December 29, 2018

Week 111

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

Increasingly, Trump stands alone. The generals are gone, much of his experienced and competent senior staffers have resigned or been fired. This week, in a tantrum over his decision to shut down the government, Trump stewed and tweeted and blamed and attacked from the White House, while the rest of Congress was home for the Christmas holiday. At one point on Christmas Eve day, as the stock market was plummeting, Trump bemoaned his self-imposed status, tweeting, “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House.” Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley called it, “a sad and pathetic moment.” As the week came to a close, Trump again complained: “I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats.”

This week the stock market continued wild gyrations, as Trump again publicly lashed out at his Federal Reserve Chair, and privately threatened to fire his Treasury Secretary. Parts of the government were shuttered during the holiday week, and the effects of the shutdown started to be felt. Trump took a surprise visit — his first — to a combat zone, but even that backfired and led to further criticism as he held a campaign rally-style event with U.S. troops at a military base in Iraq, and continued his partisan criticisms of Democrats and demagoguery about his wall and the shutdown while abroad. Iraqi politicians denounced Trump’s visit and demanded U.S. troops leave their country.=

This week the crisis at our southern border intensified as a second child died in Border Patrol custody, and more than 1,600 migrants were dropped off without warning over the holidays at a Greyhound bus stop in El Paso. Incoming House Democrats promised to hold hearings on the treatment of migrants when they take control of committees, and incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hired a distinguished former Department of Justice official as the new General Counsel of the House, as talks of investigations and impeachment continued.

  1. On Saturday, WAPO reported that for two years seasoned advisers tried to tutor Trump on history, deliberation, restraint, and preparation, and tried to rein in his most reckless impulses. All of these advisers are gone or have failed.
  2. Trump enters his third year unchecked, with the country in disarray: the government is shut down, the stock market is in free-fall, and foreign allies are voicing alarm. Hostile powers like Russia are cheering.
  3. Republicans are for the first time sporadically openly critical, while Trump surrounds himself solely with sycophants, with Jared Kushner taking more power and Nikki Haley, John Kelly, and Jim Mattis about to depart.
  4. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said last week was “the most chaotic week of what’s undoubtedly the most chaotic presidency ever in the history of the United States,” citing senior level departures.
  5. On Saturday, in the evening, Trump attacked outgoing Defense Secretary Mattis, tweeting, “When President Obama ingloriously fired Jim Mattis, I gave him a second chance. Some thought I shouldn’t.”
  6. Trump also tweeted, “Interesting relationship-but I also gave all of the resources that he never really had. Allies are very important-but not when they take advantage of U.S.”
  7. Trump also attacked Brett McGurk, whom Trump claimed he did not know, even though McGurk was his anti-ISIS point man — adding “Grandstander? The Fake News is making such a big deal about this nothing event!”
  8. On Sunday, irritated by criticism, Trump announced he would push out Mattis two months earlier than planned. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Mattis of the decision.
  9. Mattis’ deputy will assume the role temporarily. The announcement brought additional instability to the Pentagon as it manages Trump’s sudden decisions to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
  10. On Sunday, Sen. Bob Corker told “State of the Union” Trump was to blame for the government shutdown. In two tweets, Trump attacked Corker, saying he did not run for re-election because his “poll numbers TANKED.”
  11. On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin phoned the chief executives of six of the country’s largest banks from his vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to ensure they had ample liquidity.
  12. Over the weekend, Trump’s advisers sought to assure investors that Trump will not fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, seeking to quell further speculation and calm the markets.
  13. Mnuchin said in a statement Trump had not suggested firing Powell and did not believe he could do so. Incoming chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told “This Week” that Trump “now realizes” he cannot sack the Fed chairman.
  14. On Monday, the stock market plummeted again, in the worst day of Christmas Eve trading day in history. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 653 points, and Standard & Poor’s 500 entered a bear market.
  15. Markets were spooked by Mnuchin’s calls, Trump’s threats to fire Fed Chair Powell, Mattis stepping down, and the uncertainty created by the government shutdown.
  16. On Monday, Trump spent Christmas Eve day mostly alone at the White House after canceling his trip to Mar-a-Lago. This was his third day holed up in the White House. Members of Congress have left for the holidays.
  17. Trump sent 12 tweets on a variety of topics. Trump tweeted, “Virtually every Democrat we are dealing with today strongly supported a Border Wall or Fence” until he suggested it. This claim is false.
  18. Trump also tweeted “To those few Senators who think I don’t like or appreciate being allied” with other countries, they are wrong, saying instead those “countries take advantage of their friendship.”
  19. Trump again attacked Mattis, claiming he “did not see this as a problem,” that our allies are “take total advantage of the U.S., and our TAXPAYERS,” adding “it is being fixed!”
  20. Trump also attacked Brett McGurk again, calling him an “Obama appointee,” who loaded up “airplanes with 1.8 Billion Dollars in CASH” to Iran, adding he was “approved by Little Bob Corker.”
  21. Trump also tweeted, “AMERICA IS RESPECTED AGAIN!”
  22. As the stock market was plunging, Trump tweeted, “The only problem our economy has is the Fed,” adding, “The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch — he can’t putt!”
  23. Trump sent one more tweet before noon, claiming reporting in Week 109 that he “‘lashed out’ at the Acting Attorney General…is a made up story, one of many, by the Fake News Media!”
  24. Shortly after, in a confusing tweet, Trump tweeted, “The Wall is different than the 25 Billion Dollars in Border Security,” claiming “The complete Wall will be built with the Shutdown money plus funds already in hand.”
  25. Trump also tweeted, “Saudi Arabia has now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria, instead of the United States. See?” Adding, “Thanks to Saudi A!”
  26. Trump ended the morning Twitter spree just after noon, tweeting “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal.” This tweet in particular drew shock and dismay.
  27. WAPO reported White House officials refused requests for comment about Trump’s tweets and activities. First Lady Melania Trump returned from Mar-a-Lago later in the day to join Trump at the White House.
  28. In the afternoon, Trump sent two more tweets. One included a photo in the Oval Office, saying “Christmas Eve briefing with my team working on North Korea…Looking forward to my next summit with Chairman Kim!”
  29. Trump also claimed that he “just gave out a 115 mile long contract for another large section of the Wall in Texas.” It was unclear what he meant. He has repeatedly boasted falsely that parts of his wall have been built.
  30. Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said, “It’s a sad and pathetic moment when on Christmas Eve the president of the United States is firing downer tweets…This is like Charles Dickens’s Scrooge on steroids.”
  31. In the evening, Trump and Melania participated in NORAD Santa Tracker calls with children. Trump asked a 7 year-old girl, “Are you still a believer in Santa? Because at seven it’s marginal, right?”
  32. On Christmas, in an Oval Office appearance with reporters, Trump praised Mnuchin, but when asked if he has confidence in Powell, responded “Well, we’ll see. They’re raising interest rates too fast, that’s my opinion.”
  33. In the fourth day of the shutdown, Trump claimed of federal workers “many of those workers have said to me, communicated — stay out until you get the funding for the wall. These federal workers want the wall.”
  34. Trump also threatened to keep the government shut, saying “I can’t tell you when the government is going to be open. It’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they would like to call it.”
  35. The president of the National Treasury Employees Union, representing 150,000 federal workers, called the shutdown “a travesty,” saying workers will have a hard time paying mortgages and buying Christmas presents.
  36. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported before Trump’s Oval Office comments, a person familiar said Trump had considered firing Mnuchin. Another said Mnuchin’s tenure may depend on how the stock market performs.
  37. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted “I hope everyone, even the Fake News Media, is having a great Christmas!” adding, “our Country is doing very well. We are securing our Borders, making great new Trade Deals…#MAGA.”
  38. The Department of Defense tweeted a Christmas message from Mattis taped the day before he resigned, praising troops for “keeping watch by night” during the season, noting they “carry on the proud legacy.”
  39. On Wednesday, Trump made an unannounced trip to Iraq to visit U.S. troops, his first trip to a conflict zone after months of public pressure and comparisons to his predecessors. He was accompanied by Melania.
  40. Trump told reporters he considered the safety risks in making his first trip to a war zone, claiming “I had concerns for the institution of the presidency. Not for myself, personally. I had concerns for the first lady.”
  41. Trump told U.S. service members al-Asad Air Base on the day after Christmas. “We’re no longer the suckers, folks.” Trump defended his decision to abruptly withdraw from Syria.
  42. Trump said the era of heavy U.S. intervention abroad was ending: “The United States cannot continue to be the policeman of the world…We are in countries most people haven’t even heard about. Frankly, it’s ridiculous.”
  43. Trump also continued to threaten keeping the government shut, telling troops in Iraq, “We need a wall” and falsely claiming “We have terrorists coming in through the southern border.”
  44. Trump falsely claimed to the troops that he had given them a 10% raise after they had not received a pay raise in more than 10 years. The actual raise was 2.6%, and the troops have received raises every year for decades.
  45. Trump’s speech to troops had the feel of one of his campaign rallies, with chants of “USA! USA!” and background music. Trump also made partisan attacks, and signed red “Make America Great Again” hats for the troops.
  46. On Wednesday, after the Christmas holiday break, roughly 400,000 federal employees will be furloughed, with another 400,000 deemed “essential personnel” required to stay on the job without pay.
  47. On Wednesday, Politico reported Trump and leaders of the House and Senate are not in negotiations. Also, there were no calls or meetings between House GOP and Democratic leaders scheduled.
  48. On Thursday, Trump resumed his attacks on Democrats, tweeting we “desperately need Border Security and a Wall,” and claiming of the shutdown, “most of the people not getting paid are Democrats.”
  49. On Thursday, Trump defended his turning the trip to Iraq into a partisan political event, tweeting “CNN & others within the Fake News Universe were going wild about my signing MAGA hats for our military.”
  50. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CNN the hats Trump signed in Iraq and at a military base in Germany where they stopped to refuel belonged to troops, and were not distributed by the White House.
  51. Trump also continued to face criticism for attacking incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a news conference held in Iraq: “we have a problem with the Democrats because Nancy Pelosi is calling the shots.”
  52. Defense Department Directive 1344.10 prohibits troops from participating in political rallies, giving the appearance of endorsing a candidate or even displaying partisan political signs, posters, and banners.
  53. On Thursday, AP reported that Trump’s surprise visit infuriated Iraqi politicians, who called the visit “arrogant” and “a violation of national sovereignty,” and demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
  54. On Thursday, Trump lashed out at Democrats over the shutdown in a series of tweets, saying, “‘Border Patrol Agents want the Wall.’ Democrat’s say they don’t want the Wall (even though they know it is really needed).”
  55. Trump also tweeted the Democrats “don’t want ICE,” adding, “They don’t have much to campaign on, do they? An Open Southern Border and the large scale crime that comes with such stupidity!”
  56. Trump also again attacked the 9th Circuit for its role, tweeting “The reason the DACA for Wall deal didn’t get done was that a ridiculous court decision from the 9th Circuit,” adding “after ruling, Dems dropped deal.”
  57. Trump also compared the wall to Democrats slow-walking his nominees, tweeting “The Democrats OBSTRUCTION of the desperately needed Wall…is exceeded only by their OBSTRUCTION of 350 great people.”
  58. Later in the day, Trump tweeted “This isn’t about the Wall, everybody knows that a Wall will work perfectly,” adding, “this is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump & the Republicans have a win.”
  59. On Friday, in a series of tweets, Trump threatened Democrats, tweeting, “We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall.”
  60. Trump has made similar threats before, but has not offered details on how his plan would work. When people seek asylum, the government is required to consider those requests regardless of border closures.
  61. Trump also suggested, without providing evidence, that shutting the border would improve U.S. trade with Mexico, tweeting “I would consider closing the Southern Border a ‘profit making operation.’”
  62. Trump also again threatened to cut aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, tweeting “We will be cutting off all aid to these 3 countries — taking advantage of U.S. for years!”
  63. On Friday, Mexican President Lopez Obrador said: “We are always seeking a good relationship” with the U.S., adding on the wall funding dispute, “we have not commented on this issue, because it is an internal affair.”
  64. On Friday, incoming acting chief of staff Mulvaney told “Fox & Friends” that Trump canceled his New Year’s plans at Mar-a-Lago, and will remain in Washington, D.C. as the government shutdown continues.
  65. On Friday, Mulvaney accused Democrats of walking away from the negotiating table, saying they ignored an offer for border wall funding below Trump’s $5 billion request.
  66. A spokesperson for Pelosi said Democrats will not fund Trump’s “immoral, ineffective and expensive wall,” adding Trump “has changed his position so many times” he needs to publicly endorse a proposal.
  67. On Friday, WAPO reported since arriving back in the White House early Thursday, Trump has had no public events, and aides have given little details other than he is working and making phone calls.
  68. After canceling his trip to Mar-a-Lago, rather than engage in substantive negotiations on the shutdown, Trump has instead sent a rash of tweets blaming Democrats and casting immigrants as a threat to the country.
  69. Contrary to Trump’s threats on Twitter, aides say closing the border would cause an economic catastrophe. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found 47% of Americans blame Trump for the shutdown, 33% blame Democrats.
  70. On Friday, Trump dined with Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, and Mulvaney as the shutdown hit one week. Noticeably absent were the faces of experienced staffers to consult after the bevy of departures.
  71. On Sunday, NYT reported previously unreleased video shows the Proud Boys initiated the attack in Manhattan in Week 101. Ten Proud Boys have been arrested, and will be charged with riot and attempted assault.
  72. On Sunday and on Christmas Eve, Immigration and Customs Enforcement released more than 400 migrants at the Greyhound bus station in El Paso. The community and shelters were not given warning or time to prepare.
  73. On Christmas Day, ICE released hundreds more migrant asylum-seekers at a park near a bus station in downtown El Paso. Unprepared shelters struggled to provide food and shelter to the deluge of migrants arriving.
  74. On Thursday, the Texas Tribune reported over the four-day period, ICE has dropped off a total of between 1,600 and 1,700 migrants in El Paso. Immigration shelters are trying to keep up with the inflow.
  75. On Tuesday, AP reported an 8 year-old boy from Guatemala died in Customs and Border Protection just after midnight on Christmas Day, marking the second death of an immigrant child in detention this month.
  76. The boy was identified as Felipe Gómez Alonzo. Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which had custody of Alonzo and Jakelin Caal, on Tuesday ordered immediate medical assessments on all 700 children in its custody.
  77. On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faulted the parents and “open border” supporters for Alonzo’s death,” adding, “Smugglers, traffickers, and their own parents put these minors at risk.”
  78. Nielsen also called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate an uptick in sick children crossing from Mexico, and on the U.S. Coast Guard medical corps to assess CBP’s medical programs.
  79. LA Times reported the government shutdown has caused Border Patrol agents and an estimated 44,000 active duty Coast Guard members to work without pay over the holiday week.
  80. On Thursday, Daily Beast reported ICE paid an estimated $807 million in fiscal year 2018 of taxpayer money to cover the costs of 19 private prison facilities which held approximately 18,000 migrants.
  81. At some detention facilities, migrants worked for pennies. One detainee at the Corley center who took the graveyard shift in the facility kitchen was paid $3 for 7 hours of work. Advocates say this borders on slave labor.
  82. The detainee also told The Daily Beast of the conditions, “It’s inhumane. It’s like a torture chamber,” adding “We don’t go outside. I don’t breathe fresh air, haven’t been outside since I’ve been in here.”
  83. The Corley facility is run by GEO Group, a private prison company which made over $281,000 in donations to Trump’s campaign and inauguration, and has seen its revenue rise since Trump took office.
  84. ProPublica reported on Long Island high schools that are embracing the Trump regime’s crackdown on MS-13 to target immigrants. Under Operation Matador, ICE has arrested 816 people suspected of gang affiliation.
  85. Of those, 170 came to New York legally as unaccompanied minors. ICE uses “administrative arrests” to pursue gang members and “gang associates,” who had no criminal records, are deemed a danger.
  86. ProPublica tracked the case of one teen named Alex, who was falsely assumed to be a gang member because of the color of his sneakers and a school mascot doodle. He was detained and then deported to Honduras.
  87. The Courier reported Jacob Dick and Owen Stewart, who worked in the county office outside Toledo, resigned after appearing in a video depicting a white doll with its face painted brown hanging from a noose.
  88. WJTV reported Lanekia Michelle Brown, 37, died in Madison County, Mississippi jail awaiting trial after a traffic stop. Brown, a Black woman, complained of stomach pains, and died before the nurse arrived.
  89. On Wednesday, a man at a Dallas-area Macy’s was captured in a video ranting at employees who spoke in Arabic to each other, saying “All the Arabs, all you Arabs and Democrats. Go back to where you came from…”
  90. On Thursday, the Buena Regional School District Superintendent said referee Alan Maloney, who in Week 110 forced a Black wrestler to cut his dreadlocks, will no longer be allowed to officiate matches in their district.
  91. In Oregon, Amber Rocco, a 39 year-old white woman, was captured in a video threatening a Black couple on Christmas Eve with a knife while shouting racist slurs at them, all because they parked their car crooked
  92. On Friday, the McMinnville Police Department, after seeing the video and receiving other information, arrested Rocco and charged her with intimidation, unlawful use of a weapon, menacing, and harassment.
  93. In Portland, Oregon, Jermaine Massey, 34, a black man who was staying in a Doubletree hotel and called his mother from the lobby, was told by a white security guard that he was trespassing and escorted out by police.
  94. On Wednesday, Republican Georgia state Sen. Michael Williams, who infamously campaigned for governor using a “deportation bus,” reported to jail after being indicted on charges that include insurance fraud.
  95. On Friday, the North Carolina state elections board dissolved under a court order, two weeks before hearings to consider evidence of possible absentee ballot fraud in the Ninth District’s seat in Congress.
  96. No one has been charged yet in connection with the allegations. The dissolution means the seat could remain empty for weeks or months. Pelosi has said she will not seat republican Mark Harris unless the race is certified.
  97. On Friday, Hollywood Reporter reported Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show, which regularly boasted upward of 40 corporate advertisements per night prior to recent comments, hit a low of 21 ads on Wednesday.
  98. NYT reported the children of Dr. Larry Braunstein, a podiatrist in Queens who was a tenant of Fred Trump, claim their father provided a bone spurs diagnosis for Trump, allowing him to avoid being drafted during Vietnam.
  99. Bloomberg reported Trump took out $340 million of variable rate debt between 2012–2015, meaning the recent Federal Reserve rate hikes have added roughly $5.1 million of debt service, lowering his net worth by 7%.
  100. On Wednesday, WSJ reported acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker lied on his resume and in government documents, saying he was named an Academic All-American while playing football at the University of Iowa.
  101. Whitaker made the false claim in the biography on his former law firm’s website and on a resume sent in 2014 to the chief executive of World Patent Marketing, and in a 2010 application for an Iowa judgeship.
  102. NYT reported on the impact on health from Trump’s rollback of environmental protections. In California, where the Trump regime rolled back an Obama-era ban on pesticides, farm workers are being sickened.
  103. In West Virginia, the regime halted two major water pollution rules on coal mines and power plants. In Texas, an estimated 300 will die prematurely from coal-power burning plants no longer needing to cut emissions.
  104. On Friday, the Trump regime’s EPA proposed major changes in the way the federal government calculates benefits, in human health and safety, of the release of mercury into the air.
  105. The proposal claims federal rules imposed on mercury by the Obama administration are too costly to justify, opening the door for coal mining companies, which have long opposed the rules, to challenge them in court.
  106. On Friday, Trump’s Interior Department, in a new proposal, sought to limit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests citing an “unprecedented surge” since Trump took office.
  107. The proposal would enable the agency to reject FOIA requests that it considers “unreasonably burdensome” or too large, and to impose limits on requests for individual requesters each month.
  108. On Wednesday, Justice Department attorneys representing Trump asked a federal appeals court to postpone indefinitely all further filings in an appeal related to an emoluments case, citing the government shutdown.
  109. The Justice Department is one of the government agencies lacking appropriations because of the shutdown. The government brief is not due until January 22, but the court agreed to put the case on hold indefinitely.
  110. On Wednesday, the California federal judge in the census question trial rejected the DOJ’s request to postpone, without explanation.
  111. On Thursday, the DC federal judge hearing the challenge to Trump’s asylum rules also rejected the DOJ’s request to postpone, noting there are enough CBP and ICE staffers working to effectively file the asylum claims.
  112. A subpoena for an unnamed, foreign government-owned company in a mystery court case became the first known legal challenge apparently related to Mueller’s investigation to make its way to the Supreme Court.
  113. On Sunday, Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily stayed a contempt citation against the company, as well as an escalating financial penalty imposed by a judge imposed for failing to comply with the subpoena.
  114. On Thursday, McClatchy reported a mobile phone traced to Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, in the height of the presidential election.
  115. The Steele dossier asserted that Cohen and one or more Kremlin officials met in Prague to plot ways to limit discovery of the close “liaison” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
  116. Additionally, in late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom is heard saying Cohen was in Prague.
  117. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani gave differing answers for whether Trump would give Mueller more written answers, telling Fox News on Sunday, “I announced 10 days ago ‘over my dead body’ and I’m not dead yet.”
  118. Days later, Giuliani told Axios Trump “might agree,” then told NBC News he did not “anticipate” any additional written answers, then told The Daily Beast that negotiations for an in-person interview are “still open.”
  119. On Thursday, Concord Management and Consulting, a Russian firm owned by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, said in a court filing that a “nude selfie” is among the materials collected by Mueller’s team in his ongoing probe.
  120. The filing asks if the nude selfie could “really threaten the national security of the United States?” Concord was indicted for allegedly bankrolling efforts to disrupt the 2016 election.
  121. On Saturday, the Daily News reported Anibal Romero, an attorney representing undocumented immigrants who worked at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, has turned over documents to the New Jersey AG.
  122. Documents include fraudulent green cards and Social Security numbers that club management gave Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz, who were interviewed in the NYT story in Week 108.
  123. Previously, Romero contacted Mueller’s team, for fear contacting former AG Jeff Sessions could backfire on his clients. Mueller’s team said the case was not in their jurisdiction, but referred it to an FBI agent in New Jersey.
  124. On Saturday, TIME reported Victor Boyarkin, who was put on the U.S. sanction list on December 19 as a former Russian intelligence officer, had links to Paul Manafort, then chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
  125. Boyarkin is accused of handling money and negotiations for Russian oligarchs. Boyarkin told TIME this fall that Manafort “owed us a lot of money,” and that “he was offering ways to pay it back.”
  126. Boyarkin said he was approached by Mueller’s team, but did not help. He said he was introduced to Manafort around 2006, when Oleg Deripaska asked both of them to help redraw the map of Eastern Europe.
  127. Manafort may have played a role in Montenegro’s 2016 elections, on behalf of pro-Russian opposition which sought to slow the country’s joining NATO. Deripaska also had business interests there.
  128. The pro-Russia candidate lost. In July 2018, Trump took issue with protecting Montenegro under NATO’s Article 5, calling it “a tiny country with very strong people,” adding “they are very aggressive people.”
  129. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “The Mueller Angry Democrats recently deleted approximately 19,000 Text messages between FBI Agent Lisa Page and her lover, Agent Peter S.” calling them “INVALUABLE to the truth.”
  130. The tweet follows Giuliani saying Friday that Mueller “should be investigated for destruction of evidence” for the texts being erased. The DOJ watchdog found the FBI did not intentionally destroy the messages.
  131. On Friday, House Speaker Pelosi appointed Douglas Letter as the new General Counsel of the House of Representatives. Letter worked for the DOJ for four decades, representing administrations of both parties.
  132. Letter “distinguished” himself as the DOJ’s Director of the Civil Division. He resigned from the DOJ in January 2018, reportedly over Trump’s repeated attacks on the agency.
  133. Conservative publication the Washington Examiner dubbed Letter, “the man who could impeach Trump,” calling him a guiding force in Democrats investigating and potentially impeaching Trump.
  134. Outgoing committee chairs Reps. Trey Gowdy and Robert Goodlatte asked their Senate counterparts to pick up their inquiry into the FBI’s handling of investigations of the Trump campaign and Hillary Clinton’s emails.
  135. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a strong defender and ally of Trump, the incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Sen. Grassley agreed to step down early, said he would pick up some of the inquiries.
  136. Trump ally Rep. Goodlatte also issued a press release praising his committees’ accomplishments with the probe, including the firings of “multiple high-ranking Justice Department employees.”
  137. The stock market closed Friday after two week of wild gyrations, during which the S&P posted six moves of more than 1%, three of which were over 2%. The S&P posted just eight 1% moves in all of 2017.
  138. The Dow also rose 1,000 points in one day for the first time on Wednesday. Investment advisors called the movements “disturbing to investors,” noting conditions of “panic and fear.”
  139. On Friday, CNBC reported a member of the Trump regime reached out to at least one investor to ask for advice on stock markets after the plunge on Christmas Eve day and the recent market drubbing.
  140. Reportedly, Trump is determined to boost equities. The investor advised for Trump to end his criticism of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Twitter, stop senior staff turnover, and reach a trade deal with China.
  141. Reuters reported China’s soybean imports from the U.S. plunged to zero in November, marking the first time since Trump’s trade war that China has imported no U.S. supplies. China is importing from Brazil instead.
  142. On Friday, AP reported farmers are at risk of having some federal payments to growers hardest hit by Trump’s trade war with China, put on hold starting next week due to the government shutdown.
  143. The new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is set to go into effect tomorrow, a major 11-country agreement which will reshape trade rules among economic powerhouses including Japan, China, Canada, and Australia.
  144. The Obama administration had recognized the importance of remaining in the deal to counter China’s growing economic influence. In one of his first acts, Trump pulled the U.S. out in January 2017.
  145. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “Just had a long and very good call with President Xi of China,” claiming “deal is moving along very well,” and “big progress being made!”
  146. On Saturday, WAPO reported that instead of pivoting after midterm loses, Trump is instead focused on pleasing his most ardent supporters, in stark contrast to historical behavior of leaders after such losses.
  147. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security,” adding “they are spending so much time on Presidential Harassment.”
  148. On Saturday, Trump also tweeted that “Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies” are at fault for the death of the 8 year-old boy this week, not Border Patrol.
  149. Trump also claimed Border Patrol was not at fault for the death of a 7 year-old girl, tweeting “The father of the young girl said it was not their fault,” and adding “Border Patrol needs the Wall and it will all end.”
  150. In Turkey, prosecutors opened a probe into two prominent actors for comments on a television program which were alleged to be insulting to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
  151. WAPO reported a Russian bank gave far-right French candidate Marine Le Pen’s party a 9.4 million-euro loan for the 2017 presidential election, another example of Russia’s influence operation abroad.
  152. Secretary of State Pompeo will head a U.S. delegation to Brazil for the inauguration of far-right incoming president Jair Bolsonaro, who has expressed admiration for Trump as a model of governance.

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Copyright Amy Siskind, December 29, 2018

Asylum seekers stand at a bus stop after they were dropped off by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Greyhound bus station in downtown El Paso, Texas late on December 23, 2018. — The group of around 200, mostly made up of Central Americans, were left without money, food and means of communication. Volunteers from Annunciation house and other local churches came to aid and find a place to house them for the night.