Week 56 of trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
December 9, 2017
This week, as Trump’s lawyers sought to maneuver around two unfolding stories that could engulf the regime — obstruction of justice and Mueller’s Deutsche Bank subpoena — Trump made radical, devastating moves. Trump forcefully backed an accused pedophile, signed off on the largest elimination of protected land in US history, and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — all while he continued to disparage the FBI, DOJ, and our free press.
Almost a year into office, Trump’s popularity continues to fall, and he has yet to move forward beyond campaign rhetoric. As his inner-circle continues to shrink, Trump takes actions which move our country towards isolationism, corruption, and kleptocracy.
The growing #MeToo movement of accountability for sexual misconduct led to the first political resignations this week. More are expected, as the drumbeat for accountability for Trump’s past actions grows louder.
Lots of art expressing dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in the USA at this year’s Art Basel in Wynwood, Miami, FL. Dec2017
On Sunday, in a tweet, Trump denied pressuring James Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Trump lawyer John Dowd claimed he drafted the Saturday tweet, and made a mistake about Trump’s knowing Flynn lied to the FBI.
On Monday, Dowd told Axios, a president cannot obstruct justice “because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case.”
WAPO reported 16 Republicans are on the record as saying a president can obstruct justice, including Jeff Sessions who said as senator on President Clinton, “such acts are high crimes, and equal justice requires that he forfeit his office.”
On Sunday, Diane Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told “Meet the Press” of her committee’s work, “I think what we’re beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.”
On Sunday, Billy Bush issued an op-ed, saying despite Trump’s denials in Week 55 that it wasn’t his voice on the “Access Hollywood” tape, Trump did say, “Grab ’em by the pussy,” in front of Bush and seven other men.
Bush also said he was highly critical of a Trump’s candidacy, recalling Trump had told him off-camera, “People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you.”
The Atlantic reported after the “Access Hollywood” tape, Pence considered a coup to take the spot on the top of the ticket. Karen Pence was disgusted according to an aide: “She finds him reprehensible — just totally vile.”
NYT reported on emails among top officials in Trump’s transition team show Flynn was not acting alone, but rather was in close touch with other senior officials during his conversations with Sergey Kislyak on Russian sanctions.
On December 29, K.T. McFarland emailed a colleague that Obama’s Russia sanctions were a way to discredit Trump’s victory, and make cooperation with Russia “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” harder.
Her email was sent to Tom Bossert, Trump’s Homeland Security Advisor, who then forwarded the email chain on to six other Trump advisers including Flynn, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Sean Spicer.
On Monday, Sen. Cory Booker said he was concerned McFarland might have given “false testimony” to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in her answers about being aware of contact between Flynn and Kislyak.
When Booker asked McFarland in writing last July if she had ever spoke to Flynn about his contact with Kislyak , she had answered in writing, “I am not aware of any of the issues or events described above.”
On Tuesday, Democrats placed a hold on McFarland’s nomination to be ambassador to Singapore, pending her answering questions about her knowledge of communications between Flynn and Kislyak.
On Sunday, Newsweek reported Jared Kushner failed to disclose his role as a co-director of the Charles and Seryl Kushner Foundation, at a time the group funded an illegal Israeli settlement, on his financial records with the Office of Government Ethics.
On Sunday, Trump sent a series of tweets disparaging the DOJ and FBI, criticizing the agencies for not going after his political enemy Hillary, and saying the FBI, after being run by Comey “is in Tatters — worst in History!”
Comey, Sally Yates, and Eric Holder defended the FBI in tweets of their own. The FBI director sent an email to agents supporting them, saying he is “inspired by example after example of professionalism and dedication to justice.”
On Monday, the DOJ agreed to allow the House Intel Committee to interview a key FBI employee who served as the contact to Christopher Steele. The agreement comes after a public spat started by Rep. Devin Nunes and flamed by Trump.
Nunes and Trump had publicly accused the DOJ of stymieing the House investigation. In reality, the DOJ met with Nunes and his staffers, and they were given access to highly classified materials for the past two months.
NYT reported Trump’s catchphrase, “fake news,” is being used being used in Myanmar to justify ethnic cleansing. An officer in Rakhine’s state security ministry said of accusations, “It is fake news.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court allowed the third version of Trump’s Travel Ban to take effect while legal challenges against it continue. This victory allows the regime to enforce restrictions against eight countries, six of which are predominantly Muslim.
The NAACP urged Trump to not attend the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum on Saturday, saying Trump’s attendance would be an “affront” to the movement commemorated by the museum.
On Thursday, Rep. John Lewis said he would not participate in the opening because of Trump’s presence, saying “Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.”
On Friday, the WH announced Trump will not speak at the public ceremony for the opening of the Mississippi’s Civil Rights Museum, but rather will participate in a separate private event.
On Friday, Trump ally Rep. Steve King tweeted, “Diversity is not our strength,” citing Hungarian PM Orban who said, “Mixing cultures will not lead to a higher quality of life but a lower one.”
WAPO reported more than a half-dozen technology experts and former national security officials filed a brief to halt Trump’s Election Integrity Commission from collecting of voter information for a database.
Experts cite concerns the proposed voter database could be hacked by foreign adversaries. In Week 32, a Republican data firm left personal information on nearly 200 million voters unprotected online in 2016.
In Kansas, the home state of Kris Kobach, the vice-chair of Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, 23 disabled Americans lost their voting rights in the November 2017 election because Kobach’s SAFE Act was instituted.
On Sunday, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the US is walking away from UN migration and refugee pact, saying it “contains numerous provisions that are inconsistent” with US policies.
McClatchy reported despite Trump’s vow not make any deals with foreign government entities while he serves, a construction company owned in part by the governments of Saudi Arabia and South Korea will build a Trump resort in Indonesia. This is the second violation.
The Trump regime closed the Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems, a group created by Obama in 2015 to help local officials protect against extreme weather and natural disasters.
Intercept reported Trump’s WH is considering set a of proposals developed by Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer to provide the CIA and WH with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official US intelligence.
The plan is being pitch as a way to counter “deep state” enemies in the intelligence community out to get Trump. Director Mike Pompeo allegedly does not trust the CIA bureaucracy, but this group would report just directly to him.
On Monday, the Department of Labor reversed Obama-era restrictions on tip-pooling, which allows employers to combine servers’ tips and share them with “back of the house” employees, such as cooks and dishwashers.
Nike, the Trump Organization’s biggest tenant in a single space, is vacating its iconic Niketown flagship store at 6 East 57th Street in NY. Trump’s political rhetoric played a role in the company’s decision.
On Thursday, the Trump regime rolled back an Obama-era rule which required trains carrying highly explosive liquids to install electronically controlled pneumatic brakes by 2021, to help prevent fiery train wrecks.
Reuters reported in a reversal from an Obama-era policy to prevent bank examiners from becoming sympathetic, Trump’s US Comptroller, Joseph Otting, said he would allow examiners to work in-house at banks.
On Thursday, the House Ethics Committee said Nunes had not violated laws or congressional rules on disclosing classified information, leaving Nunes free to resume his leadership of the House Intel Committee Russia probe.
Reuters reported DNI Dan Coats revealed tighter restrictions in a new “unmasking” policy. Critics fear the order would infringe on the political independence of the intelligence, and endanger work with allies.
Sessions’ DOJ moved to investigate Planned Parenthood, sending a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee requesting documents from the committee’s investigation of Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue practices.
As part of Betsy DeVos’s changes to campus sexual assault policy, a House Republican higher education bill would allow colleges to delay or suspend their internal investigations if police or prosecutors ask them to do so.
POLITICO reported Ryan Zinke’s travel logs obtained under the FOIA show he spent more than $14K on government helicopters last summer for he and his staff to attend DC events, and to horseback ride with Pence.
Dina Powell, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, and a driving force behind Trump’s Middle East policy, is departing after serving one year. In Week 55, numerous departures from Trump’s WH are expected.
LA Times reported Mick Mulvaney is moving quickly to make changes at the CFPB, an agency he had criticized. He has installed some of his aides into bureau positions and is reviewing legal actions against financial firms.
Deputy director Leandra English continued her legal battle, and on Friday, 18 state Attorneys General signed on to the lawsuit challenging Trump’s appointment of Mulvaney as acting director.
Trump hit his lowest approval numbers in a new Pew Research poll, which found 32% approve. Trump is more unpopular than any modern-day leader at this point in his tenure.
WSJ reported although Chief of Staff John Kelly has established protocols for communicating with and having access to Trump within the WH, Trump has found loopholes to circumvent those protocols.
Trump calls WH aides to the private residence in the evening, where he makes assignments and tells aides not to tell Kelly — or he goes off-schedule to make calls. Contacts also reach out to him through Melania.
Zinke introduced Trump, saying, “Our public land is for the public to use and not special interests. This is about giving rural America a voice.”
Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia said it planned to sue Trump, as the company’s home page read: “The President Stole Your Land,” adding, “This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history.”
Native American tribes and several environmental groups also filed suits. Outdoor clothing retailer REI’s home page read, “We Love Our Public Lands,” with an accompanying statement.
On Friday, the Twitter account for the House Committee on Natural Resources tweeted a meme: “Patagonia Is Lying to You. A corporate giant hijacking our public lands debate to sell more products to wealthy elitists…”
WAPO reported uranium company, Energy Fuels Resources played a major role in lobbying Zinke and his staff to shrink the Bear Ears National Monument, saying it would give the company easier access to deposits.
On Monday, Reuters reported Mueller’s team accused Paul Manafort of working with a Russian to draft an op-ed about his political work in Ukraine. Manafort had been working on the article as recently as November 30.
If Manafort’s piece had been published, it would have violated the court’s November 8 gag order. As such, the special counsel said the judge should reject Manafort’s request in Week 55 to change his bail deal.
On Monday, WAPO reported the special counsel said in a statement Manafort has been “assessed to have ties” to Russian intelligence — making him the first member of the Trump regime to have such ties.
On Tuesday, WAPO reported Oleg Voloshyn, a Ukrainian political pundit and former government official said Manafort did not ghost-write the piece. Rather, he emailed a draft to Manafort business partner Konstantin Kilimnik.
On Friday, Mueller’s team filed documents which showed not only did Manafort make extensive edits to the op-ed, he also contributed to the overall themes in the piece, attempting to paint himself in a positive light.
While Mueller’s team maintains Manafort violated the judge’s gag order, lawyers for Manafort claimed the special counsel is unfairly restricting his free speech, saying “all he has tried to do is to correct the public record.”
POLITICO reported on the dramatic FBI arrest of George Papadopoulos as he stepped off a plane late at night: using shock value as a way to flip a witness. The next morning Mueller’s team told a judge Papadopoulos was willing to cooperate.
POLITICO reported paranoia is enveloping the WH as the Mueller probe heats up and as Flynn agreed to cooperate. One source close to the WH said, “Everyone thinks they’re being recorded.”
On Tuesday, NBC News reported Natalia Veselnitskaya told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Donald Jr. had asked her at the June 9 Trump Tower meeting whether she had evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation.
Veselnitskaya claimed in her 51-page statement after she said she did not have meaningful information on Hillary, Donald Jr. lost interest and the meeting petered out. She claimed to be there to discuss the Magnitsky Act.
On Tuesday, CNN reported Pence’s aides are nervous that Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI and Pence will leave open the door for Mueller to question Pence, who continues to maintain he was out of the loop.
On Tuesday, German daily Handelsblatt reported Deutsche Bank received a subpoena from Mueller’s team, demanding the bank provide information on its dealings with the Trumps.
WSJ reported the subpoena is for documents related to people or entities affiliated with Trump, and people close to him — not Trump himself. Deutsche has lent more than $300 million to entities affiliated with Trump.
Reuters reported Deutsche Bank received the subpoena several weeks ago to provide information on certain money and credit transactions, and that the information has already been provided.
Deutsche Bank has lent Trump hundreds of millions over the past decade, while other banks have stepped back due to his numerous bankruptcies. In Week 19, Deutsche was fined for laundering Russian money.
Mueller’s team is also looking into whether Deutsche may have sold some of Trump’s mortgages or loans to Russian state banks VEB, VTB, Russian Agricultural Bank, Gazprombank, or Sberbank.
Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow denied Trump’s information has been turned over, saying, “No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.”
Trump lawyer Dowd told Bloomberg that he had been told by Deutsche Bank that no such subpoena had been issued.
On Wednesday, Handelsblatt stood by their reporting despite denials by Trump’s legal team, saying Deutsche Bank was subpoenaed weeks ago. It remains unclear if the subpoena relates to Trump or a family member.
On Wednesday, Donald Jr. testified for eight hours in front of the House Intel Committee in a private session about the June 9 meeting, his communications with WikiLeaks and business of the Trump Organization.
Donald Jr. told the House Intel Committee he did not communicate directly with Trump when confronted with news reports of the June 9 Trump Tower meeting, but rather with Hope Hicks.
Donald Jr. refused to provide details of the call with his father on July 10, claiming the conversation was protected under attorney-client privilege because lawyers for both men were on the call.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said Donald Jr. acknowledged he had discussed the Trump Tower meeting by telephone with Trump. Schiff rejected Donald Jr.’s use of attorney-client privilege.
POLITICO reported the House Intel Committee is probing the European travel during and after the campaign of several Trump associates including Donald Jr., Michael Cohen, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Jeffrey Gordon.
Congressional investigators want to know if Trump aides met with Kremlin-linked operatives as part of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Explanations for their trips have not been forthcoming.
NYT reported according to a whistleblower who contacted Rep. Elijah Cummings, during Trump’s Inauguration ceremony, Flynn texted a business associate that Russian sanction would “ripped away” as one of Trump’s first acts.
Flynn believed ending sanctions would allow a business venture with Russia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East. He texted his former business associate to say the project was “good to go.”
Flynn was texting Alex Copson of ACU Strategic Partners, a company Flynn advised in 2015. Copson told the whistleblower Flynn’s text directed him to tell others involved in the nuclear project to continue developing their plans, adding “This is going to make a lot of very wealthy people.”
Cummings sent a letter to Rep. Trey Gowdy, who chose not to subpoena the whistleblower. He also informed Mueller’s team who asked him not to go public with it until “they completed certain investigative steps.”
On Friday, Papadopoulos’ fiancee, Simona Mangiante, told ABC News, he “set up meetings with leaders all over the world” for, and was “constantly in touch with” senior campaign officials, including Bannon and Flynn.
She added Papadopoulos will have a firm place in history as “the first domino in the Russia investigation,” saying he is loyal to his country, “He is already on the right side of history. I think he will make a big difference.”
On Wednesday, the House Intelligence Committee released Erik Prince’s closed-door testimony from November 30th. Prince claimed that when he met with the Russian banker, he was not acting on behalf of Trump.
Prince testified he was in Seychelles for business, and someone recommended he meet Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of RDIF, Russia’s $10 billion sovereign wealth fund. Prince claimed he had to Google for a photo of him.
Prince said they discussed US-Russia relations, including joint efforts to defeat Islamic terrorism together. Prince claimed he didn’t discuss Russian sanctions, or the prospect of doing business with Dmitriev.
Schiff issued a statement on Prince’s testimony, saying “Prince also could not adequately explain why he traveled halfway around the world to meet with UAE officials and, ultimately, the head of the Russian fund.”
As part of testimony, Prince also revealed he had interned for pro-Russian congressman Dana Rohrabacher. When asked if he spoke to Rohrabacher during the campaign, Prince said, “I don’t recall. No, I don’t think I did.”
Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska dropped his appeal of a libel suit filed against AP. Deripaska’s suit claimed AP falsely implied he was paying Manafort for work aimed at advancing the goals of the Russian government and Putin.
In a status report filed in court by Mueller’s team Friday, the special counsel revealed it has issued 15 search warrants related to Manafort and his business and campaign aide Gates.
Special counsel has obtained more than 400K financial and corporate records, and emails — 116k are considered “particularly relevant,” and 2K considered “hot” documents containing information crucial to the case.
NYT reported the FBI warned Hicks of repeated attempts by Russians to make contact with her using email during the transition period, even after US intelligence had publicly warned about Russian interference.
NYT reported the Trump Organization will be a big beneficiary of the Republican tax bill, noting the real estate industry and real estate investment trusts were given special treatment on several provisions.
The CEO of Murray Energy, one of the country’s largest coal companies, ripped the Republican tax bill, saying it would “wipe out” coal mining jobs, and adding “We won’t have enough cash flow to exist.”
WAPO reported some of Trump’s wealthiest friends in NY asked him at fundraising event for changes to the Republican tax plan, complaining it will drive up their taxes and hurt his home state — and Trump is listening.
On Monday, Trump endorsed Roy Moore. Later that day, the RNC changed course and threw support behind Moore, despite additional allegations coming out during the day from a woman when she was 17 years-old.
On Tuesday, Republican Jeff Flake posted a photo on Twitter of his $100 check to Roy Moore’s democratic challenger Doug Jones, adding “Country over Party” in the memo line.
TIME named “The Silence Breakers” the 2017 Person of the Year, celebrating the voices that launched a movement to bring sexual assault and harassment into the light of day. Trump was the runner-up.
In their cover story, TIME mentioned harassment allegations by several women against Trump, noting these allegations were cited as one of the catalysts for many to speak out against the abuse of power.
On Thursday, Sen. Al Franken stepped down after 33 Senate Democrats called on him to resign over sexual harassment allegations, adding in his parting words, “I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office.”
On Friday, Republican Rep. Trent Franks abruptly resigned as AP reported he had offered a former aide $5 million to act as a surrogate. The news invited comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale.
On Friday, new allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against Trump, as former Fox News anchor Juliet Huddy said he tried to kiss her on an elevator after he took her to lunch at Trump Tower in 2005.
A Quinnipiac poll found 70% of Americans believe Congress should investigate accusations of sexual harassment against Trump, 25% do not.
Sen, Jeff Merkley became the first Senator to call on Trump to resign over sexual misconduct allegations, saying of Trump “he certainly has a track record with more than 17 women of horrific conduct.”
NYT reported while in Puerto Rico, the USNS Comfort was prepared to support 250 hospital beds, but in its limited time at the island, admitted an average of only six patients a day, or 290 in total.
The ship was staffed with 800 personnel, costing $180K a day, yet the ship received an average of 36 people a day as outpatients or inpatients. On November 15, the ship left to restock. On November 17, it was sent home.
NYT reported the “official” death toll in Puerto Rico of 62, vastly understates actual deaths, which they estimate at 1,052 though the end of October, using past years’ mortality as a comparison.
WSJ reported Trump’s allies are urging a hardline against Mueller as the probe heats up and despite Trump’s attorneys assessment, will drag on into 2018. Allies say Trump should end his lawyers’ cooperative approach.
Allies cites as bias Peter Strzok, who had sent text messages that were critical of Trump during the 2016 election. Mueller dismissed Strzok upon learning about his texts last summer.
On Friday, ABC News reported that after Mueller dismissed Strzok, he brought on David Archey, a veteran FBI official briefly involved in the launch of the agency’s probe into Hillary’s private email server.
On Wednesday, Rep. Al Green read a resolution in the House to impeach Trump. The House overwhelmingly voted to kill the resolution (364 votes); however 58 Democrats voted for the resolution.
On Wednesday, Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and announced plans to eventually relocate the US Embassy there, despite criticism from Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and several close US allies.
WAPO reported Trump had made up his mind on Jerusalem months before seeking input from advisers, and that Trump didn’t “have a full understanding” of the issue or what he “could trigger by doing this.”
Trump’s move reverses seven decades of US policy. On Thursday, David Satterfield, an acting assistant secretary said the State Department has not yet said whether the US considers Jerusalem to be part of Israel.
While delivering his statement on Jerusalem, towards the end of the speech, Trump noticeably slurred and mispronounced words. On Thursday, at a press briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump’s “throat was dry.”
Sanders also said Trump will undergo a physical examination at Walter Reed in the beginning of next year, and records will be released. Trump did not have a traditional medical examination as a candidate.
Captain Carri Weber of the Plainfield Police Department in Indiana was put on paid administrative leave on November 16, after telling a fellow officer he benefited from “white male privilege” during a training seminar.
On Thursday, after the suspension received national media attention from WAPO, the Plainfield Board of Police Commissioners reinstated Captain Weber, but a letter of reprimand will be kept in her permanent file.
On Tuesday, at a foreign policy conference in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said German relations with the US “will never be the same” after Trump, saying Trump sees Germany as a “competitor.”
On Friday, former President Obama urged voters to stay engaged, invoking complacency led to the rise of Nazi Germany, “You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly.”
On Thursday, Judge Rudolph Contreras, the judge who took Flynn’s guilty plea, recused himself from the case. No reason was given.
Catching Olympic leaders off-guard, ambassador Haley and press secretary Sanders said it was uncertain if the US would attend in South Korea, amid lingering tensions in the area.
On Friday, Trump held a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, FL with many of same themes are during his campaign over a year ago, including the crowd chanting “lock her up,” as Trump talked of the “rigged system.”
Trump also raised the theme of Chicago, a city he has invoked to attack people of color since his 2016 campaign: “What the hell is going on in Chicago? There are those that say Afghanistan is safer than Chicago.”
Politifact reported Trump’s speech was full of false statements, including in matters relating to his attacks on the media, Chicago, and other issues.
NYT reported before he took office, Trump told top aides to think of each day “as an episode in a television show” in which he vanquishes rivals. In office, he spends four, sometimes up to eight hours per day watching tv.
Insiders say part of Trump’s difficult adjustment is rooted in an unrealistic expectation of powers: he thought it would be more akin to imperial command than having to coexist with two other branches of government
Artist Ben Levy 9dec17 Miami, FL, USA 🇺🇸