Nel's New Day

June 20, 2019

DDT’s People Need Vetting

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders should have been left to tell the lies of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) instead of going back to Alabama: she does a better job. Patrick Shanahan’s nomination to serve as Donald Trump’s new Defense secretary collapsed yesterday after revelations surrounding incidents of domestic violence within Shanahan’s family. A journalist asked:

“Does that make you concerned then about the White House vetting process if you had just heard about it yesterday?”

DDT answered:

“No, we have a very good vetting process. And you take a look at our Cabinet and our Secretaries — it’s very good. But we have a great vetting process.”

DDT is a disaster at vetting anyone. Last month, DDT’s nominees for the Federal Reserve, Stephen Moore and Herman Cain, had to withdraw their names. They are on the top of a long list of non-vetted nominees. Appointments are going to get only worse because fewer and fewer people are willing to be involved in DDT’s administration.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, formerly a Boeing executive, resigned after an FBI investigation further delayed his confirmation hearings. He took over after James Mattis resigned in December before DDT fired him. Shanahan’s ex-wife has made accusations of abuse and was arrested as part of a domestic dispute. DDT tweeted the spending “more time with his family” for Shanahan departure. Some Republicans kept Shanahan’s problems from Democrats because they didn’t want the situation to become another Kavanaugh debacle. Democrats discovered the domestic abuse surrounding Shanahan after the information was published in the newspaper.

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, DDT’s replacement for Shanahan and another lobbyist, will be more to DDT’s satisfaction. Unlike Shanahan, Esper doesn’t worry about the deployment of thousands of military member to the southern border eroding readiness for combat, and he’s close to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who currently seems to be announcing military strategy regarding Iran, and David Urban, DDT’s close friend and adviser to the Pennsylvania presidential campaign in 2016. Esper was also the top lobbyist for Raytheon, now a U.S. defense contractor embedded in Saudi Arabia.

DDT has lost support from the vastly wealthy and powerful Mercer family who helped him get elected in 2016 with $15.5 million and data mining by Cambridge Analytica. DDT’s inauguration fund also got $1 million from the Mercers. Some of the Mercers’ disillusionment came from DDT’s exile of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer’s elimination as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, “really spooked” by the FBI’s investigation of Cambridge Analytica. The Mercers originally preferred Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as the presidential candidate but supported DDT in preference to Hillary Clinton. Robert Mercer also feels that he lost his privacy because of his support for DDT.

Matthew Kacsmaryk slipped through as a lifetime judge with 52 votes because GOP senators will confirm almost any judicial nominee. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who believed Brett Kavanaugh’s statement of support for Roe v. Wade, either learned her lesson or worries about re-election next year; she was the only GOP senator to vote him. Kacsmaryk:

  • Opposes employment, housing, and health care protections for LGBTQ people
  • Opposes including LGBTQ people in the Violence against Women Act.
  • Wrote that being transgender is “a delusion.”
  • Defended county clerk Kim Davis for refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples in opposition to the law.
  • Opposes employer contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
  • Played a lead role in opposing a Washington state law requiring pharmacist to give birth control to women with prescriptions.
  • Criticized the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade giving women the right to abortions.
  • Labeled the Equality Act a “public affirmation of the lie that the human person is an autonomous blob of Silly Putty, unconstrained by nature or biology, and that marriage, sexuality, gender identity, and even the unborn child must yield to the erotic desires of liberated adults.’”

Tony Perkins, a leader of the infamous hate group Family Research Council, has been named to chair the U.S. Commission on International Freedom. It’s purpose is to review violations of religious freedom and make policy recommendations to the president, Secretary of State, and Congress.

Kelly Craft, formerly U.S. ambassador to Canada and now nominee for the UN ambassador, had the reputation for rarely being in Canada. Her absence for over 300 days between October 23, 2017, and June 19, 2019 means that, like Congress, she was missing for about half the time. A spokesperson said she had permission to be away but declined to give details. Craft reportedly left her job to a deputy while attending to personal business and domestic U.S. politics. Her husband’s private jet, used by Craft, made round trips between Canada and the U.S. about once a week, such as travel to the Kentucky Derby and a media interview for an event for her coal billionaire husband. Both Craft and her husband are supporters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who lobbied for her appointment. Her answers at the confirmation hearing showed an ignorance of UN workings.

Katharine Gorka, political appointee as press secretary at Customs and Border Protection, remains in the government although her husband, Sebastian, known for white supremacist connections, has gone. Both are openly anti-Muslim, and Gorka worked to stop a DHS grant for Life after Hate, a group trying to stop white supremacist groups. DHS has refused to release documents about her through the Freedom of Information Act.

Jerome Powell, chair of the independent agency Fed Reserve, would likely be on the chopping block if DDT could figure out a way to get rid of him. Although the stock markets are currently going up, their volatility partly comes from DDT’s trade wars. Yet DDT blames the refusal to drop interest rates as the only reason. Last February, he checked with lawyers to see if he could demote Powell and said two weeks ago that the board is “not my people.” Three of the five are DDT’s nominees, and DDT appointed Powell as chair. The seven-member board is still missing two people, and all four of DDT’s nominees have failed confirmation—difficult to do with the current GOP senate. Powell said he’s not going anywhere.

VP Mike Pence isn’t any better than DDT at vetting people. Pence’s former national security advisor, Andrea L. Thompson, now undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, had close relationships with confessed Russian agent Maria Butina and her boyfriend, veteran GOP activist Paul Erickson. Butina’s job was to infiltrate the NRA and GOP to help Russia. In June 2017, Butina attended Thompson’s wedding where Erickson officiated. A year later, Thompson’s connection to Butina wasn’t mentioned at her confirmation hearings despite Mueller’s investigation, including Erikson’s allegedly trying to establish “secret backchannels to the Kremlin.” Thompson’s job is negotiating with Russia on arms control treaties, but she never discussed her Butina ties. After 18 months in prison, Butina will be deported to her home in Russia.  

Hope Hicks, DDT’s former communications director, may have testified for almost eight hours before the House Judiciary Committee, but six White House, DOJ, and private lawyers blocked the questions 155 times in the closed hearing. Their excuse was the non-existent “absolute immunity,” applying to “anything about her knowledge of anything during the period of time in which she was employed in the White House.” She didn’t answer even simple answers such as the location of her office in the White House and the existence of any conversation with DDT during lunch time.

Hicks could answer questions before and after she was in the White House and had a few revelations. Under repeated questioning, she said DDT was wrong in possibly accepting political dirt from a foreign power on an opponent, and she agree that the Russian government hacked the DNC and Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Hicks also found it “odd” that DDT asked Corey Lewandowski, a former campaign manager but not an employee, to tell former AG Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal in overseeing the Russian investigation. She knew about the hush money that DDT paid to two women that DDT denied.  Hicks’ testimony also shows that DDT and his team knew about possible tapes of DDT with “Russian hookers, participating in lewd activities” (pp. 196-197) soon after the release of Access Hollywood tapes in late October 2016, long before former FBI Director James Comey briefed him on it in January 2017. At that time, DDT appeared shocked about the tapes.

The oddest aftermath of Hicks’ testimony is Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) false claim that “old, pervy” Democrats asked her personal questions about her love life, a message that went viral on the fake conservative media. He wasn’t present, but he claimed to have “sources” that were “inside,” that people “would be ashamed if they knew what actually happened in that room.” With the transcript released, people can find out “what actually happened” if they read the document—which they most likely won’t. I read all 273 pages. It’s filled with factual questions about Hicks’ professional activities, 155 “objections,” and some whining from Republicans who still want to protect DDT. Once again, conservative media consumers will believe the “fake news.”

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