Week 32 of trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
June 24, 2017
There were signs this week that our democracy is fading. The unusual process undertaken by McConnell in attempting to pass AHCA without Senate input or public support. Alarming evidence that Russia may have tampered with 2016 Election Day results, and possibly with help from the Trump campaign. The Trump regime taking steps to shut down access for the media, while our country burns in bigotry and hate.
Trump-Russia is still the dominate theme, as investigations open on new fronts, and Trump regime members go quiet and lawyer up. Trump continues to deny Russian interference, which will undoubtedly lead to it continuing in upcoming elections — of course to his benefit.
For the first time since taking office, Trump visited Camp David. Russia
renewed six unused Trump trademarks in 2016. Four of the six approvals were officially registered on November 8, Election Day. The Dept of Education said it will
scale back civil rights investigations at public schools and universities, including rolling back Obama’s efforts to end campus sexual assault and protect transgender students. Six members of the Presidential Council on
HIV/AIDS angrily resigned in a public letter saying Trump doesn’t care or have a strategy. Rick Perry, the Secretary of Energy,
denied that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of global warming. Sessions’ DOJ is exploring
new legal theories to take on sanctuary citiesin court, and force them to aid in Trump’s deportation efforts. A Muslim teen was brutally
beaten and killed while walking to a Mosque with her friends in Sterling, VA. A funeral vigil drew many, while the murder has yet to be charged as a hate crime.
Trump Hotel DC will host a conference for anti-Islamic group, ACT for America, including a private tour. Neither the Trump organization or ACT would answer WAPO’s questions about the event and its cost. An attorney said his client was acting within his First Amendment rights when he disrupted a Black Lives Matter rally in Tennessee by
wearing a gorilla mask and carrying a rope and bananas.
NPR reported the Trump regime will not collect LGBTQ census data despite a HUD document obtained under the FOIA which cites this data as “essential.” Trump’s DOJ questions the “appropriateness” of sexual orientation and gender identity topics. Trump and his WH have made
no mention or acknowledgment of June being LGBT Pride month. McConnell continued to
secretly push AHCA in unusual ways. Not only is the closed-door bargaining not bipartisan, most Republicans haven’t seen the bill.
NYT reported that Kushner’s team quietly reached out to high-powered criminal lawyers to represent him on the Russia probe.
Sessions hired a lawyer to represent him in the Russia probe. Pence’s use of a private AOL email account to conduct government business is
costing Indiana $100k in legal fees to process a large backlogof records requests. A lawsuit alleges
private prison company GEO Correction donated to a Trump Super-PAC, in violation of federal law. Trump has adopted a pro-private prison policy. Mueller brought in Andrew Weissmann,
a lawyer with expertise in witness-flipping. Speculation grew that
Flynn is cooperating with the FBI, including by Sen Whitehouse, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Comm.
Flynn failed to report a 2015 Middle East trip on his security clearance forms. The trip was to discuss a U.S.-Russian partnership, financed by Saudi Arabia, to build nuclear reactors throughout the Middle East.
NYT reported that despite concerns about Flynn being a security risk, Pompeo continued to give him classified briefings for three weeks.
NYT also reported that even though he gave Trump briefings almost daily, Pompeo did not raise the issue of Flynn’s ties to Russia.
ABC reported Senate investigators are looking into financial ties between the Trump campaign and Russia/Eastern Europeans businessmen to see if dealing involved organized crime or those subject to US sanctions. Several names associated with
financing for the Trump SoHo have alleged ties to money laundering or Russian organized crime. One name is Felix Sater,
who was twice convicted and served jail time, and as per Week 15, worked with Michael Cohen on a back-channel plan for a Ukraine and Russia ‘peace plan’ (with new leadership in Ukraine). Felix Sater, a Russian-born former partner with New York property developer
Bayrock, worked with Trump and his children on projects around the world.
Bloomberg reported an employee of Bayrock, Jody Kriss, said he quit because the firm was a front for money laundering. A federal judge said a lawsuit by Kriss against Bayrock could proceed as a racketeering case. In a
CBS poll, Trump’s approval hit a new low (36%). He is also losing Republican support: 83% approve on Day-100 vs. 72% now. Mueller brought in a second lawyer from the Solicitor General’s office. Elizabeth Prelogar is
fluent in Russian and while at Harvard Law, won an Overseas Press Club scholarship to study Russian media and censorship. On Monday, Spicer did an
off camera, no audio broadcast press briefing. The Trump regime’s access to the media has become increasingly erratic. When Spicer was asked if Trump believes that Russia interfered with our election on Tuesday, said “
I have not sat down and asked him.” While Spicer acknowledged he is helping find his replacement,
Trump is considering new measures including limiting press briefings to once a week and asking reporters to submit written questions in advance. Former Secretary of Homeland Security
Jeh Johnson testified to the House Intel Comm that “Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election — plain and simple.” Also at the hearing, Jeanette Manfra, acting deputy undersecretary at DHS, said so far
evidence exists that Russia targeted election-related systems in 21 states.
Daily Beast reported that the DHS never ran a formal federal audit to see if votes were hacked.
WAPO calculated that in Trump’s first 151 days, he has made 669 false and misleading claims. A
NYT op-ed, “ Trump’s Lies,” catalogued every lie told by Trump since he took office, noting: “…as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them.” Trump held a campaign rally in Iowa, and gave
a speech full of factually incorrect statements. NYT described the rally as a “ venting session.” At the Iowa rally, Trump defended his wealthy economic cabinet picks, saying “
In those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person.”
Boeing announced layoffs at the South Carolina plant Trump visitedearlier this year where he promoted his “Buy America” pledge. Trump will hold his
re-election campaign kick-off event on June 28 at the Trump Hotel DC. The cost is $35k per head, or $100k for host committee. While ignoring atrocities committed by numerous authoritarian leaders, Trump tweeted a falsehood, “
Mexico was just ranked the second deadliest country in the world,” about our former close ally.
Trump called new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to congratulate him on his new role. Further to a
BuzzFeed article in Week 31 citing multiple deaths in the UK at the hands of Russian operatives, The New Yorker reported on similarly mysterious deaths of Putin critics in the US. Tillerson proposed a three-point plan aimed at
improving relations with Russia, including working together on cybersecurity.
NYT reported that Trump’s WH is trying to get the House GOP to weaken the Senate bill that imposes sanctions on Russian. Rep Kevin
Brady tried to block the Senate’s Russia sanction bill, saying it was “blue slip” violation — revenue bills must originate in the House. Democrats on the
House Oversight Comm questioned why Kushner still has security clearance, and why Flynn kept his clearance, after public reports that both had undisclosed meetings with Kislyak. Rachel Maddow reported on a
second bi-partisan letter to the Trump WH and acting FBI director McCabe questions Kushner’s security clearance.
BuzzFeed reported that Bharara wrote a memo on March 9 to several senior DOJ officials outlining his concern about a third call from the WH. Bharara was fired on March 11.
POLITICO reported that Trump has frequently lashed out at WH counsel McGahn for not doing more to quash the Trump-Russia probe early on.
CNN reported that Coats and Rogers both told Mueller and the Senate Intel Comm in a private session that Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his regime and Russia. Coats told House investigators that
Trump seemed obsessed with the Russia probe, and repeatedly asked him to publicly state there was no evidence of collusion. On Thursday in a cryptic tweet,
Trump admitted he did not tape Comey, raising questions of whether his initial tweet was witness intimidation. Trump also continued to deny Russia hacked our election, and
tweeted blame at Obama: “if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn’t they stop them?” Rachel Maddow
reported on the many ways Russia, possibly with the help from the Trump regime, may have tampered with actual voting results on Election Day.
WSJ reported Deep Root Analytics, a GOP data firm, left a proprietary data set with personal information on nearly 200 million votersunprotected online — where anyone could see it.
Gizmodo reported the data leak contains detailed personal information on about 61% of the US population — including address, birthday, party registrations and views on issues for almost all registered voters. The
RNC paid Deep Root $983k in 2016, but much of the data leaked came from The Data Trust, the GOP’s primary voter file provider. The RNC paid The Data Trust $6.7mm during the 2016 election cycle. The president of The Data Trust was
Johnny DeStefano, who is now in head of personal for Trump. Dallas County, a heavily Democratic area, said its
web servers were targeted multiple times by Russian hackers. Of the 600 IP addresses provided by DHS as possible Russian hackers,
17 associated with Russian computers tried to gain access to Dallas servers.
Rachel Maddow reported that adjoining counties that were heavily Republican did not have any matches from the 600 IP addresses.
WSJ reported on VR Systems, a software company whose product were used to check-in voters in 21 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. VR Systems software failed in heavily Democratic Durham county. Durham county was forced to issue ballots by hand, meaning longer lines, and
likely depressed voter turnout. Trump won NC, but the race was very close.
TIME reported the Russian hacking of our election was more widespread than previously reported, and included at least one successful attempt to alter voter information and theft of personal info on thousands of voters.
TIME also reported that there was one confirmed case of manipulation of voter data — raising the specter of falsified votes.
CBS reported the House Intel Comm investigation on Russia has expanded to probe whether Trump associates received information from hacked voter databases. Parscale,
digital director for the Trump campaign, emerged as a central figure in the Trump-Russia probe. Pascale, known as “Jared’s boy,” reported to Kushner. His firm was paid $91mm by the Trump campaign. The House Intel Comm will interview Parscale to ascertain
if information stolen by Russian hackers made its way to the Trump campaign. As he takes over as House Oversight Comm chair, unlike his predecessor Chaffetz,
Gowdy said the committee will no longer probe Trump-Russia ties or violations of the emoluments clause. A
NBC/WSJ poll found that by a 2–1 margin, Americans believe Comey over Trump. Just 27% approve of Trump firing of Comey. Friday, Trump told
Fox & Friends he tweeted his lie about the existence of tapes in order to influence Comey’s account of their conversation — further raising the specter of witness intimidation. Also in the
Fox & Friends interview, Trump left open the option of firing Mueller because of his “bothersome” friendship with Comey. A
WAPO bombshell reported on a CIA report delivered only to Obama and three top officials in August, revealing Putin’s specific instructions to defeat or at least damage Hillary, and help elect Trump.
WAPO also reported in the months ahead of the election, the FBI became alarmed by an unusual spike in temporary visa requests by Russia for officials with technical skills to enter the US. Permission was denied. The Obama administration’s
response was mild and fairly muted, in part, according to WAPO reporting, concern that Russia would sabotage our Election Day.
WAPO also reported on GOP efforts to block intelligence from informing the public, and from acting including the SoS of Georgia who called Johnson’s proposal to shore up voting as an assault on state rights. After the
WAPO story, Trump again tweeted about Obama and Russian interference: “Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?” Trump continued to deny intelligence that Russia hacked our election, saying it was “
probably was Russia.”
NBC reported Trump has taken little meaningful action, and shown no interest in stopping Russia from hacking our next election, despite a slew of intelligence warnings that Russia will be back. McConnell rolled out the Senate version of AHCA, which only a small group white male senators and lobbyists were involved in crafting. The public is overwhelmingly against the bill. One journalist referred to the process in a column, “
Our Fake Democracy.” Trump has yet to pass a single piece of major legislation despite control of the House and Senate. He seems largely disinterested and disengaged in this sphere.
“The Great Political Swindle ~ La Gran Estafa Politica” by JuegaSiempre & Africa47 in Bogota, Colombia. Photo by: mrchemix.
“Ohhh . . . . Drawing out political frustrations is so much fun !!! Paul Ryan’s a lil puppet boy whose baby blues might as well be brown because he’s completely full of shit.” ~ Quote and illustration by Orlando, Florida-based artist, Andrew Spear.
Week 31 of trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
June 17, 2017
Another week for the history books: Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice — a fact he confirmed through a tweet. With his increasingly erratic behavior, Trump has become his own worst enemy. While investigations by the House, Senate, FBI, federal investigators and special counsel into Trump-Russia steam ahead, Trump’s continued efforts to interfere with investigations may prove to be his ultimate undoing.
This week the tentacles of the Trump-Russia probe reached new members of the Trump regime, and several chose to lawyer up. Congress is singularly focused on Trump-Russia, save for McConnell’s odd, clandestine AHCA efforts.
canceled his UK visit, saying he didn’t want to come until the British public supports him. Large-scale protests were expected. Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ has
been coined “the summer White House,” and similar to Mar-a-Lago, offers access — such as Trump crashing parties – as part of the marketing plan. Since taking office, Trump has been at
one of his properties every 3.5 days, and at one of his golf courses every 6.2 days. On Sunday, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, said
Trump is considering firing Mueller. Trump allies, including Gingrich and Conway,
attacked Mueller, claiming he was biased for Comey, and that members of his staff have donated to Democrats of liberal causes. Gingrich also accused
Mueller of being part of the “deep state” plot to undermine Trump. Bharara told
ABC Sunday that Trump called him three times. Bharara was fired the day after he did not return the third call. Bharara noted Obama did not call him once while he served. Bharara also described his contact as “a little bit uncomfortable, and said reading about Trump’s contact with Comey “
felt a little bit like deja vu.”
Kasowitz bragged that he was behind the firing of Bharara. According to a ProPublica source, Kasowitz told Trump, “This guy is going to get you.” In response to a
FOIA request, the Secret Service said it has no audio or transcripts of any tapes made in the WH. Trump has still not verified if he lied about the existence of tapes, despite promises to do so soon.
Hundreds of Kremlin critics were arrested amid anti-corruption protests, including opposition leader Navalny who was detained near his home. A Moscow court
sentenced Navalny to 30 days in prison for staging an unsanctioned rally. The WH and State Dept were silent on all of this.
Gianforte was sentenced to a 180-day deferred sentence, and ordered to complete 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management counseling for assaulting reporter Ben Jacobs. The
9th Circuit upheld an injunction blocking part of Trump’s second Muslim Ban. In their ruling, the judges cited Trump’s own tweets. Trump
changed the expiration date of the Muslim Ban in an effort to prevent the Supreme Court from declaring it moot. Monday, in a bizarre display in front of cameras,
Trump’s cabinet members took turns praising him. A journalist noted: “
Putin televises the beginnings of his cabinet meetings.”
Rep Quigley introduced the “COVFEFE Act,” to require the preservation of Trump’s tweets. The original covfefe tweet was deleted. Also of note, Trump has been
actively blocking users on Twitter, despite using his Twitter account for policy and other announcements. Trump’s approval sunk again in a new
AP/NORC poll, with his net favorability falling to -29 (approve 35, disapprove 64). The
AP/NORC poll also found that 7 in 10 Americans are at least moderately concerned that Trump or his campaign associates had inappropriate ties to Russia. A survey of CEOs, business execs, government officials and academics at the Yale CEO summit found that
50% gave Trump a “F” and 21% a “D” for his first 130 days in office.
Bloomberg reported that Russian cyber hack of the US electoral system was far wider than reported — including 39 states in all. The attacks included incursions into voter databases and software system. Further, in Illinois, which became known as “Patient Zero” in the government probe,
Russian hackers gained access to personal information on 15mm people, half of whom were active voters.
Cindy McCain agreed to join the State Dept, after being aggressively courted by Trump. Dana Shell Smith, the
US ambassador to Qatar, resigned. Trump’s EPA head, Pruitt,
skipped much of the G7 environmental summit. The Dept of Energy said it will
close an office that works with other countries to develop clean energy technology. At a Senate Appropriations hearing,
Tillerson said he would not be staffing the State Dept until next year.
Trump’s Commerce Dept removed sexual orientation and gender identification from its anti-discrimination policies.
Trump appointed loyalist Lynne Patton, who planned Eric’s wedding and golf tournaments at Trump courses, to run the office that oversees federal housing programs in New York. She has no housing experience. OGE director Shaub responded to a request from four Senate democrats, saying
Steve Bannon had in fact violated WH ethics rules, noting Bannon’s ethics waiver was retroactive and neither dated nor signed.
USA Today reported that in the last 12 months, 70% of Trump property buyers have been LLCs, compared to 4% two years ago.
China approved nine Trump trademark requests which were previously rejected. Intellectual property lawyers suggested “special treatment.”
AP reported a company that partners with both Trump and Kushner is a finalist for a $1.7bn contract to build the new FBI headquarters. While Ivanka has made attempts to reset her public image,
Guardianreported at her clothing factory in China workers complain of verbal abuse, impossible targets, and poverty pay. During Sen Judiciary Comm testimony,
Rosenstein said he now agrees that Russia interfered in our election. Rosenstein had not taken a position during his confirmation hearings. On Tuesday, reporters at the Capitol were told they were
no longer allowed to interview senators in the hallways, contrary to years of precedent. Karen Tumulty, a reporter for
WAPO, was expelled from the Capitol for doing just that. Following a backlash, later that day
Senate Republicans backed off from their restrictions on the media. DC police said
they will charge 12 of Erdogan’s security guards for assaulting protestors outside the Turkish embassy. In response to a FOIA requests,
a DC judge ordered the DOJ to produce Sessions’ clearance form, on which he was required to disclose contacts with Russians, within one month. The DC judge
also ordered the DOJ and FBI to release any records of Priebus reaching out to the FBI to request they refute reports of communications between the Trump campaign and Russia. Tuesday, Sessions testified in front of the Senate Intel Comm,
but largely refused to answer important questions. He did not mention any further contact with Russian officials, nor confirm the third meeting.
McCain asked Sessions if he had “any contacts with any representative, including any American lobbyist or agent of any Russian company” at the hearing Tuesday. Sessions said, “I don’t believe so.”
Guardian reported that Richard Burt, a lobbyist for Russia who helped craft a foreign policy speech for Trump, said he attended two dinners hosted by Sessions during the 2016 campaign. Burt also
served on the advisory board of Alfa Capital Partners, a private equity fund in which Alfa Bank was an investor. Per Week 21, the FBI is looking in links between Alfa Bank and Trump during the campaign. Sen Kamala Harris was
interrupted by McCain and then Burr during her questioning of Sessions. Harris was also scolded by Burr for not being “courteous” in the hearing last week of Coats, Rogers and Rosenstein. By a 98–2 vote, the Senate passed a new Russian sanctions bill which would impose additional sanctions, and
limit Trump’s ability to lift them.
WIRED reported on Mueller assembling a “dream team” of lawyers, including attorneys who specialize in money laundering and organized crime, and a former prosecutor for the Watergate investigation. On Wednesday, a lone gunman, who had volunteered for Bernie Sanders,
shot at Congressional Republicans who were practicing for a baseball game at a park in Alexandria, VA. Extreme rhetoric was blamed. The next night as the bi-partisan game was being played, the Trump regime
rescinded Obama’s protections for parents of ‘Dreamers,’ and reduced protections for ‘Dreamers.’ In Ossining, NY,
ICE detained a 19 year-old on the day of his prom and weeks before his high school graduation. On Wednesday,
WAPO reported that Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice.
WAPO also reported that Mueller will interview Coats, Rogers and Ledgett as part of the investigation. In a poignant moment on primetime TV, Lester Holt said on NBC Nightly News, “
NBC News has learned the president of the United States is now under criminal investigation.” Late Thursday,
Rosenstein issued an odd statement prodding the media for “anonymous allegations” on Russia, and saying “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true” anonymous sources. Pelosi predicted that
Trump will “self-impeach.” On Friday in
a tweet, Trump acknowledged he was under investigation, and described it as a “Witch Hunt.” Trump’s tweet also took a
swipe at Rosenstein, raising questions of whether Trump would fire him. Doing so could make it possible for Trump to put in place a process to fire Mueller. Sen Feinstein said
she is increasingly concerned that Trump will fire Mueller. In a strong statement she noted, “We’re a nation of laws that apply equally to everyone, a lesson the president would be wise to learn.”
AP reported Trump advisors and confidant describe him as increasingly angry over the investigation and yelling at televisions carrying coverage.
NYT reported that Trump’s private attorney, Kasowitz, has advised WH staffers not to hire private lawyers yet.
Kasowitz was hit with ethics complaints in NY and DC over this advice.
WAPO reported that Mueller is investigating Kushner for his finances and business dealings. This is in addition to previously reported investigations of Kushner’s meetings in December with Kislyak and Gorkov.
WAPO also reported that the FBI and federal prosecutors are investigating the financial dealing of Flynn, Manafort and Page.
CNN reported the House Intel Comm is planning to call Brad Parscale, the digital director for Trump’s campaign, in their investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
CNN also reported that Kushner is under federal investigation for his role in overseeing Trump’s data operations, and is expected to talk to Senate investigators about the campaign’s data operation.
Pence hired big-name experienced, top dollar lawyer with Watergate experience to represent him in the Russian probe. Pence’s PAC held a fundraiser in Indianapolis Friday night. When Rachel Maddow’s staff asked whether funds go towards legal costs, t
he response was: “His legal fees will be paid by non-tax dollars.” Trump personal lawyer,
Michael Cohen, hired counsel for the Russian probe. Cohen is under investigation by the special counsel, and will testify in front of the House Intel Comm on September 5. Michael Caputo, a Manafort ally who
served as a senior communications adviser on Trump’s campaign, hired a lawyer. Caputo lived in Moscow, and in 2000 worked to improve Putin’s image in the US.
Manafort and Page also hired counsel for the Russia probe.
CNBC reported that the Trump regime is touting that they created coal jobs which might not actually exist.
Putin offered Comey political asylum in Russia, continuing to publicly insert himself into US politics.
BuzzFeed reported that 14 recent deaths in the UK appear tied to Russia. Frustrating House Republicans,
Trump called their version of AHCA/Trumpcare — which he had celebrated in the Rose Garden — “mean,” and said he hoped the Senate would pass a better version. McConnell has been leading an oddly closed-door effort to pass AHCA in the Senate with no hearings or input. Open frustration was expressed by Democrats, some Republicans, and
major patient advocacy groups. The
OGE released Trump’s most recent financial disclosure Friday. Trump reported $315mm of loans, including $130mm from Deutsche Bank, the bank known for Russian ties which refused Democrats request for info. The 98 pages of financial disclosure showed
a sharp rise in revenue at places Trump frequented including Mar-a-Lago and nearby golf courses. Trump also made
$20mm at the newly opened Trump Hotel DC. Despite early promised to turn over payments from foreign government to the US Treasury, Trump is not tracking all payments. The Attorneys General for
DC and Maryland sued Trump for breaching his constitutional oath by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments. Nearly
200 Congressional Democrats filed an emoluments lawsuit against Trump saying he has violated constitutional restrictions on taking gifts and benefits from foreign leaders. A Russian oil tycoon
parked his giant yacht in front of the Statue of Liberty. The yacht was a gift from a Roman Abramovich, who in Week 20 was skiing in Aspen at the same time as Kushner and Ivanka. In an early sign of cracks from unfilled key roles in the executive branch, after the USS Fitzgerald collision,
Trump was criticized for leaving the positions of US navy secretary and ambassador to Japan unfilled.
Artist’s March in Wynwood Art District. Miami, FL. Photo: Alessandro Abate
Syrian Artist Abdalla Al Omari depicting trump as a REFUGEE.
Artist Christophe Verdon in Paris, France. Photo: Frederic Steimer
Week 30 of donald trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
June 10, 2017
This week all eyes were on the Comey testimony, which opened the door for what could be obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense. Despite Republicans controlling the House, Senate and White House, legislative progress has largely come to a halt amid weekly and sometimes daily bombshells, as all eyes turn to the Trump-Russia scandal. Also of note is the complete disarray of the Trump regime, and the difficulty Trump is having hiring staff and even finding legal representation.
In the aftermath of terrorists attacks in London Saturday night,
Trump attacked the Mayor tweeting, “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!” The US ambassador to the
UK contradicted Trump, tweeting from the embassy account we “Commend the strong leadership” of the Mayor. Trump used the attack as an opportunity
to promote his Muslim Ban, “I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” Ironically, the Trump regime spent months denying it was a “ban.” Trump also criticized Sessions, tweeting the
DOJ should have stayed with the first Muslim ban, “not the watered down, politically correct version.” Experts said Trump’s tweets would
likely hurt the chances on appeal at the Supreme Court.
NYT reported that Trump is fuming at Sessions, especially over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mattis tried to reassure allies at a conference in Singapore, asking them to “
bear with us” after Trump’s disastrous foreign trip.
POLITICO reported that Trump’s national security team was blind-sighted when he left out the planned language reaffirming US commitment to Article 5 from his NATO summit speech in Brussels. A
noose was found at a construction site in DC, marking the third noose found in the DC area this week. The
Ku Klux Klan applied to hold a rally in Charlottesville on July 8th.
Reuters reported that the Trump regime is seeking to reopen hundreds of cases of illegal immigrants who were granted a reprieve under Obama.
Buzzfeed reviewed more than 50 reports of school bullying, and found that kids nationwide are using Trump’s words to taunt their classmates. Kim Weaver
dropped her run for Congress against Trump ally, Steve King, after receiving multiple death threats.
POLITICO reported that Tillerson has made himself largely inaccessible to staff and outsiders, funneling all inquiries through two staffers. The Mayor of Los Angeles said
ICE’s aggressive raids could cause high tensions in his city to boil over: “I fear a tinderbox out there.” Canadian searches for flights to US cities have
dropped by 43% since Trump’s first proposed Muslim Ban. Ivanka continued her efforts to reset her image,
appearing on the cover of with a headline, “Why I Disagree with My Dad.” US Weekly Questions arose of
whether it is constitutional for Trump to block users, given he Twitter communicate about domestic and foreign policy.
Trump filed a 6 month extension for filing his 2016 taxes. His rationale for the extension is unknown.
WSJ reported Saudi Arabia’s lobbyists and consultants spent $270k at the Trump Hotel DC as part of an effort to lobby Trump against a bi-partisan Act that lets Americans sue foreign countries over terrorist attacks. The DOJ argued
Trump can accept payments from foreign governments, saying the emoluments clause doesn’t apply to “fair-market commercial transactions” like payments for hotel rooms and golf club fees. As questions remain on why Kushner met with VEB’s Gorkov,
Bloombergreported that Kushner is seeking a $250mm loan to pay back Chinese investors for a New Jersey luxury tower. US banks are wary to lend.
WNYC reported the Kushner family is set to lose $6.5mm in annual tax credits for a property in Jersey City. The
acting US ambassador to China resigned over Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. The
head of the US Patent Office resigned.
85% of the top science jobs in Trump’s executive branch remain unfilled and do not have a nominee.
The chief executive of Newseum warned that Trump’s denigration of the media would lead to the “delegitimization of journalists,” and encourage authoritarians to target reporters and newspapers around the world. Rep Gianforte agreed to
pay $50k to the Committee to Project Journalists in a civil settlement for assaulting journalist Ben Jacobs.
Mueller brought in several, well-known attorneys with relevant experience to join his special counsel Russia probe, including Michael Dreeben, the DOJ’s top criminal law expert.
Yahoo reported four top law firmed turned down requests to represent Trump citing his unwillingness to listen to advice, potential harm to recruiting and client relationships, and his history of not paying bills.
Forbes reported that at a charity golf tournament run by Eric Trump for St. Jude Children’s Research, $1.2 million of expenses paid to the Trump Organization had no documented receipts. Additionally,
$500k was re-donated to other charities (4 of whom subsequently held tournaments at Trump golf courses), and $100k was funneled though the Eric Trump Foundation to the Trump Organization. The
NY Attorney General’s office said it will look into these payouts by Eric Trump’s Foundation.
Flynn turned over more than 600 pages of documents to the Senate Intel Comm. Most are business records, but also some personal documents.
The Intercept published a leaked top-secret NSA document which detailed the efforts of Russian hackers to target a voting-software supplier and more than 100 local election officials just prior to Election Day. The
FBI arrested the leaker: 25 year-old Reality Winner, a federal contractor in Augusta, Georgia. The FBI was able to track the leak to Winner after . The Intercept provided a copy to the NSA for comment Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intel Comm said Russian attacks on our election were
broader and targeted more states than reported in The Intercept. Sen Klobuchar asked that the
Senate Rules Comm get a classified briefing on the Russian vote hacking attempts.
Deutsche Bank ignored the House Democrats’ request for information on Trump’s accounts and possible ties to Russia.
Thursday, Deutsche Bank blamed privacy laws for preventing the bank from disclosing the information requested. At a Senate Intel Comm hearing Wednesday,
Coats, Rogers and Rosenstein largely refused to answer senators’ questions. One conservative journalist called it contempt of Congress. A
pro-Trump PAC ran ads attacking Comey as a “showboat” and a failure on the day of his testimony.
WAPO reported Coats told associates Trump asked him to intervene to get Comey to back off the FBI’s investigation of Flynn in its Russia probe. Sources said the ask was made at the end of a briefing at the WH, when
Trump asked everyone to leave the room, except Coats and Pompeo. NYT reported the day after Trump asked Comey to end the investigation of Trump,
Comey told Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump. ABC reported that
Trump lashed out repeatedly at Sessions in private meetings about recusing himself from Russia, and that Sessions in turn suggested he could resign. After allegations Nunes was behind the House Intel subpoenas on “unmasking,”
Nunes refused to confirm if he had stepped aside in the Russia probe. VOX reported that Comey had spoken to
three senior FBI officials (Rybicki, Baker, McCabe), who could vouch for his story that Trump asked him to shut down the Flynn investigation. Trump’s approval hit a
new low in a Quinnipiac poll: approve 34%, disapprove 57%. Of note, Trump is almost underwater with white men! A
senior State Dept official will travel to Russia to help solve the “irritants” in our relationship. Putin
threatened Sweden with a military response to “eliminate the threat” if the country joins NATO. Former DNI
Clapper said “Watergate pales” compared to what the US is confronting now. Ahead of his testimony Thursday, on Wednesday the Sen Intel Comm released
seven pages of Comey’s testimony.
Highlights include: unusually frequent contacts with Trump, Trump requested a loyalty pledge, Comey documented all contact, Trump focused on Russian hooker report, and Trump asked him to let Flynn off. Trump’s pick for FBI director,
Wray, works for a law firm that counts among it’s clients Russian-state oil companies Rosneft and Gazprom Comey testified in an open session Thursday. Major networks covered the testimony as over 19 million watched. Many in DC
caught “Comey fever” and played hooky to watch at restaurants and pubs.
Among the highlights: Comey said Trump lied about him and the FBI; that Sessions had no choice but to recuse himself; and that he was fired because of the Russia investigation. Comey said he took notes starting directly after the first meeting on January 6 because
he was concerned Trump “might lie.” Comey did not feel the need to take notes with Obama or W Bush. On Trump’s threat of having taped his conversations, Comey said, “
Lordy, I hope there are tapes.” This spurred another round of demands by Democrats for Trump to produce the tapes, or admit he lied. Comey said
Sessions seemed uncomfortable when Trump asked him to leave the room, “My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving.” Comey said the same of Kushner. Comey
said he leaked a memo about his meeting with Trump through a friend at Columbia to the in hopes of getting a special counsel appointed. NYT Comey testified he has given his memos to Mueller, and
suggested the special counsel is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice. Comey said there was no doubt that Russia interfered in our election, saying, “
they’re coming after America” and “ they will be back.” He also noted this is an attack on our democracy, not a particular political party. Trump’s lawyer, Kasowitz responded, included a written statement where he
misspelled President. He also got the timeline of the Comey memo wrong, and falsely accused Comey of leaking classified information. After the Comey testimony, Republicans mostly shied away from the camera this week, while
Speaker Ryan offered a tepid defense for Trump’s actions: “he’s just new to this.” Numerous Trump surrogates spent the days surrounding Comey’s testimony by trying to
smear him as a liar and attention seeker. NBC reported that during the Senate Intel Comm’s closed hearing, senators learned about a
third, undisclosed meeting between Sessions and Russia. This confirms an item in Week 29, which the DOJ denied.
PM May suffered a major setback in the UK elections, as her Conservative Party lost the majority. Her party’s loss also could spell trouble for Brexit.
Senate Intel Comm staff will interview Kushner next week. NBC reported that Congress wants to ask Kushner if he was seeking funding for his NYC tower. Pelosi told
MSNBC that she is looking into why Trump picked Saudi Arabia as his first country to visit. Past presidents, going back to Reagan had visited close allies Canada or Mexico first. Pelosi also said she is looking into why while at the visit in Saudi Arabia,
Trump had cleared the room. Trump and Tillerson had
an embarrassing difference in foreign policy on Qatar as Tillerson said there should “be no further escalation by parties in the region,” and Trump sided with Saudi Arabia and others, slamming Qatar as a sponsor of terrorism. Trump’s attorney said he would
file a complaint against Comey for leaking his memo to his friend at Columbia. According to a letter from the US Office of Special Counsel, Trump’s social media director
Scavino violated the Hatch Act in April when he tweeted a call to oust a member of the House. He was issued a warning. In a Friday speech with the president of Romania in the Rose Garden, Trump
switched course again and said he would support Article 5 of the NATO pact. Trump also
called Comey a liar and a “leaker,” and that Comey’s testimony showed there was “no collusion, no obstruction.” Trump also said he would be willing to
tell his side of story under oath, “100 percent,” but still would not confirm if the “tapes” really exist. Top Democratic donor
Tom Steyer called for impeachment hearings over obstruction of justice.
Artist NYChopper: work in progress at Welling Court in Queens, NY. 10june 2017. Photo: Nicole Gordon
Artist NYChopper: work in progress at Welling Court in Queens, NY. 10june 2017. Photo: Nicole Gordon
Artist SubDude London in East London, UK.
SubDude London. June 2017. London, England, UK.
SubDude London. June 2017. London, England, UK.
Week 29 of trump’s presidency: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
June 3, 2017 https://medium.com/@Amy_Siskind/week-29-experts-in-authoritarianism-advise-to-keep-a-list-of-things-subtly-changing-around-you-so-c9e9f26fc799
This was an abbreviated week with Memorial Day and Congress out of session. Republicans were largely in hiding. Without the background noise in DC, two major themes played out: the spreading Russia crisis, and the shaping of a new world order.
Even before Megyn Kelly’s prime-time interview of Putin, Russia has become a national obsession. Several bombshells on Trump-Russia broke this week, as the collusion puzzle continues to piece together. And seemingly at Putin’s behest, a new world order is shaping with Trump distancing himself from our democratic allies, and cozying up to brutal authoritarian states.
As the Trump-Russia scandal spread, Donald Jr, Eric and Eric’s wife Lara
met with GOP leaders to discuss strategy. Donald Jr and Eric were supposed to steer clear from politics while running the family business. SoS Tillerson, Exxon’s former CEO, was present in Saudi Arabia at the same time
Exxon’s current CEO was signing a major deal with state-owned Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC). The Trump regime planned to
quietly sell $1.2mm of semiautomatic handguns to Ergodan’s security guards. After these guards beat American protestors at the Turkish embassy in DC, members of Congress objected. Belgian newspaper
Le Soir reported that during his Brussels visit, Trump complained to the Belgian PM about his difficulties in setting up golf courses in the EU. In the final leg of his trip, Trump continued to ignore US press. Trump was the
only G7 leader to not hold a press conference after the summit. The WH
omitted the name of the husband of Luxembourg’s gay PM from the caption of a photo taken at the NATO summit. It was later corrected. Merkel warned Europeans that the US and Britain are no longer reliable partners, and that
Europe “must take its fate into its own hands.” Macron said his prolonged,
white-knuckled handshake with Trump was “not innocent,” telling French media, “we must show that we will not make small concessions, even symbolic ones.” In an interview with Megyn Kelly,
Putin it would be a good thing for Moscow if NATO were completely “falling apart.” In sharp contrast to Trump, on Monday France’s Macron stood on stage next to Putin and called Russian media outlets “
organs of influence and propaganda.” France also accepted LGBTQ refugees from Chechnya. While visiting Australia,
McCain sought to reassure our important ally, telling them Trump’s actions have “unsettled many Americans as well.”
CNN reported that Trump’s return from his first foreign trip finds him lonely and angry. One source said, “I see him emotionally withdrawing. He’s gained weight. He doesn’t have anybody whom he trusts.” A furious Trump threatened a WH shake-up again and again this week
amid the broadening Russia crisis; however it also became clear that few are interested in working for Trump. Trump’s
Communications Director quit Tuesday. Other than that, no changes were made this week despite all the drama. Kellyanne Conway’s husband,
George Conway, withdrew his name from consideration to lead the Civil Division of the DOJ.
Reuters reported that Trump FBI director search has become “chaotic,”and said Trump interviewed candidates for 10–20 minutes, and in one case, mostly talked about himself. AP reported Trump
gave his cell number to world leaders and urged them to call him directly, raising concerns about security and secrecy. Trump’s Twitter account
experienced a strange surge of followers in the month of May. Nearly half his new followers are likely fake accounts. Rolling back 40 years of progress,
the Trump regime plans to disband the Labor Department division responsible for policing discrimination among federal contractors. Also as part of this move,
Trump will also roll back protections for the LGBTQ community, and for victims of campus sexual assault. Amid racial tensions in Portland, OR after a two men were killed by a white supremacist while coming to the aid of Muslims women, a Republican said the party
should use militia groups at public events. Three days after the Portland attack, Trump tweeted attack was “unacceptable;” although
he did so through the @POTUS Twitter account, not the personal account he typically uses.
One hundred eighth graders on a field trip to DC refused to pose with Paul Ryan. One student added, “I don’t want to be associated with him.”
WNYC reported Trump SoHo plans layoffs, citing in the past five months room and event bookings are down sharply. As Trump lost the appeal in federal court on his second Muslim Ban, the regime gave US embassies broad discretion to
limit travelers through intensified screening measures for visa applicants. In another act of violence against US media,
several windows at the Lexington Herald-Leader were shattered by bullets. Texas’s House passed SB 4,
which attempts to abolish “sanctuary cities” by making local officials who refuse to enforce the Trump’s regime’s extremist measures liable and subject to removal from office. A Texas state representation, Matt Rinaldi,
called ICE on SB 4 protesters. He also threatened to “put a bullet in one of his colleague’s heads” during a scuffle on the House floor. A man arrested for failing to pay fare on Minneapolis light rail
faces deportation after undergoing inappropriate questioning by a transit officer on his immigration status. The exchange was captured on video.
In Michigan, ICE agents ate breakfast at an Ann Arbor restaurant, complimented the chef on the waffles and bacon and eggs and toast, and then went to the kitchen area and arrested three restaurant workers. A
Guardian article described ICE agents as “out of control” and “getting worse” as arrests of non-violent undocumented immigrants explode across the country. Agents have also been accused of targeting protestors. The Trump regime
filed a petition with the SCOTUS to appeal the second Muslim Ban rulings. Ironically the Ban, marketed as imperative to protecting America, had a 90 day tenor. It is now over 120 days later. A
noose was found at the segregation exhibition of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. NYC sculptor Alex Gardena, upset about the Fearless Girl statue looking at the bull,
placed a statue of a urinating dog next to the girl. Signaling his lack of knowledge on governing and his continued authoritarian bent, Trump
tweeted the Senate ‘should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved.’
China arrested one activist, and two others disappeared, after investigating alleged labor abuse at a factory that makes Ivanka’s shoes. Sen Judiciary Comm chair Grassley called for an investigation into a
Chinese co marketing investments in a property partly managed by Kushner using EB-5 visas (granting visas for $500k investments). McCain said
Russia is a bigger threat to the US than ISIS, and said “We have done nothing since the election last November to respond to Vladimir Putin’s attempt to change the outcome of our elections.”
POLITICO reported as Mueller ramps up his Russia investigation, Trump aids are responsible for preserving materials, despite many using auto-delete apps. Destroying materials could expose aids to criminal charges. On
Meet the Press, Clapper said of the Kushner-Russia reports his warning light was clearly on, and “all of us in the intelligence community, very concerned about the nature of these approaches to the Russians.”
NYT reported that the FBI is investigating Kushner’s motives for meeting with Gorkov, head of VEB, a Russian state bank, and whether it had to do with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. CNN reported on intercepted conversations during the 2016 election which reveal
Russians believed they had “derogatory” information on Trump and some of his tops aides that could be used to influence them. At a
Recode conference, Hillary said the Russians “ could not have known how best to weaponize that information” without help from Americans. Trump’s close confidant and personal attorney, Michael Cohen was asked by
House and Senate investigators “to provide information and testimony” on contacts he had with Russia. So far Cohen has declined. The House Intel Comm
sent a preliminary request for information to former Trump aid, Boris Epshteyn.
The New Yorker reported that Trump reached out to ally Roger Stone, who is at the center of congressional and FBI investigations, on May 11th and told him, “good job.”
CNN reported that Congress is investigating a possible third undisclosed meeting between Sessions and Kislyak. The
House Intel Comm issued seven subpoenas Wednesday on the Trump-Russia probe — four subpoenas related to Russia investigation, and three were issued to the NSA, FBI and CIA on “unmasking.” Schiff said
no Democrats were consulted on the “unmasking” subpoenas. Democrats on the House Intel Comm said that Nunes violated his Russian recusal by issuing these subpoenas. The WH finally disclosed waivers granted.
VOX reported that Trump has granted more lobbyist waivers in 4 months than Obama did in 8 years! The
waiver granted to Bannon for communicating with Breitbart may have violated ethics rules, as it was granted retroactively. WH Office of Management Director Mulvaney said
the day of the CBO “has probably come and gone.” It has been
36 days since the State Dept held a daily press briefing.
POLITICO reported the WH ordered agencies not to comply with Democrat’s oversight requests, as Republicans fear the information could be used against Trump. None of these requests have been honored so far. Trump tweeted at 12:06 a.m.: “
Despite the constant negative press covfefe…” While Twitter stayed awake lambasting Trump, the tweet remained up until morning, when it was replaced by a humorous version. When Spicer was asked about the Trump tweet the next day, he refused to admit wrong or a mistake instead saying, “
The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.” Amid outrage by corporate CEOs, US and international politicians and experts, and a clear
majority of US citizens, Trump formally withdrew from the Paris Accord with another of his hallmark dystopian speeches. While delivering his speech, Trump referred to a
casino robbery in a Manila casino as an “act of terrorism.” This was a false statement. Trump also
bragged in his speech about adding one million jobs. The actual number is closer to 600k. Trump’s top economic adviser Cohn said Trump was using the ADP number, ignoring its own government report.
May’s nonfarm payroll number came in Friday well below expectations (138k actual vs. 185k expected). After Trump pulled from the Paris Accord, Ivanka sought to recreate her image, tweeting
support for the LGBTQ community and being featured as the “ most powerful Jewish woman.” Both were met with outrage. A poll by
POLITICO/Morning Consult found support for Trump impeachment is rising: 43% this week, up from 38% last week.
WAPO reported that the Trump regime is moving to return the two US compounds the Obama administration had taken away from Russia as punishment for interfering in the 2016 election.
Yahoo reported that days after taking office, the Trump regime tasked the State Dept with finding ways to lift economic sanctions, to return the two US compounds, and to relieve tensions Russia As these were the same State Dept employees that helped develop punitive measures,
they were alarmed and rallied congressional allies.
WAPO reported that while Kushner and VEB’s Gorkov have given different accounts for why they met, shortly after their meeting, Gorkov met with Putin in Japan. Congressional investigators are looking into whether
Kushner was vulnerable to Russian influence because his real estate holding are over-leveraged, and whether this led to his meeting with Gorkov.
WAPO reported that Kushner financed a luxury skyscraper in Jersey City using federal loans meant to help poor, job-starved areas.
NBC reported that five current and former officials say Trump participated in a private meeting in April 2016 with Kushner, Sessions and Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel. Nigel Farage is a “
person of interest” in the FBI’s Trump-Russia scandal, in part for meeting with Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in March. James Comey is scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Intel Comm next Thursday, and is
expected to say that Trump asked him to back off the investigation of Flynn.
ABC reported that Comey is angry, saying Rosenstein and Sessions never relayed any concerns about his job performance before firing him.
NYT reported that Trump could try to block Comey’s from testifying citing executive privilege. As of today, Trump has not decided if he will try to block Comey’s testimony. Going a step further than Trump,
Putin said maybe “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers meddled in the US election DOJ’s
Weissman, who oversaw foreign bribery and bank cases, is joining Mueller’s Russia investigation team.
AP reported Mueller has taken over a separate DOJ criminal probe into Manafort, which predates the 2016 election. Mueller may also
expand his inquiry to investigate Sessions’s and Rosenstein’s roles in firing Comey.
Reuters reported special counsel will also probe Flynn’s ties to Turkey.
POLITICO reported the Trump regime is pushing Congress for legislative victories as Trump grows impatient; but as the Trump-Russia scandal heats up, it’s unlikely any legislation will be passed in coming months. Today,
Americans in 150+ cities will participate in the “March for Truth”to demand the urgency and transparency on Trump-Russia.
A closing note: the number of items we have normalized and/or forgotten about from the early lists is astounding. Each week brings new bombshells and scandals – stories that in normal times would be front page news for weeks or months — for example,
Pence’s (Week 16) and Tillerson’s (Week 19) email scandals. In the chaos, we have forgotten.
And to the increasing number of people equating our loathing of this person with being anti-American, I’ll just say that that is the absolute OPPOSITE of what we are. On the other hand, a true measure of being anti-American is actually dodging military service, not three times, not four, but FIVE times (!) when mandated to serve this country like everyone else at the time. Other examples of him being anti-American, hmm…how about…aligning with dictatorships (Russia, Philippines, Turkey) and destroying western relationships. He despises freedom and he’s convincing uninformed people (i.e. Fox News viewers) that if they don’t blindly follow his regime, then they are against our country. FALSE. We are FOR our country. You deserve better. Believe in your ability to THINK.
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
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