Day 812 – More BS from Barr

Yesterday was a crazy day in a crazy week in a crazy month of news.  There’s too much going on, most of it bad.  Here’s what you need to know.

AG Barr testified again in front of Congress and said that he believed the Trump campaign was spied upon by our own intelligence community.  He later walked that statement back, saying Trump might have been spied on and wanted to know for sure.  This goes squarely against previous statements from the Justice Department, and no proof of any unauthorized surveillance has ever been offered.  It’s a shame that no Congressional Rep followed up Barr’s statement by saying for the record, “I think it’s far more serious and concerning that a political campaign arranged and met with a hostile foreign power to get dirt on an opponent, and it’s safe and accurate to say that the Americans involved in that meeting fit the definition of “traitors.”  Barr’s testimony makes it clear that he’s a political hack who puts party over country, and it begs the question, “Why does Barr hate our intelligence community?”

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin got into a testy exchange with Rep Maxine Waters in a congressional hearing because Mnuchin had the bad judgement to schedule a meeting with a foreign dignitary on the same afternoon that he was appearing before Congress–hearings that often go overtime–and wanted to leave before the hearing was over.  Mnuchin’s tone and body language were screaming, “Don’t you know my father was a partner at Goldman Sachs, and I inherited millions of dollars, and got a job at Goldman Sachs purely on merit, all of which obviously makes me a genius and a significantly more important and valuable person than anyone in this room??”  The socially awkward Mnuchin has become a poster boy for Wall Street arrogance and nepotism and unmerited success, which makes him a perfect fit for the Trump regime.  No wonder he’s going to try to keep Trump’s taxes from Congressional investigators.

Trump’s sister, a high-profile judge, handed in her resignation yesterday under the cloud of an inquiry into her financial background, specifically whether she received her inheritance via a fraudulent scheme.  The scheme was revealed in a giant New York Times article that exposed a long series of fraudulent transactions that hid a massive transfer of wealth from the Trump patriarch to his children in order to avoid hundreds of millions in taxes.

Trump’s pick for assistant Attorney General, Jeffrey Rosen, was asked in a confirmation hearing whether he thought the “Brown vs Board of Education” Supreme Court decision striking down racist institutional segregation was properly decided.  The Brown decision is considered a pillar of our judicial heritage, yet Rosen refused to give an answer, which was a horrifying development and should be disqualifying.  But it won’t because the Senate is controlled by feckless Trump toadies who will again put party over country and send a manifestly biased and unfit candidate to be the assistant Attorney General.

The National Enquirer is on the verge of being sold because the hedge fund that owns the Enquirer is “disgusted” by the tabloid’s reporting practices.  At the same time, Jeff Bezos is scheduled to meet with prosecutors in New York this week, presumably to discuss the alleged extortion of Bezos by the Enquirer.  Coincidence?

It’s a lot to take in.  It’s exhausting and frustrating and chaotic.  But we have the chance to end the Trump disaster in 2020 and get our nation moving forward again.  Keep resisting…

Day 811 – Trump’s “Acting Head” Scam

With the departure of Kirstjen Nielsen from the Department of Homeland Security, it’s apparent that the Trump regime is intentionally keeping many critical department and administration positions staffed by “acting” heads rather than permanent positions who have to be confirmed by Congress.  Here is a list of positions filled with “acting” heads:

  • Secretary of Defense
  • Secretary of the Interior
  • Secretary of Homeland Security
  • White House Chief of Staff
  • Ambassador to the UN
  • Director of the Office of Management and Budget
  • Head of the Small Business Administration
  • FAA Head
  • OSHA Head
  • FDA Head
  • CPSC Head
  • EEOC Head
  • FEMA Head
  • ICE Head
  • Secret Service Head

It’s a shameful list.  And it seems to be part of a strategy.  Acting heads don’t need to be approved by Congress, so they can avoid scrutiny and avoid saying anything in a confirmation hearing that may come back to haunt them.  Acting heads also have a tougher time getting resources and properly staffing, especially because good people won’t want to work for them if they turn out to be temporary.  So a cabinet full of acting heads is a weaker and less effective cabinet, consolidating more power in Trump himself.

While campaigning Trump said: “We want experts, our finest people, we don’t want people that are B level, C level, D level, we have to get our absolute best.  In our cabinet we’re gonna have all the best people, we’re gonna find out who they are and it’s not going to be a politically correct choice, either.  We’re gonna use our smartest and our best, were not using political hacks anymore…”

Translation, based on his actions:  “We want toadies and ‘yes’ people, and if they know nothing about their agency we don’t care, we have to get the absolute most loyal.  We can’t attract A or B or C level people so they will all be D level, expert at nothing, and they will mostly be white men, mostly nationalists.  They won’t be smart or capable but they will all be craven political hacks.”

Trump’s hiring blunders have been on full display from the start.  In the first three years of Trump’s term, fifteen cabinet level appointees left the administration, itself a staggering statistic.  His tenure has been marred by crime, chaos, scandal, turnover and turmoil.  And the people in his orbit who were convicted of or plead guilty to crimes were all “the finest people” and “good friends” until they made Trump look bad by their misdeeds and/or incompetence, at which point he pretended he barely knew them.

Trump acts like a petty tyrant and wannabe dictator, and he staffs his administration the way tyrants do.  Congress should be a check and balance on the President, but his “acting head” scam makes a mockery of the Constitution and the balance of powers.  It’s yet another way that Trump, under the guidance of malignant nationalists like Stephen Miller, is damaging our institutions and destroying norms for the sake of power and, ultimately, greed.

All we can do is keep working against his lies and corruption, and keep resisting…

Day 810 – The Lawless President

It was reported yesterday that during his visit to our southern border, Trump directed border agents to break the law by barring asylum seekers from seeking asylum in the United States.  After Trump departed, the agents informed their superiors about the orders and were told to ignore the orders because they were illegal and raised issues of “personal liability” for the agents.  Here’s coverage in Share Blue:

https://shareblue.com/trump-is-now-ordering-government-officials-to-break-the-law/

It’s quite clear now that Trump has no idea what our laws allow, and has no interest in following them anyway.  The more frustrated his plans become, the more he seems inclined to scream at the people around him and bully them into breaking the law on his behalf.  And with the courts consistently striking down his cruel border policies, Trump seems to be on the verge of a meltdown.  He can’t get what he wants!  Any subordinate who refuses his illegal orders will be replaced by a toady who will comply and break the law for him.  It’s blatant, textbook authoritarianism combined with corruption.

It’s also quite clear that Trump wants to separate families at our border and is angry that the courts stopped him.  He’s desperate to continue the cruel policy because he’s certain it’s what many of his supporters want, and he thinks it makes him look strong.  As any expert on bullying will tell you, picking on the weak and vulnerable makes a bully feel powerful, and this is Trump’s life story.

Be aware that today is the day Attorney General Barr testifies in front of Congress.  The questions asked by Democratic Reps will be extraordinarily important to finding out whether Barr has any integrity or if he is suppressing the Mueller report because it is damaging to the president.  Barr will likely try to dodge questions about the Mueller report, but he is likely going to get pummeled.

Stay tuned and keep resisting…

 

Day 809 – Turmoil, Tantrums, Trump

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned yesterday after a meeting with Trump.  Insiders claimed she was growing frustrated by Trump’s unrealistic or impossible demands, saying they were increasingly unhinged.  But Trump reportedly blamed her for the increased flow of immigrants to our border with Mexico, claiming that’s why she left.  Of course, Trump’s rationale was absurd–Nielsen had no control over the number of people approaching the border–but it made for a convenient excuse for Trump to move on to the next profoundly unqualified nominee for the job.  Perhaps Trump was concerned about all the flack Nielsen had taken as the overseer of the deeply unAmerican family separation policy, which continues to make headlines as more separations are disclosed and greater ineptitude and cruelty comes to light.  Or perhaps Trump wanted to create a distraction from a new scandal that he knows will hit the papers soon.  Or perhaps he just wanted a replacement that will be more cruel and less clumsy in front of the media than Nielsen.

Investigations into Trump on multiple fronts continue to churn, and it’s possible we may see more indictments filed with the courts soon.  Trump spent his weekend ranting about the Mueller “witch hunt” and about the mean Democrats trying to get his taxes–so unfair, so unfair.  But Trump’s fury begs the question, what is he so worked up about?  What is he so afraid of?  He seems to be more afraid of his taxes being released than the Mueller report being released.  And he’s still using the ludicrous “my taxes are being audited” excuse, which any sane person knows is bogus.  So the obvious question is–why?  His former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen mentioned a wide range of illegal activities that Trump was a part of, from bank fraud to campaign finance violations, so it’s easy to imagine Trump worried about any number of crimes coming to light.  And it’s also easy to imagine that if Trump has huge debts, his actual net worth might be far, far less than he has boasted.  Time will tell.

Meanwhile several more candidates joined the Democratic presidential race over the past few days, and the candidates already on the campaign trail are spending a lot of time on substantive policy proposals and concrete priorities. It’s going to be a very robust primary season. And while it’s important to keep an eye on all of Trump’s scandals, lies and blunders, but it’s also important to focus on the Democratic policy proposals and make sure we understand the details. That’s the heart of the Democrat path to victory–policies that will help the average American, communicated as simply and effectively and convincingly as possible.

Keep resisting…

Day 808 – None Of This Is Normal

Trump continues to say disgusting and un-presidential things.  Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition yesterday in Las Vegas, Trump called Benjamin Netanyahu “your Prime Minister”.  And in a trip to the Mexican border Trump said to potential asylum seekers and refugees that the United States was full:

“We can’t take you anymore. We can’t take you. Our country is full.”

The badly broken system at the border might be struggling to process asylum seekers but our country is certainly far from full.  In fact, our national birth rate isn’t high enough to replace our existing population.  We need immigration if we want growth. But Trump’s language is exactly the kind that white supremacists love and use–our nation is full so go somewhere else (if your skin isn’t white).  This heartless notion is a betrayal of our core identity and mission as a nation, that we welcome “your tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”

A book about the two Bush presidents was published recently titled “The Last Republicans” and the title is appropriate for era of Trump.  The GOP as we know it has been beaten into submission and is now the party of Trump, soulless and heartless, devoid of anything we used to recognize as honor, principle or ethics.  They more accurately resemble a party of angry old white conservative men who are pissed that they have to compete with non-whites and who are hell bent on controlling the bodies of women no matter how much damage they cause.  Trump can say anything, no matter how vulgar, offensive, dishonest or ridiculous, and his core cult of supporters won’t care.  Trump has become a symbol, a cult of personality.  During the campaign Trump said “I am your voice.”  But in reality, his is less their voice than their bludgeon.  He bullies and insults people that his supporters don’t like, and they like him for it.  He’s the embodiment and instrument of their anger and resentment.

It’s up to activists to keep pointing out that none of this is normal, that Trump is a radical departure from our values and history, and that progressives are fighting for policies and values that will help and protect average Americans.  Keep resisting…

 

Day 807 – Come Together

This past week was a crappy one for Trump.  The IRS received a subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee for Trump’s tax returns.  The Trump administration continues to receive subpoenas from various House committees for documents from Congress.  And Attorney General Barr is about to get a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee requesting the Mueller report and all underlying evidence.

All of this legal activity ultimately raises a larger and more troubling question.  These subpoenas will be contested and the legal battles will likely go to the Supreme Court, so will Trump’s packing of the courts with (often unqualified) radical partisan extremists be enough to keep Congress from effective oversight and discovery?  Let’s keep in mind that just this week Senate Leader McConnell changed the rules for confirming Circuit Court judges, streamlining the process so Trump will be able to seat more judges in four years than Obama did in eight.

These GOP scumbags are playing down-and-dirty, in part because they know that Trump is deeply unpopular and as much as he was a long-shot to beat Clinton, he’s an even bigger long-shot to win a second term.  We may or may not ever see Trump’s taxes, and we may or may not ever see the Mueller report.  The only thing we have any control over is the 2020 election.  We can work to shape the issues that the candidates address.  We can work to shape the narrative of the election.  We can work to champion the nominee.  And we can work to motivate voters to go to the polls.

I can’t stress this enough–with such a large field of Democratic contenders, most of the people who vote in the primary will be voting for a candidate who doesn’t win.  Again, you will likely vote for a candidate who doesn’t win the nomination.  It’s just math.  So we have to commit ourselves beforehand to support the eventual nominee, whoever it is.  The primary could get contentious and nasty.  Feelings might get hurt.  But this was the exact scenario the Republicans faced in their last primary, full of rancor and infighting and name-calling, yet somehow they came together behind Trump.  If we want to send Trump back home to his tacky Tower, we will have to set aside our feelings after the primary and come together.  So the more we can stick to the issues and argue about policy and stay away from character assassination now, the shorter the distance we will have to travel to reconcile our ranks after the primary.

The subpoenas might fail us.  The courts might fail us.  But we will only lose in 2020 if we fail ourselves.  Keep resisting…

Day 806 – Barr Facade Crumbling

Attorney General Barr’s coverup saga intensified yesterday as House Judiciary Chairman Nadler requested all of Barr’s correspondence with the Mueller team as well as the un-redacted Mueller report itself.  Congressional Democrats had clearly concluded that Barr was acting in bad faith, and later in the day tens of thousands of activists assembled and protested to demand the release of the report, including a huge crowd at the White House.

Counter-protesters demanding that the Mueller report be permanently withheld from Congress gathered…nowhere.  Because nobody with a shred honor would make such an absurd and anti-democratic demand.  Even the lunatic core of the Trump cult failed to gather anywhere to push back on protesters, which tells you which side of morality Barr and the fetid GOP occupy.  And yet Barr continued to buck history and precedent by not indicating that he would release the un-redacted report to Congress.  To his credit, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley last night Tweeted that he wants the Mueller report to be released, so significant cracks might be starting to form in the GOP wall of obstruction, perhaps in connection with the overwhelming public support for the release.  Bear in mind that Trump’s poll numbers didn’t budge after Barr’s “summary” seemed to clear the president of criminal conspiracy.  The tenor of the discussion on social media and cable news has clearly and firmly settled on the notion that Barr is hiding something, that he’s trying to shape a narrative before the actual report is released, but that the release is inevitable.

Meanwhile, reports began to surface last night that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was very soon to be kicked out the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been sheltered in asylum from the law for several years now.  It’s possible that authorities in the USA want to get their hands on Assange–that’s what Assange apparently expects–but it’s not clear what would happen to him.  But Assange will likely be taken into custody if and when he is released.

If you haven’t read it, the comprehensive exposé on Rupert Murdoch and the Fox Empire in the New York Times is well worth it.  Many factors and forces have brought us to the Trump era, but no single factor has been more responsible in my estimation than thirty-plus years of hatred, division, fear-mongering, scapegoating, demonizing, and institution-busting from Fox “news”.  Trump took advantage of a profound sense of resentment and grievance in his voters that had been steadily cultivated, fed, and nurtured by Fox and its rumor mongers.  The New York Times article detailed the history of Murdoch’s brand, and it also confirmed some very bad news.  Murdoch has chosen the heir to his “news” empire, and it’s his ultra-conservative son Lachlan, who is reportedly further to the right than his father.  So the Fox plan will remain intact (as its viewers age out and die) to fill its viewers with falsehoods, lies, entitled bitterness and hatred as it assassinates the characters of anyone it opposes.  Here is a link:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/03/magazine/rupert-murdoch-fox-news-trump.html

We have no choice but to keep resisting…