Russiagate Worst Scandal in Decades?

Jonathan Bernstein thinks so and Chuck Todd and company outline a pretty strong case.

Jonathan Bernstein thinks so and Chuck Todd and company outline a pretty strong case:

After tallying the guilty pleas and indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as digesting the dueling Republican and Democratic memos from the House Intelligence Committee, here is what we know — so far — about the Russia probe:

  • Nineteen individuals have been charged with crimes, including President Trump’s former campaign chairman (Paul Manafort), as well as 13 Russians.
  • Five have pleaded guilty, including Trump’s former national security adviser (Michael Flynn), a former top Trump campaign and transition official (Rick Gates) and a former campaign adviser (George Papadopoulos).
  • Both Republicans (the Nunes memo) and Democrats (the Schiff memo) have confirmed that the FBI’s Russia probe originated with Papadopoulos’ claim to Australia’s top diplomat that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
  • The Schiff memo reveals that, by mid-September 2016, the FBI had opened “sub-inquiries” into MULTIPLE individuals connected with the Trump campaign — beyond former adviser Carter Page.

Whether or not Mueller ever finds a smoking gun that Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia, this is already the biggest political scandal in decades. And we are just more than a year into Trump’s presidency and nine months into Mueller’s probe. “Clearly the worst presidential scandal since at least Iran-Contra, but probably since Watergate,” said political scientist Jonathan Bernstein.

And this does NOT include other moving parts of the Russia inquiry, including that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, Donald Trump Jr.’s direct messages with WikiLeaks, Trump constantly invoking the WikiLeaks revelations during the final month of the 2016 race, and Jared Kushner’s inability to obtain a permanent security clearance.

As the New York Times’ Peter Baker wrote over the weekend, nothing produced by Mueller’s probe has indicated wrongdoing by President Trump or illegal collaboration with Russians or Russian intermediaries. But Gates’ guilty plea on Friday is getting closer to the president.

“The presumption in Mr. Trump’s circle is that Mr. Gates may not have any incriminating information about the president but could be a dangerous witness against Mr. Manafort, who in turn could threaten Mr. Trump,” Baker reported.

There have been a lot of, no pun intended, trumped-up scandals over the years. I can’t think of any since Iran-Contra that led to this many people close to a sitting President pleading guilty to crimes.

The obvious contender is the Lewinski scandal and related allegations. They did, after all, lead to only the second presidential impeachment in US history and Bill Clinton’s eventual disbarment. I believed then and still believe that his perjury made him unfit to serve as Chief Executive and that the Senate should have removed him from office. But the root offense was a cover-up of what was, at worst, workplace sexual harassment and, at best, a consensual affair with an adult.

In the present scandal, we have, at best, top advisors to and close family members of the eventual President happily going along with a hostile foreign power’s attempts to influence the outcome of an American election. Until and unless the Mueller investigation reveals a lot more, there’s no reasonable grounds for impeachment. But, yes, the overall scandal is worse than Clinton’s. And it could certainly become worse than Watergate.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Donald Trump, Russia Investigation, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    And Todd doesn’t even touch on the probability of money laundering and tax evasion. Trump said Mueller would cross a red line if he investigated Trump and family finances prior to Trump’s Presidency*. Mueller apparently is looking at Trump’s finances. We recently learned Trump tried to get McGhan to fire Mueller last summer. There’s probably a reason Trump said that was a red line.




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  2. MBunge says:

    we have, at best, top advisors to and close family members of the eventual President happily going along with a hostile foreign power’s attempts to influence the outcome of an American election

    Sorry, but that is flatly a lie. Best-case, worst-case, whatever-case you want to make, that is flatly a lie. There is no evidence to date that ANYONE involved with the Trump campaign took part in any Russian effort to disrupt the 2016 campaign. That is not my opinion. That is the official statement from the supposedly above reproach and so honest and noble they can never be questioned people who are officially investigating this matter.

    Again, to try and penetrate the self-serving delusion…

    THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO DATE THAT ANYONE WITH THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN TOOK PART IN ANY RUSSIAN EFFORT TO DISRUPT THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. THAT IS NOT A MATTER OF OPINION. THOSE ARE THE FACTS AS WE CURRENTLY KNOW THEM.

    Accusing them of “happily” going along with it is a lie. Not a misstatement. Not an exaggeration. Not hyperbole. It is a lie.

    Additionally, there is no evidence to date that any Russian effort had any effect at all on the 2016 Presidential election. Again, this is not a matter of opinion. It is the official statement of the people investigating this matter, who we have been told incessantly are entirely above reproach.

    So, something that may have had no effect and may have involved no one in the Trump campaign is the biggest scandal in decades?

    Look, I know Trump is an existential threat to your ego and self-image but retreating into fantasy is not going to help you or the nation. You guys, yet again, screwed up. You overshot the mark. You spent a year screaming about “Collusion!” because you hysterically needed to believe that Trump could be removed from office and you could go back to pretending you were smart and everything was fine. And while you may think the American public is dumb, they are not so dumb as to miss the ongoing attempt to move the goal posts from Earth to Pluto.

    Of course, future developments could change all this. We live in a world where Donald Trump is President of the United States, so nothing is impossible. The facts are what the facts are, however, and while denying reality can feel good in the short run, it never works out well in the end.

    Mike




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  3. michael reynolds says:

    Easily the worst political scandal in US history.

    I was in DC during Watergate, leaping out of bed every morning to grab my WaPo, tangentially involved through the law firm I worked for. This is so much worse. We’ve had scumbag presidents before, we’ve never had one who was a traitor. I’d compare Trump to Benedict Arnold but Arnold was a brilliant general and had genuine beef with Congress. Trump is just a squalid pig of a man.




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  4. James Joyner says:

    @MBunge:

    There is no evidence to date that ANYONE involved with the Trump campaign took part in any Russian effort to disrupt the 2016 campaign.

    There’s plenty of evidence. NYT:

    Aboard Air Force One on a flight home from Europe last July, President Trump and his advisers raced to cobble together a news release about a mysterious meeting at Trump Tower the previous summer between Russians and top Trump campaign officials. Rather than acknowledge the meeting’s intended purpose — to obtain political dirt about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government — the statement instead described the meeting as being about an obscure Russian adoption policy.

    The statement, released in response to questions from The New York Times about the meeting, has become a focus of the inquiry by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller in recent months have questioned numerous White House officials about how the release came together — and about how directly Mr. Trump oversaw the process. Mr. Mueller’s team recently notified Mr. Trump’s lawyers that the Air Force One statement is one of about a dozen subjects that prosecutors want to discuss in a face-to-face interview of Mr. Trump that is still being negotiated.

    The revelation of the meeting was striking: It placed the president’s son and his top campaign officials in direct contact with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Mrs. Clinton, and an email to the president’s son emerged saying that the information was part of Russia’s effort to help the Trump campaign. The special counsel is investigating how those revelations were handled in real time in part because the president was involved in his administration’s response.

    Some lawyers and witnesses who have sat in or been briefed on the interviews have puzzled over Mr. Mueller’s interest in the episode. Lying to federal investigators is a crime; lying to the news media is not. For that reason, some of Mr. Trump’s advisers argue that Mr. Mueller has no grounds to ask the president about the statement and say he should refuse to discuss it.

    What is already clear is that, as Mr. Trump’s aides and family members tried over 48 hours to manage one of the most consequential crises of the young administration, the situation quickly degenerated into something of a circular firing squad. They protected their own interests, shifted blame and potentially left themselves — and the president — legally vulnerable.

    More from NYT:

    The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton.

    The documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

    If the future president’s eldest son was surprised or disturbed by the provenance of the promised material — or the notion that it was part of a continuing effort by the Russian government to aid his father’s campaign — he gave no indication.

    He replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

    Four days later, after a flurry of emails, the intermediary wrote back, proposing a meeting in New York on Thursday with a “Russian government attorney.”

    Donald Trump Jr. agreed, adding that he would most likely bring along “Paul Manafort (campaign boss)” and “my brother-in-law,” Jared Kushner, now one of the president’s closest White House advisers.

    And then there’s the active cooperation of Trump and company with WikiLeaks. If anything, I’ve grossly understated what we already know.




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  5. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    The Bung will not be able to read your excellent riposte. Remember in Westworld when we get the reveal about Bernard? He can’t see a door that’s clearly right in front of him because he’s a ‘host’ and he’s programmed not to see certain things? It’s like that when you’re in a cult of personality: you see only what you’re programmed to see.




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  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Until and unless the Mueller investigation reveals a lot more, there’s no reasonable grounds for impeachment.

    Um…failure to protect and defend the United States of America? He is standing idly by while we continue to be attacked by our one of our greatest adversaries. How is that treasonous behavior not an impeachable offense?




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  7. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We’ve had scumbag presidents before, we’ve never had one who was a traitor.

    Given the Chennault Affair, I’m not sure that’s entirely true.




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  8. James Joyner says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Um…failure to protect and defend the United States of America? He is standing idly by while we continue to be attacked by our one of our greatest adversaries. How is that treasonous behavior not an impeachable offense?

    That’s not criminal behavior. And, arguably, Obama was guilty of that in this case, failing to take action against the Russians because it would look bad politically and it was likely Hillary was going to win, anyway. And there’s no treason, even if the worst is proven, since we’re not at war with Russia.

    (I do think there are grounds for impeachment on Emoluments Clause violations, but even the Democrats seem to have lost interest in that.)




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  9. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @James Joyner:

    since we’re not at war with Russia.

    Well, that’s the point isn’t it? They are actively attacking us and we are letting them without response. In fact, Trump is not enforcing sanctions so, ipso facto, we are rewarding them for their continued attacks.
    Obama tried to act, and McConnell shut him down. And the concern was not politics, but that acting without a bi-partisan front would only serve to undermine the legitimacy of the election and American institutions; exactly what the Russians aimed to do. So McConnell is as guilty as Trump.




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  10. Gustopher says:

    Part of what makes this scandal so bad is that the President’s entire party is willing to say that day is night to defend him. If it were just a traitorous President, or a useful idiot President, that would be bad enough — but we now have half of Congress going along with it, putting party before country.




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  11. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner: There’s no way you could get even anti-Trump republicans to impeach, much less remove, the Orange Clown based on emoluments. For one thing, the case is rather technical and involves a lot of accounting, which is boring and hard for most people to grasp. For another, the obvious defense is that a (alleged) billionaire does not need to stoop to such things.

    But what the trump apologists need to understand, is that the Mueller investigation is far from complete. And especially that because there have been no disclosures about collusion, doesn’t mean there isn’t any evidence for collusion. Ditto for other high crimes Trump may have committed.




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  12. Don Bakr says:

    @James Joyner: Presidential behavior needn’t be criminal to be impeachable…impeachment is an inherently political process, and Congress can impeach the president over anything they feel like. If the tables were turned and Russia had helped Hillary Clinton win the presidency, I have no doubt the congressional GOP would have impeached her by now.




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  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    McConnell is as guilty as Trump.

    Guiltier. I expect Trump just kind of stumbled into what he did, one deal a little over the line, then another; overlook one impropriety by a subordinate, then another. McConnell knew exactly what he was doing. Malice aforethought.




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  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Don Bakr: True, and unless things change dramatically in the midterms, blocking the Ryan/McConnell agenda is the only impeachable crime.




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  15. James Joyner says:

    @Don Bakr:

    Presidential behavior needn’t be criminal to be impeachable…impeachment is an inherently political process, and Congress can impeach the president over anything they feel like.

    Theoretically, that’s true, since I can’t imagine SCOTUS weighing in. (There has been no SCOTUS precedents at all that I know of on the Impeachment Clause, although they give some hints that there are limits in the case of Judge Walter Nixon.) But 1) as you say, a GOP Congress is unlikely to impeach a GOP President short gross criminal conduct that they can’t deny and 2) public opinion would weigh heavily against impeaching even a wildly unpopular President absent criminal malfeasance.




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  16. An Interested Party says:

    And, arguably, Obama was guilty of that in this case, failing to take action against the Russians because it would look bad politically and it was likely Hillary was going to win, anyway.

    Umm, excuse me, but let us not overlook the role that Mitch McConnell played in this mess…




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  17. James Joyner says:

    @An Interested Party:

    let us not overlook the role that Mitch McConnell played in this mess…

    Sure. But his role was secondary to Obama’s—refusing to go along and give the opposition party president political cover and make the affair bipartisan was shameless, if typical. But that hardly precluded Obama acting. Further, my only point in bringing Obama into the discussion was on the narrow point that he could theoretically be “charged” with the “offense” that a commenter thought impeachable in Trump’s case.




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  18. Hal_10000 says:

    I can’t think of any since Iran-Contra that led to this many people close to a sitting President pleading guilty to crimes.

    It was for stuff before he was President, but the Whitewater investigation resulted in 15 associates of the President being convicted of 40 crimes, including his Lieutenant Governor, Associate AG, and multiple supporters and business partners. A little more significant — so far — than 13 Russians posting garbage on Facebook and some guys lying to the FBI.

    However … the investigation is still ongoing, so I will hold off any judgement of where this place in history. If it ended now, it would be bad. If it ends with Trump being implicated, it could be the worst ever. My gut feeling is still that this is going to end up a lot like Whitewater — lot of convictions of people around the President, but not enough on him to justify an indictment.




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  19. Lounsbury says:

    “I believed then and still believe that his perjury made him unfit to serve as Chief Executive and that the Senate should have removed him from office.”
    Sad up-tightness really.




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  20. MarkedMan says:

    Here’s the way it seems to be shaking down: in 2015 Manafort owes at least $18M to a Russian oligarch with no hope of paying it back, because his Ukrainian/Russian sugar daddy had just fled the Ukraine for Moscow. Manafort suggests to the Oligarch that he could become a player in the Trump campaign and that would allow him to “get whole”. Trump hires him at no salary. All that is on the public record. Manafort immediately starts promoting Moscow’s agenda, at the convention and beyond. So far, it might be argued (with good cause) that Trump is so colossally stupid and immoral that he didn’t know what was going on. But two things give that the lie. First, Trump’s overtly fawning towards Russia and ongoing attempts to circumvent punishment. And, second,Trump’s ongoing obstruction, desperately trying to stop the investigation.

    The “reasonable Republican” harrumphing, Foghorn Leghorn style about ‘Well, things may not be as bad as they appear” is nonsense. It is on par with the way these reasonable Republicans have enabled the degradation of their party into a morass of racism, anti-science and voodoo economics.




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  21. JKB says:

    @James Joyner: my only point in bringing Obama into the discussion was on the narrow point that he could theoretically be “charged” with the “offense”

    There is even video tape of Obama “colluding” with Russia to influence an election. How else could one take a message to Putin asking him to back off until after the election and Obama promised to be “flexible” for Putin then. That’s an offer with renumeration.

    The sides are so in different movies with this, that never shall they come together in some final harmonious plot resolution.




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  22. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    McConnell “made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.” In other words, McConnell not only refused to condemn a foreign spy operation, he threatened to retaliate against his country’s efforts to defend itself.

    – Obama initiated the appropriate investigations.
    – Obama had only about three months between conformation of interference and the election.
    – Obama did put Russia on notice and did put sanctions in place.
    – Any statement to the public would have been seen as an effort to influence the election in Hillary’s favor. McConnell, the rest of the Congressional Republicans, and the RW media would have done everything possible to further that perception. The supposedly liberal MSM would have been in full he said, she said, bothsides mode.

    What more should Obama have done?




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  23. JKB says:

    @MarkedMan: It is on par with the way these reasonable Republicans have enabled the degradation of their party into a morass of racism, anti-science and voodoo economics.

    You mean the racism where minority unemployment is at historical lows?
    Or the anti-science for pulling out of Paris, which is being shown to be a farce by those countries still in the accord?
    Or the voodoo economics that has brought greater growth than in the last 10 years and put an end to the depressed economist talk of the “new normal”.

    And if your assessment of the whole thing with angered Russian oligarchs is true, we should see some sudden death syndrome running through DC circles. Oligarchs aren’t known for waiting out the legal process.




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  24. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:

    You mean the racism where minority unemployment is at historical lows?

    And you think Trump or the Republicans had anything to do with that?
    Maroon.




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  25. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:

    Or the voodoo economics that has brought greater growth than in the last 10 years

    What are you talking about, Willis?




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  26. teve tory says:
  27. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: You seem nervous. I wonder why that is.




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  28. teve tory says:

    Rumor has it Congressman Dana rohrabacher may be indicted, for accepting Russian money through manafort and Gates.




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  29. Turgid Jacobian says:

    @Hal_10000: “some guys”

    The President’s National Security Advisor really outstrips “some guys.”

    Arguably so does the deputy campaign manager.




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  30. Tyrell says:

    No. I would say the Democratic party leadership rigging the nomination campaign. The Lewinsky escapade. The Savings and Loan fiasco. The Federal Reserve missing trillions. The infamous airport meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton.




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  31. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The Bung will not be able to read your excellent riposte. Remember in Westworld when we get the reveal about Bernard? He can’t see a door that’s clearly right in front of him because he’s a ‘host’ and he’s programmed not to see certain things? It’s like that when you’re in a cult of personality: you see only what you’re programmed to see.

    I think you are giving Bung too much credit. There are many people who see what they want to see (actually that describes pretty much everyone to some extent) but who at least make a good-faith effort to report things the way they see them. Bung’s behavior is part of a deliberate strategy where he posts wildly misleading and erroneous comments then utterly refuses to address any rebuttals dismantling his claims, not because he doesn’t “see” them but because he knows he’s not going to win the argument on the merits and is simply out to make sure his propaganda is out there.

    The alt-right website “The Right Stuff” includes the following advice for trolls (quoted in George Hawley’s Making Sense of the Alt-Right):

    You should assume that you will never manage to convince your ideological enemies of the merit of your position. Rather, the purpose of trolling is to convince people reading your comments of the merit of your position. On many different web forums, lurkers outnumber posters 10 to 1. The purpose of trolling raids is to convince these anonymous people, not the person you disagree with. As such, you can win hearts and minds even when met with universal opposition.

    Of course, what “winning hearts and minds” means is spewing falsehoods, Gish Gallop style, hoping at least some of it will stick.

    P.S. Am I the only one who f*cking loves the show Westworld? It seems like everywhere I look it’s being bashed as bloated, pretentious crap.




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  32. DrDaveT says:

    But, yes, the overall scandal is worse than Clinton’s.

    In other news, the Chrysler Building is taller than Wrigley Field.

    @Hal_10000:

    It was for stuff before he was President, but the Whitewater investigation resulted in 15 associates of the President being convicted of 40 crimes

    …none of which had anything to do with compromising the integrity of the US electoral process.

    It’s not just about what crime you’re committing; it’s about the magnitude of the consequences. Murder is worse than election fraud, as crimes go, but a senator being convicted of murder would be less of a scandal than a senator being convicted of election fraud.




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  33. michael reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    Westworld is bloated, pretentious crap at some level, but crazy good anyway. I thought they started losing it around episode 6 or so, they were suffering from Lost disease.

    When they sell these shows they have a pitch and a couple of episodes, then they have to figure it out on the fly. Hopefully they’ll take the hiatus and get a firmer grip. It’s not easy to improv your way to the point where it all comes together and looks like it was all planned. Sure, I do it all the time. 😉 But then again I don’t have suits, agents, actors, unions and ratings in my face constantly. On the other hand, they’ve got a room full of writers. . .




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  34. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Westworld is bloated, pretentious crap at some level, but crazy good anyway. I thought they started losing it around episode 6 or so, they were suffering from Lost disease.

    Well, one of the executive producers is Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams, so there’s that. There was certainly a bewildering number of plot twists for a first season; it took Lost six seasons to reach that level, and then the show just ended. Here, they’re just getting started (supposedly). Both shows seem particularly in love with the tomato surprise, a plot twist intended to surprise the audience but which doesn’t come as a surprise to any of the characters. It’s practically a trademark of Abrams-produced works.




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  35. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: FWIW, I really liked the ending of Lost. I may be one of the few, but there it is.




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  36. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan:

    FWIW, I really liked the ending of Lost. I may be one of the few, but there it is.

    In the range of TV show endings, it’s far from the worst. At least it provided some sense of closure. But Season 6 was by far my least favorite season. I hated what they did with Locke. I’ve noticed over the years that there’s a weird form of shark-jumping common to long-running sf/fantasy TV series, where we’re suddenly told that a character isn’t the real character, or that he’s replaced by a clone, or something along those lines.

    Both Lost and Westworld have the quality of feeling like runaway trains–which makes for excellent television, but pretty much ensures the series is going to crash at some point. But Westworld seems to be going through the process a lot quicker.




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  37. Rick DeMent says:

    @Kylopod:

    “Am I the only one who f*cking loves the show Westworld? It seems like everywhere I look it’s being bashed as bloated, pretentious crap.”

    I, for one, am a big fan of bloated pretentious crap.




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  38. michael reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    Let me clarify BTW that I’m not dissing the Lost writers. It’s more in the nature of well-informed ribbing.

    I’ve written some long-running book series. Animorphs went to 63 books over about five years. Around the halfway point I was scouring old Star Treks looking for story. It’s relevant to bear in mind that most published writers write one book every two or three years. Call it a half a page a day. My output over the course of 28 years (including 3 years off doing other things) is 2.5 pages a day or about 5 times the typical rate.

    A TV show-runner with a 22 episode series is putting out about 1300 script pages per season. That is a serious load. He’s got a staff of writers, but balancing that out he’s buried in the kind of chickensh!t I can ignore. I really admire a lot of TV writing, it’s really well-done.




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  39. MarkedMan says:

    There is a Lost specific issue that aggravated a lot of people, but I think would be seen differently today. The writers had the answers to a number of big mysteries but didn’t see an easy way to fit them into the last season. So they created a 10-12 minute epilogue that shows two of the characters closing things down in certain areas. But it was only released on the Internet. And when NetFlix carried Lost they didn’t include it as an episode. To this day I will hear people complain about how Lost left so many things unresolved and when they list them off, almost all of them were resolved, but a number of the small but niggling ones did only get wrapped up in that epilogue. Example: Where did the supplies come from?

    If this same technique were used today, I suspect it would be more well known both because people are more used to this Internet additional content and because the rights to this extra piece would be tied to the main content, and therefore NetFlix, Hulu, etc would simply present it as the last episode.




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  40. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan: What I’ve read about the development of the show has pretty much confirmed what most of us suspected, which is that they were making a lot of it up as they went along. The early seasons strongly give the impression that Walt would play a much bigger role, and the characters keep talking like “the Others” are the ones doing the whispering, which turns out to be a red herring–but in retrospect there’s no way they were keeping a child actor around in a series where only a few months of story-time would pass over several seasons. It’s kind of like when you watch the original Star Wars trilogy and you wonder, “If Anakin was a young man in the prequels and that’s supposed to be only about 25 years earlier, why did Lucas cast a 75-year-old man as the older Anakin?” (And George Lucas is about the biggest BS artist I’ve ever seen when it comes to claiming he had everything planned all along.) I’m not the sort of fanboy who normally gets hung up on these kinds of details, but I like a series to at least pretend it knows what it’s doing, and I’ve become accustomed to seeing various giveaways that it doesn’t. The Harry Potter series, in my opinion, is one of the better examples of a series that functions smoothly from start to finish, without feeling like it was doing massive retconning at the end.

    (With regard to Westworld, Jimmi Simpson and Ed Harris have stated in separate interviews that neither of them was told upfront that…well, I won’t give it away for those who haven’t seen the first season yet, but if you have, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)




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  41. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: On Westworld, Jefferey Wright’s character was my favorite, both before and after I knew all the dynamics. Rewatching it now, and all I can say is that it is a brilliant job of acting.




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  42. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    The Federal Reserve missing trillions.

    Missing? We know where those trillions are. Hillary laundered this money through The Clinton Foundation, from there through the Russian Gazprombank, then to Deutsche Bank, and finally through the shell operation, “The Estate of Vince Foster,” after which proceeds are disbursed through one of Chelsea’s shell LLC’s.

    It’s all common knowledge – Hannity and Alex Jones are on it.




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  43. MarkedMan says:

    Oh and by the way, anyone who is a fan of Westworld, or Anthony Hopkins, or of skillful acting should watch this from the Nerdwriter. He dissects a scene almost word by word and it is just stunning the level of detail Hopkins puts into his work. One piece of trivia from it: Hopkins recites his lines 150-200 times before he shows up on set, so that he can change intonation on a syllable by syllable basis and not be thrown off.




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  44. we says:

    @michael reynolds: Couldn’t disagree more. Having spent decades writing mysteries, nothing makes me crazier than something that starts with no real idea of the ending… like Lost. But Westworld was so intrically and brilliantly structured, it was clear that they knew what they were doing all along the line. Just about my favorite piece of TV in years.




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  45. MarkedMan says:

    @we: Agree with you. Given the small number of
    Westworld episodes, the plot advancement, and the need to keep the reveals synchronized, I don’t think they could have pulled it off trying to work on the fly. In fact, we know that for one of the biggest reveals, one of the actors involved guessed his twist during filming of episode 4, although they had planned to keep him in the dark. And for another big reveal, they told that actor after the preview episode, because it had to be so coordinated. And there are a fair number of small things that become important later on that must have been planned.

    On the other hand, speaking about his experience as co-show runner on Lost, Damon Lindeloff himself has said that the planning consisted of detailed story ideas for the first half season (remember, this is the 22-24 episode era), a general first season conclusion, and then just a concept of how the show would end. He said they were certain they were going to be cancelled (the ABC exec who green lit them and approved the record high budget got fired for doing so before the show even aired) and so threw everything into the the first season they could think of, because they assumed it would be their only chance. By the time they were cranking out the back half of the season they realized a) they had a hit on their hands, and b) for the first time, they were being subjected to a level of intense scrutiny impossible before DVD’s and digital downloads, with fans combing through the footage literally frame by frame. He said he almost had a breakdown contemplating season 2. Given that this type of episodic television was relatively untrod ground, I think they did a pretty good job. It was more the norm for the time for most series that what happened in one episode didn’t really affect others, so a major character could fall in love, have their lover die tragically, and the next episode would pick up as if it never happened.




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  46. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: First of all, that “we” person is me. Can’t believe I mistyped my own two-letter screen name….

    JJ Abrams has a great fondness for setting up mysteries and essentially no interest in solving them. Anyone who watched Alias knew that long before Lost. I thought it was hilarious that he had done this again in The Force Awakens — who is Snoke? Who are Rey’s parents? — only to have Rian Johnson throw them away. I assume he went to JJ and said “so what are the story answers here so I can follow them?” and JJ said “eh, who cares, I have no idea” and so Johnson just blew them off.

    But that’s not Westworld at all. Westworld not only knew its ending, it managed to run on two different tracks at the same time — there was the show you thought you were watching the first time through, and then there was a different story driven by a different theme that only became clear after you’d seen the whole thing once. It’s a marvel of plotting and structure. I have no idea how they can even come close in season two, but I’ll be there to find out.




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  47. Steve V says:

    This, among other odd coincidences, has always bothered me:

    At 6:14 p.m. on June 7, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. clicked the send button on an email to confirm a meeting with a woman described as a “Russian government attorney” who would give him “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.”

    Three hours later, his father, Donald J. Trump, claimed victory in the final primary races propelling him to the Republican presidential nomination and a general election contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In his victory speech, Mr. Trump promised to deliver a major address detailing Mrs. Clinton’s “corrupt dealings” to give “favorable treatment” to foreign governments, including “the Russians.”

    It’s difficult for me to imagine this not coming very close to Trump himself.




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