April 01, 2017

Week 20

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

For the third week running, Trump has lost control of the narrative. His legislative agenda has ground to a halt — a sign of his waning political capital; however, he continues to fundamentally change the values and fabric of our country in a myriad of alarming ways. Russia’s interference in our election is now an accepted notion, and words like “collusion” and “cover up” entered the fray this week as all eyes turned to examining the Trump regime’s role.

  1. Four weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. He has yet to offer any evidence or apologize.
  2. The Sunday Times reported that during Merkel’s visit to the WH, Trump handed her a £300 billion invoice for money he falsely claimed Germany owed to NATO.
  3. On Sunday, Trump announced that Kushner would lead a newly formed White House Office of American Innovation, giving him broad authority over federal bureaucracy. Kushner already has a significant portfolio.
  4. On Monday, NYT reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee will question Kushner about two meetings he arranged with Kislyak during the transition.
  5. Kushner will also be questioned on a previously unreported meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank, Vnesheconombank (VEB). Gorkov is former KGB, and was appointed by Putin to run VEB, a bank under US sanctions for three years.
  6. Kushner and VEB gave different public accounts of why they met.
  7. VEB paid the legal bill as a secret “third party” for their employee, Evgeny Buryakov, at his trial for spying in the US for Russian Intelligence.
  8. Kushner arrived for a ski vacation in Aspen on the same day as Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, one of Putin’s closest confidants. Abramovich’s wife is also friends with Ivanka.
  9. China’s Anbang walked away from the planned purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue, which would have netted Kushner $400 million — a sign that the Chinese government is uncertain of the Trump regime’s longevity.
  10. Changing course, Ivanka will become a federal employee. In her new role of Assistant to the President, the highest staff title, Ivanka will have the same rank as McMaster.
  11. In January, Trump attorneys had said Ivanka would resign from her business positions. She is still listed as CEO of a NY based business.
  12. Ethics filings released on Friday showed that Ivanka and Kushner, despite their new roles, will remain as beneficiaries of real estate and investment businesses worth about $741 million.
  13. Ivanka will also maintain her stake in the controversial Trump Hotel DC, which netted her between $1-5 million from January 2016–March 2017, and value her stake between $5-25 million.
  14. Ethics filings also revealed that Bannon earned $917k in the past 12 months, more than half of which comes from Mercer-related entities.
  15. Trump again took credit for jobs created before he took office: this time a $1.2 billion investment by Ford that was planned in 2015.
  16. Per WAPO tracking, so far Trump has taken credit for jobs created before he took office 11 times.
  17. Trump’s anti-immigrant policies are scaring eligible families away from safety net programs like SNAP, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and free school lunches.
  18. ICE arrested five Green Card applicants in Lawrence, MA when they showed up for their scheduled appointments at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. All are scheduled to be deported.
  19. A federal judge in Hawaii extended the order blocking Trump’s second Muslim ban.
  20. Trump has been named in more than 50 lawsuits filed by individuals, arising from his Muslim bans.
  21. Trump signed an executive order which legalizes discrimination against LGBTQ federal employees.
  22. Trump excluded LGBTQ people from the US Census, removing categories for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
  23. At a WH women’s event, Trump said “If I weren’t president, [women’s empowerment] would be a very scary statement. We can’t compete!” He also asked the crowd is they knew about Susan B. Anthony.
  24. Trump’s lawyer said the Summer Zervos sexual harassment-related lawsuit, suing Trump for defamation, should be put on hold because it will “distract the president from his duties.”
  25. On the back of the failed Yemen raid and the Mosul bombing that left 200 civilians dead, Trump declared Somalia a war zone, lifting Obama’s civilian protection rules for airstrikes.
  26. WAPO reported a growing sense of panic and mistrust among civilians in Iraq and Syria amidst a record number of casualties by US-led airstrikes.
  27. NBC reported that 40% of US colleges reported a drop in international student applications because of Trump’s policies like the Muslim ban. Foreign students generate $32 billion in revenue and 400k jobs.
  28. Trump approval hit a new low at Gallup: 35% approve, 59% disapprove. Ratings this week are the lowest ever for a new president.
  29. Trump will not throw the ceremonial first pitch in the Nationals opening day, making him the second since Taft in 1910 not to do so.
  30. USA Today reported Trump and his companies have been linked to at least 10 former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to organized crime or money laundering.
  31. WNYC reported three all-cash real estate purchases by Manafort in New York. One purchase was for $10 million at Trump Tower in 2006 — the same time Manafort entered a $10 million contract with a pro-Putin Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, to help strategize on influencing US elections.
  32. Deripaska took out quarter page advertisements in the WAPO and WSJ denouncing the AP story, and offering to testify to Congress.
  33. On Monday, Nunes unilaterally cancelled all scheduled hearings and meetings for the week. He refused to share his source for the leaks.
  34. On Tuesday, WAPO reported that the Trump regime tried to block Sally Yates from testifying at the House hearing.
  35. WAPO also reported that both Yates and John Brennan had made clear that parts of their testimony contradict statements made by the WH.
  36. On Thursday, NYT identified two WH officials, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, as the ones who gave Nunes intelligence reports. Ellis formerly worked for Nunes, and Cohen was brought in by Flynn and kept on by Trump/Bannon/Kushner despite McMaster’s desire to fire him.
  37. WAPO identified a third WH source involved in leaking information to Nunes: John Eisenberg, top lawyer for the National Security Council, on which Bannon sits.
  38. E. Randol Schoenberg uncovered that Ezra Cohen-Watnick’s wife Rebecca Miller did PR for Putin.
  39. Barton Gellman raised the specter of unchartered territory — that these leaks could indicate that the Trump WH is spying on the FBI.
  40. On Friday, Rep. Adam Schiff met with Trump and was given the materials. In a statement, Schiff said nothing he had seen warranted a departure from normal review procedures. He also questioned why senior WH staff leaked to Nunes, who then shared the info back with Trump’s WH.
  41. CREW and Democracy 21 requested an OCE inquiry into whether Nunes violated House ethics rules.
  42. Robert Wasinger, a former Trump campaign official, transition team staffer and Trump appointee became the second staffer to leave without signing an ethics pledge. Wasinger is now working as a lobbyist.
  43. ProPublica reported the Trump regime is refusing to respond to inquiry letters from Congressional Democrats, including the letters sent by Senate Democrats to Wilbur Ross in Week 18.
  44. The man behind the #Calexit Campaign — an effort to break California from the rest of the country — splits his time between living in San Diego and Russia, and has ties to a group reportedly backed by the Kremlin.
  45. BBC verified a key claim in Steele’s dossier — a Russian diplomat named Kalugin (misspelled in the dossier as “Kulagin”), who was head of the embassy’s economic section in Washington, was a spy.
  46. BBC also confirmed contact between the Trump campaign and Russia, including sharing of voter rolls in key states like MI and PA.
  47. The identity of ‘Source D’ in the Steele dossier, source of the most salacious details, was confirmed to be Belarusian American businessman Sergei Millian, who also had ties to Trump campaign officials.
  48. The FBI raided an obscure casino in Saipan run by a Trump protege, which has attracted attention over its huge revenue and cash flows. Board members include Trump transition team member Woolsey.
  49. On Thursday, Flynn’s lawyer said he had offered his testimony to the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees in exchange for immunity. Per his lawyer, Robert Kelner, so far there are no takers.
  50. The next morning, Trump tweeted that Flynn should ask for immunity in this “witch hunt.”
  51. Robert Kelner tweeted on November 12, 2016, “A prediction: Donald Trump will make novel and unusual use of the President’s pardon power. An under-utilized tool of political power.”
  52. Jeremy Bash, an ex-intel official, said Flynn could only get immunity if he could deliver evidence against someone higher up the chain: Trump.
  53. A federal judge approved the $25 million Trump University settlement for defrauding more than 6,000 students, and with all the news, no one really noticed.
  54. NBC reported that the Obama administration was so concerned that Trump would destroy documents related to the Russia probe, that they created a list with serial numbers and hand delivered it to all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
  55. At a press conference before Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, Burr said Russia hired more than 1,000 hackers to create fake, anti-Hillary news. Warner added that Russia targeted key swing states, including MI, PA and WI.
  56. The Senate Intelligence Committee held its first day of hearings on Thursday. All experts who testified concurred on Russia’s involvement.
  57. Former special agent Clint Watts testified that one of reason Russia’s attacks were so successful is Trump and his team amplified and seemingly coordinated with propaganda coming out of Russia.
  58. As proof that Russia wasn’t only aiming to hurt Hillary, but rather to buoy Trump, Watts testified that Russia interfered in the Republican primary to undermine candidates, including Rubio.
  59. Rubio shared at the hearing that during his presidential campaign, his staff had a hack attempts from Russian IPs. Also, this week a second attempt was made to hack his former members of his campaign staff.
  60. CBS reported the FBI is probing whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Intelligence to carry out cyberattacks on the DNC and other targets in 2016
  61. Trump’s personal lawyer of more than 15 years, was named lead attorney for Sberbank, a Russian bank which is majority owned by the Russian government. Sberbank faces charges in US federal court for racketeering.
  62. WAPO reported that nearly one out of every three days while in office, Trump has visited a Trump branded property.
  63. The Center for Public Integrity noted that Wilbur Ross, while charged with Trump’s trade policy, maintains a stake in a shipping company that flies the Chinese flag, and visits Iran and Russia.
  64. Trump insider Rudy Giuliani is defending an alleged Iranian money launderer. Giuliani did not notify the court of his role, as is generally required. He also visited Turkey to discuss the case with Erdogan. The case it being heard in the Southern District of NY (formerly Bharara).
  65. In a letter to the federal judge on Friday, the federal prosecutor on the case disclosed that Giuliani tried to go around him, and cut a deal between the Turkish and U.S. governments.
  66. Senate Democrats called for an ethics probe of Mnuchin for promoting a movie he produced during a public interview on March 24th. Mnuchin said Friday it was not his intention to promote the movie.
  67. ProPublica reported that while in Congress in 2016, HHS Price bought stocks in 6 pharmaceutical companies, then used his connections to help scuttle a rule that would have hurt the companies’ profit.
  68. The Oklahoma Bar launched an investigation into whether Pruitt lied under oath in his testimony during his Senate confirmation hearing by saying while AG he only used his professional email for AG business.
  69. The State Department has gone dark. Since the IJR interview of Tillerson in which he signaled regret over taking SoS, both John Bolton and Condoleezza Rice have been invited to the WH by Trump.
  70. WAPO reported that many career diplomats in the State Department have been instructed not to speak to Tillerson directly, or to make eye contact.
  71. Senators in the House Armed Services oversight subcommittee urged Trump to fill Pentagon positions to “ensure that the American people know about and have a means to address instances of waste, fraud and abuse in their government.” Only one position has been filled (Mattis). Bannon and Kushner have blocked other picks.
  72. Trump friend and insider Carl Icahn stands to significantly benefit from several of Trump’s policies, including a regulation that if put in place will save CVR Energy, of which Icahn owns 82%, $206mm per year.
  73. Newsweek reported that Comey wanted to go public in July with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the election, but in a meeting with Kerry, Lynch, Johnson, and Rice, was told not to proceed.
  74. When asked by a reporter about Flynn during an executive order signing ceremony, Trump walked out of the room without signing the orders.
  75. NPR reported that Trump has started to employ “Whataboutism” — a Russian propaganda tactic commonly used by Putin. When criticized, Trump will say someone else is worse.

Copyright Amy Siskind, April 1, 2017

This week as all eyes turned to the Trump regime’s ties to Russia.