Originally Published: 4/28/2018
Trump Unhinged: Last Thursday Trump was interviewed on Fox & Friends. You can watch the entire 30 minutes at You Tube or you can read the transcript at the Washington Post, but you really need to hear the President of the United States melt down as the time goes on. Much of what he says is not true. Does he not know or is he lying? Which scenario is worse? Interviewers Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, and Steve Doocy were clearly trying to help him out with leading questions and attempted to reign him in when his rambling started sounding completely incoherent. He jumped from subject to subject - frequently in the middle of sentences - but never covered any policy issue. He just attacked people, many people - all Democrats except for James Comey. To illustrate how off-the-charts he was, he contradicted himself regarding the Stormy Daniels affairs. “[E]arlier this month [he] denied any knowledge of the $130,000 payment to Daniels that was arranged by Cohen.” He told reporters: “I don’t know” about the payment or where Cohen got the money. However, during his tirade he acknowledged that Michael Cohen represented him in the Daniels matter and said, “There were no campaign funds going into this.” So, he obviously knows something about the $130,000 payment. (Washington Post) This wasn’t Trump’s only legal error. He also went after James Comey, accusing him of lying in his memoranda about his interactions with Trump. Comey’s memos claim that Trump repeatedly told him he didn’t spend a single night in Moscow during his November 2013 trip there, a claim that, if true, would represent an alibi for the salacious claim in the Steel Dossier (TWW, Fusion GPS, 1/13/18; Trump Ties to Russia, 1/14/17) about Russia having evidence that Trump engaged in sex acts with Russian sex workers during that trip. But in Thursday’s interview Trump - trying to prove Comey lied in his memos - said: “I went to Russia for a day or so. [Comey] said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time but of course I stayed. Well, this memo said I left immediately - I never said that. I never said I left immediately.” So much for his argument that the Steele Dossier couldn’t be true because this was a lie. What brought on the meltdown? Well it could be the Ronny Jackson mess, or French President Emmanuel Macron’s turning on him, or the court decision on DACA, or the Scott Pruitt mess, or -- who knows? But this is getting very serious. I marinate in this stuff and while I’ve heard him rant before, I’ve never heard anything like this.
Russian Election Interference: The House Intelligence Committee released its investigative report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, “laying out Republicans’ conclusion . . . that they had found no evidence that the Trump campaign aided Moscow’s efforts.” (NY Times) Amber Phillips, writing at the Washington Post, pointed out the the House report contradicts the intelligence community in 3 ways: The report accuses the FBI of, at best, being inept and possibly corrupt. The report claims that the meetings at Trump Tower and meetings with Russian connections were not collusion. And the report claims that while Russia did interfere in the election, it wasn’t done to help Trump.
Paul Manafort: U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson tossed out Manafort’s request to bar special counsel Robert Mueller from bringing future charges against him. (TWW, Paul Manafort, 1/6/18) She said he can’t use his civil suit to bar criminal charges. (Washington Post)
Sean Hannity: After Hannity was named last week in attorney Michael Cohen’s court battle (TWW, Raid on Cohen, 4/21/18), interest in Hannity picked up and all kinds of interesting things are coming out. The Guardian looked into his extensive real estate holdings. “The records link Hannity to a group of shell companies that spent at least $90 million on more than 870 homes in 7 states over the past decade. The properties range from luxurious mansions to rentals for low-income families. Hannity is the hidden owner behind some of the shell companies and his attorney did not dispute that he owns all of them.” A lot of the properties were foreclosures. He also got some of his properties “with support from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a fact he did not disclose when praising Ben Carson, the HUD secretary, on his television show last year.” Many of the purchases were funded with mortgages with help from programs funded by HUD. “The loans, first guaranteed under the Obama administration, were recently increased by $5 million with renewed support from [Ben] Carson’s department.” The purchases were brokered by a dealer “who was involved in a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently obtain foreclosed homes.” (Guardian)
Emmanuel Macron: France’s president was in town this week and attended Trump’s first state dinner. He and Trump got along wonderfully, having become fast friends last year when Macron invited Trump for Bastille Day. Photos of the two holding hands and hugging were proof that someone out there loves Trump. Then Macron went to Congress. He “presented a strong repudiation of the kind of insular and nationalistic political sentiments that helped Trump win office, drew a contrast with Trump on trade and the environment, and defended the Iran deal that Trump has called ‘insane.’” (ABC)
Michael Cohen: U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood appointed a special master to review the material seized from Cohen (TWW, Raid on Cohen, 4/21/18) to determine what is pertinent to the warrant and what is subject to attorney/client privilege. She appointed retired federal judge Barbara Jones as the special master. (Washington Post)
Mick Mulvaney: The head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who was appointed to head up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), admitted to a group of bankers that, when he was a U.S representative, he sold access to lobbyists. “We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. if you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” (NY Times) This is called “pay to play” and it’s a crime, folks. A felony, in fact, and there are plenty of politicians right now in prison to support that fact. Will Jeff Session prosecute him? Not on your life.
Robert Lighthizer: The U.S. Trade Representative was not going to be outdone by the likes of Scott Pruitt and Ben Carson. (TWW, Trump Cabinet, 3/17/18) He spent more than $917,000 on new furniture. (NY Post) And these are the people who keep yelling about reigning in government spending.
Administration Spending: Think Progress added up the known spending by Trump administration officials and found it comes - to date - to almost $3.5 million. This is spending taxpayer money for frivolous, personal stuff. Are they ashamed? Not hardly.
Mike Pompao: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee finally approved Pompao as Secretary of State. He only got through after Senator Rand Paul (R, KY) “bowed to pressure from President Trump and dropped his opposition.” 2 Democrats supported him: Joe Manchin (WV) and Joe Donnelly (IN). (NY Times) He was confirmed by the full Senate. (NY Times) I guess Trump’s threat worked. (TWW, North Korea, 4/21/18)
Ronny Jackson: Trump’s nominee for the Veteran’s Affairs Secretary was accused of overseeing a hostile work environment while leading the White House medical staff and allowing the overprescribing of drugs as well as claims that he drank “too much” on the job. Wow. Is there an appropriate level of drinking on the job? For a doctor? His confirmation hearing was postponed. (NY Times) Later allegations of mishandling drugs came out as well as severe drinking allegations. (NY Times) The Washington Post put up a comprehensive list of the allegations and Jackson finally threw in the towel and withdrew his nomination. (NY Times) This is getting to be par for the Trump administration. Trump just picks someone who has sufficiently flattered him and doesn’t bother vetting.
Iran: John Oliver is very concerned about the Iran nuclear agreement and what Trump will do about it next month. Watch his piece on You Tube. Yes, it’s about 20 minutes long but it’s well worth your time. You’ll understand the entire issue a lot better and may be able to argue with those special people in your life. As Oliver pointed out, John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser, is calling for an invasion of Iran before the end of the year. So, Oliver decided he needed to come up with some way to plead with Trump not to blow up the Iran deal. Since Sean Hannity is so close to Trump (TWW, Raid on Cohen, 4/21/18), he decided to use Hannity’s Fox television show to educate Trump. He produced an ad with Catheter Cowboy and bought time on Hannity’s show hoping Trump will see it and avoid a nuclear crisis. (Washington Post) The 30-second ad was scheduled to run on Wednesday but I was unable to determine if the ad actually ran.
Israel: In last Friday’s Palestinian protest along the Gaza border, which they’ve done every week for the past 4 weeks (TWW, Israel, 4/14/18), Israel once again opened fire at the protestors, this time killing 4 Palestinians, including a 15-year-old boy. (Ma’an News Agency) At yesterday’s protest, hundreds of Palestinian protestors stormed the Gaza security barrier “and tried to cross into Israel.” Israeli troops responded, as you would expect, with lethal force, killing several people and wounding hundreds. (NY Times)
Korea: South Korean President Moon-Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jon-un met at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the 2 countries. They declared the Korean War over and “pledged to work to denuclearize the peninsula.” (Democracy Now!)
Yemen: A Saudi-led coalition air strike has killed 20 Yemeni civilians. (Al Jazeera) You hear anybody talking about all this killing? (TWW, Yemen, 3/10/18)
Arizona: Republican candidate Debbie Lesko was elected to fill the seat vacated by Trent Franks in a special election. (NY Times) This is a deeply red district. Trump won the district by more than 20 percentage points and Mitt Romney won it by almost 25 points. Yet Republicans were so worried about this election that they spent a boatload of money while the Democratic candidate, Hiral Tipirneni, a doctor, got very little support from the Democratic party. (NY Times) Still Lesko won by only 5 points - 52.4% to 47.4% - only 9,000 votes. (NY Times) I wonder if Tipirneni’s loss had anything to do with the 140,000 voter ID cards that Maricopa County neglected to send to newly registered voters. (Think Progress) It’s easy to assume that at least some of those people didn’t realize that they were on the rolls.
Texas: In a 2 to 1 decision, a U.S. Court of Appeals Court panel in New Orleans upheld the law that “was designed as a fix for previous voter ID legislation” that was struck down as being discriminatory. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos had previously blocked the revamped law from going into effect because it didn’t go far enough. (TWW, Texas, 8/26/17) This panel said the new legislation had “improvements for disadvantaged minority voters.” (Reuters)
Loss of White Privilege: While pundits have claimed that Trump’s appeal is among white, Christian, male voters with economic anxiety, who are “left behind” economically and lack a college education, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that voters weren’t driven by these things but rather fear of their loss of status. “Candidate preferences in 2016 reflected increasing anxiety among high-status groups (whites, males, Christians) rather than complaints about past treatment among low-status groups. Both growing domestic racial diversity and globalization contributed to a sense that white Americans are under siege by these engines of change.” In other words, fear of losing white privilege was the primary motivator.
DACA: U.S. District Judge John Bates in the District of Columbia ruled that the protections provided in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program must remain in place and that the government must resume accepting new applications. Bates said that Trump’s decision to terminate the program was based on “the ‘virtually unexplained’ grounds that the program was ‘unlawful.’” He stayed his decision for 90 days and gave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the opportunity to better explain its reasoning for canceling it. (NY Times)
Housing: If you thought that housing for low-income people was going to escape the cuts that other services are getting, you’ve been proved wrong. Ben Carson (who, incidentally, knows nothing about housing) is proposing tripling the rent low-income people must pay and imposing a work requirement. (Washington Post) Can these people get any meaner?
Suing Foreign Corporations: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that foreign corporations cannot be sued for their complicity in human rights atrocities that occur overseas. In a 5 to 4 decision the court cited the 1789 Alien Tort Statute (ATS). Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, noted that Congress, not the judiciary, “must decide whether to expand the scope of liability under the ATS to include foreign corporations.” (Washington Post)
Ousting the Chaplain: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R, WI) asked the House Chaplain, Jesuit priest Rev. Patrick Conroy, to resign. (The Hill) Ryan’s spokesperson said that he wasn’t pushed out because of anything he said or did. (CNN) Conroy is the first chaplain in history to be fired. So, why did Ryan ask him to go? Apparently it was because of the prayer he made on the House floor amid the debate on the GOP tax cut bill, where he said: “As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all Members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” According to Market Watch: “Some of the sources said Ryan thought Conroy favored Democrats in the House, and cited the prayer and the priest’s invitation to a Muslim to offer a prayer before the chambers as the reasons behind the chaplain’s demise.” For a person like Ryan (and other Republicans) who embrace religious freedom as a fundamental constitutional principle, to force out someone who espouses key religious principles clearly shows where these people truly stand. Trump spouting racist, transphobic, xenophobic rants and engaging in a culture of corruption is okay, but standing for values of social justice need to be punished.
EPA: Scott Pruitt announced a new regulation. It will now require that the underlying data for all scientific studies used by the EPA “to formulate air and water regulations” must be publicly available. Since many studies are done with people (like the effects of pesticides on humans) and most researchers give the subjects confidentiality agreements, the data won’t be “publicly available.” Obviously Pruitt’s goal is to reduce the information it needs when developing policy. (NY Times)
Plastic & Wildlife: You may get tired of my preaching, but here’s more on the problem of plastic pollution. It’s killing a lot of our wildlife. They’re ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic. “90% of sea birds, for example, have been found to have plastic in their bellies. And the problem is only getting worse. The estimated 19 billion pounds of plastic that ends up in the ocean every year is expected to double by 2025. These plastics will not only kill more animals; they’ll decimate coral reefs, and damage human health as microplastics enter the food chain. They’ll create more and bigger dead zones where nothing can live, harm biodiversity, and change ecosystems. There will likely be additional, unknown impacts; researchers have only been studying ocean plastics for less than 2 decades.” [Emphasis added.] (New Republic)
Neonicotinoids: The European Union has approved a ban on these pesticides because of the damage they pose to bees. (TWW, Bee Colony Collapse, 9/12/15) The pesticide has been banned from all fields and will go into force by the end of 2018. This means it can only be used in closed greenhouses.” (Guardian)
HSBC: Europe’s largest bank said it would pretty much stop funding new coal power plants, oils sands, and arctic drilling, “becoming the latest in a long line of investors to shun the fossil fuels.” (Reuters)
Amazon Reviews: Do you rely on those product reviews you see when shopping on Amazon? Well, they may be fake. Despite Amazon’s ban on paid reviews, merchants have figured out how to use Facebook data to flood Amazon with fake reviews. Amazon claims that more than 99% of its reviews are legitimate but an examination by the Washington Post - looking at some of the most popular products such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers - found that “the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews.”