Wynwood, Miami, FL December 2018
Week 109: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
December 15, 2018
As I’ve been listing, I’ve always suspected things would crescendo as we were moving towards the end of the Trump era. Week 109 is the longest list so far, with 181 not normal items. Up until now, Trump has never been questioned or countered in his authority, other than in rulings by the Judicial branch. Soon he will be facing Democrats as equals — a House that can hold him accountable — as well as the multiple investigations and lawsuits steaming ahead and expanding in scope. Trump is unprepared and understaffed for what is coming his way starting January. He is going to hate 2019.
The Republicans, in small measure, stood up to him on the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, condemning Saudi crown prince MBS and approving a resolution to end its military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Trump’s small inner circle is in disarray and shrinking — even replacing the chief of staff role became an arduous task. This week, confronted by presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, his first check on power in person, Trump cowered and retreated — ill-prepared for how to face a direct challenge to his previously unequivocal power and authority.
This week reporting indicates a possible new phase in the Mueller probe relating to Middle East countries, and their attempts to influence the 2016 election to gain access. Meanwhile, cases against Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and Maria Butina progressed, bringing the investigations closer to Trump, his campaign, and regime. Also this week there were As Trump prepares to depart for Mar-a-Lago for a 16 day holiday, new or expanding investigations threaten to engulf every part of his life, including his campaign, regime, family and business — with possible felony charges after his time in office. three bombshell stories on Trump’s inaugural committee, relating to unaccounted monies and pay for play, foreign contributions, and overpaying for the Trump Hotel DC with Ivanka a part of negotiations.
Lower East Side, New York City. November 2018
WAPO Fact Checker introduced a new category, the “Bottomless Pinocchio.” The category will apply to politicians who “ repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation.” To be included, a claim must have received three or four Pinocchios, and have been repeated
at least 20 times. So far, 14 statements repeatedly made by Trump qualify for the new category.
, as the 2018 Person of the Year, in what the magazine calls “the War on Truth,” citing the “manipulation and abuse of the truth.” TIME named “The Guardians,” journalists who have been targeted for their work
The journalists included Jamal Khashoggi; journalists at the Capital Gazette; Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists arrested in Myanmar; and Maria Resser, CEO of the Philippine news website Rappler. On Sunday,
WAPO reported Trump’s Republican allies are growing concerned that he and his White House have no real plan for dealing with the Russia crisis, as well as a host of problems foreign and domestic. GOP senators were shaken by revelations that Michael Flynn met with Mueller’s team 19 times, and the extent of the probe. One senator said a
breaking point would be if Mueller finds Trump conspired with Russia. Trump believes he can outsmart his adversaries. The White House is
adopting a “shrugged shoulders” strategy for the Mueller findings, with Trump being of the opinion his voters will believe what he tells them to. While allies have been pushing Trump to bolster his legal team, hiring remains difficult as
potential staffers worry about whether they will need to hire a personal lawyer, and express concern about the constant turmoil. On Sunday,
Yahoo News reported in the spring of 2017, Trump tried asking William Barr, whom he appointed to attorney general in Week 108, to spearhead his defense in the Mueller probe. Barr declined. On Sunday, incoming House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff told “Face the Nation” that
Trump may “face the real prospect of jail time” after he leaves office, over directing payments to silence women. On Sunday, Nick Ayers, thought likely to be John Kelly’s replacement, tweeted that
he will not take the position as Trump’s chief of staff and will depart the White House at the end of the year. On Sunday,
Trump downplayed Ayers’ announcement, tweeting, “I am in the process of interviewing some really great people” adding: “Fake News has been saying with certainty it was Nick Ayers…decision soon!”
Names being floated around on Sunday included Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and Rep. Mark Meadows. Trump also tweeted, “the Trump Administration has accomplished more than any other U.S. Administration,” adding, “
Fake News Media, which has gone totally out of its mind-truly the Enemy of the People!” A viral video showed
police officers ripping a one-year old from his mother’s arms at a welfare office in Brooklyn. Jazmine Headley can be heard yelling, “They’re hurting my son! They’re hurting my son!” Police were called because Headley,
who is a Black woman, was sitting on the floor because no chairs were available. She was arrested for trespassing and other charges, and held without bail on Rikers Island. A viral video showed Julian von Abele,
a white Columbia University student, ranting about the superiority of his race and praising Trump to a group of fellow students, a number of whom are black. Jonathan Hart, a 21 year-old homeless man, was shot by a Walgreens security guard who falsely assumed he was shoplifting. An attorney for the family said in a lawsuit
Hart was targeted because he was black and gay.
New York Post reported Nazi-themed posters containing Hitler and swastikas were found scattered across SUNY Purchase’s campus. Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the state police Hate Crimes Unit to investigate. The Washington DC headquarters of the
American Federation of Teachers was defaced, including an outside wall of the building, with a yellow spray-painted message that said “I want Jexit!” Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin sought to discredit an investigation of a state government program by
Louisville Courier-Journal in partnership with ProPublica, saying the latter is “funded by the likes of George Soros.” The
San Francisco Chronicle reported that from late July through late November ICE arrested 170 potential sponsors coming forward to adopt unaccompanied migrant children — 109 (64%) had no criminal record. Before Trump, the government typically released unaccompanied migrant children into the custody of a qualified adult without a background check.
Migrant children in government custody has surged to 14,700, and rising. On Monday,
about 200 faith leaders gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border on Human Rights Day to send a message to the Trump regime that migrants have a right under international law to seek asylum. As the faith leaders’ press conference was happening, U.S. officials announced the
number of active military troops at the border would go down from 5,400 to about 3,000. On Tuesday, the
Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to restore Trump’s order barring asylum for immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally. In Week 108 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the order. On Thursday,
WAPO reported Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old girl from Guatemala, died of dehydration and shock after she was taken into Border Patrol custody last week, after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Maquin and her father were
taken into custody as part of a group of 163 people who turned themselves in to U.S. agents. Eight hours later, she had seizures. She “had not eaten or consumed water for several days.” On Friday,
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen blamed the migrant family for the girl’s death, telling Fox News it “is a very sad example of the dangers to migrants,” and “this child’s father made a dangerous journey.” On Wednesday,
The Atlantic reported the Trump regime is resuming its efforts to deport certain protected Vietnamese immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for decades, as announced in Week 96, after backing off months ago. On Friday, insurance company
Pacific Life announced it is pausing and reevaluating its advertising on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show after a segment in which he suggested mass immigration makes the U.S. “dirtier.” On Friday, luxury fashion brand
Prada pulled a display in its Manhattan storefront, after images surfaced of the products depicting monkey-like figures with black faces and large red lips. On Sunday,
Trump lashed out at James Comey, tweeting, without evidence, that on 245 occasions Comey “didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked” by lawmakers last Friday.
Trump also tweeted, “Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day,” adding, “this whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people,” concluding, “They are now exposed!” On Sunday,
NYT reported that federal prosecutors are wrapping things up with Michael Cohen and are now shifting to the Trump family business — in recent weeks renewing a request for documents and other materials. On Sunday,
conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi sued Mueller, the DOJ, CIA, FBI, and NSA for $350 million, accusing them of blackmailing him to lie as part of a “legal coup d’etat” against Trump. On Monday, in a pair of tweets,
Trump asserted his payments to silence women were a “simple private transaction,” saying the Dems “wrongly call it a campaign contribution, which it was not.”
Trump also tweeted, “it is only a CIVIL CASE,” not criminal, and added, “Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced,” “WITCH HUNT!” and “there was NO COLLUSION.”
Trump also quoted a commentator on Fox News, tweeting, “Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun…No Collusion.”
Merriam-Webster again mocked Trump’s misspellings, tweeting, “today in Spellcheck Can’t Save You: ‘Smocking’ is a type of embroidery made of many small folds sewn into place.” On Monday, CNN reported that Maria Butina, an accused Russian spy who infiltrated the NRA ahead of the 2016 election,
has been cooperating with federal prosecutors, and that her lawyer has filed a “change of plea.” The filing revealed that Butina “
agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official.” The filing noted she relied on
the assistance of Paul Erickson and took direction from Russian Alexander Torshin to “establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics.” The filings noted
Torshin asked her to provide a note justifying his attendance at the 2016 NRA meeting. Butina did so “partly because of the opportunity to meet political candidates.” The two met Donald Jr. there. ABC News reported
during the FBI raid of Erickson’s home, investigators found his handwritten note saying, “How to respond to FSB offer of employment?,” an apparent reference to the Russian intelligence services. On Thursday,
Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring with Torshin to infiltrate the conservative movement in the U.S. as an agent for the Kremlin from 2015 until her arrest in July 2018 in an effort called “Diplomacy Project.” Butina became the
first Russian national convicted as a foreign agent trying to influence U.S. policy in the run-up and through the 2016 election to agree to cooperate in a plea deal, in exchange for less prison time.
Butina admitted to working with Erickson, under Torshin’s direction, to forge bonds with officials at the National Rifle Association, conservative leaders, and 2016 presidential candidates, including Trump. The judge also revealed a situation involving Butina’s lawyer Robert Driscoll, and
concern by the government that Butina might be serving as a conduit between the press and her lawyer, who is bound by a gag order. On Tuesday, attorneys for Paul Manafort told the court they
may not contest Mueller’s accusations that Manafort breached his plea agreementby lying to federal prosecutors. On Tuesday, in a memo,
Michael Flynn’s attorneys asked a federal judge to spare him prison time, echoing Mueller, and saying Flynn’s cooperation “was not grudging or delayed.” The memo also criticized the FBI for choosing not to involve the Justice Department, and
FBI agents not warning “Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed.” On Wednesday,
Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in a federal court in Manhattan for his role in the scheme to buy the silence of two women ahead of the 2016 election who said they had affairs with Trump. Cohen’s lawyer had argued that he
should serve no prison time. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York said in their filings that Cohen should serve four years. On Wednesday,
the U.S. attorney general for the SDNY also announced they would not prosecute American Media Inc. (AMI), National Enquirer’s parent, for its role in a scheme to help Trump win the 2016 election.
AMI had signed an agreement in September with the SDNY agreeing to cooperate, and admitted it paid $150,000 to Karen McDougal before the 2016 election to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump. The agreement stated “AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story
so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” Prosecutors allege David Pecker, CEO of AMI, and AMI also played a
key role in the effort to silence Stormy Daniels. The agreement also suggested Pecker is of ongoing use to prosecutors. Also per the agreement,
Pecker met with Cohen “and at least one other member of the campaign” in August 2015 to discuss handling negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women. On Thursday, NBC News reported
Trump was the third person in the room with Pecker and Cohen in August 2015. Experts say this could place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign fraud. Incoming House committee chairs Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Schiff said they will subpoena for information on
Trump’s involvement with the hush payments, which Nadler described as “impeachable offenses.” On Thursday,
in a series of tweets on Cohen, Trump said, “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law,” adding Cohen is lawyer and “he is supposed to know the law. It is called “advice of counsel.””
Trump also tweeted, “I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws,” and “Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal.” Trump also tweeted about Flynn, saying
the FBI gave him “a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated,” adding, “They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true.” On Thursday,
Trump told reporters he was glad the judge is taking a closer look at the case, saying, “The FBI said Michael Flynn, a general and a great person, they said he didn’t lie, and Mueller said, well, maybe he did.” On Thursday, Trump told Fox News that
he bears no responsibility for the campaign finance violations committed by Cohen, saying of the charges, “They put that on to embarrass me…They’re not criminal charges.” On Friday, in an interview with ABC,
Cohen said he “gave loyalty to someone who, truthfully, does not deserve loyalty,” and that he “will not be the villain of [Trump’s] story.” Cohen said of Trump’s denials, “
nothing at the Trump organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump. He directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters.” On Friday, in court,
Mueller’s team rejected Flynn’s assertion he had been tricked into lying to the FBI, but said they would not change its recommendation that Flynn receive no jail time. In a filing, prosecutors laid out
a pattern of lies by Flynn to Vice President Mike Pence, senior White House aides, federal investigators, and the media about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The filing also states, “A sitting National Security Advisor, former head of an intelligence agency, retired Lieutenant General, and 33 year veteran of the armed forces knows he should not lie to federal agents.” So far the
Mueller probe has issued more than 100 criminal counts against 33 people and three companies. Cohen is the fourth to face prison time, following Alex van der Zwaan, George Papadopoulos, and Paul Manafort. On Thursday, NBC News reported that
Trump has in recent days told close friends that he is alarmed by the prospect of impeachment. Allies believe holding support of establishment Republicans is now critical. One Trump ally said Trump avoiding impeachment now
comes down to the testimony of Pecker and Allen Weisselberg, both cooperating witnesseswith the SDNY. Trump maintains a confident posture publicly. Trump has
yet to put together a team to deal with the expected influx of congressional investigations and continued fallout from multiple federal investigations. He has been calling around to allies to get input and vent. A
new CNN poll found just 29% approve of Trump’s handling of the Russia investigation, matching a low previously hit in June of this year. Mueller’s approval is at 43%, down from 48% in early October. On Monday,
protestors at the UN climate talks in Poland disrupted a Trump regime presentation extolling the virtues of fossil fuels with loud roars of laughter and chants of “Shame on you!” On Monday, the
LA Times reported the Trump regime is set to roll back Obama-era Clean Water Act protections on millions of acres of waterwaysand wetlands, including up to two-thirds of California’s inland streams. The rollback
follows through on a promise to agriculture interests and real estate developers, opening billions of dollars in potential development rights. Quality of drinking water and wildlife habitat will be affected.
France launched a probe into possible Russian interference behind the Yellow Vest protests, after reports that social-media accounts linked to Moscow have increasingly been active in targeting the movement. On Wednesday,
a Ukraine court ruled officials in the country violated the law by revealing, during the 2016 election, details of illegal payments to Manafort. Ukraine is reliant on the U.S. for military and financial aid. On Wednesday,
UK Prime Minister May survived a no-confidence vote by Conservative lawmakers that would have ended her leadership of party and country over her handling of Britain’s exit from the European Union. On Wednesday,
Hungary passed a law to set up courts overseen directly by the government. In September, the EU voted to impose sanctions on Hungary for flouting its rules on democracy, civil rights, and corruption. On Tuesday, Trump told
Reuters he could intervene in the U.S. case against Huawei Technologies if it would serve U.S. national security interests and help close “the largest trade deal ever made” with China. On Wednesday,
Assistant Attorney General John Demers told a Senate panel, “We are not a tool of trade when we bring the cases,” adding, “what we do at the Justice Department is law enforcement. We don’t do trade.” On Wednesday,
Canada’s Foreign Ministry said it has been unable to contact Canadian businessman Michael Spavor. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig, a Canadian, was also detained on Monday. Trump also told Reuters in the interview that
he was not concerned about being impeached because he “hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country.” Trump said of the hush payments, “Number one, it wasn’t a campaign contribution. If it were, it’s only civil,” and “there was no violation based on what we did,” adding
if he were impeached, “the people would revolt.” Trump turned the topic to
Hillary Clinton, saying “her husband got money, she got money, she paid money, why doesn’t somebody talk about that?”and called the Mueller probe a witch hunt, saying, “There’s no collusion.”
Trump also stood by Saudi Crown Prince MBS on the murder of Khashoggi, saying he “vehemently denies” involvement in the killing, and adding, “He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally.”
NYT reported Jared Kushner has become Saudi Crown Prince MBS’s most important defender in the White House. The crown prince has been cultivating Kushner for more than two years. On Monday,
CNN revealed excerpts from the transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s last moments: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” Then sounds of his body being dismembered by a saw. On Thursday, in a rebuke of Trump’s defense of the MBS,
the Senate voted 56–41 to withdraw American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, a four-year conflict that has brought civilian death and famine. On Thursday, in another rebuke of Trump,
the Senate voted to condemn Saudi Crown Prince MBS for the death of Khashoggi. The resolution was sponsored by Sens. Bob Corker and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
AP reported Jared Kushner could benefit from The Opportunity Zone, a program promoted by Ivanka and Jared as White House advisers, which offers tax breaks to developers who invest in downtrodden communities. Kushner holds a
large stake in a real estate investment firm, Cadre, which launched a fund to take advantage of the tax breaks. The Kushner family has properties in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland that could benefit. On Monday,
Politico obtained an unpublished Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report through a FOIA request which revealed Wells Fargo charged college students fees several times higher than average. The fees charged during the 2016–17 academic year, the first year colleges were required to report information,
may violate Education Department rules by being “inconsistent with the best financial interests” of students. The report was prepared by the office led by
Seth Frotman, who resigned in protest in Week 94. The Education Department, which also did notmake the report public, refused to comment on whether it took any action. On Wednesday,
Politico reported Trump’s Education Department will forgive $150 million in student debt, after DeVos’ efforts to stop the 2016 Obama-era “borrower defense” were halted in a court battle.
The Daily Beast reported the financial adviser for James Inhofe, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, bought him between $50–100,000 in Raytheon stock Tuesday, days after he pushed for record defense spending. After
The Daily Beast contacted Inhofe about the purchase, his office said the senator contacted his financial adviser to cancel the transaction and instructed him to avoid defense and aerospace purchases going forward. On Wednesday,
his office said he had been unaware of the stock purchase. A spokesperson for Inhofe said in statement, “the transaction was canceled before it was settled; the Senator never took ownership of it.”
Bloomberg reported the Treasury Department delayed imposing sanctions on Russia’s largest aluminum producer, Rusal, for the fifth time amid talks with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska about giving up control. On Tuesday,
WAPO reported after Nick Ayers said no to the chief of staff position, Trump had no Plan B. This left the White House scrambling to find candidates as other top candidates turned Trump down. On Tuesday,
Trump tweeted “Fake News has it purposely wrong” in saying no one wants the chief of staff position, adding “many, over ten, are vying for and wanting the White House Chief of Staff position.” On Tuesday,
Kellyanne Conway announced that Kelly will remain as chief of staff at least through January 2 to ensure “a very peaceful and pragmatic transition” for his successor. On Wednesday,
Rick Santorum bowed out as a possible chief of staff pick, and Trump reportedly turned down Rep. Mark Meadows for the position. On Thursday,
HuffPost reported Trump is considering Jared to be his chief of staff. According to a top Republican, Trump met with Kushner about the job on Wednesday.
Axios reported Chris Christie met with Trump on Thursday evening to discuss the chief of staff role, and is Trump’s top candidate. On Friday, in a statement, Christie said he was withdrawing from consideration. On Tuesday,
Trump met with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in an explosive meeting on his border wall and his threat to shut down the government, partly in public with reporters. Pelosi said, “We must keep the government open.
We cannot have a Trump shutdown.” Trump responded, “A what?” Trump also said, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security.” When Trump told reporters it was hard for Pelosi to talk right now, she responded, “
please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.” NBC News
fact checked Trump’s claims about his border wall at the meeting, and found several to be false, including a lot of the wall has been built, 10 terrorists have been caught, and that migrants bring disease.
In a post meeting huddle with her caucus, Pelosi said of the wall, “It’s like a manhood thing with him — as if manhood can be associated with him,” compared Trump to a skunk, and said she was “trying to be the mom.”
LA Times reported according to one administration official Trump appeared upset after leaving the meeting, and said he flicked “a folder and sending its papers flying out.” Aides went into damage control mode. On Wednesday,
Trump repeated a false claim, tweeting “Democrats and President Obama gave Iran 150 Billion Dollars” but they won’t give $5 billion for his wall. This was Iran’s frozen funds, and closer to $55 billion. On Thursday, Trump claimed in a tweet that as part of the trade deal, “
MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!” Mexican officials said there was no discussion in the trade deal negotiations about Mexico paying for the wall. On Thursday, Pelosi said Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee will “take the first steps,” to
begin the process of obtaining Trump’s tax returns in January. On Thursday,
WSJ reported the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is in the early stages of a criminal probe into whether Trump’s inaugural committeemisspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations. The probe is also examining whether some of the top donors
gave money in exchange for access to the Trump regime, policy concessions, or to influence officials — a violation of federal corruption laws. The investigation partly arises from materials seized in the April raid on Cohen,
including a recording of a conversation between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to Melania Trump. Wolkoff, who worked on the inaugural events,
expressed concern about how the committee was spending money. The inaugural committee has publicly identified vendors accounting for just $61 million of money spent. The top-paid vendor was an event-production firm led by Wolkoff called WIS Media Partners,
paid $25.8 million. The committee was headed by Thomas Barrack Jr., who has not made the outside audit available. Prosecutors have asked
Franklin Haney for documents on his $1 million donation to the committee. Haney hired Cohen in April to help obtain a $5 billion loan from the Energy Department. The application is pending. On Thursday,
NYT reported Mueller is investigating whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over U.S. policy. The investigation is focused on whether people from
Middle Eastern nations, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates disguised donations. Trump ally Barrack raised money for both. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to PACs and inaugural funds.
The super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, was created at the suggestion of Manafort by Barrack in the summer of 2016 when Trump needed funds. Although federal election law mandates a period of at least 120 days before campaign staff members can join a PAC,
Manafort sent Laurance Gay and Ken McKay from the campaign to run the operation right away. The PAC raised $23 million.
Prosecutors from New York and from Mueller’s team have asked witnesses whether anyone from Qatar or other Middle Eastern countries contributed through an American intermediary. On Friday, WNYC and ProPublica reported according to receipts,
Trump’s inauguration paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals, and event space at the Trump Hotel DC, possibly overpaying in violation of tax laws.
Ivanka was involved in negotiating the price for venue rentals. Wolkoff emailed her and others to “express my concern” on overcharging for its event space, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.” Emails also revealed
some vendors for the inauguration expressed concern when Rick Gates, a top inaugural committee official, asked them to take payments outside of the normal committee invoicing process. On Friday,
incoming House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff said his panel plans to investigate possible “illicit foreign funding or involvement in the inauguration” of Trump. So far there has been
one guilty plea in August by political consultant Samuel Patten, who admitted to steering $50,000 from a Ukrainian politician to the inaugural committee, and is cooperating with Mueller. On Thursday,
The Daily Beast reported Mueller is preparing to reveal a second phase of the probe, relating to Middle Eastern countries’ attemptsto influence American politics through the Trump regime. Witnesses associated with the Trump campaign have been interviewed about their
conversations with connected individuals from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Sources say
Mueller’s team is preparing to outline foreigners’ plans to help Trump win the presidency. Notably, Flynn was involved in conversations with influential individuals from UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. On Thursday,
the House and Senate passed a bill to combat sexual harassment in Congress by unanimous consent. The bill comes one year after the #MeToo movement went viral, after several attempts to pass the legislation. In the past year, several members of Congress were forced to resign over sexual harassment. The bill makes
members personally liable for all harassment settlements and retaliation for harassment claims. On Tuesday, when asked about Trump’s involvement with Cohen’s crimes,
Sen. Orrin Hatch told CNN, “The Democrats will do anything to hurt this President,” adding, “all I can say is he’s doing a good job as President.”
Three other Republican senators also went on the record saying they did not care about Trump being implicated in felonies, including Sens. Susan Collins, John Thune, and Bill Cassidy. On Wednesday, in his farewell speech after serving for four decades,
Sen. Hatch said the Senate “is in crisis,” saying “the committee process lies in shambles,” and compromise is “now synonymous with surrender.” On Friday,
Sen. Hatch said he regretted his comments to CNN, saying in a statement that they were “irresponsible and a poor reflection on my lengthy record of dedication to the rule of law.” On Wednesday,
Kansas state senator Barbara Bollier changed party affiliation to Democrat, saying “morally, the party is not going where my compass resides,” and citing LGBTQ issues pushed her over the edge. On Thursday, the
Kansas City Star reported several other moderate Kansas Republicans are considering switching to be Democrats in the wake of Bollier’s defection. On Thursday,
CALmatters reported California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye dropped her registration as a Republican and re-registered with no-party-preference, following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. On Thursday, Fox News reported
Trump canceled the White House holiday party for the media, breaking a decades-old tradition. The party was considered a perk for those covering the White House and Washington. On Monday, Florida officials told a federal judge that
6,670 ballots mailed ahead of the November 6 midterm election were not counted because they were not received by Election Day. The lawsuit on the votes is still pending. On Tuesday, the North Carolina Republican Party said
a new election should be held in the 9th District if Democrat’s allegations that results of early votes were shared improperly before the election is true. On Friday,
outgoing Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a sweeping lame-duck Republican bill which restricts early voting and weakens and restricts the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. On Thursday, the
Palm Beach Post reported according to alert issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, Trump is expected to spend 16 days at Mar-a-Lago over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The visit at Mar-a-Lago, dubbed the Southern White House, will be
Trump’s longest since taking office. Trump is scheduled to remain until January 6, after the new Congress is sworn in on January 3. On Thursday, a
Treasury Department report noted the widest November budget deficit on record as spending doubled revenue, leaving a $205 billion shortfall, compared with a $139 billion gap a year earlier.
The deficit in fiscal 2018 is the largest in six years, reflecting the first full year of Trump and the Republican party enacting a tax-cut package and raising federal spending for the military and other priorities. On Friday,
, announced it would be closing after 23 years in business. The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine which had been critical of Trump On Saturday,
Trump celebrated the demise of , calling it “pathetic and dishonest” and “run by failed prognosticator Bill Kristol,” adding “Too bad. May it rest in peace!” The Weekly Standard On Friday, another sell-off drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average down by almost 500 points.
The Standard & Poor 500 and Dow are in correction territory (down more than 20%), and are down for the year. On Friday, on the eve of the deadline for Americans to sign up for healthcare coverage for 2019,
a federal judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional because the GOP tax law gutted the individual mandate. The lawsuit was filed in January by the Texas attorney general in alliance with 18 other states. In June,
Sessions’ DOJ took the unusual step of telling the court that it will not defend the ACA against the lawsuit.
Shortly after, Trump tweeted his pleasure: “As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster!” The Supreme Court will now decide the fate of Obamacare. On Friday, at a DC federal courthouse, reporters staked out to try to gain information on a secret and
mysterious argument about a grand jury subpoena challenge that has been under seal in the Mueller probe.
An entire floor of the courthouse was closed to the public and press for more than an hour. CNN reported no recognizable attorneys were spotted coming in and out of the courtroom or even the building.
Politico reported as reporters looked for leads, several were reprimanded for waiting in stairwells, and that additional measures undertaken surprised many people familiar with the federal building’s practices. On Friday, the
New York Daily News reported the New Jersey attorney general launched an investigation into claims of widespread harassment and immigration fraud at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. Victorina Morales and Sandra Diaz spoke to
NYT in Week 107. Since then, three more undocumented women have come forward to their attorney with allegations of harassment and immigration fraud. On Friday, Trump named
Mick Mulvaney, his budget director, to serve as acting chief of staff. Trump announced the pick on Twitter in the late afternoon, hours after Christie took himself out of consideration. A senior official told
NYT there was no end date to Mulvaney’s role despite his “acting” title. Trump later tweeted, “For the record, there were MANY people who wanted to be the White House Chief of Staff.” On Friday, according to expenditure data released,
the Mueller probe cost $25 million through the end of September, including $8.4 million from April 1, in line with spending for previous special counsels. In recent weeks, Trump has exaggerated the cost of the probe,
tweeting a “a cost of over $30,000,000,” and also, “ more than $40,000,000 (is that possible?),” and finding “NO COLLUSION!” On Saturday, Trump announced
in a pair of tweets that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will leave the regime at the end of year, adding he “will be announcing the new Secretary of the Interior next week.” Trump tweets followed
Bloomberg News reporting that Zinke had notified the White House of his intention to resign amid a swirl of federal investigations into his travel, political activity, and conflicts of interest. The move also comes as
Democrats take control of the House in January, and have vowed to grill Zinke over his conduct, raising the prospect of heightened oversight and high legal bills to defend himself.
WAPO reported the White House pushed Zinke to quit for weeks and told him he would be fired if he did not, but he wanted to host his Christmas party Thursday, where he invited activists, lobbyists, donors, and more. On Thursday, a
DOJ watchdog investigation recovered thousands of missing texts from Peter Strzok and Lisa Page on agency issued phones. The report cites the cause was technology failure, not malicious intent. The report found
a more widespread failure than previously known: “The FBI’s collection tool was not only failing to collect any data on certain phones… it also does not appear that it was collecting all text messages.” On Saturday, at 1:00 a.m.,
Rudy Giuliani tweeted “How can Mueller’s gang get away with erasing over 19,000 texts” adding, “Mueller’s angry Democrats fall under the Hillary exception” of erasing emails. On Saturday,
Trump tweeted “19,000 Texts between Lisa Page and her lover, Peter S of the FBI, in charge of the Russia Hoax” were “wiped clean,” adding, “Such a big story that will never be covered by the Fake News.” A new CNN poll found
First Lady Melania Trump’s approval has fallen 11 points, from 54% in October to 43%. The biggest drop came from liberals and white college graduates — with approval dropping 17 points for both. On Saturday,
WAPO reported diplomats from Slovenia, in their first official visit with the Trump regime, warned of waning U.S. influence in Europe as China and Russia expand their influence around the world. The diplomats said that as America is turning inward and looking to cut back aid, China and Russia are increasing aid, and warning
countries in the Balkans and Eastern Europe are gravitating to Beijing and Moscow.
Week 79 of this presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
May 19, 2018 https://medium.com/@Amy_Siskind/week-79-experts-in-authoritarianism-advise-to-keep-a-list-of-things-subtly-changing-around-you-so-8703d04269ab
This was the first week in many, many months that the Republican Party showed any signs of standing up to Trump. Meanwhile, Trump and his allies spent the week attacking the FBI, alleging without evidence that the agency spied on his campaign as a means to discredit the Mueller probe—which continues to escalate as it reached its one-year mark.
This week, Trump shocked the country, referring to undocumented immigrants as “animals,” then trying to legitimize his comments by saying the reference was only to gang members. Days prior, the Trump regime took steps to open military bases to house immigrants who are unaccompanied minors, or children the regime separates from their parents, evoking comparisons to “camps.” This week also marked escalating acts of racism, transphobia, xenophobia, and new assaults on the rights of women.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were the faces of our country as Trump moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, leading to protests, scores of deaths, and hundreds of injuries. Kushner, who is still without full security clearance and has no foreign policy experience but is related to Trump, spoke for the US at the opening ceremony, evoking comparisons to autocratic regimes. Signs of misuse of power and pay for play in the Trump regime abound this week, domestically, and with regard to questionable dealings relating to China and Qatar.
Los Angeles, CA. March 2018
Late Saturday, Rudy Giuliani again tried to walk back his comments about Trump blocking the AT&T-Time Warner merger, telling ABC News Trump “did not interfere with the Justice Department going ahead with the case.”
Giuliani also told ABC News Trump “ had every right and power” to block the merger, adding as “other presidents have done in anti-trust cases.”
WAPO reported Trump personally pushed US Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon, and other firms, to ship packages.
Brennan resisted, explaining in multiple conversations with Trump during 2017 and 2018 that the these arrangements are bound by contracts, and that the Amazon relationship is beneficial to the Post Office.
Although Trump and Brennan have met on the matter at the White House several times, the meetings have never appeared on Trump’s public schedule.
Trump has also had ongoing meetings during 2017 and 2018 with at least three groups of senior advisers to discuss Amazon’s business practices. Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.
On Sunday, WAPO reported as the Mueller probe hits the one-year mark, Mueller is steaming ahead in a methodical, secretive way, while 10 blocks away, Trump combats the probe with “bluster, disarray and defiance.”
Trump reportedly vents as often as “ 20 times a day” about the FBI raid on Michael Cohen. Trump reportedly brought in Giuliani as a confidant, as he is feeling increasingly isolated in the West Wing.
The number of witnesses called from Trump’s campaign and staff have been “ breathtaking,” including Avi Berkowitz, the personal assistant to Kushner, called twice. Some enter through the back of the building to avoid the press.
On Sunday, Axios reported on the record number of leaks from Trump’s White House. A veteran reporter noted more leaks in a week from the Trump regime than in an entire year under George W. Bush.
White House officials attribute their leaks to personal vendettas, ensuring there is an accurate record of what is happening, grudges, frustrations with incompetent or tone-deaf leadership, and an unhappy workplace.
On Monday, Trump tweeted the “so-called leaks coming out of the White House” are exaggerated by the “Fake New Media,” adding of leakers, they “ are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”
On Monday, at the daily briefing, deputy press secretary Raj Shah reiterated the leaks coming from the White House, not the disparaging statement made about John McCain, were the focus, and said there will be no apology for the remark.
On Thursday, NYT reported the White House has canceled a large daily morning meeting of 30 communications staffers in response to the leaking of Kelly Sadler’s comments on McCain.
The New Yorker reported that Sean Hannity typically calls Trump after his 9 p.m. Fox News show, and on some days they speak multiple times. White House staffers are used to Trump referencing these conversations.
In the mornings, Trump is alone watching cable-TV and tweeting. Staffers are concerned with this pattern of behavior: Trump formally starts his day at 11 a.m. with his daily intelligence briefings in the Oval Office.
On Tuesday, WAPO reported that according to Defense Department communications, the Trump regime is making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases.
The Department of Health and Human Services will visit four military installations in Texas and Arkansas to evaluate their suitability to shelter children. The bases would be used for unaccompanied minors, and children the regime separates from their parents.
On Tuesday, at an appeals hearing for the Trump regime’s effort to end DACA, the panel scrutinized Trump’s past statements, repeatedly questioning whether racial bias played a role in the decision to wind down the program.
On Tuesday, a Seattle judge blocked ICE from revoking a Mexican man, Daniel Ramirez Medina’s DACA protection, saying ICE had provided no evidence to back their claim that Ramirez is gang-affiliated.
On Wednesday, Trump called for stronger immigration laws and hammered California for its sanctuary cities, saying of undocumented immigrants, “ These aren’t people. These are animals.”
Trump also called on Jeff Sessions to investigate Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for warning undocumented immigrants of an upcoming ICE sweep, saying, “You talk about obstruction of justice.”
On Thursday, at the press briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump, saying his “animals” comment referred to MS-13 gang members, adding “Frankly, I don’t think the term the president used is strong enough.”
On Thursday, the Anne Frank Center tweeted, “When we ask, “how could the Holocaust have happened?” this is the answer. When we think of anyone as less than human, that opens the door to atrocity.”
On Friday, the Mexican government lodged a complaint with the State Department over Trump’s comments that some immigrants are “animals,” saying, “the assertions of the U.S. president are absolutely unacceptable.”
Los Angeles, CA. March 2018
A 13-year-old black boy in Houston was kidnapped after getting off a school bus Monday. His abductors, suspected of being white supremacists, took him to an abandoned building and assaulted him.
A white woman in Memphis called the police on a black real estate investor who was inspecting a house. The woman demanded to know why he was outside. The police listened to his explanation, then told the woman she would be arrested if she interfered.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed Tony Perkins, head of Family Research Council (FRC), for a spot on the Commission on International Religious Freedom. Southern Poverty Law Center considers FRC to be a hate group, and Perkins is a longtime anti-LGBTQ activist.
Supporters of Patrick Little’s campaign for the Senate released anti-Semitic robocalls calling Sen. Dianne Feinstein a “traitorous Jew,”’ and saying Little will “get rid of all the nation-wrecking Jews from our country.”
On Tuesday, Aaron Schlossberg, a lawyer, was captured in a video becoming enraged after overhearing two employees at a Fresh Kitchen in Manhattan speaking Spanish. Schlossberg raged, “this is America,” and “my next call is to ICE.”
On Thursday, Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr. filed a formal complaint with the state court disciplinary system. Also on Thursday, Schlossberg was kicked out of his office space.
A Starbucks barista in suburban Los Angeles is accused of printing a racial slur on a Latino customer’s drinks: instead of writing the customer’s name, Pedro, they wrote “Beaner,” a derogatory term for Mexicans in the US.
Jazmina Saavedra, a GOP candidate for Congress in California, filmed herself confronting a transgender woman using a bathroom at a Denny’s in Los Angeles.
Saavedra approached the woman, says, “I’m trying to use the ladies’ room and there is a man here claiming that he is a lady.” She confronted the transgender woman again while exiting, and later posted the video online.
On Friday, the Trump regime announced a new rule under which clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to places that do would lose federal funding. The rule takes direct aim at Planned Parenthood.
WAPO reported Virginia election officials mis-assigned 28 voters living in a predominantly African American precinct during the November 2017 election, possibly costing Democrats a pivotal race.
The race between David Yancey and Shelly Simonds was decided by picking a name from a bowl. Yancey’s victory allowed Republicans to maintain control of the House of Delegates, 51 to 49, even as Democrats picked up 15 seats.
On Friday, a school shooting at Santa Fe High School in southeast Texas killed ten. WAPO reported that in 2018 so far, more people have been killed at schools than have been killed while serving in the military.
The FCC announced net neutrality rules will expire on June 11. Chairman Ajit Pai said, “these unnecessary and harmful internet regulations will be repealed and the bipartisan, light touch approach” will be restored.
On Sunday, NYT reported Betsy DeVos’ Education Department plans to unwind a unit that was investigating widespread abuses and fraud by for-profit colleges. As Obama left office there were about a dozen employees; now there are three.
The unit was investigating fraudulent activities at institutions, including DeVry Education Group. That investigated ended early 2018, and in the summer, DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.
On Monday, Politico reported newly disclosed emails reveal Scott Pruitt’s Environmental Protection Agency and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis earlier this year.
The report found toxic chemicals have contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants, and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia. The regime said releasing it would be a “public relations nightmare.”
On Monday, CNN reported that a letter from the EPA’s inspector general revealed that contrary to his public statements, Pruitt’s requested 24/7 security detail on his first day working for the agency.
On Tuesday, Trump nominated Gordon Hartogensis, a self-described entrepreneur who is Speaker McConnell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s brother-in-law to lead the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
The PBGC pays worker pensions when employers terminate their retirement plans. The state of the agency is dire: assets of $2.3 billion and liabilities of $67 billion. The White House did not provide a biographical information for Hartogensis with the announcement.
On Tuesday, the Trump regime officially eliminated the White House’s top cyber adviser role, a position created under Obama. In Week 78, John Bolton had pushed to cut the role.
The cyber adviser led a team who worked with agencies to develop a unified strategy for issues like election security and digital deterrence. Experts and government officials criticized the move as a step backwards.
On Tuesday, the EPA inspector general announced it is investigating Pruitt’s use of nonpublic email accounts to assess whether he is keeping a record of his emails, and whether the EPA is searching all his accounts when fulfilling public records requests.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, DeVos toured two New York City schools, but did not visit any of the city’s public schools. DeVos has yet to visit a district-run school in New York.
Los Angeles, CA. March 2018
The Scotsman reported Trump’s Scottish resort received £5,600 in US government funds for VIP visits by officials in his regime, marking the first known instance of the property receiving US taxpayer money.
CNN reported that a former Trump campaign aide, Bryan Lanza, is lobbying on behalf of the chairman of EN+ Group, a company controlled by Deripaska. The company is seeking to reduce Deripaska’s stake in order to be freed of US sanctions.
USA Today reported lobbying firms with ties to Trump and Pence collected at least $28 million in federal lobbying fees since Trump took office.
Ballard Partners, overseen by Brian Ballard, has seen the biggest benefit, including a one-year contract with the government of Qatar that is worth as much as $2.1 million, reportedly for potential investments in Florida.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted he would help a Chinese company, tweeting, “President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast.”
ZTE, the fourth-largest phone maker in the US, violated US sanctions by doing business with Iran. In March 2017, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced an “unprecedented” $1.19 billion penalty against the company.
In April 2018, citing ZTE engaged in a “extensive conspiracy” to evade U.S. laws, the Commerce Department banned American companies from buying or selling the phone-maker’s products for the next seven years.
In Week 78, Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, and has re-imposed sanctions on Iran this last and this week, as well as threatening to go after European allies if they continue to do business with Iran.
Trump tweeted, “China and the United States are working well together on trade, but past negotiations have been so one sided in favor of China,” adding, “But be cool, it will all work out!”
On Sunday, press secretary Sanders said the regime is in touch with China, and Trump expected Ross to “exercise his independent judgment … to resolve the regulatory action involving ZTE based on its facts.”
Agence France-Presse reported last Thursday, the developer of a resort outside of Jakarta signed a deal to receive as much as $500 million from the Chinese government. The Trump Organization has a deal to license the Trump name to the resort.
At Monday’s press briefing, deputy press secretary Shah referred questions on the Indonesian project to the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization acknowledged its involvement, but refused to comment.
On Tuesday, top intelligence officials told the Senate Intelligence Committee that ZTE cell phones could pose a national security risk to the US, saying their products could be used by the Chinese government to spy.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted,“Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal,” contradicting Ross, who said Monday, “Our position has been that that’s an enforcement action separate from trade.”
Trump also attacked media coverage of ZTE, tweeting “The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China.”
On Thursday, in a rebuke to Trump, the House Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to accept an amendment that reinforces sanctions against ZTE, preventing the Commerce Department from renegotiating sanctions it enacted last month.
On Sunday, Michael Avenatti tweeted photos, alleging that on December 12, 2016, members of the Trump transition team met with a group from Qatar that included Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, the head of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Ahmed Al-Rumaihi confirmed he did meet with Trump transition officials that day, “in his then role as head of Qatar Investments,” but that he did not participate in meetings with Michael Flynn.
On Wednesday, WAPO reported Cohen solicited at least $1 million from the government of Qatar in exchange for access on December 12, the same day the Qatari foreign minister was meeting with Flynn and Steve Bannon.
Cohen did not participate in the official meeting at Trump Tower, but spoke separately with Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who declined the offer. This is the first known time that Cohen pitched his influence.
Rumaihi told the Post of Cohen, “He just threw it out there” as a cost of “doing business.” At the time, Cohen was also angling for a White House position, possibly chief of staff.
NBC News reported Qatari officials have information showing illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner, including secret meetings. Trump associates George Nader and Elliott Broidy also attended the meetings.
Qatari officials believe the secret meetings, as well as Qataris turning down the 666 Fifth Avenue deal with Kushner, influenced Trump’s public endorsement of an economic blockade of Qatar by its neighbors.
Qataris did not share information with Mueller out of concern for harming their relationship with the Trump regime, after a Qatari delegation came to DC in early 2018 and felt the meetings were productive.
On Thursday, NYT reported the Kushners are near a deal to get bailed out of the failing 666 Fifth Avenue deal by Brookfield Properties, whose second-largest shareholder is the Qatar Investment Authority.
Foreign Policy reported Cohen met with Qatar’s minister of economy and commerce, Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thanilast, last month in Miami, just days before the FBI raided his office and hotel room.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Qatar-U.S. Economic Forum in Miami. A Qatari embassy spokesperson said Cohen requested a meeting with Al Thani, adding “The State of Qatar has never been a client of Mr. Cohen.”
On Monday, Kushner and Ivanka were the smiling faces of America as the new US embassy opened in Jerusalem. In the protests that ensued, dozens of Palestinians were shot dead and thousands were injured.
Trump did not attend, so after an introduction by the US ambassador to Israel, Kushner was the main US speaker at the opening. Kushner has no foreign policy expertise and continues to be denied full security clearance.
Trump picked evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress to give a blessing at the opening. Jeffress has in the past said, “You can’t be saved by being a Jew,” and that “Islam is a false religion that is based on a false book.”
Los Angeles, CA. March 2018
On Monday, first lady Melania Trump was admitted to the hospital for a kidney procedure. Trump did not accompany her for the procedure, and it was noted the day prior, did not tweet about Melania on Mother’s Day.
On Tuesday, the White House abruptly canceled their daily press briefing. No reason was given for the cancellation. On Wednesday, the White House news briefing was removed from the schedule.
On Tuesday, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported Kim Jong Un threatened to cancel the upcoming summit with Trump, citing ongoing joint military drills involving South Korea and the US.
On Wednesday, North Korea canceled its summit with South Korea, and said it may cancel the US summit if the US continues to insist on scrapping the country’s nuclear program.
On Thursday, Trump sought to reassure Kim Jong Un, saying at an Oval Office meeting with NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg that North Korea “will get protections that are very strong,” if they surrender their nuclear weapons.
On Monday evening, a court filing revealed Mueller had obtained a secret order to suspend the statute of limitations on one of the charges brought against Paul Manafort. The secret order was made public after Manafort requested that the charge be thrown out.
On Tuesday, a federal judge denied Manafort’s motion to dismiss the indictment against him in Washington DC, saying it “falls squarely within that portion of the authority granted to the Special Counsel.”
On Monday, Facebook announced it will suspend an additional 200 apps as part of its investigation and audit process in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations.
On Tuesday, NYT reported the Justice Department and FBI have an open investigation into Cambridge Analytica and “associated U.S. persons.” The inquiry appears to be in it early stages.
The investigation is focused on the company’s financial dealings, and how it acquired and used personal data pulled from Facebook and other sources. Prosecutors from the Justice Department’s securities and financial fraud division and the FBI’s cybercrime unit are involved.
On Wednesday, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, saying the company offered services to discourage or suppress voting from targeted sections of Americans.
Wylie said Bannon’s “goals was to suppress voting or discourage certain individuals in the US from voting,” adding African-Americans were particular targets of Cambridge Analytica’s “voter disengagement tactics.”
Wylie explained how the Facebook data could have been shared with Russians, saying professor Aleksandr Kogan, who gathered the data, made numerous trips to Russia as part of his work with St. Petersburg University.
On Monday, Politico reported Andrii Artemenko, the Ukrainian lawmaker who served as a conduit for the Russia-backed Ukrainian peace plan, will testify before a grand jury connected to the Mueller investigation.
Artemenko contacted Felix Sater to find the best way to get his plan to the Trump regime during the transition. Sater introduced him to Cohen, who left the plan with then National Security Adviser Flynn.
On Friday, Artemenko told Politico that in “ at least” two interviews, FBI agents have peppered him with “assorted questions” about his “meetings, dealings and the questions discussed” with American politicians.
Artemenko said these included congressmen, senators and members of the Trump regime. He was presented with a list of more than 140 questions, and is scheduled to appear before a grand jury on June 1.
On Wednesday, Felix Ehrat, a top lawyer at Novartis who co-signed a $1.2 million contract to hire Cohen, said he would step down in June, saying, “Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error.”
On Wednesday, Yahoo News reported prosecutors and congressional investigators have obtained text messages and emails which show Cohen was still working on the Trump Tower Moscow deal as late as May 2016.
Text messages and emails from Sater provided to the government contradict Cohen’s statement that he gave up on the deal in January 2016. Sater and Cohen first met when they were both in high school.
On Thursday, BuzzFeed reported that in December 30, 2015, when negotiations on Trump Tower stalled, Cohen texted Sater, “I will not let you fuck with my job and playing point person,” adding “Not you or anyone you know will embarrass me in front of Mr. T.”
FBI agents told BuzzFeed that Cohen was speaking to multiple Russians about Trump Tower Moscow, even though he tried to reach and push the deal through Peskov, the Kremlin’s press secretary, on January 21, 2016.
Sater reportedly kept working the Trump Tower Moscow deal through the RNC Convention, until July 26, 2016 when he read Trump tweet: “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.”
On Thursday, Reuters reported Jeffrey Yohai, a former business partner of Manafort who was divorced from Manafort’s daughter last August, cut a plea deal which requires him to cooperate with criminal probes.
WSJ reported Yohai pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in a sealed proceeding in California in January. Yohai also pleaded guilty to misrepresenting his income and assets to obtain a no limit credit card.
Yohai has met with Mueller’s team, who have brought charges against Manafort, and also in recent months with the New York attorney general’soffice as part of the probe investigating both Manafort and Yohai.
On Friday, Reuters reported Mueller recently subpoenaed John Kakanis, a key assistant to Roger Stone. Kakanis has worked as a driver, accountant, and operative for Stone, indicating the investigation is focusing on Stone.
Reportedly, Kakanis has been briefly questioned by the FBI on topics including Russian interference in the 2016 election, WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, and the hackers known as Guccifer 2.0.
During the 2016 Republican primaries, a Stone PAC paid $130,000 to Citroen Associates for “voter fraud research and documentation” and “research services consulting.” Kakanis is the owner of Citroen.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of documents related to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. The materials include transcripts and other exhibits.
The roots of the meeting trace back to Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, financed by Aras and Emin Agalarov in 2013. Trump wanted to meet with Putin, and continued pressing for that throughout the years.
The transcripts reveal Donald Jr. did not think there was anything wrong with meeting with a Russian lawyer in hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. According to an attendee, he opened the meeting, saying, “I believe you have some information for us.”
The transcripts also reveal the disappointment of Donald Jr., Kushner, and Manafort that the meeting did not yield harmful information. Rob Goldstone was also disappointed, and had reservations about setting the meeting up, “I believed it was a bad idea and that we shouldn’t do it.”
Ike Kaveladze said Donald Jr. closed out the meeting by telling the Russians they could revisit the discussions about lifting sanctions should Trump win the election. Kaveladze said the Magnitsky Act dominated discussion.
When asked if Trump was involved in drafting the statement about the meeting, Donald Jr. responded, “ I don’t know. I never spoke to my father about it.” Later, Donald Jr. said he may have edited it through Hope Hicks.
Donald Jr.’s frequently answered that he did not recall, including saying he did not remember ever discussing the Russia investigation with Trump, or many of the calls or emails leading up to the June 2016 meeting.
Also in the documents is an email from Anthony Scaramucci to Goldstone on July 2017, after Trump appointed him a senior White House role, saying, “Obviously there is still pressure on all sides, but if we remain consistent and united I don’t envisage any issues we can’t ride out.”
Documents revealed the Nov. 28, 2016 Goldstone email to Trump’s assistant, Rhona Graff sent to undermine US sanctions, was forwarded by Graff to Bannon, with a note, “The PE [president elect] knows Aras well. Rob is his rep in the US.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee report also said the Kremlin used the NRA to help Trump in 2016, including an offer for a potential meeting between Trump and Putin, and possibly secretly funding the campaign.
The report found the committee’s work is incomplete, “We still do not know the full story about the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower or, more broadly, the degree to which the campaign cooperated or communicated with Russia.”
On Wednesday, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, broke from the House Intelligence Committee, saying they agreed with the intelligence assessment.
Warner said there was an “ extensive, sophisticated” effort that was “ordered by President Putin himself,” with the purpose of helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Several top Republicans in the Senate also voiced support for the intelligence community’s findings, including James Lankford, Susan Collins, and John Cornyn, who said the assessment was “by and large well done.”
On Wednesday, according to a federally required annual financial disclosure form released by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), Trump reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.
The payment was disclosed in a note at the bottom of Page 45 of the 92-page report states. “Mr. Cohen sought reimbursement of those expenses and Mr. Trump fully reimbursed Cohen in 2017” in the category of value between $100,001 and $250,000.
Federal law requires White House officials to “report liabilities owed to any creditor that exceeded $10,000 at any time during the reporting period.” Trump did not report the payment in his 2017 filing.
On Wednesday, OGE acting director David Apol referred Trump’s financial disclosures to the Justice Department, after determining Trump should have disclosed his reimbursement payment in last year’s form.
In May 2017, information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows Trump’s former attorney, Sheri Dillon, wanted to submit last year’s financial disclosure without having him certify the information as true.
Trump also listed $315 million in debt, including $175 million to Deutsche Bank, and $100 million to a far-less well-known lender, Ladder Capital.
Trump’s disclosure also revealed Trump Hotel DC earned $40 million for calendar year 2017, Trump’s first year in office. Revenue included $350,000 in campaign funds, 60% from Republican National Committee events.
Hotel customers included officials or lobbyists for the governments of Malaysia, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Trump Hotel DC also hosted events for a number of domestic industries, including mining and confections.
On Wednesday, The New Yorker reported the motivation for the official who leaked Cohen’s financial records was that two suspicious-activity reports (SARs), had gone missing from the FinCEN database.
The official said that those two reports detail more than $3 million in additional questionable transactions from Cohen’s account, adding, “When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.”
The three SARS were filed by First Republic. The one made public by Avenatti details only transactions from September of 2017 to January of 2018, and alludes to the previous two reports which have gone missing.
On Thursday, WAPO reported the Treasury Department’s inspector general is expanding its probe into leaks, to include reports leaked to Avenatti as well as the source of The New Yorker story.
Treasury officials said in a statement that since 2009, FinCEN has had the ability restrict access to sensitive SARs.
On Friday, BuzzFeed reported that according to three sources, the two Cohen SARs are not missing, but rather Treasury Department officials have taken the highly unusual step of restricting access to them.
Sources said limiting access is rare, and most likely came from the top of the Treasury Department. Limiting access to the SARs may have been an effort to crack down on leaks.
On Wednesday, Axios reported a major rift between Peter Navarro and Steven Mnuchin has opened, with the two exchanging snipes during the Trump delegation’s trip to China two weeks ago.
As China’s top trade negotiator Liu He arrived in Washington DC, regime members set to attend the meeting were Mnuchin, Ross, Robert Lighthizer, and Larry Kudlow. China hardliner Navarro was initially excluded.
On Thursday, Bloomberg reported Navarro will take part in China talks. It was not known why the regime decided to reinstate him in the talks, or what role Navarro would play.
On Wednesday, at a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned of a “growing crisis in ethics and integrity,” and said if we don’t confront it, “then American democracy, as we know it, is entering its twilight years.”
Tillerson also said if our leaders conceal the truth or if “we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts,” then we are “are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”
On Wednesday, the Senate approved overturning the FCC’s net neutrality repeal by a 52-47 vote, with Sens. Collins, Lisa, Murkowski, and John Kennedy joining Democrats. The House does not intend to take the measure up.
On Wednesday, NYT reported the FBI opened an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016, dispatching agents to London for a highly secret meeting, privy to only a handful.
Two agents met with the Australian ambassador, Alexander Downer, who had evidence that one of Trump’s advisers knew about Russia’s election meddling — that adviser turned out to be George Papadopoulos.
The agents summarized their findings on August 2, 2016 for a small group of FBI officials who knew it by its code name: Crossfire Hurricane. Agents considered, then rejected, interviewing key Trump associates, for fear of revealing the existence of the case.
The FBI investigated four unidentified Trump campaign aides in the early months: Flynn, Manafort, Papadopoulos, and Carter Page. Top officials were convinced there was almost no chance they could conclude if there was collusion before Election Day, and chose to keep it under wraps.
On Wednesday, in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, FBI director Christopher Wray defended the bureau against criticism by House Republicans. Wray said he doubled the number of staff in March to keep up with GOP document requests.
Wray underscored the importance of protecting the identity of sources, saying, “The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe.”
On Thursday, Trump marked the one-year anniversary of the Mueller probe, tweeting, “Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History.”
Trump also repeated accusations the FBI had an informant inside his 2016 campaign, tweeting “word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT.’”
On Thursday morning, Trump surrogates parroted this mantra. Giuliani told “Fox & Friends” that he was “shocked to hear that they put a spy in the campaign,” and “I think the investigation should be thrown out.”
Kellyanne Conway also appeared on “Fox & Friends,” saying “It looks like the Trump campaign may have been surveilled.” Corey Lewandowski went on Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria,” and repeated the same allegations.
On Thursday, WAPO reported Trump is joining forces with Rep. Devin Nunes and other of his allies on Capitol Hill and in the conservative media to out a top-secret FBI source in order to undercut the Russia investigation.
Reportedly the stakes are so high, the FBI is working to mitigate the potential damage if the sources is revealed, including steps to protect other live investigations and danger to associates of the informer.
Trump allies believe outing the source and revealing details about their work could help them challenge the investigation, and give them grounds to remove Mueller, or his overseer, Rod Rosenstein.
Trump complains the Mueller probe is “all-encompassing,” and encourages his allies to go on television and “beat the drums.” Bannon is back, acting as an informal adviser to Trump allies in and outside the White House.
On Friday, Trump tweeted, “ Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes,” adding “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story.”
Trump also tweeted is was the “ all time biggest political scandal!” Trump also questioned in tweets why “disgraced FBI official Andrew McCabe” wasn’t being investigated, and why the Clinton case was dropped.
On Friday, Sen. Warner warned in a statement that attempts to expose an FBI source during an active investigation was “potentially illegal,” adding, “Publicly outing a source risks not only their life, but the lives of every American.”
On Friday, NYT reported that the FBI used an informant, not to spy, to talk to Page and Papadopoulos only after the FBI received evidence that the two had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign.
The informant is an American academic who teaches in Britain, and was used, as opposed to an FBI agent, to ensure details of the inquiry were more closely held than is typical given it took place during the campaign.
The informant had also contact with Flynn in 2014 at the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar. The source was alarmed by the general’s apparent closeness with a Russian woman and warned American authorities that Flynn could be compromised.
On Friday, WAPO also reported the secret FBI source was a professor interested in American politics, not a spy. Some time in 2016, he began working as secret informant for the FBI.
In addition to Papadopoulos and Page, WAPO also reported t he professor met with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis for coffee in Northern Virginia, offering to lend the Trump team his foreign-policy experience.
On Friday, NBC News reported the professor who met with both Page and Papadopoulos is Stefan Halper, a former official in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations.
Los Angeles, CA. March 2018
On Thursday, a poll released by Survey Monkey found that just 13% of Americans consider Trump honest and trustworthy. The poll was conducted between February 1 and May 9.
On Thursday, while meeting with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg at the White House, Trump again said NATO members that do not contribute fully would be “dealt with,” singling out Germany.
On Friday, Giuliani told CNN Mueller has agreed to narrow the scope of a potential Trump interview from five to two topics, and agreed not to ask Trump about Cohen. Giuliani added “the main focus we want … is Russia.”
Giuliani also backed off from saying there were informants embedded with the Trump campaign who spoke to federal authorities, saying, “I don’t know for sure, nor does the President, if there really was. We’re told that.”
On Thursday, an appeals court denied Trump’s request to stay proceedings in the Summer Zervos defamation suit. The legal setback for Trump could open him up to discovery in the case, although Trump is likely to appeal.
On Thursday, Avenatti told MSNBC that two other women with solid caseswho claim to have had affairs with Trump signed NDAs and received payments may soon come forward. Other cases are also being vetted.
On Friday, lawyers for Cohen and Stephanie Clifford continued to attack each other in dueling memos. Cohen’s lawyers filed a scathing motion asking a judge to keep Avenatti from formally entering the case, saying he was “fanning a media storm” and “smearing” Cohen.
Avenatti answered with a motion, arguing that many of his adversaries’ assaults on him were “ unsubstantiated,” “baseless,” and lacking in “admissible evidence.”
One year in on the Mueller probe, FiveThirtyEight found Mueller to be more productive than past investigations like Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Whitewater. Mueller has racked up five guilty pleas, 14 indictments of individuals, and the Cohen referral to the Southern District of New York.
Week 43 of trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
September 9, 2017 https://medium.com/@Amy_Siskind/week-43-experts-in-authoritarianism-advise-to-keep-a-list-of-things-subtly-changing-around-you-so-d1621f9224f8
This week the Mueller probe edged towards engulfing Trump’s entire inner-circle. Also of great import, Facebook finally admitted to the company’s role in allowing Russian bots to infiltrate our election. Speculation grew that a foreign entity influenced our election, and that the Trump campaign was complicit.
This week the Trump regime continued its assault on marginalized communities and women, rescinding DACA and taking away protections for victims of campus sexual assault. A second major hurricane illuminated the extent to which the Trump regime has already deconstructed federal agencies like the EPA and State Department.
Late Saturday over Labor Day Weekend, the
DOJ unceremoniously announced there is no evidence Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Trump did not apologize to Obama for this frequently repeated, false claim. Trump visited Hurricane Harvey survivors in Houston seeking shelter at the NRG Center. While preparing to serve lunch, Trump said
his hands were “too big” to fit in the plastic serving gloves. As he left the shelter,
Trump told survivors, “have a good time everybody.” The Pentagon miscalculated the number of troops deployed the Harvey: command
said 6,300 were deployed, but the actual number was 1,638. On Saturday afternoon,
AP reported that while many ultra-polluted Superfund sites in Houston were flooded, and there was concern about toxins spreading, the EPA was not on scene. The EPA responded with a statement on Sunday, in which the agency
personally attacked the credibility of the : “Michael Biesecker has a history of not letting the facts get in the way of his story.” AP reporter The EPA said the Superfund sites were
inaccessible, but they had used aerial imaging in their assessments. AP reported its staff had used a boat, vehicles and gone on foot to reach seven of the sites.
WAPO reported the EPA has taken the unusual step of putting a Trump political operative, John Konkus, who has little environmental policy experience, in charge of dolling out hundreds of millions of EPA grants. The
GAO will investigate hiring practices by the EPA. Agencies are not supposed to hire industry lobbyists for two years, but the EPA allegedly skirted those orders using a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Trump nominated David Zatezalo, a former chief executive Rhino Resources, a company which
repeatedly clashed with federal regulators over safety, to run the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Trump nominated Jim Bridenstine, a representative from Oklahoma who
has denied climate change and has no science credentials, to lead NASA. This is the longest in its history that NASA has been without a leader.
CNN reported ahead of his Senate confirmation, parts of Bridenstine’s online presence were scrubbed, including radio and video interviews, and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts belonging to his campaign. Following a
nuclear test by N. Korea which unleashed a 6.3-magnitude tremor Saturday, on Sunday, Trump was openly critical of S. Korea, tweeting, “their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work.”
NYT reported Trump’s antagonistic comments recently have made S. Korea question their alliance with the US, which stretches over 67 years. Later that day, Mattis addressed the press and said, “
our commitments among the allies are iron-clad.” Mattis repeated that commitment in a statement on Wednesday. This marked the third time in a week that Mattis’s message has differed from Trump (see Week 42), in addition to his statement to troops in Week 42 about upholding American values in the era of Trump.
WSJ reported that nearly 400 EPA employees have left in recent days, leaving the agency with its lowest staffing in almost 30 years. The Pentagon
dramatically scaled back the number of reporters traveling with Mattis overseas to just six: one wire service, one newspaper, a radio pool reporter, and a three-person pool television crew.
AP, the oldest and largest American wire service, which provides news to thousands of print and broadcast clients and has traveled with the defense secretary for decades, will not be included in all trips. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
narrowed the scope of Trump’s second Muslim Ban, ruling extended family members are exempt. The Trump regime filed papers with the
Supreme Court in support of a Christian baker in Colorado, who a state court ruled against for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The
US Commission on Civil Rights issues a letter denouncing Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, citing Arpaio’s repeatedly violating the of civil rights of Latinos and defying a federal court order, amongst other violations.
Trump’s DHS planned a massive nationwide raids to target 8,400 undocumented immigrants, described as “the largest operation of its kind in the history of ICE” for later this month.
NBC reported the “massive roundup” plan was canceled late Thursdaydue to Hurricane Irma and damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Sessions announced
nonsanctuary jurisdictions would get “priority consideration” in a grant program called COPS. While Obama had used to the program to promote trust between officers and community, Sessions and Trump are using it to crackdown on immigrants. On Thursday, at the same time as Donald Jr.’s senate testimony,
DeVos said she will roll back Obama-era directive on campus sexual assault at a speech at George Mason University. She did not take any questions. DeVos said she would develop a replacement that she said would do a better job of “
balancing the rights of victims and the accused.” Men’s rights advocates applauded DeVos for listening to their side. On a call with survivor advocates Friday,
Biden said DeVos “does not speak for the American people,” and called on advocates to meet with college and university administrators and “demand they step up.”
CBC News reported on a spike in international undergraduate and graduate applications to Canadian universities in the wake of Trump. As part of the NAFTA negotiations,
Canada demanded that the US end its “right to work” laws in place in some states. Canadian officials say these laws gut unions by starving them of money.
ACLU reported ICE has asked the National Archives and Record Administration for permission to begin destroying 11 types of records, including those related to sexual assaults and solitary confinement. A Republican in the House referred to a female colleague challenging his amendment as “young lady” and said
she “doesn’t know a damn thing what she’s talking about.” He later apologized. The
FBI will probe the brutal arrest by Utah cops of a nurse who followed hospital policy and refused to draw blood (Week 42). In Iowa, a photo of
five high school boys in wearing KKK hoods and burning a cross circulated on social media. The boys were suspended. Rachel Maddow ran a segment on how
Trump has given white nationalists like Bannon and the alt-right a path to power. An
Atlantic piece, “ Donald Trump is the First White President,” spoke of Trump’s white support, the undertones of racism successfully harnessed in his campaign, and his obsession with the negation of Obama’s legacy.
USA Today investigated membership in Trump’s clubs and traced 4,500 members. For the first time in US history, wealthy people have close access to a president as a result of payments that enrich him personally.
USA Today found membership includes 50+ executives whose companies hold federal contracts and 21 lobbyists and trade group officials. Two-thirds played on a Trump course one of the 58 days he was there. Republican leaders
prevented a vote on a bill in the House which would have banned federal spending at Trump businesses. Rep Pascrell’s motion to
demand Trump release his tax returns was voted down 21–14 in the House Way and Means Comm, helping Republicans avoid a more public vote in the full House. This breaks a 40-year precedent of presidents making their tax returns public. The
GAO will investigate Zinke’s threat to withhold support for Alaska over Murkowski’s Obamacare repeal vote. In Week 42, the OIG closed its investigation after the two Alaska senators refused to participate. A lawsuit filed against Trump’s Election Integrity Commission alleges that at least two members are
using personal emails for office business. Kobach authored an article at
Breitbart claiming out-of-state voters changed the outcome of the NH senate race in 2016. This claim is false. Kobach and the Election Integrity Comm will arrive in NH next week to discuss, among other things, “
election integrity issues affecting public confidence.” NH Senators Shaheen and Hassan
issued a statement condemning Trump’s Election Comm for misleading the public. They also called on NH’s Secretary of State to resign from the commission. Heading back from summer recess,
WSJ reported on the unusually strained relations between Trump and Republicans, saying Trump invited leaders to Bedminster, “but they were unable to coordinate schedules.”
NYT reported as late as an hour before the DACA decision was announced on Tuesday, administration officials expressed concern that Trump didn’t fully grasp the details of rescinding DACA or its impact. Instead of facing the public, Trump sent Sessions to speak to the press on Tuesday to be the face of ending DACA. Sessions claimed DACA was “
deemed illegal by, I think, just about every legal expert.” Javier Palomares, the
CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, resigned from Trump’s National Diversity Coalition over Trump’s decision to end DACA. A
POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found just 15% believe DACA should be rescinded, while 76% believe Dreamers should be allowed to stay. On Tuesday, in a nighttime tweet,
Trump signaled he may be open to changing his mind on DACA, saying if Congress can’t pass something in six months, “I will revisit this issue!” The
US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement denouncingTrump’s decision to end DACA. Bannon told
CBS’s “60 Minutes” he disagrees with Trump on ending DACA, but blasted the US Conference of Catholic Bishops saying they are opposed to DACA because “they need illegal aliens to fill the churches.”
VOX noted despite Trump’s tweet, the government is already winding down DACA, as the Trump regime is no longer accepting new applications from young immigrants. On Thursday,
Trump again tweeted his assurance to Dreamers, falsely claiming if you “are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about — No action!”
CNN estimated 983 undocumented immigrants per day will lose protection they previously enjoyed under DACA, as the two-year tenure of their status expires. At an Oval Office meeting on Wednesday, after Republican leaders and Mnuchin advocated for a 18-month hike for the debt ceiling,
Trump unexpectedly sided with “Chuck and Nancy” for a three-month hike. Later at a rally in North Dakota,
Trump called Democratic senator Heitkamp, who is running for re-election, a “good woman,” and said, “these are great people. They work hard. They’re for you 100 percent.” On Wednesday, after months of denying Russia had purchased advertisement there,
Facebook issued a bland headline, “An Update On Information Operations On Facebook,” admitting this wasn’t true. Facebook told Congressional investigators Wednesday that
the company sold $100k of advertisement to Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” in St. Petersburg with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda. Facebook reported that
roughly a quarter of the ads were “geographically targeted.” The ads focus was to amplify divisive issues like LGBT matters, race issues, immigration and gun rights.
Daily Beast calculated that $100k in Facebook ads could have reached as many as 70 million users if amplified in a sophisticated manner.
NYT reported on the sophisticated ways “troll farms” manipulated and disseminated news on Facebook and Twitter during the 2016 election. Former FBI agent Clint Watts called it a “bot cancer eroding trust.”
NYT also found some of the most aggressive and misogynistic Bernie Sanders supporters were actually Russian bots and trolls A
WAPO columnist speculated that Trump would not have won without the help of an organized Russia attack on Facebook. A NYT op-ed decreed: “ Facebook Wins, Democracy Loses.”
Reuters reported Facebook turned over data to Mueller about Russian involvement, including copies of advertisements and data about buyers. Mueller is probing whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intel Comm said
Facebook’s Russia disclosure is the “tip of the iceberg” on election interferencethrough social media.
McClatchy reported Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies may be subpoenaed. A former prosecutor said Facebook ad buys suggest “numerous crimes, including conspiracy to defraud” the US.
USA Today reported Russia has interfered in at least 27 European and North American countries’ elections since 2004. Nunes, who had recused himself as House chair,
lashed out at Sessions in a letter for not sharing FBI and DOJ documents related to the Steele dossier. Nunes also threatened Sessions and Wray with a public hearing.
Vanity Fair reported Gowdy is also waging a war to discredit the Steele dossier. Gowdy claims subpoenas are necessary because the FBI and DOJ haven’t supplied the documents underlying the dossier. Trump attorney Michael Carvin
filed a brief asking a federal judge to toss out lawsuit that accuses the Trump campaign of conspiring with Russian operatives to publish stolen DNC information on WikiLeaks. In
Week 23, the DOJ said it was preparing charges against Assange, with Sessions saying Assange’s arrest is a priority. Strangely, this never happened and now the Trump regime is defending WikiLeaks. As a
news conference in China, Putin said, Trump is “not my bride, and I am not his groom.” On Thursday,
Donald Jr. meet with the Senate Judiciary Comm behind closed doors. Only one senate Republican attended the hearing, and stayed for only about five minutes. Feinstein, the ranking Democrat, said
Donald Jr. has agreed to public testimony, and if he doesn’t follow through he will be subpoenaed. Grassley, who Trump offered federal support for the ethanol industry in Week 42, said no final decision has been made. Donald Jr. claimed he took the meeting with Veselnitskaya and others because
she might have damaging information “concerning the fitness, character or qualifications” of Hillary.
NPR obtained a copy of Donald Jr.’s four-page statement in which he said Veselnitskaya “provided no meaningful information,” and the meeting was “primarily focused on Russian adoptions” and the Magnitsky Act. Donald Jr. disclosed, for the first time,
three phones calls with Agalarov before the June 9 meeting, the content of which he couldn’t recall. He said he had no recollection of any documents left by Russian visitors. Donald Jr. also said he did “
not collude with any foreign government and do not know of anyone who did,” and that he hoped the interview had fully satisfied the senate inquiry.
Newsweek compiled a list of Donald Jr.’s rationales for taking the meeting. Thursday’s testimony was his fifth version so far. After Donald Jr.’s testimony,
Democratic senator Coons issued a memo citing statute 18 U.S.C. 1001(a) & ©(2), which outlines the punishments for lying to Congress.
CNN reported Mueller will seek to interview the staff aboard Air Force One present as Trump helped craft the misleading statement issued by Donald Jr. about the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower. Mueller wants to know
how the statement was put together, whether information was intentionally left out, and who was involved. Mueller considers the aides who helped craft the statement to be witnesses. In Donald Jr.’s senate testimony, he claimed
he was not aware of what role, if any, his father might have played in drafting the statement.
WAPO reported Mueller has alerted the WH that his team will seek to speak with six Trump insiders, including Hicks, Priebus, Spicer, McGahn, and one of McGahn’s deputies, Burnham. Mueller also expects to question
Josh Raffel, a WH spokesperson who works closely with Kushner, as well as possibly Trump family members, including Kushner. Each of the six was
privy to internal discussions in areas being investigated by Mueller including the Comey firing, Trump’s inaction on Flynn, and possible coordination with Russia.
Daily Beast reported Mueller wants to speak with Hicks about what happened on Air Force One as Trump crafted Donald Jr.’s statement.
Daily Beast also reported efforts are underway to organize a legal defense fund for WH staffers. Legal fees related to the Mueller probe are expected to be high with lawyers likely billing $500–1k per hour. Late Friday,
POLITICO reported Hicks hired Robert Trout, a highly regarded attorney, to represent her in the Mueller probe.
CNN obtained the 17-page Trump Tower Moscow letter of intent, signed by Trump in October 2015, the day of a Republican primary debate. The property would be named Trump World Tower Moscow. The deal would have
given Trump perks including a $4 million upfront fee, no upfront costs, a percentage of the sales, and the opportunity to name the hotel spa after his daughter Ivanka. During the campaign,
Trump said he had “nothing to do with Russia.”
On Friday, Trump hosted Russia’s new US ambassador Anatoly Antonov in DC. Russia media reported that Antonov describe the meeting as “warm.” US media was not informed of the meeting. Antonov said Russia did not interfere in the US election. Two years ago, the
EU put Antonov on its list of officials subject to sanctions, citing his involvement in supporting the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine. Dmitry
Firtash, a Ukrainian industrialist and top-tier Russian mob associate with ties to Manafort is fighting US prosecutors’ efforts to bring him to Chicago for a bribery trial. He remains in Vienna on $174mm bail. Asked for comment on the second major hurricane in two weeks, Pruitt said
Hurricane Irma isn’t the right time to talk about climate change. On Thursday, by a 31–0 vote the
Senate Appropriations Comm allocated $51bn for the State Depart and foreign operations, nearly $11bn more than requested by the Trump regime. On Friday, the
committee blasted the Trump regime in its report saying its approach to foreign policy weakens US standing in the world. On Friday, the
State Dept was criticized for its response to Hurricane Irma which had already affected thousands of Americans in the Caribbean Islands. A task force was set up Friday, after the storm hit. State Dept employees point out there is
currently no Under Secretary of State for Management, who would typically be in charge of State’s response to a storm of Irma’s magnitude. In another move towards what Bannon had called the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” the
OMB issued a memo directing “a net reduction in total incremental regulatory costs” for agencies.
WSJ reported Trump is unlikely to nominate Cohn to Fed Chair when Yellen’s term comes up in February, citing Cohn’s criticism of Trump’s Charlottesville response in a FT interview (Week 41).
NYT reported Kelly is trying to be welcoming to Cohn, but WH aides say Trump is freezing Cohn out by employing a familiar tactic: refusing to make eye contact with him. Bannon told
CBS’s “60 Minutes” Christie didn’t get a position in Trump’s cabinet because Christie wasn’t loyal after the “Access Hollywood” tapes.
Bloomberg reported key Trump aide’s said Trump is rattled by the pending departure of longtime bodyguard Schiller. Aides described Schiller as the “emotional anchor” for Trump in the WH turmoil.
I am currently in Budapest, Hungary and was hoping to not have to see this face. But, unfortunately, this is going to be a popular nightmare mask for people all over the world this Halloween. The world continues to just laugh and laugh… – Added to the image is Australian street artist CRiSP’s “Selfie This” sticker. I felt it was appropriate. 9SEP17.
Week 28 of donald trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
May 27, 2017
This week the Trump-Russia scandal reached the inner circle of Trump’s WH, as bombshells revealed Kushner is a central focus of the FBI investigation. The Trump regime established a war room as the walls of Trump-Russia cave in on them, with breaking news daily.
Also of note this week is the myriad of examples of Trump distancing our country from our traditional allies, and instead cozying up to brutal authoritarians. Human rights abroad are no longer a priority — the focus seems to have shifted to where the Trump organization has properties.
Trump’s attorney said
he wouldn’t sign his 2016 financial disclosure, a major departure from the norm. After OGE pushback, Trump said he would sign, but has yet to do so. The WH also
blocked disclosure of names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the WH or for federal agencies. Late Friday, the WH said they would comply, but has yet to do so. GOP Senators are
considering changing rules to make it harder for Democrats to block Trump’s picks for circuit court judges. This follows the “nuclear option” which eased the path for Trump’s SCOTUS pick. Tillerson held a press conference in Riyadh on a new US-Saudi partnership.
US media was excluded.
NPR reported there’s been an unprecedented spike of white supremacist activity on college campuses since Trump was elected. Shortly after announcing his resignation from Congress, Chaffetz said
individuals leaking info to the press should go to jail. Trump considered vetoing the temporary spending bill.
Priebus asked Boehner to talk Trump into signing and keeping the government open. As the Trump regime’s visited Saudi Arabia,
the kingdom announced it would invest $20bn in Blackstone’s new $40bn infrastructure fund. Saudi Arabia will also
invest $100mm in Ivanka’s Women Entrepreneurs Fund. In addition to other human right’s abuses, the kingdom has one of the worst records globally for treatment of its women. During a photo op with Netanyahu on his visit to Israel,
Trump confirmed the source of his leak to Lavrov and Kislyak at the WH by telling the press he “never mentioned the word or the name Israel.”
FP reported that Israel changed its intelligence sharing with the US after Trump’s leak to Russia.
Turkey summoned the US envoy to complain about the treatment of Ergodan’s bodyguards for beating up US protestors. Amid rising tensions,
Turkey signed a $1.5mm contract with longtime Trump lobbyist Brian Ballard. Ballard’s firm has also recently signed contracts with the Dominican Republic and the Socialist Party of Albania. A leaked transcript prepared by the Philippines government of a phone call between Trump and Duterte described Trump praising the brutal authoritarian: “
what a great job you are doing” with the drug problem. Also on the call with Duterte, Trump
revealed the location of two US nuclear submarines. US officials were
chastised for leaking the identity of the Manchester bomber to the press before British police officially named him. UK officials were also outraged when photos of the debris surfaced in the
NYT, and said they would stop sharing information about the attack with their US counterparts. Later that day, sharing reportedly resumed. Flynn’s lawyer said his client would
invoke his Fifth Amendment rights rather than comply with a Senate Intel Comm subpoena. Burr and Warner said they are considering holding Flynn in contempt. Christie told reporters that as head of Trump’s transition team,
he told Trump not to hire Flynn in any capacity. Pence took over as head next. Sessions canceled his Monday testimony on DOJ funding before Congress scheduled, for
fear the hearing would be overtaken by questions are the Trump-Russia scandal. Cummings said the House Oversight Comm has documents that show
Flynn lied to security clearance investigators in 2016. Flynn claimed he was paid by “US companies,” not Russia’s RT, for his 2015 Moscow trip.
CNN reported that Mueller visited FBI headquarters, and was briefed on the contents of Comey’s Trump memos.
WAPO reported Trump asked intel chiefs Coats and Rogers to publicly say there was no collusion between Russia and Trump in the 2016 election. The goal was to “muddy the waters” about the FBI probe. Like Comey, Rogers was concerned about his conversations with Trump, and
kept contemporaneous notes.
WAPO also reported that WH staffers tried to get senior intel officers and members of Congress to push back on the stories that the Trump regime members were in frequent contact with Russian officials. Sen Duckworth sent a letter to the
NSA requesting info on security sweeps of the Oval Office after Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak. A member of the FEC called for an investigation into
Russia’s purchase of Facebook ads to possibly boost Trump in the election. At a House hearing, former CIA director Brennan testified that he was convinced last summer that “
the Russians were trying to interfere in the election. And they were very aggressive” Brennan also testified on
significant contact between the Trump campaign and Russia, citing Russians efforts to get US persons “to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.” Brennan also said
he alerted the FBI about the troubling pattern in July, seeming to form the basis for the start of the FBI investigation. Despite the Trump’s regime efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation — citing Kushner, Ivanka and Manafort are clients of his former law firm — the
DOJ cleared Mueller to lead the Russia probe. The Senate Intel Comm
subpoenaed two Flynn companies. Businesses, if corporations, cannot plead the Fifth. On Thursday, the Senate Intel Comm voted to
give Burr and Warner blanket authority to issue subpoenas in the Trump-Russia probe. Burr and Warner asked Trump’s political organization to
produce all Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015.
STAT reported on experts citing that the deterioration in Trump’s linguistic capabilities could reflect changes in the health of his brain.
Infowars was given WH press credentials. The
NEH chairman resigned amid Trump’s budget rollout which calls for huge cuts to domestic programs. A top Education Department official
resigned after refusing DeVos’s orders to testify before a congressional oversight hearing. Trump released his budget with a $2tn double-counting error. Larry Summers described it as, “
the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them.” Trump’s Caribbean estate was quietly put on the market at a
significantly higher price than he paid in 2013, again raising ethical concerns of potential buyers paying above market to gain access.
NYT reported on ethical concerns over the Trump family golf business, as the PGA comes to Trump National, and access to Trump, who frequents his courses, is being touted as a marketing point for membership. Demonstrating how Trump’s friends continue to influence policy, Icahn is
set to save $60mm for his oil refinery company CVR Energy in the first quarter due to planned easing of regulations.
Giuliani attempted to distance himself from Trump’s Muslim Ban, despite his bragging on Fox News months ago that he was consulted by Trump. DeVos said
states should have the flexibility to discriminate against LGBTQ students, and schools will not be at risk of losing federal funds. Although before taking office Trump promised to donate all profits earned from foreign governments back to the US Treasury, according to
NBC, the Trump Organization is not tracking these payments. The Constitution bans presidents from receiving foreign government gifts.
93% of key roles in the executive branch remain unfilled.
Buzzfeed reported the guest reception manager at Mar-A-Lago, wife of a twice-convicted felon who likes to brag about his wife’s access, was assigned a WH email and phone and helped with Trump’s overseas plans. A new study found that
tourism to the US has been on the decline since Trump took office, dropping by as much as 16%. The Carrier plant in Indiana, where to much ballyhoo Trump showcased saving 800 jobs,
announced mass layoffs before Christmas.
FP reported NATO countries were frantically preparing for their summit with Trump. One official said, “ It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing.” At the NATO summit in Brussels, Trump
pushed the PM of Montenegro aside, before chastising participants for not paying their share of NATO costs. His behavior was met with uniform disgust by our allies. Trump also
refused to clearly back Article 5, the one-for-all, all-for-one principle of NATO, and remained at odd with our allies over Russia. Trump also said of Germany, our close ally, “
The Germans are bad, very bad.” Aya Hijazi, who Trump had bragged about negotiating her release from an Egyptian prison, told
PBS’s Woodruff that Trump did not understand that it was el-Sisi’s regime that held her. On Wednesday, Greg Gianforte, running for Montana’s open Congressional seat,
body slammed a reporter when asked about AHCA CBO scoring. Like Trump, Gianforte has had harsh rhetoric on the media. Gianforte was charged with assault the night before the election. Weeks before Jacobs had reported on
Gianforte’s ownership of Russian index funds, whose holdings include companies like Rosneft which are under US sanctions. Press advocates cited four incidents between the press and public officials in the past month, saying
Trump’s rhetoric has led to a “climate of anger, disrespect and hostility” towards the press. POLITICO reported that Trump reached out to former campaign staffers
Lewandowski and Bossie about becoming crisis managers as the Trump-Russia scandal unfolds. In a surprising move,
Trump hired his longtime personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz to represent him in the special counsel’s Trump-Russia probe.
CNN reported the Trump regime is establishing a war room-type operation aimed at developing a rapid-response to Trump-Russia news. As the CBO came out with alarming scoring on Trumpcare/AHCA, Trump ally
Gingrich called for the abolishment of the CBO. Trump’s
budget targets undocumented immigrants by denying them tax credits and jobs, while significantly beefing up his deportation force. The Trump regime kept
US reporters largely in the dark during his overseas trip this week: delaying readouts, keeping reporters at a distance, and refusing to hold new conferences. Trump ally Sheriff Clarke
directed his staff waiting at the terminal to hassle a plane passenger after a brief exchange. The passenger is suing Clarke and his deputies involved. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a nationwide injunction against Trump’s second Muslim Ban by a 10–3 vote. The Chief Judge said the ban, “
drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”
In their efforts to highlight crimes committed by undocumented immigrants through their VOICE program, Trump’s DHS published a database with the personal information of abuse victims. For the first time in almost two decades,
Tillerson declined to host a Ramadan event at the State Dept. In Portland, OR,
a suspect hurled insults at Muslim women on a MAX train, before stabbing men who tried to stop him. Two are dead. According to the DOJ,
Sessions did not disclose his meetings with Kislyakin his security clearance application. Sessions remains AG despite having lied both to the Senate under oath and on his security clearance application about Russia, as well as playing a role in Comey’s firing despite being recused on Trump-Russia matters.
Members of the House Financial Services Comm asked D
eutsche Bank to produce documents on Trump family loans. As mentioned in Week 18’s list, Deutsche has been fined for laundering money for Russia.
NYT reported that US spies collected info last summer that top Russian officials were discussing how to exert influence on Trump through his aides, Manafort and Flynn.
POLITICO reported that despite the Trump spin that Manafort was a minor player and not in touch with his regime, Manafort called Priebus the week before the inauguration to discuss the growing Russia scandal.
WAPO reported that a fake Russian document which claimed assurances from AG Lynch to the Clinton campaign on the email investigation, influenced Comey’s handling of the investigation, including his unusual news conference in July without conferring with the DOJ. Although Comey had the Russian document for months before the July news conference, the
FBI did not take the simple steps needed to prove it to be bad intelligence until after July.
WIRED reported that Russian hackers are weaponizing “tainted” leaks — planting altered materials with disinformation alongside legitimate leaks.
WSJ reported that a GOP political operative, Aaron Nevins, worked with the Russians to hurt Clinton and Democrats during the election — the first direct evidence of collusion.
WAPO reported that the FBI “person of interest” in the WH referenced in their reporting last week is Kushner. The FBI is investigating Kushner for the extent and nature of his contacts with Russian officials. Further,
WAPO reported the FBI is investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election, as well as possible financial crimes. The FBI informed House Oversight Comm chair Chaffetz that they will not turn over Comey’s memos, leaving open the prospect that
Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice. Lieberman became
the fourth candidate under consideration by Trump for FBI director to withdraw from consideration. After
demurring on whether Trump would lift sanctions on Russia Thursday, top Trump adviser, under media scrutiny, said Friday the sanctions would remain in place. A
Quinnipiac poll found that most Americans believe Trump is abusing his power (54–43), and most believe he is not honest (59–36).
WAPO reported at a meeting at Trump Tower in early December, Kushner proposed to Kislyak setting up a secret communication channel between the Kremlin and the Trump regime using Russian diplomatic facilities. Kislyak was reportedly taken aback by the suggestion, and concerned Kushner’s request would
expose Russian communication capabilities.
Kushner’s goal was to avoid US intelligence monitoring. Flynn attended the meeting with Kislyak too. Of note, both Kislyak and Flynn secretly met with a UAE crown prince around the time that prince was setting up a meeting between Erik Prince and a Russian official in Seychelles (see
Week 21’s list). Trump met that same UAE crown prince at the WH last week.
Reuters reported that Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak during and after the 2016 presidential campaign.
Reuters reported FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides relaxing US sanctions in exchange for making bank financing available to the Trump regime. In response to the Reuters piece, Kushner’s lawyer issued a statement that Kushner, “
has no recollection of the calls as described.” Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska has
offered to cooperate with Congress in their investigation of Manafort in exchange for immunity. Noted in Week 27, Deripaska is suing AP for libel for reporting his ties to Manafort.
Owners of Russian Alfa Bank sued Friday in state court in Manhattan for publishing the Steele dossier. Buzzfeed Amidst the Trump-Russia turmoil,
Trump canceled his Iowa campaign rally scheduled for next week.
It’s all just a game to them, and the people are the ones that always lose / Artist credit: Luis Quiles
London, England. Artist: Subdude