Originally Published: 7/22/2017
Regretting Sessions: In an interview with the New York Times, Trump said that he would never have appointed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. He called Sessions' recusal “very unfair to the president.” Trump also warned special counsel Robert Mueller not to investigate his family’s finances “beyond the scope of the probe into ties between his administration and Russia.” (The Hill) Mueller apparently isn’t taking Trump’s directions as he is now looking into his business transactions. (Bloomberg) Watch Stephen Colbert’s take on the interview. (You Tube) Wanna know what I think? Of course you do. Mueller answers to the Attorney General but in this case Sessions has recused himself so he answers to the Deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein. (TWW, Firing Mueller, 6/17/17) All Trump needs to do is fire Sessions and nominate someone who doesn’t need to recuse himself and is an ally. If that person can get confirmed, Trump is home free.
Other Options: Apparently Trump’s exploring options other than firing Sessions to get himself and his family out of the jam. According to the NY Times, some of Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Mueller’s investigation by building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest. His aides are “scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators” hired by Mueller. Trump is also investigating his ability to pardon his aides, family members, and even himself. (Washington Post)
Junior’s Russian Meeting: Now we find out there was another person at Trump Jr.’s meeting. (TWW, Russian Connection, 7/15/17) Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze, a U.S.-based employee of a Russian real estate company, attended the meeting as an employee and representative of Aras and Emin Agalarov, the guys who hosted Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. (TWW, Emin Agalarov, 7/15/17) Kaveladze is from the Soviet Republic of Georgia and came to the U.S. in 1991. 20 years ago he was investigated by Congress for laundering Russian money in U.S. banks. (Washington Post) In 2000 he was named as being responsible for using about 2,000 shell companies in the U.S. to launder $1.4 billion from Russia and eastern Europe into accounts at Citibank and the Commercial Bank of San Francisco. (NY Times)
Natalia Veselnitskaya: The Russian lawyer who met with Junior (TWW, Natalia Veselnitskaya, 7/15/17) “counted Russia’s FSB security service among her clients for years, Russian court documents seen by Reuters show.” Remember, the FSB is the successor to the former KGB, which was headed by Vladimir Putin before he became president.
Jeff Sessions: Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak made reports to his superiors on his meetings with Trump campaign workers which were intercepted by the U.S. They show that in April and July of 2016 Kislyak met with Sessions and had discussions about policy issues important to Moscow, “contradicting public assertions” by Sessions. (Washington Post)
Jared & Ivanka: The dynamic duo revised their disclosure form for the 39th time since March. Kushner’s new disclosure detailed more than 70 assets his attorneys said he had “inadvertently” left out of earlier filings. He also updated his national security questionnaire “in which he failed to disclose more than 100 calls or meetings with representatives from foreign countries.” Ivanka’s new disclosure showed she’d been paid as much as $5 million from her businesses “over an 84-day span this spring around the time she entered the White House.” Kushner resigned from 266 corporate positions and Ivanka stepped down from 292 positions. There’s plenty more. This piece at the Washington Post clearly sets out how much this couple is worth - and its staggering.
Kasowitz & Corallo: Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, has resigned. Kasowitz (TWW, Rebuttals, 6/10/17; Trump’s Lawyer, 5/27/17) was the leader of Trump’s legal team. This is reported to be part of a “reshuffle that included the spokesman for the legal team, Mark Corallo, quitting after just 2 months in his role.” Corallo is said to have left “over disagreements with the way Mr. Trump’s legal team was handling the Russia probe.” (Independent)
Campaign Funds: Trump’s fund for re-election was used to pay $50,000 to Junior’s attorney a week before the news of his meeting with Russians. (TWW, Russian Connection, 7/15/17) The payment was made to the Law Offices of Alan S. Futerfas and was disclosed in the filing with the Federal Election Commission as “legal consulting” fees. (Reuters)
Paul Manafort: He recently filed financial disclosure documents showing that his lobbying firm earned almost $17 million for 2 years of work for a Ukrainian political party with links to the Kremlin. (NY Times)
Confirmations: Despite Trump’s claims that the Democrats are blocking his nominations (TWW, Confirmations, 7/15/17), a NY Times’ analysis found the Trump “has filled far fewer top jobs in cabinet or cabinet-level agencies” than Obama had at this point in his presidency. “This is largely because Mr. Trump has been exceptionally slow in nominating people to serve in leadership positions below the secretary level.” Trump has announced 36% of these positions, compared with 78% for Obama over the same period.
Anthony Scaramucci: Trump has appointed him White House Communications Director. (Washington Post) Press secretary Sean Spicer was so outraged that he resigned. Spicer told Trump “he vehemently disagreed” with Scaramucci’s appointment. (NY Times) Scaramucci, who is replacing Mike Dubke who resigned in May, is “a major Republican donor” who was on Trump’s transition team executive committee. He founded SkyBridge Capital, an asset management business which he sold in January, “as it appeared at the time he would be joining the Trump administration.” (ABC) He’s another Goldman Sachs alumnus. (CNN)
John Huntsman: Trump nominated the former Utah governor as the ambassador to Russia. Huntsman had been the ambassador to China under Obama. According to the Washington Post, Trump had held off naming Huntsman and sending his nomination to the Senate for confirmation until he had approval from the Kremlin.
Sam Clovis: He’s a former Trump campaign adviser and used to be a conservative talk radio host. Trump has nominated him as undersecretary of research, education, and economics at the Department of Agriculture. “In the past, the undersecretary of research, education, and economics has brought years of experience in science, public health, or food policy.” Not this guy. A talk radio host? Great. (Think Progress)
Mark Esper: Trump has chosen Esper to be Secretary of the Army. Esper is currently Raytheon’s vice president of government relations. Esper is Trump’s 3rd pick, the first 2 having withdrawn their names. (Politico) I wonder what connections the first 2 had.
AUMF: Remember Rep. Barbara Lee (D, CA) was able to get an amendment to the defense budget approved that revoked the Authorization for Use of Military Force in the House Appropriations Committee? (TWW, AUMF, 7/1/17) The move was bipartisan but that didn’t seem to matter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R, WI). Early Wednesday morning, Ryan stripped the amendment from the bill. (The Nation)
ISIS: An investigation by a non-profit group says that, as of mid-July, more than 2,200 civilians have died in coalition military actions since Trump took office. That number nearly surpasses the casualty numbers “accumulated during the entirety of the prior Obama administration.” (District Sentinel)
Iran: Trump certified to Congress that Iran “has continued to meet the required conditions of its nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers.” But Trump officials made it clear that they didn’t want to issue this certifications and that Trump “intends to impose new sanctions on Iran for ongoing ‘malign activities’ in non-nuclear areas such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism.” (Washington Post)
Israel: There’s a new bill going through Congress that would make it a felony to show any kind of support for any international boycott against Israel, also known as the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. Called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, the bill, so far, has support from 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats in the Senate. Anyone convicted of the crime would face a penalty of $250,000 to $1 million and 20 years in prison. (The Intercept) H.R. 1697, a similar bill in the House, has 237 co-sponsors - 63 Democrats and 174 Republicans. I guess they’ve decided that our First Amendment isn’t in play anymore.
Qatar: Guess what set off the blockage of Qatar? (TWW, Qatar, 6/10/17) Anything they did? Nope. It was the United Arab Emirates who “orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani.” (Washington Post)
Syria: Trump ended the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, “a move long sought by Russia.” (Washington Post)
Massachusetts: The state supreme court ruled that a woman who had been fired for testing positive for marijuana, even in a state where medical marijuana is legal, can sue her employer for handicap discrimination. The employer argued she could be fired because marijuana is still illegal under federal law. (Reuters)
Missouri: Governor Eric Greitens, now a Republican but he was a Democrat until 2015 (Wikipedia), let a preemption law take effect. Preemption laws are the new thing in Republican-controlled states. They prohibit cities from requiring a minimum wage higher than the state’s. In Missouri, the new law nullifies St. Louis’ minimum wage ordinance of $10 an hour. By passing the preemption law, 38,000 workers could see their hourly wage reduced to $7.70. (Economic Policy Institute)
Republican Budget Plan: House Republicans have released their 2018 budget plan. It includes an “ambitious tax reform” funded by “politically sensitive spending cuts.” The proposal at this point includes a $203 billion rollback of “financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, welfare spending, and more.” The plan relies on the tax cuts spurring economic growth that will boost revenues. Trickle down, again. Major cuts would be applied to Medicare, disability aid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, unemployment compensation, the federal workforce, and college aid programs. It’s the same old Republican proposal, but this time it has a good chance of passing. (Washington Post)
Tax Cuts: Since Republicans are pushing forcefully to cut taxes on corporations, it seems a good time to point out the fallacy of their theory. They believe that putting more money in the hands of corporations will result in them creating jobs. Recent history has proven this is no longer the case. As they get more money, they pay out more cash to their shareholders rather than investing it and creating jobs. Max Ehrenfreund at the Washington Post has a great piece on this. “When corporations don’t invest or invest less, they put fewer people to work building factories, making equipment, and conducting research.” This chart tells it all.
Sanctuary: U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco ruled that the recent memo from the Justice Department “that appeared to narrow the scope of Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities did not remove the need for a court-ordered injunction.” (TWW, Sanctuary, 4/29/17) He refused to revisit his court order that blocks Trump’s administration “from carrying out a policy designed to threaten the granting of federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities.” (Reuters)
Travel Ban: The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily allowed Trump to enforce its restrictions on refugees, but let the order of the District Court (TWW, Travel Ban, 7/15/17) stand, allowing grandparents and others to be admitted to the United States. It rejected Trump’s request to clarify its ruling last month. (TWW, Travel Ban, 7/1/17) Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch said “they would have blocked the entire order of the Federal District Court in Hawaii while the case proceeds.” (NY Times)
ExxonMobil: If this isn’t the weirdest thing ever. The U.S. Treasury Department has fined ExxonMobil $2 million for violating the sanctions against Russia in 2014. In that year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was ExxonMobil’s CEO. “The penalty was relatively small for the Treasury and a blip on Exxon’s mammoth balance sheet.” (NY Times) The fine is based on Exxon’s and Tillerson’s 3-year-old joint venture with Rosneft. (TWW, Exxon and Russia, 2/25/17) Exxon is suing the government for the fine, saying it is “unlawful” and “capricious.” (Reuters)
Laptop Ban: Trump ended the ban on passengers carrying laptops into cabins on flights from the Middle East and North Africa. (TWW, Laptop Ban, 7/1/17) Reuters reported this brings an end to “one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed” by Trump.
Asset Forfeiture: The “adoptive forfeiture” program that former Attorney General Eric Holder shut down is being re-started by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The program gives local law enforcement agencies “greater leeway to seize property of those suspected of a crime, even if they’re never charged with or convicted of one.” It was a significant source of revenue for local police agencies. Holder shut down the program because it allowed local agencies “to sidestep guidelines and instead take cash and property under much more permissive federal rules.” (Washington Post)
Teen Pregnancy: Trump has eliminated $213.6 million grants for teen pregnancy prevention programs and research. “Programs at more than 80 institutions around the country received notice from the Office of Adolescent Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that their grant funding would end 2 years early.” (Rewire)
Repealing Obamacare: 2 more Republican defectors killed the Better Care Reconciliation Act (TWW, BCRA, 7/15/17) to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) said that “the effort to repeal and immediately replace” Obamacare “will not be successful.” (Roll Call) Then, to add another nail in the coffin, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report saying that this latest proposal would increase average premiums by about 25% next year, increasing to 50% by 2020 and 100% by 2026 and that about 32 million more people would be without health insurance by 2026. With another proposal dead, Trump said that his plan now is to “let Obamacare fail.” (The Hill) This could be done by refusing to send the cost-sharing reductions to the insurance companies which help defray costs for lower-income people. (Washington Post) Then McConnell announced that the Senate would vote to just repeal ACA without any replacement. (Guardian) The CBO then scored an amendment “in the nature of a substitute” as posted on the Senate Budget Committee’s website. “15 million more people would be uninsured under this legislation than under current law. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 22 million in 2026.” McConnell said that he’ll have a vote next week. (Democracy Now!) But with all the versions floating around out there, I haven’t been unable to determine which version they’re going to be voting on. But whichever it is, the Senate parliamentarian has determined that “several parts” of the bill violate the chamber’s budget reconciliation rules. “Provisions related to abortion, certain insurance regulations, and funding the law’s cost-sharing subsidies . . . would require 60 votes to survive.” (Roll Call)
Palm Oil: We know that harvesting palm oil is destroying the planet. (TWW, Rainforest, 3/4/17; Divestiture, 3/12/16) It’s linked to rainforest deforestation, child labor, slave labor, climate pollution, and other atrocities. It’s found in just about everything that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind. It’s added to chocolate, turned into fry oil, and snuck into all sorts of snacks. (TWW, Palm Oil, 9/21/13) Now Pepsico, Unilever, and Nestlé are being accused of complicity in the destruction of rainforest in Sumatra. They’re building plantations to supply palm oil. According to a study by Rainforest Action Network (RAN), “If more immediate action is not taken to enforce ‘no deforestation’ policies, these brands will be remembered as the corporate giants responsible for the destruction of the last place on earth where Sumatran elephants, orangutans, rhinos, and tigers roamed side by side.” (Guardian)
Glacier National Park: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg flew to the park to tour the melting ice fields. But just days before the visit, Trump officials “abruptly removed 2 of the park’s top climate experts from a delegation scheduled to show him around, telling a research ecologist and the park superintendent that they were no longer going to participate in the tour.” The Washington Post opined that this decision to micromanage the tour “was highly unusual.” Zuckerberg, as well as “the broader tech community in Silicon Vally” have been vocal critics of Trump.
NLRB: Senator Mike Lee (R, UT) has introduced a bill “that would strip the National Labor Relations Board of its power to prosecute and adjudicate labor disputes.” The Protecting American Jobs Act “would transfer the power to hear labor disputes to federal courts. The NLRB would retain the power to conduct investigations, but would not be allowed to prosecute them.” Taking a case to court means lawyers, years and years of prosecution, and lots of money. This essentially blocks all labor disputes.