Week 23: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
April 22, 2017
This week the Trump-Russia scandal continued to unfold, but that wasn’t the big story. What stands out in Week 23 is the kleptocracy — a pattern of conflicts of interest and pay-to-play — and the Trump regime’s utter irreverence towards ethics and past standards.
As the 100-day mark approaches, Trump has no legislative accomplishments and his foreign policy can best be described as an embarrassing mess. Instead, Trump seems focused on enriching himself, his regime, and his business contacts. The pace and boldness of corruption whiff of a man who is aware his days in this gig are numbered.
- Seven weeks have passed since Trump’s tweet accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. He has yet to offer any evidence or apologize.
- American Oversight, a group of liberal lawyers, is suing the DOJ and FBI seeking proof for Trump’s wiretapping claim.
- Trump has yet to offer any evidence or apologize for his accusations that Susan Rice committed a crime by spying on his campaign.
- The New Yorker reported not only did bipartisan members of the House find nothing in the Rice intercepts, but also the rationale came clear: per an intelligence source, the WH said, “We are going to mobilize to find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.”
- Trump hosted a disastrous Easter Egg Roll, including telling the children, “We will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before,” and forgetting to lift his hand to his heart during the National Anthem.
- NYT reported on violations and a raft of potential conflicts-of-interest as Trump appoints former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants to craft policies in industries where they formerly worked.
- Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub noted that Trump rolled back an Obama requirement that appointees not accept jobs in agencies they recently lobbied, and that Trump has granted waivers allowing appointees to take up matters which benefit their former clients.
- WAPO reported 168 corporate interests have made requests to Trump for regulatory relief, all likely to be granted, “especially those designed to advance environmental protection and safeguard worker rights.”
- On Tax Day, breaking precedent with every modern-day president, Trump did not release his tax returns, nor explain why.
- WSJ reported that in the first quarter, Trump’s campaign funds paid $500k to Trump’s companies including hotels, golf clubs and restaurants.
- Trump raised $107 million for his inaugural, doubling Obama, although Trump’s crowds and festivities were markedly smaller. It’s unclear where unspent money has gone, while numerous “pay-to-play” stories emerge.
- For example, Rachel Maddow reported on a $666,000 gift from a businessman named R. W. Habboush, which led to meetings between his son and both an NSC official and Bannon to discuss how to open up business with Venezuela, which is heavily sanctioned by the US.
- Trump dropped his campaign promise to let Medicare negotiate bulk discounts on prescription drugs after meeting with pharma lobbyists.
- Ivanka was granted China trademarks during dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. As reported in Week 22, Trump also changed his position saying China does not manipulate its currency.
- FT reported Manafort stepped in to the China action, advising Chinese billionaire Jiehe on how to access to Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan.
- CREW filed an amended complaint to its emoluments challenge against Trump in federal court, adding new plaintiffs who claim they’ve been “directly harmed by a loss of business and wages.”
- Dow Chemical donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, then asked the regime to ignore a study on its pesticide which was “originally derived from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany,”
- Trump billionaire outside adviser, Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone which has significant holdings in China, stands to gain from US-China policies he helped to shape.
- USA Today reporters pieced together that Trump companies own 400+ luxury condos and homes worth $250 million up for sale or rent presenting people, corporations or foreign interests an opportunity gain influence through purchases.
- Further, since Trump launched his presidential bid, Trump companies have sold at least 58 units for $90 million — almost half to LLCs. Since Election Day, 14 units have been sold for $23 million — half to LLCs.
- The House Oversight Committee sent a letter asking Trump for details on how and when the Trump will donate profits made from foreign government officials. Reps. Elijah Cummings and Jason Chaffetz signed the letter.
- Two days earlier, without explanation, Chaffetz said he would not run for reelection in 2018, and that he may leave office early to return to the private sector.
- Despite denials by the Trump, Erik Prince had close ties to the Trump regime, including riding the Acela with Kellyanne Conway, providing advice to Trump’s inner-circle including Michael Flynn, and entering Trump Tower through the back entrance.
- As mentioned in Week 21, Prince had a one-on-one meeting with a Putin insider in Seychelles on January 11. He is also Betsy DeVos’ brother.
- Without explanation, the national security official leading the DOJ investigation into whether the Trump regime colluded with Russia abruptly resigned.
- CNN reported that the FBI used information in the Steele dossier, which they independently confirmed, for their FISA warrant against Carter Page.
- CNN reported Russia tried to use Trump advisers, including Page, to infiltrate the campaign. Page is one of several advisers US and European intel found to be in contact with Russian officials during the campaign.
- The DOJ said is it preparing charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, with Sessions saying Assange’s arrest is a priority. Strangely, the Trump regime has turned on Assange, after lauding him during the campaign.
- Sessions left open the possibility of prosecuting US news organizations for publishing leaked information, and stories on the Trump-Russia scandal continue to pour out.
- As part of a custody battle, InfoWars’ Alex Jones said he is a “performance artist.” As noted in Week 19, InfoWars and Breitbart are under FBI investigation for their roles in Russian hacking of our election.
- NBC compiled a seating chart of attendees at Putin’s December 2015 RT celebration dinner. Other than Flynn seated next to Putin, Stein was also at Putin’s table and Assange appeared via satellite. NBC also reported on efforts by RT to promote Jill Stein (and hurt Hillary) in the primary.
- The House Intel Committee announced it will reopen its Trump-Russia probe ex Nunes. Sally Yates, James Comey, Mike Rogers, John Brennan, and James Clapper have all been invited to testify.
- Nikolai Andrushchenko, a Russian journalist and Putin critic, was beaten to death by strangers. He is the 12th “mysterious” Russian death in recent months.
- Like their interference in the US, Russian sources are flooding French social media with fake news ahead of France’s election.
- Reuters reported on a Putin-linked think tank that very purposefully and carefully orchestrated an attack on the US election. Fake news, pro-Kremlin bloggers, and cyber-attacks were all part of the plan.
- Exxon sought a US waiver to resume drilling in their Russian joint venture with Rosneft — a deal forged by Tillerson, who is ring fenced from Exxon for only one year. Amid outcry, permission was denied by the Treasury Dept.
- The UK Election Commission has launched an investigation of Farage’s Leave.EU for its funding. The involvement of Cambridge Analytica — which also allegedly has ties to Bannon and the Mercers and the Russian hacking of the US election — was not declared to the election watchdog.
- Sessions said he was “amazed” that a US judge “on an island in the Pacific” (aka Hawaii) could block Trump’s Muslim ban.
- Sessions took a fact-free swipe at another ethnically diverse city, saying New York City was soft on crime and plagued by gangs murders.
- ICE immigrant arrests were up 33% in the first two months of the Trump regime, including a doubling of non-criminal arrests.
- The first protected DREAMer, Juan Manuel Montes, who is 23 and has lived here since age 9, was deported by Trump.
- Trump ally Rep. Steve King celebrated the deportation by tweeting a photo of a frosty beer mug with the words, “First non-valedictorian DREAMer deported. Border Patrol, this one’s for you.”
- Ironically, a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of Montes has been assigned to Judge Curiel, the jurist infamously attacked by Trump for his Mexican heritage during the Trump University case.
- Trump signed an executive order to review high-skilled H-1B immigration visas.
- Trump’s order does not, however, impact low-skilled H2A or H2B visas. According to CNN, Trump businesses have received 1,024 H-2B visas since 2000, and Trump Vineyards has received 64 H-2A permits since 2006
- In a troubling provocation, Russian aircraft were spotted flying off the coast of Alaska four times in four day this week.
- Amidst silence from Trump and our State Department, pogroms of gay men in Russia’s Chechnya region escalated. Russia also banned Jehovah’s Witnesses, claiming “extremist activities.”
- Trump shocked US and international officials when he called Turkey’s Erdogan to congratulate him on passage of a referendum which allows Erdogan to further consolidate power as an autocrat. International monitors have said the vote was not “genuinely democratic.”
- Trump held a secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago with former presidents of Colombia, threatening to undermine the country’s peace agreement with rebel leaders. The meeting was arranged by Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and was not on Trump’s schedule.
- Meanwhile, at a speech in WI, Trump called some of Canada’s trade practices a “disgrace” and claimed NAFTA is “a disaster for our country.”
- In another embarrassment of US foreign policy, Trump promised “we are sending an armada” — the USS Carl Vinson carrier group was being deployed to waters off the Korean Peninsula. This was not true.
- Mattis and McMaster also made similar misstatement about the USS Carl Vinson’s location. While traveling in the region, Pence assured our allies the misstatements were “not made intentionally.”
- On Wednesday, Tillerson said that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. On Thursday, Trump said Iran was not in compliance.
- Trump offended our S. Korea allies with a claim that the country “actually used to be part of China.” Trump apparently gleaned this “knowledge” from his conversation with Xi Jinping.
- For his upcoming visit to London, Trump demanded a carriage ride with Queen Elizabeth II down a strip that leads to Buckingham Palace.
- Three month in, Trump has only filled 4% of key roles in the executive branch. And with all the international hot spots and conflicts, the State Department remains largely vacant, including Deputy Secretary.
- A State Department official who helped shape the Iran nuclear deal was summarily reassigned for criticizing Conservative Review and Breitbart.
- The Surgeon General was also quietly dismissed on Friday evening, without explanation or a full-time replacement.
- DeVos’ pick to head the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said she faced discrimination for being white.
- In his first three months of office, Trump has made 417 false or misleading claims.
- Trump first quarter job approval stood at 41%, the lowest of any modern day president by 14 points in Gallup polling.
- The Resistance claimed a major victory, bringing down Fox News icon Bill O’Reilly. Some speculated that the rise of Trump, and his backing of O’Reilly after recent allegations, laid the groundwork for O’Reilly’s fall.
- Hundreds of thousands are expected to march on Earth Day in the global March for Science in DC and at 609 satellite locations.
Week 1: https://goo.gl/KWlyOO Week 2: https://goo.gl/Pn7MFs
Week 3: https://goo.gl/CZwxsX Week 4: https://goo.gl/JhwuON
Week 5: https://goo.gl/TGM6x8 Week 6: https://goo.gl/uhyjxe
Week 7: https://goo.gl/bMdhTG Week 8: https://goo.gl/89MW8h
Week 9: https://goo.gl/ekv9wE Week 10: https://goo.gl/RETyH1
Week 11: https://goo.gl/6cs0tt Week 12: https://goo.gl/bRMx5o
Week 13: https://goo.gl/xzdjyY Week 14: https://goo.gl/1HwN4H
Week 15: https://goo.gl/JxVghS Week 16: https://goo.gl/sZpudG
Week 17: https://goo.gl/QymWmJ Week 18: https://goo.gl/Ri6E9N
Week 19: https://goo.gl/L6JOSV Week 20: https://goo.gl/PvlahQ
Week 21: https://goo.gl/XDjZFw Week 22: https://goo.gl/AQydgj
Copyright Amy Siskind, April 22, 2017