Trump White House

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 Office of Special Counsel.

(more…)

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The Plot Twist (Squeaky Gates)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

This is hard to overlook. Los Angeles Times reports:

A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days—and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

Rick Gates departs U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case.

“Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty,” said a person with direct knowledge of the new developments, adding that the revised plea will be presented in federal court in Washington “within the next few days.”

Caroline Orr, meanwhile, rightly recalls that “Gates was still making regular trips to the White House through at least June 2017”, noting the Daily Beast, circa June last:   (more…)

Breathtaking Grotesquerie

#violenceagainstwomen | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

“The latest excuse for assaulting women minimizes the violence so much we can contain it in just one short word: ‘it’.”

Laura McGann

Quibbling over what passes for mastery is probably not helpful. To go down the line from Vox:

• Coaston, Jane. “The White House had to protect Rob Porter to save Donald Trump”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

For the White House, the politics are simple: Protect Trump. Because Trump himself is accused of assaulting dozens of women, they’ve had to lower the bar for male behavior so that even he can meet it. Any allegation of misconduct made against anyone close to Trump, then, must be dismissed as if it were being made against Trump himself.

• Kirby, Jen. “A second White House aide resigns over domestic abuse allegations”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

Another Trump administration official is resigning amid accusations of domestic abuse, just days after White House staff secretary Rob Porter stepped down after he faced similar allegations . . . [Speechwriter David] Sorensen denied the allegations to the Post, saying that he was the victim and that he resigned because he didn’t want the allegations to be a “distraction.” The Post was working on the story when he resigned.

• McGann, Laura. “Trump just taught a master class in manipulating language to excuse abuse”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

Trump’s attempt to help Porter on Friday shows he understands the root of #MeToo’s power. When victims speak, when they take action, when they force us to see, the power of predators fades away. The best Trump could do for Porter was to take away his victims’ humanity, their active descriptions, and replace it all with just one word: ‘it’.

• North, Anna. “Trump’s long history of employing — and defending — men accused of hurting women”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

At least five administration and campaign figures (including Trump himself) have been the subject of abuse allegations. Rather than treat such allegations with gravity, Trump and his team have chosen to ignore them, to fire back at the women on Twitter, or to parrot men’s assurances of their innocence over women’s reports . . . [Staff Secretary Rob] Porter resigned amid public pressure, but Trump’s response is a good reminder of the lesson he’s learned from escaping the reckoning sweeping much of the rest of the country — #MeToo does not apply to him. And given his tolerance for men accused of abuse inside his very inner circle, it’s clear he doesn’t think it applies to his closest associates, either. Trump’s team may lose men like Porter periodically, but the message the president sent on Friday was clear: to him, violence against women really doesn’t matter.

What a day. That is, of course they did, of course he did, of course he did, and of course he does. Nor is that all.   (more…)

The Suicide Pact as a Political Argument

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Contemplation of Justice

This is an interesting starting point:

If the Justice Department and the FBI knowingly used an unreliably biased witness to win a FISA warrant against Carter Page, violating his civil liberties in the process, you would therefore expect that there are some judges on the FISC who are concerned. They, after all, are the ones who were misled. They are the ones who signed warrants and renewals based on shoddy information. Conversely, if the judges on the FISC are not hopping mad, you might take that as evidence that they don’t, in fact, feel misled and that the Justice Department and FBI conduct was, after all, reasonably within the obligations of lawyers and investigators before the court.

(Wittes)

One particularly difficult aspect of the #TrumpRussia scandal is the manner in which the context of dispute overshadows history itself. It is telling, in comparison, that Democrats have come to defend and advocate the individual mandate, but also that Republicans and conservatives turned on their own idea; at some point, we ought to take the note about insincerity. It has, for years, also been true that a liberal political relationship to law enforcement is fraught, to say the least; but it is also true that conservatives have simultaneously drummed up tough law-and-order talk while relying more and more on conspiracy theories denigrating and defaming law enforcement institutions. Naturally, the allegedly liberal party finds itself defending the law enforcement agency and agent that, to the one, undertook irregular actions wrecking the Democratic presidential candidate, and that alone ought to be boggling. To the other, if we set aside Donald Trump for a moment, the FBI is also the agency that reviews its own duty-related killings, and has found itself to be perfect, something like a hundred fifty out of a hundred fifty. Given a day in court to indict all the sleazy tactics of a powerfully effective eugenic “drug war” any liberal would find the FBI in line to defend the necessity of allowing law enforcement to behave that way. Yet the spectacle continues apace, with Republicans hollering until they wheeze and Democrats breathlessly defending one of the most controversial law enforcement agencies on the planet. Without this extraordinary, self-inflicted presidential scandal requiring our priority, what is up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, anyway? Federal law enforcement is still law enforcement.

Just as Democrats finding themselves rallying to defend the individual mandate ought to be significant of something about how we reached this point, or Jade Helm leaving liberals to consider posturing an ostensible general defense of the American military; or, if we can remember back to 2009, the conservative roll from patriotism and the indignity of protesting against the president to the patriotic necessity of threatening the president with firearms; or, hey, we might consider decades of conservative conspiracism including the National Rifle Association, and then wonder whether it will be law enforcement or the military confiscating the guns; so, too, might we wonder at the trend of conservatives behaving so badly that others need to do their jobs for them.

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Mundane Strangeness (Trump Turnover Mix)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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.

Inward Focus (Split Canyon Distraction Mix)

[#resist]

Protesters demonstrate on 16 September 2017 in Tunis against parliament passing an amnesty law for officials accused of corruption under toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. (Photo: Agence France-Presse)

There is nearly a joke waiting here—

Hundreds of Tunisians protested on Saturday in the streets of the capital against a widely contested new law that grants officials from the former regime involved in corruption amnesty from prosecution.

Tunisia’s parliament on Wednesday approved a law protecting officials accused of graft during the rule of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, triggering angry protests by the opposition and activists.

Waving flags and banners saying “No to forgiveness”, “Resisting against mafia rule”, around 1,500 people marched through the capital’s central Avenue Habib Bourguiba in the company of opposition leaders.

After months of protests, the law was amended from an original draft which would have also granted amnesty to corrupt businessmen. Now they will be liable to prosecution for crimes committed during Ben Ali’s 24-year rule.

(Reuters)

—because it should not be quite so easy for Americans to empathize so proximally.    (more…)

The Mulligan Class (B Team)

#alternativecompetence | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack): "Keep in mind - everybody in the original Trump administration? That was the A team." [via Twitter, 28 July 2017]

We should bear in mind that part of President Trump’s talent is allegedly acumen shown in selecting people to keep close to him. As a president and, the more we find out, a candidate, Mr. Trump demonstrates a dubious track record. Michael Ian Black is not wrong; we should not expect the mulligan class to do any better.