Trump White House

What They Voted For: Screaming, Flaming Handbasket

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen answers questions during a press briefing at the White House, in Washington, D.C., 18 June 2018. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

This is one of those that doesn’t so much go downhill from there, but, rather, is a screaming, flaming handbasket in medias res:

On Monday, new reporting continued to reveal the realities of the Trump administration policy of forcibly separating children from their adult guardians who cross the border without U.S. citizenship. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are both on record endorsing the practice as a means of deterring undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

Yet the president and members of his staff have repeatedly and falsely blamed Congress—in particular congressional Democrats—for the nearly-2,000 children who have reportedly been taken into federal custody in just the last six weeks.

(Nuzzi)

The flashback, then:

When top members of Donald Trump’s team add the word “period” to their most outlandish claims, it’s a safe bet they know they’re lying. The day after the president’s inauguration, for example, then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer angrily told reporters, “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period.”

(Benen)

Something about ominous setups goes here; unfortunately, all we find is a sick punch line:

Nielsen, in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association in New Orleans, said the children are provided food, medical attention, education and anything else they might need.

“We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,” she said. “This administration has a simple message—If you cross the border illegally, we will prosecute you.”

Nielsen spoke hours after taking to Twitter to vehemently deny that her department’s border policy dictates separation of children from their parents.

“We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” Nielsen tweeted late Sunday.

(Bacon)

(more…)

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Either Worth the Moment, or Not

A portion of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, 2013)

This could be . . . fun? . . . interesting? More to the point, it seems one of those bits that is either important or not:

President Donald Trump smiles as he prepares to speak at his "Make America Great Again Rally" at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, Saturday, 18 February 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)The White House hopes the Senate will get spending bills done and curtail the nominations backlog before the August recess, but it is backing a call to cut down the break if needed to overcome delays in confirming President Donald Trump’s nominations.

Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, made that clear during an event on Capitol Hill Tuesday with conservative leaders, putting the onus on Democrats to move the process along.

“If we reach August and [they] still have not completed appropriations work or not confirmed our nominees, then of course we would like to see Congress stay in and do its work,” Short said.

“We think it’s not work for the administration,” Short said. “It’s work for the American people.”

(Lesniewski)

Some manner of chortle goes here, but everything will either make better sense, later, or else not really matter at all. It’s like a punch line waiting for a setup.

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Image note: Top — Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.  President Donald Trump. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

Lesniewski, Niels. “White House: No August Recess Until Appropriations, Nominations Done”. Roll Call. 8 May 2018.

Neither Insignificant Nor Unexpected

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

The lede from Associated Press is not insignificant, but it is also expected:

Investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller have interviewed one of President Donald Trump’s closest friends and confidants, California real estate investor Tom Barrack, The Associated Press has learned.

Barrack was interviewed as part of the federal investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations . . . .

. . . .One of the people who spoke to AP said the questioning focused entirely on two officials from Trump’s campaign who have been indicted by Mueller: Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s longtime deputy, Rick Gates. Gates agreed to plead guilty to federal conspiracy and false-statement charges in February and began cooperating with investigators.

This person said Barrack was interviewed “months ago” and was asked a few questions about Gates’ work on Trump’s inaugural committee, which Barrack chaired, and but there were no questions about the money raised by that committee.

A second person with knowledge of the Barrack interview said the questioning was broader and did include financial matters about the campaign, the transition and Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

If the question is what Barrack’s interview means in the larger scheme, the fact of the interview itself is expected in part because of his proximity to candidate- and then President Trump, but also for his connection to convicted felon Rick Gates, which includes helping him gain access to the White House. And if the unsurprising news is not insignificant, we need only stick the proverbial pin and stay tuned.

(more…)

The Pruitt Watch (Peat Fire)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

While the idea of a rioting dumpster fire experienced brief vogue among media commentators trying to describe the Donald Trump presidency, the slowburning, filthy corruption of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seems to describe something akin to a peat fire. The lede from the New York Times:

Since moving to Washington, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has attracted the attention of federal investigators because of his unusual association with lobbyists, including his rental of a condominium last year owned by the wife of a lobbyist with business before the E.P.A.

As a state senator in Oklahoma 15 years ago, Mr. Pruitt went even further: He bought a home in the state capital with a registered lobbyist who was pushing for changes to the state’s workers’ compensation rules—changes that Mr. Pruitt championed in the legislature.

And as with the condominium rental in Washington, Mr. Pruitt never publicly disclosed his financial relationship with the lobbyist, who, like Mr. Pruitt, lived in the home when in Oklahoma City on business.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, on Capitol Hill, 26 April 2018, in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)But if for some reason the Pruitt Watch seems frustrating, or even verges toward incomprehensible, perhaps the striking report from The Atlantic suggests a flashpoint:

As Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faces a seemingly endless stream of scandal, his team is scrambling to divert the spotlight to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And the White House isn’t happy about it.:

In the last week, a member of Pruitt’s press team, Michael Abboud, has been shopping negative stories about Zinke to multiple outlets, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the efforts, as well as correspondence reviewed by The Atlantic.

“This did not happen, and it’s categorically false,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.

To the other, an unnamed White House official claiming knowledge of the situation explained: “Absolutely nothing Scott Pruitt did would surprise me.” And, yes, that last might as well include, the prospect of the EPA Administrator simply persisting and enduring, though the article did not.

(more…)

One of Those Moments Spent Wondering What the Hell Is Wrong With President Trump

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Donald Trump attends the Miss Universe 2013 competition at Crocus City Hall in Moscow, Russia, 9 November 2013. (Photo: Alexander Aleshkin/Epsilon/Getty Images)This is the sort of question that might well remain beyond any definitive answer:

President Donald Trump twice gave James Comey an alibi for why a salacious report about the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow couldn’t be true: He never even spent the night in Russia during that trip, Trump told the former FBI director, according to Comey’s memos about the conversations.

Yet the broad timeline of Trump’s stay, stretching from Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, through the following Sunday morning, has been widely reported. And it’s substantiated by social media posts that show he slept in Moscow the night before the Miss Universe contest.

Now, flight records obtained by Bloomberg provide fresh details. Combined with existing accounts and Trump’s own social-media posts, they capture two days that, nearly five years later, loom large in the controversy engulfing the White House and at the heart of the Comey memos, which the Justice Department turned over last week to Congress.

(Silver)

In all of history, given every stupid gaffe and inadequate excuse we might ever hear from politicians, what part of this was worth lying about, and by what measure would anyone expect to get away with it? The social media aspect is itself ridiculously damning. That is to say, it is perhaps possible to imagine a circumstance whereby someone like Donald Trump might not even bother to think about whether or not flight records can be ultimately hidden, but, you know, posing for promotional pictures and then saying one was not actually there is one of the tougher sells. True, Trump voters will generally be okay with it because whatever Trump says is #WhatTheyVotedFor, but for the rest of society, regardless of any other mystery about the #TrumpRussia debacle, this one just shines.

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Image note: Donald Trump attends the Miss Universe 2013 competition at Crocus City Hall in Moscow, Russia, 9 November 2013. (Photo: Alexander Aleshkin/Epsilon/Getty Images)

Silver, Vernon. “Flight Records Illuminate Mystery of Trump’s Moscow Nights”. Bloomberg. 23 April 2018.

The Pruitt Watch (#swampstyle)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees in Washington, D.C., 21 February 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The lede from Bloomberg ought to be enough—

President Donald Trump called his embattled environmental chief Monday to assure him his job is safe amid mounting scrutiny of Scott Pruitt’s travel, hiring practices and an unorthodox condo rental arrangement last year, according to two administration officials.

—to beg the question: So, the clock is ticking, then, right?

(more…)

The Latest Pickup: Joseph diGenova

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

US President Donald J. Trump after a group photo on the second day of the G7 Summit at the Hotel San Domenico in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, 27 May 2017. (Photo: Angelo Carconi/ANSA)

Steve Benen suggests—

Obviously, diGenova’s track record of pushing strange, right-wing conspiracy theories on television makes it difficult to take him seriously, but because Donald Trump is Donald Trump, the opposite is true in the White House: this president loves those who push strange, right-wing conspiracy theories on television. The same qualities that make Joseph diGenova appear foolish in the eyes of the American mainstream are the very qualities that make him appealing to Trump.

Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, ca. 2016 (Image: C-SPAN)—and that is all well and fine insofar as it goes. One need not protest, though, in order to recall general questions of White House morale and who might wish to work for the Trump administration, and from there specifically point out that eventually there will only be diverse manners of true believers left to answer the call. In this context, Joe diGenova might not be the best man for the job—

For those who support the president and want him to succeed, none of this is good news. Trump is facing a serious scandal of historic significance, which may very well bring his presidency to a premature end. He needs the best legal defense possible.

I’m not sure he’s getting it. Trump—who already had to replace the former head of his legal team, who seemed completely out of his depth—has assembled a group of attorneys who haven’t necessarily served him especially well, and he’s now adding a conspiracy theorist whom the president probably saw on Fox News, peddling a strange tale with no basis in fact.

—but could well be the last best attorney to take up President Trump’s defense.

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Image notes: Top —President Donald Trump. (Photo: Angelo Carconi/ANSA)  Right — Attorney Joseph E. diGenova (Image: C-SPAN)

Benen, Steve. “Trump’s new defense attorney burdened by a controversial past”. msnbc. 19 March 2018.

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.