Week 41: Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
August 26, 2017
Week 41 is full of content about Trump-Russia, and signs that the Mueller probe is closing in on Trump and his regime. News stories indicate that despite Trump’s public indifference and belittlement of the probe, he is privately consumed by it, and acting in ways which could well be construed as, and lead to charges for, obstruction of justice.
In the two weeks since Charlottesville, our country is consumed in flames of hate, and Trump is fanning those flames. As well, he continues his unimpeded march to authoritarian power, neutralizing the judicial branch with an unethical pardon, and attacking members of his own party in an effort to silence them. So far, the latter is largely working, and as this week comes to a close, remaining checks and balances to save our democracy are eroding, and Trump appears to feel fully in power.
- Following the counter-protest march of over 40k in Boston, Trump tweeted the country needs “to heel.” Trump used the misspelled word four times in two consecutive deleted tweets, before correcting it to heal.
- Rev. A.R. Bernard, pastor of a megachurch in Brooklyn, became the first member of Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board to resign over Charlottesville.
- No WH officials were made available for Sunday political talk shows.
- On CNN Sunday, Carl Bernstein urged reporters to interview Republicans on or off the record about whether Trump is mentally fit to lead.
- An NBC News/Marist poll found Trump’s approval in three key battleground states has eroded: Michigan 36 approve/55 disapprove, Pennsylvania 35/54, and Wisconsin 34/56.
- NPR reported some Liberty University graduates are returning their diplomas to protest school President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s ongoing support of Trump, even after Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville.
- Former HHS secretaries from both parties urged Republicans to move quickly and stabilize Obamacare as Trump threatened to continue withholding key payments to insurers.
- Sunday night, when asked by reporters for his reaction to five sailors injured and 10 missing after the USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant ship, Trump responded, “That’s too bad.”
- USA Today reported Secret Service agents have already hit the federally mandated pay caps meant to last the entire year for protecting Trump. Under the Trump regime, an unprecedented 42 people have protection.
- Secret Service cited Trump’s frequent weekend trips to his properties, and his family’s extensive business and vacation travel. Secret Service spent $60k on golf carts, revenues which go to the Trump Organization.
- Trump disbanded a federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment which helped policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government’s climate analysis into long-term planning.
- Since being established in 1990, the National Climate Assessment is supposed to release reports every four years. The next assessment would have been due in 2018.
- Trump’s Interior Dept ordered the National Academy of Sciences to halt its study of health risks and harm caused by mountaintop coal mining in Appalachia.
- The New Yorker reported on the dismantling of HUD under a thoroughly uninformed Sec. Ben Carson. There are still no nominees for major parts of HUD, including the Federal Housing Administration and many others.
- Carson’s team removed online training materials meant to help homeless shelters provide equal access to transgender people, and pulled back a survey to reduce LGBT homelessness.
- Interior’s Inspector General confirmed in a letter it is investigating Sec. Ryan Zinke’s pressure on Sen. Lisa Murkowski to vote yes on the Obamacare repeal.
- An ABC News/Washington Post poll found 9% of Americans say it’s acceptable to hold neo-Nazi or white supremacist views. This meshes with the 10% who say they support the alt-right movement.
- The Anne Frank Center tweeted in alarm, “1 in 10 adults in U.S. say neo-Nazi views acceptable — 22 million Americans. Evil epidemic of hatred.”
- The poll also found that 3 in 10 Trump supporters accept or are indifferent to white supremacists.
- Singer Billy Joel wore a Star of David during the encore of his sold-out show in NYC.
- Brandeis University was closed and evacuated Wednesday after the school received an email with a bomb threat.
- HuffPost reported a spike in anti-Semitism in the two weeks since Charlottesville. ADL provided a list of more than two dozen incidents involving swastikas, broken glass, and neo-Nazi propaganda.
- A coalition of major rabbinical groups canceled their annual High Holidays call, saying Trump’s “words have given succor to those who advocate anti-Semitism.”
- The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged the US government to reject racial hatred and violence. The statement was released online after Trump’s mixed messages on Charlottesville.
- The Girl Scouts’ CEO wrote a letter to families with resources to talk to girls about what they are hearing in the news, and hate and violence, adding lying about what really happened can “undermine her trust.”
- Twenty organizations have pulled their charity events from Mar-a-Lago in response to his comments on Charlottesville.
- Daniel Kammer, the State Dept Science Envoy, resigned in an open letter citing Trump’s “attacks on core values of the United States.” The first letter of the seven paragraphs spell the word, IMPEACH.
- On his radio show, Trump’s nominee for Department of Agriculture Sam Clovis said “LGBT behavior” is a choice, and that legalizing gay marriage could lead to the legalization of pedophilia.
- Liz MacKean, the BBC journalist who broke the news of the torture of gay men in Russia, died of a stroke at the age of 52.
- Trump signaled he is likely to end DACA, the Obama program which allows young people who came to the US illegally as children to remain here. As many as 1 million immigrants could be affected.
- The DHS announced it will require holders of employment-based visas to be interviewed in order to update their status. More than 100k visa holders could be impacted.
- The Brennan Center and Protect Democracy Project filed a lawsuit for info on communication between government agencies and the Election Integrity Committee. The agencies did not respond to a FOIA request.
- On Tuesday, the DOJ modified its warrant, dropping its request for IP addresses from DreamHost for an anti-Trump site, disruptj20.org.
- On Thursday, a court ordered DreamHost to turn over the data requested. The court asked the DOJ to disclose its method for searching the data to minimizing data on innocent third-party visitors to the site.
- In a WAPO op-ed, activist Melissa Byrne described being grabbed, cuffed and questioned, and her banner confiscated, by the Secret Service without having been read her rights at a Starbucks in Trump Tower.
- On Monday, Trump delivered his second address to the nation. Reading from the teleprompter he asked the American people to trust him in sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan.
- Trump opened the speech with a call for unity. Historian Michael Beschloss noted this was the first time a leader “had to start a speech on war and peace by vowing that he opposed bigotry and prejudice.”
- Trump’s speech was full of his typical bellicose terms, like “overwhelming force,” but offered little in the way of strategy and substance.
- Of note, three generals now seem to have Trump’s ear: Kelly, McMaster, and Mattis. As recently as Week 38, Trump had scoffed at adding troops. He also compared Afghanistan to a 21 Club renovation.
- There is not yet a confirmed US ambassador to Afghanistan.
- 24 hours after his address to the nation, Trump headed to a campaign rally in Phoenix, despite pleas from the Mayor of Phoenix in an op-ed and on air that it was not a good time for Trump to visit.
- Despite his calls for unity Monday, Trump delivered a 72-minute dystopian speech in which he repeatedly attacked the media and “others” — again targeting marginalized communities.
- Trump referred to the media as the enemy of the American people, saying “They don’t like our country.” After the speech, many in the media expressed concern about their safety.
- Trump also threatened to shut down the government in the fall if Congress did not approve funding for his Wall.
- Despite his advance promises not to, Trump attacked McCain and Jeff Flake, the two senators of Arizona, in his speech without using their names.
- Also, despite promising not to do so, Trump insinuated he would pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, citing the legal system not treating him fairly.
- Trump did not mention the accident involving the USS John S. McCain, or the continuing search for missing sailors during his speech.
- WAPO reported as Trump ranted and rambled, “hundreds left early.” The room was only partially filled as Trump began to speak.
- Police used tear gas to disperse crowds of thousands of protesters after Trump’s speech. Police helicopters circled downtown Phoenix.
- In a likely violation of the Hatch Act, Ben Carson appeared on stage in Phoenix, after being introduced as the Secretary of HUD.
- NPR fact-checked Trump’s speech, and found numerous false and misleading statements.
- Ahead of the rally Tuesday, Trump met with potential Republican challengers to primary Sen. Flake in 2018. During the brief meeting, Trump referred to the senator as “the flake.”
- After Trump’s Phoenix speech, former director of National Intelligence Clapper told CNN he questioned Trump’s “fitness to be — in this office.”
- Clapper said understanding the levers of power available to a president, he found the speech “downright scary and disturbing.”
- Clapper also said Trump could be a threat to national security. He worries about Trump’s access to nuclear codes, noting it a fit of pique, “there’s actually very little to stop him.”
- Trump tweeted asking if Clapper “who famously got caught lying to Congress,” would share “his beautiful letter to me?” Clapper said he had handwritten almost identical notes to both candidates for Election Day.
- CNN reported Wednesday that the WH was preparing paperwork and talking points for surrogates ahead of Trump pardoning Arpaio.
- On Monday, in a later-deleted Instagram post, Steven Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton, bragged about traveling on a chartered government plane, and about the lavish fashion brands she was wearing.
- On Wednesday, CREW requested information on authorization of the chartered airplane. Typically, secretaries fly on commercial flights for domestic travel.
- Ethics groups also filed requests to learn if the trip to Fort Knox, KY was planned so Mnuchin and his wife could view the solar eclipse near the path of totality.
- On a sudden, unannounced trip to the Middle East, Kushner was snubbed by the Egyptian foreign minister who canceled their meeting without officially citing a reason. The meeting did later take place.
- NPR reported Trump’s approval with women is at a historically low 29%. Trump’s approval with men is much higher (43%).
- NYT reported on a brewing war between Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, as the two haven’t spoken for weeks. McConnell questioned whether Trump can salvage his presidency.
- McConnell also questioned Trump’s understanding of the presidency, and claimed Trump was “entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.
- NYT also reported on an August 9 call with McConnell, which Trump initiated, Trump brought up healthcare, but was “even more animated” about McConnell’s refusal to protect him from the Russia investigation.
- After the NYT story broke, another Republican senator called the reporter to say Trump is “consumed with Russia.”
- Politico reported on more clashes between Trump and Republican senators over Russia. In additional to Trump public admonishments of Sens. McConnell, McCain, and Flake, Trump also targeted Sen. Corker and Sen. Tom Tillis.
- Trump tried to convince Corker the Russian sanctions bill wasn’t good policy, saying it was unconstitutional and would damage him. Trump berated Tillis for his bipartisan bill to protect Mueller from being fired.
- Including these contacts, WAPO counted seven times so far Trump has attempted to influence actions related to the Russia investigation.
- On Tuesday, Glenn Simpson, founder of private research firm Fusion GPS who hired Steele to produce the dossier, testified for 10 hours in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also provided 40k pages of documents.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on releasing the testimony to the public. Rachel Maddow said Simpson’s lawyer has given the okay to release the testimony and documents publicly.
- WAPO reported CIA director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s close ally, required the Counterintelligence Mission Center, which investigates possible collusion between Trump and Russia, to report directly to him.
- Current and former agent expressed apprehension about conflict of interests. There is “real concern for interference and politicization,” and that Pompeo may bring newly discovered information to the WH.
- Pompeo spends more time at the WH than his predecessors. He also defended Trump’s comments on Charlottesville, saying Trump’s condemnation of bigotry was “frankly pretty unambiguous.”
- Pompeo has also shown a willingness to handle political assignments for the WH: for example calling news agencies, speaking on condition of anonymity, at the WH’s behest to dispute a NYT article on Trump-Russia.
- In an internal CIA memo released under the FOIA, former CIA director Brennan wrote some in Congress don’t get the “gravity” of Russia election meddling.
- Kushner Cos., the real estate company of Kushner’s family, switched to a public relations firms with crisis management expertise.
- NYT reported on Rinat Akhmetshin, one of the attendees of the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower, and his extensive and deep ties to Russian intelligence, government and oligarchs.
- Akhmetshin has worked on behalf of several Russian oligarchs to hack adversaries’ emails and documents in order to buffer their case. Mueller is interested in why Akhmetshin attended the June 9 meeting.
- CNN reported Congressional investigators unearthed an email from Rick Dearborn, a top campaign aide who is now Trump’s deputy chief of staff, about an individual seeking to connect top Trump officials with Putin.
- WSJ reported Mueller is looking into Flynn’s role in seeking Hillary’s emails from Russian hackers, along with now deceased GOP operative Peter W. Smith.
- Investigators have examined intel reports which detail Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Hillary’s server, and then transmit them to Flynn via an intermediary.
- NBC reported Mueller issued the first grand jury subpoenas to executives who worked on an international campaign organized by Manafort, a significant step in the inquiry which also focuses on Trump and Kushner.
- Mueller’s team is examining lobbying done by Manafort for a Russia-backed Ukrainian political party from 2012–2014. According to recent financial disclosures, Manafort was paid $17 million between 2013 and 2014.
- USA Today reported on a Russian propaganda Twitter network aimed at American audiences which consistently spreads links from alt-right media including Breitbart, True Pundit, and Gateway Pundit.
- Roger Stone told TMZ if Trump is impeached the country would break out into civil war, saying “You will have a spasm of violence in this country, and insurrection, like you’ve never seen.”
- NYT reported on Trump Hotel DC, the now highly profitable meeting place for Trump family members and surrogates, lobbyists, and journalists. Trump continues to profit from the hotel operations.
- The hotel is also described as a “safe zone for Trump supporters.” Richard Spencer stayed at Trump Hotel DC, and met with white nationalist Evan McClare, as he planned the Charlottesville rally.
- WAPO fact checker reported Trump’s list of false and misleading claims had topped 1,000 items early in the week. By week’s end, the list approached 1,100 items, one of the busiest weeks of lying yet.
- After Carl Icahn resigned in Week 40 ahead of a story on his influencing regulations to his financial benefit, the Trump regime stated unlike a government employee, Icahn had “no official role or duties.”
- Icahn financially benefitted from his 82% stake in CVR Energy. The company had accumulated a large short position in biofuels blending credits, called RINs, the price of which fell when Icahn’s proposal on the biofuels regulation was reported in February, netting him a huge return.
- On Friday, Trump attacked another Republican, saying Corker is constantly asking if he should run in 2018, and “Tennessee not happy!” Corker had questioned Trump’s fitness to serve in Week 40.
- In an interview with FT, Cohn was openly critical of Trump’s Charlottesville response, saying Trump “must do better” in condemning neo-Nazi and white supremacists.”
- Fed Chair Yellen spoke out openly against the Trump regime’s efforts to roll back banking regulations enacted after the 2008 financial crisis, saying these regulations have made the banking system safer.
- Changing course, Bloomberg reported the WH no longer plans to work with Congress to produce a joint tax plan, instead relying on the House and Senate to hash it out. Trump said he will rally the public instead.
- The WH rapid response director, Andy Hemming is leaving. Hemming had worked from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. every weekday blasting out stories favorable to the Trump regime.
- The RNC passed a resolution to condemn neo-Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists, despite pushback from several Republican members. The resolution did not, however, mention Trump.
- A Quinnipiac poll found that 62% of Americans believe Trump is dividing the country.
- As Trump left the WH Friday afternoon, a reporter asked, “do you have a message for the people of Texas?” Trump responded, “Good luck to everybody.”
- Hours before Hurricane Harvey, thought to be the worst hurricane in 12 years, hit landfall in Texas, with the country anxiously watching, Trump issued a directive and a pardon.
- Late Friday, Trump signed a directive that precludes transgender individuals from joining the military. Mattis has six months to develop a plan to implement the order, and discretion over those already serving.
- Trump’s directive also bans Department of Defense from paying for medical treatment regimens for transgender individuals currently serving in the military.
- Late Friday, Trump pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an elected official who defied a federal court’s order to stop violating people’s constitutional rights. Arpaio had been found in contempt of court in his ongoing case.
- The NYT Editorial Board had noted with a pardon of Arpaio, Trump would show “his contempt for the American court system,” and also send a “message to other officials that they may flout court orders also.”
- Questions arose about whether Trump’s pardon of Arpaio was testing the waters and sending a signal to those under investigation by Mueller.
- Late Friday, Trump adviser Gorka left his post as deputy assistant in the WH. In a letter, Gorka said he resigned. Trump aides said he was fired.
- Shortly after 11 p.m. EST, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm. The National Hurricane Center said it expects “catastrophic and life-threatening” flash flooding and dump 15–30 inches of rain.
- The Trump regime imposed sanctions on Venezuela; however, Citgo was exempted. As cited in Week 25, Citgo donated $500k to Trump’s inauguration, and that money may have come indirectly from Russia.
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Copyright Amy Siskind, August 26, 2017