#DimensionTrump

The Pruitt Watch (#WhatTheyVotedFor)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. (Credit: Skyhobo, 2009)

Miserable: Jonathan Swan offers a glimpse “Inside Scott Pruitt’s ‘miserable’ bunker”, and what is unbelievable about the article is that it might be written at all. Starting with the incendiary report from The Atlantic about intracabinet political attacks and the typical Axios brief on “why this matters”—approximately that for whatever reasons, Administrator Pruitt still has his job—but then lays an ugly string of points from “behind the scenes”, starting with the idea that EPA senior staff apparently being surprised by a photo of the Administrator at lunch with “members of his team” emerging in a lobbyist’s tweet.

Gravity is gravity; the slope is uncertain, but something about downhill goes here.

• Over the last few months, Pruitt has walled himself off from all but five EPA political appointees: ​Millan Hupp, Sarah Greenwalt, Hayley Ford, Lincoln Ferguson, and Wilcox. Of those five, only Wilcox is over 30. Hupp, Greenwalt and Ferguson came with Pruitt from Oklahoma. Wilcox is the only press aide Pruitt appears to trust.

• Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, runs the agency’s operations but rarely knows where his boss is. Pruitt has frozen Jackson out of his inner circle—a disaster for a chief of staff. Pruitt and Jackson don’t trust each other, multiple sources told me.

• “All of us have been frozen out over time,” one EPA political appointee told me. “It’s absolutely unreal working here. Everyone’s miserable. Nobody talks. It’s a dry wall prison.”

And the band plays on as EPA tumbles down the rabbit hole: “Pruitt never trusted the EPA’s career staff”, writes Swan, and the understatement about the sentence is nearly unavoidable; the point is highlight the Administrator having “frozen out” political appointees as administrative paranoia apparently grows and staff morale similarly continues its plummet.

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A Note Aside: Something About Perspective

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image.

This is called a digression, and it is not hard to guess its provenance. The other name for this exercise is, writing yourself into a hole. Still, the brazen stupidity of the Trump administration is mystifying unless we reconcile ourselves to some aspect of the irrelevance of norms insofar as we are dealing with a phenomenon akin to the nexus of gaslight and sincerely held belief and overlooking some aspect of perspective that would otherwise explain why the grace of subtlety, or even the tired comfort of basic competence come to seem anathema in #DimensionTrump.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer attempts to demonstrate the difference between government and the Republican health care agenda during a daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 7 March 2017. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Note aside: It is hard to figure what to do with an inchoate question having to do with the idea of new and old guards, or, such as it is, institutional traditionalism and institutional insurgency. Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has already spent time with the Mueller investigation; while his reputation as a low-skill bullshit artist was well-established during his time as RNC flak, he still bore some connection to an older way of doing things in the Republican Party. That is, with the jig up, it appears he told the Special Counsel’s Office what they wanted to know, and might well end up with no greater culpability than his reputation already earns him. It is hard to imagine how Sarah Huckabee Sanders would answer the Mueller investigation, but appearances, as such, are what drive the amorphous question about generational differences among conservatives. Where the old guard parses carefully and others might seethe at the appearance of will, there is a newer phenomenon by which people simply give voice to their violations as if it has never occurred to them that such behavior is problematic.

White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway speaks to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, 22 January 2017. (Detail of frame from NBC News)Remember the proposition of alternative facts; it is one thing to wonder if we are laughing at absurdity or genuine malady. This is #DimensionTrump; the President will hang his comms shop to boast of obstructing justice; Donald Jr. hands over emails that appear to convict him. With Hope Hicks on the record, apparently, that part of her job was to lie for the White House, and one former Press Secretary having already spoken with and given documents to the Mueller investigation, it starts to feel impossible that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would avoid the Special Counsel’s Office, and we might wonder what happens if she works to evade under question. One need not be Sam Nunberg to suggest the White House Press Secretary “does Trump’s dirty business”, or that, Huckabee Sanders is “terrible”, at her job.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)Perhaps it is a difference of cognizance. Some will rail against criticism or even criminal charges because they must, despite their culpability. There are those, however, who will never understand why their culpability is culpability. If we recall a time not so long ago during which conservatives fixated on the proposition of “sincerely held beliefs” entitling exemption to obligations under law—e.g., discrimination in bakeries, hospitals, &c.—then we might propose, in the moment, to witness what we might otherwise hope is the crest of that wave: Can we imagine Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempting to hold out under scrutiny from the Mueller investigation, according to sincerely held beliefs in alternative facts?

At some point, someone in the #trumpswindle is going to throw down explicitly that, certainly, they said this and did this other thing but it’s not illegal because they say so.

At what point does it occur to these people that, yes, they really can get in trouble for what they are doing? How many will recognize the danger before Mueller calls them in? How many will never understand why this is happening to them?

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Image note: Top — Composite of President Donald Trump (Photo: Reuters) and Puti-Toots (Credit: Unknown).  Right — Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters); White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway (Image: NBC News); White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Nuzzi, Olivia. “Sam Nunberg on Mueller, His Media Spree, and His Message for Trump”. New York. 6 March 2018.

Something About Sam Nunberg

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

“Let him arrest me. Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday.”

Sam Nunberg

This is, y’know, one of those things. Josh Daswey brings the lede for the Washington Post:

Sam Nunberg. (Photo: Uncredited)Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg said Monday that he has been subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal grand jury investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election but that he will refuse to go.

In a nutshell, Mr. Nunberg’s rationale runs, approximately, that “Putin is too smart to collude with Trump”, “I’m not spending eighty hours going over my emails”, and, “there is nobody who hates [Donald Trump] more than me”.

Constitutional precedent is, admittedly, unclear on these points, but still, we might expect such arguments will fail to suffice. Still, though, the impressively unimpressive Nunberg did say, “Let him arrest me.”

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Image note: Top — Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)  Right — Sam Nunberg (Photo: Unknown)

Dawsey, Josh. “Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg called before grand jury, says he will refuse to go”. The Washington Post. 5 March 2018.

A Matter of Perspective (Poodlefinger Mix)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

This is important:

When Donald Trump makes ridiculously untrue comments, few are surprised. The president has a reputation for breathtaking dishonesty, which is well deserved. Making matters much worse, however, is the degree to which his White House makes no real effort to be more trustworthy.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)For example, the White House issued a formal written statement late Friday responding to the federal indictment of 13 Russian operatives who are accused of attacking our elections to help put Trump in power. A Washington Post analysis described the statement as “extremely dishonest,” and documented several demonstrable falsehoods—none of which has been corrected.

But West Wing officials weren’t content to stop there. On Twitter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Unlike Obama, [Trump] isn’t going to be pushed around by Russia or anybody else.” That might be slightly less laughable if Obama hadn’t imposed sanctions on Russia, which is the opposite of what Trump did.

In a certain way it does not matter what the esteemed Steve Benen finds laughable. There is a long story, of course, behind the statement that, brain chemistry is brain chemistry, or that brain chemistry will as brain chemistry does, but the proposition of laughability depends on circumstantial norms observably not in effect.

When the Press Secretary says President Trump will not be “pushed around by Russia or anybody else”, we need to consider what that means to her. Because either Sarah Huckabee Sanders believes what she says or she does not. The latter is actually the extraordinary alternative, so the question becomes how she believes such a seemingly ridiculous statement.

And to this the answer is actually straightforward:

• President Trump will not be pushed around by Russia because Russia is not pushing him around.

• President Trump will not be pushed around by anybody else because he will not be pushed around by Congress or the Special Counsel’s Office.

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What They Voted For: Jeopardy

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Composite: President Donald Trump photo by Reuters, 2017; Puti-Toots protest image.

“Trump’s lawyers are cognizant of the fact that the president lies with such incredible frequency that allowing him to have a conversation with federal investigators would likely put him in legal jeopardy.”

Steve Benen

There are many standards by which we might consider the daily grind of life during the Trump administration, and perhaps some ought not complain so much if it is not a daily question of life and death, or, maybe, freedom, necessity, and serious impairment thereof; nonetheless, there is still just the general indignity of how long the spectacle must persist, and within that context we might note that circumstances do continue, as circumstances will, apace. Via msnbc:

Three weeks ago today, Donald Trump surprised White House reporters by making unscheduled comments about a provocative subject: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia scandal. More specifically, the president made a variety of comments about how much he’s looking forward to speaking to Mueller and his team under oath.

“I’m looking forward to it, actually,” Trump said, adding that he’d “love to” talk to the special counsel investigators. The president went on to say he’s “absolutely” prepared to answer questions under oath.

And, yes, President Trump did go on to say two or three weeks.

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A Mystery in #DimensionTrump

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The White House (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Jonathan Swan and Axios offer up a scoop:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has been talking with George Nader, a little-known Bannon associate who boasts of his well-placed connections in the Middle East, Axios has learned.

Nader has spoken with Mueller’s team at least twice, according to a source briefed on the investigation. A second source briefed on the investigation confirmed that Mueller’s team has brought Nader in for questioning in the past week. The Special Counsel’s office declined to comment.

Will that be nuts, or a cherry on top? Time will tell. To wit, the “mysterious White House visitor”, Mr. Nader, is said to allege personal ties to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the armed forces in the United Arab Emirates; to the other, as Mr. Swan reports, “well-connected and experienced Middle East hands in Washington” said they “never heard of Nader”.   (more…)

Mundane Strangeness (Trump Turnover Mix)

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The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

The lede from CNN

White House aides have been told to decide before the end of January whether they intend to leave the administration or stay through the November midterm elections, an official said, a deadline intended to help bring a sense of order to an anticipated staffing exodus.

—seems yet another bit of news that makes no real sense, though we really do not intend to dispute with the reporters. That is to say, this is the Trump administration, so, yeah, sure, sounds about right.

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Image note: The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Zeleny, Jeff, Kevin Liptak, Dana Bash, and Dan Merica. “Facing staffing exodus, Trump struggles to fill West Wing”. CNN. 9 January 2018.

The Days of Our Trump (The Lost Chapters: White House Raw)

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President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference since winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The point is not to doubt the Associated Press report from Zeke Miller and Catherine Lucey:

Bannon’s departure from Breitbart came as a shock to some of his allies. One said Bannon was telling people as recently as Monday that he expected to stay on.

Inside the White House, Bannon was viewed as the keeper of Trump’s nationalistic flame, charting the progress on the president’s promises to his base on dry erase boards in his office. But Bannon was marginalized in the months before his ouster over Trump’s concerns that the top aide was being viewed as an Oval Office puppeteer.Cartoon by Matt Bors, 9 February 2017.

The White House did not immediately respond to the news of Bannon’s ouster, but press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week called on the conservative site—which has been a steadfast backer of the president—to “look at and consider” parting ways with Bannon.

This is, after all, the story that comes to them. Nothing about those paragraphs really needs to make any sense, though, beyond the grammar and syntax. The Beltway-culture relationship between saying one expects to stay and actually departing soon thereafter does seem at least apparent on this occasion, and everything about what is going on at present is stage-managed to what seems an unprecedented degree.

More directly, this is #DimensionTrump; this is #WhatTheyVotedFor. Maybe next week we can tune into White House Raw and watch Huckahulk blindside celebrity guest announcer Moochtastic with a folding table yanked from under a stack of file folders full of blank paper. Bad Boy Bannon will turn up managing the Spicey Spice Redemption Redeemed Tour, and #DonnySmalls will punch Linda McMahon in the teeth because he thinks it will get good ratings.

And if that really was the report, neither would the point be to doubt the reporters. Be careful out there; trying to follow the news is getting dangerous.

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Image notes: Top — President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference after winning the November, 2016 election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)  Right — Cartoon by Matt Bors, 9 February 2017.

Miller, Zeke and Catherine Lucey. “Bannon to exit Breitbart News Network after break with Trump”. Associated Press. 9 January 2018.

Trashy Schizophrenic Drudgery (Bannon Booty Mix)

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Composite: Donald Trumps, père and fils, photo by Sam Hodgson/New York Times; Vladimir Putin protest image, artist unknown.

“The book does seem to be a collection of stuff Wolff heard. How much of that stuff is actually true is a different question—one that’s much tougher to answer.”

―Andrew Prokop

The idea that Andrew Prokop should be explaining anything about the “gossipy new Trump book” he has not read might seem somehow inappropriate, but everything we might survey about the tome is a matter of reputation, and in that the Vox writer gives reasonable enough consideration:

Stephen Bannon, CEO of Republican nominee Donald Trump's presidential campaign, meets with the Trump Hispanic Advisory Council at Trump Tower in Manhattan, 20 August 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)The excerpts from it out so far tell a mostly familiar big-picture story of chaos during the presidential transition and in Trump’s early months in the White House. Wolff spruces things up, though, with new quotes, anecdotes, and purported personal details—many of which are eye-popping and unflattering.

Indeed, some of the things Wolff describes in the excerpts sound so outlandish—and also happen to be so hazily sourced—that there’s already a vigorous discussion in the political world about how, exactly, this book should be interpreted. As fact? As “trashy tabloid fiction,” as the White House argues? Or as something in between?

And while there is plenty about the reputation of author Michael Wolff, we might consider the idea of Matt Drudge calling Steve Bannon “schizophrenic”, and for better reasons than two assholes fighting for headlines, or noting this or that about once upon a time, the competition, and who counts as the establishment journalist. Remember that Steve Bannon told Michael Wolff precisely what news consumers want to hear from their favorite talking heads.

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Image notes: Top — Composite featuring Donalds père and fils, protest image of Vladimir Putin. (Credits: Sam Hodgson/New York Times; anonymous.)  Right — Steve Bannon (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters).

Edison Hayden, Michael. “Matt Drudge criticized ‘schizophrenic’ Steve Bannon”. Raw Story. 3 January 2018.

Prokop, Andrew. “The controversy around Michael Wolff’s gossipy new Trump book, explained”. Vox. 4 January 2018.

Cheap Sarcasm (w/Apologies to The Hill)

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President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 28 June 2017. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo/File)

Would someone please correct me, as I’m wrong?

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Friday that former Presidents Obama and George W. Bush were referring to President Trump when they warned in separate speeches Thursday about politicians sowing anger and division in the country.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)“Our understanding is that those comments were not directed towards the president and, in fact, when these two individuals, both past presidents, have criticized the president, they’ve done so by name and very rarely do it without being pretty direct, as both of them tend to be,” Sanders said. “So we will take them at their word that these actions and comments were not directed at the president.”

(Easley)

The thing is, I’m loath to pick on The Hill, this time around, but perhaps someone accidentally edited out the part where White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders actually quoted or cited former Presidents Bush and Obama when claiming to “take them at their word”.

That is to say, she didn’t just make it up, right?

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