March 04, 2017

Week 16

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

This week’s theme was undoubtedly the continued taint of the Trump regime for their ties to Russia. For the first time since Election Day, Trump seems unable to drive the media storylines.

  1. Trump announced he would not attend the White House Correspondent’s Association dinner, amid growing tension with the media.
  2. Further to the stories on Priebus in Week 15 reaching out to the FBI, reports cited that Spicer made calls to the CIA, and Republican leaders Rep. Devin Nunes and Rep. Richard Burr, asking they discredit the NYT story about Russian ties.
  3. Before the investigation even begins, Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chair, said he hasn’t found evidence of the Trump team’s ties to Russia.
  4. CREW filed under the FOIA to see communications between Priebus and the FBI.
  5. Trump accused Obama of being behind the town hall protests: “I think [Obama] is behind it. I also think it’s politics.”
  6. Early in the week, Trump pronounced, “I haven’t called Russia in 10 years,” a statement then thoroughly discredited by video clips of his numerous statements otherwise.
  7. In an NBC interview, former President George W. Bush said “we need answers” on Trump ties to Russia.
  8. Another Trump cabinet pick, Wilbur Ross, has deep ties to Russia, including investing more than $1 billion in the Bank of Cyprus, and becoming a vice chairman of the bank. Putin appointed the other vice chairman.
  9. Rachel Maddow reported the Bank of Cyprus also has ties to a Russian oligarch who helped Trump make a $60 million profit flipping a home in Florida he owned for just two years.
  10. As Trump continued his attacks on Sweden, O’Reilly booked a supposed Swedish ‘national security advisor’ for his Fox News show. After Swedish officials indicated this expert was not known, O’Reilly was forced to issue a watered-down apology. Since, Trump has stopped attacking Sweden.
  11. A massive wave of anti-Semitism continued, including two more cemeteries desecrated, and 31 threats against JCCs in one day alone. The Anti-Defamation League has said anti-Semitism in the US is the worst since the 1930s.
  12. Seeming to follow David Duke’s lead, Trump said it could be Jews behind the rash of anti-Semitic attacks.
  13. Another mosque was burned down — the fourth in seven weeks.
  14. WAPO reported the FBI had once planned to pay the British spy behind the dossier, lending credibility to the contents.
  15. The Senate Intelligence Committee may call the British spy who gathered the information for the infamous dossier to testify. If they can find him (he’s in hiding).
  16. The father of the SEAL killed in the failed Yemen raid told the Miami Herald he wants answers.
  17. Trump sought to blame the generals for the SEAL’s death.
  18. Trump also tried to blame Obama, saying he finished what Obama had started. This was refuted by a former aide, who said Obama had never approved the raid.
  19. NBC reported that despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, senior US officials said there was no significant intel yielded from the Yemen raid.
  20. Sen. Diane Feinstein and other Dem senators demanded more information from the State Dept on China’s sudden decision to grant a trademark to the Trump organization. As noted in Week 14’s list, this occurred shortly after Trump declared his support of “One China” policy.
  21. Trump WH let Conway off the hook on an ethics investigation, saying she acted “inadvertently” in promoting Ivanka’s brand — despite recommendations by the OCE for discipline.
  22. Amid protests and ethics concerns, Donald Jr and Eric Trump cut the ribbon on a new hotel in Vancouver, built and financed by one of Malaysia’s richest families.
  23. A businesswoman who touts access to China purchased a $16 million penthouse at Trump Park Avenue. Trump retains an economic interest in the property.
  24. Although an order to stay Trump’s Muslim ban is in place, problems continued including Muhammad Ali Jr. being detained in a Florida airport, and French historian and expert on the Holocaust, Henry Russo, who was threatened with deportation while traveling to a discussion at Texas A&M.
  25. Stories continue to describe the State Department’s diminishing role. State Dept staff are being excluded from meeting with foreign leaders, leadership posts are going unfilled, and many employees are quitting. Trump also had threatened to slash the budget by one-third.
  26. The State Department has not held a single daily briefing under Tillerson. Daily briefings had been the norm since the 1950s. Limited daily briefings are set to begin next week.
  27. The State Department tweeted, then deleted, a congratulatory message to an Iranian director for winning an Oscar.
  28. Trump escalated his war on the media, telling Breitbart the NYT’s “intent is so evil and bad,” and that “they write lies.”
  29. Trump delivered a de facto State of the Union speech, read from a teleprompter. Although his manner was mild, the content continued to be nationalistic and negative. The Center for American Progress said that of Trump’s 61 statements, 51 were false.
  30. Also refuting Trump’s SOTU, The Brennan Center for Justice noted, “Nationally, crime remains at the bottom of a 25-year downtrend, half of what it was at its peak in 1991. Last year, rates of overall crime fell for the 14th year in a row.”
  31. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not attend Trump’s SOTU, nor did Rep. Maxine Waters.
  32. The Democratic women of the House wore the white of the Suffragists at Trump’s SOTU to show support of women’s rights.
  33. Trump officials fed news outlets misinformation on a shift in Trump’s immigration plans — hinting the time might be right for an immigration bill — ahead of the SOTU. CNN reported Trump misled reporters to get positive coverage.
  34. NYT reported that the Obama administration had rushed to preserve information on the Trump team’s ties to Russia, spreading it to government agencies.
  35. Also reported by the NYT: American allies, including the British and the Dutch, provided the Obama administration with information on meetings between Russian officials and the Trump regime in European cities.
  36. A bombshell story by WAPO reported that Sessions met with Russian ambassador twice, but did not disclose those meetings when asked during this Senate confirmation hearing.
  37. Sessions first spoke with Kislyak in Cleveland on July 18 — the same day the Trump campaign gutted the GOP’s platform of its anti-Russia stance on Ukraine. On July 23, WikiLeaks released stolen emails from the DNC.
  38. WSJ reported that Sessions used campaign funds to pay for his trip to the RNC Convention, where he met the Russian ambassador.
  39. At a next day press conference, Sessions recused himself from Trump investigations, but during the campaign only.
  40. As the controversy continued, Sessions said he would submit an amended testimony to address Democratic senators’ questions.
  41. Politico reported that Trump adviser Carter Page also met with Kislyak at the RNC Convention. While in office, Harry Reid had asked James Comey to investigate Page, saying he was also meeting with “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow.
  42. Page told MSNBC he had met with Kislyak, then seemed to backtrack on CNN to say he never spoke with him for more than 10 seconds.
  43. Kushner and Flynn also met with Kislyak at the Trump Tower in December. Of note, given the venue and people involved, this points to Trump having direct knowledge of the meeting.
  44. CNN reported that US Intelligence considers Kislyak to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington.
  45. Kislyak did not attend the DNC Convention.
  46. Trump team forced Nikki Haley to fire career staffers whom she had asked for advice on how to talk tough with Russia.
  47. A front page story in USA Today reported that emails released under a FOIA request to The Indianapolis Star show Pence used personal email for state business while governor, including for sensitive matters and homeland security issues, and that his personal AOL account was hacked.
  48. The next day, Pence turned over 13 boxes of state-related emails to the Indiana statehouse — a step required by law.
  49. Trump’s transition team canceled planned training on ethics for his staff, appointees, and Cabinet members.
  50. Rachel Maddow reported on a leaked DHS assessment document which indicates most US-based extremists radicalized years after entry into the US. These findings negate the main argument made by the Trump regime for their Muslim ban, and may explain why they have yet to release the new version frequently promised to be coming soon.
  51. Inhumane roundups by ICE continued, including a father of four US-born children who has lived here for 20 years, taken while dropping his kids off at school.
  52. A 22 year-old immigrant was detained by ICE moments after a press conference. She was 7 when her family moved to the US from Argentina, placing her under DACA immigration policy.
  53. Spicer was reported to be checking his staff phones for leaks.
  54. Reuters reported on stepped up efforts by the Trump regime to plug leaks, including Mnuchin using his first senior staff meeting to inform his aides that he would not tolerate leaks.
  55. Top talent continues to leave the already thinly staffed executive branch over poor morale and fear of Trump.
  56. Foreign Policy reported that the Trump WH is considering using high-end security software for WH networks in an effort to stop leaks.
  57. Arnold Schwarzenegger quit The Celebrity Apprentice, citing too much “baggage” — a clear shot at Trump. Trump continues his role as Executive Producer of the show (which we’ve normalized!).
  58. Trump fired back via Twitter this next day claiming Schwarzenegger was fired because of low ratings. Schwarzenegger told him to hire a fact checker.
  59. As stories continued all week about Trump and his team’s ties to Russia, offering no proof, Trump accused Obama of wiretapping phones in Trump Tower, tweeting, “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
  60. As the week closed out, Trump yet again headed to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend, after leaving the WH at 3 p.m. on Friday. Trump has yet to visit Camp David.

Some Things We’ve Already Normalized:

  • Trump’s sons are continuing to conduct business from which Trump has a direct economic benefit.
  • Our executive branch is vastly understaffed, and Trump and his regime seem to make little effort at hiring (consolidation of power).
  • Our media (some) continue to push the notion of a Trump “reset,” and seek to normalize Trump and his regime.
  • Comey continues to NOT cooperate with Congress in hearings. We also do not know the status of the DOJ inquiry into Comey and the FBI, and whether this has been allowed to continue under Sessions.

Copyright Amy Siskind, March 4, 2017

The Democratic women of the House wore the white of the Suffragists at Trump’s SOTU to show support of women’s rights (source: tweet by Nancy Pelosi).