JACO, COSTA RICA: BOHEMIAN VACANCY

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119mar19. Jaco, Costa Rica.

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POLITIKS OF GRAFFITI 120: A WARY, ANXIOUS, & EXHAUSTED COUNTRY

FEBRUARY 23, 2019

Week 119

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll rememberhttps://theweeklylist.org/weekly-list/week-119/

This week the FBI thwarted a major domestic terrorism plot by a white nationalist serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, who had called for the establishment of a “white homeland.” His target list included Democratic politicians and cable-TV hosts, almost all of whom were subjects of Trump’s public ire on Twitter or in words. Nonetheless, Trump continued his attacks on the media, calling them the “enemy of the people,” and repeatedly referring to them as “fake news.” When asked if his rhetoric played a role, Trump responded, “No, I don’t. I think my language is very nice.” Trump has also started in recent weeks to attack fact-checkers as fake news.

Trump ally Roger Stone found himself hauled back into court this week for posting an image of a federal judge next to a crosshairs, while other Trump supporters used words like “civil war” and “coup” on-air as the country waited for Mueller’s findings. In conjunction with his new book, former FBI director Andrew McCabe spoke to media outlets about F.B.I. investigations into Trump, the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment, and concern that Trump is a Russian asset. In response, Trump spent the week attacking his old, familiar target.

This week stood out in the number of stories on corruption and kleptocracy — perhaps the most to date — and several that in normal times would be front page and top-of-the-hours for weeks; but instead as the chaos continued to consume a wary, anxious, and exhausted country, almost all barely got noticed. Challenges have come and more are expected to Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the close of Week 118, but like so many other things, this unprecedented and possibly unconstitutional executive fiat garnered little attention this week amid all the breaking news.

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As the joke seen around the world that we’ve become, even graffiti taggers in San Jose, Costa Rica are taking the piss. I took these pics near a construction site – 23feb19. 

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  1. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 2018 was the deadliest year on record for alt-right violence: at least 40 people in the U.S. and Canada were killed by individuals motivated by or attracted to far-right ideologies.
  2. The number of hate groups rose 7% in 2018 to a record high of 1,020, a 30% jump from 2014, driven by political polarization, anti-immigrant sentiment, and technologies that helped spread propaganda online.
  3. On Monday, President’s Day, a survey of nearly 200 political science scholars ranking U.S. presidents was released: Trump was ranked last. Of the Republican scholars only, Trump was ranked 40th of 44.
  4. On Saturday, Trump nominee for U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Heather Nauert withdrew from consideration. Nauert hired a foreign-born nanny 10 years ago without a proper work visa and did not pay taxes at the time.
  5. The Trump regime had not sent Nauert’s paperwork to the Senate for the confirmation process, which would have been more rigorous than the vetting for State Department spokesperson, her previous position. Nauert had little relevant experience.
  6. On Sunday, Japanese newspaper Asahi reported Japanese PM Shinzo Abe nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize last fall at the request of the U.S. government. Trump bragged about the nomination in Week 118.
  7. On Sunday, NYT reported the rift between Trump and Europe was on open display at the Munich security conference in Week 118, as Europeans no longer believe Trump cares about the views or interests of U.S. allies.
  8. The fissure was also exploited by Russia and China. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov regaled, saying, “We see new cracks forming, and old cracks deepening.”
  9. In the era of Trump, some European diplomats trust Russia and China more than the U.S. Many others say relations with the U.S. will never be the same again. Europeans are waiting for a change in the White House.
  10. On Monday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation arrived in Brussels, telling reporters they were there to reaffirm “our commitment to the transatlantic alliance, our commitment to NATO and respect for the European Union.”
  11. Pelosi also told reporters that Trump is not solely in charge: “We have Article 1, the legislative branch, the first branch of government, coequal to the other branches and we have asserted ourselves in that way.”
  12. Pelosi and her delegation met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and the EU’s high representative for foreign policy, Federica Mogherini.
  13. On Sunday, Trump responded to a “Saturday Night Live” skit mocking his Rose Garden press conference, tweeting: “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC!”
  14. Trump also tweeted, “how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution?” adding, “Very unfair and should be looked into.” The ACLU tweeted in response: “It’s called the First Amendment.”
  15. Trump also tweeted, “This is the real Collusion!” and “THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
  16. On Sunday, Stephen Miller had an adversarial interview on “Fox News Sunday” defending Trump declaring a national emergency and repeating Trump’s rhetoric, while host Chris Wallace corrected his false statements.
  17. Wallace called Trump’s actions a “clear violation of what the founders” envisioned in giving Congress the power of the purse, and were unprecedented. Miller tried to change the subject and dodged answering.
  18. On Sunday, Axios reported according to a senior government official involved with the spending negotiations,Trump is willing to “go to the edge on everything” — a strategy the regime believes is a winning one.
  19. Goodloe Sutton, the editor of Alabama newspaper Democrat-Reporter, called for the KKK “to night ride again” in Washington D.C. “Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats [who] are plotting to raise taxes.”
  20. In his piece, “Klan needs to ride again,” Sutton also wrote, “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.” When asked about the lynching reference, Sutton replied “cleaning up D.C.”
  21. On Tuesday, Sutton was removed from the University of Southern Mississippi’s journalism Hall of Fame over his editorial.
  22. WAPO reported Enrique Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, stood behind Trump at his televised Miami rally Monday. Although Tarrio claimed he got there early, spots behind a speaker are typically hand-picked by staff.
  23. A sixth-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida faced misdemeanor charges after a confrontation with his teacher over his refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
  24. According to an affidavit, after the student said he thought the flag and the national anthem are “racist” against black people, the teacher told him if the U.S. is so bad he could go live somewhere else, then called the office.
  25. On Tuesday, fashion brand Burberry apologized after one of its models at London Fashion Week showcased an outfit with a hoodie that featured a noose around the neck, saying “it was insensitive and we made a mistake.”
  26. On Tuesday, NBC News reported on an alleged hate crime in Salt Lake City, Utah captured on video of a young man asking, “Are you gay, though?,” and when the other man responded, “Oh, I am,” he was punched.
  27. On Thursday, actor Jussie Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. In Week 116, Smollett falsely claimed he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack.
  28. Smollett had also claimed his attackers put a rope around his neck and said “this is MAGA country.”Celebrities, journalists, and 2020 Democratic hopefuls had rallied behind him, calling out the toxic political discourse.
  29. On Thursday, Trump tweeted in reaction, “@JussieSmollett — what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA.”
  30. On Friday, a principal of an elementary school in Ashburn, Virginia apologized after students were told to act as runaway slaves for a gym class exercise celebrating Black History Month.
  31. On Friday, Rep. Steve King said he would seek re-election, after being stripped of his congressional committee assignments, saying he has “nothing to apologize for,” and blaming the “dishonest” media.
  32. On Friday, the Trump regime announced a new federal rule which would block organizations which provide abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning funds under Title X.
  33. The move could strip millions in funding from organizations like Planned Parenthood, and direct funds instead to anti-abortion and faith based groups. The new federal rule is expected to be challenged in court.
  34. On Sunday, in an interview with “60 Minutes,” former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe said after Trump fired then FBI director James Comey, the FBI and Justice Department were thrown into turmoil.
  35. McCabe said Trump believed Putin over U.S. intelligence officials who told him North Korea had the capability to hit the U.S. with ballistic missiles. McCabe said Trump responded, “I don’t care. I believe Putin.”
  36. McCabe claimed he and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein were concerned about Trump’s motives, and that Trump had wanted Rosenstein to mention Russia in the Comey memo, but Rosenstein ultimately did not.
  37. McCabe claimed he pushed Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel, although Rosenstein had concerns with losing his job in doing so. McCabe said he believes he was fired over opening a case against Trump.
  38. On his firing, McCabe said “I believe I was fired because I opened a case” against Trump. McCabe was fired by former AG Jeff Sessions the day before he would have been able to collect his full pension.
  39. McCabe kept extensive contemporaneous memos describing conversations he had during the chaotic period after Comey was fired with Trump, Rosenstein, and others. The memos have been turned over to Mueller.
  40. On Monday, President’s Day, Trump tweeted, “Wow, so many lies by now disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe,” adding, “He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged.”
  41. Trump also tweeted, “He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act,” and “This was the illegal and treasonous “insurance policy” in full action!”
  42. Later on Monday, before going to play golf, Trump quoted Fox News regular Dan Bongino, tweeting, “This was an illegal coup attempt on the President of the United States,” and added: “True!”
  43. On Tuesday, Trump lashed out at McCabe, tweeting, “I never said anything bad about Andrew McCabe’s wife other than she (they)…took from a Crooked Hillary source when Clinton was under investigation by the FBI.”
  44. On Tuesday, McCabe said in an interview on the “Today” show that FBI officials briefed the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” in May 2017 that the FBI opened an investigation into Trump, and no one pushed back.
  45. On Wednesday, former congressman and Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy told Fox News that McCabe was not telling the truth that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Devin Nunes knew about the investigation.
  46. On Wednesday, AP reported soon after Comey was fired, McCabe instructed the FBI to come up with a backup plan to protect evidence in its Russia investigation in case other senior officials were dismissed.
  47. Mueller, appointed eight days after Comey was fired, participated in the discussion of preserving information on Trump associates and possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
  48. On Wednesday, Trump attacked McCabe again, quoting Fox Business host Lou Dobbs in a tweet: “Andrew McCabe gave absolutely no evidence of any threat to substantiate his ABSURD claim.”
  49. Trump also retweeted Fox New commentator Geraldo Rivera on McCabe saying, “A cabal of unelected bureaucrats-angered & upset that @realDonaldTrump fired their boss-whispered about overthrowing him.”
  50. On Monday, hundreds of activists in Washington D.C, Chicago, New York City, and dozens of other cities protested Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, calling it an abuse of power.
  51. On Monday, a coalition of 16 states, including California and New York, sued Trump over his use of a national emergency to siphon billions of dollars for his border wall, saying Congress controls spending.
  52. On Tuesday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the Supreme Court bench, reportedly looking strong. Friends say she is walking more than a mile a day and working out with her trainer twice a week.
  53. On Tuesday, Justice Clarence Thomas called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 First Amendment ruling making it hard for public officials to win libel suits.
  54. Thomas, writing only for himself as part of an opinion saying the court had correctly turned down a case of a Bill Cosby accuser, said the decision had no basis in the Constitution.
  55. On Tuesday, Trump again attacked fact checkers, tweeting, “the Washington Post is a Fact Checker only for the Democrats,” adding for Republicans, “for your all time favorite President, it is a Fake Fact Checker!”
  56. On Tuesday, Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann, 16, and his parents filed a defamation lawsuit against WAPO for $250 million alleging the paper failed to verify the context of the video.
  57. The lawsuit alleged, as a result, Sandmann has faced threats, bullying, and damage to his reputation, adding “[The Post] intended to harm Nicholas because he was a white, Catholic boy wearing a MAGA hat.”
  58. The lawsuit also claimed “The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against” Trump by impugning his supporters.
  59. On Wednesday, Trump lent his support, tweeting that passage from the lawsuit and adding, “Covington student suing WAPO. Go get them Nick. Fake News!”
  60. On Sunday, the Guardian reported Brittany Kaiser, the former business development director for Cambridge Analytica, has been subpoenaed by Mueller in the Trump-Russia probe.
  61. Kaiser is the second Cambridge Analytica employee to be questioned by Mueller’s team, following Sam Patten, who struck a plea deal. Kaiser has also testified before the U.K. Parliament in its investigation of Leave.EU.
  62. On Monday, a report released by the U.K. Parliament concluded Facebook knew about the Cambridge Analytica data breach, and “deliberately misled” the committee’s wide-ranging investigation into disinformation.
  63. The report stated: “Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like ‘digital gangsters’ in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law,” and called for a range of reforms.
  64. On Monday, in a letter to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, Reps. Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice expressed concern about NRA efforts to distance itself from a trip to Moscow in 2015 by high-ranking officials reported in Week 116.
  65. The NRA magazine American Rifleman March edition featured a photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, a gun control advocate who was shot in 2011, next to an article titled, “Target Practice.”
  66. On Monday, Roger Stone posted a photo of Judge Amy Berman Jackson with her name and what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun sight near her head, on Instagram.
  67. Stone then deleted the post, and reposted it without the crosshairs, before deleting it again. Stone claimed to WAPO in a text message that the photo had been posted by a volunteer who runs his social media.
  68. Stone then posted a message on Instagram: “The photo has been misinterpreted and in no way did I mean to threaten the judge or disrespect the court. [It] is a random photo selected from the Internet.”
  69. Stone later claimed on InfoWars that the crosshairs was an “occult symbol” and blamed the “fake news” for targeting him. Later Monday, Stone’s attorneys formally apologized for the post in an evening court filing.
  70. On Tuesday, Judge Berman said in a filing she will hold a hearing on Thursday, and Stone must “show cause . . . as to why…his conditions of release should not be modified or revoked” in light of his posts.
  71. On Thursday, Judge Berman ruled Stone may not speak publicly about the investigation or case against him, warning if he violated the full gag order, other than raising money for his defense, he would be sent to prison.
  72. Stone had claimed to be under severe emotional and financial strain, saying, “I’m sorry that I abused your trust,” and “I’m heartfully sorry,” adding, “the “lapse of judgment was an outgrowth of the extreme stress.”
  73. When the judge pressed Stone for names of his volunteers, he mentioned Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys group who sat behind Trump at his speech this week in Miami.
  74. A NYT analysis found Trump has publicly attacked people and groups related to federal inquiries into his campaign’s contacts with Russians nearly 1,200 times, including 361 attacks on the special counsel alone.
  75. The attacks have come through tweets, official speeches, rallies, and during news media interviews and other press events, and are part of Trump’s efforts to beat back the investigations.
  76. On Tuesday, NYT reported in addition to the public efforts to attack federal investigations, in the past two years, Trump has had numerous other previously unreported attempts to scuttle the investigations.
  77. Trump called acting attorney general Matt Whitaker and asked whether Trump ally Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the SDNY, could be put in charge of the investigation into hush money payments.
  78. Whitaker, who had privately told associates part of his role was to “jump on a grenade” for Trump, knew he could not do it because Berman had already recused himself. Shortly after, Trump soured on Whitaker.
  79. Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee in Week 117 that Trump had never pressured him over investigations. Trump responded to the Times reporting, saying “There’s a lot of fake news out there. No, I didn’t.”
  80. In July 2017, Trump allies Reps. Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan came up with a strategy of going on the offensive to make Mueller appear deeply unfair and politically biased, and started to investigate the investigators.
  81. The two called for a second special counsel. Rep. Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, opened investigations into highly sensitive government investigative files, including part of the Russia inquiry.
  82. In April 2018, Trump brought in Rudy Giuliani, known to be a television attack dog, as part of an aggressive public relations campaign to undermine the credibility of both Mueller and the DOJ.
  83. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “The Press has never been more dishonest than it is today. Stories are written that have absolutely no basis in fact,” adding, “they are totally out of control.”
  84. Trump also tweeted related to the NYT reporting, “The New York Times reporting is false. They are a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!
  85. On Wednesday, NYT publisher A. G. Sulzberger said in a statement, “In demonizing the free press as the enemy… Trump is retreating from a distinctly American principle…that previous occupants of the Oval Office fiercely defended.”
  86. Sulzberger also said, “As I have repeatedly told President Trump face to face, there are mounting signs that this incendiary rhetoric is encouraging threats and violence against journalists at home and abroad.”
  87. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Christopher Paul Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant and white nationalist, was arrested after federal investigators found a cache of weapons and ammunition for planned terrorism.
  88. Prosecutors said Hasson was obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views. Hasson called for establishing “a white homeland” and said, “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.”
  89. Hasson had been amassing supplies and weapons since at least 2017, and had put together a spreadsheet of targets including high-profile Democrats and cable TV hosts on CNN and MSNBC.
  90. Hasson’s list included Speaker Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Kamala Harris, and Sen. Cory Booker — all of whom Trump has publicly attacked.
  91. Hasson compiled the spreadsheet after internet searches: “what if trump illegally impeached,” “best place in dc to see congress people,” “where in dc to congress live,” “civil war if trump impeached,” and “social democrats usa.”
  92. Hasson, who worked at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington D.C. since 2016, had been studying the 1,500-page manifesto of right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway.
  93. On Thursday, Joe diGenova, a frequent Fox News guest, told Laura Ingraham on her podcast, “we are in a civil war,” adding “and as I say to my friends, I do two things — I vote and I buy guns.”
  94. After tweeting about the cases of Nick Sandmann and Jussie Smollett, Trump and the regime remained silent on Hasson and his plot to kill prominent Democrats and journalists for days.
  95. On Friday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said there was no need for Trump to tone down his rhetoric, saying he is “typically one of the first people to condemn the violence,” and the media blames him.
  96. On Friday, when asked by reporters if his rhetoric played a role in Hasson’s planned attacks, he responded, “No, I don’t,” adding, “I think my language is very nice.”
  97. Trump also said “it’s a very sad thing when a thing like that happens,” but did not condemn Hasson. Trump claimed he would get a full briefing on the case later in the day, although the arrest occurred on Feb 15.
  98. Later Friday, Trump tweeted “Fake News is so bad for our Country!,” quoting a derogatory cartoon of CNN host Wolf Blitzer which called him a “DESPERATE FARCE!”
  99. On Friday, former RNC chair Michael Steele said, “Why would we be surprised that a self-proclaimed nationalist would not speak out against a self-proclaimed white nationalist?” adding: “These are his people.”
  100. On Tuesday, WAPO reported the Office of Government Ethics ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated his ethics agreement by inaccurately reporting he sold all stock, including shares of BankUnited.
  101. In a letter, Emory Rounds, director of the OGE, wrote, “Therefore, OGE is declining to certify Secretary Ross’s 2018 financial disclosure report.” Observers called the move highly unusual.
  102. On Tuesday, Politico reported according to 800 pages of emails provided by watchdog group American Oversight, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao met at least 10 times with people referred by her husband, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
  103. Chao met with politicians and business leaders from Kentucky in response to requests from Senate Leader McConnell’s office. Some attendees benefited from the meetings, including receiving infrastructure grants and state funds for a highway project.
  104. On Tuesday, Politico reported House and Senate Democrats said the Trump regime tried to remove Sandra Bruce, acting Education Department inspector general, over an investigation of Secretary Betsy Devos.
  105. Bruce was asked to reconsider an investigation into DeVos reinstating the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. When she said no, Trump named a department deputy to replace her, but later reversed.
  106. On Tuesday, deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, the only White House spokesperson other than Sarah Sanders to work for Trump since he took office, announced she would depart in April to join a public relations firm.
  107. On Wednesday, CNN reported after Trump’s private complaints, White House officials have begun preliminary discussions about finding a replacement for Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
  108. Reportedly, Trump spent the holiday weekend at Mar-a-Lago venting about Coats over his Congressional testimony and his statements contradicting Trump on North Korea. Trump denied the rift to reporters.
  109. On Wednesday, when asked by reporters about the regime’s push to decriminalize homosexuality around by world led by Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Trump responded, “I don’t know.”
  110. On Wednesday, BuzzFeed reported although Trump had tweeted that he ordered FEMA cut off disaster aid to wildfire victims in California in Week 113, a FEMA spokesperson said, “We never got any such directive.”
  111. On Wednesday, Jessica Denson, a former Trump campaign staffer, filed a class action lawsuit seeking to invalidate all nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements campaign staffers were forced to sign.
  112. On Wednesday, NYT reported according to a White House memo dated February 14, the regime is preparing to convene a climate panel as a way to question the science of climate change.
  113. The 12-member committee will include a White House adviser, William Happer, a climate denialist, and will be part of the regime’s efforts to justify rolling back Obama-era regulations to protect the environment.
  114. On Wednesday, Politico reported Bill Wehrum, Trump’s top air pollution regulator, previously worked extensively with the power industry to coordinate a strategy to take on Obama-era regulations.
  115. Politico obtained 26 pages of briefing materials distributed to a secretive group, including some of the largest coal-burning utilities in the country. Wehrum represented the group while at the firm Hunton & Williams.
  116. Funders of the group included Duke Energy, Southern Co., and AEP. Wehrum made $2.1 million from his partnership share in the group in his last year alone. He now has access to high-level EPA officials.
  117. A government report published this week revealed Trump’s EPA filed a Pesticide Emergency Exemption to allow various pesticides, including sulfoxaflor, on millions of acres of grain and cotton across 18 states.
  118. The Center for Biological Diversity condemned the decision, saying, “spraying 16 million acres of bee-attractive crops with a bee-killing pesticide in a time of global insect decline is beyond the pale,” saying the spray is “very highly toxic” to bees.
  119. On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee released a report based on internal White House documents and whistleblowers’ accounts, revealing the Trump regime planned nuclear sales to Saudi Arabia.
  120. Key Trump regime players, including then NSA Michael Flynn, pushed a plan to sell nuclear power plants in the months after the inauguration, despite objections from the National Security Council.
  121. White House lawyers also opposed the plan citing concerns that the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology violated laws to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology that could be used for a weapons program.
  122. The report cited continued discussions as recently as last week in an Oval Office meeting with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, along with NSC and State Department officials, and a dozen nuclear industry chief executives.
  123. The report also cited one power plant manufacturer who could benefit is Westinghouse Electric, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, which provided Jared Kushner the refinancing for 666 Fifth Avenue.
  124. On Friday, Bloomberg reported Kushner Cos. is in talks with federally-owned lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to seek financing for its biggest purchase in a decade.
  125. Kushner Cos. discussed $1.15 billion of financing to purchase apartments in Maryland and Virginia. At the time Kushner took on a role in the White House, the company had roughly $500 million from the lenders.
  126. Kusher claimed to be walled off from Kushner Org. The Federal Housing Finance Agency is run by Trump appointee Joseph Otting, who formerly was the CEO of a small bank founded by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
  127. On Friday, prosecutors began presenting evidence to a closed-door grand jury in Washington D.C. on whetherformer interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied to the department’s inspector general’s office last year.
  128. The case involved the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ effort to run a gambling facility in Connecticut. MGM Resorts International, a competitor, launched a lobbying effort to oppose the plan.
  129. The tribes allege Zinke did not grant their application due to political pressure. The department IG launchedan investigation, which was later referred to the DOJ after Zinke allegedly lied to them.
  130. On Friday, Trump nominated Kelly Knight Craft, who currently serves as U.S. ambassador to Canada, as U.N. ambassador, to fill a vacancy left by Nikki Haley after Nauert dropped out earlier in the week.
  131. Craft is the wife of Kentucky billionaire coal baron Joe Craft, who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. Both served on the finance committee for Trump’s inaugural, and are donors to Speaker Mitch McConnell.
  132. On Monday, NBC News reported with William Barr’s confirmation as AG, Rosenstein will likely be stepping down in three weeks. Rosenstein has defended the Mueller probe and DOJ from Trump and the GOP.
  133. On Wednesday, CNN reported AG Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of Mueller’s Russia probe, with Barr planning to submit a confidential summary to Congress soon after.
  134. The preparations are the clearest indication to date that Mueller is nearing the end of his team’s two-year investigation. It is unclear the scope of what will be sent by Barr to Congress, and what will be made public.
  135. On Friday, a senior Justice Department official said, despite reporting from multiple media outlets, the report will not be delivered next week. Instead, DOJ officials expect to receive a report from Mueller in March.
  136. On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee chair Elijah Cummings said Michael Cohen would testify before his committee February 27 on topics including Trump’s debts and payments to influence the 2016 election.
  137. The House Oversight hearings will be public and not cover matters related to Russia. Cohen will also appear in private deposition-style interviews next week with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
  138. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported after the 2016 election, Deutsche Bank considered extending the maturity of about $340 million in loans to Trump to 2025, over fear he might default while in office.
  139. Members of the bank’s management board, including then Chief Executive Officer John Cryan, wereconcerned about the impact on the bank’s reputation if Trump defaulted while in office.
  140. The loans under consideration included $125 million for Trump National Doral Miami resort which matured in 2023, as well as a $170 million for Trump Hotel DC and a loan against a Chicago tower, both due in 2024.
  141. In the four years leading up to the election, Trump borrowed $620 million from Deutsche Bank, while other banks had stopped doing business with him as a result of multiple bankruptcies.
  142. On Tuesday, Microsoft revealed it has uncovered another Russian government-affiliated operation targeting prominent think tanks that have been critical of Russia. It is the second operation identified in six months.
  143. Microsoft identified spear-phishing attacks tied to the Fancy Bear hacking group, a unit of Russian military intelligence that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. The attacks took place in the last three months of 2018.
  144. On Wednesday, Politico reported that data from Twitter and other social media platforms, as well as interviews with experts, suggests a “sustained and ongoing” disinformation attack on Democratic presidential candidates.
  145. The attacks from foreign state actors is a mix of organized and organic. The four main targets are 2020 candidates Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
  146. On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his annual “state of the nation” speech that there is a “deep state” in the U.S. government working against Trump.
  147. Putin also made one of his most explicit threats yet after the U.S. pulled out of the the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying Russia will target the U.S. if it deploys nuclear missiles in Europe.
  148. On Thursday, CNN reported the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to question Moscow-based businessman David Geovanis who has longstanding ties to Trump, and who worked for Oleg Deripaska.
  149. Geovanis helped organize a 1996 trip to Moscow for Trump related to Trump Tower Moscow. A video on that trip shows Trump, Geovanis, Howard Lorber, and Bennett LeBow meeting with Moscow’s deputy mayor.
  150. Lorber was identified in Week 116 as one of the Trump family associates who spoke with Donald Jr. from a blocked number around the time of the June 9 Trump Tower meeting.
  151. On Thursday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ripped the Republican National Committee for going to extraordinary lengths to shield Trump from a primary challenge, saying, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
  152. On Thursday, the New Jersey state senate passed a bill that would keep Trump off the 2020 ballot unless he releases his tax returns. The bill is expected to pass the Assembly and be signed by Democratic governor.
  153. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 30 state assemblies have introduced similar legislation, but failed to enact it. New Jersey would become the first to pass it.
  154. On Thursday, the North Carolina election board voted unanimously to order a new election, throwing out the result in which Republican Mark Harris won by 905 votes, citing widespread ballot tampering.
  155. An email released to the public on Thursday shows that Harris requested a meeting with the operative, McCrae Dowless, in March 2017. Harris admitted he was mistaken under oath and called for a new election.
  156. Republicans led by Trump have been alleging widespread voter fraud, including an investigation in NCreported in Week 116 of noncitizens — NC district 9 is the first actual voter fraud, and led by Republicans.
  157. On Thursday, the Miami Herald reported a federal judge ruled that federal prosecutors, under then Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, broke the law by concealing a plea agreement from more than 30 victims of Jeffrey Epstein.
  158. The judge said Acosta allowed Epstein to quietly plead guilty to two state prostitution charges, rather than face federal sex trafficking laws. Epstein’s accomplices were not charged, and many have not been identified.
  159. The judge did not throw out the plea agreement, but gave federal prosecutors 15 days to confer with attorneys for the then-underage victims to come up with a settlement.
  160. On Friday, press secretary Sanders said the White House is “looking into” Secretary of Labor Acosta’s role in the Epstein case, adding, “my understanding is it is a very complicated case.”
  161. On Friday, House Democrats introduced a resolution to block Trump’s national emergency declaration. House Speaker Pelosi said the House would vote on the measure Tuesday where it is likely to pass.
  162. In the Senate, Sen. Susan Collins said she would vote to block Trump, and a handful of other may do the same over various concerns. Trump told reporters Friday, “Will I veto it? 100 percent.”
  163. On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello told the National Governors Association that Trump refused to meet with him over hurricane relief, saying, “There is no movement. We really need action right now.”
  164. On Friday, the White House denied that Trump refused to meet with Rossello, telling The Hill, “We continue to have ongoing discussions with the governor about recovery efforts.”
  165. Rossello said FEMA “has been slow, they’ve put obstacles in Puerto Rico that they haven’t placed anywhereelse in the United States,” and said he hoped to meet with Trump when governors visit the White House Monday.
  166. On Friday, Reuters reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid out $7.7 billion in trade aid to farmers so far to offset the impact of Trump’s tariffs. Trump has pledged aid of up to $12 billion.
  167. On Friday, Politico reported that Trump aides have privately expressed concern that he will get outfoxed by Kim Jong Un in their second summit to be held February 27 and 28.
  168. Concern has been voiced from hawkish NSA John Bolton, and by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has expressed frustration to allies about the lack of diplomatic progress, and worry that Trump will be outmaneuvered.
  169. The regime has sought to downplay expectations. Aides are concerned that similar to the first summit, Trump will publicly declare victory, and make big concessions in exchange for empty promises of denuclearization.
  170. On Friday, Italian MPs demanded information on claims that Putin had agreed to a request from Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party to covertly finance his Euro election campaign.
  171. According to reporting made in Italy’s L’Espresso magazine, payments would be concealed behind what appeared to be a diesel fuel deal to an Italian oil company.
  172. On Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was condemned by condemned by top members of Israel’s Congress, AIPAC, and AJC, for forming a deal with the far-right, racist Otzma Yehudit party.
  173. On Friday, Patriots owner and longtime Trump friend Robert Kraft was charged as part of a wide-ranging investigation into prostitution and suspected human trafficking in Jupiter, Florida.
  174. On Friday, when asked by reporters about Kraft, Trump said he was “surprised to see it,” but that Kraft “has denied it.” Trump also called it a “very sad” situation.
  175. On Friday, Bloomberg reported New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has put together a criminal case against Paul Manafort which could be filed quickly if Trump gives him a presidential pardon.
  176. Vance is reportedly ready to file an array of criminal charges including tax evasion and violations of state laws requiring companies to keep accurate books and records — without triggering double jeopardy protections.
  177. On Friday, in a court filing, Mueller’s team denied Stone’s claim that federal investigators tipped off CNN ahead of the raid, saying the indictment was ordered to be automatically unsealed upon Stone’s arrest.
  178. The filing says the indictment was posted on the office’s website shortly after the FBI raid: “public release of the indictment shortly after the defendant’s arrest was consistent with the order sealing the indictment.”
  179. Mueller’s team also refuted that deputy Andrew Weissmann’s initials were in the metadata of the indictment, saying, “metadata merely shows when the document was created, not when the document was released.”
  180. On Friday, NYT reported Cohen met with federal prosecutors in Manhattan last month and offered new information on the Trump Organization and Imaad Zuberi, a donor to the inaugural committee.
  181. Cohen, who worked for the Trump family business for a decade, provided information on insurance claims the company filed by the Trump Organization. The nature of the irregularities of the claims was unclear.
  182. Zuberi, who donated $900,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, around the time wrote a $100,000 check to Cohen who was building a consulting business. A spokesperson for Zuberi said the check was not cashed.
  183. On Saturday, Mueller’s sentencing memo for Manafort to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, submitted to the court late Friday, was publicly released. The redacted memo was 25 pages, with over 800 pages of attachments.
  184. While the sentencing memo did not make a specific recommendation on sentencing, prosecutors noted that federal guidelines call for a sentence of 17 to 22 years in prison.
  185. Mueller’s team called Manafort a “hardened” criminal who “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law,” from “garden-variety crimes,” to “more esoteric laws” involving foreign lobbying.
  186. Manafort lied to “tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice National Security Division, the FBI, the Special Counsel’s Office, the grand jury, his own legal counsel, Members of Congress, and members of the executive branch.”
  187. Mueller’s team also noted Manafort lied to investigators after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate,revealing “a hardened adherence to committing crimes and lack of remorse.”
  188. On Saturday, in his annual letter to shareholders, Warren Buffet faulted Trump with taking credit when the economy does well, calling it “beyond arrogance,” and lamented the dearth of deals with Trump’s global policies.
  189. The condominium board of a building named ‘Trump Place’ on 120 Riverside Blvd. in Manhattan voted Thursday to have his name removed from the facade, the second building to do so in the past four months.

The Weekly List podcast is here! You can find more information here by clicking here.

THE LIST — weeks 1–52 of The Weekly List is out as a book! You can order your copy by clicking here.

SILVER SPRING, MD — FEBRUARY 21: In this undated handout photo provided by U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland, the collection of weapons and ammunition federal agents say they found in Christopher Paul Hasson’s Silver Spring apartment are shown in Maryland. A member of the U.S. Coast Guard, 49-year-old Hasson, was arrested on weapons and drugs violations and is accused of plotting a major terror attack against Americans.

LAHORE , PAKISTAN 🇵🇰: ODD JOBS

A beggar sits on the sidewalk in front of a Pakistan Flag mural early in the morning.

Boys go to an fro transporting things on a donkey cart.

Checking his phone…

Bikes are for more than just riding.

It’s mango season and some men are grabbing some to take home after work on a Friday evening.

July2018. Lahore , Pakistan 🇵🇰

POLITIKS OF GRAFFITI 67: “INCONTROVERTIBLE” ~ RUSSIA INTERFERED WITH THE 2016 ELECTION

Week 66 of this presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

February 17, 2018 https://medium.com/@Amy_Siskind/week-66-experts-in-authoritarianism-advise-to-keep-a-list-of-things-subtly-changing-around-you-so-a3c69c829741

For the first time in quite a while, this week Trump had no control over the narrative. What was supposed to be his Infrastructure Week, was quickly supplanted by the Rob Porter scandal, which carried over from Week 65 and escalated, highlighting the Trump White House dysfunction. Another mass shooting shook the country and left Trump and his regime flat-footed ahead of bombshell indictments unsealed by Mueller against Russians on Friday.

The indictments highlight what heads of US intelligence unanimously agreed to in Senate hearings, and what H.R. McMaster called “incontrovertible” — that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s continued denial of Russian meddling leaves him in an isolated and untenable position, as the country awaits his response to Russia.

Of note, this week there was push-back from inspector generals, watchdog groups, and the judicial branch against the regime’s kleptocracy and corruption — some of the first signs of accountability.

IMG_8552
by Consumerart in the East Village, NYC ~ Feb2018
  1. NBC News reported Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand resigned due to her frustration that key positions in her jurisdiction were unfilled, and her concern that Rod Rosenstein’s job was in danger and she would assume oversight of the Russia probe.
  2. On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, Mick Mulvaney, and Marc Short appeared on Sunday shows to defend the White House’s handling of the Rob Porter abuse allegations. Mulvaney’s timeline on “Face the Nation” was differentthan John Kelly’s version.
  3. When asked if Hope Hicks was in danger dating Porter, Conway said “I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.” Porter’s first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, responded in an op-ed about domestic abuse.
  4. On Tuesday, Politico reported in the hours after Daily Mail broke the story about Porter’s abuse, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hastily arranged an off-the-record meeting between Porter and four reporters to tell his side of the story.
  5. On Sunday, WAPO reported under Trump ICE arrests have surged by 40%. The biggest jump has been arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions: 37,734 arrests in fiscal 2017, more than doubling 2016’s arrests.
  6. Street-level ICE officers and field directors have greater latitude to determine whom they arrest and under what conditions. Trump officials call it taking “the shackles off,” and happily report morale is up at ICE.
  7. Houston Chronicle reported Carlos Gudiel Andres, husband and father of five, was arrested early morning while packing his tools for work, the latest case of ICE targeting predominantly Hispanic apartment complexes.
  8. Community members held a rally in CT for Zhe Long Huang and Xiang Jin Li, known as “Kris and Tony,” who face deportation to China. The couple, who own a local nail salon, fear being separated from their two sons.
  9. In Kansas, ICE handcuffed a chemistry professor, Syed A. Jamal, who has been in the US for 30 years, as he was leaving to drive his daughter to school. Jamal, who coached kids in science and sports, awaits deportation.
  10. In Phoenix, ICE was set to deport Jesus Armando Berrones-Balderas, a father of five who has lived in the US since he was one and has a son battling cancer. After media coverage, ICE granted him a one-year stay.
  11. Toronto Star reported US Border Patrol is boarding buses and trains within 100 miles of Canada and asking passengers if they are citizens. A 1953 law gives the patrol the right to do this within 100 miles of our borders.
  12. On Tuesday, BuzzFeed reported Raphael Sanchez, while chief counsel for ICE in Seattle, stole the identities of multiple immigrants while their immigration cases were under review.
  13. Sanchez pleaded guilty to using the immigrants’ information to open up credit cards and loans in their names, taking payments of more than $190,000 from the false accounts. He resigned from the agency.
  14. Reuters reported the Trump regime is considering closing more than 20 US resettlement offices, and cutting back operations at more than 40 others as part of the State Department’s plan to reduce the number of refugees allowed in.
  15. On Tuesday, a second judge, US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, ruled DACA could not end in March, saying the regime could eventually rescind DACA, but the reasons given in September were too arbitrary to stand.
  16. Vox analyzed the hiring records for three Trump properties in New York and Florida and found only one out of 144 jobs went to a US worker from 2016 to the end of 2017. The rest were foreign workers under H-2B visas.
  17. Jocelyn Morfii, an elementary school teacher at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Miami for seven years, was fired after marrying a woman. The principal said it was “difficult and necessary decision.”
  18. USA Today reported that 92% of Trump’s federal judge nominees are white. Of the 87 picks so far, just one is African American, one is Hispanic, and five are Asian American.
  19. Boston Globe reported Charles Johnson, a 29 year-old who questions if six million Jews died in the Holocaust, argues black people are “dumber” than white people, and is part of white supremacist circles, has found mainstream acceptance working for a pro-Trump super PAC in DC.
  20. On Sunday, Rick Blood, the GOP deputy mayor of Mendham, ex-Gov. Chris Christie’s hometown, published a Facebook post comparing immigrants to raccoons in the basement, and lauded Trump as the exterminator.
  21. Blood deleted the post, which was a version of a post circulating on conservative blogs since early 2016. On Monday he faced Mendham residents, and then, after a township committee meeting, resigned.
  22. On Monday, Brandon Defrain, GOP chair in Bay County, Michigan resigned his post and from the party. In a Facebook post he said “I can no longer remain silent” about Trump, citing racism, hatred, and violation of civil rights.
  23. Lissa Luca, a Democratic candidate in West Virginia’s House of Delegates, was forcibly escorted out after using a public hearing on the House floor to list the donations GOP lawmakers had received from the oil and gas industry.
  24. On Monday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, led by acting director Mulvaney, dropped its lawsuit against Golden Valley Lending, a payday lender that allegedly charged people interest rates of up to 950 percent.
  25. On Monday, is a speech to the National Sheriffs Association, Sessions broke from his prepared written remarks — “The sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage” — to instead invoke the “Anglo-American heritage.”
  26. On Thursday, the US appeals court in Virginia said Trump’s Muslim Ban was probably unconstitutional, putting it on hold pending Supreme Court review. Trump’s comments and tweets were reviewed in the case.
  27. On Thursday, the House voted to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act, to require written notice of violations, and giving businesses 60 days to come up with a plan and an additional 60 days to take action.
  28. On Thursday, Planned Parenthood and eight other groups sued Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services, saying the agency unlawfully canceled their five-year grants for teen pregnancy prevention midstream and with no explanation
  29. Heath Hall, the Federal Railroad Administration’s acting chief since June, resigned following another deadly Amtrak crash. Politico reported Hall was simultaneously working as a public relations consultant in Mississippi.
  30. Trump’s pick to run the Census Bureau, Thomas Brunell, a deeply partisan professor with no government experience who had defended racial gerrymandering and voter suppression, withdrew from consideration.
  31. According to data obtained by McClatchy, the State Department is promoting 50% fewer people into the first levels of senior Foreign Service positions, creating a crisis for the future diplomatic corps and a leadership vacuum.
  32. The Trump regime has also proposed another steep cut in the diplomatic budget of more than 25%, raising concerns the regime is intentionally undercutting the department’s work and US influence in the world.
  33. According to WAPO in partnership with Partnership for Public Service, after 13 months in office, Trump has yet to put forth a nominee for 1 in 3 key roles in the executive branch: 225 of 636 positions have no nominee.
  34. On Sunday, Politico reported Rep. Devin Nunes created his own alternative news site. The website, “The California Republican,” is paid for by Nunes’ campaign committee, and is classified on Facebook as a “media/news company.”
  35. On Sunday, WAPO reported based on information obtained under the FOIA, unlike his predecessors, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt travels first-class and on military jets, and stays at very high-end hotels, costing taxpayers tens of thousands.
  36. Pruitt also tends to bring a larger entourage of political advisers on his trips than past administrators, and rarely discloses his schedule in advance citing “security concerns” and that it could be a “distraction.”
  37. NYT reported that a $225,000 donation resulted in special treatment for Fitzgerald trucks, as Pruitt helped the company secure a pollution loophole that Obama tried to close, and the Trump regime is championing.
  38. A federal court ruled Trump’s Department of Energy must implement four Obama-era energy efficiency regulations, which have been delayed for more than a year, saying failure is “a violation of the department’s duties.”
  39. The Veterans Affairs inspector general found Secretary David Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email and made false statements to justify having taxpayers cover expenses for his wife on a 10-day trip to Europe.
  40. The inspector general also found Shulkin improperly accepted tickets to Wimbledon worth thousands of dollars and other gifts, and directed an aide to act as a “personal travel concierge” to him and his wife.
  41. On Thursday, Shulkin refused to resign, instead saying his chief of staff’s email account had been hacked: “We’ve seen that somebody is impersonating her, and we have to fully investigate that.”
  42. NYT reported the FCC inspector general opened an investigation by the end of 2017 into whether commissioner Ajit Pai and his aides improperlypushed for rule changes which benefitted Sinclair Broadcasting.
  43. AT&T will seek testimony from the Department of Justice’s antitrust chief, in exploring whether Trump influenced the department’s decision to block the company’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner to retaliate at CNN.
  44. WAPO tabulated that in Trump’s first 13 months in office, more than 40% (9 out of 22) of the people he originally picked for Cabinet-level jobs have faced ethical or other controversies.
  45. On Thursday, the Trump regime agreed to settle a pending lawsuit by nonprofit group Public Citizen filed last August, and will post visitor logs for some White House offices, including Office of Management and Budget and the drug czar’s office.
  46. On Sunday, the day before the White House released its 2019 budget,Mulvaney told “Fox News Sunday” that the US will post a larger budget deficit this year and could see a “spike” in interest rates as a result.
  47. On Monday, Trump unveiled his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan which his aides told Axios is not expected to pass, and his $4 trillion budget which his aides said reads like “science fiction.”
  48. The aides told Axios Trump’s real focus in 2018 is “looking for opportunities to stir up the base” — “unexpected cultural flashpoints” like the NFL and kneeling that Trump can latch onto in person and on Twitter.
  49. As part of the infrastructure plan, Trump would give Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke the unilateral power to approve construction of pipelines through national parks. Currently, construction requires an act of Congress.
  50. Also as part of the infrastructure plan, the Trump regime wants to sell off or privatize a broad array of government assets, including the Reagan National Airport and the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
  51. As part of the budget, the Trump regime wants to shake-up the SNAP program (food stamps). Under the regime’s proposal, recipients would get half their benefits in a “USDA Foods package” determined by the regime.
  52. The package includes “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables,” but not fresh produce. The regime says it will save $129 million over 10 years with these limitations.
  53. Trump’s budget also proposed ending federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides some funds to PBS and NPR. PBS CEO Paula Kerger said this would result in closing some local PBS stations.
  54. On Wednesday, Mulvaney told a congressional panel Trump’s military parade could cost up to $30 million, but it is not included in the budget because it came up late.
  55. On Tuesday, in Senate testimony, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the nation’s debt, likely to escalate with the Republican’s $1.5 trillion tax cut and other fiscal measures, “represents a dire threat to our economic and national security.”
  56. AP reported the amount of money spent lobbying by corporations, trade associations, and special interest groups spiked in the final months of 2017, in the battle for tax breaks in the Republican tax bill.
  57. The GOP tax bill was mostly written in private. Watchdog group Public Citizens reported more than 4,600 lobbyists were engaged specifically on the tax rewrite, an average of 13 lobbyists for every member of Congress.
  58. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “4.2 million hard working Americans have already received a large Bonus and/or Pay Increase.” This is false. A survey found less than 2% of America benefited from the GOP tax law.
  59. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania announced a directive for counties replacing electronic voting systems to buy machines with a paper backup, citing hackers scanned voter registration databases in the 2016 election.
  60. Foreign Policy reported BuzzFeed has hired Anthony Ferrante, who works for FTI Consulting and is a former FBI and National Security Council cybersecurity expert, to lead a team in verifying the Steele dossier.
  61. BuzzFeed is being sued for libel by Russian technology executive Aleksej Gubarev who claims the website was reckless in publishing the dossier. A source said of BuzzFeed’s strategy: “If it’s fact, it’s not libel, that’s the idea.”
  62. On Monday, Russia news agency Tass was again the first to report a telephone conversation between Trump and Putin. According to Tass, the content discussed had to do with diplomacy in the Middle East.
  63. On Monday, Putin hosted Palestinian President Abbas in Moscow and reportedly told him Trump coveys “his best wishes.” Reuters reportedAbbas told Putin he wants the US peace role diluted.
  64. On Monday, CNN reported Sens. Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham sent a letter to former National Security Adviser Susan Rice asking why she sent an email to herself the day of Trump’s inauguration about an Oval Office meeting on Russian interference.
  65. The email details a January 5 meeting attended by Rice, Obama, James Comey, Sally Yates, and Joe Biden. Obama stressed he wanted every aspect handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities “by the book.”
  66. In January, Comey, James Clapper, John Brennan, and Mike Rogers released a public report saying Russia meddled in the election to help Trump win. Obama was also briefed on conversations between Michael Flynn and Sergey Kislyak.
  67. The email states: “Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.” The email was sent at 12:15 p.m., just minutes before Obama left office.
  68. On Tuesday, leaders of the US intelligence agencies testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. DNI Coats warned, “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”
  69. Leaders laid out the challenges which include the flow of Russian misinformation and shoring up defenses of electoral systems. Almost every state is taking steps to protect voter databases and election equipment.
  70. Coats said, “We need to inform the American public that this is real,” adding, “there needs to be a national cry for that.” Trump continues to deny that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, calling it “a hoax.”
  71. Sen. Jack Reed asked the leaders if Trump has directed them to take “specific actions to confront and to blunt” Russian interference activities. All are taking some actions, but none have been specifically directed by Trump.
  72. On Wednesday, WAPO reported at the behest of Trump in April, Don McGahn called Dana Boente at DOJ and tried to get him to persuade Comey to publicly state Trump was not personally under investigation in the Russia probe.
  73. McGahn’s office has also reportedly prepared a detailed reconstruction of the 18 days between the time of Yates’s warning and Flynn’s firing, and turned the document over to Mueller for his review.
  74. On Thursday, CNN reported Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with Mueller, indicating he will become the third regime member to cooperatein the investigation. The plea negotiations had been ongoing for about a month.
  75. Gates has already had a “Queen for a Day” interview, in which he can answer any questions about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed, and not have it used against him if he cooperates.
  76. On Friday, as part of the wrangling over Paul Manafort’s bail, Mueller’s team told a federal judge they have found evidence of “additional criminal conduct” by Manafort not addressed in their indictment last October.
  77. Mueller’s filing shows Manafort obtained a mortgage using “doctored profit and loss statements” which overstated his consulting company’s income “by millions of dollars.” There are also references to “conspiracies,” suggesting that someone beyond Manafort was involved in the fraud.
  78. NBC News released, in a public database, more than 200,000 malicious activity tweets created by Russian-linked accounts during the 2016 presidential race, which were deleted by Twitter.
  79. Russia threatened to block YouTube and Instagram if they did not removecontent posted by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and deputy prime minister Sergei Prikhodko on Deripaska’s yacht.
  80. On Thursday, Steve Bannon told the House Intelligence Committee he has been instructed by the White House to invoke executive privilege on behalf of Trump, saying he could only answer 25 pre-approved questions on the Russia investigation.
  81. Rep. Adam Schiff said Bannon’s claim of executive privilege is “breathtaking and insupportable.” He added Democrats will push for initiating contempt charges against Bannon, but it is unclear if Republicans will go along.
  82. On Thursday, NBC News reported Bannon spent 20 hours with Mueller’s team at multiple meetings over the past week as part of the investigation of Russian interference and other issues that have arisen in the probe.
  83. Daily Beast reported Mark Corallo, former legal spokesperson for Trump, was interviewed this week by Mueller. In Week 64, Corallo was said to be planning to share information relating to obstruction of justice.
  84. FBI director Christopher Wray contradicted the White House timeline on Porter. Wray said the FBI submitted a partial report to the White House in March, completed it in late July, and followed up in November with additional information requested by the White House, before closing the file in January.
  85. Later Tuesday, the White House again changed its story on Porter: Sanders said the White House Office of Personnel Security didn’t consider the investigation complete until November, and it had not made a final determination thereafter.
  86. On Tuesday, at the Senate hearings, Coats said officials with an interim clearance should have limited access to sensitive information. He called the security clearance process in Trump’s White House “broken.”
  87. On Tuesday, Rep. Trey Gowdy announced the House Oversight Committee has opened an investigation into Trump’s employment of Porter, and what White House officials knew about domestic abuse accusations against him.
  88. On Tuesday, WAPO reported many White House staffers feel misled and blame chief of staff John Kelly. One White House official called Kelly “a big fat liar,” and added, “his handling of the Porter scandal amounts to dereliction of duty.”
  89. There is also infighting as press secretary Sanders and her deputy Raj Shah echoed Vice President Pence saying the White House could have been handled this better, while Kelly disagrees, telling the WSJ Monday, “It was all done right.”
  90. WAPO’s Philip Rucker, a reporter on the story, told MSNBC they tried to get a subordinate of Kelly to go on the record and say something positiveabout him for balance, but were unable to find one.
  91. On Wednesday, Politico reported nine days into the Porter scandal, press secretary Sanders is pushing for senior officials who made the decisions around Porter’s security clearance to speak to the press directly.
  92. On Wednesday, NBC News reported more than 130 appointees working in Trump’s Executive Office did not have permanent security clearances as of November 2017, including Ivanka, Kushner, Dan Scavino, and McGahn.
  93. On Trump’s National Security Council, 10 of 24 officials had only interim security clearances as of November, including Dina Powell (who has resigned), Fiona Hill, Kevin Harrington, John Rader, and Joshua Steinman.
  94. On Wednesday, National Economic Council official George David Banks who served since February 2017 became the third White House official to resign after being told he would not receive permanent security clearance.
  95. NBC News reported that in addition to the basic questionnaire to gain security clearance, some members of the Trump regime were required to answer supplemental questions asking if they are vulnerable to blackmail.
  96. On Friday, WAPO reported, amid fallout from the Porter scandal, Kelly announced an overhaul of the White House security clearance processwhich places the onus on the FBI and DOJ to hand-deliver updates and information.
  97. The five-page document begins, “We should — and in the future, must — do better,” is addressed to McGahn and McMaster, with Sessions and Wray copied, and gives 48 hours to report derogatory information to the White House.
  98. Also Friday, Kelly announced starting next week, the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top-secret information, which could impact Kushner in his role as senior adviser.
  99. Kushner may not be able to maintain his extensive portfolio, which necessitate classified briefings. Kushner has also attended meetings where classified info was discussed, and had access to the President’s Daily Brief.
  100. Bloomberg reported the IRS and DOJ have issued subpoenas for documents from lenders and investors in real estate projects managed by Kushner’s family in New York and New Jersey within the past year.
  101. Talking Points Memo reported that Kushner quietly filed an addendum to his personal financial disclosure on January 3, 2018, adding a number of additional business interests which were previously undisclosed.
  102. According to a recent update by Ivanka, Kushner has taken out millions more in loans, signaling liquidity issues. The couple is battling a lawsuit accusing them of illegally omitting information on 32 other companies.
  103. TPM asked Kushner’s lawyer about public documents of other undisclosed business interests. The lawyer said Kushner “has provided complete information” on his financial disclosure, but there may be further updates.
  104. On Friday, Reed Cordish, a senior Trump adviser on government-to-government and technology initiatives, and close friend of Kushner and Ivanka, resigned.
  105. On Tuesday, Michael Cohen told the NYT he paid $130,000 of hush money to Stephanie Clifford out of his own pocket, saying neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction.
  106. On Wednesday, NYT reported Cohen’s payment has raised potential legal questions ranging from breach of contract to ethics violations. Cohen has also been vague on whether he was reimbursed for his payment.
  107. On Thursday, tax documents released by Trump’s Inaugural Committee show the committee spent nearly all of the $107 million it raised. The majority of the funds, $57 million, went to four event-planning companies.
  108. The largest payment of $25.8 million went to WIS Media Partners, an event-production company formed 45 days before the inauguration, led by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a friend and now unpaid adviser to Melania.
  109. On Friday, Ronan Farrow reported on Trump’s nine month affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal starting in 2006, which she memorialized in an eight-page handwritten document provided to The New Yorker.
  110. McDougal was paid $150,000 by American Media, Inc. (AMI), publisher of the National Enquirer, on November 4, 2016 for exclusive rights to her story. David Pecker who owns AMI is a friend of Trump, and never ran her story.
  111. Six former employees of AMI said Pecker routinely made arrangements with women called “catch-and-kill” — paying for stories that would never run. One employee said Pecker used the unpublished stories as leverage.
  112. On Friday, First Lady Melania Trump broke with the tradition of walking as a couple across the South Lawn to Marine One amid the new allegations of Trump’s marital affairs.
  113. On Wednesday, 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. This marks the third mass shooting in the last five months: at a school, church, and concert, done with a AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
  114. On Thursday, Trump tweeted blaming the shooting on mental illness and later called for mental health action. In February 2017, Trump signed a GOP bill revoking Obama-era gun checks for people with mental illness.
  115. Trump’s budget proposed a $25 million reduction in funds designated for national school safety activities, and the elimination of a $400 million grant program used to prevent bullying and for mental health assistance.
  116. Wired reported that in the aftermath of the shooting, pro-gun Russian bots flooded Twitter. The top hashtags the bots were active in within 24 hours of the shooting included #Parkland, #guncontrol, and #guncontrolnow.
  117. On Thursday, Politico reported the White House is feeling rudderless as this week Trump hung back behind staff rather than take decisive action in the face of the Porter scandal and then the Parkland school shooting.
  118. On Friday, Mueller’s office unveiled criminal indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three foreign entities, which revealed a sophisticated network of interference in the 2016 presidential election.
  119. The 37-page indictment includes conspiracy to defraud the US and aggravated identity theft, and reveals how the campaign also relied on extensive intelligence work by Russian operatives on US soil.
  120. Two operatives, Aleksandra Krylova and Anna Bogacheva, traveled as tourists through at least nine states in June 2014 to gather intelligenceused to evaluate political targets on social media before the campaigns got into full swing.
  121. Russians stole the identities of American citizens and posed as political activists. They also set up US bank accounts and used computer servers located in the US.
  122. Charges say the operation was primarily meant to communicate derogatory information about Clinton, to denigrate Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and Trump. There was also a push to back Jill Stein.
  123. Political ads sought to chip away Black Americans’ support for Hillary and to lower Muslim American turnout. Operatives also pushed social media hashtags like #Hillary4Prison and #TrumpTrain.
  124. One of the three entities indicted was Internet Research Agency, whose operations targeted US social media and which employed hundreds of people, and at one point had a monthly budget of over $1.25 million.
  125. Starting in June 2016 when Trump had clinched the GOP nomination, the operatives began to organize and coordinate pro-Trump political rallies. In August, the operatives focused on Florida which Trump narrowly won.
  126. NYT reported the Federal Election Commission had also launched its own investigation into Internet Research Agency last year, on whether it may have violated the FEC Act of 1971 with the purchase of Facebook ads.
  127. In September 2017, as social media companies started disclosing Russia’s presence, one defendant, Viktorovna Kaverzina, emailed her family: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke).
  128. Mueller’s team also unsealed an indictment against 28-year-old Richard Pinedo, a California computer science major whose company opened bank accounts and sold them to shadowy purchasers for cash.
  129. Pinedo pleaded guilty to identity fraud, and has been cooperating with Mueller’s team. He also wrote a plea supporting the indictment of Russian nationals. His lawyer said Pinedo sold accounts to Russians unwittingly.
  130. After the indictments were released, Rosenstein held a press conference. Of note, he stood alone without Mueller or anyone from Mueller’s team. He said the defendants conducted information warfare against the US.
  131. Rosenstein said he and Wray had briefed Trump on the indictments Friday morning. Experts noted the time frame between informing Trump and the public was unusually short.
  132. Rosenstein noted the defendants “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign,” and added, “there’s no allegation in this indictment” (emphasis added) of knowing collusion.
  133. The DOJ said Mueller’s work is not complete. The charges did not address the hacking of Democratic email systems or whether Trump tried to obstruct the FBI investigation into Russian interference.
  134. None of the defendants were arrested, and it is highly unlikely Russia will extradite its citizens to the US. Experts speculated the level of detail given this may indicate Mueller is perhaps deterring Russia from further action, and it may also elicit relevant documents from businesses and banks.
  135. On Friday, the White House issued a statement saying the indictments show “there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected.”
  136. On Friday, Trump suggested he was vindicated, tweeting Russia started their operation in 2014, “long before I announced that I would run,”adding “the Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!
  137. Trump made no mention of a foreign power disrupting our election or acknowledging it occurred, nor did he announce any steps to address it.He was conspicuously silent on all these points again on Saturday.
  138. On Saturday, at the 2018 Munich Security Conference, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov called the indictments “just blabber.” Lavrov also noted that Vice President Pence had raised questions about the investigation.
  139. Shortly after Lavrov spoke, McMaster told the audience that evidence of Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election is “now really incontrovertible.
  140. Former US ambassador Kislyak told the audience the indictments were “some kind of hunting spree throughout the world on Russian computer wizards,” adding they have “spoiled the trust” between the two countries.
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East Village, NYC ~ Feb2018
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Spineless, Corrupt, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan by Jim Carrey
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Artist unknown ~ NYC ~ Feb2018
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“Trump = Enemy of the People” sticker on 6th (Avenue of the Americas) in New York City. Feb2018

POLITIKS OF GRAFFITI 58: FRAGILE DEMOCRACY

Week 57 of trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

December 16, 2017 https://medium.com/@Amy_Siskind/week-57-experts-in-authoritarianism-advise-to-keep-a-list-of-things-subtly-changing-around-you-so-1cf1cf0fb258

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 boothwith 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 subpoenathem.”
  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.
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Venezuelan artist Carlos Fuenmayor in Wynwood, Miami December2017
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Photo by: Jessica Schnur in Wynwood, Miami December 2017
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Flaming Trump. Photo by: Jessica Schnur in Wynwood, Miami December 2017
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From Facebook, artist unknown. December 2017
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Artist: Lucrative Now (sic) in Wynwood, Miami December 2017
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New York City, October 2017

LONDON STREET ART: BANKSY vs. BASQUIAT vs. HARING

My Monday started out calmly enough…and then I received an instant message from a friend saying “Quick!” ~ with a link to a Guardian article about the newest Banksy piece (two, actually) that popped up at the Barbican Centre over the weekend. So, I dropped everything ~ due to my past history with Banksy’s NYC Residency in 2013 ~ https://www.amazon.com/My-Month-Banksy-October-2013/dp/1494258447 ~ and the anxiety ensued – feeling like it was a race against time, to get there, document it…in case other people had ideas ~ like vandalizing it, covering it up, etc…. ~ and I’m just passing through London, so I needed to figure out the best way to get there. Not wanting to influence your interpretation (although, there is one caption in the middle explaining Basquiat’s crown) while viewing the photos, I placed my analyses at the very bottom of the post. Would love to hear your thoughts: 

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Wanted to confirm its authenticity by going to Banksy’s official IG page…

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The Banksy part is the Basquiat getting patted down by the police. The Keith Haring-inspired bit was added and I don’t know by whom…It looks like the skater sees the pat down by the police and is like “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot your crown!” and is leaping over the officer to put it on Basquiat’s head in order to nullify the invasive search. “A crown appears frequently in the early work of Jean-Michel Basquiat signaling his ambition and understanding of art history. Many artists used their monarchs to symbolize their own majestic powers and Basquiat, lacking one, continued the tradition in his own way. Besides, Basquiat was ambitious and out to become king of the pack. One friend who knew him early on wrote: “He could walk into a thrift store with five bucks and come out looking like a king. In fact he basically behaved like a king who had accidentally switched lives with an identical pauper.” http://www.everypainterpaintshimself.com/article/basquiats_crownsIMG_0935IMG_0936IMG_0937IMG_0938IMG_0941IMG_0942IMG_0943IMG_0944IMG_0945IMG_0946IMG_0947IMG_0951IMG_0957IMG_0959IMG_0962IMG_0963IMG_0964IMG_0970IMG_0971IMG_0982DCIM100GOPROG0036928.IMG_0996DCIM100GOPROG0056964.IMG_0997IMG_0999IMG_1001IMG_1002IMG_1003IMG_1004IMG_1005IMG_1006IMG_1008IMG_1009IMG_1012IMG_1013IMG_1014IMG_1017IMG_1018IMG_1019IMG_1020IMG_1021IMG_1022IMG_1023IMG_1024IMG_1025IMG_1026IMG_1027IMG_1028IMG_1030IMG_1033IMG_0756IMG_0769

1 – People interacting with Banksy pieces is an extension of the art itself…

2 – A man approached me and asked me “Do you think this is OK to do?” I replied “Do you?” He said “I asked you the question.” Me: “I’m asking YOU.” He replied: “No, I don’t. This is vandalism.” I said “Well, I love it.” Him: “It’s a Grade II building.”  (Grade 2 listed building restrictions and Grade 2 listed building regulations:  Restrictions are there to protect the historic significance of the building.  Any change which affects the listed fabric of the building is illegal unless approved by your LA (Local Authority). http://www.heritage-consulting.org/grade-2-building-restrictions

I said “It’s obvious that this is a collaboration between Banksy and the Barbican and that they approved it.” (Just taking note of their security staff protecting it)  Him: “Well, if they did, they’re going to be in a lot of trouble!” Me: “I guess we’ll know more in the next few weeks as people research it more and write about it.” He left in a huff.

3 – Some observations I made with the main piece:

a. The female police officer appears to have a red dot on her forehead which I relate to the Hindu religion. I can’t figure out why it’s there. “A vermilion mark in the parting of the hair just above the forehead is worn by married women as commitment to long-life and well-being of their husbands.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bindi_(decoration)

b. I was disappointed with her right hand, thinking Banksy got lazy with his stenciling, but it’s more likely that he intended for his signature style to MERGE into Basquiat’s. And that makes it a brilliant move.

c. The “POLICE” stencil on the back of the male officer – it doesn’t CLEARLY spell out P O L I C E. You can barely see the “I,” if at all, and the “C” almost looks like another “O.” Why? He’s the best stencil artist. Why is this unclear?

The second, smaller piece:

1 – “Watching the Basquiat Crowns go round and round…” The ticket stand hearkens back “Dismaland” to me. The ferris wheel, an allusion to the London Eye?

a. The aluminum foil crown on the ground below the piece, was strategically placed there by the people running it. Trust me, you weren’t allowed to take it, so that’s another indication of the ‘staging’ of this event. 

“I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.” ~ Basquiat

“Nothing is important…so everything is important.” ~ Haring

“The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.”  ~ Banksy

There’s already a lot of controversy surrounding these two new pieces. Again, people are calling Banksy a ‘sell-out.’ This time, for seeming to fall right into the advertisers’ pockets by doing these blatantly obvious ‘promotional pieces’ for the upcoming Basquiat show at the Barbican Centre. So, the quote from him above, is quite interesting…

Political Analysis:

I saw on Facebook that people were wondering when someone was going to wring a political message out of this, so here you go:

a. Possibly there’s a message related to the lack of freedom and ease of entry into the U.K., especially with the current ‘Brexit attitude.’ It may be saying that even if you’re Basquiat, you’re still black, and we’re going to make it very difficult for you. Or, that can go back to the sea I have that the female officer is Hindu and this is Banksy promoting diversity in the U.K.

I’m an unapologetic fan of Banksy and had the time of my life covering his “NYC Residency” in October 2013. If you’re interested in learning more about that, please click on the link and pick up a copy of my book. 🙂 https://www.amazon.com/My-Month-Banksy-October-2013/dp/1494258447