Saturday, May 13, 2017

Constitutional Crisis, Part Two: Wielding the “Moral Vacuum”

"Hacker: Humphrey, you are purely committed to means, and not endsyou are a moral vacuum.
Bernard (secretary): Sir Humphrey, will I end up as a moral vacuum, too?
Humphrey: “Oh, I do hope so…if you work hard, Bernard.” 
“The Whisky Priest,” Yes, Minister, BBC Television 1980

We now know that James Comey was fired by Donald Trump under a pretext provided by public servants (like Yes, Minister's Humphrey and Bernard), who may just be regretting that they’ve been used as “means” to Trump’s end. In a stunning and disturbing interview two days ago with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump abruptly admitted that he had intended to fire Comey before the Justice Department provided a back-up pretext, and that the decision was made in order to end the “fake” investigations into his—and his campaign’s—connections with Russia. 

All this, while claiming that James Comey told him repeatedly that he was “not under investigation.” Whiplash, anyone?

Trump basically hung his staff—and the Vice President, who had also been defending the pretext—out to dry. 

I find myself quoting Mel Brooks a lot these days: “It’s good to be the King.” Except, Trump has apparently ignored the memo stating that he’s not a king, and that he didn’t end up in the White House to lead a monarchy. As I write this, the media is abuzz about whether Trump just admitted to obstructing justice. 

In fact, Trump’s many disruptive tactics over the past weeks are being scrutinized in that light: his wire-tapping claims about Obama; the monkey business Devin Nunes got caught up in with the White House over those claims; the nasty tweets lobbed at former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates before she testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday; and now, the attempt to stymie the FBI’s investigation by decapitating the agency. Serious questions remain as to whether the Department of Justice has been fatally compromised by Trump’s demands. The list goes on, and the situation is chaotically fluid.  

According to MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and retired National Intelligence head, James Clapper, Trump had demanded an “oath of loyalty” from Comey, which Comey declined to offer, saying essentially that he would always be “honest” with the president, but that an oath would be inappropriate (highly!). Not the answer Trump was looking for, apparently. According to Constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe, the list of  impeachable offenses is growing.

Addressing Congressional Republicans, Scarborough warned in unusually dramatic terms that what we have is “a president who is subverting the Constitution of the United States of America,” and he cautioned them (as a former Republican Congressman himself), against continuing to follow Trump “over the cliff.”  

Perhaps it’s time that we take a page from the British “ministerial” wit and wisdom quoted above: the White House is quickly becoming a “moral vacuum,” only this time our democracy itself stands to get sucked in. The drama just keeps escalating—with good astrological reason, as we’ll see ahead. 

In fact, as I write this, CNN has just reported that Trump issued the following “veiled threat” to Comey in Tweet form: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press."Since that Tweet, Trump and staff have declined to confirm if the White House is "bugged" or not. It's Watergate déjà-vu all over again.

Trump’s also threatening here to “cancel future press briefings.” We’ve been through something similar to this before, of course—an issue we’ll examine astrologically. Even so, the Watergate crisis looks innocent by comparison. In less than 4 full months, Trump’s White House has proven to be more deeply compromised than Nixon’s ever was, even at the worst point in the Watergate crisis, and that didn’t happen until his second term as president. 

The optics on Wednesday in the Oval Office told the story:  with Comey’s firing as a pre-meeting “appetizer,” Trump welcomed the two “Sergeys,” Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Kislyak into the Oval Office for a closed-door session, with only Russian media allowed. 

The Tass pictures of this three-some that resulted are supremely smug, to the point of being giddy: as the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum put it, “They, too, smile and laugh, relishing the many ironies of the moment.” 

Applebaum points out the contrast between this “jolly and good humored” photo and the stiff, official looking photos Trump has taken with democratic leaders like Angela Merkel. The article then compares the approaches of Trump and the Russians when it comes to dissidents, and makes a stunning observation we will return to as we consider the astrology of this situation:

“I know that investigations should continue, but let’s be clear: Russia would have needed no inducements or collusion to support Trump’s election campaign. His personality is the kind they understand, his cynicism and his dishonesty are familiar, his greed is the same as their greed. Above all, his lack of respect for the law is their lack of respect for the law. Trump fired the FBI director to get him off his television screen; Russian police lock up dissidents to get them out of public view. No, it’s not the same thing. But it’s not that different either. “
Clearly, either Trump doesn’t see the problem with the optics coming out of his office, or he’s purposely rubbing all of our noses in it, saying in effect: “I’m in charge, and if I want to deceive the country every time I open my mouth, and sell the country down the river to the Russians, none of you can stop me.” Either he’s oblivious—as only a “moral vacuum” can be—or he’s going for the jugular. Or, it’s simply a ludicrous accident of timing—a bit hard to swallow.

As if that wasn’t bizarrely troubling enough, Trump staged an “aperitif”—a  photo op with Nixon’s Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, at which he explained to a reporter that the reason he fired Comey was because “he wasn’t doing a good job.” Trump’s motives sparked instant speculation, of course. From CNN

“It was apparently lost on Trump that the last 16 hours had been dominated by comparisons between Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre" -- where he jettisoned the independent counsel investigating Watergate -- and Trump's decision to part ways with Comey. Either that or Trump was pulling the greatest troll move ever by having Kissinger there when he took his first questions from reporters about the Comey firing.”
Given the nose-thumbing (trolling?) that went on with the Russians, it sure looks like more of the same. 

Could the Russians have been up to no good, as well? The Washington Post raised the possibility of a security breach, allowing a Russian press photographer to bring sophisticated electronic equipment into the Oval Office. Former intelligence officials noted that “standard screening for White House visitors would not necessarily detect a sophisticated espionage device.” The White House, as usual, brushed off the criticism; Trump appears to be learning more from Putin every day.

The astrology of a “moral vacuum”

So, let’s continue sorting through the labyrinthine maze of astrology involved here. First, a quick look at the personal dimension of it all, from Comey’s perspective (the last post looked at Trump’s perspective). There’s no published birth time for Comey, so we’ll be examining a noon chart for the birth date and place published for him on Wikipedia

Biwheel #2: (inner wheel) James Brien Comey, Jr., December 14, 1960, 12:00 p.m. ST (noon chart, no exact time known), Yonkers, NY; (outer wheel) Comey Firing, May 9, 2017, 5:05 p.m. DST (news report), Washington, D.C.. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

Interchart T-Square: Firing Nodal Axis (Leo-Aquarius) conjoins Comey Uranus opposite Chiron (Leo-Aquarius); this axis squares Firing Sun (Taurus). While the square aspects involved here are somewhat wide, there’s a “gotcha” quality to this configuration that accounts not only for its suddenness (Uranus), but the painful way (Comey Chiron) in which the firing was inflicted. It feels something like a trap that was deliberately laid for him—we’ll see more on this theme as we go. 

Interchart Grand Trine: Firing Mercury-Uranus (Aries) trine Comey Sun-Firing Saturn-GC (Sagittarius) and Comey Uranus-Firing No. Node (Leo). The “gotcha” noted above was powerfully implemented by this fiery outburst: it’s worth noting here that Comey’s Sun and Uranus also tie into Trump’s chart pretty tightly, his Sun trine Trump’s Moon and his Uranus conjunct Trump’s Mars-Asc. 

Even many who chafed at Comey’s treatment of Hillary Clinton seem to agree that his commitment to following the Russia investigations wherever they took him is a sign of his integrity (Sun); with this point conjoined Firing Saturn at the Galactic Center (GC), we see Comey’s willingness to reveal “whistleblower”-type information. Trump may be uneasy under this transit because it’s also conjunct his Moon and trine has Mars-ASC

The Mercury-Uranus trine to Trump’s Leo points suggests that he saw the opportunity to demonstrate his control over the situation, and he took it. Trump also has Mercury-Uranus conjunct in his nativity (in Gemini, now being opposed by transiting Saturn); the moment may have simply felt right to him. 

Interchart T-Square: Firing Pluto-Comey Saturn (Capricorn) oppose Comey Mars (Cancer); this axis squares Firing Jupiter Rx-ASC (Libra). It’s been a hallmark of Trump’s managerial style that he doesn’t simply “fire” people; he does his best to demolish their reputations in the process. This appears to be a particularly delicious kind of Plutonian power to him; in fact, there’s reason to believe that this is the “special power” he wields over those who answer to him. That’s certainly reflected here in Firing Pluto’s conjunction to Comey’s Saturn, opposing Comey’s Mars. It just might take a great deal of courage to stand up to Trump, but Comey appears up to the challenge.

The interesting timing of the firing is reflected in the ASC-Jupiter Rx conjunction: is it just coincidence that this conjunction conjoins Trump’s natal Jupiter? The transiting retrograde probably reflects the backlash Trump has experienced in the wake of his actions (surprising to him, apparently): Trump appears to have thought he would benefit from this firing. The difficulty he and his spokespeople had in settling upon an official storyline is also reflected here. Feigning a principled stance simply backfired on him.  

We’ve discussed the demeaning and devious way in which Trump fired Comey (while Comey was out of his office, at an FBI event in Los Angeles), initially, as noted earlier, on a trumped up pretext that he has since dropped: in the process he has twice compromised the integrity of his own spokespeople and the Department of Justice. As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews put it, “Trump has trashed everyone.” 

As for the personal impact on Comey, Trump has been rubbing salt in the wound he inflicted by claiming that Comey “offered” information that there are no investigations into Trump himself  (a point Trump attempted to enshrine in the firing letter). If this were true—acting FBI director Andrew McCabe and others say it isn’t—it would fly in the face of FBI rules, and it would destroy Comey’s professional reputation and integrity, so Trump’s pursuit of that claim is either vindictive or viciously self-serving. The transiting Jupiter-Pluto square, tying into Trump’s natal Jupiter (Libra) square Saturn-Venus (Cancer) covers both. 

We dug into Trump’s sensitive Cancer points in the last post: what we see here reinforces how threatened he feels by Comey. His behavior in this is consistent with his campaign: tearing down the reputations of others—often by deceptive means—is a favorite tactic for securing and lifting himself up.  

Interchart Grand-Square: Firing Neptune (Pisces) opposes Comey Pluto-No. Node (Virgo); this axis squares Firing Mars (Gemini) opposed to Comey Mercury (Sagittarius). We see Comey’s independent thinking style in his Sagittarius Mercury—not surprisingly, Comey’s independence from the presidency is a matter of professional honor and integrity. If Trump did demand an oath of loyalty from Comey, as Scarborough claimed, then we can appreciate the stress-test (grand square) that Comey’s independence has been enduring. 

For starters, his Mercury falls quincunx Trump’s natal Mercury (Cancer), so there was little meeting of the minds.

Neptune has been transiting Comey’s Virgo points for some time, so we might characterize his firing as a particularly nasty mid-life crisis that has greatly challenged his mental integrity (Mercury). He is probably heartened by the outpouring of support he’s experienced this week, however he’s still out of the job of a lifetime. 

Interchart Double Quincunx: Firing Mars (Gemini) quincunxes Comey Jupiter (Capricorn) and Comey Neptune (Scorpio). The Mars assault contained in this grand-square works triple-duty here, and Firing Pluto is just out of orb with Comey’s Jupiter, too, so his firing starts to look like the culmination of a very frustrating period marked by power plays—a fated, deeply-manipulated (Neptune in Scorpio) situation. 

Those who criticized Comey for acting from a hypocritical, double standard in regards to the Clinton investigations and the early investigations into Trump’s campaign were probably catching a whiff of Comey’s Jupiter-Neptune sextile in Capricorn-Scorpio; undoubtedly hypocrisy and deception (“misinformation” tactics) can be useful tools in intelligence work, but in general, this sextile reflects a principled, idealistic, yet doggedly ambitious person. 

When Mars moved into the position we see here, obviously, things got more pressurized, more compromised and messy. This Mars will be transiting over Trump’s natal Gemini Sun-No. Node-Uranus points yet this month: we’re seeing Trump’s “veiled threat” over Twitter today (Friday), noted earlier, so the pattern is holding. 

We can likely stay tuned for more aggressive moves. It will be interesting to see what transpires when Mars transits within opposition orb to transiting Saturn, lingering at the GC. This happens later in the month: an opportune time for “all hell to break loose,” with new revelations.

History speaks

In light of all of the above news, what can we make of Trump’s disdain for the truth and for the democratic realities of his position? Simply put, what part of our three-branch system of democratic “checks and balances” doesn’t he get? He answers to the People—directly, and through their elected representatives in Congress; he answers to the Constitution (aka the “rule of law”) through the Judiciary, the Justice Department, and through Congressional oversight (i.e., committees). 

Simply winning the presidency (by any means necessary—remember that “moral vacuum!”) does not give any president carte blanche. IMHO, this is why the illusion that government can ever be run “like a business” just doesn’t fly in the real world: businesses are not democracies, and while they may be more “efficient” in some ways because of that, they provide extremely poor models for representative government. If you’ve ever depended on a union negotiation for a raise or benefits, you know why “the People” just don’t have much clout in a business. 

But I digress—here, we’re concerned with teasing out the historical/astrological echoes that are banging in our ears this week, on the heels of Comey’s firing. Clearly, the Watergate crisis is the only fair parallel: there have certainly been other instances of lying, misguiding people, even covering up some pretty shady shenanigans (Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Iran-Contra affair comes to mind), but neither of those episodes pulled the country into a full-blown Constitutional crisis. 

In those instances, special prosecutors or investigating commissions were named, the issues were brought out into the open, and things were resolved—not without anguish and media hoopla, but they were resolved. The presidents involved, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, respectively, cooperated because they at least respected the authority of Congress and the Judiciary. That’s where these episodes differ radically from both Watergate and now, “Comeygate.”  

One part of the Watergate crisis is regarded as the most apt historical echo, so that’s where we’ll focus: the Nixon White House’s so-called “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20, 1973. Here’s a quick summary from Wikipedia:

“The Saturday Night Massacre refers to U.S. President Richard Nixon's orders to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, which led to the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on October 20, 1973, during the Watergate scandal.[1][2]
There’s a whole long, complicated story here that I encourage you to review, but for our purposes here, these are the key milestones: 

The scandal dates back to the break-in of Democratic Party offices in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972, during that year’s hotly-contested election pitting the incumbent Republican, Richard Nixon against liberal Democrat (and outspoken anti-Vietnam candidate), George McGovern. This break-in was the 1970s equivalent of the 2016 election’s “hack attack,” designed to compromise the Democratic Party’s data records and effect other political sabotage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign (from what we already know, through releases of compromising materials through Wikileaks and a flood of “fake news”). 

 Nixon won the 1972 election before the investigations into Watergate began; although it’s never easy to beat an incumbent (especially during the course of a foreign conflict), many in the nation felt that McGovern had been cheated out of a better showing in the election. The investigations into the break-in didn’t start until February, 1973, when Congress voted on a bi-partisan basis to appoint a Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox. 

Likewise, Trump won the electoral college vote in 2016, and the same feelings of being cheated ran high for Hillary Clinton. In her case, the margin was much closer, and (as we found out after the election), the FBI had opened an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election as early as July, 2016. 

The controversial fact that James Comey chose to publicly highlight a Republican-promoted investigation into Clinton’s emails and private server (twice during the campaigning, once just 2 weeks before the election), while concealing the existence of the Russia investigation (a reticence that helped Trump, in the end), heightens suspicions of illicit meddling. For many who are speaking out against Comey’s firing now, his actions last October were egregious—there were numerous calls for his resignation after the election. 

There’s no reason to believe, however, that Comey was influenced by the Russian meddling to take the action he did. He made a fateful choice, but there were reasonable extenuating circumstances (especially Bill Clinton’s poor choice to barge in on Attorney General Loretta Lynch, parked on the same airport tarmac). It is what it is. 

With these milestones and parallels in mind, let’s consider Biwheel #3, between Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” and Trump’s firing of Comey. 

Biwheel #3: (inner wheel) Saturday Night Massacre, October 20, 1973, 12:00 p.m. DST (noon chart, no exact time known), Washington, D.C.; (outer wheel) Comey Firing, May 9, 2017, 5:05 p.m. DST (news report), Washington, D.C.. Tropical Equal Houses, True Node.

Saturday Night Massacre (SNM) Sun-Uranus (Libra) widely opposes SNM Chiron (Aries); SNM No. Node (Capricorn) conjoins GC (Sagittarius); Firing Saturn Rx-GC (Sagittarius) squares Firing Chiron (Pisces); Firing Mercury-Uranus (Aries) trines Firing Saturn Rx-GC. There was a wounding release of information (Chiron, Saturn and GC) at the heart of both events, and both involved a shocking period of “breaking news,” courtesy of the dedicated efforts of journalists (Uranus in both events, with Uranus-Mercury key in the Firing). 

The “whistleblowing” nature of this investigative journalism is also represented in Firing Saturn (Rx) at the GC and the “spying” quality of the investigation suits SNM Mercury (Scorpio). The Firing retrograde suggests that information will be released and then suppressed, released and suppressed…on and on, so Trump will most likely continue doing what he can to obstruct progress. Saturn remains retrograde through late August—a critical period for other reasons, as well (see here).

Mercury in Scorpio also suits the “Deep Throat” character who ended up being so important in the Watergate investigations. His big contribution focused on “following the money,” advice that’s being followed with the Russia investigations today. 

SNM Saturn Rx (Cancer) squares SNM Pluto (Libra); SNM Jupiter (Aquarius) trines Pluto; Firing Jupiter Rx-ASC (Libra) squares Firing Pluto (Capricorn). These aspects point to some contrasts in the tone of the two events, despite clear parallels in the actions taken (or attempted). Social planets (Jupiter, Saturn) are involved and in two-out-of-three, they’re retrograde; heavy social impact and power plays are indicated. We can see Nixon’s growing obsession with “national security” during the Watergate affair (Saturn Rx in Cancer)—a pretext he used to overreach in his executive powers (it didn’t work). 

Interestingly, the firing chart doesn’t feature a Cancer Saturn, but Trump’s natal chart does; he, too has been known to use national security as a pretext—usually for building a border wall and rounding up immigrants. 

That SNM Saturn fell conjunct Sibly Jupiter-Venus, so it’s not surprising that the recession that hit the following decade, as Saturn completed its waning final quarter with Pluto (exact in 1982), was already “in the air.” 

In the firing chart, Saturn and Pluto are seen in their final waning quarter; weak social institutions and power relationships are vulnerable during this clearing-out period. Strengthening and defending our checks and balances could be critical.  

On another note, veteran journalist Tom Brokaw feels that the Comey firing is “not Saturday Night Massacre,” because Nixon had an actual criminal conspiracy (Saturn-Pluto) at work in his White House, and no one is even suspecting that the Comey firing parallels that. Ongoing investigations may unearth something along those lines eventually, but for now, it’s a moot point.  

Even so, Nixon and Trump certainly share(d) the quest for more executive power, although Trump’s intent is perhaps more venal than conspiratorial, aligned more with Jupiter’s worldview. This Jupiter Rx conjoins his natal Jupiter, reflecting his expectations of great benefits (including financial) to himself while in the Oval Office, but the square makes for obstacles. It also conjoins Sibly Saturn, reflecting how annoyed he is at constraints put on him by the investigations in Congress and the FBI. 

Nixon displayed the arrogance of power (a waxing Jupiter-Pluto trine) in his attempt to fire the Archibald Cox, the prosecutor named by Congress to investigate him; as with Trump, a restrained Jupiter was frustrating (Nixon also had a Jupiter quincunx Saturn to deal with here). The Jupiter retrograde hampering Trump extends into early June, so we’ll see if the obstacles ease up after that (not necessarily a good thing). 

SNM Mars Rx (Taurus) squares SNM Jupiter (Aquarius); Firing Mars (Gemini) trines Jupiter Rx-ASC (Libra). It helps to realize that Nixon’s natal Uranus (Aquarius) fell closely conjunct SNM Jupiter, so it seems that he “tripped over his own feet” in attempting to fire Archibald Cox. It was a fatal attempt at overreach that didn’t bode well later in the investigation. Trump has Mars transiting over his natal Gemini stellium (Sun-No. Node-Uranus) yet this month, so we can be on the lookout for similarly reckless moves. 

Final thoughts

Veteran investigative reporter Carl Bernstein—one of the original reporters who broke the Watergate case open—says he’s been “reluctant” to call the Comey firing a constitutional crisis to this point, but in the same breath he relents and admits that it probably is. Any time there are major clashes between the branches of government over the balance of power, a crisis is possible—especially if one branch is willing to use potentially impeachable tactics to upset that balance in his favor. 

It all feels so desperate on Trump’s part at this point: will we see his tone and tactics level out and become more “normal?” Or will he go off on his first overseas trip as president under this cloud? Will he accept the constraints of his office, or keep pushing for more and more? The need for more and more is another reason business isn’t the greatest model for governing: grabbing more and more power (the presidential equivalent for a growing “bottom line?”) simply doesn’t work in a democratic system. Clearly, the nation is undergoing a serious wake-up call with all this: what is the presidency about, in the end?

A bit of national soul-searching is in order, perhaps. At the very least, we need to figure out exactly what we expect from our presidents, and soon: in the meantime, let’s not get sucked into the “moral vacuum!” 

Raye Robertson is a practicing astrologer, writer and former educator. A graduate of the Faculty of Astrological Studies (U.K.), Raye focuses on mundane, collective-oriented astrology, with a particular interest in current affairs, culture and media, the astrology of generations, and public concerns such as education and health. Several of her articles on these topics have been featured in The Mountain Astrologer and other publications over the years.

She is also available to read individual charts—contact her at:

© Raye Robertson 2017. All rights reserved.