Week 27: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
May 20, 2017
This week’s list has over 100 items, and matches the feel of complete chaos: bombshell after bombshell about Trump’s ties to, and efforts to undermine the investigation into Russia.
Although the biggest headline of the week was the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Trump-Russia, of equal importance was the diurnal harbingers of our fading democracy. Trump’s WH invitation to yet another brutal authoritarian: Ergodan of Turkey, and the ensuing melee outside the Turkish embassy in DC, is a wake-up call for us all.
WSJ reported that three former employees of the Trump organization saw him tape phone calls from Trump Tower. Trump still has not revealed if his alleged taped conversations with Comey really exist. The Economist interviewed Trump about his economic policy, and described his strategy to be “
unimaginative and incoherent.” The interview revealed alarming lack of knowledge of basic concepts. Gen Michael Hayden said on
CNN he’s usually not in favor of special prosecutors, but after Trump fired Comey, “I’ve changed my mind.” Richard Spencer and his torch-carrying white supremacist followers
marched in Charlottesville, VA to protest the removal of a Confederate monument, chanting, “You will not replace us.” Merkel’s party seized a key state from rivals in the last election, putting
her in a strong position for Germany’s general election in September. This would mark the fourth setback for Putin since Trump. An
NBC poll found that just 29% approve of Trump firing Comey, and 78% want an outside special prosecutor. Trump spent Mother’s Day on the golf course, and did not see Melania or Barron.
The Trump regime issued a statement on N. Korea’s missile test, which oddly started out with a Russian perspective.
NY Magazine reported that candidates for FBI director were being screened for their loyalty to Trump.
WAPO reported on the ways Trump has leveraged his presence at Mar-a-Lago to enhance his club’s event business and enrich himself.
Axios reported Sunday that Trump is considering a sweeping shake-up in his regime. One confidant said, “He’s frustrated, and angry at everyone.” The Trump regime has
hidden massive amounts of data on issues such as workplace violations, energy efficiency, and animal welfare abuses — lessening the “naming and shaming” effect on corporate behavior. Clapper said
US institutions are under assault — both externally with Russian interference in our election system, and internally from Trump.
WNYC reported NJ Republican Rep Frelinghuysen wrote a letter to a constituent’s employer complaining about her progressive activism: “P.S. One of the ringleaders works in your bank!”
Page wrote a bizarre letter to Rosenstein, complaining about Obama and Clinton, and citing Maroon 5 lyrics in the footnotes. A
WAPO reporter noted “This Is Not Normal,” when the paper accidentally published Mathis’s personal cell phone number, which was on a yellow sticky note in a photo of Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller. Russian aluminum oligarch
Deripaska is suing in connection with their reporting on his ties to Manafort. AP for libel
Mother Jones reported that 50 farmworkers outside of Bakersfield, CA were poisoned by a pesticide just green-lighted by Trump’s EPA.
Trump met with UAE crown prince Sheikh Mohammed at the WH Monday. In Week 21 it was noted that this crown prince brokered a meeting between Prince and a Putin ally in Seychelles, shortly after a clandestine US meeting with Kushner, Bannon and Flynn. On Monday,
WAPO reported that Trump revealed highly classified information on ISIS to Lavrov and Kislyak at the WH meeting. As mentioned in Week 26, US media was excluded.
WAPO also noted that they withheld the most significant details from the story at the urging of WH officials who warned “revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.”
Buzzfeed confirmed WAPO’s story, adding an official who was briefed on Trump’s leak said, “ it’s far worse than what has already been reported.”
Reuters and NYT also confirmed the story, with NYT adding the leaked information came from an ally. The WH continued to deny the story Monday night. WAPO Trump took to Twitter Tuesday morning saying he leaked to Russia for “
humanitarian reasons” and which he has “ the absolute right to do.” Trump also ironically tweeted a complaint about “ the LEAKERS.” Fmr US ambassador to Russia McFaul said Trump does not “h
ave the right to leak classified information obtained from other countries, without their permission.” A European official told
AP that their country “ might stop sharing intel with US if Trump gave classified info to Russian diplomats.” At a press conference Tuesday, McMaster claimed that Trump decided to leak highly classified info to the Russians
on the spur of moment, and wasn’t aware where the information came from.
NYT reported that Israel was the source of the intelligence given to Russia. The leak raises concerns that the information could be passed to Iran, “Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the region.”
Buzzfeed reported an Israeli intelligence official said knowing Trump leaked to Russia without that country’s prior knowledge was Israel’s “ worst fears confirmed.”
ABC reported Trump’s leak endangered an Israeli spy placed inside ISIS.
WSJ reported that the Israeli source Trump leaked was considered so sensitive, it wasn’t shared with Five Eyes, our closest allies. For the first time,
more Americans support Trump’s impeachment (48%) than oppose it (41%) according to PPP. Their polling was conducted before the Russia leak.
Trump hosted Turkey’s Ergodan at the WH, another in a string of brutal authoritarians invited to the WH despite human rights abuses at home. After the meeting, a video captured
Ergodan’s bodyguards viciously attacking protestors outside the Turkish embassy in DC. Later, a video surfaced of Ergodan watching as his guards beat protestors. DC police chief Newsham said
diplomatic immunity could limit what the city can do to hold Erogodan’s bodyguards accountable. Republicans and Democrats spoke out against the attack, with
McCain calling for Turkey’s ambassador to be expelled. Ceren Borazan
tweeted a photo (see below) and wrote: “Dear @POTUSI’m being attackd in this photo. I was assaulted by this man, strangled for protesting. Please help me find & prosecute this man.” The tweet was retweeted over 55k times. Trump has not responded to the assaults. Following outcry, the
State Dept summoned the Turkish ambassador; but two bodyguards who were detained, we released and allowed to leave without redress.
The @VP account tweeted then deleted a photo of Trump and Ergodan’s sons in law — both in government positions of power — seated across from one another at lunch.
NYT reported that Comey had been writing memos on his interactions with Trump, including a February 14 meeting at which Trump asked Comey to end the FBI investigation of Flynn.
NYT also reported that the meeting took place in the Oval Office, and before it started, Trump asked Sessions and Pence to leave the room. According to a Comey associate, Trump also told Comey he should
consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information.
WAPO reported Comey had shared his notes with a small circle in the FBI and DOJ — raising questions of whether Sessions and Rosenstein were aware before they wrote the memo to back Trump’s firing of Comey. That evening, and the following morning, TV networks —
including — complained that Fox News elected Republicans were refusing to go on-air. The
Russian Foreign Minister advised Americans not to believe the on Trump leaking to Russia. A spokesperson wrote on Facebook about American newspaper: “You shouldn’t read them.” WAPOstory Wednesday morning,
Putin offered to hand over records of Trump and Lavrov’s conversation to the US House and Senate.
NBC reported Feds have subpoenaed Manafort for a $3.5mm mortgage taken out on his Hampton home just after leaving the Trump campaign. Mortgage documents were never filed, and taxes never paid on the loan. Eleven Democratic Senators called for
an investigation of Sessions’s involvement with the Comey firing, after his stated recusal from the Trump-Russia investigation. In another sign of US decline under Trump,
France’s PM, economic minister and national security adviser are all experts on Germany.
27-year-old Jean Jimenez-Joseph became the seventh person this year to die while under ICE custody. Jimenez-Joseph committed suicide, but ICE said he ‘passed away’ while at a detention center. ICE data revealed
41,000 arrests in Trump’s first 100 days, a 38% increase over the same period in 2016. As crises loom this week, a new
NBC/WSJ poll found that only a quarter of Americans find Trump to be honest.
WSJ reported Russian state-run bank VEB indirectly provided hundreds of millions in financing to Ukrainian steel mill owned by Alexander Shnaider, who then funded construction of a Trump project in Toronto. Delivering a commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy, Trump said, “
No politician in history… has been treated worse or more unfairly.” On Wednesday,
Rosenstein appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller, to oversee the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump regime. Rosenstein was set to appear before the full Senate on Thursday and House on Friday.
The WH was blinded by the special counsel news:
given only 30 minutes advanced notice.
WH PR strategy was in chaos, with Conway cancelling a scheduled appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show an hour before airtime. No members of Trump’s inner circle appeared on TV Wednesday.
WAPO reported a month before Trump clinched the GOP nomination, in a private conversation with fellow GOP leaders, House Majority Leader McCarthy said Trump could be getting money from Putin, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” Some GOP leaders laughed, and McCarthy continued, “Swear to God.” Speaker
Ryan swore the attendees to secrecy. When called for comment,
spokespeople for Ryan and McCarthy denied the — until the WAPO story Post told them they had audio.
Pence registered a PAC on Wednesday, typically a signal of seeking higher office. Neither Biden or Cheney had active PACs while in office.
NYT reported that Flynn officially disclosed to the Trump transition team on January 4 that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbying for Turkey. Pence headed Trump’s transition team, but he
continued to deny he knew about Flynn’s lobbying. Pence was also notified about Flynn by Rep Cummings in a letter dated November 18.
NYT reported the Trump regime was aware of Flynn’s business dealings in early November, even before his infamous pro-Turkey op-ed on Nov 8.
NYT also reported acting FBI director McCabe confirmed to Congress a “ highly significant” investigation into possible collusion between the Trump regime and Russia to sway the 2016 election. FBI prosecutor
Brandon Van Grack is leading a grand jury inquiry in VA looking into Flynn’s foreign lobbying, and has started issuing subpoenas.
NBC reported that both Manafort and Flynn are considered “subjects” of a criminal investigation. Also per
NBC: the FBI, with help from the Treasury Dept, CIA and other agencies, is examining contacts, money transfers and business relationships between the Trump regime and Russia.
McClatchy reported that one of the Trump regime’s first foreign policy decisions, involving the fight against ISIS, was made by Flynn in coordination with outgoing NSA Susan Rice. Flynn went against Obama administration advice, and put Turkey’s interests ahead of US interests.
Reuters reported that the Trump regime had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russian officials in the 7 months leading up to the election.
Six of the undisclosed contacts involved Kislyak with Flynn and three other Trump regime members. The other 12 involved Russian officials or people close to Putin and Trump campaign advisers.
Reuters also reported that after the election, Flynn and Kislyak had conversations about setting up a back-channel communication between Trump and Putin that could bypass the US national security bureaucracy.
Yahoo reported that Trump was in touch with Flynn as recently as April 25th, telling him to “stay strong.” On Thursday, Flynn’s lawyer said his client
will not honor the Senate Intel Comm’s subpoena. WH advisers and personal associates are urging Trump to
hire an experienced outside attorney to deal with the Trump-Russia probe.
TIME reported Russia tried to hack the Defense Dept’s Twitter accountsby sending 10,000+ tailored messages in an effort to get them to click, which would have enabled hackers to control the account. Thursday,
Chaffetz, the chair of the House Oversight Committee, resigned from Congress without explanation.
Newsweek reported that Trump staffers are starting to look for new jobs, and are worried about the taint of having worked for the Trump regime. Thursday, Rosenstein briefed the Senate. McCaskill and other senators said shared that Rosenstein knew Comey was going to be fired before he wrote his memo.
Thursday, Trump tweeted the Special Counsel/Russian is the
“single greatest witch hunt of a politician,” and continued to cite Rosenstein’s memo as justification for his firing of Comey. Trump denied collusion between his campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, but said “
I can only speak for myself.” On Friday, Rosenstein released his opening remarks to the House and Senate which include on Comey firing, “
My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination.” After Rosenstein briefed the House, Cummings told the media, “
This is about the fight for the soul of our democracy. We cannot afford to lose this one.”
NYT reported Trump called Comey weeks after taking office, and asked when he was planning to publicly state that Trump was not under investigation. Comey tried to explain proper chains of communication. According to a friend,
Comey was troubled by many of his encounters with Trump, including a Jan 22 ceremony in the WH blue room, where Comey tried to blend in the blue curtains to avoid Trump’s attention.
WAPO also reported on Comey’s apprehension around meetings with Trump, citing his extensive preparations with staff, and writing out notes in his car directly after meetings.
NYT also reported Priebus asked Comey to push back on media reports in mid February that the Trump regime had been in contact with Russia during the election. Kushner, while in a WH room with a high-level delegation of Saudis, called the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, and
asked if she would cut the price on a $100bn+ weapons deal with Saudi Arabia.
CNN reported that despite his recusal, Nunes continues to review intelligence relating to Russia, including as part of the Gang of Eight. Nunes had recused himself over his close ties to the Trump regime. Pence’s team continued to spin stories and distance him from Trump, indicating Pence
was kept in the dark on Flynn and Russia, and that he’s a “ loyal soldier” but the news cycle is wearing on him. In Trump’s first 119 days, he has made
586 false and misleading claims. As Trump floated Joe Lieberman as his top pick for FBI director, mysteriously Liberman’s Wikipedia page was edited
to remove ‘Donald Trump’ as a notable client of his firm. As Trump leaves for his first overseas trip, foreign leaders have been instructed to
praise him for winning the Electoral College. A report cited: ‘Compliment him on his election win, and compare him favorably to former President Obama.’ On Friday,
Rep Carlos Curbelo became the first Republican to call for . Trump’s impeachment
Spicer issued a statement Friday afternoon in response to , accusing Comey of “grandstanding” and “politicizing” the Russia probe, and hurting our ability “to engage and negotiate with Russia.” NYT stories
NYT reported late Friday on a document detailing conversations between Trump and Russian officials in the Oval Office. Trump said “ I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job.” Stepping closer to
charges, Trump also allegedly told Russian officials that obstruction of justice firing Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him, and that he is not under investigation. WAPO reported late Friday that law enforcement has identified
a current WH official as “a significant person of interest.”
Reuters reported that the Trump regime is exploring ways to use obscure ethics rules to undermine the special counsel investigation of Trump-Russia — citing since Kushner and Manafort were clients of Mueller’s former firm, Mueller should be barred from investigating them. Late Friday,
NY Magazine reported the person of interest in the . WAPO story is Kushner
CNN reported that intercepts of Russian communications reveal Russian officials bragged during the presidential campaign that they could use Flynn to influence Trump. Trump pick for deputy Treasury Secretary, James Donovan,
withdrew from consideration on Friday. A former Trump campaign official who has hired counsel in the Russian probe told a
CNN reporter that Trump should help pay for legal costs.
Truly was a different feel from the not normal chaos of recent months. As Trump left for his first foreign trip, one reporter noted, “Almost palpable relief the circus has left town for a few days.”
Following are various art pieces collected in my social media feed throughout the week:
Evil Mike Pence. Portland, Oregon.
Next week: Politiks of Graffiti 29 !
Week 26 of donald trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
May 13, 2017
What stands out in Week 26 is our normalization of a leader who bold-faced lies to us, and the ease with which Trump continues to indulge in this behavior. We’ve entered uncharted territory: Trump fired the FBI director in charge of investigating him and his regime’s ties to Russia, and admitted he did so because of the investigation.
The other take-away of Week 26 is what you missed. We’re in such a state of constant chaos, it’s easy to overlook the ways the Trump regime continues to tear the fabric of our values, to loot every cent they can, and to move us further away from democracy.
Despite Russian involvement,
Macron defeated Le Pen handily in France’s presidential election, marking the third European country (Austria, Netherlands) to reject the Trump-like candidate since the US election. A shocking
Guardian article detailed the use of data to influence the outcome of Brexit and the US election. Names tied to the scandal include Trump, Farage, Thiel, Bannon, and Mercer and his Cambridge Analytica.
The article also warned that the Trump regime is already weaponizing US data for future elections, citing the company that helped Trump win has “been awarded contracts in the Pentagon and the US state.” While in Beijing for a meeting with potential investors for the family’s
New Jersey project, Kushner’s sister mentioned Jared and the EB-5 visa program to market the investment. EB-5 visas allow immigrants a path to a green card for investing $500,000 in a project that creates US jobs.
The Kushner family later apologized after being accused of kleptocracy by the media. A WAPO researcher who attended the meeting tweeted, “
I was threatened, harassed and forced to delete recordings and photos of The Kushner family recruiting Chinese investors in US Green cards.” Page said he would
no longer cooperate with the Senate Intel Comm’s request, saying he wants information he requested on the “unjustified civil rights violations by the Clinton/Obama regime.” Eric Trump reportedly told a reporter back in 2014, when asked about funding golf courses, “
Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.” Eric Trump later denied having said this, but Donald Jr. had similarly said at a real estate conference in 2008: “
We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Trump-connected lobbyists are making millions at major companies and foreign governments by touting their access to the Trump regime.
Goldman Sachs hired a top Trump campaign staffer, David Urban, as a lobbyist. Eight Senate Democrats asked regulators to investigate
whether Trump friend Carl Icahn violated insider trading laws in the biofuel market. Wilbur Ross doubled down on the Trump regime rhetoric with Canada on tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber, and warned Canada that “
threats of retaliatory action” are “inappropriate.”
Nikki Haley issued a strong statement on Venezuela, citing Maduro’s ‘disregard for the fundamental rights of his own people.’ As Venezuela’s state-owned oil company donated $500k to Trump inauguration, the rest of the regime has been silent. The State Depart
has yet to resume daily press briefings. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel
revived the deleted EPA climate change webpage, which as cited in Week 24 was mysteriously taken down on a Friday night, and put the information up on Chicago’s website. Minutes after an
ABC reporter asked Spicer why Trump’s campaign website still calls for a Muslim ban, that reference was deleted. Despite Trump’s promises to keep jobs in the US, Indiana’s Rexnord — in Pence’s home state nearby Carrier which Trump visited to much ballyhoo —
is moving jobs to Mexico. Trump tweeted to blame Obama. On
CBS’s “60 Minutes,” residents in Granger, IN l amented their neighbor, who had no criminal record and had been in the US for 20-years, being deported and separated from his wife and children, who are all citizens.
AP reported the Trump regime targeted Haitian immigrants, seeking evidence of crimes as an excuse to deport them. A bill that passed the Texas house would
allow adoption agencies to reject families on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. Dan Heyman, a
Public News Service reporter, was arrested Tuesday night in West Virginia for persistently asking Secretary Price questions.
Price commended the police who arrested the journalist. EPA dismissed five scientists from a major scientific review board, and
replaced them with representatives from industries the EPA regulates. Later in the week,
two EPA science board members resigned in protest. Trump signed an EO creating
a commission on ‘election integrity’ to re-examine Hillary’s 3 million vote win and “fraud.” The commission will be led by Pence and noted xenophobe Kobach of Kansas.
Rep Lewis issued a statement on the commission, saying “It’s only been 54 years since we were jailed, beaten, and killed for trying to cast a vote.” Reversing progress,
Sessions instituted a tougher new criminal charging and sentencing policy — a noted failure from the 1980 and 1990s. Sessions policy will disproportionately impact people of color.
ICE arrested 1,378 suspected “gang members” in what Fox Newscharacterized as the largest gang sweep ever.
Trump tweeted that China ‘just agreed that the U.S. will be allowed to sell beef, and other major products’ into China again. This deal was brokered by Obama last September.
FP reported on Bannon’s attempts to get NSA McMaster fired, calling it the WH “Games of Thrones for morons.” McMaster remains one of the few Trump senior officials who was not part of the campaign. When asked about NSC’s duties at a daily press briefing, McMaster said “
a lot of what we do at the NSC is trying to keep up with the President.” During the day of the Yates/Clapper hearing, Trump sent a total of 7 tweets at Yates, including one from the @POTUS account.
CNN anchors Dana Bash and John King likened
Trump’s tweets ahead of the hearing to “witness intimidation.” Yates testified that she met with WH counsel McGahn twice to warn him that
Flynn had lied to Pence about his conversations with the Russian envoy and therefore Pence’s public statements were false. Yates warned McGahn that Flynn was compromised and could be blackmailed by the Russians.
Yates met with McGahn on January 26 and 27, and was fired on Monday, January 30, allegedly for saying she would not defend the Muslim ban. Despite her warning,
Flynn remained as Trump NSA for 18 days, sitting in on important foreign meetings and receiving classified information. The day after the Yates/Clapper hearing, Sen Graham said based on what he heard,
he wants to investigate Trump’s business dealings. After
Trump blamed Obama for Flynn having security clearance, NBC reported Flynn never received the broader security clearance required for an NSA. Trump briefly changed his Twitter cover Monday night to a statement that Clapper said ‘
there is “no evidence” of collusion w/Russia and Trump.’ Trump repeated this lie all week, including in a Friday morning tweet. On Friday, Clapper told Andrea Mitchell that
he didn’t say what Trump claimed.
ProPublica reported that part of Comey’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Comm on Huma Abedin was inaccurate. The FBI issued corrections just hours before Trump fired Comey. Following Clapper’s testimony on Monday, t
he Senate Intel Comm asked Treasury Dept agency FinCEN for more information on Trump’s business dealings.
WSJ reported Friday FinCEN will provide info on businesses owned by Trump and family members to the Senate Intel Comm and the FBI. Ranking member Wyden is interested in shell companies and money laundering through property transfers.
Vanity Fair reported that FBI sources said there are multiple inquiries in progress, including the cyber investigation and the business side. Bharara would have been investigating the business side as US AG SDNY. Late Friday night, the
US Attorney SDNY Twitter account tweeted from acting AG Kim, ‘We will not allow the US financial system to be used to launder proceeds of crimes committed anywhere-here or in Russia.’ On Friday,
a bi-partisan group of 178 former US AGs and asst US AGs of SDNY wrote a letter to Rosenstein calling for a Special Prosecutor Law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius provided a letter showing Trump has limited business dealings with Russia.
ABC reported Morgan, Lewis has deep ties to Russia and received a “Russia Law Firm of the Year” award in 2016. Trump’s initial stated basis for firing Comey was a letter from AG Sessions and Deputy AG Rosenstein, relating to Hillary’s emails. Of note, Sessions had agreed to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation.
Comey became the third person, after Yates and Bharara,
fired by Trump while investigating him. Mary McCord who was the DOJ assistant AG overseeing the Trump-Russia probe also resigned without explanation. Shortly after the firing,
CNN reported grand jury subpoenas for business records have been issued to Flynn as part of the FBI’s Russia investigation. The
Senate Intel Comm also subpoenaed Flynn after he declined to comply with their April 28th letter unless he was offered immunity Trump’s
popularity hit a new low in a Quinnipiac poll: 36% approve, 58% disapprove. The poll was conducted before the Comey firing. The morning after firing Comey,
Tillerson and then Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
Lavrov scolded Andrea Mitchell for asking Tillerson a question — “Who was giving you your manners, you know?” Tillerson did not intervene. Trump’s meeting took place at the WH, and included Lavrov and Kislyak.
Photo credited to Russian news agency TASS emerged, showing of a joyous meeting. US media was excluded from both meetings. The WH readout of the meeting with Lavrov
did not mention Kislyak. If not for Russian new agency photos, no one would know he was there.
POLITICO reported the idea to exclude US press came from Putin. As did the insistence for the meeting at the WH. The Senate Intelligence Committee
invited Comey to testify next Tuesday. He declined for now, saying he needed some time off first.
NYT reported that days before the firing, Comey had asked Deputy AG Rosenstein for a significant increase in resources for the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the US election. General Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and NSA, said of Trump’s successive firing of Yates, Bharara and Comey, “
…it’s beginning to feel a little bit like Nicaragua around here.”
FT said of Comey’s firing, “ Putin chalked up another victory,” as Trump’s action resembles that of a non-democracy. Trump claimed that
he followed the recommendation of his Deputy AG Rosenstein that Comey be fired over his handling of Hillary’s emails. By the next day, leaks led to multiple stories which contradicted that claim. This story would change again and again in the coming days — leaving surrogates having lied to the media. Pence said Trump fired Comey at the
“recommendation of the Deputy AG,” seven times during a presser.
WAPO reported that in fact Trump made a decision to fire Comey, and then met with Sessions and Rosenstein to craft a plan for how. Trump was totally unprepared for the media explosion and political backlash. Trump himself said in a
NBC interview Thursday that he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he fired Comey, saying “…Russia is a made up story.”
WAPO also reported that Trump was angry that Comey would not back his false Obama wiretapping claim, and that Comey focused on the Trump-Russia probe and not leaks.
Reuters reported that Trump was infuriated that Comey would not preview his Senate testimony for Trump, Sessions and Rosenstein ahead of the May 3rd hearing.
NYT reported that Trump and Comey’s dislike each another. Comey told associated that Trump was “outside the realm of normal,” even “crazy.”
WSJ reported that Comey had started getting daily instead of weekly briefings in the past three weeks due to potential evidence of collusion.
WSJ also reported that on Monday, Comey briefed lawmakers on his request to boost the investigation, and requested additional personnel from Rosenstein. In an open-letter to Rosenstein,
20 attorney generals called for an independent investigation, saying Trump’s firing of Comey was a violation of the public trust.
Trump abandoned plans to visit the FBI after the Comey firing. According to NBC, Trump was told agents might not provide a warm reception.
McClatchy reported Comey sought to expand his Trump-Russia probe to include Manafort, citing Manafort earned $80–100mm for political and business consulting work done for clients, including a Russian billionaire. Rachel Maddow reported that despite earlier indications he would do so, Manafort has yet to register as a foreign agent. Also, Sessions would not confirm if he has recused himself from matters involving Manafort.
WSJ reported the Justice Dept requested Manafort’s bank records as part of a probe into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 election.
WSJ also reported that NY AG Schneiderman and Manhattan DA Vance have been examining real-estate transactions by Mr. Manafort. On Thursday, acting FBI Director McCabe testified at a Sen Intel Comm open, televised hearing. McCabe said
he will not update the WH on the Russian investigation. McCabe contradicted the Trump regime’s assertion that Comey was not well-liked at the FBI, saying “
the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep, positive connection to Director Comey.” Also contradicting WH claims, McCabe called the Trump-Russia investigation “
highly significant.” Trump still claimed on Thursday that
he had spoken to Comey three times about whether he was under investigation. When Sen Collins asked if that would standard practice, McCabe answered, “It is not.”
POLITICO reported Rosenstein arrived at the Senate Intel Comm’s office while the open, televised hearing was taking place. Burr and Warner left the hearing, for what Burr said was a meeting “we can’t push off.” Sarah Flores,
DOJ spokesperson lied that the meeting with Burr was previously planned, and is “nothing unusual.”
NYT reported that at a WH dinner shortly after Trump took office, at Trump’s request, Comey declined to pledge his loyalty or discuss the Trump-Russia investigation. The dinner took place on January 27,
the day after Yates initially informed the WH counsel that Flynn was compromised and subject to blackmail. Rudy Giuliani, who was also photographed at Trump Hotel DC the night of the Comey firing,
was given a May 19 deadline by a judge in Detroit to produce his memo for Trump on the Muslim Ban. In a series of erratic early morning tweets Friday, Trump threatened to cease press daily briefings, and tweeted ‘
Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!’ A source close to Comey said he is “
not worried about any tapes.”
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss noted in a tweet, “Presidents are supposed to have stopped routinely taping visitors without their knowledge when Nixon’s taping system was revealed in 1973.” Top House and Senate Democrats demanded that
Trump release any tapes of communication between he and Comey. Chaffetz asked the DOJ Inspector General to look at Comey’s firing. Democrats also asked him to look into whether Sessions has recused himself and whether the FBI investigation into Russia is properly staffed.
Durbin and Feinstein called on Rosenstein to resign if he refuses to appoint a special counsel. Klobuchar said Senators plan next week to further push this demand in close doored meetings.
On the backs of visit by Duterte and the Russian envoy,
Trump will host brutal authoritarian Erdogan for a WH visit on May 16.
Bumper sticker in a car window in Cocoa Beach, FL 11may17
New York City, NY. March 2017.
Week 25 of donald trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
May 6, 2017
The fabric and values of our country are transforming before our eyes. The Trump regime of billionaires and sycophants – with most Republicans cowering along in lock-step — continue to act and take actions that are greedy and cruel. As we hit Week 25, every subgroup of Americans not white, straight and male has been a target.
The beat of Trump-Russia continues, as does Trump’s mentally imbalanced leadership — for which there is increasing concern. This week the authoritarian themes of silencing dissent, and consolidating power and wealth were also front and center.
Trump delivered a campaign speech in Harrisburg, PA to mark his first 100-days. One pundit called it “
the most hate-filled in modern history.” Frustrated by his failures in the first 100-days, Trump took to Twitter and
Fox News to demand changes in to “archaic” rules of the House and Senate, so he could consolidate his power. Trump
called for a government shutdown in September to fix what he called a ‘mess.’ Republican leaders rejected this idea. Trump also blamed constitutional checks and balances for the chaos of his first 100 days, saying “
It’s an archaic system … It’s really a bad thing for the country.” Trump said he is
open to meeting Kim Jong Un, saying “ I would absolutely be honored to do it.” Trump ally Erdogan
fired 3,900 from the civil service and military as “threats to national security” in his second post-referendum purge. Trump has filled 5% of key roles in the executive branch. Tillerson sent a survey to employees ahead of a
major State Department overhaul involving significant job and budget cuts. Tillerson has yet to name a deputy, or fill the key roles vacated by early resignations. In a
CBS interview, Trump denied that Russia hacked our election, saying it “ could’ve been China, could’ve been a lot of different groups.”
A massive coordinated hack and online leak of Macron’s emails occurred just 1 1/2 days before the French presidential election. Macron’s campaign blamed Russia for the attack. The leaks came
within an hour of the midnight campaign blackout, during which politicians, media and citizens are legally required to pull back from any public election discussion. The
head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency accused Russia of gathering large amounts of political data in cyberattacks ahead of Germany’s September election. Sparking shock and outrage, Trump invited Philippines President Duterte, an authoritarian known for brutality, to the WH. Trump
did not clear the invitation with the State Department. According to Duterte’s spokesman, Trump praised Duterte saying “
you’re doing a great job.” Amid concern with Trump’s embrace of authoritarian rulers,
Tillerson said American values, such as human rights, should not be a condition for US foreign policy.
Trump Tower in the Philippines continues to use videos of Trump and Ivanka as a key selling point.
The Moscow Times reported that someone is throwing chemicals at Russian opposition, causing them to go partially blind.
USA Today compiled a list of 38 Russians opposed to Putin who were victims of unsolved murders or suspicious deaths in the past three years. Two such deaths were related to the Steele dossier/Trump-Russia ties. McCain said he was “
looking at other options” after Trump ally Corker backed off from imposing more sanctions on Russia. In violation of the
Hatch Act, Secretary Ross accompanied Trump to Pennsylvania for a campaign event to raise money for Trump’s 2020 campaign, and WH staffer Sandra Sanders tweeted about it. On Tuesday, without taking questions,
Spicer walked out of a room full of reporters, as the Trump regime was forced to accept most of the Democrats’ wish list in order to avoid a government shutdown. The
OGE sent a letter to the WH and executive branch agency heads asking for copies of any waivers for Trump regime members from ethics rules. According to the NYT, at least two such waivers have been granted. The OGE says it
wasn’t consulted about Ivanka’s job, saying she should be considered a federal employee and subject to those rules.
Voice of America, a government-funded news agency, posted a story and tweeted about Ivanka’s new book, raising questions about the Trump regime’s use of government sources to promote private business interests. A State Department account (@GenderAtState) also likely violated federal rules by
retweeting a post promoting Ivanka’s book. After pushback from his Cabinet,
Trump started to dismantle his “shadow Cabinet” — young, inexperienced spies placed at federal agencies.
The IRS is demanding $7 billion in back taxes from the Mercer’s hedge fund. The Mercers’ donations and ties to the Trump regime make it unlikely they will pay. Congress allocated
a whopping $120 million for the Trump Family’s security costs. Costs include business trips to Vancouver and Dubai by Trump’s sons, and ski weekends in Aspen and Whistler for Ivanka.
The WSJ uncovered that Kushner had failed to report $1bn of loans in his financial disclosure. He also omitted his stake Cadre, a tech startup with ties to Goldman Sachs, George Soros and Peter Thiel.
POLITICO reported that at least nine members of Trump’s transition team have registered as lobbyists, despite a five-year lobbying ban.
Wilbur Ross said the Syria strike — which he viewed with Trump and Chinese President Xi at Mar-a-Lago — was “ after-dinner entertainment.” Priebus told
ABC that the Trump regime “ looked at” changing libel laws to go after the media for articles “that have no basis or fact,” and “writing stories about constant contacts with Russia…”
A Code Pink activist who briefly laughed during Sessions confirmation hearing was convicted in Virginia. Two others will also face charges. Trump’s new FCC Chairman Pai said the
FCC would investigate Colbert for a joke made about Trump and Putin and “take appropriate action.”
AP reported that Republican House Chair Hensarling told dozens of government agencies to exclude communications with his committee from FOIA requests. He was widely criticized. Citing emails obtained under the FOIA,
National Park Service official who tweeted photos of Trump and Obama’s inauguration crowds. CBS reported that Trump had direct involvement in hunting the Seemingly to counter his unpopularity,
Trump has mentioned the election results on 39% of the days since November 8th. In an article in
New Yorker, writer Evan Osnos reported that Trump’s fitness to service is “officially part of the discussion in Congress.” Breaking a tradition of 18 years, a school district in Seattle
canceled its international field trip over concerns of Trump’s border enforcement. Trump
did away with a 16-year-old tradition of celebrating Cinco do Mayo at the WH.
Sen Casey blasted Trump and his regime for deporting a mother and her 5-year-old son back to Honduras, where they would face grave danger. Despite Casey’s efforts to intervene, the deportation is moving forward.
According to the ACLU, Texas is about to become the first “show me your papers” state. The Trump regime
fired chief usher Angella Reid, the first woman and second African American to hold the job. The job typically involves a long tenure, so this Friday afternoon firing was viewed with curiosity. Trump said
he may not fund historically black colleges, a 25-year-old program, saying the funding may be unconstitutional.
In a memo, Trump ordered his regime to end Michelle Obama’s girls education program, “Let Girls Learn.” After campaigning on cracking down on drugs, a line of attack that seemed racially based,
Trump proposed cutting funding for the Drug Control Office, the agency charged with cracking down, by 95%.
Rape charges were dropped against an immigrant teen in Maryland. , using it to validate Trump’s immigration agenda. Fox News had devoted days of coverage to the case Several outlets reported that Gorka would
accept a role outside the WHafter being denied security clearance and over his associations with a Hungarian hate group. Gorka said these reports were “ very fake news.” The Daily Beast reported that
Trump and Bannon intervened to save Gorka, and for now, he will remain. On Wednesday,
POLITICO reported that Lewandowski’s firm, Avenue Strategies, quietly signed a deal to represent Citgo, a US-based oil company owned by Venezuela, in its proposed sale to Russia’s Rosneft. Citgo has donated $500k to Trump inauguration. According to
The Daily Beast, that money may have come from the Kremlin, at least indirectly. The owner of the
19.5% stake in Rosneft sold shortly after Carter Page’s July meeting with Putin allies in Russia, is still not known.
A bi-partisans group of Senators called on Trump to block Citgo’s sale to Rosneft, citing concern that with control of Citgo, Russia could use its influence to counter US trade sanctions imposed in 2014. Amidst reports on Citgo and other questionable dealings,
Lewandowski resigned from the Avenue Strategies, the firm he co-founded. Friday afternoon, Mark Green, Trump’s second pick for Army Secretary,
withdrew as a nominee. Senators had expressed alarm at Green’s public homophobic statements, something Trump vetting missed or ignored. Rachel Maddow cited that
Trump has yet to fill 57 of 58 senior level Pentagon positions which require Senate confirmation. Trump reportedly speaks to Rupert Murdoch
almost every day. Some had speculated that Murdoch may be the biggest winner of Trump firing Bharara, as Fox News is under investigation in the Southern District. As the Senate Intel Committee got back on track, the Committee sent letters to several Trump insiders including Flynn, Manafort, Page and Stone,
requesting records of their communication with Russia. Page said he planned to cooperate, but
his records as a private citizen would be ‘minuscule in comparison’ to what the FBI had collected under a FISA warrant. Page was asked to list any Russian official or business executive he met with between June 16, 2015 and Jan. 20, 2017.
WAPO reported that Trump transition staffers warned Flynn about contact with Kislyak. Flynn was warned on both Kislyak’s background and that contact with him would likely be monitored.
WAPO reported Billingslea was among a small group of national security hands in the Trump transition team who were concerned about Flynn and Trump’s pro-Russia stance.
AP reported the Obama administration was concerned about the request for info on Kislyak, and about Flynn’s contact with Russia. They also delayed telling the Trump team about planned sanctions against Russia. One punishment was to close two Russian compounds.
AP reported the Obama administration feared if they told the Trump regime too far in advance, they might give Moscow lead time to clear information out.
NBC further reported that the Obama administration gave the Trump regime only hours notice about closing Russian compounds.
AP reported the Obama administration was also concerned about sharing info with the Trump transition team after classified documents were copied and removed from a secure facility. Sally Yates will testify Monday before the Senate that
she gave a formal warning to Trump’s WH that Flynn was lying three weeks before he was fired. This contradicts the Trump regime’s version of what happened. Nine weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. This week Trump said it has “
been proven very strongly.” Rand Paul, a supporter of Trump’s false claim,
also said he thinks Obama spied on him. Paul tweeted that he has requested info on whether he “was surveilled by Obama admin” or the Intelligence community. At an open Senate hearing,
Comey reiterated that there was no spying on Trump Tower. On Thursday, Trump and the GOP passed a series of measures, including passage of Trumpcare/AHCA in the House, a watering down of Dodd Frank, and a ‘
Religious Liberty’ EO which allows religious institutions to participate in politics, and power to decide on covering birth control. Beer was rolled in as the votes on Trumpcare were cast in the House, followed by a celebration at the WH — this, as more than 24 million Americans stood to lose healthcare coverage.
After the vote and celebration, it became apparent that many House members
never read Trumpcare or considered how it would impact their state/district. As House members returned home for an 11 day vacation, many hid and/or turned off their phones.
Jason Chaffetz, who in Week 24 was noted to have left DC and halted his investigation of Flynn in order to get foot surgery, slithered back to DC to vote for Trumpcare. After Trumpcare passed the House, the non-partisan
Cook Political Reportsaid the vote hurt the re-election prospects of 20 Republicans.
New York City, NY. March 2017
Artist: Stahler Skam. Portland, Oregon. Artist: Subdude. Photo: Oddo Personnosrep. London, England. May 2017.
Stay tuned for next week’s artistic expressions of political discontent from around the globe…
Week 24 of Donald Trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
April 29, 2017
Today marks day 100 of the Trump regime. Despite the Republicans having control of the House and Senate, Trump has yet to tally a single legislative accomplishment. He was obsessive this week in pushing for Trumpcare 3 ahead of the 100-day mark; but the Resistance, which continues to grow in number and fervor, headed him off.
And all the while, the drumbeat of Russia grows louder. This week, Speaker Ryan acknowledged Russian interference. Trump’s involvement has evolved from a “Trump-Russia probe” to a “Trump-Russia scandal,” and this week, to a “Trump-Russia cover-up.” As this unfolds, concern grows that Trump will seek to distract attention by starting a war. The one constant throughout the weeks is Trump’s attempts to enrich himself and his regime through a growing list of conflicts of interest and corruption.
acknowledged that Russia interfered with our election, and said US probes could help our allies prevent similar interference. As Le Pen advanced to the French presidential election runoff,
Putin is using many of the tools successfully employed in the US to target France.
WikiLeaks released more top-secret CIA documents. Our media has by and large stopped covering the WikiLeaks document dumps. A group of psychiatrists at a conference held at Yale Medical School cited a “
Duty to Warn” about Trump being dangerously ill. Of the
ten items listed on Trump’s contract with the American people for the first 100 days of his administration, he accomplished none of them. The State Department and two US embassies
promoted Mar-a-Lago on their website with a 400-word blog post. After public outrage, the post was removed.
NYT reported the State Department is likely to remain largely unstaffed into 2018. Trump has yet to fill 200 leadership jobs which require Senate confirmation. Tillerson is taking no action either. Similarly, as the Trump regime launched its tax plan,
the Treasury Department does not have a single confirmed appointee in positions tasked with reforming the tax code. Trump’s tax reform plan was launched with Mnuchin
handing out a one-pager with broad details and no numbers. Democrats, including former Obama ethics chief Norm Eisen noted
Trump’s tax reform could save him hundreds of millions of dollars. Without tax returns, it’s impossible to know his total benefit. Beyond State, the slow pace of nominations in the first 100 days
has left cabinet agencies in limbo. Only 26 of the 556 senior positions which require Senate confirmation have been filled. Haley was the only member of the Trump regime
to condemn the abuse and killings of gay men in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Days later, the State Department said they want to clear her remarks in advance. UN diplomats were invited to the WH, but
Tillerson was not included. Haley was there, and Trump publicly threatened to fire her, “ Does everybody like Nikki? Good, otherwise she could easily be replaced.” In his first 100 days, Trump has an unprecedented number (15) of
appointees who got fired, withdrew or quit. Carl Bernstein said there is a “serious belief” in the FBI and Congress that there is an
active cover-up underway by the Trump regime of their involvement with Russia. On Monday,
Yahoo reported that t he Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe had stalled due to lack of staffing and Sen Burr’s unwillingness to sign off on witness requests. Democrats in the Senate Intelligence Committee hired
April Doss, the former head of intelligence law at the NSA. Burr refused to bring on additional staffing, saying staffing levels were already sufficient.
Trump picked ally Dana Boente to take over the Justice Department unit’s probe of Trump-Russia. Boente was last named by Trump as an interim acting-AG on the Monday Night Massacre (firing of Yates). On Tuesday,
POLITICO reported that Flynn’s lobbying work for Turkey came to him via Dmitri Zairian, a Russian with ties to the Putin regime. The
WH denied a request by House Oversight Committee leaders Chaffetz and Cummings to release documents related to Flynn. Shortly thereafter, Chaffetz and Cummings addressed the press, saying
Flynn may have broken the law by not disclosing payments from Russia. The next day, Chaffetz
posted an explanation on Facebook of why he was leaving office, citing a foot injury. His explanation was met with much skepticism. Friday, Cummings said the
WH is “covering up” for Flynn. Sen Blumenthal said there is “ powerful, mounting, incontrovertible evidence” of a violation of criminal law. The Pentagon’s internal watch dog group
opened an investigation into whether Flynn took payments from foreign governments after leaving the military. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee released documents showing
the Pentagon warned Flynn not to take foreign payments without advance approval from the military. Flynn did not seek approval.
Spicer blamed Obama for Flynn having security clearance, neglecting the fact that Obama fired Flynn, and Trump appointed him to NSA.
NBC reported the Trump team did do a background check on Flynn as part of him becoming NSA. Despite their public denials, senior transition team members like Pence and Sessions would have seen the information. Michael Cohen said
he may sue , which includes allegations that Cohen traveled to Prague in August to meet with Russians. Buzzfeed for publishing the Steele dossier
The Guardian reported that Steele had also alerted the UK government with two memos about collusion between Trump and Russia. His contact in the US appears to have been with McCain, not Comey.
Steele’s memo also reported that four members of the Trump regimetravelled to Prague for secret discussion with the Kremlin in August/September 2016 on how to pay hackers for penetrating the Democratic party computer systems. Peter Severa, a Russian hacker whose wife said he was “linked to Trump’s win” in Week 22, was
indicted in Bridgeport, CT on eight counts related to the Kelihos botnet malware. Rep Ciciline, a ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, requested
the Inspector General open an investigation into the firings of Yates and Bharara. Yates will testify on May 8th in a Senate hearing. Trump made
16 false claims in a bizarre interview with AP. He also made at least 15 comments which AP classified as “unintelligible.” Also in the AP interview, Trump
bragged about getting highest ratings since 9/11 coverage. Trump said he planned to keep on his controversial press secretary, Spicer, because “
the guy gets great ratings.” After a second EO was blocked, Trump said he would
“absolutely” consider proposals to break-up the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This threat was compared to the type of action of a dictator might take. The
Trump regime set up a VOICE (Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement) hotline for callers to report on immigrants. The hotline was flooded with calls with reports of space aliens. A federal judge in
San Francisco temporarily blocked the Trump regime efforts to withhold money from sanctuary cities.
WAPO reported on ICE data which shows half of the immigrants arrested had no criminal convictions or had committed traffic offenses. Supreme Court Justice Roberts spoke out against Trump’s immigration plan, describing the regime’s interpretation as “prosecutorial abuse” for
making it easy to strip citizenship for even lying about minor infractions. Trump’s Muslim Ban suffered another setback as the 9
th Circuit Court of Appeals denied his request for an 11-member court review. A report by the ADL revealed that
anti-Semitic incidents in the US rose by 86% in the first three months of 2017, over the same period last year. Trump proposed budget
would strip all funding from a State Department bureau that promotes the rights of women around the world.
A Trump supporter stormed a cafeteria at a Kentucky university and asked about political affiliation, before stabbing two women. Trump’s USDA
rolled back Michelle Obama’s school nutrition standards. Mnuchin said Trump will not release his tax returns, adding Trump “
has given more financial disclosure than anybody else.”
NYT reported that Kushner recently financed real-estate transactions in NYC through the Steinmetz family, who are under investigation for bribing a government official in Guinea to secure mining rights. The investigator who found Florida AG Bondi did nothing wrong by accepting $25k of campaign cash and then dropping the investigation of Trump U,
ignored key evidence already unearthed.
POLITICO reported that Lewandowki’s DC firm is offering foreign clients in-person meetings with Trump, Pence and other senior regime members.
HuffPost’s Christina Wilkie compiled a public spreadsheet to identify $107mm of donations to Trump inauguration. Discrepancies have been found, and the regime has yet to explain where unspent monies went.
Ivanka was booed for defending her father at a conference for female business leaders in Berlin.
WAPO reported that workers endured long hours and low pay working at factories used by Ivanka’s company in China. Facebook revealed
fake accounts were used on its platform to sway the US election. Facebook also indicated its findings do “not contradict” the January 6 report issued by the US Director of National Intelligence. Commerce Secretary Ross said the Trump regime would
impose a 20% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber. On Wednesday morning,
Trump said he was considering withdrawing from NAFTA. By the evening, amidst confusion and without a reasonable explanation, he changed course and said the US would remain. Trump ceremoniously summoned the entire US Senate onto a bus to the WH for a closed-door meeting on N Korea. To
the Senators’ frustration, nothing was offered beyond public information. Stagecraft. Trump gave another
disturbing 100-day interview to , for which the first headline to break was “ Reuters there is a chance of a ‘major, major conflict with North Korea.”’ Trump also bemoaned to
Reuters about missing his past life, and added, “ This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.“
Trump brought a printed map handout to his Reuters interview to showcase his electoral win. Trump also asked
WAPO in his 100-day interview t o put his electoral college handout on their front page. The
US economy grew at just 0.7% in the first quarter, the weakest showing in three years. Expectedly, Trump did not comment or tweet. The Resistance claimed another victory as Trumpcare 3 failed to muster support in the House, despite the GOP’s 47 seat advantage.
Fallout from the O’Reilly ouster continued, as
CNN reported FoxNews is now under federal investigation by USPIS and the Justice Department for settlement payments and the overall environment at the network. A new CNN/OCR poll found that
2/3 of Americans do not believe Trump is honest and trustworthy. Koi, the restaurant in Trump Soho,
became the latest Trump business to suffer a decline in business and close. Unlike Trump Hotel DC, Koi didn’t have the benefit of foreign diplomats patronizing it to win favor. The Trump regime announced Friday that the EPA website would be undergoing changes, and then
removed climate science from public view. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner will go on without Trump tonight. He will
instead hold a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.
All photos taken by me as I walked the streets of NYC & Philadelphia in March & April 2017:
Mo loch [ moh-lok, mol– uh k] noun 1. a deity whose worship was marked by the propitiatory sacrifice of children by their own parents. II Kings 23:10; Jer. 32:35. 2. anything conceived of as requiring appalling sacrifice: the Moloch of war. ( 3. ) lowercase a spiny agamid lizard, Moloch horridus, of Australian deserts, that resembles the horned lizard.
Please come back next week for “Politiks of Graffiti 26!”
Week 23 of Donald Trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
April 22, 2017
This week the Trump-Russia scandal continued to unfold, but that wasn’t the big story. What stands out in Week 23 is the kleptocracy — a pattern of conflicts of interest and pay-to-play — and the Trump regime’s utter irreverence towards ethics and past standards.
As the 100-day mark approaches, Trump has no legislative accomplishments and his foreign policy can best be described as an embarrassing mess. Instead, Trump seems focused on enriching himself, his regime, and his business contacts. The pace and boldness of corruption whiff of a man who is aware his days in this gig are numbered.
Seven weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. He has yet to offer any evidence or apologize.
American Oversight, a group of liberal lawyers,
is suing the DOJ and FBI seeking proof for Trump’s wiretapping claim. Trump has yet to offer any evidence or apologize for his accusations that Susan Rice committed a crime by spying on his campaign.
The New Yorker reported not only did bi-partisan members of the House find nothing in the Rice intercepts, but also the rationale came clear: per an intelligence source, the WH said, “ We are going to mobilize to find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.’ Trump hosted a disastrous Easter Egg Roll, including
telling the children, “We will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before,” and forgetting to lift his hand to his heart during the National Anthem. NYT reported on
violations and a raft of potential conflicts-of-interest as Trump appoints former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants to craft policies in industries where they formerly worked.
OGE director Shaub noted that Trump rolled back an Obama requirement that appointees not accept jobs in agencies they recently lobbied, and that Trump has granted waivers allowing appointees to take up matters which benefit their former clients.
WAPO reported 168 corporate interests have made requests to Trump for regulatory relief, all likely to be granted, “especially those designed to advance environmental protection and safeguard worker rights.” On Tax Day, breaking precedent with every modern-day president, Trump did not release his tax returns, nor explain why.
WSJ reported that in the first quarter, Trump’s campaign funds paid $500k to Trump’s companies including hotels, golf clubs and restaurants. Trump
raised $107mm for his inaugural, doubling Obama, although Trump’s crowds and festivities were markedly smaller. It’s unclear where unspent money has gone, while numerous “pay-to-play” stories emerge. For example, Rachel Maddow reported on a $666,ooo gift from a businessman named R. W. Habboush, which led to a meetings between
his son and both an NSC official and Bannon to discuss how to open up business with Venezuela, which is heavily sanctioned by the US. Trump dropped his campaign promise to let Medicare negotiate bulk discounts on prescription drugs
after meeting with pharma lobbyists. Ivanka was
granted China trademarks during dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. As reported in Week 22, Trump also changed his position saying China does not manipulate its currency.
FT reported Manafort stepped in to the China action, advising Chinese billionaire Jiehe on how to access to Trump’s $1tn infrastructure plan.
CREW filed an amended complaint to its emoluments challenge against Trump in federal court, adding new plaintiffs who claim they’ve been “directly harmed by a loss of business and wages.” Dow Chemical
donated $1mm to Trump’s inauguration, then asked the regime to ignore a study on its pesticide which was “originally derived from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany,” Trump billionaire outside adviser, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone which has significant holdings in China,
stands to gain from US-China policies he helped to shape.
USA Today reporters pieced together that Trump companies own 400+ luxury condos and homes worth $250mm up for sale or rent presenting people, corporations or foreign interests an opportunity gain influence through purchases. Further, since Trump launched his presidential bid, Trump companies have sold at least 58 units for $90mm —
almost half to LLCs. Since Election Day, 14 units have been sold for $23mm — half to LLCs. The
House Oversight Committee sent a letter asking Trump for details on how and when the Trump will donate profits made from foreign government officials. Reps Cummings and Chaffetz signed the letter. Two days earlier, without explanation,
Chaffetz said he would not run for re-election in 2018, and that he may leave office early to return to the private sector. Despite denials by the Trump,
Erik Prince’s had close ties to the Trump regime, including riding the Acela with Conway, providing advice to Trump’s inner-circle including Flynn, and entering Trump Tower through the back entrance. As mentioned in Week 21, Prince had a one-on-one meeting with a Putin insider in Seychelles on January 11. He is also Betsy DeVos’s brother.
Without explanation, the national security official l
eading the DOJ investigation into whether the Trump regime colluded with Russia, abruptly resigned.
CNN reported that the FBI used information in the Steele dossier, which they independently confirmed, for their FISA warrant against Page.
CNN reported Russia tried to use Trump advisers, including Page, to infiltrate the campaign. Page is one of several advisers US and European intel found to be in contact with Russian officials during the campaign. The DOJ said is it preparing charges against
WikiLeaks founder Assange, with Sessions saying Assange’s arrest is a priority. Strangely, the Trump regime has turned on Assange, after lauding him during the campaign. Sessions
left open the possibility of prosecuting US news organizations for publishing leaked information, and stories on the Trump-Russia scandal continue to pour out. As part of a custody battle,
” As noted in Week 19, InfoWars’ Alex Jones said he is a “performance artist. InfoWars and Breitbart are under FBI investigation for their roles in Russian hacking of our election.
NBC compiled a seating chart of attendees at Putin’s December 2015 RT celebration dinner. Other than F lynn seated next to Putin, Stein was also at Putin’s table and Assange appeared via satellite. NBC also reported on efforts by RT to promote Stein (and hurt Hillary) in the primary. The House Intel Committee announced it will reopen its Trump-Russia probe ex Nunes.
Yates, Comey, Rogers, Brennan and Clapper have all been invited to testify. Nikolai Andrushchenko, a Russian journalist and Putin critic,
was beaten to death by strangers. He is the 12th “mysterious” Russian death in recent months. Like their interference in the US,
Russian sources are flooding French social media with fake news ahead of France’s election.
Reuters reported on a Putin-linked think tank that very purposefully and carefully orchestrated an attack on the US election. Fake news, pro-Kremlin bloggers and cyber-attacks were all part of the plan. Exxon sought a
US waiver to resume drilling in their Russian jv with Rosneft — a deal forged by Tillerson, who is ring fenced from Exxon for only one year. Amid outcry, permission was denied by the Treasury Dept.
The UK Election Commission has launched an investigation of Farage’s Leave.EU for its funding. The involvement of Cambridge Analytica — which also allegedly has ties to Bannon and the Mercers and the Russian hacking of the US election — was not declared to the election watchdog. Sessions said he was
“amazed” that a US judge “on an Island in the Pacific” (aka Hawaii) could block Trump’s Muslim Ban. Sessions took a fact-free swipe at another ethnically diverse city, saying New York City was
soft on crime and plagued by gangs murders. ICE immigrant arrests were
up 33% in the first two months of the Trump regime, including a doubling of noncriminal arrests.
The first protected DREAMer, Juan Manuel Montes, who is 23 and have lived here since age 9, was deported by Trump. Trump ally Rep Steve King celebrated the deportation by tweeting a photo of a frosty beer mug with the words, “
First non-valedictorian DREAMer deported. Border Patrol, this one’s for you.” Ironically, a federal
lawsuit brought on behalf of Montes has been assigned to Judge Curiel, the jurist infamously attacked by Trump for his Mexican heritage during the Trump University case. Trump signed
an executive order to review high-skilled H-1B immigration visas. Trump’s order
does not, however, impact low-skilled H2A or H2B visas. According to CNN, Trump businesses have received 1,024 H-2B visas since 2000, and Trump Vineyards has received 64 H-2A permits since 2006 In a troubling provocation,
Russian aircraft were spotted flying off the coast of Alaska four times in four day this week. Amidst silence from Trump and our State Department,
pogroms of gay men in Russia’s Chechnya region escalated. Russia also banned Jehovah’s Witnesses, claiming “extremist activities.” Trump shocked US and international officials when he called Turkey’s Erdogan to congratulate him on
passage of a referendum which allows Erdogan to further consolidate power as an autocrat. International monitors have said the vote was not “genuinely democratic.” Trump held a
secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago with former presidents of Colombia, threatening to undermine the country’s peace agreement with rebel leaders. The meeting was arranged by Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and was not on Trump’s schedule. Meanwhile, at a speech in WI, Trump called
some of Canada’s trade practices a “disgrace” and claimed NAFTA is “a disaster for our country.” In another embarrassment of US foreign policy,
Trump promised “we are sending an armada”– the USS Carl Vinson carrier group was being deployed to waters off the Korean Peninsula. This was not true.
Mattis and McMaster also made similar misstatement about the USS Carl Vinson’s location. While traveling in the region, Pence assured our allies the misstatements were “ not made intentionally.” On Wednesday,
Tillerson said that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. On Thursday, Trump said Iran was not in complaint.
Trump offended our S. Korea allies with a claim that the country “actually used to be part of China.” Trump apparently gleaned this “knowledge” from his conversation with Xi Jinping. For his upcoming visit to London,
Trump demanded a carriage ride with Queen Elizabeth II down a strip that leads to Buckingham Palace. Three month in, Trump has
only filled 4% of key roles in the executive branch. And with all the international hot spots and conflicts, the State Department remains largely vacant, including Deputy Secretary. A State Department official who helped shape the Iran nuclear deal was
summarily reassigned for criticizing Conservative Review and Breitbart.
The Surgeon General was also quietly dismissed on Friday evening, without explanation or a full-time replacement. DeVos’s pick to head the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said
she faced discrimination for being white. In his first three months of office, Trump has made
417 false or misleading claims. Trump first quarter job approval stood at 41%, t
he lowest of any modern day president by 14 points in Gallup polling. The Resistance claimed a major victory, bringing down
FoxNews icon Bill O’Reilly. Some speculated that the rise of Trump, and his backing of O’Reilly after recent allegations, laid the groundwork for O’Reilly’s fall. Hundreds of thousands are expected to march on Earth Day in the global
March for Science in DC and at 609 satellite locations.
All photos taken by me:
Cocoa Beach, FL 21apr17. Kind of hard to believe that veterans would support a FIVE-TIME DRAFT DODGER, so let’s hope it’s a SAD JOKE. Pussy Power from NYC reigns supreme in this photo.
Philadelphia, PA 12apr17
Philadelphia, PA 12apr17
Week 20 of Donald Trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
published April 1, 2017
For the third week running, Trump has lost control of the narrative. His legislative agenda has ground to a halt — a sign of his waning political capital; however, he continues to fundamentally change the values and fabric of our country in a myriad of alarming ways. Russia’s interference in our election is now an accepted notion, and words like “collusion” and “cover up” entered the fray this week as all eyes turned to examining the Trump regime’s role.
Four weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. He has yet to offer any evidence or apologize.
The Sunday Times reported that during Merkel’s visit to the WH, Trump handed her a £300bn invoice for money he falsely claimed Germany owed to NATO. On Sunday, Trump announced that
Kushner would lead a newly formed White House Office of American Innovation, giving him broad authority over federal bureaucracy. Kushner already has a significant portfolio. On Monday,
NYT reported that the S enate Intelligence Committee will question Kushner about two meetings he arranged with Kislyak during the transition. Kushner will also be questioned on a previously unreported meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank, Vnesheconombank (VEB).
Gorkov is former KGB, and was appointed by Putin to run VEB, a bank under US sanctions for three years. Kushner and
VEB gave different public accounts of why they met. VEB
paid the legal bill as a secret “third party” for their employee, Evgeny Buryakov, at his trial for spying in the US for Russian Intelligence.
Kushner arrived for a ski vacation in Aspen on the same day as Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, one of Putin’s closest confidants. Abramovich’s wife is also friends with Ivanka.
China’s Anbang walked away from the planned purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue, which would have netted Kushner $400mm — a sign that the Chinese government is uncertain of the Trump regime’s longevity. Changing course,
Ivanka will become a federal employee. In her new role of Assistant to the President, the highest staff title, Ivanka will have the same rank as McMaster. In January, Trump attorneys had said Ivanka would resign from her business positions. She is
still listed as CEO of a NY based business. Ethics filings released on Friday showed that
Ivanka and Kushner, despite their new roles, will remain as beneficiaries of real estate and investment businesses worth about $741mm.
Ivanka will also maintain her stake in the controversial Trump Hotel DC, which netted her between $1–5mm from January 2016-March 2017, and value her stake between $5–25mm. Ethics filings also revealed that Bannon earned $917k in the past 12 months,
more than half of which comes from Mercer related entities. Trump again took credit for jobs created before he took office:
this time a $1.2bn investment by Ford that was planned in 2015. Per
WAPO tracking, so far Trump has taken credit for jobs created before he took office 11 times. Trump’s anti-immigrant policies are
scaring eligible families away from safety net programs like SNAP, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and free school lunches.
ICE arrested five Green Card applicants in Lawrence, MA when they showed up for their scheduled appointments at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. All are scheduled to be deported. A federal judge in
Hawaii extended the order blocking Trump’s second Muslim Ban. Trump has been named in
more than 50 lawsuits filed by individuals, arising from his Muslim Bans. Trump signed an EO which
legalizes discrimination against LGBTQ federal employees. Trump
excluded LGBTQ people from the US Census, removing categories for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” At a WH women’s event, Trump said “
If I weren’t president, [women’s empowerment] would be a very scary statement. We can’t compete!” He also asked the crowd is they knew about Susan B. Anthony. Trump’s lawyer said the Zervos sexual harassment-related lawsuit, suing Trump for defamation, should be put on hold because it will “
distract the president from his duties.” On the back of the failed Yemen raid and the Mosul bombing that left 200 civilians dead,
Trump declared Somalia a war zone, lifting Obama’s civilian protection rules for airstrikes.
WAPO reported a growing sense of panic and mistrust among civilians in Iraq and Syria amidst a record number of casualties by US-led airstrikes.
NBC reported that 40% of US colleges reported a drop in international student applications because of Trump’s policies like the Muslim Ban. Foreign students generate $32bn in revenue and 400k jobs. Trump approval hit a new low at
Gallup: 35% approve, 59% disapprove. Ratings this week are the lowest ever for a new president.
Trump will not throw the ceremonial first pitch in the Nationals opening day, making him the second since Taft in 1910 not to do so.
USA Today reported Trump and his companies have been linked to at least 10 former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to organized crime or money laundering.
WNYC reported three all-cash real estate purchases by Manafort in New York. One purchase was for $10mm at Trump Tower in 2006 — the same time Manafort entered a $10mm contract with a pro-Putin Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, to help strategize on influencing US elections.
Deripaska took out quarter page advertisements in the WAPO and WSJ denouncing the AP story, and offering to testify to Congress. On Monday, Nunes
unilaterally cancelled all scheduled hearings and meetings for the week. He refused to share his source for the leaks. On Tuesday,
WAPO reported that the Trump regime tried to block Sally Yates from testifying at the House hearing.
WAPO also reported that both Yates and Brennan had made clear that parts of their testimony contradict statements made by the WH. On Thursday,
NYT identified two WH officials, Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Michael Ellis, as the ones who gave Nunes intelligence reports. Ellis formerly worked for Nunes, and Cohen was brought in by Flynn and kept on by Trump/Bannon/Kushner despite McMasters’ desire to fire him.
WAPO identified a third WH source involved in leaking information to Nunes: John Eisenberg, top lawyer for the National Security Council, on which Bannon sits. E Randol Schoenberg uncovered that
Ezra Cohen-Watnick’s wife Rebecca Miller did PR for Putin. Barton Gellman raised the specter of unchartered territory —
that these leaks could indicate that the Trump WH is spying on the FBI. On Friday, Schiff met with Trump and was given the materials.
In a statement, Schiff said nothing he had seen warranted a departure from normal review procedures. He also questioned why senior WH staff leaked to Nunes, who then shared the info back with Trump’s WH. CREW and Democracy 21 r
equested an OCE inquiry into whether Nunes violated House ethics rules. Robert Wasinger, a former Trump campaign official, transition team staffer and Trump appointee became the second staffer
to leave without signing an ethics pledge. Wasinger is now working as a lobbyist.
ProPublica reported the Trump regime is refusing to respond to inquiry letters from Congressional Democrats, including the letters sent by Senate Democrats to Wilbur Ross in Week 18. The man behind the #Calexit Campaign — an effort to break California from the rest of the country —
splits his time between living in San Diego and Russia, and has ties to a group reportedly backed by the Kremlin.
— a Russian diplomat named Kalugin (misspelled in the dossier as “Kulagin”), who was head of the embassy’s economic section in Washington, was a spy. BBC verified a key claim in Steele’s dossier
BBC also confirmed contact between the Trump campaign and Russia, including sharing of voter rolls in key states like MI and PA. The identity of ‘Source D’ in the Steele dossier, source of the most
salacious details, was confirmed to be Belarusian American businessman Sergei Millian, who also had ties to Trump campaign officials. The FBI raided an
obscure casino in Saipan run by a Trump protege, which has attracted attention over its huge revenue and cash flows. Board members include Trump transition team member Woolsey. On Thursday, Flynn’s lawyer said he had
offered his testimony to the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees in exchange for immunity. Per his lawyer, Robert Kelner, so far there are no takers. The next morning,
Trump tweeted that Flynn should ask for immunity in this “witch hunt.” Robert Kelner tweeted on November 12, 2016, “
A prediction: Donald Trump will make novel and unusual use of the President’s pardon power. An under-utilized tool of political power.” Jeremy Bash, an ex-intel official, said
Flynn could only get immunity if he could deliver evidence against someone higher up the chain: Trump. A federal judge
approved the $25mm Trump University settlement for defrauding more than 6,000 students, and with all the news, no one really noticed.
NBC reported that the Obama administration was so concerned that Trump would destroy documents related to the Russia probe, that they created a list with serial numbers and hand delivered it to all members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. At a press conference before Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, Burr said
Russia hired more than 1,000 hackers to create fake, anti-Hillary news. Warner added that Russia targeted key swing states, including MI, PA and WI. The Senate Intelligence Committee held its first day of hearings on Thursday. All experts who testified concurred on Russia’s involvement.
Former special agent Clint Watts testified that one of reason
Russia’s attacks were so successful is Trump and his team amplified and seemingly coordinated with propaganda coming out of Russia. As proof that Russia wasn’t only aiming to hurt Hillary, but rather to buoy Trump, Watts testified that
Russia interfered in the Republican primary to undermine candidates, including Rubio.
Rubio shared at the hearing that during his presidential campaign, his staff had a hack attempts from Russian IPs. Also, this week a second attempt was made to hack his former members of his campaign staff.
CBS reported the FBI is probing whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Intelligence to carry out cyberattacks on the DNC and other targets in 2016
Trump’s personal lawyer of more than 15 years, was named lead attorney for Sberbank, a Russian bank which is majority owned by the Russian government. Sberbank faces charges in US federal court for racketeering.
WAPO reported that nearly one out of every three days while in office, Trump has visited a Trump branded property. The Center for Public Integrity noted that
Wilbur Ross, while charged with Trump’s trade policy, maintains a stake in a shipping company that flies the Chinese flag, and visits Iran and Russia. Trump insider Rudy Giuliani is defending an alleged Iranian money launderer.
Giuliani did not notify the court of his role, as is generally required. He also visited Turkey to discuss the case with Erdogan. The case it being heard in the Southern District of NY (formerly Bharara). In a letter to the federal judge on Friday, the federal prosecutor on the case disclosed that
Giuliani tried to go around him, and cut a deal between the Turkish and U.S. governments. Senate Democrats called for an
ethics probe of Mnuchin for promoting a movie he produced during a public interview on March 24th. Mnuchin said Friday it was not his intention to promote the movie.
ProPublica reported that while in Congress in 2016, HHS Price bought stocks in 6 pharmaceutical companies, then used his connections to help scuttle a rule that would have hurt the companies’ profit. The Oklahoma Bar launched an investigation into whether
Pruitt lied under oath in his testimony during his Senate confirmation hearing by saying while AG he only used his professional email for AG business.
The State Department has gone dark. Since the both John Bolton and Condoleezza Rice have been invited to the WH by Trump. IJR interview of Tillerson in which he signaled regret over taking SoS,
WAPO reported that many career diplomats in the State Department have been instructed not to speak to Tillerson directly, or to make eye contact. Senators in the House Armed Services oversight subcommittee u
rged Trump to fill Pentagon positions to “ensure that the American people know about and have a means to address instances of waste, fraud and abuse in their government.” Only one position has been filled (Mattis). Bannon and Kushner have blocked other picks. Trump friend and insider
Carl Icahn, stands to significantly benefit from several of Trump’s policies, including a regulation that if put in place will save CVR Energy, of which Icahn owns 82%, $206mm per year.
Newsweek reported that Comey wanted to go public in July with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the election, but in a meeting with Kerry, Lynch, Johnson and Rice, was told not to proceed. When asked by a reporter about Flynn during an EO signing ceremony,
Trump walked out of the room without signing the orders.
NPR reported that Trump has started to employ “Whataboutism” — a Russian propaganda tactic commonly used by Putin. When criticized, Trump will say someone else is worse.
Originals photos by me, in NYC March2017:
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