May 06, 2017

Week 25

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

The fabric and values of our country are transforming before our eyes. The Trump regime of billionaires and sycophants—with most Republicans cowering along in lock-step — continue to act and take actions that are greedy and cruel. As we hit Week 25, every subgroup of Americans not white, straight, and male has been a target.

The beat of Trump-Russia continues, as does Trump’s mentally imbalanced leadership — for which there is increasing concern. This week the authoritarian themes of silencing dissent, and consolidating power and wealth were also front and center.

  1. Trump delivered a campaign speech in Harrisburg, PA to mark his first 100-days. One pundit called it “the most hate-filled in modern history.
  2. Frustrated by his failures in the first 100-days, Trump took to Twitter and Fox News to demand changes to “archaic” rules of the House and Senate, so he could consolidate his power.
  3. Trump called for a government shutdown in September to fix what he called a “mess.” Republican leaders rejected this idea.
  4. Trump also blamed constitutional checks and balances for the chaos of his first 100 days, saying “It’s an archaic system … It’s really a bad thing for the country.
  5. Trump said he is open to meeting Kim Jong Un, saying “ I would absolutely be honored to do it.”
  6. Trump ally Erdogan fired 3,900 from the civil service and military as “threats to national security” in his second post-referendum purge. Trump has filled 5% of key roles in the executive branch.
  7. Tillerson sent a survey to employees ahead of a major State Department overhaul involving significant job and budget cuts. Tillerson has yet to name a deputy, or fill the key roles vacated by early resignations.
  8. In a CBS interview, Trump denied that Russia hacked our election, saying it “could’ve been China, could’ve been a lot of different groups.
  9. A massive coordinated hack and online leak of Macron’s emails occurred just 1 1/2 days before the French presidential election. Macron’s campaign blamed Russia for the attack.
  10. The leaks came within an hour of the midnight campaign blackout, during which politicians, media, and citizens are legally required to pull back from any public election discussion.
  11. The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency accused Russia of gathering large amounts of political data in cyberattacks ahead of Germany’s September election.
  12. Sparking shock and outrage, Trump invited Philippines President Duterte, an authoritarian known for brutality, to the WH. Trump did not clear the invitation with the State Department.
  13. According to Duterte’s spokesman, Trump praised Duterte saying “you’re doing a great job.
  14. Amid concern with Trump’s embrace of authoritarian rulers, Tillerson said American values, such as human rights, should not be a condition for US foreign policy.
  15. Trump Tower in the Philippines continues to use videos of Trump and Ivanka as a key selling point.
  16. The Moscow Times reported that someone is throwing chemicals at Russian opposition, causing them to go partially blind.
  17. USA Today compiled a list of 38 Russians opposed to Putin who were victims of unsolved murders or suspicious deaths in the past three years. Two such deaths were related to the Steele dossier/Trump-Russia ties.
  18. McCain said he was “looking at other options” after Trump ally Sen. Bob Corker backed off from imposing more sanctions on Russia.
  19. In violation of the Hatch Act, Secretary Ross accompanied Trump to Pennsylvania for a campaign event to raise money for Trump’s 2020 campaign, and WH staffer Sandra Sanders tweeted about it.
  20. On Tuesday, without taking questions, Spicer walked out of a room full of reporters, as the Trump regime was forced to accept most of the Democrats’ wish list in order to avoid a government shutdown.
  21. The Office of Government Ethics sent a letter to the WH and executive branch agency heads asking for copies of any waivers for Trump regime members from ethics rules. According to the NYT, at least two such waivers have been granted.
  22. The OGE says it wasn’t consulted about Ivanka’s job, saying she should be considered a federal employee and subject to those rules.
  23. Voice of America, a government-funded news agency, posted a story and tweeted about Ivanka’s new book, raising questions about the Trump regime’s use of government sources to promote private business interests.
  24. A State Department account (@GenderAtState) also likely violated federal rules by retweeting a post promoting Ivanka’s book.
  25. After pushback from his Cabinet, Trump started to dismantle his “shadow Cabinet” — young, inexperienced spies placed at federal agencies.
  26. The IRS is demanding $7 billion in back taxes from the Mercer’s hedge fund. The Mercers’ donations and ties to the Trump regime make it unlikely they will pay.
  27. Congress allocated a whopping $120 million for the Trump Family’s security costs. Costs include business trips to Vancouver and Dubai by Trump’s sons, and ski weekends in Aspen and Whistler for Ivanka.
  28. The WSJ uncovered that Kushner had failed to report $1 billion of loans in his financial disclosure. He also omitted his stake Cadre, a tech startup with ties to Goldman Sachs, George Soros, and Peter Thiel.
  29. Politico reported that at least nine members of Trump’s transition team have registered as lobbyists, despite a five-year lobbying ban.
  30. Wilbur Ross said the Syria strike — which he viewed with Trump and Chinese President Xi at Mar-a-Lago — was “after-dinner entertainment.”
  31. Priebus told ABC that the Trump regime “looked at” changing libel laws to go after the media for articles “that have no basis or fact,” and “writing stories about constant contacts with Russia…”
  32. A Code Pink activist who briefly laughed during Sessions confirmation hearing was convicted in Virginia. Two others will also face charges.
  33. Trump’s new FCC Chairman Pai said the FCC would investigate Colbert for a joke made about Trump and Putin and “take appropriate action.”
  34. AP reported that Republican House Chair Hensarling told dozens of government agencies to exclude communications with his committee from FOIA requests. He was widely criticized.
  35. Citing emails obtained under the FOIA, CBS reported that Trump had direct involvement in hunting the National Park Service official who tweeted photos of Trump and Obama’s inauguration crowds.
  36. Seemingly to counter his unpopularity, Trump has mentioned the election results on 39% of the days since November 8th.
  37. In an article in The New Yorker, writer Evan Osnos reported that Trump’s fitness to service is “officially part of the discussion in Congress.
  38. Breaking a tradition of 18 years, a school district in Seattle canceled its international field trip over concerns of Trump’s border enforcement.
  39. Trump did away with a 16-year-old tradition of celebrating Cinco de Mayo at the WH.
  40. Sen. Bob Casey blasted Trump and his regime for deporting a mother and her 5-year-old son back to Honduras, where they would face grave danger. Despite Casey’s efforts to intervene, the deportation is moving forward.
  41. According to the ACLU, Texas is about to become the first “show me your papers” state.
  42. The Trump regime fired chief usher Angella Reid, the first woman and second African American to hold the job. The job typically involves a long tenure, so this Friday afternoon firing was viewed with curiosity.
  43. Trump said he may not fund historically black colleges, a 25-year-old program, saying the funding may be unconstitutional.
  44. In a memo, Trump ordered his regime to end Michelle Obama’s girls education program, “Let Girls Learn.”
  45. After campaigning on cracking down on drugs, a line of attack that seemed racially based, Trump proposed cutting funding for the Drug Control Office, the agency charged with cracking down, by 95%.
  46. Rape charges were dropped against an immigrant teen in Maryland. Fox News had devoted days of coverage to the case, using it to validate Trump’s immigration agenda.
  47. Several outlets reported that Gorka would accept a role outside the WH after being denied security clearance and over his associations with a Hungarian hate group. Gorka said these reports were “very fake news.”
  48. The Daily Beast reported that Trump and Bannon intervened to save Gorka, and for now, he will remain.
  49. On Wednesday, Politico reported that Lewandowski’s firm, Avenue Strategies, quietly signed a deal to represent Citgo, a US-based oil company owned by Venezuela, in its proposed sale to Russia’s Rosneft.
  50. Citgo donated $500k to Trump inauguration. According to The Daily Beast, that money may have come from the Kremlin, at least indirectly.
  51. The owner of the 19.5% stake in Rosneft sold shortly after Carter Page’s July meeting with Putin allies in Russia is still not known.
  52. A bipartisan group of Senators called on Trump to block Citgo’s sale to Rosneft, citing concern that with control of Citgo, Russia could use its influence to counter US trade sanctions imposed in 2014.
  53. Amidst reports on Citgo and other questionable dealings, Lewandowski resigned from the Avenue Strategies, the firm he co-founded.
  54. Friday afternoon, Mark Green, Trump’s second pick for Army Secretary, withdrew as a nominee. Senators had expressed alarm at Green’s public homophobic statements, something Trump’s vetting missed or ignored.
  55. Rachel Maddow cited that Trump has yet to fill 57 of 58 senior level Pentagon positions which require Senate confirmation.
  56. Trump reportedly speaks to Rupert Murdoch almost every day. Some had speculated that Murdoch may be the biggest winner of Trump firing Bharara, as Fox News is under investigation in the Southern District.
  57. As the Senate Intel Committee got back on track, the Committee sent letters to several Trump insiders including Flynn, Manafort, Page, and Stone, requesting records of their communication with Russia.
  58. Page said he planned to cooperate, but his records as a private citizen would be ‘minuscule in comparison’ to what the FBI had collected under a FISA warrant. Page was asked to list any Russian official or business executive he met with between June 16, 2015 and Jan. 20, 2017.
  59. WAPO reported that Trump transition staffers warned Flynn about contact with Kislyak. Flynn was warned on both Kislyak’s background and that contact with him would likely be monitored.
  60. WAPO reported Billingslea was among a small group of national security hands in the Trump transition team who were concerned about Flynn and Trump’s pro-Russia stance.
  61. AP reported the Obama administration was concerned about the request for info on Kislyak, and about Flynn’s contact with Russia. They also delayed telling the Trump team about planned sanctions against Russia.
  62. One punishment was to close two Russian compounds. AP reported the Obama administration feared if they told the Trump regime too far in advance, they might give Moscow lead time to clear information out.
  63. NBC further reported that the Obama administration gave the Trump regime only hours notice about closing Russian compounds.
  64. AP reported the Obama administration was also concerned about sharing info with the Trump transition team after classified documents were copied and removed from a secure facility.
  65. Sally Yates will testify Monday before the Senate that she gave a formal warning to Trump’s WH that Flynn was lying three weeks before he was fired. This contradicts the Trump regime’s version of what happened.
  66. Nine weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. This week Trump said it has “been proven very strongly.
  67. Rand Paul, a supporter of Trump’s false claim, also said he thinks Obama spied on him. Paul tweeted that he has requested info on whether he “was surveilled by Obama admin” or the Intelligence community.
  68. At an open Senate hearing, Comey reiterated that there was no spying on Trump Tower.
  69. On Thursday, Trump and the GOP passed a series of measures, including passage of Trumpcare/AHCA in the House, a watering down of Dodd-Frank, and a “Religious Liberty” Executive Order which allows religious institutions to participate in politics, and power to decide on covering birth control.
  70. Beer was rolled in as the votes on Trumpcare were cast in the House, followed by a celebration at the WH — this, as more than 24 million Americans stood to lose healthcare coverage.
  71. After the vote and celebration, it became apparent that many House members never read Trumpcare or considered how it would impact their state/district. As House members returned home for an 11 day vacation, many hid and/or turned off their phones.
  72. Jason Chaffetz, who in Week 24 was noted to have left DC and halted his investigation of Flynn in order to get foot surgery, slithered back to DC to vote for Trumpcare.
  73. After Trumpcare passed the House, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report said the vote hurt the re-election prospects of 20 Republicans.

Copyright Amy Siskind, May 6, 2017

Trump and Pence greet members of the GOP, at a press conference on the passage of legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act, in the Rose Garden of the White House.