July 01, 2017

Week 33

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

This week the first evidence of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia surfaced. Several key members of the Trump regime could be ensnared — big news, with major ramifications! Yet, most of our country was distracted by Trump’s Twitter war with Joe and Mika.

This week, Trump continued to use hate to keep his base engaged, while marginalizing and ignoring those not white, straight, Christian and male. Through deportation and immigration bans, and continually peeling away rights and protections from women, PoC, LGBTQ, and Muslim and Jewish Americans, Trump is changing the character of our country, and the world is noticing.

  1. California added four more states to its ban on state-funded and state-sponsored travel, citing these states (eight in total) for laws allowing discriminating against LGBTQ people.
  2. Overruling experts and diplomats, and without explanation, the State Dept removed Iraq and Myanmar from the list of the world’s worst offenders in the use of child soldiers.
  3. Trump’s DHS pulled a grant given by Obama given to Life After Hate, a group dedicated to countering neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
  4. The State Dept’s anti-Semitism monitoring office will be unstaffed as of July 1. This, as the ADL reports anti-Semitic incidents have almost doubled in 2017.
  5. A court in Mississippi lifted an injunction on an anti-gay law, freeing individuals and government workers the ability to discriminate against gay and transgender people on religious grounds.
  6. North Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled that a woman cannot revoke consent after sexual intercourse begins.
  7. Trump ended an almost two decade-long tradition of celebrating Ramadan at the WH.
  8. Six Afghan girls were denied one-week visas to show their robot at FIRST Global Challenge in DC. Roa Mahboob, the first female tech CEO in Afghanistan who sponsored the team said, “they were crying all the day.”
  9. The historical marker for civil-rights icon Emmett Till on the Mississippi Freedom Trail was vandalized.
  10. Trucker Rene Flores, who was featured in a USA Today article on how poor immigrants who speak little English have become modern-day indentured servants, was fired the day after the article ran.
  11. Five months after Trump’s 90-day Muslim ban was introduced, the Supreme Court allowed part of the second version to take effect, banning travel from six Muslim countries where Trump doesn’t have properties.
  12. Attorneys general from 10 states and Idaho’s governor threatened to sue the government to stop granting and renewing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) permits by September 5.
  13. Trump’s WH said Chicago (Trump regime code for Black Americans) gun violence is “driven by morality more than anything else.
  14. Trump invited families of victims killed by undocumented immigrants to the WH for an on-camera, anti-immigrant display.
  15. Politico reported the White House Council for Women and Girls, set up by Obama, has gone dark under Trump, and will likely be shuttered.
  16. Secretary Mattis will delay the Pentagon’s decision on allowing transgender recruits into the military for six months. Ash Carter, his predecessor under Obama, had ended the ban on transgender people serving.
  17. WAPO reported that one month before Election Day, Kushner’s firm finalized a $285 million refinancing loan from Deutsche Bank. Kushner and his brother are guarantors of the loan.
  18. Kushner did not report the loan or his personal guarantee on his financial disclosure form filed with the Office of Government Ethics.
  19. The loan came at a time when Deutsche was negotiating with New York state regulators to settle a federal mortgage fraud case and charges of money laundering for Russia.
  20. In Week 19’s List (March 25) Deutsche was fined $630 million for laundering over $10 billion of Russian money, and settled the case in May.
  21. FT reported VEB, the state-owned Russian bank whose chairman, Gorkov, met clandestinely with Kushner, has no banking license or capital, and is essentially a special-purpose vehicle to support the Kremlin’s priorities.
  22. Kushner retained Abbe Lowell, one of the country’s leading criminal defense attorneys, to represent him in the special counsel probe.
  23. WAPO reported Manafort retroactively filed as a foreign agent on Tuesday for $17.1 million in payments received by his firm between 2012–2014 from a pro-Russia political party that controlled Ukraine’s government.
  24. Also in the filing, Manafort revealed that in 2013 he met with CA Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, an outspoken pro-Russia advocate.
  25. Roll Call reported that Manafort donated to Rohrabacher three days after their meeting.
  26. ABC reported Congressional investigators will question Trump’s longtime bodyguard, Keith Schiller, who now serves as a WH aide, as part of their Russia probe. Schiller delivered Comey’s termination letter in person.
  27. Miami Herald reported on Igor Zorin, a Russian government official who, on his $75k bureaucrat’s salary, purchased three units at the ritzy Trump Palace in South Florida worth $5.4 million.
  28. CNN reported Trump’s own advisers are struggling to convince him that Russia still poses a threat.
  29. CNN also reported NSA director Mike Rogers expressed frustration to lawmakers about his inability to convince Trump that Russia interfered in our election, and Trump’s lack of focus on the continued threat.
  30. Further, even as the intelligence community continues to brief him on Russian interference, Trump has not convened any meetings on Russian meddling.
  31. Intelligence and lawmakers expressed concern on the State Dept’s unwillingness to crack down on Russian diplomats traveling within the US, despite evidence Moscow is trying to conduct intelligence operations.
  32. Trump continued to distract from Russian interference and possible collusion, tweeting “Hillary Clinton colluded with the Democratic Party in order to beat Crazy Bernie Sanders. Is she allowed to so collude?
  33. A former CIA analyst and targeting officer explained how Trump’s tweets are being used by foreign spies to determine his vulnerabilities.
  34. The Kremlin recalled Kislyak amid the election controversy. Flynn, Kushner, and Sessions all had undisclosed meetings with Kislyak.
  35. WAPO reported that the FBI met with Carter Page five times in March about his contacts with Russia and claims in the Steele dossier. At the time, Page did not have a lawyer.
  36. Ivanka was ordered to testify in a dispute with an Italian shoemaker who accused her of copying one of its shoe designs.
  37. Chinese authorities released on bail, pending trial, the three activists who were investigating low pay, excessive overtime, crude verbal abuse, and possible misuse of student labor at Ivanka’s China factories.
  38. Guardian reported a nonprofit run by Trump attorney Sekulow will be investigated by authorities in two states for steering tens of millions of dollars to his family and their businesses.
  39. On Monday, as the CBO report indicated Senate version of AHCA/Trumpcare would result in 22 million more uninsured, the WH issued a statement trashing the credibility of the Office.
  40. Polls showed the Senate version is wildly unpopular: USA Today/Suffolk 12% approve, NPR/PBS/NewsHour/Marist 17% approve.
  41. A pro-Trump PAC ran negative ads targeting Sen. Dean Heller in his home state for not supporting AHCA. Amid backlash, the ads were pulled.
  42. Reporting on the Senate’s failure to pass AHCA cited Trump’s lack of interest and loss of political capital. Some Senators also didn’t trust him after he called the House version he had backed, “mean.”
  43. On Monday late evening, the WH issued a cryptic statement warning of potential preparations for a chemical attack in Syria, and saying Syria would “pay a heavy price.”
  44. NBC reported Trump’s own senior national security officials were caught off guard by the WH statement. NBC noted the disconnect demonstrates how Trump “is making foreign policy on the fly.”
  45. The US image has plunged under Trump. Pew Research found three-quarters of countries surveyed have little to no confidence in Trump to handle foreign affairs. Our democratic allies were the most negative.
  46. Pew found that only 22% are confident in Trump’s handling of foreign affairs, compared to 64% during the Obama administration.
  47. Also of note in the Pew Research survey, for the first time in 35 years, a majority of Canadians have an unfavorable view of the US.
  48. The Toronto Star has also been keeping track of the false claims by Trump, and has so many that they chose to sort them by topic.
  49. The EPA chief of staff pressured a scientist on the agency’s scientific review board to change her testimony before the House Science Committee.
  50. Politico reported Trump Hotel DC has become a go-to meeting place. Conway said, “They look at it as a piece of the president.” Trump continues to profit from the hotel, and has not tracked foreign government receipts as promised.
  51. The WH abruptly changed course and disinvited the media from covering Trump’s first re-election fundraiser. As mentioned in Week 32, the high-priced event will be held at the Trump Hotel DC.
  52. WAPO reported that a fake Time magazine cover is hung up in at several of Trump’s golf clubs. After the report, a spokesperson for Time said the magazine had asked the Trump Organization to remove them.
  53. Trump remarked to an Irish reporter that she had a “nice smile” during a telephone call in the Oval Office with the newly elected Irish PM. Trump told Varadkar, “I bet she treats you well.”
  54. Trump told the Irish PM, “We have so many people from Ireland in this country. I know so many of them, too. I feel I know all of them.
  55. Rachel Maddow reported that Republicans and conservative media have started a campaign of smear FBI interim director McCabe, who can corroborate Comey’s statement on conversations with Trump.
  56. Maddow also reported that Deutsche Bank added a lawyer with a background in tax crimes and money laundering.
  57. On Thursday, Deutsche Bank again denied Democratic lawmakers’ request for information on Trump’s accounts, saying individual members of Congress don’t have the same standing as a committee.
  58. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley requested the FBI and DOJ provide copies of surveillance requests made in their investigation of Russian interference in the election. If shared with Trump, this could bolster his defense.
  59. Pence and Kris Kobach, heads of Trump’s commission on election integrity, asked all 50 states to release voter roll data, including names, birthdays, the last four digits of SS numbers, and voting history back to 2006.
  60. Amid cries of voter suppression and privacy concerns, within 24 hours almost half of all states had rejected the request in part or whole.
  61. Kobach said Kansas would not hand over some of the information, nor will Pence’s home state (IN). Mississippi’s Secretary of State said, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”
  62. Next morning, Trump tweeted his dismay, “What are they trying to hide?” leading to a conversation on Twitter on why Trump has yet to share his tax returns, and we have normalized this and stopped asking.
  63. AP reported EPA’s Pruitt met with the CEO of Dow Chemical before deciding to reverse an agency ban on a widely-used pesticide which studies have found can harm children’s brains.
  64. Dow spent $13.6 million on lobbying in 2016, and wrote a $1 million check to Trump’s inauguration festivities. Dow’s CEO stood by Trump in February as he signed an executive order rolling back government regulations.
  65. At the Aspen Ideas conference, Sally Yates said while acting AG, she found out about the Muslim ban by reading about it in the NYT.
  66. Yates slammed the Trump regime for ignoring legal and political norms, and said the regime’s behavior “should be alarming to us as a country.”
  67. ABC reported federal authorities are investigating a breach of at least one nuclear plant’s computer system.
  68. Politico reported that Tillerson blew up at Trump’s head of personnel, Johnny DeStefano, for torpedoing his picks for senior State Dept roles. The State Dept remains largely unstaffed, including deputy Secretary of State.
  69. In Week 32, DeStefano’s data company was involved in the leak of private information of 200mm US voters, which was left unprotected online ahead of the 2016 election.
  70. Kasowitz failed to follow through on his threatened legal complaint against Comey, a pattern for the Trump’s attorneys.
  71. As stories on Russia and other controversies continued to break, Trump continued his efforts to weaken the media’s credibility, tweeting, “They are all Fake News!” — about CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, WAPO and NYT.
  72. Trump shared videos of a CNN commentator and producer being secretly recorded by Project Veritas’ O’Keefe to his 7 million  followers on Instagram.
  73. CNN’s Brian Stelter gave three examples of press access being rolled back: Trump and S. Korean president didn’t hold a joint news conference; Pentagon’s non-answer on why Mattis traveled without the usual TV journalists; and journalists told to leave DOJ event marking Pride month.
  74. The Senate Intel Committee will get Comey’s memos on his conversations with Trump. It is unclear when and if the public will see them.
  75. On Thursday, Trump sent a set of highly offensive tweets at Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, including “low I.Q. Crazy Mika,” “Psycho Joe.” The tweet to Mika (see below) was widely condemned as beneath the office, and sexist.
  76. Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer told Fox News of Trump’s tweets, “This is what it’s like in a banana republic.
  77. Amid the uproar, Trump quietly announced that he will meet with Putin in person at the G20 gathering next week. Numerous experts and lawmakers expressed grave concern.
  78. VOX reported Trump aides said he doesn’t have an agenda or plan much preparation for the meeting, raising concerns that Putin, a master tactician who arrives meticulously well-prepared, will outplay Trump.
  79. Trump also succeeded at distracting from the bombshell of possible collusion, voter roll request ,and other highly controversial stories.
  80. WSJ reported the first evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. A Republican operative,  Peter Smith, tried to get Hillary’s 33k deleted emails from Russian hackers in concert with Flynn.
  81. Smith passed away in May. The Trump campaign said if Flynn coordinated with Smith, “it would have been in his capacity as a private individual.
  82. WSJ also reported Smith’s story is consistent with intelligence agencies intercepts of Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Hillary’s server and transmit them to Flynn via an intermediary.
  83. Late Friday, the WSJ broadened its story saying Smith cited other key Trump regime players — Bannon, Conway, and Sam Clovis — in his Sept. 7, 2016 recruitment document for his effort to get Hillary’s 33k deleted emails.
  84. On Friday, New York Magazine reported on Trump’s efforts to possibly blackmail Joe and Mika by using a story to be published at Trump ally David Pecker’s National Enquirer making their affair public.
  85. Kushner was the go-between for communication. He told Scarborough he would need to personally apologize to Trump for negative coverage for the story not to run. Scarborough would not, and the story ran.
  86. Law Newz explained that Trump’s alleged blackmail of Joe and Mika, including persistent phone calls by reporters to Mika’s teenage children, could be an impeachable offense.
  87. Bloomberg reported that Kushner almost bought the National Enquirer three year ago, and The New Yorker reported David Pecker is considering a bid for Time Inc., owner of Time magazine.
  88. On Friday, as the Senate left for break, Trump tweeted they should just repeal Obamacare and replace it later. The CBO estimated in that scenario 18 million would lose coverage in year 1, and 32 million more by 2026.
  89. 25 House Democrats, including the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, backed a bill that would create an “oversight” commission that could declare the president incapacitated under the 25th Amendment.

Copyright Amy Siskind, July 1, 2017

Trump’s tweet about Mika Brzezinski was widely condemned.