January 28, 2017

Week 11

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

This week was chaos. Journalist Dan Rather described it as “the Twilight Zone,” and author Stephen King, “The ugliest first week of a presidency in the history of the American republic.” This week, there were numerous articles about Trump transforming America into an authoritarian state (examples here, here, here, here, here).

  1. The revised tally for the Women’s March came in at over 4 million, making it the largest protest march in US history.
  2. Hundreds of protesters coming to the Women’s March from Canada were turned away at the US border.
  3. Trump defensively responded with outright lies about his inauguration crowd. Sean Spicer said, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period.” When pressed on this lie on NBC, Kellyanne Conway said Spicer’s false claims were “alternative facts.”
  4. Numerous reporters were arrested while covering the inauguration protests. NBC reporters were released, while others were charged.
  5. In true authoritarian form, Trump declared his inauguration day to be the National Day Patriotic Devotion.
  6. On the Monday after he was sworn in, a group of Constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators, and WH ethics lawyers filed a suit claiming Trump violated the Constitution by receiving foreign payments.
  7. The Boston Review ran an op-ed titled “The President’s House Is Empty.” The Week 2 list mentioned Melania and Barron living in NYC, now apparently Trump is too, and we have normalized this item.
  8. The WSJ reported that Michael Flynn — in addition to Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone — is under investigation for links to Russia.
  9. Days after his inauguration, Trump called the National Park Service, reportedly upset about a retweet of a side-by-side photo of his inauguration next to Obama’s.
  10. As of the Sunday evening after being sworn in, Trump still hadn’t severed his ties to his businesses as promised. After the media caught this, documents were filed later that day.
  11. The WH comment line switchboard no longer has a person answering the phone.
  12. Breaking decades of precedent, Conway said Trump would never release his tax returns, saying the American public is not focused on this (ABC poll last week showed 74% of Americans want his returns released).
  13. Despite Trump’s proclamation of having a “great meeting” and “long standing ovations” at a meeting with the CIA, it turned out that Trump’s paid employees were the ones cheering, and his relations with the intelligence may be getting worse.
  14. Without explanation, the CDC cancelled a Climate and Health Summit, scheduled to take place in Atlanta.
  15. Trump’s staff continued to tell multiple outright lies, daily, including statements about the size of the federal workforce, crowd size, and voting fraud.
  16. Massive leaks coming from the WH staff portrayed Trump as impulsive and childish, in stories published by the NYT and WAPO.
  17. The State Department’s statement of apology for past LGBT discrimination was scrubbed from the official website.
  18. Trump signed an executive order, reinstating AND expanding to an unprecedented degree, the Global Gag rule. He signed the order in the company of all white man (see photo below).
  19. Days after being sworn in, Trump told lawmakers that 3 to 5 million illegal ballots cost him the popular vote. Next day, Spicer repeated the same lie.
  20. Trump froze EPA grants.
  21. Trump banned EPA employees from providing information to reporters or on social media about new contracts or grants.
  22. Later, Trump banned multiple federal agencies from communications with members of Congress and the media.
  23. Trump threatened to send Federal Troops to Chicago, citing false claims about crime rates.
  24. Republican legislators around the country proposed a series of bills, which would make criminalize peaceful protests.
  25. There were public stories of multiple arrests, disappearances and deaths of Russian intelligence agency officers for leaks related to Trump’s dossier and interference with US election. There was also news of a possible public trial.
  26. Trump’s AG nominee, Jeff Sessions, said he would not commit to recusing himself from Trump related investigations. This is counter to requirements of DOJ rules.
  27. Advisors for Germany’s Merkel said they were still struggling to open communications channels with the Trump administration days after the inauguration, and that they have “given up” on him acting “presidential.”
  28. On Wednesday, the WH released an email to the press, titled, “Praise for President Trump’s Bold Action.”
  29. Trump ordered billions of funding cuts to UN agencies, and took action towards pulling us out of treaties, including the Paris climate agreement.
  30. Mother Jones reported that some of Trump’s foreign business partners attended his inauguration, and were given VIP treatment.
  31. Trump mandated that EPA scientific studies undergo a review by his political staff, before being released publicly.
  32. Trump called for an investigation into voter fraud, then delayed signing the executive order. Media uncovered that several Trump insiders are registered to vote in two states.
  33. Trump said torture “absolutely works,” putting him at odds with his staff on a draft torture order. For now, Trump said Defense Secretary Mattis could override him.
  34. At his CIA speech, Trump said of Iraq, “We should’ve kept the oil. But, okay, maybe we’ll have another chance.” He kept that mantra alive during the week, endangering our troops serving in Iraq.
  35. Protests continued around the country, including major marches in Philadelphia and NYC.
  36. In a bizarre interview with ABC, Trump continued his false claim about voter fraud, and also fixated on the crowd size of inauguration, showing David Muir a photo, and also saying, “We had the biggest audience in the history of inaugural speeches.”
  37. The Economist downgraded the US on its democracy scale, to a “flawed democracy.”
  38. The entire senior staff of the State Department left. It was unclear if they resigned or were fired ahead of Trump’s incoming nominee, Rex Tillerson, who has no diplomatic or government experience, taking office.
  39. Trump signed an executive order to build The Wall. The Mexican President said Mexico would not be paying for The Wall, and canceled a previously scheduled trip to meet with Trump in DC.
  40. The WSJ Editorial Board slammed Trump for his treatment of Mexico, and for floating a 20% tariff, calling him a “foreign-affairs neophyte.”
  41. Bannon said the media should “keep its mouth shut,” and referred to them as “the opposition party.”
  42. NPR reported that Trump signed a record number of executive actions in his first week; unlike his predecessors, none were about ethics.
  43. Trump replaced the leader of a federal agency which overseas the use of Federal land, including the controversial Trump hotel in DC.
  44. Business Insider reported on a memo between Igor Sechin, the CEO of Russia’s state oil company, and Trump ally, Carter Page, offering a stake in the Russia’s state oil company, in exchange for lifting of US sanctions.
  45. Trump issued a statement on Holocaust Memorial Day that did not mention Jews, breaking a precedent of past Democrat and Republican presidents.
  46. Same day, Trump signed an executive order banning citizens from 7 Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for the next 90 days. Trump also announced plans to increase the number of countries.
  47. Trump said Christian refugees would be given preference, a clear violation of our constitution.
  48. Trump immigration ban did not include countries in which Trump has business interests.
  49. Trump hinted at dropping US sanction against Russia in the lead up to his first official call with Putin. In response, McCain said if Trump lifts sanction, Congress will restore them.
  50. Much of Trump’s foreign policy is being decided and carried out by two men, Bannon and Kushner.

Copyright Amy Siskind, January 28, 2017

Trump, in a room full of men, signed an executive order reinstating the “global gag rule” which affects women around the world.