November 11, 2017

Week 52

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

This week started and ended in chaos, with a respite in-between as Trump traveled to Asia and stayed on script. The length of this week’s list is a testament to how broad-based the attacks on and the erosion of norms and our democracy have become — well beyond Trump as the sole actor.

The Resistance that started as Trump took office has grown in both impact and power, as evidenced by Tuesday’s elections, which were a wipe-out for Republicans and an amazing display of diversity. A revolution around sexual assault and harassment is gathering steam, with offenders being outed daily.

All the while, the Mueller probe progresses. This week more ties between the Trump campaign and Russia were exposed, and questions surfaced as to the knowledge and engagement of senior people on the campaign, including Trump.

  1. WAPO reported as the winter tourism season kicks in, Trump has secured 70 H-2B visas from the Labor Department to hire cooks, maids, and servers to work at Mar-a-Lago, despite urging the country to hire American.
  2. Dallas Morning News reported GOP campaigns for Trump, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, Kris Kasich, and John McCain took in $7.35 million in donations from Leonard Blavatnik, a Ukrainian oligarch with ties to Putin.
  3. Blavatnik donated $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee. Blavatnik also has close relationship with Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch who has ties to Paul Manafort over a decade, and appears frequently in The Weekly List.
  4. Saudi Arabia arrested 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers. Trump tweeted his approval, saying he had “great confidence” in Mohammed and his father, King Salman.
  5. In Week 51, Jared Kushner returned from a previously undisclosed trip to Saudi Arabia, and Trump tweeted he would appreciate if Saudi Arabia would list the IPO of Aramco on the NYSE.
  6. Juli Briskman, the cyclist who flipped off Trump as his motorcade drove by, was fired from Akima LLC, a government contracting firm, under a social media policy, although she wasn’t wearing anything company related.
  7. Ironically, Briskman oversaw the firm’s social media presence, and flagged a middle-aged executive man for a violation, writing “You’re a f — — — Libtard a — — — .” He cleaned up the comment and was not fired.
  8. Sessions’ DOJ dropped their case against Desiree Fairooz, a retired children’s librarian affiliated with Code Pink, who laughed at Sessions during his Senate confirmation hearing.
  9. Republican Reb. Rob Bishop moved closer to his goal of invalidating the Endangered Species Act. Bishop has shepherded five bills out of the House Natural Resources Committee he chairs that would dismantle the law piece by piece.
  10. In his most aggressive step yet to reverse Obama’s “war on coal,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced a proposal to alter electricity markets, which would provide a huge windfall for coal magnate Bob Murray, a big Trump donor.
  11. On Tuesday, Syria joined the Paris Climate Accord, leaving the US as the sole country rejecting the global pact.
  12. On Thursday, Trump’s EPA proposed reversing an Obama-era regulation which tightened emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks with older engines, part of Obama’s efforts to reduce soot and other pollutants.
  13. Carrier Corp., the plant Trump promised to save, announced less than four months after it laid off 340 employees at its Indianapolis factory that the company will terminate an additional 215 employees in January.
  14. Rep. Scott Allen, a lawmaker in WI, said women should be forced to give birth to grow the labor force: “Labor force shortages are tied to population declines. Labor force shortages are a limiting factor in economic growth.”
  15. On Monday, Trump’s DHS announced it would not renew temporary protections which expire January 5 for 5.3K Nicaraguans. The regime gave a six-month reprieve to 86K Hondurans covered by the program.
  16. WAPO reported John Kelly tried to pressure acting DHS Secretary Elain Duke to expel Hondurans too. In a call while traveling in Japan, Kelly was “irritated” and admonished her not to “kick the can down the road.”
  17. Despite Trump’s efforts to derail Obamacare by starving the exchange of sign-ups, ACA registration spiked at open enrollment’s start: over 200K chose a plan on November 1, more than doubling last year.
  18. WAPO reported that Betsy DeVos has shrunk the Education Department, shedding 350 workers since December, and buyouts offered to an additional 255 employees. Only 8 of the 15 key roles requiring Senate confirmation have nominees.
  19. WAPO reported the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sent letters to 70 foreign service jobs applicants saying the positions had been canceled. This comes amidst a State Department hiring freeze.
  20. Foreign Policy reported scores of senior diplomats, including 60% of career ambassadors, have left the State Department since Trump took office. There are 74 key roles at State which are vacant and have no nominee.
  21. Top US diplomat, AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, blasted the Trump regime in an open-letter, “Time to Ask Why,” citing it’s not just top leadership leaving, but recruitment is falling dramatically too.
  22. Newsweek reported Lara Trump has taken on WH duties, hosting high-level meetings on domestic policy initiatives with cabinet members, lawmakers, and Trump advisers.
  23. Leaked documents, the “Paradise Papers,” reveal Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross failed to disclose his interest in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company with significant ties to Russia, during his confirmation hearing.
  24. Navigator’s most important business relationships is with SIBUR, an energy company controlled by Putin’s son-in-law and Russian oligarchs Timchenko and Michelson, both who are on the Treasury’s sanction list.
  25. Penny Young Nance, Trump’s likely nominee for ambassador for global women’s issues, is a strong opponent of abortion and gay rights, and said the movie Frozen sends a harmful message about the role of men.
  26. Kyle Yunasaka, the brother of Eric Trump’s wife, Lara Trump, was named chief of staff at the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Policy. Yunasaka has no education or work experience in energy.
  27. Trump’s nominee William Wehrum was confirmed to a key post in the EPA despite oil industry ties. As an attorney, Wehrum represented the American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the American Chemistry Council.
  28. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Icahn Enterprises announced the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York has issued a subpoena seeking information related to activities while Carl Icahn was an adviser to Trump. In Week 40, Icahn benefited from actions taken as adviser relating to his 82% stake in CVR Energy.
  29. Daily Beast reported Trump appointed David Kautter to become the interim IRS commissioner. Kautter’s firm had to pay $123 million to the US Treasury in 2013 as part of a settlement for a tax shelter scheme.
  30. Brett Talley, a blogger nominated by Trump for federal judge in AL, who has never tried a case and was unanimously rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote.
  31. A fourth Trump judicial nominee, Brett Talley, was deemed not qualified by American Bar Association. It is highly atypical to have a nominee be deemed not qualified, let alone four already.
  32. Politico reported the House Rules Committee, which is controlled by Speaker Paul Ryan, set a record for the most closed rules in a session. Ryan has yet to allow a single piece of legislation to be governed by an open rule.
  33. NYT reported there has been a spike in deaths in Puerto Rico, but few are being attributed to Maria. Puerto Rican officials acknowledged 472 more people died this September compared with the same month last year.
  34. On Tuesday, Natalie Jaresko, executive director of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico told Congress nearly 60% of Puerto Rico is without electricity and thousands remain in shelters.
  35. NPR reported federal troops have started to leave Puerto Rico, while many are still without a steady supply of food and running water, and while schools remain closed.
  36. On Friday, 3 star Army General Jeffrey Buchanan, who coordinated the federal military response in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, said in a news conference, “we’re out of the crisis” and is leaving next week.
  37. Tuesday’s election was a trouncing for the Republican Party, including governor seats in NJ and VA, and 15 legislative seats shifting hands in VA (3 undecided still), and a key race in Westchester County, NY.
  38. History was made in many races nationwide as women, people of color and LGBTQ individuals won their races, including numerous “firsts.”
  39. In the VA legislature, 11 of the 15 Democrats who won were women — including two who are the first Hispanic women to serve in the state’s legislature. Women candidates racked up victories around the country.
  40. Danica Roem was elected in VA as the first openly transgender legislator, defeating Bob Marshall, an outspoken opponent of transgender rights who introduced the controversial transgender “bathroom bill.”
  41. Republican John Carman, a NJ politician who joked about the Women’s March asking if it would be “over in time for them to cook dinner,” was defeated by a 32 year-old woman, Ashley Bennett, a first-time candidate.
  42. More than two dozen House Republicans have announced they won’t be running again in 2018, well above the average number of House retirements per election cycle. More announcements are expected.
  43. Starting with accusations against Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo campaign, scores of women and men have come forward to share their stories of sexual assault, harassment, and rape as adults and children.
  44. Accusations have come against men in Hollywood, academia, sports, corporate America, politics and more. On Thursday, CNN hosted a primetime town hall, Tipping Point: Sexual Harassment in America.
  45. On Thursday, a Senate resolution introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Chuck Grassley requiring mandatory harassment training for all senators, officers, employers and interns unanimously passed.
  46. On Thursday, WAPO reported AL senate candidate Roy Moore sexually assaulted a 14 year-old girl when he was in his early 30s. Moore denied the allegations, employing a Trump distraction: blame the liberal, fake media.
  47. WSJ reported, based on examining 159K deleted tweets, Kremlin-backed support for Trump on Twitter started as early as June 2015. Russian accounts attacked Hillary and Jeb Bush, the GOP frontrunner at the time.
  48. In the two weeks ahead the November 2016 election, Russian account activity escalated. Trump campaign insiders like Flynn and conservative pundits like Sean Hannity followed and retweeted these accounts.
  49. NYT reported Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner made major investments in US social media companies Twitter and Facebook using money from state-owned Russian banks VTB and Gazprom Investholding.
  50. Milner ultimately owned more than 8% of Facebook and 5% of Twitter, and later sold these stakes, but retains large US technology holdings. He also has investments in real estate partly owned by Kushner.
  51. NBC reported Mueller has enough evidence to bring charges against Flynn and his son. Mueller is applying pressure on Flynn after the Manafort indictment, and speaking to witnesses around his lobbying work.
  52. Mueller is looking into whether Flynn was behind a request to the FBI in the weeks after Trump’s inauguration to conduct a new review of Turkey’s 2016 request to extradite Fethullah Gülen, an elderly Muslim cleric.
  53. CNN reported Michael Flynn and his wife Lori are concerned about their son’s legal exposure in the Mueller probe, and this could factor into Flynn’s decision on how to respond to Mueller.
  54. On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sessions needs to return to the Senate Judiciary Committee and answer questions about Trump campaign ties to Russia, after revelations in Week 51 show Sessions’ previous statements were false.
  55. Sessions is set to face questions about Russia from the House Judiciary Committee in an open hearing next week as part of DOJ oversight. Sessions will also likely speak to the House Intel Committee in a closed setting.
  56. WAPO reported, based on a review of court documents and interviews, at least nine members of the Trump regime had meetings with Russians during the campaign and transition.
  57. The nine include: George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Jeff Sessions, Donald Jr., Michael Cohen, Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and J.D. Gordon. Questions arose as to whether the Kremlin sought to infiltrate the Trump campaign, or if it is a coincidence.
  58. On Monday, a transcript of Page’s 6.5 hours of testimony to the House Intel Committee was released. The testimony disputes Page’s initial claims that his visit to Moscow in July 2016 was in a private capacity.
  59. Page testified that he sent an email in advance of his trip to Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks and Gordon. Page said Lewandowski gave him the okay to go. Page said he also mentioned his trip to Sessions.
  60. Gordon told CNN he “discouraged Carter from taking the trip to Moscow because it was a bad idea,” but Page ignored him: “he eventually went around me directly to campaign leadership.”
  61. Page met with Russian deputy PM Arkady Dvorkovich. Page reported to the campaign after his trip that Dvorkovich “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together.”
  62. Page also acknowledged meeting with other high-level Russian officials and said they discussed the US presidential election, “in general terms.”
  63. Page acknowledged he met with Andrey Baranov, head of investor relations at Rosneft, a Russian state-oil company. He also met with an investor-relations official at energy company Gazprom.
  64. Rep. Adam Schiff asked if there was a discussion about the 19% stake in Rosneft in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions on Russia. Page said, “he may have briefly mentioned it,” but the quid pro quo was not discussed directly.
  65. Page again met with Baranov in Moscow a month after the election. The Russian government owns a majority stake in Rosneft. The Treasury Depart sanctioned Rosneft after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
  66. Page acknowledged he has met with the FBI several times, and answered questions about events described in the Steele dossier. Page said Mueller has not made any indication he will indict him.
  67. After the trip, Page offered the Trump campaign a readout. He also spoke to national co-chairman Sam Clovis, whom Page said separately asked him to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
  68. Page acknowledged he praised Gordon and five others on the Trump policy team in an email for changing the Republican Party platform on Ukraine, “As for the Ukraine amendment, excellent work.”
  69. Page received a text, and then a call from Steve Bannon in January advising him not to appear on MSNBC. He also received a letter from Trump campaign law firm Jones Day imploring him not to say he is part of the campaign.
  70. In an interview with Bloomberg, Veselnitskaya said Donald Jr. hinted the Magnitsky Act would be re-examined if Trump won, in exchange for written evidence that illegal proceeds went to Hillary’s campaign.
  71. The Intercept reported CIA director Mike Pompeo met with William Binney, an advocate for a fringe DNC hack theory, on October 24. Binney has accused intelligence of subverting the Constitution and violating civil rights.
  72. Binney argues that the DNC data was “leaked,” not hacked, “by a person with physical access” to the DNC’s computer system. US Intel official assessment is that Russian intelligence was behind the DNC hack.
  73. NBC reported that according to Binney, Pompeo took the meeting at the behest of Trump. It is extremely unusual for a CIA director to meet with someone like Binney, who also makes frequent appearances on RT.
  74. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Berman Jackson issued a gag order in the Manafort and Rick Gates criminal cases, directing prosecutors and defense to refrain from making statements to the media or in public settings.
  75. CNN reported Joseph Mifsud, the academic suspected of being a link between the Papadopoulos and Russian officials on Hillary’s emails, has vanished. In court documents, Mifsud is referred to as “Foreign Contact 1.”
  76. Politico reported Congressional investigators are also probing the GOP platform fight as part of the Russia investigation. Gordon acknowledged being interviewed by lawmakers, but wouldn’t say if he met with Mueller.
  77. Papadopoulos, Manafort, and Gates were also involved in the convention. Without naming names, Gordon said others in the Trump campaign involved in pushing the platform change are also being interviewed.
  78. AP reported Russian Twitter trolls organized to deflect from Trump’s Access Hollywood tapes, instead touting damaging emails hacked and leaked from John Podesta.
  79. AP reported on Russia’s cyber-meddling strategy: swiftly react, distort. and distract attention from any negative Trump news. There were spikes in Twitter activity on September 16, October 6, and November 8.
  80. Mueller interviewed Stephen Miller, bringing the Russia investigation into Trump’s inner-circle. Miller is the highest-level aide still working at the WH known to have talked to Mueller’s team.
  81. CNN reported Miller was questioned on his role in the firing of James Comey, and about the March 2016 meeting where Papadopoulos said he could arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin through his connections.
  82. Business Insider reported many Trump advisers are facing sky-high legal bills. Roger Stone blasted out a statement asking for help paying the nearly $460K in legal fees he has incurred in the Russia probe.
  83. Gordon told Business Insider the RNC is taking care of Trump and Donald Jr., and “the rest of us who aren’t billionaires must fend for ourselves.” Gordon said he has incurred an almost five-figure legal bill.
  84. On Thursday, RT said the DOJ has ordered the broadcaster to register as a foreign agent by Monday. RT’s EIC Margarita Simonyan called the timing a “cannibalistic deadline,” and an attempt to drive [RT] out of the country.”
  85. On Friday, WSJ reported that Cambridge Analytica’s outreach to Julian Assange happened as the company was in advanced stages of contract negotiations with the Trump campaign, and had already dispatched employees.
  86. In addition to the previously disclosed $9 million  paid by the Trump campaign for providing data, polling and research services, Cambridge Analytica was also paid an additional $6 million routed through Parscale.
  87. Cambridge Analytica is partly owned by Rebekah and Robert Mercer, who made his first donation to Trump on June 21. Bannon served on Cambridge Analytica’s board and holds a stake in the company.
  88. According to a person with knowledge of the investigation, Papadopoulos initially misled FBI agents out of what he claimed was loyalty to Trump: he didn’t want to contradict Trump’s statement of no contact with Russians.
  89. Business Insider reported Devin Nunes, who was then chair of the House Intel Committee, attended a breakfast on January 18 that Flynn and the Turkish foreign minister, also attended. Press was excluded.
  90. NBC reported Mueller is probing a meeting on September 20 in DC between Flynn and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, set up by Flynn’s lobbying firm, the Flynn Intel Group. Two of Flynn’s business partners and his son also attended.
  91. Mueller is reviewing emails sent from Flynn Intel Group to Rohrabacher’s congressional staff thanking them for the meeting as part of the probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
  92. On Friday, NYT reported on a meeting in London on March 24, 2016 between Papadopoulos, Mifsud, and Olga Polonskaya, a 30-year-old Russian, who was introduced as Putin’s niece. Putin has no niece.
  93. Mueller is interested in interactions between the three and a fourth man with contacts inside Russia’s Foreign Ministry as a central part of the investigation into the Kremlin’s role in the 2016 election.
  94. Papadopoulos met Mifsud for breakfast in April. As per Week 51, Mifsud bragged about having “dirt” on Hillary: “thousands of emails.” Mifsud’s outreach began after Papadopoulos joined the Trump campaign.
  95. The day before his breakfast, Papadopoulos emailed Stephen Miller, saying Trump has an “open invitation” from Putin to visit Russia. The day after he wrote, “some interesting messages coming in from Moscow.”
  96. Together with items involving Page, there is increasing evidence not only of contact between the Trump campaign and Russians, but also that senior campaign officials were aware of the contacts.
  97. NBC reported Mueller is probing a possible quid pro quo between Flynn and Turkey during presidential transition. Flynn met with senior Turkish officials in December 2016 at the 21 Club restaurant near Trump Tower.
  98. Mueller is looking into whether they discussed orchestrating the return of Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, as well freeing Turkish-Iranian gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who is jailed in the US.
  99. Flynn was allegedly offered a $15 million payment if he could orchestrate the deal. Flynn’s son may have also been involved. Trump campaign senior adviser Rudy Giuliani is part of Zarrab’s defense team.
  100. Reuters reported Mueller questioned Clovis this week on whether Trump or top aides knew of the extent of the campaign’s contacts with Russia, and who approved and directed the contacts.
  101. A WAPO/ABC News survey found just 37% approve, 59% disapprove of the job Trump is doing, lower than any leader in the last seven decades, nine months in. 55% think Trump is not keeping his campaign promises.
  102. The poll found just one-third believe Trump is honest and trustworthy, and 65% say he has accomplished “not much” or “little or nothing.”
  103. On Thursday, Tom Steyer said he would spend an additional $10 million on his campaign to impeach Trump. Nearly 2 million people have signed his online petition to demand Trump be impeached.
  104. On Monday, Trump’s DOJ told AT&T that in order for the planned takeover of Time Warner to go through, the company must sell off CNN. As detailed in The Weekly List, Trump has a long-running feud with CNN.
  105. On Wednesday, AT&T’s CFO said on a conference call this type of merger hasn’t been blocked for over 40 years. AT&T has signaled it intends to challenge the regime in court over the requirement.
  106. On Thursday, AT&T’s CEO told CNBC, “I have never been told that the price of getting the [Time Warner] deal done was selling CNN,” and I have never offered to sell it either.
  107. On Friday, Reuters reported Trump ally Rupert Murdoch called AT&T’s CEO on May 16 and August 8 to ask if CNN was for sale.
  108. On Friday, a federal judge dismissed, for a second time, a pair of lawsuits seeking to force the State Department to do more to recover Hillary’s emails. As per Week 51, Trump has been tweeting and speaking out to get her emails.
  109. The judge cited the FBI’s use of grand jury subpoenas sent not only to Hillary’s provider and accounts, but ones used by people she corresponded with, as satisfying the State Department’s obligation to take reasonable steps.
  110. On Wednesday, Sen. Bob Corker announced as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he will hold hearings on Trump’s ability to use nuclear weapons. Corker said it has been four decades since Congress looked at the issue.
  111. A NBC/WSJ poll found in counties that voted for Trump, a plurality — 41 % — say the country is worse off now than it was when Trump took office. 32% believe the country is better off, and 26% believe the same.
  112. After repeatedly bashing China for unfair trade and saying the country was “raping” the US economy during his campaign, while visiting Beijing, Trump praised Xi saying, “I don’t blame China.” The crowd applauded.
  113. The two leaders did not take questions from the press, a victory for Xi who oversees an authoritarian system that limits press freedom. Former Democratic and Republican aides called it an “embarrassing capitulation.
  114. Chinese state media approved of the summit, saying Trump “respects our head of state and has repeatedly praised” Xi publicly.
  115. On Friday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there would be no formal meeting between Trump and Putin in Vietnam, but that they might “bump into each other.”
  116. After staying mostly on-script during his Asia trip, on Saturday, Trump reverted to lies and dangerous statements in a 26-minute question-and-answer session with reporters aboard Air Force One.
  117. On Saturday, Trump had his second private, “sideline” meeting with Putin (in Week 36 it was revealed Trump had a clandestine meeting with Putin at the G20) without media access.
  118. Trump told reporters of his conversation with Putin, “He said he didn’t meddle — I asked him again,” adding Putin “means it.” Trump also said, “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”
  119. Trump dismissed the Russia probe as an “artificial Democratic hit job,” and said it would put American lives at risk, saying it “gets in the way and that’s a shame because people will die because of it.”
  120. Trump attacked US intelligence, saying “I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks…I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey.” Trump sided instead with “President Putin, very strong.”
  121. Following that statement, Gen. Michael Hayden tweeted, “CIA just told me: The Dir stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment,” and questioning which side Trump is on.

Copyright Amy Siskind, November 11, 2017

Danica Roem, who ran for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, is greeted by supporters as she prepares to give her victory speech on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. Roem is the first openly transgender legislator elected in the USA. Marshall, an outspoken opponent of transgender rights, introduced the transgender “bathroom bill.”