you can see the Seth Meyers video underneath...
Boy howdy, must Trump come across INCREDIBLY BADLY in the Mueller Report. I haven't seen people work SO convoluted hard to keep others from finding the truth since the Wizard of Oz begged Dorothy not to pull back the curtain.
And this is someone who went around prancing that the Report supposedly "completely exonerated" him. So, to go from that to all the convoluted machinations he and Attorney General William Barr have twisted themselves through, there just absolutely has to be horribly damning, corrupt, unethical information in there.
I don't know what it is -- but Trump clearly does. A friend said to me last night, "Well, why would Rod Rosenstein be there?? Maybe there's actually nothing bad in it." Of course there's something bad in it!!! The bizarre lengths that Trump has gone to in order to keep it from being released -- after saying he was all for releasing it and that it completely exonerated him -- can only be because there's "something bad in it."
Is it possible that there's nothing bad in it? Sure. It's possible. But is it probably or likely? No.
By the way, here's the odd hole that Trump has dug for himself, which I haven't heard anyone mention up to this point.
For the past two years, Trump has been shouting at any opportunity, "No collusion!!! No collusion!!! No collusion!! No collusion!!! No collusion!!! " But here's the thing --
"Collusion" is not a crime. Conspiracy is the crime. So, what Robert Mueller and his team were looking for was evidence of conspiracy. And apparently there either wasn't any or wasn't enough to prove guilty within a reasonable doubt, which is the standard to indict. So, with no "conspiracy" that could be proved, there was no indictment (that,or because Mueller felt a president couldn't be indicted.)
But -- that doesn't mean there was no collusion. There might have been massive evidence of collusion -- which isn't illegal, but pretty horrific. And for all we know, the Mueller Report is full of that. For instance, meeting with Russians in Trump Tower to get information on Hillary Clinton but not coming away with anything may not be "conspiring" with Russia, and so there was no indictment for it. But it might well be evidence of collusion, and Mueller might have lots of evidence on that. Not enough to indict, but plenty to be damning.
(Then again, for all we know, Mueller might have found evidence of conspiracy with that, but felt it didn't fall under his mandate, and passed it along to the SDNY, since the meeting took place in New York...)
Indeed, while there was nothing indictable in the Mueller Report, there could be a great deal of evidence of collusion in it -- which would be of interest to the House for the question of impeachment. Other example perhaps could be more evidence related to Trump calling out Russia to look into Clinton's emails, or Roger Stone's dealing with WikiLeaks, or Trump's saying he had a big speech to make about the Clinton's when there were meetings set up with the Russians, or Erik Prince (head of Blackwater and brother of Betsy DeVos) meting with Russian operatives in the Seychelles. And more. I have no idea. But the point is that none of these things and others may have been evidence of conspiracy, but could well have been collusion, and if so, there could be a huge amount of evidence about it in the report.
If Trump had been shouting, "No conspiracy!!! No conspiracy!!! No conspiracy!!! No conspiracy!!!" for the past two years, he might possibly have been proven right. But he didn't shout that. He intentionally chose the word that he was likely told was not a crime and told that he should use that because it's safer. And for all we know -- that might be one of the many things that does him in.
But I only know people don't go to these massive lengths to keep people from seeing information about them unless there's information they don't want people to see.
And that's something pretty much every human being knows - and learned by the third grade.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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