December 16, 2017

Week 57

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

This week the country braced for radical actions by Trump relating to the Mueller investigation. Trump, his regime members, elected Republicans, and conservative media turned up the rhetoric and attacked the credibility of Mueller, the FBI, and the DOJ. In the seven months since Mueller was appointed, his special counsel has already charged four Trump regime members, with more expected from Trump’s inner circle.

Also of note this week is the broad-scale attacks on norms in our fragile democracy. Trump’s regime is actively deconstructing the agencies they run, stripping away rights and regulations, and making science and educational information disappear.

  1. Late Saturday, Trump tweeted that Dave Weigel, a reporter for WAPO, should apologize for a quickly-deleted tweet that included a misleading image about the crowd size of Trump’s Pensacola rally.
  2. Weigel apologized, but Trump then tweeted he should be fired. Trump also lashed out in tweets about ABC News and CNN, complaining the news outlets had to issue corrections on Trump-related stories.
  3. On Sunday, Fox News anchor Leland Vittert falsely reported that Weigel had been fired. Vittert later apologized on-air for his mistake.
  4. On Saturday, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro called for Hillary to be locked up, and added, “There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and Department of Justice,” and those involved “need to be taken out in cuffs.”
  5. On Monday, Trump attacked the NYT over the story citing his TV watching habits, adding he seldom watches CNN and MSNBC (“Fake News”), and never watches CNN host Don Lemon “the, “dumbest man on television!”
  6. CNN accused Trump of online bullying. A spokesperson said, “In a world where bullies torment kids on social media to devastating effect” it is sad to see a leader doing this, adding “Leaders should lead by example.”
  7. On Monday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused news outlets of intentionally reported inaccurate information, “There’s a very big difference between making honest mistakes and purposefully misleading the American people.”
  8. On Sunday, after golfing again with Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham promoted a Trump property in a tweet: “Trump International Golf Club is a spectacular golf course.” Critics pointed out Graham was advertising a Trump property.
  9. The Ohio state legislature passed a bill which would ban abortion when fetuses have Down syndrome. It is uncertain if Gov. John Kasich will sign the bill.
  10. On Monday, French PM Macron criticized Trump for pulling the US out of the Paris climate accord: “When you sign a treaty, you have to respect it… It’s extremely aggressive to decide on his own just to leave…”
  11. Reuters reported on the eve of the climate summit hosted by Macron, France plans to award multi-year climate grants for several US-based scientists to relocate to France.
  12. NYT reported Trump’s EPA has slowed actions against polluters. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has thus far filed 1,900 cases, one-third fewer than under Obama (2,900 cases) and one-quarter fewer than under W. Bush (2,600 cases) within the same amount of time.
  13. ABC News reported the EPA’s inspector general will investigate whether Pruitt misused appropriated funds when he installed a $25K privacy booth with a secure phone line in his office.
  14. The Government Accountability Office said the Trump regime had violated the Impoundment Control Act by failing to spend $91 million budgeted for the Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects, a program that supports R&D for new technologies.
  15. Michael Dourson, Trump’s nominee for a top EPA post, regulator of toxic chemicals, withdrew his nomination after facing criticism for his industry ties. For decades, Dourson conducted research that chemical manufacturers used to downplay the risks of hazardous substances.
  16. On Friday, Mother Jones reported the EPA, using taxpayer money, has hired a cutting-edge Republican PR firm that specializes in digging up opposition research to help Pruitt shape press coverage of the agency.
  17. Pruitt’s no-bid $120K contract went to Definers Corp, a Republican opposition research firm which has promises “war room” style media monitoring.
  18. CNN reported on internal emails revealing that  Sec. Ryan Zinke is pushing to allow a new road through a federally protected wilderness area, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Critics fear it would set a precedent for future development.
  19. WAPO reported the Department of Education inspector general issued a report calling on the agency to process the backlog of tens of thousands of debt forgiveness applications. The report criticized Sec. Betsy DeVos for the agency’s failure.
  20. WAPO reported after Wilbur Ross drew unwanted attention over the size of his wealth, Trump has soured on him. After Ross spent over three months negotiating a steel deal with China, Trump summarily rejected it.
  21. Mother Jones reported on a European Parliament report accusing Ross of using inside information in his sale of Bank of Ireland shares in 2014. Ross sold near the top of the market, before the bank reported losses.
  22. Foreign Policy reported Elizabeth Shackelford, an award-winning diplomat and rising star at the State Department, resigned saying State had “abandoned human rights as a priority” and showed disdain for diplomatic work.
  23. Census experts expressed concern the 2020 census count could be flawed. Experts cited data will be collected online for the first time, and Trump’s aggressive immigration actions have driven minority voters underground.
  24. On Tuesday, at 1:36 pm a Circuit Court judge ordered Alabama election officials to preserve all digital ballot images. At 4:32 pm, the court granted an “emergency motion to stay,” allowing digital ballots to be destroyed.
  25. On Thursday, the National Labor Relations Board overturned a 2015 Obama-era precedent in a 3-2 vote along party lines, which had given workers significant leverage in challenging chains over labor practices.
  26. On Thursday, Trump’s DHS proposed a regulatory change under which spouses of highly skilled H-1B foreign workers would no longer be able to work legally in the US, rolling back a program put in place by Obama.
  27. WAPO reported at a CDC meeting on Thursday, policy analysts were given a list of seven forbidden words: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.”
  28. The seven words are used in many ways in the CDC’s work, for example on ways to prevent HIV among transgender people or birth defects caused by the Zika virus which includes research on the developing fetus.
  29. The chorus of Senators calling for Trump to resign over sexual misconduct grew to six, as Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, Ron Wyden, and Mazie Hirono joined a call by Jeff Merkley in Week 56
  30. On Sunday, ambassador Nikki Haley told CBS News the women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct, “should be heard” adding, “any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way,” has the right to speak up.
  31. On Monday, three women who had previously spoken out about Trump’s sexual misconduct, renewed their allegations on the “Today” show and at a news conference, and demanded Congress investigate Trump’s actions.
  32. After the “Today” show, the WH issued a statement saying, “The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes, and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them.”
  33. On Monday, Stacia Robitaille, wife of an NHL hall of fame hockey player, tweeted that Trump “was aggressive & told me I was coming home with him,” while alone in an elevator at Madison Square Garden.
  34. At Monday’s press briefing, Sanders responded to question about Trump’s sexual misconduct by saying the WH would be putting out “multiple reports” of eyewitness accounts refuting the allegations.
  35. WAPO kept a running list of Trump’s accusers and the eyewitness accounts provided by the WH. With the exception of two, no witness who could rebut the accusation was provided, and the witnesses presented were unreliable or not actually present at the time of the alleged incident.
  36. Late Monday, AP reported Trump was infuriated by Haley’s comments, and that accusations against him have resurfaced. Trump drew a parallel to associates of what said were false allegations against Roy Moore.
  37. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted his accusers are “women who I don’t know and/or have never met. FAKE NEWS!” Shortly after, multiple photos and videos surfaced of Trump in the company of various accusers.
  38. On Monday, 54 Democratic congresswomen sent a letter to the House Oversight Committee leaders calling for the committee to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump.
  39. On Tuesday, over 100 members of the House demanded investigations by the House Oversight Committee into Trump’s sexual misconduct. Rep. Brenda Lawrence said of Trump, “you do not live under a different set of rules.”
  40. On Tuesday, Trump attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in a sexually suggestive and demeaning tweet, calling her a “lightweight” and “a total flunky for Chuck Schumer,” and saying she would come to his office “begging” for campaign contributions and “(and would do anything for them).”
  41. Gillibrand responded in a tweet: “ You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame” you bring to the office.
  42. Later, a new conference, Gillibrand called Trump’s tweet “a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice.” Numerous Democrats and women journalists called out Trump for his sexist attack.
  43. On Tuesday, at the press briefing, when reporter April Ryan asked about Trump’s tweets to Gillibrand, Sanders responded that it was “fine” and “I think only if your mind was in the gutter would you have read it that way.”
  44. On Tuesday evening, in an op-ed titled “Will Trump’s lows ever hit rock bottom?” the USA Today Editorial Board excoriated Trump for his Gillibrand tweets and said he “has shown he is not fit for office.
  45. On Wednesday, Eric Trump said in a radio interview he remembered when Gillibrand came to Trump’s office “every three days to ask him for money and ask for major campaign contributions,” calling her now a “distraction.”
  46. Merriam-Webster announced the Word of the Year for 2017 is “feminism,” the top word look-up, including spikes around the Women’s March, The Handmaid’s Tale, Wonder Woman, and the Me Too movement.
  47. A new poll from Ipsos and NPR found 9 in 10 Americans “strongly” or “somewhat” agree that “a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment is essential to bringing about change in our society.”
  48. On Tuesday, in a major upset in Alabama’s special election for Sessions’ open senate seat, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore, who was endorsed and backed by Trump.
  49. Trump had first backed Luther Strange in the primary for Alabama’s senate seat, and later fully endorsed Moore, despite many in the Republican Party saying he was unfit and allegations of pedophilia.
  50. The victory marks the Democrat’s first senate victory in Alabama in 25 years. Although Trump garnered 62% of the vote in the 2016 election, his approval in exit polling was down to 48%.
  51. Despite losing by more than the margin allowed for a recount, Moore refused to concede. In a video, Moore explained, “We are indeed in a struggle to preserve our republic, our civilization, and our religion.”
  52. Now five days since the election, Moore has yet to concede. On Friday, he sent an email to supporters asking for contributions to his “election integrity fund” so he could investigate reports of voter fraud.
  53. A poll of 18-29 year-olds by Harvard’s Institute for Politics found Trump’s approval among Republicans had dropped 12 points to 25% since spring 2017. Also, 68% of black Americans feel significantly under attack.
  54. A Monmouth poll found Trump’s approval hitting a new low: 32% approve, 56% disapprove. Trump’s approval with women dropped to 24%.
  55. Polls in other red states likewise show a deterioration in Trump’s support: a Vanderbilt University poll found Trump’s approval has dropped from 60% at the 2016 election to 48%. Trump’s approval dropped to 35% in Iowa.
  56. On Tuesday, an Iowa Republican won a special election by 10 points in a district Trump won by 41. Wednesday, Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judicial Committee said two Trump judicial nominees will not be confirmed.
  57. On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Trump appointee Leonard Steven Grasz to a lifetime seat on the US Court of Appeals despite Grasz earning an unanimous “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association.
  58. To put this in context, since 1989, the American Bar Association has reviewed 1.7K judicial nominations. Grasz is one of just four to get a unanimous “not qualified” rating. Two were nominated by Trump.
  59. On Wednesday, the WH announced it will not move forward with judicial nominee Brett Talley, another one of the four to get an unanimously “not qualified” rating from the ABA. Talley becomes the third to be withdrawn.
  60. On Wednesday, Trump judicial nominee Matthew Spencer Petersen struggled to answer basic legal questions posed to him by Republican Sen. John Kennedy at his Senate hearing.
  61. On Wednesday, Omarosa Manigault left her role as senior adviser. Initial reports described her throwing a tantrum and demanding to speak to Trump after being fired by chief of staff John Kelly — before being escorted from the WH.
  62. Omarosa dismissed the dramatic narrative of her departure, blaming it on “one individual who has a personal vendetta against me.” Trump tweeted to thank her on Wednesday evening, “I wish you continued success.”
  63. On Thursday, Omarosa told Robin Roberts on ABC News: “as the only African-American woman in this White House, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally.” Roberts later quipped, “Bye, Felicia.”
  64. With Omarosa’s exit, Trump does not have any black senior advisers at the White House. Omarosa’s responsibilities included outreach to historically black colleges and universities, and hosting a Black History Month event.
  65. On Monday, during a town-hall style meeting with dozens of career State Department diplomats, Rex Tillerson said Russia deliberately interfered in the US “democratic processes,” contradicting Trump.
  66. Tillerson contradicted Trump again, who claims that US and Russia “just can’t afford” to not have a productive relationship, saying “today that’s not the case, and we all know why.
  67. NBC News reported, as part of a probe into obstruction of justice, Mueller’s team is scrutinizing the 18-day period between when senior Trump officials were told Flynn was susceptible to blackmail, and his firing.
  68. Sources say Mueller’s team is looking into if there was a deliberate effort by Trump or senior officials to cover up the information Sally Yates conveyed to Don McGahn, who in turn briefed Trump and others, on January 26.
  69. DOJ officials told NBC News they expected Trump would fire Michael Flynn that day, but instead he fired Yates on January 30, citing she would not defend his Muslim ban in court. Trump eventually fired Flynn on February 13.
  70. If Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, it raises questions on why he was not fired sooner, and why Trump fired Comey on May 9, after Comey would not drop the Flynn investigation.
  71. Business Insider reported that Trump’s transition team was warned by at four people about potential conflicts of interest and compromising conversations of Flynn: by Obama, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Gov. Chris Christie, and Sally Yates.
  72. On Tuesday, the DOJ turned text messages over to Congress and the media, in which two FBI agents assigned to the special counsel exchanged negative sentiments about Trump during the campaign.
  73. One FBI agent involved, Peter Strzok, was removed from the special counsel by Mueller “immediately” after the texts came to light in July. The other, Lisa Page, has already ended her assignment to Mueller’s office.
  74. There were also critical texts sent about Hillary Clinton, Hillary’s team, the Obama administration, Bernie Sanders and Democrats.” FBI officials who worked with Strzok on the Clinton and Trump investigations said they never detected any bias.
  75. On Friday, the DOJ inspector general said in a letter to House Judiciary Democrats that the department did not consult with his office prior to releasing the texts to the press.
  76. On Tuesday, Axios reported Trump’s lawyers want a second special counsel appointed to investigate the special counsel. Jay Sekulow said the DOJ and FBI cannot ignore the problems created by “obvious conflicts of interests.”
  77. Politico reported while on Air Force One with Trump, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said the country is at risk of a “coup d’etat” by Mueller. In a phone interview later, Gaetz stopped short of calling for Trump to fire Mueller.
  78. On Friday, Gaetz told CNN the DOJ was “forced” to release private text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page on Tuesday because Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee “was about to subpoena them.”
  79. In turn, Democrats demanded documents from the DOJ and a probe into possible bias at the FBI for “politically motivated misconduct” meant to damage Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
  80. On Wednesday, deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, testified before the House Judiciary Committee. When asked by the committee’s top Democrat Jerry Nadler if there was any cause to fire Mueller, he answered, “no.”
  81. Rosenstein said no one, including Trump, has asked him to remove Mueller. Rosenstein praised Mueller’s special counsel work, said no one is better qualified, and said Mueller is operating within the agreed scope.
  82. Politifact announced its 2017 Lie of the Year: Trump repeatedly claiming Russian election interference is a ‘made-up story.’
  83. A Quinnipiac poll found 73% of Americans believe the Russian government tried to influence the 2016 presidential election, 22% do not.
  84. On Thursday, WSJ reported Mueller’s team asked data operations company Cambridge Analytica to have any employees who worked on the Trump campaign turn over their emails. The request was made in the fall.
  85. The request is a sign that Mueller is probing the Trump campaign’s data operation. Cambridge Analytica reportedly did comply and turned over employee emails to both the special counsel and the House Intelligence Committee.
  86. Mueller’s request was made to Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix before reports in Week 50 that Nix had contacted Assange during the 2016 campaign to ask about hacked emails and if he “might share that information with us.”
  87. On Tuesday, Trump signed $700 billion defense policy bill, while complaining about provisions included by lawmakers to force a more aggressive policy toward Russia. Trump has yet to impose sanctions voted on by lawmakers.
  88. In a signed statement, Trump objected to 40 provisions related to Russia which were almost unanimously agreed to in Congress, saying the provisions raise constitutional concerns and could dictate foreign policy.
  89. On Wednesday, Donald Jr. testified for nine hours in a private hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of the committee’s Russia probe. Lawmakers are interested in his involvement in the June 9 meeting.
  90. On Thursday, Trump spoke to Putin on the phone. Russian news agency TASS was the first to report the call, similar to past meetings including in Week 26 when Trump met with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office.
  91. Following the call, Putin held an extended news conference in which he praised Trump for “serious achievements,” and, borrowing Trump’s line of “investor confidence in the American economy,” means they trust Trump.
  92. Putin also rejected allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, saying they were “spy hysteria and nonsense” which have damaged the American political system.
  93. An extensive story by WAPO, based on interviews with more than 50 current and former U.S. officials, described Trump’s skepticism of US intelligence on Russia, and his cozying up to authoritarians over allies.
  94. Since Trump took office, he has yet to convene a Cabinet-level meeting on Russian interference or take any steps to address it. Trump continues to deny that Russia interfered with our election, despite evidence.
  95. In the early days of the regime, Trump surrounded himself with aides and advisers who were pro-Putin and Russia. Steve Bannon moved to undercut NATO in the early weeks. Trump has been uncomfortable with our allies.
  96. Current and former officials said Trump’s daily intelligence update is structured to avoid upsetting him. Since Russia-related intelligence may make him angry, often it is included only in the written report, which he is unlikely to read, or the order of the oral presentation is adjusted.
  97. WAPO reported on a July 2015 email from Rob Goldstone to Trump, one month before Trump launched his campaign, saying he could set up a meeting with Putin at a birthday celebration for his client’s father, Aras Agalarov.
  98. On Thursday, WSJ reported the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee scheduled staff interviews in New York with two key witnesses in the Russia probe, Felix Sater and Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime personal assistant.
  99. Democrats complained that the witnesses were interviewed out of state by staff, not lawmakers. Democrats also expressed concern that Republicans are rushing through investigation to bring it to a premature conclusion.
  100. On Friday, in a series of tweet, Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee said he was “increasingly worried Republicans will shut down” the committee’s investigation “at the end of the month.”
  101. Schiff noted in addition to the out of state interviews, Republicans have not scheduled any witnesses after next Friday, although dozens of key witnesses have yet to be called.
  102. Also Republicans have also declined to issue subpoenas where needed to get information. Schiff expressed concern that attacks on Mueller, the DOJ and FBI “make it clear they plan to go after Mueller’s investigation.”
  103. On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission announced an agreement to partner together to police the internet once the FCC repeals its net neutrality rules.
  104. On Wednesday, 18 attorneys general asked the FCC to delay the net neutrality vote pending a fake comment investigation. In New York alone, 2 million comments filed to the commission were falsified.
  105. On Tuesday, the FCC blocked a law enforcement investigation into fraudulent comments in support of net neutrality repeal. The FCC is also facing a lawsuit saying it ignored FOIA requests related to fake comments.
  106. On Wednesday, FCC director Ajit Pai released a YouTube video on the Daily Caller of him wearing a Santa Claus suit and eclipse glasses, and holding a fidget spinner and a toy gun, to make the case for repealing net neutrality.
  107. On Thursday, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality regulations, which prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content, in a 3-2 vote along party line.
  108. In addition to Democrats and consumer groups who vigorously opposed the repeal, the CEO of Reddit said the move would “give internet service providers the ability to choose winners and losers.
  109. On Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced his office will sue to “stop the FCC’s illegal rollback of net neutrality” by the FCC. Other states are expected join.
  110. Politico reported House Speaker Paul Ryan says he may want to retire after the 2018 midterms. Sources said Ryan had hoped for a more inclusive approach if Trump lost, and is wary of what the job now entails.
  111. On Friday, as he prepared to depart the WH, Trump told reporters he would not rule out pardoning Flynn: “I don’t want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet. We’ll see what happens. Let’s see.”
  112. When asked by reporters when he learned that his former NSA, Flynn had lied to the FBI, Trump refused to answer: “You know the answer. How many times has that question been asked?”
  113. Trump also assailed the FBI, telling reporter, “It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” adding “we’re going to rebuild the FBI” which he said is “really, really disgraceful.”
  114. Trump then spoke at a ceremony at the FBI’s National Academy to a crowd of mostly law enforcement graduates. Trump praised law enforcement and hit his campaign target, Chicago, “What the hell is happening there?”
  115. Trump was introduced by Sessions at the ceremony as “our nation’s highest law enforcement official.” Trump defenders say in that role, he cannot obstruct justice by firing the head of the FBI.
  116. Trump continued his attacks of the FBI and threats of upcoming firings, adding “I’d say like 90% are great, right? The other 10%, that’s not working out so well.” The FBI director was at the event too.
  117. On Friday, in a Fox News interview, Rep. Trey Gowdy hinted that FBI deputy Andrew McCabe may be fired, “I’ll be a little bit surprised if he’s still an employee of the FBI this time next week.”
  118. Roger Stone announced his upcoming book, The Unmaking of a President. Stone said it’s “painfully obvious Mueller will bring charges,” adding Trump will be removed because he has surrounded himself with disloyal people.
  119. A Suffolk University poll found that of people who identified Fox News as their most trusted network, Trump’s favorability has plummeted from 90% in June, to 74% in October, to 58% in December.
  120. Bloomberg reported Ivanka will open her first store in Trump Tower, following a tumultuous year of boycotts and having her brand removed from retailers. The building is protected by metal detectors and security.
  121. The Trump regime refused to extend the deadline for ObamaCare registration, despite a last-minute surge in enrollees. In past years, the Obama administration had extended the deadline for late enrollees.
  122. Eric Holder tweeted “Speaking on behalf of the vast majority of the American people,” attempts to remove Mueller will not be tolerated. On Friday, John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican Senator responded, “You don’t.”
  123. Cornyn further clarified his tweet Saturday in response to a reporter query, adding, “Mueller needs to clean house of partisans.”
  124. On Saturday, America woke up to a top trending headline on Twitter: “If Trump Fires Mueller, We Must Impeach,” describing steps to take if the increasingly likely, previously unthinkable, were to occur.


The List” — weeks 1–52 of The Weekly List are coming out as a book! You can pre-order your copy by clicking here.

Copyright Amy Siskind, December 16, 2017

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai speaks to members of the media after a commission meeting December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. The FCC voted to repeal its net neutrality rules at the meeting.