February 25, 2017

Week 15

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

This week had two themes. The first was Trump’s lack of empathy — the cruelty and heartlessness towards Americans not white, straight, Christian, and male. Trump and his regime continued to target the defenseless, including transgender individuals, Native Americans, and people of color. The second theme was Russia: ties between the Trump regime and Russia are continuing to pour out — meanwhile, the regime is actively seeking to suppress information.

  1. Despite Trump saying he would not enter any new overseas deals once he took office, Donald Jr. and Eric announced the opening of a Trump-branded golf course in Dubai. US taxpayers continue to pay the cost for the security detail that covers Trump’s sons on such trips.
  2. At Trump’s campaign rally in Florida, he referenced a Swedish terrorist attack that never happened as a rationale for his anti-immigrant policies.
  3. When questioned about his source, Trump tweeted he learned about the Sweden attack that never happened by watching Fox News.
  4. DHS’ John Kelly ordered the creation of a new office in ICE named VOICE (Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement), and ordered all resources set aside to advocate for “illegal aliens” moved over to VOICE.
  5. The NYT reported on a back-channel plan, originally handed in a sealed envelope by Michael Cohen to Michael Flynn, for a Ukraine and Russia ‘peace plan’ (with new leadership in Ukraine), in exchange for US lifting sanctions. Other Ukraine connections mentioned Andrii Artemenko, Paul Manafort, and Felix Sater.
  6. The Ukraine lawmaker, Artemenko, who allegedly worked with two Trump associates on the back-channel plan, faces a treason inquiry.
  7. TPM reported on the significance of Sater’s involvement, and his ties to Russia and Trump, dating back to the Trump SOHO Hotel.
  8. Daily News reported that as Trump’s Muslim ban faced court challenges in NY after the rollout, Stephen Miller called the Brooklyn US Attorney at home and told him how to defend it.
  9. WSJ reported that the Trump regime is using unrealistically rosy growth forecasts to hide that his plan would lead to a soaring deficit.
  10. WSJ also reported that the Trump regime is considering changing the way the US trade deficit is calculated — again to hide reality.
  11. NYT reported on struggles within the WSJ between journalists and owner Murdoch over the direction of the paper, and coverage of Trump.
  12. The Kremlin is preparing a psychological dossier on Trump for Putin. Preliminary findings are that Trump is “risk taker” who can be “naive.”
  13. The Senate Intelligence Committee is looking at possible collusion between Russia and Trump staff, including Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair.
  14. The Senate Intelligence Committee sent letters to a dozen intelligence agencies, organizations and individuals demanding they preserve communications related to Trump’s possible ties to Russia.
  15. In the past two months, there have been 69 threats at 54 JCCs in 27 states. Also, this week 170 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Missouri were vandalized.
  16. Bowing to pressure, and perhaps a tweet by Hillary, Trump finally blandly responded to the alarming rise of anti-Semitism, calling it “horrible,” but offering no actions or solutions.
  17. The Anne Frank Center issued a harsh statement, including, “The President’s sudden acknowledgment is a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration.” Spicer scolded the Anne Frank Center for their statement.
  18. The NSC spokesperson resigned over Trump’s disturbing and repeated attempts to undermine US intelligence.
  19. Republicans home for break and attending town halls all over the country were greeted by overflowing rooms of angry constituents, questioning them on repealing ACA and holding Trump accountable. Chants of “do your job!” were heard at many meetings.
  20. By the end of the week, numerous elected Republicans disappeared or refused to meet with constituents. Rep. Louie Gohmert blamed his refusal on the Gabby Giffords shooting, to which she replied, “Have some courage. Face your constituents.
  21. After Trump’s announced Muslim ban, interest in trips to the US has declined, likely to cost jobs in the tourism sector.
  22. A NBC News/Survey Monkey poll found that 2/3 of Americans fear the US will become involved in another war.
  23. The Trump regime issued new immigration enforcement policies, which included, among other things, hiring 10,000 additional ICE officers, and expanding the definition of crimes to include charged but not convicted.
  24. NYT Editorial Board called Trump’s “deportation force” an assault on American values.
  25. Horrific and heartless stories of deportations continued, including a 26 year-old woman with a brain tumor who was taken from a hospital.
  26. WAPO reported Deputy NSA K.T. McFarland was once accused of violating voter registration laws by being registered to vote at two different addresses. In NY, this is a felony offense.
  27. More than one million people signed a White House petition — a WH petition record — requesting that Trump release his tax returns.
  28. PM Trudeau said Canada will continue to accept asylum seekers from the US.
  29. The Air Force said it cannot account for the $1 billion in savings alleged by Trump on two new Boeing airplanes.
  30. Mexico rejected Trump’s immigration plan to deport migrants illegally crossing the US border, including non-Mexicans, to Mexico.
  31. Trump touted his immigration raids, referring to them as a “military operation.” While visiting Mexico to assure our seemingly former ally, Kelly attempted to clarify that it wasn’t really a military operation.
  32. As Kelly and Tillerson visited Mexico, relations between the US and Mexico are now at their lowest point in decades. Of note, Kelly and Tillerson’s message differs from Trump’s stance.
  33. WAPO reported that Tillerson has largely been offstage, and not given power, decision-making, or been included in meetings by Trump.
  34. The State Department continues to be dysfunctional, including no daily briefings.
  35. The State Department issues a warning to its employees on leaking — which was promptly leaked.
  36. Trump rescinded rules that had provided protection for transgender individuals to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.
  37. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness’ page on LGBT youth homelessness was taken down.
  38. HuffPost reported additional detail on Trump’s activities during the failed Yemen raid. As the raid went awry, putting Navy SEALS and civilians at risk, Trump was at dinner with Bannon and Kushner, and later tweeting and deleting and tweeting about an upcoming show on CBN.
  39. In another case of nepotism, Eric Trump’s brother-in-law has been appointed to a key position at the Department of Energy.
  40. Politico reported that while serving as Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort faced a blackmail attempt by a Ukrainian parliamentarian to expose him and the Trump as Russian-friendly .
  41. NYT reported McMaster may reorganize the NSC, and that Trump didn’t understand the significance of the executive order which elevated Bannon, and took the intelligence director and Joints Chief chairman off the council.
  42. At CPAC, Bannon was openly hostile to the media whom he referred to as “corporatist, globalist media,” and “the opposition party.”
  43. Bannon also vowed a daily fight for “deconstruction of the administrative state.” This comes as only 34 out of 700 open positions in the executive branch which require Senate confirmation have nominees.
  44. The WH assigned DHS to work with intelligence to write a report to back his Muslim Ban, and the danger caused by the 7 countries. Sources said intelligence is concerned, including about the veracity of the claim.
  45. The DHS report was later leaked out — it found there is not a threat from the 7 countries targeted by Trump’s Muslim ban.
  46. WAPO’s “The Fix” calculated that Trump has lied an average of 4 times per day since taking office. He has not yet had a day in office without a lie.
  47. A shocking op-ed, “I Was a Muslim in the Trump White House,” described a woman working for the NSC who lasted for 8 days under Trump — and described how diversity was viewed as a weakness.
  48. The remnants of a Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Camp was set ablaze by opponents, as the government deadline came for getting off the land.
  49. CNN reported that Priebus tried to get the FBI publicly refute recent reporting on Trump’s ties to Russia. The FBI refused. Such communication is problematic because of decade-old restrictions.
  50. The WH confirmed conversations between Priebus and the director and deputy director of the FBI, but denied there was anything wrong with these conversations occurring.
  51. Trump continued his gaslighting strategy of deflecting to the leaks, while not acknowledging the growing evidence of his ties to Russia.
  52. The Russian ambassador to the UN died suddenly in NYC. Churkin was the fifth Russian ambassador to die in the past three months.
  53. A group of law professors filed a misconduct complaint against Conway. The letter said Conway should be “sanctioned for violating government ethics rules” and “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”
  54. Border patrol agents stopped travelers on a domestic flight from San Francisco to New York, and asked passengers deporting the plane to show identification.
  55. Reporters from the NYT, BuzzFeed News, CNN, LA Times and Politico were excluded by Spicer from a closed door WH briefing on Friday. BBC, the Guardian and the Daily Mail were also excluded.
  56. In protest, ABC and TIME chose not to attend the briefing, and the WSJ issued a statement objecting and saying they will not participate in closed briefings in the future.
  57. At CPAC, a section of the audience waved Russian flags until staff came and took the flags away.
  58. At CPAC, Trump delivered yet another dystopian speech, but failed to acknowledge actual hate crime happening in our country, including a Kansas bar shooting, where a white man yelled “get out of my country” at two Indian American men, before shooting into a crowd and killing one.
  59. The father of the slain man appealed to parents in India not to send their children to the US, saying, “There is a kind of hysteria spreading that is not good because so many of our beloved children live there.”
  60. WAPO reported that in addition to the Trump regime’s efforts with the FBI to discredit news on their ties to Russia, they also sought the help of senior intel officials, and GOP leaders Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Devin Nunes, who head the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.
  61. A NBC/WSJ poll found that 53% of Americans want Congress to look into Trump’s ties to Russia, only 25% do not.
  62. Breaking with Trump, McMaster advised his staff that use of the label “radical Islamic terrorism” is not helpful. Nonetheless, Trump continued to use the term in his CPAC speech.

Some Things We’ve Already Normalized:

  • Our economy and economic policy is being run predominantly by former employees of Goldman Sachs.
  • US taxpayers are footing the bill for 3 Trump residences: the WH, NYC, and Mar-a-Lago.
  • Meanwhile, Melania does not appear to be conducting much if any of the typical FLOTUS duties.
  • Power is continuing to consolidate into the hands of few.

Copyright Amy Siskind, February 25, 2017

The Washington Post added a new phrase beneath its online masthead this week — “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”