Singing to an ocean, I can hear the ocean’s roar
Play for free, I play for me and play a whole lot more…
Singing about the good things and the sun that lights the day
I used to sing on the mountains, has the ocean lost its way?
Sitting round singing songs ’til the night turns into day
Used to sing about the mountains but the mountains washed away…
~ Led Zeppelin
21apr17. Cocoa Beach, FL
Week 23 of Donald Trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
This week the Trump-Russia scandal continued to unfold, but that wasn’t the big story. What stands out in Week 23 is the kleptocracy — a pattern of conflicts of interest and pay-to-play — and the Trump regime’s utter irreverence towards ethics and past standards.
As the 100-day mark approaches, Trump has no legislative accomplishments and his foreign policy can best be described as an embarrassing mess. Instead, Trump seems focused on enriching himself, his regime, and his business contacts. The pace and boldness of corruption whiff of a man who is aware his days in this gig are numbered.
- Seven weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. He has yet to offer any evidence or apologize.
- American Oversight, a group of liberal lawyers, is suing the DOJ and FBI seeking proof for Trump’s wiretapping claim.
- Trump has yet to offer any evidence or apologize for his accusations that Susan Rice committed a crime by spying on his campaign.
- The New Yorker reported not only did bi-partisan members of the House find nothing in the Rice intercepts, but also the rationale came clear: per an intelligence source, the WH said, “We are going to mobilize to find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.’
- Trump hosted a disastrous Easter Egg Roll, including telling the children, “We will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before,” and forgetting to lift his hand to his heart during the National Anthem.
- NYT reported on violations and a raft of potential conflicts-of-interest as Trump appoints former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants to craft policies in industries where they formerly worked.
- OGE director Shaub noted that Trump rolled back an Obama requirement that appointees not accept jobs in agencies they recently lobbied, and that Trump has granted waivers allowing appointees to take up matters which benefit their former clients.
- WAPO reported 168 corporate interests have made requests to Trump for regulatory relief, all likely to be granted, “especially those designed to advance environmental protection and safeguard worker rights.”
- On Tax Day, breaking precedent with every modern-day president, Trump did not release his tax returns, nor explain why.
- WSJ reported that in the first quarter, Trump’s campaign funds paid $500k to Trump’s companies including hotels, golf clubs and restaurants.
- Trump raised $107mm for his inaugural, doubling Obama, although Trump’s crowds and festivities were markedly smaller. It’s unclear where unspent money has gone, while numerous “pay-to-play” stories emerge.
- For example, Rachel Maddow reported on a $666,ooo gift from a businessman named R. W. Habboush, which led to a meetings between his son and both an NSC official and Bannon to discuss how to open up business with Venezuela, which is heavily sanctioned by the US.
- Trump dropped his campaign promise to let Medicare negotiate bulk discounts on prescription drugs after meeting with pharma lobbyists.
- Ivanka was granted China trademarks during dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. As reported in Week 22, Trump also changed his position saying China does not manipulate its currency.
- FT reported Manafort stepped in to the China action, advising Chinese billionaire Jiehe on how to access to Trump’s $1tn infrastructure plan.
- CREW filed an amended complaint to its emoluments challenge against Trump in federal court, adding new plaintiffs who claim they’ve been “directly harmed by a loss of business and wages.”
- Dow Chemical donated $1mm to Trump’s inauguration, then asked the regime to ignore a study on its pesticide which was “originally derived from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany,”
- Trump billionaire outside adviser, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone which has significant holdings in China, stands to gain from US-China policies he helped to shape.
- USA Today reporters pieced together that Trump companies own 400+ luxury condos and homes worth $250mm up for sale or rent presenting people, corporations or foreign interests an opportunity gain influence through purchases.
- Further, since Trump launched his presidential bid, Trump companies have sold at least 58 units for $90mm — almost half to LLCs. Since Election Day, 14 units have been sold for $23mm — half to LLCs.
- The House Oversight Committee sent a letter asking Trump for details on how and when the Trump will donate profits made from foreign government officials. Reps Cummings and Chaffetz signed the letter.
- Two days earlier, without explanation, Chaffetz said he would not run for re-election in 2018, and that he may leave office early to return to the private sector.
- Despite denials by the Trump, Erik Prince’s had close ties to the Trump regime, including riding the Acela with Conway, providing advice to Trump’s inner-circle including Flynn, and entering Trump Tower through the back entrance.
- As mentioned in Week 21, Prince had a one-on-one meeting with a Putin insider in Seychelles on January 11. He is also Betsy DeVos’s brother.
- Without explanation, the national security official leading the DOJ investigation into whether the Trump regime colluded with Russia, abruptly resigned.
- CNN reported that the FBI used information in the Steele dossier, which they independently confirmed, for their FISA warrant against Page.
- CNN reported Russia tried to use Trump advisers, including Page, to infiltrate the campaign. Page is one of several advisers US and European intel found to be in contact with Russian officials during the campaign.
- The DOJ said is it preparing charges against WikiLeaks founder Assange, with Sessions saying Assange’s arrest is a priority. Strangely, the Trump regime has turned on Assange, after lauding him during the campaign.
- Sessions left open the possibility of prosecuting US news organizations for publishing leaked information, and stories on the Trump-Russia scandal continue to pour out.
- As part of a custody battle, InfoWars’ Alex Jones said he is a “performance artist.” As noted in Week 19, InfoWars and Breitbart are under FBI investigation for their roles in Russian hacking of our election.
- NBC compiled a seating chart of attendees at Putin’s December 2015 RT celebration dinner. Other than Flynn seated next to Putin, Stein was also at Putin’s table and Assange appeared via satellite. NBC also reported on efforts by RT to promote Stein (and hurt Hillary) in the primary.
- The House Intel Committee announced it will reopen its Trump-Russia probe ex Nunes. Yates, Comey, Rogers, Brennan and Clapper have all been invited to testify.
- Nikolai Andrushchenko, a Russian journalist and Putin critic, was beaten to death by strangers. He is the 12th “mysterious” Russian death in recent months.
- Like their interference in the US, Russian sources are flooding French social media with fake news ahead of France’s election.
- Reuters reported on a Putin-linked think tank that very purposefully and carefully orchestrated an attack on the US election. Fake news, pro-Kremlin bloggers and cyber-attacks were all part of the plan.
- Exxon sought a US waiver to resume drilling in their Russian jv with Rosneft — a deal forged by Tillerson, who is ring fenced from Exxon for only one year. Amid outcry, permission was denied by the Treasury Dept.
- The UK Election Commission has launched an investigation of Farage’s Leave.EU for its funding. The involvement of Cambridge Analytica — which also allegedly has ties to Bannon and the Mercers and the Russian hacking of the US election — was not declared to the election watchdog.
- Sessions said he was “amazed” that a US judge “on an Island in the Pacific” (aka Hawaii) could block Trump’s Muslim Ban.
- Sessions took a fact-free swipe at another ethnically diverse city, saying New York City was soft on crime and plagued by gangs murders.
- ICE immigrant arrests were up 33% in the first two months of the Trump regime, including a doubling of noncriminal arrests.
- The first protected DREAMer, Juan Manuel Montes, who is 23 and have lived here since age 9, was deported by Trump.
- Trump ally Rep Steve King celebrated the deportation by tweeting a photo of a frosty beer mug with the words, “First non-valedictorian DREAMer deported. Border Patrol, this one’s for you.”
- Ironically, a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of Montes has been assigned to Judge Curiel, the jurist infamously attacked by Trump for his Mexican heritage during the Trump University case.
- Trump signed an executive order to review high-skilled H-1B immigration visas.
- Trump’s order does not, however, impact low-skilled H2A or H2B visas. According to CNN, Trump businesses have received 1,024 H-2B visas since 2000, and Trump Vineyards has received 64 H-2A permits since 2006
- In a troubling provocation, Russian aircraft were spotted flying off the coast of Alaska four times in four day this week.
- Amidst silence from Trump and our State Department, pogroms of gay men in Russia’s Chechnya region escalated. Russia also banned Jehovah’s Witnesses, claiming “extremist activities.”
- Trump shocked US and international officials when he called Turkey’s Erdogan to congratulate him on passage of a referendum which allows Erdogan to further consolidate power as an autocrat. International monitors have said the vote was not “genuinely democratic.”
- Trump held a secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago with former presidents of Colombia, threatening to undermine the country’s peace agreement with rebel leaders. The meeting was arranged by Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and was not on Trump’s schedule.
- Meanwhile, at a speech in WI, Trump called some of Canada’s trade practices a “disgrace” and claimed NAFTA is “a disaster for our country.”
- In another embarrassment of US foreign policy, Trump promised “we are sending an armada”– the USS Carl Vinson carrier group was being deployed to waters off the Korean Peninsula. This was not true.
- Mattis and McMaster also made similar misstatement about the USS Carl Vinson’s location. While traveling in the region, Pence assured our allies the misstatements were “not made intentionally.”
- On Wednesday, Tillerson said that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. On Thursday, Trump said Iran was not in complaint.
- Trump offended our S. Korea allies with a claim that the country “actually used to be part of China.” Trump apparently gleaned this “knowledge” from his conversation with Xi Jinping.
- For his upcoming visit to London, Trump demanded a carriage ride with Queen Elizabeth II down a strip that leads to Buckingham Palace.
- Three month in, Trump has only filled 4% of key roles in the executive branch. And with all the international hot spots and conflicts, the State Department remains largely vacant, including Deputy Secretary.
- A State Department official who helped shape the Iran nuclear deal was summarily reassigned for criticizing Conservative Review and Breitbart.
- The Surgeon General was also quietly dismissed on Friday evening, without explanation or a full-time replacement.
- DeVos’s pick to head the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said she faced discrimination for being white.
- In his first three months of office, Trump has made 417 false or misleading claims.
- Trump first quarter job approval stood at 41%, the lowest of any modern day president by 14 points in Gallup polling.
- The Resistance claimed a major victory, bringing down FoxNews icon Bill O’Reilly. Some speculated that the rise of Trump, and his backing of O’Reilly after recent allegations, laid the groundwork for O’Reilly’s fall.
- Hundreds of thousands are expected to march on Earth Day in the global March for Science in DC and at 609 satellite locations.
All photos taken by me:
15apr17 Orlando, FL
I had an amazing experience with Barcelona-based street artist BALU in New York City back in March. The day came out of nowhere and to make a long story short, I ended up going around the city with him and documenting his incredibly courageous, albeit illegal (!!) slapping up of wheat pastes of certain public figures in specific designated spots that represented and symbolized the men (i.e. Kanye West was slapped up on WEST 4th in the Village, etc.) ~ The pictures and the story garnered enough interest for Mikel Reparaz, a European journalist covering Basque Country news, to do a video interview/story on our experience and on graffiti in NYC, in general. It’s in Spanish, but please do check it out.
Week 22 of Donald Trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
Week 22 has, by far, the most items related to Trump-Russia ties. This week, the word “probe” progressed to “scandal,” signaling an acceptance that some sort of collusion occurred. Trump continues his attempts to divert attention from this story by bombing and provocation without a strategy or plan. Two days of bombing have earned him his first two days of positive press. Meanwhile, as we approach the 100-day mark, Trump has accomplished little and his regime is in disarray.
- Six weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. He has yet to offer any evidence or apologize.
- Trump continues to claim, without evidence, that Susan Rice committed a crime by spying on the Trump campaign.
- The Trump regime has articulated five different policies for Syria in the last two weeks. As the week closed, he still hadn’t settled on one.
- Reuters reported that the Assad regime was warned by Russia (after Russia was warned by Trump) of the impending US strike, and was able to mostly evacuate the target.
- Tillerson attended a G7 meeting, where he was a dissenting voice on imposing more sanctions on Russia. Tillerson said of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?”
- Tillerson ditched his press pool while meeting with Putin. Tillerson claimed he and Putin found very little to agree on.
- As news about the Trump-Russia collusion in our election seeped out this week, Trump and Putin sought to display a deteriorating US-Russia relationship, with Trump saying relations were “at an all-time low.”
- The next day, Trump tweeted an odd, unprompted reassurance, “Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!”
- Buzzfeed reported Pyotr Levashov (Peter Severa), a Russian hacker, was detained in Spain for ties to a computer virus linked to the US election. His wife said he was arrested for being “linked to Trump’s win.”
- WAPO reported that the FBI had obtained a FISA warrant to monitor Carter Page in connection with an investigation of the Trump campaign’s connection to the Russia’s effort to swing the election in Trump’s favor.
- WAPO also reported that the first 90-day FISA warrant was issued in July 2016, and has since been renewed by the FISA court more than once.
- In an ABC interview, Page said he couldn’t guarantee he did not discuss easing of sanctions with Russian contacts at a meeting in July in the Russian capital, “We’ll see what comes out in this FISA transcript.”
- According to the Steele dossier, also discussed at that July meeting was the sale of a 19.5% stake in Rosneft, Russia’s state oil company — allegedly in exchange for lifting of sanctions.
- CNN reported that classified documents reviewed by Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee contradict Nunes’s and Trump’s claims that Susan Rice did anything unusual or illegal.
- Financial records obtained by AP confirmed at least 2 payments totaling $1.2mm paid by a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine on the so-called Black Ledger to Manafort’s consulting firm in the US.
- After consulting with federal authorities, Manafort said he would register as a foreign agent for his past work on behalf of pro-Russia interests in the Ukraine.
- Manafort became the second in Trump’s inner-circle to retrospectively register as a foreign agent, Flynn being the first for his work with Turkey.
- A DC lobbying firm which was that was directed by Manafort and Gates also retroactively registered as a foreign agent for work to promote a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party’s interests in Washington.
- The day after Manafort stepped down from the Trump campaign, he set up a shell company which secured $20mm in loans, including $3.5mm from Spruce Capital, which has connections to a post-Soviet fertilizer oligarch, Alexander Rovt, who also has ties to Trump.
- Buzzfeed reported on a bizarre story involving Trump attorney Michael Cohen taking a $350k check from a Russian NHL player, which was meant to be passed along to Cohen’s client, a Russian women in Florida for payment on a condo, but instead Cohen cashed the check and kept it.
- Former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove said Trump borrowed from Russiaas a lender of last resort after the 2008 financial crisis.
- The Guardian reported British spies were the first to spot the Trump team’s links to Russia dating back to late 2015. GCHQ shared the suspicious activity with their counter-parts in US intelligence.
- Germany, Estonia, Poland, Netherlands, France and Australia also relayed material on the Trump campaign’s links to Russia to US Intelligence during 2016.
- The head of GCHQ met with CIA Chief Brennan in July 2016 — per The Guardian, the matter was deemed so sensitive it was handled at “director level.” This meeting allegedly precipitated Brennan’s one-on-one meetings with the Gang of Eight, described in Week 21.
- CNN confirmed The Guardian reporting, citing sources in the US congressional and law enforcement, and US and European intelligence.
- CIA director Pompeo had harsh words for Wikileaks, including a “hostile intelligence service,” and said Russian military intelligence used WikiLeaks to release hacked DNC emails.
- Pompeo also described RT, as Russia’s “primary propaganda outlet” and said it actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.
- Ironically, while part of Trump’s campaign, Pompeo had cheered on Wikileaks, tweeting a Restate article, “BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC Leaked by Wikileaks”
- Offering no evidence, Stone told POLITICO the Obama administration got a FISA warrant on him. Stone has admitted communication with both Guccifer 2.0 and Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.
- Maddow observed the serious press and agencies rushing in this week to take credit for having uncovered the Trump regimes collusion with Russia — meaning the scandal has entered a new phase as accepted.
- The House Intelligence Committee sent Rep Quigley to Cyprus as part of its Trump-Russia probe. Week 19’s list noted some of the extensive ties between Cyprus and the Trump regime.
- The Department of Justice released 90 pages under the FOIA about voting machine malfunctions in PA, MI, WI, FL and NC.
- As Trump neared the 100-day judgment mark, POLITCO described the WH as a “pressure cooker” to show results, when little has been accomplished.
- As power continued to consolidate in the hands of the Trump family, Trump’s WH drew comparisons to a “family business.”
- Unabated personnel drama plagued the WH the entire week, as snipes continued between Bannon, Kushner and Trump.
- After Trumpcare failed (twice), Trump had promised to take on tax reform next, saying a plan was forthcoming. This week Trump’s WH scrapped this effort, saying they would not produce a tax plan.
- WSJ reported that Trump’s federal hiring freeze, put in place day 1 of his administration, put correctional officers at risk, could delay payments to veterans, and prevent disabled and retirees from getting social security.
- The next day, Trump lifted his Federal hiring freeze.
- During the hiring freeze, thousands of positions remain vacant including more than 350 at the EPA alone. CNBC blamed the pace on “Trump’s close involvement” and “turf wars” in his inner circle and Cabinet.
- Trump threatened to undermine Obamacare to get Democrats to the negotiating table. Specifically, he would hold back subsidy payments to healthcare companies providing insurance to low-income Americans.
- The Government Accountability Office said it’s investigating whether the Trump transition team followed federal guidelines and ethics rules during the transition.
- DeVos said she would scrap Obama’s plan for tougher federal oversight and new rules for student-loan servicers. Coincidentally, DeVos has significant holdings in one such servicer, Performant Financial Corp.
- Trump appointed crony Don Benton, a salesman, to director of the Selective Service System, overseeing the military draft. This is the first time since 1941 a person with no military experience has been chosen.
- Allan Lichtman, the American University who predicted the winner of the last eight presidential elections, predicted Trump will be impeached.
- CREW and others sued DHS under the FOIA for failing to disclose visitor logs of the WH, Mar-a-Lago and Trump Tower.
- On Friday, the Trump regime said they will not release the WH visitor logs, breaking with a practice started under President Obama.
- The rationale for not releasing visitor logs were “security risks”’ and to save taxpayers $700k over the next three years. A weekend in Mar-a-Lago costs taxpayers an estimated $3mm.
- Trump is on track to spend more in his first year, than Obama spent in all eight years in office.
- Trump Hotel DC is facing new legal challenges under the emoluments clause from a watchdog group represented by constitutional lawyer Laurence Tribe, who noted a “major infusion of value” from the GSA.
- A deal for a Trump-branded hotel in Dallas with a developer Mukemmel Sarimsakci, known as “Turkish Trump,” collapsed. Sarimsakci said the Trump Organization had been vetting potential investors in the deal.
- Bloomberg found that of Trump’s 10 most engaged followers on Twitter, five are confirmed robots and three appear to be bots.
- A Florida court of appeals ruled against Trump, saying he owed a paint company $300k for stiffing them on work done and supplies provided at the Trump National Doral Miami golf resort.
- Trump completely reversed himself on several key campaign positions this week. China is no longer a currency manipulator, NATO is no longer obsolete — nor is Ex-Im Bank, and he likes the job Yellin is doing.
- Trump credited new-found knowledge from China’s leader (N Korea) and business leaders like Boeing’s CEO (Ex-Im Bank). Boeing donated $1mm to Trump’s inauguration, and as mentioned in prior weeks, China has granted many goodies to Trump, including 38 new trademarks.
- Trump’s Treasury Department oddly placed Germany on its new special currency “monitoring list.” Germany’s currency is the Euro.
- In a FBN interview Trump described eating “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” with China’s leader — giving a free advertisement to Mar-a-Lago catering — then got the country he bombed wrong (said Iraq).
- Spicer made shocking statements regarding Hitler and the Holocaust at Tuesday’s press briefing. He used the term “Holocaust center” rather than concentration camp, and in comparing Hitler to Assad, said the former had never used chemical weapons on his own people.
- The Anne Frank Center called on Trump to fire Spicer. The Trump regime has amassed a steady stream of anti-Semitic behavior, including omitting Jews from the WH International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.
- No one from the Trump family attended the WH Passover Sedar, unlike his President Obama and Michelle who attended every year.
- NBC reported on Gorka’s ties to Vitezi Rend, a Nazi-linked group, including wearing his honorary medal from the group at Trump’s Inaugural ball.
- In a speech on Tuesday, AG Sessions ordered prosecutors to crack down on illegal immigrants more aggressively, claiming gangs and cartels are turning U.S. cities into “war zones.”
- ICE quietly detained 367 immigrants this week in raids across the country. ICE claims the raids are focused on “criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and immigration fugitives” — advocates say this is not true.
- A mother of four in Cincinnati was deported after appeals. Maribel Trujillo had no criminal record in her 15 years here, and has children aged 3–14 years-old, the youngest of which has special needs.
- On Thursday, the “mother of all bombs”- the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat — in Afghanistan. Trump refused to say if he had ordered the strike, and even if he knew about it.
- Trump said he gave total authorization to “my military” — a reference appropriate for a dictatorship, not a democracy.
- While his popularity continues to flounder, Trump got his second day of positive press for dropping the MOAB (the first was the Syrian bombing).
- Trump has yet to declare a strategy in Afghanistan or appoint an ambassador. The $16mm cost MOAB killed 36 ISIS fighters — a cost of roughly half a million per fighter.
- Late Thursday, Trump also issued confrontational statements about N. Korea, threatening a pre-emptive strike. N. Korea’s vice foreign minister says Trump is “making trouble” with “aggressive” tweets.
- Trump spent Friday in Mar-a-Lago, golfing and avoiding the press. Friday marked Trump’s 18th time golfing, compared to other presidents at this point: Obama 0, W Bush 0, Clinton 3.
- As Tax Day approaches April 18th, thousands are expected to march today in cities around the country to protest Trump being the only modern day president to not release his tax returns.
Below are my original photos taken over a period of time in New York:
Please stay tuned for next week’s post of POLITIKS OF GRAFFITI 24!