Week 39: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
August 12, 2017
Despite Congress being out of session and Trump on vacation, this was one of the most alarming weeks so far. Without provocation, Trump made aggressive statements towards three countries, and escalated the possibility of nuclear war with N. Korea. The country continued to burn in hate as violence surrounding a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville led to a state of emergency in Virginia.
Other troubling trends continued this week including: an increase of media controlled by Trump and his allies, an unstaffed and unprepared executive branch, and steps taken to suppress the vote in future elections. Even with his new chief of staff, it is apparent Trump is consolidating power and answering to no one. He is also stepping up his attacks on the legislative branch.
- On Sunday, reminiscent of state-owned propaganda, Trump launched the first broadcast of “real” Trump TV featuring Kayleigh McEnany, formerly a commentator on CNN.
- On Monday, the RNC named McEnany to be its national spokesperson, meaning she will get paid by the RNC for her Trump TV work.
- Lara Trump will run Trump TV as part of her job with consulting group Giles-Parscale. Per Week 31, Parscale has been called by Congressional investigators to testify on his role in the Trump campaign and Russia.
- Trump’s FCC chair, Ajit Pai, revived a regulatory loophole allowing Sinclair Broadcasting to vastly exceed federal limits on media ownership. When a pending deal closes, Sinclair will reach 72% of US households.
- VOX analyzed 17 months of Fox & Friends transcripts and found a symbiotic relationship between Trump and the show. Since the election, data reveals the show’s primary goal is talk to Trump, not their audience.
- On Fox News Sunday, Rod Rosenstein said he has not been directed by Trump to investigate Hillary’s email, as suggested by Trump. Rosenstein added, “That wouldn’t be right. That’s not the way we operate.”
- Rosenstein also dismissed that the Russia probe is a “total fabrication” — the reference by Trump. He also said Mueller can investigate any crimes he discovers within the scope of his probe.
- Conway suggested WH staffers may be required to take lie-detector tests as part of the regime’s efforts to find leakers.
- WAPO Editorial Board wrote Trump’s DOJ is joining the GOP’s crusade to suppress voting, citing an Ohio case of culling voters before the SCOTUS. The Obama administration found this unlawful, Trump’s does not.
- Indiana NAACP and Priorities USA are suing the state over a law which results in closing voting precincts in black and Latino areas.
- A WAPO survey found 52% of Republicans believe Trump won the popular vote, and would support postponing the 2020 election to make sure that only eligible American citizens could vote if Trump proposed it.
- AP reported Ivy League schools are bracing for scrutiny from the Trump regime for their efforts to make their campuses diverse.
- A bomb was tossed through the window of a Mosque in Bloomington, MN. Minnesota’s governor declared the bombing “an act of terrorism.”
- Trump did not acknowledge the bombing. Tuesday, Gorka said the WH would “wait and see” in case the blast turned out to be a hoax. By week end, Trump still had no comment.
- On Wednesday, Trump tweeted out a Fox News story about a vehicle ramming into soldiers in France, which the news agency insinuated, without having evidence yet, was carried out by Islamic terrorists.
- The NAACP Legal Defense Fund will appeal a federal judge’s ruling allowing a white Alabama town to secede from a racially-mixed county school district and start its own system.
- CNN fired conservative pundit Jeffrey Lord after he tweeted the Nazi salute, “Sieg Heil!” at a prominent liberal activist.
- A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found Trump’s moves to undermine Obamacare have already triggered double-digit premium increases on individual health insurance policies in many states.
- NYT reported government scientists are concerned that a report by scientists in 13 federal agencies, which finds a drastic impact of climate change in the US, will be suppressed by Trump.
- In a series of emails obtained by The Guardian, the Trump regime advised staff at the USDA not to use certain terms like “climate change” and “climate change adaption.”
- Karina Brown, an Asian American woman who attended a Bon Jovi concert in Columbus, OH was told by a fellow concert-goer, “You don’t belong in this country.”
- Five transgender troops sued Trump over his tweet to instate a transgender military ban.
- The Canadian military is building a refugee camp in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle near Plattsburgh, NY to house up to 500 US asylum seekers. This is in addition to a shelter at Montreal Olympic Stadium in Week 38.
- CNN reported Sam Clovis, Trump’s nominee to be chief scientist at the USDA, had on his conservative radio show stoked the birther conspiracy, called Eric Holder a “a racist black,” and Tom Perez “a racist Latino.”
- More than 75 consumer, health and advocacy groups came together to stop the Trump regime from stripping nursing home residents and their families of rights to take facilities to court over alleged abuse or neglect.
- As the Trump Organization tweeted about the launch of The Trump Estates and golf in Dubai, concerns continued to surface about ways US foreign policy has been impacted by the Trump family’s investments.
- WAPO reported on how Trump hotel DC has become a center of influence, where members of industry and others seeking access meet with Trump regime members. And Trump financially benefits.
- Trump Hotel DC turned a $2 million profit for the first four months of 2017, far exceeding the Trump Organization’s projected loss of $2.1 million . Driving profits were sky-high room prices and spending on food and beverages.
- WSJ reported rooms at Trump Hotel DC’s average daily room rate was $660 compared with $496 for comparable hotels. The room rates are 60% higher than the hotel’s original budget.
- The 18 Democrats on the House Oversight Committee sent letters to 15 cabinet departments and nine executive branch agencies requesting information on their spending at Trump Organization businesses.
- Politico reported Trump’s slow pace in filling vacancies at FERC has caused $13 billion of infrastructure projects, expected to create 23k new jobs, to be indefinitely delayed.
- NYT and ProPublica continued to track Trump appointees put in charge of dismantling government regulations. 85 appointees have been identified, many with industry or legal ties, or other conflicts of interest.
- A US District Court judge in NY will hear arguments in the Trump foreign emoluments lawsuit starting on October 18.
- According to a letter to the Senate, the OGE has rejected retroactive waivers for the Trump regime.
- Trump ally Robert Mercer donated $300k to Flake’s Republican primary challenger after Flake spoke out against Trump. Among other benefits, the Mercers’ hedge fund has avoided $6.8 billion of back taxes under Trump.
- AP reported Trump companies applied to a casino trademark in Macau, the world’s largest gambling market. Past applications by Trump had been rejected. Trump had pledged no new foreign deals while in office.
- Two top aides for UN ambassador Haley — her chief of staff and communications director — resigned. Haley said on Twitter it was because of “family concerns.”
- Four top cybersecurity officials resigned from their posts, including the chief information security officer for the EPA and the CIO for the DHS, both of whom had been in their jobs for just a few months.
- FORTUNE reported vegetable prices may be going up soon as Trump’s immigration policies have led to a farmworker shortage, and crops are rotting in the fields.
- The Toronto Star reported Trump has made 500 false claims in his first 200 days in office.
- A CNN poll taken at 200 days found just 24% of Americans trust most of what they hear from the WH.
- In another sign of Trump’s waning popularity, Democrat Phil Miller won a special election (+10) in a Iowa district Trump had won by 22 in 2016.
- AP reported Pence has been quietly carving out his own political foot-print, noting Republicans privately admit Trump could be the first president since Nixon to leave office or not to seek re-election.
- After Sen. Earl Blumenthal appeared on CNN to discuss the Russian probe, Trump attacked him on Twitter for 2 days, calling him a “phony Vietnam con artist,” and saying he “should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam.”
- Trump tweeted, “Thank you Nicole!” to an account @ProTrump45. The account, under the name Nicole Mincey, was deleted and appears to have been a bot, part of the Russia-backed disinformation campaign.
- VICE reported that since taking office, Trump receives a folder full of positive news about himself twice a day. Some in the WH refer to the folder as “the propaganda document.”
- Bloomberg reported Manafort and Donald Jr. turned over thousands of documents in August to the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Russia probe.
- Bloomberg also reported Fusion GPS, a company linked to the dossier, and its CEO have yet to turn over requested documents. Senate Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley wants to know if Russians paid for the dossier.
- Page Six reported Trump’s story about a renovation at the 21 Club, which Trump told the generals while berating them about losing in Afghanistan (Week 38), was “completely wrong in every detail.”
- On Wednesday, WAPO reported the FBI conducted a predawn raid on Manafort’s home in Alexandria, VA, seizing documents and other materials related to Mueller’s Russia probe.
- The raid occurred on July 26, the day Manafort was scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and a day after he met with the Senate Intel Committee.
- The FBI search warrant was for documents relating to tax, banking and other matters. Sources said the FBI agents left with a “trove of material.”
- ABC reported Manafort was awoken in the predawn hours by a group of armed FBI agents knocking on his bedroom door.
- On July 26 Trump called for acting FBI director Andrew McCabe to be fired. Also, that morning he inexplicably tweeted his transgender military ban without notifying the Department of Defense or having a strategy in place.
- Bloomberg reported Manafort alerted Congressional investigators about the June 9 Trump Tower meeting three months ago.
- Trump ally the National Enquirer posted a story, “Trump Advisor Sex Scandal — Paul Manafort’s Sick Affair,” shortly after the WAPO article hit.
- Politico reported Federal investigators sought cooperation from Jeffrey Yohai, Manafort’s son-in-law, early in the summer, in an effort to increase pressure on Manafort.
- On Thursday, Manafort fired WilmerHale and switched to Miller and Chevalier, a boutique firm in Washington that specializes in complicated financial crimes.
- A story in The New Yorker noted that with Manafort’s sophistication and links to Russia oligarchs, he was in a good position to “understand what Vladimir Putin wanted from the Trump campaign.”
- ABC reported Congressional investigators want to question Rhona Graff, Trump’s assistant for 30 years, on the email exchange and meeting at Trump Tower on June 9 with Russians.
- The bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee asked the WH to respond to questions about changes to Kushner’s security clearance forms related to undisclosed meetings with Russians. The deadline to reply was July 6.
- On Tuesday afternoon, WAPO reported that analysis by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) concluded N. Korea has passed the key threshold of producing missile-ready nuclear weapons.
- Later Tuesday, from his golf course in Bedminster, Trump warned N. Korea against threatening US cities, saying threats “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
- Late Tuesday, in reaction to Trump’s ‘red line’ of N. Korea threatening US cities, Kim Jong-un’s regime said it may strike Guam.
- Trump’s “fire and fury” comments broke the Dow’s 10-day winning streak.
- Trump’s comments were condemned by Democrats, Republicans and nuclear weapons experts, saying his incendiary rhetoric would make things worse.
- The Toronto Star reported on the numerous time Trump has used varieties of the hyperbolic phrase, “like the world has never seen,” to make a point, including while a businessman and running for office.
- Wednesday, NYT reported Trump’s “fire and fury” threat to N. Korea was improvised. The sheet of paper in front of him was about the opioid crisis, and he ad-libbed without input from his team on wording.
- As the N. Korea crisis unfolds, Trump has yet to appoint an ambassador to S. Korea. As per Week 38, 22 of 24 assistant secretary positions in the State Dept are either unfilled or staffed by Obama holdovers.
- Blumenthal told MSNBC the Senate Armed Services Committee has been informed as N. Koreans moved from milestone to milestone, indicating Trump also should have known progress and not been alarmist.
- A 30-foot inflatable chicken with Trump-like hair floated next to the WH on Wednesday. The balloon was set up by documentary filmmaker Taran Singh Brar to protest Trump “being a weak and ineffective leader.”
- Foreign Policy reported on a 7-page memo written by Rich Higgins about the “deep state” targeting Trump, thought to be behind the recent NSC shake-up, including McMaster firing Higgins.
- On Thursday, Trump escalated the rhetoric on N. Korea further, saying his “fire and fury” comment may not have been “tough enough.” Asked how he could of been tougher, Trump replied, “You’ll see. You’ll see.”
- Shortly after, flanked by Pence and McMaster in Bedminster, Trump did a 20 minute lie-ridden press conference. A historian described Trump’s bizarre outpouring as “he was a dam that had suddenly burst free.”
- Trump called it a “disgrace” that the Senate didn’t pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, placing blame on McConnell and saying he wants him to get back to work and get it done.
- Trump also twice tweeted about McConnell’s failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, and retweeted a Fox & Friends story Friday saying Trump was leaving the door open on whether McConnell should step down.
- On the other hand, Trump said he was “very thankful” to Putin for expelling hundreds of US diplomats “because now we have a smaller payroll.” This is a false statement: diplomats remain on the payroll.
- Reuters reported the State Dept was “horrified and rattled,” by Trump’s remarks on expelling diplomats. The third ranking State member under W. Bush called the remarks, “grotesque.”
- Also at the press conference, in contrast to what his regime said days earlier, Trump seemingly impromptu declared the opioids a federal emergency: “I’m saying officially, right now, it is an emergency.”
- Also, on the transgender military ban, Trump said “I think I’m doing the military a great favor.” and on the transgender community: “I think I have great support…I got a lot of votes.”
- On Kim Jong-un, Trump said, “He got away with it for a long time…He’s not getting away with it. This is a whole new ballgame.” Adding, “And nobody, including N. Korea, is going to be threatening us with anything.”
- Also at the press conference, Trump said “I don’t think Iran is in compliance,” on the 2015 deal to curtail nuclear weapons.
- Trump also said there was “no collusion between us and Russia. In fact, the opposite. Russia spent a lot of money on fighting me.”
- Gordon Humphrey, a former GOP senator, suggested Congress should use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, saying of Trump “He is sick of mind, impetuous, arrogant, belligerent and dangerous.”
- Tillerson sought calm on N. Korea, saying Wednesday “Americans should sleep well at night.” Gorka told BBC radio, “the idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical.”
- On Friday, Trump escalated tensions further, tweeting the US military is “locked and loaded” should N. Korea “act unwisely.”
- As tensions rose, US allies and adversaries urged caution. Germany PM Merkel said, “verbal escalation will not contribute to a resolution,” and Russia foreign minister Lavrov said rhetoric was “over the top.”
- In a phone call Friday night, China’s President Xi Jinping also urged Trump to exercise restraint according to Chinese state media.
- As tensions heightened with N. Korea, former Defense Secretary Panetta told CNN “we’re dealing with probably the most serious crisis involving a potential nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
- In Hawaii, emergency management officials are working on reinstating alarm sirens to warn of a nuclear attack, last used during the Cold War.
- On Friday evening, Trump spoke to reporters with Tillerson, McMaster, and Haley by his side. Speculation was this was to assure Americans that diplomacy was also being used with N. Korea.
- Instead, Trump escalated the rhetoric yet again, saying Kim Jong-un “will not get away with” what he’s doing, and if he attacks Guam, or American territory or ally, “he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast.”
- When asked about Venezuela, Trump said we have many options, “including a possible military option if necessary.”
- His threat played into President Maduro’s hands. Venezuelan officials have long said the US is planning an invasion. Maduro requested a phone call with Trump on Friday, which was rejected.
- A Department of Defense spokesperson said Friday evening the US is not planning to invade Venezuela, and “any insinuations by the Maduro regime that we are planning an invasion are baseless.”
- Trump called the governor of Guam Friday night to reassure him of US protection. He also joked that Governor Calvo has become “extremely famous,” and offered, “your tourism [is] going to go up like tenfold.”
- On Friday night, hundreds of white supremacists marched on University of Virginia’s campus carrying torches and chanting “White lives matter,” and “You will not replace us,” and “Jew will not replace us.”
- On Saturday morning, white supremacists in Charlottesville to attend the Unite the Right rally carried Confederate flags and flag with the Nazi Swastikas. Militia groups carrying guns also attended.
- Violent clashes between white supremacists and protesters broke out. Local police declared a state of emergency.
- Later Saturday, the Virginia governor declared a state of emergency in response to the Unite the Right white nationalist rally. White supremacists were ordered to vacate the park before the rally.
- Trump addressed Charlottesville hours later, but failed to condemn white supremacists, many of whom were wearing Trump gear, instead tweeting, “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for.”
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Copyright Amy Siskind, August 12, 2017